August 8, 2008 by Colin
August 8, 2008 by Colin
SPOILER ALERT: for those of you watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies on time delay (courtesy of NBC), you may want to skip this post.
I was truly impressed by the use of space during the Olympics Opening Ceremonies this morning/evening. The Bird’s Nest is already an impressive facility, but the three hour performance managed to maximize use of the stadium – and the neighbourhood around the facility.
We’ve come to expect Olympics Opening Ceremonies to include several stock scenes:
- shots of the Jacques Rogge, master puppeteer and apologist for bullies
- shots of the head of state waving
- several nods to the cultural history of the host country
- panoramic views of the happy audience
- a tip of the hat to the previous host country
- an endless parade of athletes, some breaking the fourth wall by filming the jumbotrons that are showing the broadcast of the athletes themselves
- Prince Albert of Monaco
Today’s performance moved well beyond that setlist, and even made the aerial acrobatics from Athens seem like a second troupe Cirque de Soeil performance.
To begin with, the Bird’s Nest was treated as an essential component of the fireworks show – at one point, the outside overhead view made it look like a flaming volcano – rather than simply a reception stand for the show itself.
29 fireworks displays, shaped like bare footprints, ignited in sequence to draw a physical link between the Forbidden City and the stadium – an important consideration, given the standard flyby helicopter shot would not have worked at night.
I admit, the hundreds of traditional drummers, while impressive, were a tad imperialistic. The raising of the Chinese flag was definitely militaristic – although I think some of those soldiers keep in shape by speed walking (it’s got the same unnatural hip movement).
The use of dancers and an illuminated and moving scroll, however, took the action off the stadium floor, as did the flying Olympic Rings.
Similarly, the salute to the invention of movable type avoided the routine floor-level spectacle so common at Super Bowl halftimes.
Let’s not forget Liu Huan and Sarah Brightman performing the predictably saccharine Olympics theme atop a giant lantern – which was later the set of mid-air routines reminiscent of the opening sequence of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
All in all, an engrossing performance that set some new and outrageously expensive standards for future Olympics.
August 8, 2008 by Colin
Ferrari Designer Dies in Vespa Crash – Bloomberg and the Ottawa Citizen
Unfortunately, the story only gets worse – Andrea Pininfarina died when his Vespa scooter hit a Ford Fiesta. While Ford may have a reputation for model development and contemporary design in Europe, most North Americans remember a distinctly underwhelming Fiesta model.
August 7, 2008 by Colin
Bell Canada is launching a new corporate look tomorrow, one that promises to be … “clear, bold and instantly recognizable” …
Key to the look are three elements:
- a new logo
- new tag lines centred around the concept of things getting “better”
- renamed product lines.
From what I can tell, the logo will be a nice blue “Bell” in a sans serif font (is that a Tahoma?). I always like a look that returns to simplicity and graphic clarity …
But the brand will retain an edgy and innovative feel by being sliced and diced into nearly unrecognizable graphic treatments, which will then be inserted into ad copy piece by piece.
It’s a lot like a Word Jumble or the old I Spy word game.
In an internal branding move that will never translate to the real world, these snippets are called “Bell-ements”:
“The Bell-ements are a fun and constructive way to put the Bell logo to
work in every possible way. All of our television ads actually take place on a
gigantic Bell logo while many of our print ads carry portions of the Bell
logo,” [said the senior Bell brand honcho]
As well, advertising campaigns will offer plays on the adverb “better”:
“To tie the advertising even more closely to the concept of “better” and underline the range of product and benefits Bell offers, the English campaign also makes liberal use of words ending in “er” – faster, easier, music lover, gamer, worker, talker, texter, multitasker – which was also the basis of the company’s recent advertising teaser campaign.”
In case you don’t appreciate the subtle nuance of the “er” tag, the ads will use a different coler every time things are meant to be better.
Finally, Bell has abandoned the faux futuristic names assigned to its product lines back when the big dream was to be a new media conglomerate. So, the transformation begins:
Bell Sympatico = Bell Internet
Bell ExpressVu = Bell TV
Bell Residential = Bell Home Phone
Aw hell. Why didn’t they just hire Brian Regan to do their voiceovers? Everything could be “more gooder”!
