Monday, June 30, 2008

Gin Wigmore - The end of post modernism?

I've seen Gin Wigmore on high rotation on C4 and enjoyed it every time I've seen it. I rather like the knowing humour and reference to another era without irony (could the tide be turning"> on post-modernism; let's hope so).

Went as far as to buy her EP from iTunes.

Apparently she is a Kiwi, lives and works in Australia. Her blog talks about gigs in working men's clubs - Lucky Country, Unlucky Musicians.

Would love to see her live in concert.

While you're here:

Become a friend of Gin Wigmore on Myspace music

Misery loves company

Back in May I was worried about my health. A mysterious lump that has proved , after much testing and anxiety, to be nothing. Present, but benign. It was a black couple of months. In may I thought it would be fun to collect gloomy songs. Since my first wife's death I have toyed with the idea of a compilation of funereal music. So I anthologised a few on my Good Grief blog.

I'd all but forgotten it but there was a spike in the traffic for some reason.

Let me know your favourite sad song and I'll see if I can find the video (all of the posts have the videos of the songs).

Have to say: embracing the darkness is part of appreciating the light. I hope you won't think me morbid. So many of the songs remind me of how much I love life.

Here's one for my father, who passed last year. He always said I was a dreamer. I took it as pejorative until I knew better.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Obese legislation

There is something comical (tragically comical admittedly) about the New Zealand government's proposed legislation to combat obesity amongst the population. There are moves afoot to grant the government the same kind of power over non-communicable diseases as it has to control communicable disease.

This seems odd when the government pimps cigarettes and alcohol and receives a substantial share of the profits. I hope you can see the absurdity of permitting deadly products to to sold, then taxing them in order to create advertising messages to discourage their use. Of course political reality is the key to understanding. No New Zealand government would ever have the cojones to outlaw cigarettes (in particular) even though there is no communicable social benefit for nicotine products. Booze and fags are the kiwi equivalent of the right to bear arms in the US Constitution. There is no logic to it but the convention is enshrined.

It is easier for a government to compel the population to wear helmets when they cycle, not break the window of the prime minister's electoral office and not to physically discipline their children than to tax themselves with important but unpopular issues.

Of course obesity isn't confined to the population at large. The Labour government of New Zealand has become the Mr Creosote of political world - tragically corpulent, the kind of morbid fat that makes getting out of bed an major effort. The bigger the bureaucracy becomes the hungrier it gets - new rules become the cream cakes of power "Perhaps just a one more…" And a depart swells a little to facilitate the new weight of law.

Obesity is a problem in New Zealand. Let's begin with the legislature and not the legislation. We should lead the world in lean, efficient governance.

Let's make it an election issue. The New Zealand electorate should demand Wellington gets a stomach bypass.

Thrifty Business and WIFM

As we head for the confirmation of the recession in the New Zealand economy we all know has settled in (don't need to be an economist to see that) it is interesting to think about strategies for replying to it as a consumer.

With the bursting of the real estate bubble (which was also no surprise, and actually something of a relief - I was heartily sick of hearing about property prices) and the increases in interest rates many people now find themselves sitting on vast mortgages in which they, effectively, speculated. The pain is spread across the wealth spectrum. The bottom line is that most households will be more circumspect about spending - whether it is on a new Ferrari or a packet of chocolate cookies.

The silver lining must be the opportunity to persuade the population of the personal value of consuming less. If you don't need it - don't buy it.

'What's in it for me'(WIFM) is a much stronger driver of human behaviour than altruism (we might self-report a willingness to sacrifice for others, but our biology informs our actions more potently than it does our intentions - on an aircraft the instruction to ensure you have oxygen in the event that a mask falls in front of your face before assisiting others is the perfect synopsis of this idea.

