January 21, 2008 by Colin
Have you noticed how A&E is no longer all about frilly dresses, powdered wigs and hoity toity accents? That’s called channel drift – the gradual shift in identity that signals a channel’s concentration on a new demographic (or, more frequently, grasping onto a fleeting viewer trend).
(Not to be confused with channel creep, where your once favourite channels creep up the “dial” – with PBS suddenly finding itself at channel 64. We’re back to the 1970s, where you had to dial high into the UHF band to find some of the less popular television channels. “No, you have to tweak the knob, or else you can’t lock in the horizontal hold. The station’s antenna isn’t that tall. Is it raining between here and Massena?”)
“…It is worse in Canada. In one week our Western channel (Lonestar) had The Matrix movies, Demolition Man, and Tango and Cash as its evening movies…
CollegeHumor has weighed in with its own interpretations of cable network logos – with predictable results.
January 19, 2008 by Colin
If you were challenged to describe the spirit and atmosphere of your home town, could you single out a palette of colours that would immediately seem familiar and evocative?
[tags] Pantone, Ottawa, Falkowsky, Walrus [/tags]
January 17, 2008 by Colin
Indulge me here. When I was a kid, everyone smoked. Everywhere. Which meant that lighters and ashtrays were an everyday fact of life.
So common, in fact, that they were considered accessories to your home decor. There were ashtrays that looked remarkably like appetizer plates, or maybe highball glasses. Popular in my house were ceramic ashtrays from Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece and Italy. As for lighters, they resembled hookahs, and others looked like cubist party favours.
In fact, lighters could be divided into the personal (whether a small Bic, a showoff Zippo, or a swanky Davidoff) and the communal – a larger piece that suggested careful design and a shared experience (like a big hunk of silver or brass sitting on the coffee table)
Sort of like the Braun lighters to the right. I found these in a Gizmodo post on the similarities between Apple’s design and the work of Dieter Rams for Braun – in the 60s.
[tags] cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, home decor [/tags]
January 17, 2008 by Colin
Let me introduce you to the Sex Patels, a punk/alt band from the Leeds and Bradford area. (MySpace) They play a mix of 80s punk with a distinctively bhangra influence (yes, a sitar and drums are involved). You should really listen to their rendition of “once in a lifetime” – the old Talking Heads classic. I think the heavy regional accent really adds something.
How did I get here?* The Sex Patels were a last minute mention in the Guardian’s Northerner newsletter. You see, they’re playing a gig at the Trades Club at Hebden Bridge later this week.
Looking through the venue’s list of upcoming acts, it struck me that, for all our talk of online communities and interwoven social networks, we overlook the influence and value of local artists and entertainment.
A comment on the Sex Patels’ MySpace page is telling:
“…Top gig on Saturday. The highlight for me was Bry’s foot on the monitor and shouting ‘Hello Howarth Community Centre’. It was genius…
Granted, their MySpace page has had less than 15,000 hits, but the buzz seems to be building. 3,000 miles away, I can’t quite make out the band’s connection to Chumbawumba – except to note that Chumba is playing the Trades Club TWICE in March.
*aaaahhhhh – see that? I threw in a reference to “once in a lifetime“! Clever little Colin!
[tags] Northern England, Chumbawumba, Sex Patel, union hall, local music [/tags]
January 16, 2008 by Colin
Starbucks is dropping organic milk from its list of options available to caffeine addicts. Apparently, the regular milk is now free of growth hormones, which eliminates the need for organic. (Oh, and drinks with the milk accounted for less than 1% of total drinks sold.)
Which seems a little strange. After all, even your local corner store is carrying organic products. It’s a trend sweeping the nation! Why drop the pretension, even if the benefits are now available in regular milk?
But Starbucks is focusing its product line, and that means cutting some things out. And some afficionados, naturally, are seeing the move as something of a betrayal, even if their organic milk tasted bad and wasn’t well promoted.
“…Goodbye, Starbucks organic milk. You sucked, but at least you offered hope… (Sustainable Scoop)
[tags] organic, consumer choice, Starbucks [/tags]
January 16, 2008 by Colin
As you know, I love a good quote. I admire an executive that can turn a good phrase. That’s why I was impressed by Seth Heine’s quotes in a recent feature on the recycling of cell phones in the New York Times magazine.