There was a great clip from the Opie & Anthony show, where Brian Regan uses the phrase “more gooder” over and over. If only I could link to it.
August 6, 2008 by Colin
Steve Heller, in AIGA:
… I cannot tolerate motivational speakers. Their imperious, self-bloated stagecraft is, for me, like listening to chalk screeching on a blackboard. Nonetheless, I know people who draw real inspiration from this twaddle. In fact, at a few conferences I’ve seen audiences become rapt in devotional attention as motivational gurus toss out bromides about how to achieve design nirvana …
August 5, 2008 by Colin
Matthew Higgs asked 66 individuals and groups to identify their “seven wonders of the world” as part of a project with Book Works. Here are some of the responses that struck my fancy:
- Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
- Ian Curtis dancing
- The ‘Disappear Here’ billboard from Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero
- The park in Antonioni’s Blow-Up
August 4, 2008 by Colin
You know how you’re sitting there, Blackberry, iPhone or smartphone in hand, when you live through a unique but compelling experience? The sort of funny, ironic, startling, refreshing or depressing moment that you just feel it necessary to share?
Or maybe you’re just bored – and you still feel like sharing?
Thanks to micro-blogging and the world of tiny little keyboards, this sort of event gets compressed into a curt, often ungainly 140 character shorthand.
And that means you have to drop adverbs, adjectives, descriptive phrases and ancillary thoughts, all the while hoping that your “followers” are sympatico, similarly culturally attuned, members of the same socio-economic tribe or equally ironic to understand the theory, the thought or the emotion behind your short transmission.
This is a very important point: speaking in very short fragments often forces you to refer to commonly known professional terms and cultural touchstones. That effectively blocks out people new to your community or those that hold a different point of view.
Even without these barriers, it’s really hard to build an effective (and coherent) counterargument in 140 characters.
What’s the happy medium? One Person Trend Stories. Three, four or even five paragraph posts that go beyond the obvious short descriptive sentence to build a proper (sarcastic or ironic) vignette.
- Enough is Enough! One Woman Takes a Stand Against Coffee Shops That Play Really Loud Music
- Testing her Patience: Aging Intellectual Defies Barnes & Noble Cashier
- iDoNotWant! Young Man Says “No, Thanks” to Latest Tech Toy
Honestly, I worry about having a Twitter message being taken out of context. My Twitter stream is populating my Google vanity searches, and many of the messages make no sense.
What about Plurk, I hear some of you wondering?
Umm. No. I’ve tried to work my way through some of those Plurkshops – both live and after the fact. The stream of consciousness commentary and non-sequential contributions really disrupt the flow and make it very hard to identify the wheat from the chaff.
If Twitter is like overhearing conversations on the subway, Plurk is a lot like summer day camp – everyone’s there for the same purpose, following the same activities schedule – but some are keeners, some are dopes and a lot are just trying to fit in with the crowd.
August 3, 2008 by Colin
Back in university, there were two or three guys whose most prominent piece of furniture was a giant black performance speaker – the sort of three foot by five foot box normally carted around in the back of a Ford Econoline van, the sort of thing that needed a strong professional amp.
Usually, these guys didn’t even play an instrument or belong to a band – they had made a significant investment in audio equipment so that they could be “da man” when it came time to set up a house party.
“Jesus! Look at the size of that speaker! They’ll hear the music down the street! You da man!”
Made in Queens is the story of a group of young Trinidadian men who wheel around their Queens neighbourhood on BMX bikes – jacked to the max with those old school speakers and decks.
“In this age of obsessive video sharing and social networking, nearly every action is designed and packaged for public consumption. Especially with young people,” says co-director Joe Stevens. “The immediate charm of Nick and his crew is that they’re the exact opposite of all that. There is nothing calculated or self-conscious about who they are. They’re just a group of friends doing something to challenge themselves and have some laughs. It’s a story which would have never come from kids who were born here.”