Instead of saying 'You don't need that (magazine, journey, packaging … insert almost anything)' the dynamic shifts to 'I don't need …'. Self motivation is when things genuinely happen without the need for legislation. If you are creating 'green' communication I recommend monetising the message: Long life light bulbs will save you X dollars a month on your electricity bill. Don't even mention the environment. We've got the message already. Show people how to do more with less. The pious evangelist sphere is saturated and the hot air can't be good for climate change.

Who knows, reduced circumstances might also reduce calorie consumption which, in turn, will reduce the pressure on health services. The market will prove itself to be the most efficient regulator where the hand of government is always clumsy and corrupted by ideology and vested interest.

Money talks.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

RyanAir offers relief on Business Class fares

There is something to be said for candour. Check out this clip of RyanAir's CEO describing his fare strategy for long-haul flights across the Atlantic - Economy passengers pay just 10 Euros while Business Class travellers will pay through the nose. They will, however receive free oral sex (from cabin crew I expect). Cattle class will have to pay for it…er…O…Kaaayyy.

What is funny is that:

a) you can fly the Atlantic for 10 Euro
b) the CEO doesn't flinch from announcing publicly that Business Class passengers will pay through the nose

and c) There is no word in German for 'Blow Job".

Thanks to FlackLife for the, ahem, heads up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sony - Like Everybody Else

Yes - the cinematography is nice. Yes - the direction and editing are impeccable. But - no, the Sony 'Like No Other' concept doesn't travel across the Sony product range. I think the thinner it is stretched, the flimsier it becomes; a transparently obvious film.

You see the problem is that Sony no longer have hegemony over technical brilliance. It is table stakes in their category. Samsung do a pretty good job in many of the categories that Sony once 'owned'. Apple eat them for lunch in the portable entertainment segment. Neither of those brands even existed when Sony earned their place with products like the Walkman.

The 'Like No Other' proposition simply doesn't and can't hold water in a world where technical leadership is a technicality and may last about 15 seconds.

In spite of the lovely execution, I'm afraid Sony's Like No Other proposition simply emphasises that the truth is the line should be Sony - just like everybody else.

Saatchi & Saatchi ad busted as fake

Saatchi and Saatchi have been caught out over a fake ad that won a bronze award at the prestigious Cannes ad festival.

According to Ad Age's Creativity web site

"Although J.C. Penney has received a lot of well-deserved attention for the creative makeover it's gotten from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, the retailer is up in arms over a fake spot that earned a Bronze Lion at this year's Cannes International Advertising Festival. The "Speed Dressing" ad, directed by former Saatchi creative Mike Long out of Epoch Films, features a teenage boy and girl respectively running through drills, quickly stripping and re-dressing themselves, in preparation for an upcoming rendezvous in the girl's basement while her mother is at home. The ad has been circulating on Youtube since Monday. J.C. Penney never signed off on the spot and disapproves of its apparent promotion of teen sex.

"J.C. Penney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes," the company said in a statement to Creativity. "No one at J.C. Penney was aware of the ad or participated in the creation of it in any way. The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at J.C. Penney's advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without J.C. Penney's knowledge or prior approval. J.C. Penney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to remove the ad from online circulation and to apologize to our customers and our associates for misrepresenting our company in this manner."

A humiliated Saatchi's issued an apology and tried to distance itself from the ad - saying the film company made and entered the commercial off their own bat.

It isn't the first time a scam ad has been entered into awards - one that only ran once, if ever at all.

The thing about the commercial that I find interesting is that it doesn't seem to be a winner to me, under any circumstances. I don't find the content at all prurient, tittilating or even funny. In the era of American Pie the bar for stupid teenage comedy and sex jokes has been irrevocably lowered. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a return to Joanie Loves Chachi .

Aside from the sexual reference it would surprise me if the commercial would have made any difference to J.C.Penney's sales - other than a negative one - had it been approved and run on their behalf.

