Archive for design thinking

Tosh Hall: Stop Redesigning Brands Every Few Years!

Tosh Hall has a problem with companies that try to redefine themselves every three years, and the agencies that convince them to do it. In a world of constant change and upheaval, isn’t it comforting to be able to pick out your favorite brand of cereal on the shelf because of its easily identifiable colors and markings? When brands do big overhauls there’s always the risk they will alienate customers, so why take this chance? Hall will tell you, stick to what works.

As global executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie in New York, he knows a thing or two about this. He is responsible for the creative and strategic output of the agency for clients like Budweiser, Wheaties, Kashi, and Stella Artois. Previously, he was the creative director at Landor Associates. Although his resume is envy-inspiring to any young designer, he took the circuitous route to his career destination.

Hall studied economics and journalism in college, but ended up as a publication designer right out of college. Through the journalism school at the University of North Carolina, he learned how to lay out publications, and landed his first job at the UNC Press. He recalls working with the “craggy pressman” with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and ink smeared on his hands and shirt saying to him: “You can’t have twelve colors, dummy. Let me show you the four-color process.” Hall loved that entire experience and how it helped to shape him as a designer, though he admits that he had the worst portfolio when he moved to New York. “I found the transition to the real design world very difficult. It was a harsh wake-up call.”

Last month, Hall gave a presentation at the HOW Live Design Conference called “Dear Designers: Please Stop!” where he addressed the mistake of rebranding too often. Here he elaborates on that, and points to the most publicized brand overhaul failure in modern times and how that rocked the industry.

Why is it so wrong to redesign a brand every few years?

Well, I think it’s a bigger macro problem with marketing and companies in general. A lot of the companies that we work with, we’ve had long-term relationships with, and they often look to us as being the brand guardian. In some ways, your agency partners know more about your brand than the branders, the marketers, and the clients do. And I think because of a lot of the things that have happened in recent years—looking to drive performance quarterly, instead of looking at things over decades and over quarter-centuries—people want to make an impact very quickly. Especially on the client side.

Often people in marketing come in and they’re given a role in branding or packaging or advertising, and they have to make an impact, and they have to do it quickly, and then they move on to the next part of their career. And rarely do we see clients that stay on brands for long periods of time. I think the reason is because it reflects the marketing side of the clients we work with.

We have to constantly educate them, that it’s best for the brand to go in a long-term direction of health and growth instead of zigging, zagging back and forth between whatever the marketing plan du jour is, and a hope for short-term success.

Read the reset of the interview here.

Budweiser brand update by JKR.

Joe Duffy: Reflecting on his contentious debate with Tibor Kalman 28 years ago

At the 1989 National AIGA Conference, Tibor Kalman took the main stage and talked about what was wrong with design. He then proceeded to point the finger at an ad Joe Duffy and Michael Peters put in “The Wall Street Journal” as an example of bad design. Duffy, who was in the audience, was stunned and completely caught off guard.

It was unprovoked and unfair, to say the least. After the onstage debacle, Duffy called for a session in which he could respond to Kalman. It was perhaps too little, too late. Kalman’s wrath had already gone viral, or as viral as things could go in 1989. So, Print magazine’s editors invited the two to sit down in their New York office, with Steven Heller as moderator, and published the debate. It’s recently resurfaced online, so I wanted to talk to Duffy today, 28 years after the fact, to get his take on it. Kalman, of course, passed away in 1999, and was feisty til the end.

Duffy is still designing, but his son and daughter—who are his business partners—are mostly running the show at his Minneapolis-based office. He prefers to paint as much as possible.

Tell me what happened at the conference?

Tibor was a different guy. I was in the audience. We knew one another, at least by reputation back then. I think I was on the national board of AIGA at the time. He knew I was going to be there. He took it upon himself to tell the audience all the things that were bad in design, and as a summation he projected this full-page ad that I took out with Michael Peters and said, “Now here is a perfect example of what’s wrong with design,” or something like that.