Here’s the trailer:
[tags] Made in Queens, amps [/tags]
August 3, 2008 by Colin
A former television repair centre, found on a backstreet here in Ottawa. The sign hangs over a roll-up steel door. This was personalized and convenient service, allowing you to drive your car or truck right into the service bay so your oversized television console could be brought in for repair with relatively little fuss.
The font choice is remarkably clean and modern for a business so obviously rooted in the 1960s and 1970s.
Let’s remember: when we used to talk about “portable TVs,” we meant bulky and heavy 13″ units, often with a built-in VCR. And rabbit ears.
Those units, as the sign notes, you could drag around to the side door yourself.
Over the past seven or eight years, it has become ridiculously easy to buy and set up a 42″ television – by yourself. I still remember a time when, as you were moving into a new house, you had to decide where the television was going to be placed – because it took two burly movers to put it in place, and it would never be moved again.
July 30, 2008 by Colin
Mercedes Benz may produce marvelous vehicles, but their internal corporate videos are really quite horrible.
Someone, somewhere, said “This is EXACTLY what I was looking for!”
July 28, 2008 by Colin
A workable solution to information overload, or simply insane? Information Aesthetics tells us about a novel approach to categorizing and classifying books in a large collection, based on a very imaginative book sleeve and an index based on a gradient of colours.
As a person who is genetically predisposed to wander in the stacks of libraries and bookstores, pulling books and pamphlets from shelves in a quest for something novel, informative or simply startling, I can sympathize with the desire for a more orderly and intuitive classification system.
Unfortunately, this classification system presents a fundamental conflict: it attempts to provide a simple visual cue to a very complex problem.
Let’s remember, there are still two camps of book classification: the Dewey die hards versus the Library of Congress obsessives.
And each breaks the classification problem down into a complex combination of letters and numbers.
The designer’s goal (explanation here) seems to have been to free the details of classification from the confined space of the shelf and the poor design of the contemporary library sticker:
“Notice that the book’s cover loses it’s importance in the library, it is squashed between this book and that book. Not to be confused with a book store, this is a well organized storage space. It is the spine that one look’s for and it is the call number label that allows one to find. With so much pressure on the call number label, I found it to be tiny and inconsistent, appearing to be slapped on carelessly.
Now imagine a wall of books, it appears to be quite disorganized in terms of the book’s information, a mismach a textures, typefaces and colours. The information inevitably gets lost within itself. I Initially wanted to cover the books individually with a standard removable sleeve that I would design displaying all of the book’s information in a clean, efficient and legible manner; however, it took about 30 seconds in the encyclopedia section to feel how boring and unbearable this solution would make one’s library experience.
The trickiest part was realizing that having the same template for every book did not ease one’s book search, but rather cause the book to completely to disappear within the others, making it impossible to see or stand out. All signs of curiosity vanish.”
An appealing design concept, but one that raises the colour of the sleeve above all the other qualities of the book:
- the age of the binding
- the texture of the title on the spine
- the style of binding
- the book size
- the juxtaposition of similarly bound books (perhaps in a series, or by the same publisher)
With this system, design overpowers the atmosphere and idiosyncracy of the library: the sense of exploration and possibility for chance discovery is replaced by a dominating colour scheme and an eagerness to impose consistency and conformity. Fashion over content, acceptable behaviour over eccentricity.
Isn’t that what we have librarians for?
July 24, 2008 by Colin
Imagine yourself driving along, singing along to some horrific AC song like:
- El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny”
- “Electric Youth” by Debbie Gibson
- “Ears of Tin” by Jethro Tull
- “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates
Have you ever turned, at that very moment, and realized that one if not more people are staring at you?
Well, behold the majestic combination of wonderful/shocking music the guys at Popdose have lined up in the latest post of Bottom Feeders – the ass end of the 80s.
July 24, 2008 by Colin
I took this picture because I thought the sign was funny: then I noticed the extreme contrast between the marketing promise and the industrial waste lying around it. The adult toy store, obviously, is undergoing renovation.
But some of that industrial detritus isn’t related to the construction.