It seems old school advertising is becoming less and less in touch with its clients and consumers alike.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The last laugh: Gerorge Carlin, comedian died

"I look at it this way... For centuries now, man has done everything he can to destroy, defile, and interfere with nature: clear-cutting forests, strip-mining mountains, poisoning the atmosphere, over-fishing the oceans, polluting the rivers and lakes, destroying wetlands and aquifers... so when nature strikes back, and smacks him on the head and kicks him in the nuts, I enjoy that. I have absolutely no sympathy for human beings whatsoever. None. And no matter what kind of problem humans are facing, whether it's natural or man-made, I always hope it gets worse." - George Carlin

(Many a true word said in jest).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Social Proof and Persuasion

The most important skill in advertising must, surely, to be persuasive.
Over the years selling has almost become a dirty word. But there is selling and there is selling. In order to have someone modify their behaviour in a useful way you have few useful options.

You can demand or compel…basically forcing or dictating your views onto another but it very rarely has any kind of lasting effect. In the end dictators are hung from a pole.

You can wow people with your brilliance. But this virtuosity, while it can be enormously entertaining, usually fails to accomplish very much.

Advertising is about persuasion. So I was interested to read about the concept of 'social proof'

"Social proof is a psychological term for the phenomenon of looking for confirmation from the crowd when you’re unsure whether to act. If you see ten people staring up at the sky, …you’ll probably stop and stare up too.

Business leaders can harness the principle. A classic example is a recent program written by Colleen Szot that shattered a nearly twenty-year sales record for a home-shopping channel. Szot simply replaced the classic call to action–

“Operators are waiting, please call now”–


“If operators are busy, please call again.”

Rather than imagining bored operators filing their nails, home shoppers pictured phones ringing off the hook. The implicit message: others must be buying, so should you.

The researchers behind Yes! set out to see if this principle could work for hotels too. Along with the usual environmental message and images of crystal clear water and rolling green fields on the cards asking patrons to reuse towels, the researchers placed a message indicating that the majority of guests already chose to reuse their towels. Guests whose cards subtly employed the principle of social proof were 26% more likely to recycle their towels than those who saw only the basic environmental protection message. That’s a big improvement at no additional cost to the hotel."

Maybe sometimes we don't have to bash consumers over the head with creative crowbars when simply thinking about our choice of words will make a world of difference.

Most of my cleverer friends agree.

(Ok, that was clumsy and obvious, but I think you get the point.)

Original heads-up via

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I have been banging on about the future of printed media. It has been fascinating to hear people tell me about how much they love magazines for their tactile, sensual qualities. This has been the party line for the MPA for years. Magazines are intimate, so the story goes. But look, I am a magazine fan as much as anyone. I also love the sound of a V8 engine and go weak at the knees at the sound of a V12 Lamborghini in an enclosed space - but does that guarantee their future? I doubt it very much.

It isn't so long ago that colleagues in advertising insisted on letting me know that my enthusiasm for the Internet was misplaced. "It's too slow." "Women don't use it." and so on. Of course now we have broadband and watch video, and women outnumber men online in developed markets. Computers have nothing to do with computing any more. In fact we should let that term go the way of the expression 'horseless carriage'.

Much as I love magazines and newspapers in their printed form my growing social conscience finds it hard to reconcile the excessive use of resources when a better alternative exists. Better alternatives aren't always accepted by the market of course. Beta was probably technically superior to VHS… there are often forces at play that override logic; economics (the market) is an unreasonable force.

So I was very interested to find (through an almost random twitter connection) this initiative from Bakersfield, California: Printcasting.

From the site:

What Is Printcasting?
Printcasting will make it possible for anyone to create a local printable newspaper, magazine or newsletter that carries local advertising – all for free -- by pulling together online content from existing sources, such as blogs, and combining it with local advertising that matches the content.