It was a cheap shot, to say the least. It was like this 12 year old boy on the playground that was jealous, basically.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Scott Dadich: The Making of the Netflix Series, “Abstract”

If you haven’t yet watched “Abstract: The Art of Design,” which features eight extraordinary designers, practicing different disciplines, then set aside a day for an inspiring binge-watching experience. The making of the series is as complex and beautiful as the people portrayed. Executive producer Scott Dadich discusses the two-year journey to make the series, and reveals some of his favorite moments in the process.
While working on the series, Dadich was still deeply entrenched as the Editor and Creative Director of Wired magazine, which boomed under his leadership. He tripled the publication’s reach on social media and increased traffic to the website by 50 percent. Wired also earned ten Webby Awards, more than 50 Society of Publication Designers medals, a James Beard Foundation Award, and four National Magazine Awards for design. He recently left the magazine after more than a decade, to start Godfrey Dadich Partners with Patrick Godfrey.
Here, the bearded and bespectacled 40 year old talks candidly about the process of creating Abstract—from conception to delivery—and the delicate balance of filming people in their environment without disrupting the creative process. Read the interview here.

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Virginia Postrel on What Constitutes Glamour

Glamour is in the eye of the beholder … or is it? Unfortunately, we get a lot of our cues from celebrities, which in this day and age, can include anyone from rap stars and actors, to YouTube and reality television stars. Even our First Lady, deservedly so, is a style icon.

Here, we talk to Virginia Postrel, author of The Power of Glamour, The Substance of Style, and The Future and Its Enemies about our obsession and longing for glamour and what it all means. As an author, columnist, and popular speaker, her work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce. She has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Forbes and its companion technology magazine Forbes ASAP. She is currently a regular columnist for Bloomberg.

Do you think the rules of glamour have changed over the years—i.e. what people perceive as glamorous compared to 20 or 30 years ago?

Definitely. What audiences find glamorous can change for two reasons: What people long for may change or different glamorous things may represent the same longings. One example I often use is the glamorous image of feminine indulgence. In the 1950s, nothing beat a fur coat. It represented an adoring man sharing his financial success: love and money in a publicly visible form. Nowadays, the common image of feminine indulgence is a hot-stone massage or maybe a bubble bath in a spa tub. Nobody needs to know you’re there—it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses—and you probably paid for it from your own income. It represents the desire to escape the demands of a busy life. (A lot of spa tubs and bathroom remodeling have been sold with this kind of glamour.) Read rest of interview here.

 

Brian Singer: Not Just Any Guy, But Some Guy

Brian Singer has been employed by some of the most progressive design thinking companies in modern times including Apple, Facebook, and Pinterest. Most designers would cut off their right arm to work for these companies, but Singer—although grateful for the experience—walked away from his most recent gig at Pinterest to pursue personal projects.

Singer, aka someguy, has become widely lauded for his pet projects which have netted national publicity, not only in the design community, but among mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, the Today Show, CBS News, Huffington Post, and more. From inviting strangers to collaborate and share their sentiments in a blank journal and pass it on for the 1000 Journals Project, to exposing people who are driving and texting by placing their photos on billboards, to his #pileoftrump campaign, Singer has created controversy and discussion about what is and isn’t tolerable—or with the case of texting and driving—what is safe. (bio photo: Skyler Vander Molen.)

His main goal with most of his projects is to connect with strangers and to have strangers connecting with each other. Here, we ask him about his experiences, his personal projects, and what’s next.

You’ve worked for some high profile, design-driven companies. What’s the biggest takeaway from those experiences?

Every company (design driven or not) has real, challenging, business problems to solve. And no matter the company, I think it’s safe to say that design isn’t easy. Probably the biggest takeaway is that while design skill is important, it’s not the only thing needed to succeed and have an impact. You need strategic thinking skills, empathy, holistic problem-solving, leadership, great communication, the ability to hire and motivate talent, and of course, you can’t be an asshole. You know, all the things they don’t teach in design school. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Chris Baker Likes to Fuck With People

Chris Baker is a social media Shaman. He solves complex issues, like replacing photos of your friends’ babies on Facebook with cats through his app Unbaby.me, or offering you ridiculous things to buy while under the influence with the Drrrunk Shopping app. He even co-authored The Elements of F*cking Style (a parody of the very dry Strunk & White grammar usage guide for writers), as a helpful guide for all of our “dull” friends who don’t know the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to hide some of our friends’ babies from our feeds, and scream at others over their atrocious grammatical offenses, but we don’t. That’s the beauty of Baker and his collaborators. They don’t just think it, they do it and in a big, hilarious way. He is behind some of the funniest apps, games, and websites in recent years such as GOP Arcade, M. Knight School, and Operation Troll the NSA. Baker has also managed to create insightful dialogues with projects like Seeing Eye People, which dispatched volunteers throughout New York City to guide people too distracted with their phones to look up while walking, and reframing the question around whether or not it’s a choice to be gay.