July 24, 2008 by Colin
Let’s assume you work for a government body that is deeply involved in highly contentious issues – issues that are very interesting (and frustrating) to communities both online and offline. Let’s also assume that your organization has very little chance of changing the fundamental policies and procedures that frame these issues in the public’s eyes.
In other words, you’re largely a punching bag, buffeted by public opinion, proposals and criticism from activists and civil society groups, and general incredulity from the public. Is it worth developing a proactive social media program? It’s always worthwhile to put passive social media measures into place – extensive monitoring of the conversations and debates taking place online, the measurement of shifting opinion and perception among your various communities, perhaps some element of limited participation in comment fields and on discussion boards.
But is it worth the effort to launch a blog or similar long term initiative if your comment fields will get filled with criticism, claims that your social media work is simply parroting or reinforcing your traditional media work, or growing references to critical reports, video clips and commentary that undermines the very point you were trying to make (see this post from the Transportation Safety Administration blog post where they try to explain the relatively small numbers of people actually stopped by no-fly lists)?
What if your efforts to keep comment fields relevant and abuse-free means you effectively build in discontinuity into your so-called “conversation”? Take, for example, the purgatory established for non-serious comments on the UK Identity and Passport Service consultation blog, mylifemyid.org? Or the cutting criticism found at the foot of the launch posting for the same site?
What’s the real question when considering your options? Is your organization ready to take a beating in the name of consultation, openness and conversation? After all, if your daily business is to argue the benefits of an unpopular policy or program, do you have the tools, the staff or even the operational flexibility to reflect and absorb any of the criticism or constructive commentary you are sure to receive as part of a social media campaign?
Or should your approach to social media be more self serving? Forget all those promises of access, change, conversation, progress and participative government touted by aspirational and inspirational social media consultants – why not just create a blog and accompanying campaign as part of an effort to engage your critics on as many battlefields as possible?
After all, you can’t rebut the argument if you don’t even have a ticket to the debate.
In some cases, it may be useful for a government organization to create a blog and implement other social media tactics to argue their side – even if the readers and commenters will have no hope of effecting any change AT ALL.
The key, as always, is use the tool effectively and understand the terrain upon which you have chosen to engage your enemy. It’s go big or go home. It’s time to break out of your institutional language, your ingrained reticence to confront opposition and your dependence upon senior administrators to speak on behalf of the organization. That’s probably why the TSA blog recently called out all its lurkers – the large majority of the 4000 unique readers per week* that the TSA blog receives – to submit questions to be answered in coming weeks.
It’s almost the Rocky School of Social Media (trademark pending) – when faced with overwhelming odds, continue to engage your opponent, seek out their weak spots, and hope that the more supportive members of the general public help push you through to the end. Paint the benefits of your issue in the most positive light possible, and simply be seen engaging your detractors.
After all, if they’re going to criticize you anyway, why not draw them to a site where you control the colour scheme and the blogroll?
*there’s a metric for you – compare your uniques and comment traffic to that of the TSA blog, which is undoubtedly a lightning rod for criticism on public policy issues.
[tags] govt 2.0, egovernment, corporate blog, government blog [/tags]
July 23, 2008 by Colin
- Want to see how the New York Times designed the GUI for their new iPhone app – in about 200 words? Felix Sockwell sheds some light.
- Slinkachu is the artist behind Little People – A Tiny Street Art Project that poses miniature people, furniture, vehicles and features in real-life streetscapes. He also prepared a piece for a gallery show in Stavanger, Norway that featured the gruesome and indiscriminate death of a 10 mm high businessman. Oh, is there no miniature God????
- Somehow, Steve Portigal and Dan Soltzberg are discussing the act of observation when they intertwine observation, design and Repo Man.
“… In fact, in Repo Man, Harry Dean Stanton’s character makes a comment about this very phenomenon—something like, “You’re thinking about a plate o’ shrimp, and then suddenly someone’ll say ‘plate o’ shrimp’ out of the blue….” And of course, through the whole movie, signs for “plate o’ shrimp” are everywhere. …” (AIGA)
- Al Gore may know how many napkins you take, but Chuck Norris will make sure you never sneeze again.