Through web software that we will build, an aspiring print publisher won’t need any technical knowledge, design skills, software or even content to create printable publications. If you’re passionate about a local interest – which could be anything from a local sports team to a local hobby like fishing – and you have an Internet connection, you’ll be able to set up your own publication in minutes. New editions will automatically be created as PDFs and sent to readers in e-mail. The idea is similar to a Podcast, which uses RSS feeds to send out new MP3 files -- thus the term Printcasting

The beauty of this idea is its simplicity. All a publisher will need to do is choose which blogs to feed into his or her publication, pick a publication template, and choose how often new editions should be sent out. Local readers will then be able to search and browse for Printcasts that match their interests, read and subscribe. Every template will be optimized to look good on both home printers, and larger-run presses.

Get more info here on the the Printcasting site

I love the concept - obviously it is in Beta (pre Beta even - Alpha?). It takes the idea of disintermediation a step further - in that you don't need access to capital (Rosebud) to publish - although the job of curator/editor will be even more significant within the constructs of this model.

I am sure it will make the enemies of amateur enthusiasm cringe but it think it something worth exploring with the ideas of sustainability, reducing waste and being more relevant in mind.

The economics of magazine publishing are terrifying. Becoming a mag publisher, in my view rates alongside the desire to own an airline as a signifier of a buccaneer egoist impulse in the modern word.

Initiatives like Printcasting might be more viable.

Oh, and if you doubt the power of the web to deflate magazines look at the effect of online porn on the Hefner/Flint empires. Pornography, like it or not, has always been a canary in the cage cum bellwether for web developments.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shedding light and misconceptions

Oh dear.

Long life bulbs are a time bomb. They save a little. They are unsatisfactry (ugly flouro light) and the can't be safely disposed of - the mercury used in their manufacture will find its way into the food chain and cut a swathe like you wouldn't believe. Which will only get worse.

The safe, energy efficient solution to lighting isn't flouro. I it is LED* (which has the secondary benefit of converting the energy it uses only to light - not heat).

Long life flouro bulbs are the Betamax of the moment; a dim solution.

* Earlier version of post used term LCD, which was about as accurate as LSD - which I may or may not have been using at the time ;-)
Thanks to comentors for correction.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Redefining Wealth

I found the essay on the excellent design site A Brief Message (200 word essays on design - well worth a look). It reminded me of the piles of inorganic waste that is heaped at the roadside for periodic collection - for some reason those white plastic outdoor chairs always seem to feature strongly. In the Story of Stuff presenter Annie Leonard claims that just 1% of stuff consumed in the United States is still in use just 6 months after it is bought. (Think about next time you are comtemplating adding a new tchotchke to your pile).

In our post-industrial world, where “artisanal” refers to cheese and “heirloom” to tomatoes, design refers to the new, the innovative, the global. Even with all the talk of carbon footprints and environmental stewardship, design is too often about the transitive and the temporary.

Before the Industrial Revolution, artisans created heirlooms. Each object was imbued with personality and value; heirlooms were tools intended to last for generations.

Perhaps it’s a bit old-fashioned to stress the importance of the art and craft of design in today's connected world.

Imagine a cell phone that lasts like a Stickley chair or a magazine that matters like a Gutenberg Bible.

Change is the watchword of the day, driving business and politics and society. But, there's a new form of change on the horizon; we’re heading into a constrained environment where the designer's artistry and craft will have to encourage what lasts, what matters, what sustains.

As designers, we have the opportunity to use our art and craft to redefine wealth in the future. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to create a world where each object and experience is filled with value, where living with less but better is both joyful and meaningful.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sony Walkman ad

I've referred to the Sony Bravia campaign before. Saw this commercial on TV tonight and wonder if they have run out of steam.

It seems as if the corporate brand team have seen the impact the three commercials for the Viera Tv have had and figured it would work as an overall brand positioning. So now the 'Colour like no other ' position is applied to other products in the Sony portfolio.

I'm not certain aping your own success is a successful strategy.