Heine runs Collective Good, one of several companies that recycle cell phones, phones discarded for a variety of reasons, from the barely out of fashion to the brick-sized.
Heine has obviously had some experience in describing his business, managing to wedge references to a 70s television show and popular Japanese game parlour games in the same interview:
“…A store in Beverly Hills had been sending boxes of gold-plated, limited-edition Dolce & Gabbana Motorola Razr phones, turned in when customers traded up for something even newer. “That phone can’t be more than six months old,” Heine said at one point. Later, he handed an employee a Nokia with a note rubber-banded around it. It was something a friend gave him at dinner; that happens all the time, he said, “when you’re the Fred Sanford of phones.”
“…Heine’s business succeeds or fails based on how well it can assess and then realize the value of each phone. “I refer to that as the pachinko machine,” he told me. “You dump in a phone and it rattles around. It’s got to come out somewhere at the bottom.” The question is, where?
Phones beyond repair, or with little value, are dispatched … for their gold. …. The most valuable handsets find their way to a room across the hall from the storeroom, where two employees sell them on eBay. Most, however, are sold via private auction to a stable of about 20 different resellers.” (NY Times Magazine)
I think this reinforces one of the keys to building corporate value from a corporate social responsibility program: the ability to sell the intent and benefits of your business, and to do it in a familiar and evocative way. Much like what Yvon Chouinard has done at Patagonia.
[tags] Sanford & Son, CSR, corporate social responsibility, cell phones, mobiles [/tags]
January 15, 2008 by Colin
Last week, three separate publications asked me for a headshot (because I’m a spokeshead, not because I’m a popular blogger with an extremely photogenic mug). I have several options available, and I found myself flipping between the professional and the amateurish: a headshot prepared by a professional photographer, and a handful of profile pictures snapped with a number of camera phones.
You see, I’ve been in public relations long enough to remember when professional photo shoots were required for all your spokespeople. You always had to have a ready selection of half grinning/mildly worried looks on hand, just in case.
As I was sorting through my options, though, I realized that the bar had moved. The public no longer expects a formal upright, slightly angled shouldered look to their authority figures. In fact, I had to screw around with my headshot in Photoshop before sending it off to one publications.
A co-worker of Jason Oke has noticed that the younger generations do not have a problem finding a headshot – in fact, there seems to be
“… an age-related gap on social networking sites like Facebook in personal photo quality – anyone under 25 looks really good in all of their pictures, while the rest of us look pudgy and a bit stunned.
His theory is that it’s because those of us of a certain age grew up with pictures being taken mostly on special occasions like birthdays and holidays, and usually with some warning of “say cheese.”
We never really learned how to have our picture properly taken. But with ubiquitous casual digital photography, the young ‘uns grew up being used to taking and seeing many more photos of themselves, and have learned to quickly throw a pose in any situation. They are photo-literate.”
Me? I can’t quite pull of the casual concentration look. I don’t really like Starbucks, so I’m never at ease enough to pull off the “working in casual luxury while sitting on a loveseat” look. And every time I try the “you caught me in mid-action” pose, I look like an out-take from a Sears catalogue.
[tags] photography, headshot, publicity still, corporate look, spokesperson [/tags]
January 15, 2008 by Colin
I’ve got two comments about this pairing: can you imagine being locked in a caravan with Bjork for a two week holiday, and Billy Bragg has never claimed to have the most artistic videos.
[tags] Billy Bragg, Bjork, sexuality, sensuality, 90s [/tags]
January 13, 2008 by Colin
It’s a graphic identity designed for Movable Type. Just look at tonyblairoffice.org. There’s the Serifa headline. The gray, olive and off green stripes that provide the only colour on the page. The tab-based navigation.
Wallpaper magazine gave Lucienne Roberts* the award for best stationery for her design, and some have criticized the simplicity of her work.
