Stepping out of the box: How riding a bike to work helps me feel creatively alive

I am and will always be one who must experience things firsthand. When I was 14 years old a strange six-legged creature emerged from the waters of a nearby river I was fishing at and staggered up the rickety leg of a nearby picnic table. I had no idea what the creature was but its strange behavior caught my attention. I began watching what seemed like its final erratic movements on earth and after struggling for 15 minutes or so, the bug slumped to a halt on the surface of the table; it seemed its short life had come and gone.

I continued to fish for the next hour or so, periodically checking on the critter hoping that something would happen. As more time passed, I began to give up hope on the little guy after all, he hadn’t moved for some time now. But almost on cue I began to observe something truly amazing. The six-legged creature seemed to slowly inflate (for lack of a better word) with air and over the next hour or so, the thick exoskeleton began to separate. After struggling to free itself from its former body for what seemed like for ever, the bug mustered all the strength it could and step free of its former self to emerge as a beautiful dragonfly. After resting for a bit, the shiny brand new insect fluttered its new wings, as if getting comfortable in its new skin, looked around and took off. I was stunned, as I had never seen such a thing take place. It took me a few moments to realize but then it struck me; I had just witnessed the metamorphosis of a dragonfly. Excited I jotted down a few notes and created a picture to remind myself what I had seen. This experience would serve as a touchstone point in my life where art began to become something beyond the canvas. It helped clarify my position in life. I was from that point forward I was a witness; an observer. Whether good or bad, my purpose in life I had decided, was to understand and document ideas and events so that I could express them visually to those around me.

Several weeks ago I began riding my bike to work for the second time in my life because I wanted to again witness life, not just participate in it. I wanted to experience the journey to work, and spend as much time out of the office and the car as technology would permit. I began the process of exploring a route that was both safe (you quickly began to feel very small, very quickly when you become a long distance pedestrian as I like to call it) and visually stimulating. After a day or so of riding, I came up with the project you see in front of you. My mission was simple: capture design and document life through my eyes. What I found, as with many of the entries on this blog is the questions I thought I understood always lead to something I never expected. And so I began the trek to work…

Initially my idea was to take along the Ipod but I quickly shelved that. The first morning I road was a crisp sunny day so I figured I could getting back humming the lyrics to random songs (Death Cab for Cutie’s “You are a Tourist” immediately came to mind). I was underdressed, so it took a while to get used to the initial chill of the fall temperature, but once I did, I started to notice the smallest details. The morning chitter-chatter and shadows dancing across the side walk which more than compensated for the lack of music. This was only the beginning. The fresh air pumping through my lungs was revitalizing and I began to look at everything I’d been missing driving 40 miles an hour sealed up in a car. As the days passed and the miles continue to pile up everything has begun to slow down. The world in the morning and after work is very much a three-dimensional place when you’re not confined to a car as I mentioned. I have now begun to notice the different textures of the roads and sidewalks, and how insignificant things like sidewalk construction or a large puddle carry far more weight on two wheels. The most important thing you begin to understand as a cyclist however, is the comfort of 4 simple letters: W-A-L-K.

One of my favorite visual components of this time of year is definitely the colors and even more so now that I’ve started biking. Right before the season ends, the grass feels greener and smells fresher and the colors seem to pop like fancy photography. I’ve also had the pleasure of watching summer turn to fall and in having a front seat to the seasonal swap out, I’ve begun to subconsciously think about the order of the constantly changing leaves. These guys below I’ve concluded, are the first to fall in town and each day seem to litter more and more of the side walk.

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So now that you’ve had a chance to see and feel what I’ve experienced, it’s time to check out some of the photos I’ve snapped. As I mentioned, my primary focus for this project was to observe and document the art. To my surprise the art became somewhat of a subplot in the narrative of enjoying the tiniest aspects of life. That said, I did come across some very well done pieces as well as some clever homemade art that gave me a new found appreciation for the town of Wheaton.

Jack Straw’s Pizza

One of my favorite signs I pass everyday is the one you see below featuring the logo for Jack Straw’s Pizza. I like the vintage appeal and the hand drawn effect of the logo. It gives off the vibe of a small operation where the people work hard to keep their customers happy and it’s accurate; plus the pizza’s pretty damn good too.