Mundus Fundus

I drifted into the city with my daughter today. We hit a cafe for lunch - Atlas in Ponsonby. I enjoyed a bowl of linguine. It was delicious. The mushrooms were rich and perfectly offset the sweet saltiness of the parminsan. I flipped through Michael McHugh's magazine Mindfood and actually thought it was better than the launch issue (which irritated me for its proximity to Monocle/Vanity Fair/Marie Claire). I liked the apartment designed by Kiwi David Howell in Manhatten. He was a friend of my son's mother. It was nice to see he is doing so well. When I met him he had recently grauduated. I was irritated by the trumpeting of Kevin Roberts as a Kiwi. I suppose if I can he can (I was born in Scotland, arriving in the promised land with my parents as a kid, so technically I am a Scot… at the end of the day I'm with John Lennon and Samuel Johnson…patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel/imagine there's no countries…).

Zoe made classic faces to indicate her disgust at the very idea of eating mushrooms (a variation of the face she made when I asked if she'd like to try my spirulina drink). She sat with her new ipod phones in her ears. I think they might become permanent. I have loaded her shuffle up with Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavine and the like, samplings from my iTunes - don't ask me how I reconcile Howlin' Wolf and Cake with teeny confections…I can't. It's just pop culture and I like to know what is going on. It's my job.

My friend Catherine showed up with her son and we had coffee. She had invited me to join her at the Liam Finn concert at the Powerstation. I was on patrol with Zoe and no backup so I couldn't go. He put on a good show by all accounts. Still, can't always do everything. I had a nice time watching the Grand Finale of American Idol. Mostly Z listened to The VengaBoys - 'we're going to eat pizza'… It felt like telling her there is no Santa when I let her in on the fact that the lyric is 'We're going to Ibiza'. Wondered if I had opened Pandora's box by introducing her to Ibiza?

We meandered along to the Leatham Gallery on Jervois Road to see Martin Horspool's exhibiton of robots. They are very cool. The show looks like it has sold out. I saw Martin present at Pecha Kucha at Samoa House. Nice man. Very clever. Zoe wasn't impressed but she liked the goldfish pond behind the gallery. She was unimpressed when I told her the green shed had been my office back in the day. (I love it - spectacular view over St Mary's Bay, over the marina…loved it). Bumped into the talented James Mok, creative director of DraftFCB Auckland, had a chat. Looking foward to catching up again soon.

We shopped for a gift for Z's mum's birthday tomorrow. A nice picture frame.

A mundane day. But even mundus can be delightful when you take care to notice.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The One & Onliness

My friend Monique Rhodes sent this to me today. I don't think she will mind me sharing it with you.


Being open means being free to do whatever is called for in a given situation.

Because you do not want anything from the situation, you are free to act in the way genuinely appropriate to it. And similarly, if other people want something from you, that may be their problem. You do not have to try to ingratiate yourself with anyone.

Openness means "being what you are." If you are comfortable being yourself, then an environment of openness and communication arises automatically and naturally.

It is like the idea of the moon shining on one hundred bowls of water, so that there are one hundred moons, one in each bowl. This is not the moon's design nor was it designed by anyone else. But for some strange reason there happen to be one hundred moons reflected in one hundred bowls of water.

Openness means this kind of absolute trust and self-confidence. If the bowls are there, they will reflect your "moon-ness." If they are not there, they will not. Or if they are only half there, then they will reflect only half a moon. It is up to them. You are just there, the moon, open, and the bowls may reflect you or not. You neither care nor do you not care. You are just there.

From "The Open Way," in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

A reminder of where this blog came from - Be the One & Only.

Be yourself.

Web Stats…sheesh

The number of people who have visited ThoughSpurs -in spite of its ludicrously long URL and equally ridiculous content is approaching 40,000. I am gobsmacked (and more than a little astonished). If you live in the United States you might think my boast barely worthy of note. But 40,000 is nearly the entire population here.

I am chuffed. Over the years I have chatted with (nearly) 40,000 people. If they attended at one time, in a stadium say, it would be quite a gig. Cold we tour? Would I have groupies?

