Throwback to the Future

How do you grab the attention of jaded creative directors? By arousing their curiosity. In a campaign for Kontor, a dance music label in Germany, Ogilvy Deutschland developed a “Back to Vinyl” direct mail piece that used high-tech gimmickry to promote the new Boris Dlugosch release. Ad agency recipients got a large flat package that contained a vinyl record inside, instead of the usual CD or USB. The vinyl came with instructions to place the record on the printed turntable on the back of the envelope, then activate the QR code with a smart phone. Recipients could listen to the latest Dlugosch track and “move” the needle to play other tracks as well or to contact Kontor via the connect icon. Needless to say, the vinyl promo often became the talk of the office and didn’t get thrown away.

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Fashion Photography


The other day we were lamenting that good art-directed, concept-driving original photography has become a rarity when we happened upon this Washington Life Magazine piece on the Washington Ballet’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Photographed by Dean Alexander with creative and art direction by Design Army’s Jake and Pum Lefebure, the photo essay presents a consistent and cohesive story line, communicated through thoughtful choice of lighting, scale, pacing, mood, poses, typography and layouts. Everything hangs together as a piece. The photos have a subtle narrative flow, beginning with the lost look of Alice in an innocent baby-blue dress, all the way through to the playful mid-air leaps of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum and the White Rabbit, to the darkly surreal portraits of the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts staring provocatively at the camera. Although Lewis Carroll’s tale of Alice in Wonderland is well-known, this photo shoot reveals strong art direction by Design Army to ensure that the make-up, hair and costume stylists, the photographer, and models are all working toward the same vision on how the story should be told.

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Local Billboard Ad Campaign

Sometimes a literal visualization of a message is the most effective one. These billboards by creative agency Extra Credit Projects in Grand Rapid, Michigan, promote the services of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, an 80-bed rehab center in Grand Rapids. On the all-text billboard ads, the ailment to be treated is clear; nothing more need be said or shown to improve understanding.

As an aside, the name of the hospital itself has a fascinating origin. In 1891, a group of women in Grand Rapids sought to provide medical care for people with limited financial means by asking everyone named Mary, as well as those who knew anyone named Mary, to donate money to secure a free bed in one of the local hospitals. The so-called Mary Free Bed Guild went on to raise funds for convalescent and orthopedic centers for disabled children. In 1966, the program, expanded to care for spinal injury and stroke adult patients, was renamed Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

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Beer Label Feels the Heat

Wild Winter Ale is the fourth in a limited edition series of seasonal beers released by Danish brewery Mikkeller in 2012. The label, created by Swedish graphic design agency Bedow, features a simple silhouette of a leafy apple tree, printed with thermochromic ink. The ale is meant to be kept refrigerated or at least cold until serving. What makes this label intriquing is that the ink is heat sensitive. As the label gets warm from being held in the drinker’s hand, the tree begins to shed its leaves until only its bare limbs remain.

Thermochromic inks were first popularized in the 1970s, appearing in “mood rings” that changed colors supposedly indicating the wearer’s emotional state. Increasingly, designers are finding creative ways to use heat-sensitive inks in printing.

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One in Four Million Bottle Design

As renowned for its creative branding as it is for its premium vodka, Absolut continually tops itself with fantastic new visual expressions. In this case, the Swedish vodka-maker, owned by French company, Pernod Ricard, teamed with Swedish ad agency, Family Business, to give new meaning to the term “limited edition.” The idea was not just to make each Absolut bottle seem unique, but to actually be unique. To do that, Absolut had to reconfigure its bottling production line to recreate artwork with splash guns, 38 colors, and 51 patterns. A complex computerized algorithms program orchestrated these elements in a randomized fashion so that no two bottles were decorated alike. In fact, Absolut estimates that it would take 94 quintrillion bottles before two identical designs resulted. The company is not producing that many, but it did individually number each of the four million bottles in its limited edition line, which it appropriately named “Absolut Unique.”

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Creative Catharsis Posters

Ireland’s creative community came up with an interesting way to let off steam and help a local charity at the same time. They invited their colleagues to design posters featuring some of the crazy comments and requests their clients have made over the years. Organized by Dublin-based agency, Mark & Paddy, the Sharp Suits project drew the enthusiastic participation of art directors, designers, illustrators and other ad agency types. The “Creative Catharsis” posters were exhibited at The Little Green Café, Bar and Gallery in Dublin and sold for 10 euros a piece, with proceeds benefitting the Temple Street Children’s Hospital of Dublin. We suspect that the project equally benefitted the artists who alleviated their stress by gleefully quoting their clients, and an appreciative audience that identified and empathized with the subject matter, taking heart in the fact that they weren’t the only ones who had to endure such “helpful” critiques of their creative effort.

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Jonah Lehrer’s Five Tips for
Reaching Your Creative Potential


From the bestselling author Jonah Lehrer comes “Imagine: How Creativity Works” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Lehrer explains that his latest book “is about our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed. We take this talent for granted, but our lives are defined by it. There is the pop song on the radio and the gadget in your pocket, the art on the wall and the air conditioner in the window. There is the medicine in the bathroom and the chair you are sitting in…” He gives real world examples from Pixar and Second City to Bob Dylan and Yo-Yo Ma. He goes on to say that “creativity is not a gift possessed by a lucky few; it’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.” Here he offers five tips from his book on how to increase your creative potential.

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A Shoe That Floats on Air

This looks like a high-school science project, but it is really a commercial for Asics new Gel-Blur 33 athletic shoes, which Asics claims offers lightweight, cushioned comfort to all 33 joints in the foot. To illustrate the tagline “Gravity, Meet Your Archenemy,” Southern California-based creative agency, Vitro USA, strung multi-colored ping pong balls on fishing lines and pumped compressed air into a glass chamber, causing the balls to rise into the shape of an Asics 33 shoe and float in space. As with some of the amazing 3-D projection mapping videos now coming out, the behind-the-scenes making of this commercial needs to be seen to appreciate the feat achieved.