Baker left the agency life a couple of years ago to become a freelance writer and creative director, and to pursue the projects he’s most passionate about—the kind that cause controversy and make people literally laugh out loud (We don’t use LOL here).Why did you drop out of high school, and how pissed were your parents?

I grew up in an insane school system in south Florida, surrounded, then, mostly by people who would years later come to inhabit the Azazelian-like Florida Man creature we’ve all come to know. Getting out of there was a great move. My parents were not amused.

You’ve worked for a lot of big branding agencies including BBDO, CP+B, and RG/A. How were you able to land those gigs without a high school diploma?

All that matters is your portfolio. Unless you’re working in the finance department, no one cares what your story is. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Marty Neumeier on the Transformative Branding Industry

You could call him the boss of brand thinking, with six notable books on the subject and more than 45 years of experience in the design field, or you could just call him Marty—which is what he likely prefers. Branding is under his skin, part of his DNA, and it’s something he constantly thinks about, and rethinks, as consumer habits change.

How did an Art Center drop out become such an enigma in the world of brand positioning and strategy? Well, as you’ll learn here, through hard work, intuition, and failure. Seven years ago he sold his brand design think tank, Neutron to Liquid Agency, where he serves as the Director of Transformation. In this role he helps companies transform themselves through brand strategy.

Neumeier recently updated his bestselling book, The Brand Gap, and retitled it The Brand Flip to account for all the changes that have happened in the past 13 years since the book was released. But he believes the core ideas he communicated in the original still hold true, as he explains below.

How did you become such an expert on Branding?

I’ve been thinking about branding since design school at Art Center. I love the aesthetics part, but surely it’s not important to anybody unless it connects with a business result. It took me a long time to connect the dots and the role for designers to be strategic thinkers.

Back in 1970, a booklet came out called Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, and it was a little orange booklet you could stick in your pocket. I read it, and was like, “Oh wow, this is what we have to do.” It’s better than all that advertising stuff that had come before. This is solid, logical stuff. I started thinking about the designer’s role in creating a position for a company vs. the competition. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to sell that to clients. I’d say, “I know what you’re trying to do, and this is who you want to be. You need to make some changes, and this is how I can help you.” That was the start of my branding career, but it was a long-time coming. Read the rest of the interview here.

Timothy Goodman & Jessica Walsh: Being Vulnerable on a Public Platform

What happens when two designers set out to do a social experiment that reveals their vulnerabilities and insecurities? They publish a book, get tons of media coverage, and Hollywood comes calling with a movie deal. Then they start over with a new experiment.

Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman are well respected designers who have plenty on their professional plates already—Walsh as partner of famed Sagmeister & Walsh, and Goodman as a prominent designer, illustrator and art director. Both are based in New York city, and they teach at School of Visual Arts, as well. In 2013, 40 Days of Dating started as a personal exploration where Walsh and Goodman exclusively dated each other for 40 days, following a set of self-imposed guidelines including attending couples therapy, an entire day of holding hands (even in the bathroom), and a romantic weekend get-away. The entire experience was documented daily, with each recording their thoughts about each other and what they were feeling each day. This was the most real, reality program we’ve ever witnessed, and highly addictive. During the experiment, Goodman was asked by a friend why he was doing this, and he said, “I really believe it’s testing my capacity for intimacy.” That intimacy was ultimately viewed by more than 15 million people worldwide. The two didn’t become a couple, but they have remained close confidants and co-conspirators, and Walsh found her happily-ever-after with someone else.