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Next Yoga

This is a great sign, very simple, good color scheme and lets face it the attractive woman that takes up half the building helps a little too. The only thing that bothers me about this sign is the weird “x” in Next…it bothers me a lot actually…but hey, its a hook and I remember it so it works.

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The Constitution Truck

This truck caught my eye on one of the first few days I began riding. The first time I saw it I actually did not have my camera and thought I’d never see it again. To my surprise I saw it a few days later and snapped this pic. I like it because it takes a certain type of character to drive a truck like this and I can also appreciate the composition. The different pieces that are sort of scattered all over the truck give you a sense of the fragmented state of the colonies when the country was being formed. I’m not sure if this by accident or on purpose but it works.

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Pipe Man

Another manmade creation by the fine citizens of Wheaton, the “pipe man” can be found in the heart of downtown. Not sure why it was created but it certainly adds a bit of buzz to an otherwise unexciting building. Very creative!

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It’s been a great experience all around and I look forward to posting more as I discover more. I now realize that my bike ride is a brainstorm and an hour a half a day where I can analyze my thought and take inventory of the events that now fill my mental “tablet”. After taking the time to work on this project I have found a new way to both understand myself and those around me. If you’re an artist or simply someone who enjoys looking at things from a different perspective, I would encourage a bike ride to work (or any kind of alternative transportation for that matter). I identify very much with the Tabula Rasa theory popularized by John Locke and there is no better way to absorb your surrounding than to immerse your self in them. So give it a shot and send me some pictures if you find anything interesting!

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Handle with care: Why commercial art can consume its creators

Art is more than paint on a canvas, more than clutching a microphone or strumming a guitar. When you put a brush to canvas, create a line on the computer or stitch together pieces of fabric for a living you belong to an emotional fraternity that stands for something far greater. You are, as Pablo Picasso once said “a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image”. By electing to do so you make yourself available in an emotional way that most careers do not.

The professional world is built for those with thick skin and a short memory. Want to succeed in it? Climb over everyone else (and their differing opinions) until you’re the top gun. People do this every day with varying degrees of success. But art appeals to a much different collective. Art appeals to the unstable creatures who choose to walk or fly to the beat of their own drum. As artists, we create because what is currently available does not suit our physical and mental needs. We spend our entire lives searching for things that do not exist and in the process we continually tinker with existing ideas; altering the materials we’ve been blessed with in an effort to allow the rest of the world to see life through our eyes. In short an artist is a scientist with a paintbrush or mouse in his or her hand.

The problem with this is that exploring the unexplored can often lead artists down an all to familiar path. Famous Argentinian artist Alberto Greco went as far as to “creatively” ending his life by overdosing on barbituates . He described the entire process in a letter until his final breath (if you want to learn more and can read spanish checkout this link). Ray Johnson, a popular collage artist and pioneer of the Fluxus art movement committed “rayocide” by “artisticly” jumping off the Sag Harbor bridge in New York and backstroked into the sunset. His body was later found washed up on a nearby beach. There are numerous stories but the epidemic extends across the entire artistic spectrum. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin for example, blended rock and jazz and psychedelics only to inevitably be consumed by the very same ingredients that fueled that rise to stardom.

Being consumed by the craft is not the only danger of being an artist. For many art is therapy. When that therapy is compromised, the results can often be catastrophic. At a young age, I picked up a pen and began scribbling images on sheets of paper. Not really understanding what I was doing, but finding that doing this put my mind at ease. As I got older and more comfortable in my skin, my subject matter turned from toy trucks and animals to more emotional expressive pieces that represented who I was and/or how I felt at the time. Art served as both a tool to sooth as well as a way I could understand and wrap my mind around things that I otherwise had difficulty comprehending in verbal or written form.

Every artist can point to reasons why they create. As an artist, one of the first things we are taught is that the number one rule of art is to break the rules. Art empowers those who create it which allows us to comfortably operate in our own worlds without having restraints. This empowerment gives us power to cope with everything from shyness to mental health disorders and everything in between. As the stakes rise and artists enter into the commercial industry a demand to consistently produce for the masses that previously did not exist is born. This demand reintroduces many of the same complications to our lives that we previously utilized art to conquer. These challenges, like any other, can often be overcome but as the scale of career success increases, so too do the negative effects. Curt Cobain began his musical career writing about small things like dis-functional love, relationships, partying and getting high. By the time his life came to an abrupt end at 26, he had penned songs such as “Sappy” and “Rape Me” which chronicle Cobain’s disdain toward the record industry and himself. Cobain, like many artists, had a difficult time with fame as he became more successful.