“…Good letterheads are a challenge to the designer because the means are very limited, but the effect here is disproportionately grand. The typeface chosen is probably a weird period piece – vaguely Festival of Britain – known as slab-serif. Its effect is dated, looking to my eye rather what a prosperous and socially ambitious provincial garage proprietor might have chosen circa 1974…” (Steven Bayley, Guardian)
While I may lack the professional design training – and the aesthetic sensibility – to really judge this work, Tony Blair’s new corporate identity works well for a statesman trying to shape a quiet but influential role after fundamentally shifting the course of politics in Great Britain.
After all, let’s remember that some politicians have made some foolish alliances as they left office. Just ask Henry Kissinger if he enjoyed watching Conrad Black’s empire collapse.
If we’re to believe Blair’s advisors, he has been selective about the work he has taken on, and has dedicated a lot of his time to his role as a special envoy.
Especially if he wants to become the first President of the European Union Council of Ministers.
That’s right. Pick a nice letterhead, with a touch of colour but no ideological baggage.
*here’s an interview with Roberts, found on the British Council site. (.doc file)
[tags] graphic design, corporate identity, stationery, business card [/tags]
January 13, 2008 by Colin
I don’t think any moment of anguish over a missed deadline – whether for brochureware, radio copy, or a strategy – can compare to the agony of standing in front of a room that wants you gone or dead.
Which can be a frequent experience for a comic working the road. “I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics” offers up their stories in their own words.
Hilarious stories. Offensive stories. Stories of challenges overcome, comedy condos fumigated. I laughed, I cried, I was glad I paid for the book.
It certainly didn’t teach me how to be a comedian, but I Killed has given me some solid examples of how others have dealt with outrageous situations and used their skills to overcome opposition.
Now, if you want to pretend to be a comedian, I do have something for you: “The Hack’s Handbook.” Andy Kindler apparently wrote this three page guide for National Lampoon to help people hoping to cash into the late eighties comedy boom fake their way through an appearance.
I’m not saying this an old book, but here’s one of the suggested hack jokes:
“…The Clapper—I didn’t know Barbara Bush could act…”
Thanks to The Sound of Young America for the pointer, and a gentleman called Natan Smart for hosting the file.
And you can never go wrong listening to The Sound of Young America, hosted by Jesse Thorn, “America’s Radio Sweetheart.”
[tags] creativity, mental block, comedy, road trip, hack comic [/tags]
January 12, 2008 by Colin
I may have mentioned this – my daughter is surfing our wi-fi at home using her new iPod Touch.
I am very jealous, and increasingly convinced that my childhood was a period of despair and deprivation.
Just like anyone who eagerly anticipated the x86 chipset.
Sure, I had a Casio calculator watch. And I had a transistor radio the size of a match book (with a single ear bud, much like an old man’s hearing aid).
A portable music player was never out of reach. That was an advantage we held over our parents’ generation.
But a device is always a reflection of existing technology – and contemporary society’s perception of innovation, utility and coolness.
That perception rapidly changes, to the point where cutting edge seems obsolete and burdensome.
When Grandmaster Flash first whipped out his ghetto blaster and showed it to the neighbourhood in The Message, the sheer size of the device was meant to impress and cower.
Back then, you chose a ghetto blaster based on its cassette replay features (two sided play, anyone?) and its speaker range. No – not the range of the speakers, but the range of sizes of speakers.
Of course you had to have speakers that pretended to mimic woofers and subwoofers. (They were the big speakers, usually at the back)
Key to the device was sharing the music – with everyone in a forty yard range. Music was to be shared, and maybe prompt some breaking.
That’s a big change from today, where portable music players are one more element in our defenses against our immediate neighbours, whether on the bus, at the mall, at the office or in the gym.
The glowing green Miami Vice suit was optional, though.
image from Taschen Books (and Sony as well)
[tags] stereo, D cell batteries, ghetto blaster, cassette tape [/tags]
January 11, 2008 by Colin
I really feel bad about it. I do. Obviously, a lot of planning went into your meeting. There was an agenda with an allotted time for each item. There were highback chairs and a big heavy conference table. There was even a scent of Roberts’ Rules of Order in how the meeting was being run.