So…I'd like to thank you all for coming.

On guitar is…On drums…

Tell your friends. Leave a comment.

Thanks for stopping by.

Come back soon.

Thank You and Good Night

Friday, June 13, 2008

Self defeating habit

"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The Creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything." George Lois.

When you create something - and it works - there is a danger that complacency will settle in. If it worked - do it again and it will work again, right?

Well, maybe. I think you should consider everything you do as a kind of pipeline. What works now is terrific. It gives you the cashflow you need to sustain yourself for the process of creating you next big thing (and maybe a reserve - in case that doesn't work).

Don't let your creative arteries harden. I imagine a fashion designer reproducing last season's collection because it was a hit?

Don't be afraid to kill your 'babies'.

Hey, did Picasso stand still?

Scorcese's epic ad

Martin Scorcese is probably the most recognisable director in movies today. Maybe because he has been putting himself in the frame - he is a central character in the Shine a Light, the Rolling Stones movie (pretending not to know the playlist - yeah right…) and now in this featurette for Freixenet (the Spanish cava style drink) he makes a Hitchcockian appearance - in more ways than one.

Interesting to see where ads are heading. While I like this commercial somewhat I don't think it is great - maybe understanding the dialog (Scorcese dubbed into Spanish) would help? If you can translate - let me know. The Clio judges liked it though and awarded it a statue.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

V goes down the gurgler

V energy drink
In New Zealand the energy drink V has a dominant position in the market (60%). The drink was developed by Frucor (a beverage company that is part of the Danone portfolio.

According to David Taylor on the BrandGym blog Danone, who market the brand in the UK, are about to pull the plug on the brand in the UK - even after launching a multimillion pound ad campaign promising that 'V invigorates the mind' Taylor's analysis makes for interesting reading:

The demise of V is a good example of how hard it is to make a dent in the share of a dominant brand leader. Dominant means a brand that IS the category. In the UK if you say "energy drink", people think "Red Bull". The brand has a huge 89% market share. And in a world where there is just too much stuff to worry about, brands like Red Bull are a godsend, as they mean there's one less decision to make.
-> Energy drink? Red Bull. Bang. In the basket (or in the hand in a garage/convenience store). Next.

To have any chance at all of taking share from a dominant market leader you need a combination of at least 4 things:

1. A decent bit of product/pack "sausage": you need some sort of product or pack innovation to make yourself worth considering.
=> V lacked any product differentiation [1/10]

2. Bravery to break codes: you also need to be brave enough to break some codes and stand out
=> V has the same type/shape/size of can as Red Bull. As far as I know, its sold in the same channels [1/10]

3. Loadsamoney: you need some big bucks to fight the big boys. Re-wiring peoples' brains so they think "energy drink?->V" instead of Red Bull is REALLY hard. [2/10]

4. Stamina: its one thing to launch. Its a whole different challenge to keep up the battle for 2, 3, 4 years and longer. Be ready for a long, hard and bloody fight. Energy drinks are just not key for Danone, who is focused on health, especially dairy [1/10]
TOTAL 5/40 = No chance

I find the energy drink formula hard to fathom. I have never felt any boost whatsoever after drinking the stuff. It tastes like, like…well, let's just say it just tastes bad - and it is expensive, so all in all V and Red Bull both leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Why does V have such a dominant position in New Zealand? My take would be that it is much cheaper than Red Bull (which is significant for the younger market), and it has fantastic distribution (ubiquity).

The profit margin on Red Bull must mean they have to pedal a lot less vigorously to go a lot faster. Sometimes size isn't everything.

Design for tight times

Jeff Bezoz is a legendary figure in the history of the Internet. Along with Yahoo and eBay founders he is one of the commercial web's pioneers. I still love and seem to have a steady stream of books arriving. I get a kick out of the Amazon brown box sitting on my doorstep (a strange habit of couriers - drop and run).