The world of art is about overcoming challenges and not dwelling on our setbacks. It is a career field that if handled with care can serve as an extension of life that may not feel like work at all. Famous artists should not serve as a deterrent, but as cautionary tales to study and learn from. Art is a labor of love, if not a labor at all and isn’t a career that we chose but a career that chooses us. Hopefully by studying famous artists of the past and present we can better understand our own career and lives in general, after all that’s the point isn’t it?

Beer we go again: Seasonal themed beers hit the shelves

The window for barbecues and pool parties is rapidly closing and we’re tasked with putting out the flame of a summer that wasn’t. As the season’s most avid fan, but always the optimist, I’ve decided to focus on positive and get an early jump on the new seasonal arrival of one of my favorite products—craft beer! And I’m not just talking any beer, no sir, this week I’ve got pumpkin flavored beer between the ears. The number of microbreweries decorating store shelves is higher than it’s ever been before and I think it only fitting that we examine some of the new products and designs by divvying up some seasonal love.

Armed with an IPhone and a $20 bill, I headed down the street to the local Binny’s” to see what was new in the “seasonal” section. I decided to snap a few pictures of some of my favorite box art and bottle designs and share them with everyone. With the names getting catchier and the designs more elaborate, there’s definitely plenty to enjoy this time around.

Here are a few of my favorites:

   Jaw-Jacker  Pumpkin Smasher  Pumpkin Chai

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year for numerous reasons. Why do I love it so much you ask? I love it because it gives everyone the green light to get weird! And all the craft beer boom has done is force these companies to make more and more of a creative effort to capitalize on the weirdness. So who get’s the gold you ask? It’s definitely the folks who’ve created this. Simply labeled “Pumpkin Chai” this wicked witches brew is concocted by the folks at the Saugatuck Brewing Company, which just as it sounds is located somewhere in Michigan. I’m a bit torn on this one for two reasons; A) I do not like the taste of Chai tea but I do like pumpkin beer and B) it’s hard for me to justify spending $10.49 on something I already half find un-enjoyable. That said, the art on the boxes and bottles is pretty sick so I may have to just bite the bullet and try it.

Deciding on my favorite box art in this young season isn’t easy. There’s this this this this and that but my front runner so far is Jinx by Magic Hat (pictured on the header). I’m a sucker for busy detailed art that works and this definitely works for me. Speaking of busy art that works, it’s not Pumpkin themed, but this may be one of my all time season favorites. It’s Left Hand’s Oktoberfeast design. Left Hand has been one of my favorite breweries for some time now and I couldn’t help but complement there latest effort The beer is a lager and not only does it look good, it tastes pretty damn good too.

Speaking of taste, just like the designs on the outside the flavors are all over the place on the inside. For me the raining champion is Pumpkin Smasher by Big Muddy. It features a great box design, which features a sasquatch and it’s brewed in Southern Illinois … need I say more? I’ve selected several challengers so far to try and dethrone the beast but none accepted the challenge. Here’s a rundown of how I feel about each of them:

Ichabod by New Holland

A spicy slice of pumpkin pie in a glass, that’s what this stuff is. The taste was a bit more enjoyable because this was the first sip of pumpkin beer since the calendar flipped but stuff packs almost a little too much spice.

Overall Grade C+

Pumpkin Head by Shipyard

A worthy competitor to Pumpkin Smasher, the box features a super hero-esque version of Ichabod Crain so I couldn’t resist picking this one up. The beer packed plenty of punch in the spice department just like Ichabod but the real payoff is how smooth it goes down.

Overall Grade B 

Out of Your Gourd by RedHook

I’d have to be out of my gourd to try ”Out of Your Gourd” Pumpkin porter from Red Hook again. This stuff is horrible. It tasted like I was drinking left over coffee grounds. It was however a fantastic testament to what a catchy tagline can do to sell beer and the stubby Red Stripe like bottles offer an additional splash in the curiosity department. At 5.8% alcohol by volume, if you can stand the taste these offer the quickest path of the bunch to a good buzz. That said, it’s nearly a complete failure.