Their latest project, 12 Kinds of Kindness, again took them way out of their comfort zone as they explored their own personal struggles in the past and how they dealt with them—and are still dealing with them—as well as how they respond to unwanted behaviors in others. The description on the site, says, “Two self-centered New Yorkers, often focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s around them, created a series of 12 steps as a way to become kinder, more empathetic people. As a resolution, they practiced this for 12 months.” Here, we talk to Goodman and Walsh about their motivations with each project, why they keep doing them, and how they feel about publicly revealing such personal experiences. Read the rest here.

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How to Build a Better Brand from Four Experts Who Know

Brand-building is key to any successful business. Design plays a critical role in the development and evolution of a brand over time. Here, we ask four branding experts about the factors that influence brand success and why. All have taught branding workshops that you can watch for free during Branding Week, June 20 to 24 on Creative Live.

Meet the Four Branding Experts

Megan Auman is a designer, metalsmith, educator and entrepreneur who has built a multi-faceted business around her passion for great design and sustainable business. Her eponymous jewelry line is sold in stores across the U.S. and online. Her designs have been featured in Design Sponge, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light and more. In her class, Brand Your Creative Business, you’ll explore what makes your business a unique brand and find ways to share it. You’ll learn about implementing a brand strategy and growing and protecting it.

April Bowles is a writer, creative business consultant, marketing strategist and photography dabbler. She wants to live in a world where artists and makers adore their blogs, write with confidence and know how to get their unique work in front of people who love it—and scramble for their credit cards because they just “have to have it.” In Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Successful, April will help you cultivate a deeper confidence in your product through developing a more nuanced understanding of your brand.

Stanley Hainsworth is founder and chief creative officer of Tether, a design and branding agency in Seattle. Prior to founding his own agency, he worked as creative director, defining and reshaping the stories for Starbucks, Lego and Nike. In his class, Branding Essentials for Designers he’ll talk about the role stories play in developing a strong brand identity and how to create a strategic roadmap for sharing a brand story with the world.

Lewis Howes is a lifestyle entrepreneur, high performance business coach, author and keynote speaker. He hosts The School of Greatness podcast, which has received millions of downloads since it launched in 2013. His newest book, The School of Greatness, provides a framework for achieving real, sustainable, repeatable success. His class, Start Your Profitable Podcast & Build a Brand, will show you how to start a podcast that makes money and grows your brand.

Learn from the Branding Experts

HOW: What’s the difference between a brand and a set of branded elements?

Howes: Your brand is the feeling people get when they interact with you or your work. It’s how they remember you and what they say to someone else when describing you. Your brand elements are just the visual representation of that feeling.

Bowles: A brand is all the marketing and communication you do to differentiate your business from the competition. Branded elements like a logo or business card are pieces that help to make up your brand.

Hainsworth: A set of branded elements are the badges and the delivery mechanisms for a brand. A brand is a thing, but it’s also a feeling, a movement, a passion. A brand puts a promise out into the world, “if you interact/experience/try our product or service then you will…”

Auman: Simply put: Emotion. A brand is an emotional connection repeated over time. Brand elements are one signifier of those emotions. The challenge in branding is that it’s very difficult to build an emotional connection simply through the elements we traditionally associate with branding. The emotional appeal comes from the product itself, the stories a company tells, the experiences customers have with the company (both online and off), the experiences customers have with the products, and even the way a company is represented in the media. Read the rest here.

 

Tips on Teaching a Craft Class that Sells Out

Windy Chien has made an indelible mark in the craft market, primarily with her line of Fat Bottomed Girls spoons. These hand-carved, wooden beauties are created using special hand tools that Chien has mastered over the years while working in her backyard studio. In addition to selling her wares, she is a craft teacher who teaches the art of spoon carving workshops at Handcraft Studio School in Emeryville, Calif.

“I love teaching — it’s super satisfying to help people gain the skills to express their own aesthetic,” she says. “Some people have been concerned that I should keep my skills to myself so no one rips me off. Thankfully this hasn’t happened, and I feel that there is a big difference between giving people skills, and teaching your aesthetic so they can copy it.”

This niche category, has surprisingly broad appeal in the hand-crafting community. Her workshops, which are limited to ten people, often sell out. “Spoons are having a bit of a moment. They are beautiful, functional objects, and if you use a sweet one you made yourself, you’re elevating the experience,” she notes. Read rest here.

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photo by: Caroline Matthes