Sure Amazon has its critics, I am not sure if it ever gave its shareholders a dividend? But they are innovative and customer focused. I saw this quote from Bezos on the MetaCool blog

"I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out."

That's worth thinking about - it is certainly within the sphere of my little project Less Magazine. Some of the answers to the questions of sustainability is the idea of doing more with less. I suppose a corollary would be the old saws of 'Necessity is the mother of invention' or 'Needs must when the Devil drives.'

Having abundance tends to lead to waste. When the abundance of waste become the problem we need to turn our minds to elegantly simply solutions.

What interests me from a design perspective is the the baroque, ornate maximalism that was the genre of choice in the most recent era will, surely, be replaced by a more spartan approach that will probably transcend the vagaries of fashion and stylised design.

I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Get out of the way…

Further to my post about design this morning I came across this article from the BBC quoting Jakob Neilsen (web usability guru)

Web users are getting more ruthless and selfish when they go online, reveals research.

Bottom line - we go directly to what we want and ignore the things that slow us down.

Touchy Feely - the new HP touch screen computer.

The blogosphere has been alight with talk about the new Hewlett Packard touch screen computer. Watching the ad below I have to say that I feel a little sorry for HP. If only they had a design team as talented as Apple's. The machine looks a little ropey, or cobbled together. But I have one other, more important issue - I find it hard to keep my laptop screen clean. What would it be like with grubby mitt marks all over it?

I have no doubt that touch screens will either be a part of the way forward or a cul de sac in the development of the PCs. It would make more sense to me if the gestures could be interpreted without actually touching.

As for HP's advertising. I think it tries too hard. The music doesn't work for me. When you have something new and worthwhile show and tell and get out of the way. I don't think a 'likeability' factor is necessary in advertising about utilitarian products. If the product is good you will want to get your hands on it to try it out, if it works, then you're set. If it doesn't no amount of solid gold hits is going to save your hide.

Chuck out your chintz*

The thing that separates a good designer from a bad one is simple. A good designer begins by looking to the function of the thing. A bad designer worries about its style.

This is true in every case and in every category - from graphic design (or Visual Communication Design as it is sometimes grandiously redefined) to transport design.

A great designer has an objective in mind:

How can I communicate clearly with the end user?

A bad designer worries about whether their work is 'hip'.

It interests me how designers have engaged with the web. Many see it as an opportunity to translate their print design to an electronic medium that is dynamic and forgiving (there is no cost of reprinting if there is an error). Few understand that people still use the Internet as a source of information - first and foremost. One of the things we want is to be able to find what we are looking for as fast as possible. The analogy of a superhighway was used in the early days of the web and it is useful as a metaphor for finding one's way around. The reason exit ramps aren't signwritten in Edwardian Script is because you wouldn't be able to read it at high speed. You'd miss your turn, or worse run into the back of the car in front as you both slowed and tried to decipher the information.

I get frustrated talking with designers who are more concerned about trendy imaging or doing some thing 'new' - especially when their unproven approach defies the reality of how people respond to information - especially new information.

There is nothing wrong with clarity. There is nothing wrong with order. Thses things reduce anxiety (if you haven't read it I recommend Information Anxiety and its sequel Information Anxiety 2 by Saul Wurman). And, if you are designer who is approaching a web task, familiarise yourself with Designing Web Usability by Jakob Neilson. Stop being a decorator and start designing.

*Homage to St Lukes Ikea campaign developed by John Grant.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Truth About Traffic

According to BusinessWeek we have been fed a line by traffic safety authorities (hardly surprising considering their mandate is to spend the money budgeted for them by the Nanny State).

In Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us)(Knopf, August, 2008), Tom Vanderbilt uncovers a raft of counterintuitive facts about what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why.

Most accidents, for example, don’t occur in bad weather but on sunny, dry days. And drivers get most stressed out by merging traffic.