Overall Grade D-

Oktoberfest Märzen Lager by Lefthand

Looking at the box design, I thought to myself, “There’s no way the taste could measure up”…but I was wrong. This lager is delicious in every way. Don’t take my word for it, just try it yourself

Overall Grade B+

So there you have it Pumpkin Heads, a rundown of a craft beer world, Halloween style. These are just a few of the samplings of what’s out there this season and I’m sure these won’t be the last samples I taste. I also stumbled upon this great website I found while researching for this article which you can find here. Enjoy the site and if you have any thoughts on some good beers message me and lets communicate.

When safety and branding collide, NFL style

It’s Football Season Baby! The time of year when roughly half of America tunes in to see if their favorite city can capture the elusive Lombardi Trophy. With the NFL looking to build on its profit of roughly 10 billion dollars last year, nothing appears to be getting in its way…other than safety that is.

In 2013, The NFL made roughly 1 billion dollars in merchandising revenue and more than a fair share of that merchandise features the league’s iconic helmet design. The sleek helmet and the uniform’s Storm-Trooper-like appeal represent a symbol of masculinity in American culture that is unrivaled by any other professional sport. Take these two key components and slap a few aggressive looking logos on them and BAM! you’ve got people lining up at the cash register all around North America. The problem is, (and this isn’t news) as cool as it is, the helmet doesn’t really do much to keep the player’s heads safe.

The same can’t be said about the past 50 years of automotive safety, we’ve seen revolutions; collapsible steering columns, airbags, crumple zones, three point safety belt you name it and automakers have done it-heck they build their marketing around it. If you need a visual watch the video below of a ’59 Bel Air smashing into a 2009 Corolla.

 

What does it mean? It means the safety can be achieved if it is really desired. The NFL meanwhile, just seems to be spending a bunch of money on research that leads to very little and when it does, they just brand it as safety, even when it’s not.

This is not to say progress hasn’t been made. The creation of the plastic helmets, which replaced leather helmets in 1949 for example, stopped a lot of players from dying. The evolution of the teardrop design then reduced the amount of head on collisions. Perhaps the most innovative modification occurred in 1971 when air valves where added and helmets could then be pumped with air to soften blows. Chinstraps were created in ’76 to keep the helmets from popping off and new material but since the 1990’s little has changed. The most recent attempt at fixing the helmet, the Riddell Revolution, really just made the helmet more intimidating looking, despite the fact that the company boasted the helmet curbed concussions by 31%. This claim was later refuted and Riddell’s subsequently abandoned the claim, only further strengthening the argument that safety still isn’t the number one concern.

Existing helmet designs have had debilitating effect on progress. With other high-impact sports such as lacrosse, stock car racing, and motocross also establishing helmets as the centerpiece of their branding, the NFL, along with helmet makers (Riddell and Schutt) work hard not to blur these product lines. Not to mention the NFL nostalgia just doesn’t seem to jive with these designs.

Sometime in the very near future the NFL will be opening its giant wallet and giving back an Enron-sized wad of cash to many of it’s former players. Will the suit set a new precedent for safety? No, the NFL will just continue to do what it needs to do to protect its brand. We will continue to see research, safety committees and eventually the removal of kickoffs but until the NFL breaks down and allows safety engineers to rebuild its helmets from the ground up, we’ll continue to hear the sad stories of former players developing early onset dementia, CTE, and suicide. Design and functionality can live in harmony but only if the NFL allows it to.

 

Anacondas and spiders and astronauts, oh my! Dissecting the creative genius that was the 2014 MTV VMAs

Ah, the MTV movie awards…I don’t usually feel compelled to right about celebrity get-togethers or celebrities at all for that matter but Sunday’s production was really something to behold. At its finest point, the show featured some truly gorgeous set work, clever costume design, fantastic stage lighting and mind-blowingly creative performances. At its lowest, the show’s over-sexualizing and objectification of women threatened to send the creative production off its axis. And not to mention moments like Beyoncé’s performance of “Partition” just felt awkward. I understand that art and sexuality often find themselves in the same bed but to blatantly objectify women and then post on the stage in rolling neon lights “We’re not objectifying women” left me scratching my head. I know it’s MTV but come on guys you’re better than that. Everything said, the over-the-top blend of celebrity hoopla and brilliant creative work definitely answered the call of “Entertain the People” which, for some reason made me feel a little better about the whole thing.