But I still fell asleep. Don’t get me wrong – only for a few seconds – but long enough for my head and shoulders to droop. And I’ll tell you why:
- Nomenclature. Someone started discussing nomenclature and naming conventions.
- There was a perfunctory review of minutes. Just once, I’d like someone to raise a highly personal objection to the minutes.
- A business process analyst was present, and was eager to contribute. I like their logic gate workflow diagrams, but they’re just too serious for any meeting of mine.
- A fundamental lack of windows. Listen. I have the attention span of a hummingbird. Please give me an alternate source of visual stimulation.
- Mood lighting. If there’s more than one dimmer switch in the room, there will either be too little light, or too much. That’s fine if we’re at a billards match or partaking of a slaughtered fattened calf, but not for a collaborative work space.
- Clear sightlines. If the sightlines are clear from one seat to another, how am I supposed to get other work done? Or read the latest New Yorker?
I mean, if it wasn’t for twitter, I would have been sawing logs like Paul Bunyan.
*Obviously, I am writing about a completely hypothetical meeting. Not the one you’re thinking of.
[tags] meetings, etiquette, office code, behaviour [/tags]
January 7, 2008 by Colin
Just finished ginning up a new headshot.
Thought I would share it.
Note: there is an iconic Canadian design detail hidden in this photo.
January 6, 2008 by Colin
On the east end of Long Island, there’s a 1,000 watt radio station that’s extremely local:
“…Mr. Tria’s morning show, “The Dawn Patrol,” delivers a style of local radio that is nearly extinct on Long Island: a neighbor’s lost dog, a birth or death in the community, and news from the schools, the police and Town Hall. It is a slow-drip blend of slow-paced life that seems meant to waft into kitchens and mingle with the smell of bacon. (NYT)
A Ford dealership in a small California town has been bought out, a reaction from hq in Detroit to declining market share and a surplus of dealerships in the region. But not for a lack of trying:
“…All the while, Norwalk and southeast Los Angeles gradually became more Latino — 63% in the most recent Census data. Stutzke says he adapted, becoming among the first car dealers to advertise on Spanish-language television. Families poured into the dealership on Saturdays to watch the making of El Show de Keystone Ford. (USA Today)
Looking for some heartwarming stories of big box chains and international brands failing? Reason magazine tells us that the little guy CAN win – and has an eighty year history of beating the big guy. It’s a good read with a lot of historical context:
“…By understanding local tastes, Newbury Comics, Phoenix Coffee Co., La Flor De Broadway Café, and Kansas City’s Broadway Café demonstrated that localization, customer care, and authenticity are far more effective means of fighting larger rivals than agitating for anti-chain legislation.
Had Broadway Café owner Jon Cates initially looked at historical precedent, rather than petitioning city hall, he perhaps would have understood that David slays Goliath with encouraging frequency in the history of American business.”
[tags] community, audience, brand, retail, radio promotion [/tags]
January 5, 2008 by Colin
And there I thought pageants had already taken a great leap into modernity with the hiring of Billy Bush.
Last night, Miss America:Reality Check hit the airwaves. I think it may be just the radical revamp this old dame needed. The formula is tired and familiar to us all: a disparate (and maybe desperate) group of girls settles into cramped quarters with too few bathrooms.
They form heartfelt but ultimately shallow and dishonest relationships where they claim friendship and are quick to criticize any demonstration of disloyalty or competitiveness. The show’s producers attempt to create artificial divisions among the pageant queens by separating the teams by age and physical characteristics (only on this show would a 24 year-old be considered a “senior”).
The appeal comes from the incredible contrast between the plastic and highly manufactured contests of the past, and the new hurdles facing the contestants today.
Like a reality check from the tag team of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. Or the faux cinema verite segment where the contestants appear to discuss whether teens (and Miss American contestants) actually practice abstinence. Some of those young ladies actually appeared grief-stricken at the thought of deviating from their practiced stage patter.
“I favour harsher jail sentences for parole violators … and world peace.”
Finally, I could swear that the “challenges” between teams are held in a converted horse paddock behind the communal house.
All I could imagine was Miss Ellie from Dallas, cheering on Miss Texas.
[tags] Miss America, reality TV, beauty pageant [/tags]