Another discovery: Studies by engineers in the Netherlands show that traffic flow at busy intersections might ease and become statistically safer by removing all lights and warning signs, not adding more. Why? Instead of top-down controls telling people what to do, drivers will rely on their own judgment and risk assessment. In other words, bottom-up decision-making may make us better drivers.

In the same slide show New Zealand company Ponoko gets a mention for its innovative user generated manufacturing. (They recently set up a factory in the United States to make distribution easier - the perfect form for a kiwi design based/manufacturing business? Must come close.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Speaks for itself

speaker as speaker

Sometimes design is better when there is a little whimsy. Not always. But I like this.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Zealand Television Channel Strategy

Ok. Pop Quiz. Who won this year's American Idol?
I won't tell you - but the simple fact is that, if you want to know simply type 'American + Idol" into the search panel of Firefox (what you're still limping along with an inferior browser - Safari Included).

Here in New Zealand there must be six instalments left before the winner is decided.
How stupid is that? It makes suspense programming - find out what happens next - redundant. Have TV executives failed to comprehend the web?

Primer: Real Time.

Live TV is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. Shows like Idol have to be broadcast simultaneously - the people most interested are going to engage online. A three week delay is stupid and undermines advertiser investment/confidence.

Possible Spoiler Alert.

At least the talentless dwarf didn't win.

Why do I even inflict TV on myself at all?

Loving Joost.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Greener solution

I have been thinking about sustainability and periodical publishing. Magazines and newspapers are inherently unfriendly to the environment. The mind boggles at how much material is consumed by the newspaper industry alone to produce daily papers, even before you consider the resources used to distribute then and the waste that is left behind.

Here is a quick idea to reduce the waste.

Tandem Subscriptions (two or more separate subscribers per issue), each issue is sent alternately to one subscriber then the other. Both are motivated to read and pass on by both concern for the environment and self interest.

How hard can it be? Would work better for magazines because they are less time sensitive.

Not brain surgery but a greener solution. Greenest would be to read your publications online.

(Green, Greener, Greenest from The Green Marketing Manifesto by John Grant - GreenNormal)

My colleagues at HB media have just launched their magazine on sustainability Good.
It looks very smart. I'm looking forward to reading it properly. I have one initial qualm. The magazine came with a card inserted to protrude above the covers and attract attention in-store. It is made from different material to the magazine and requires several processes to implement but it serves no real purpose (packaging without utility). The copy on the card exhorts the user not to waste the resource, instead using it as a bookmark or coaster. I thought it ironic that New Zealand's first 'carbon neutral' magazine was indulging in pointless waste.

Oh,and Idealog picked up business magazine of the year again at the MPAs (along with editor of the year for Matt Cooney and some design trophies)…well done, …very proud.

Rolling Stones Monumental

The Martin Scorcese concert film Shine a Light is quite something. I went along last night to Auckland's IMAX theatre. It was fascinating to watch the audience file into the theatre. It reminded me more of a crowd at an actual concert. There was a palpable sense of muted excitement. The age range moved the bell curve heavily into baby-boomer territory.

Our seats were three from the front. I had little choice - the week-long screening sold out. It was there or nowhere. The experience was weird. It is a fantastic show. With the exception, maybe, of Keith Richards solo tune, which kind of brought the energy down and felt a little self indulgent. Still, we indulge Keef, don't we?

The movie is a great reminder of the power of the boomer audience. The Rolling Stones are a vivid example of not only expectation of this generation to keep going and their audience's willingness to consume products that remind them of their youth. In my case The Stones were already old and firmly established by the time I had an interest in rock music.

Off again tonight with my son - who is a big fan of classic rock - seats a little further back so the topography of Mick Jagger's face might not be quite so disturbing.

As a trivia footnote: The movie ends with a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun who died as a result of a head injury he sustained from falling backstage at the opening night the two day concert series and their subsequent filming.