The awards themselves were equally bizarre; and in this case, I’m totally okay with it. MTV once again made the otherwise boring task of handing out awards to musicians extremely exciting. Did they piss a few people off in the process? Probably, but like I’ve always said, the number one rule of good art is it should evoke a strong emotional response and the over the top. Whether it was Miley Cyrus having runaway Jesse Helt accepting her award while she sobbed next to the stage or Beyoncé’s onstage family reunion, the 2014 edition of MTV’s award acceptances were definitely press worthy.

Switching gears, let’s focus on what really worked creatively. The most obvious was the opening intro, which blended performance art, body painting and an opening camera pan through Nikki Minaj’s neon jungle. The performance was built around her new single “Anaconda” and was a fitting prelude to what would be a night filled with shock and awe.

After Minaj exited the stage, it was on to Ariana Grande’s cast of characters that looked as if they’d been raiding David Bowie’s closet. It appears someone decided to dust off the vinyl used to create those hokie visors from the 1990’s and turn them into what you see here…very cool. 5 Seconds of summer then followed with a much more conventional approach proving that simple and creative almost always gets the job done. The set featured shipping pallets, Urban Outfitters-style, catastrophically strewn all over the stage which were heated with warm yellow/orange floodlights. This accented both the song and the youth of the band exceptionally well.

Then came the rolling crescendo of sexuality. First Nikki Minaj’s dress decided to fall apart, which rendered her mostly immobile, then Jesse Jane paraded out in a costume that looked as if it had already malfunctioned before she put it on. Her range of motion was so severely crippled her only option was to pace back and forth across the stage. The dress probably worked a lot better on paper than it did as a functional piece of clothing and other than shock value, this performance really didn’t provide much on the artistic side of things.

Next up was my absolute favorite performance of the evening, Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s duet “Black Widow”. If you want to see what flawless execution of the creative process looks like in motion, watch this video. This one had it all; imaginative costumes, beautiful lighting, and most importantly, it let the performance drive the production. I’ve never particularly been a fan of Miss Azalea but after watching the arachnophobic onslaught of spoken words she and her equally talented counterpart Rita Ora unleashed upon the crowd, I was truly left in awe. I’ve never seen a women or anyone for that matter, speak as fast as Iggy and Rita and for that, I give these women serious kudos. After we give the kudos out, can we also maybe check Rita’s driver’s license because I’m pretty sure she’s Rhianna.

As I mentioned this was the high watermark of the awards, so from this point on my interested waned a bit. As I mentioned Miley Cyrus sent Jesse Helm, a runaway to accept her award for best video. I’m not a Miley basher by any means and I can always appreciate a celebrity who invests their time and money into helping the underprivileged, but the whole thing kind of felt an attempt to hijack the show. I guess that’s just Miley being Miley and really shouldn’t have been surprised.

The final performance of the night belonged to the one and only Beyonce and I must say I was disappointed. I know diehard fans will hail this as amazing but for me it just seemed like a mash-up that didn’t really fit together cohesively. The performance had its moments but in the end, it seemed way overproduced. I also didn’t believe dragging the entire family onstage in front of millions of viewers; just to prove she’ll be together with Jay-Z a few more months was at all necessary. I like lights, I like lasers, and everything else they threw at us viewers but unlike the “Black Widow” performance, it felt forced.

Last but not least, you can’t mention the MTV music awards without mentioning the iconic “Moonman” awards that the company hands out. It’s been a few decades now since the first chrome astronaut (created by the now defunct Manhattan Design) was walked across the stage. This year was no exception but this time around the design got a funky new facelift by Brooklyn-based artist KAWS. Purists probably won’t like this design and even I’ll admit I’ll miss the silver plated Buzz Aldred, but the KAWS “Moonman” is a much more accurate representation of the quirky personality of the MTV network. You can check out more on KAWS and the new “Moonman” here to get the full scoop.

Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed the awards as much as I did. MTV should be commended for a job well done. The only said part is we have to wait another 365 days to see what they’ll do again next year. Whatever it is, we know it’ll get us talking.

The “Field of Jeans” and a red zone that has fans seeing red

It’s that time of year, that’s right it’s football season! And football season means one thing to the advertising world—lots and lots of new branding. If you’re like me you probably tuned in to the 49ers-Broncos game not really expecting much besides a few hours of second-string football and a chance to check out the shiny new Levi’s Stadium. What I got was that and a one two punch of advertising that inspired this week’s article. Let’s take a closer look at the good and the bad.

First up, lets get the absolutely awful out of the way…

The photo above needs very little explaining (and is the NFL’s image not mine). I got my first glimpse of the atrocity, which appears to be the future of the NFL red zone, during the middle of the first quarter. Yep, that’s right the entire red zone was blanketed with a giant Toyota advertisement…and not even a good one. It actually looks like someone hijacked a teleprompter and slapped a clipart on at end zone. The stretched out text seemed to grab hold of the players as they sliced through the on screen sea of red. Not only did it annoy me, it actually interfered with my ability to watch what was happening on the field. Not since the invention of the popup ad can I remember being so agitated by a form of advertising. Hopefully the NFL hears the fans on this one, although it’s planned for all the home games. I guess they had to do something to offset the $1.3 billion dollar price tag…

And now on to the brilliant…

Once I got past the eye trauma, let me rephrase that, once the action moved beyond the 20’s were the field was much less Toyota, it gave me a chance to absorb the NFL’s newest stadium, the brand spanking new Levi stadium.

Let me first say the idea of branding a stadium beyond the name and various items within has always been slightly annoying to me as a fan, but working in design and advertising I know these things are an absolute must for all parties involved, not to mention a cash cow which has allowed professional sports to become what they are today. I have to give Levi’s props though, they actually executed stadium advertising quite beautifully and even pushed the marketing envelope without making fans hate them-for that I applaud everyone involved.

So how is this stadium branding different from any other?

The first stroke of brilliance is the harmonious marriage of the 2 company’s primary color-red. By no mean is this the first time companies with similar identities have partnered together so Levi’s isn’t breaking any new ground here but rather it’s the way Levi and the 49ers have woven the two brands together that I can really appreciate. The 49ers red and the Levi’s red fit together so cohesively that I actually had check to see if one of the two companies had altered theirs Pantone colors to complement the other-They didn’t but the colors are so close it actually gives the illusion they are one and the same. In doing so, Levi’s slapped a giant red tab on everything 49ers without upsetting the masses and compromising the integrity of the 49ers brand.

Beyond the color connection, one of the coolest aspects of the merging of the brands is the history between Levi’s and the actual 49ers of the 1800’s. Levi jeans were designed specifically for the 49ers during the gold rush, and the have finally reunited in the advertising world some 160 years later.

And then they took it a step further…and I’m still okay with it

Speaking of a gold rush, the stadium will also include a giant pro shop which will feature staples such as Nike, New Era, Mitchell & Ness and, of course, Levi’s products. By doing so, for 8+ games a year, roughly 550,000 fans will pass through the gates of the “Field of Jeans”.

In addition to constant NFL foot traffic and brand exposure, Levi’s has essentially bought themselves a 3 and half hour Super Bowl commercial in 2016, which the stadium will be hosting, for a fraction of the price. A slice of the Super Bowl advertising pie will reportedly climb to $4 million dollars in 2014. Not only did they get a bargain in that sense, the stadium is brand new and located in a warm weather climate, which makes it a lock to host future Super Bowls.

Partnering with the Niners looks like a huge victory for Levi. The acquisition has positioned the company in the passenger seat of the Cadillac that is the NFL. Sporting events are one of the few places people still spend money frivolously and Levi’s has plenty of products to sell. The only question that remains now is, with its new footing in the sports world, can a full on entrance into the sports apparel market be far behind?

Drones: Why you and Kanye West shouldn’t fear them

Last week we talked about how important the human element is to marketing and advertising; this week we’re talking about something that seems to scare the living bejesus out of humans—drones.

Since their introduction, drones have been instilling the fear into the hearts of the majority of freedom loving, red blooded americans and one of them in particular, Mr. Kanye actually believes there are paparazzi out their that may accidently electrocute his daughter with them see here. That said, drone photography has all the components to be grounded before it ever really takes flight. Why is that you ask? Well let’s see…

Invasion of privacy:  ✔

dangerous unmanned aircraft in manned airspace:  ✔

unharnessed technology that could potential be used for mischief-making:  ✔

The list goes on and on…

That said, we’re living in a time where suspicion and concern over privacy are at an all-time high. The country is caught up in cold war fever part deux and Edward Snowden has pretty much convinced everyone and their mother that the government is watching and listing to every single move and sound we make. Not to mention the idea of this, when coupled with this, can easily lead one to believe that this can’t be far off.

Truth be told, you’re probably doing more to map out your day to day life in cyber-space for everyone to see then a drone is ever going to. So let’s take a few minutes to scale back the paranoia, maybe stop tagging ourselves every time we walk from the living room to the kitchen  and educate ourselves on something super cool.

So what are drones doing on an art and design blog anyway? National security has no place in artistic realm, right? Well wrong, but I’ll get more into that in a future post. For now let’s enjoy the amazing photograph seen here—behold Dronestagram (www.dronestagr.am).

Now that you’ve had a chance to enjoy one of the truly amazing photos I’ve ever seen (I actually thought this was fake at first glance) check out these here, here and here.

After viewing these photos on my Facebook feed, I had to learn more. I logged onto Dronestagram and it has instantly become my current favorite photography site on the web. The layout is easy to understand and the interface is super simple, two of my favorite qualities in a webpage. I poured through the pages and found each page seemed to bring to life a new angle of nature I’d never seen with my own eyes.

In addition to great photos from perspectives that only pilots and frequent flyers get to enjoy, they also run contests (the current contest is closed but check out the results here.

Another great aspect of Dronestagram is it shines a spotlight on artists pushing the boundaries of an existing technology. By doing so, Dronestagram and its users have essentially turned the photography world on its head.

So what’s one of these bad boys going to set you back you ask?

Well, that depends. Like anything, the prices tend to vary; and like anything you also get what you pay for. After some researching, I was surprised to find that drones are quite affordable for just about anyone. Prices vary but a drone will generally set you back anywhere from $299.99 – $1499.99, depending on how crazy you want to go. The great thing about them is most come with a camera mount which is compatible with another nifty photographic phenomenon, the GoPro Camera and several like this one, actually come with a 14 megapixel camera so it’s easy to get started. Each also comes with a mounting devices which is compatible with different types of cameras for customization, and the mid to upper level priced vehicles are quite durable and most reviews lauded them for being simple to operate and easy to repair.

So now that I’m done droning on about these unmanned photographic miracle makers, fire up amazon, get yourself a drone and start snapping some crazy aerial photos or your own. Or If your like the other 90% of the population, you may want to just to simply pull up a chair and enjoy Dronestagram from your computer. Either way I’m sure everyone will enjoy so check it out!

Forget all the bells and whistles, just be human

Throughout the years, I’ve received countless pieces of advice from people from all walks of life. I’ve been educated by average Joes, preached to by self proclaimed innovators, and absorbed bits of wisdom from a scattered group of individuals who fell somewhere in between. All that said, I’ve always found the best advice comes from accidental mystics.

My father once told me “You can be anything you want; if you want to be a shoemaker, be a shoemaker… just make sure you’re the best damn shoemaker that ever lived and you’ll be all right”. At the time I just laughed. 

A close childhood friend once told me “If you want someone to like you, make sure you talk to them and more importantly make sure you talk to them—about them”. After hearing this, I looked at him quizzically and tried to understand why?

I once asked a former co-worker how she appeared to know everything about everything? Her response “I don’t, I just tell people I can do anything they ask me and then I just figure it out along the way.”

What do all these seemingly unrelated education bits share in common? They were all honest, genuine and most important, they were statements that came from the heart.

Although all these individuals have profoundly inspired me as a designer in some way, the most genius piece of creative advice I’ve ever received didn’t come from a person I know…It came from a group of people I’ve never met nor probably will ever meet. The culprit: FCB, the folks responsible for the awesome ad campaign you can watch below.

 

So what is this human element anyways?

The human element comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether it empowers you to make a change, causes you to tick like a time bomb, or makes you want to lock yourself in a room and have a good cry, if done correctly – the chances are the ad’s creators have successfully incorporated at least one of these key components.

1) The “human element” allows us to pause life and recalibrate our social compass.

Let’s face it, as we grow older, no matter how carefree and young at heart we are, as we age, we become hardened. While a little bit is absolutely necessary for day-to-day survival, the problem is sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy life’s simple joys.

A great example of this is demonstrated in this McDonald’s “Dia Del Niño” ad in which adult customers where made to feel like kids again…the result was awesome, check it out.

2) It delivers a simple message that is easily transmittable from culture to culture.

Living in America, we tend to take a lot of things for granted. We forget how in some areas of the world, simply stepping into a neighboring country can be a life-threatening experience. I know I am constantly beating the Coca-Cola drum, but their ads reach people the way few others do. This ad, from Leo Burnett, demonstrates that while ads can’t bring us world peace, they can certainly help individuals find common ground and understanding through visual communication.

3) It makes you think about the ad…long after it’s gone

A good ad that connects with its viewers leaves a lasting impression

Think of how many ads you see in one day? Need a little help? While the number is often debated, the consensus opinion is as consumers, we view between 1500-3000 ads per day. All the more reason an ad needs to stand out. A truly great ad needs to leave its viewers with a message to carry back to other consumers.

So what does all this mean for an advertiser? It means a hell of a lot of pressure, that’s what. But fear not, with the help of the “human element”, you can create an ad that is simply priceless.

American’s aren’t drinking as much pop and Coca-Cola’s taking it personal

By now everyone has seen Coca-Cola’s latest ad campaign or, like a lot of people I know, own their own personalized bottle. The success isn’t by accident, as Coca Cola is no stranger to producing the stuff of legend. Last year, with the help of the team at Leo Burnett and the World Wildlife Fund, Coke turned its traditionally red cans white to save the polar bears. The white cans then turned to green-roughly 2 million dollars of it, to be exact. Their latest attempt at advertising gold hits a bit closer to home, as they attempt to reverse the slide of soda consumption by asking customers to come back and drink more Coke…literally by name. The initial roll out has proven effective, but it’s how they’re doing it that’s truly something to behold? Let’s examine:

We are currently living in an era where physical fitness and exercise has become a staple of American culture. You could even go as far as to say health and nutrition are enjoying a bit of a renaissance, need proof?

2013 was somewhat of a milestone for H2O as it marked the first time in over a decade, in which Americans consumed more water (58 gallons per year), than the 44 gallons per year average of the popular sugar stacked beverage. Realizing the sharp decline in soda drinking, Coca-Cola along with Weiden and Kennedy (who handles Coca-Cola’s Coke and Diet coke product lines) enlisted the aid of what you will commonly refer to as the human element. The result? Personalized bottles for everyone…well almost everyone. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a fairly common name, you’ll have to settle for the “family” bottle.

But why is it so successful?

1) The “Name Game”

Coca-Cola is a smart company that knows who its existing and potential customers are, so what have they done? They’ve reached out to us…by name, which resonates on a stronger emotional level. Think about the way you feel when someone calls you by name. What happens? You feel good, you feel important and a sense of trust is created without you even noticing. Why? Because it connects with you on a level, in a way something like a simple “Hello” or “hey you” cannot. By doing so, Coca-Cola is speaking directly to us. The result? We’re eating it up (or drinking it up) to be more accurate.

2) It adds a bit of excitement to an otherwise trivial task of selecting something to drink.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If you haven’t already been to a store that features the new bottles, head to a local grocery or convenience store and try to resist the temptation of looking for your name at a display–It’s hard, trust me.

3) It encourages the lost art of sharing.

Long before the word sharing was relegated strictly to your Facebook newsfeed, people actually did physically share things and enjoy a personal connection when doing so. Coca-Cola has revitalized this idea and it’s working.

4) It’s making people want to buy Coca-Cola that normally wouldn’t

Last, but most important, the folks at Coca-Cola have done something that truly separates a good company from a great company: They’ve found a way to sell their product to those who normally wouldn’t buy it… and their doing so in droves.

So, while it’s still early on, early indications are the “Share a Coke” campaign is working and aside from the minor drawback of people constantly turning over display racks when searching for hard to find names, Coca-Cola’s appears to have hit another home-run and judging by the initial popularity I’ve seen, the momentum shows no signs of slowing.

So Cheer’s to you Coca-Cola, I may not be a soda drinker but you’ve definitely caught my attention.