Archive | October, 2010

Where do good ideas come from?

31 Oct

If any person could answer this question, regardless of their motives, they would be a rich , rich person. Some ideas are epiphanies that hit you when you least expect it, or are part of a long drawn out process filled with frustration, caffeine, and more frustration. What if you could pin point the environment that you need to contrive pure genius. All I need is my yellow shirt and some Beatles playing and everything I write will be pure gold…if only that were the case. I muddle thoughts in my head. I take breaks, I go back to what I was thinking about. I stress myself out to the point when I have to talk to someone else. It is indeed a process, and a different one for every person faced with a task at hand.

-Steven Johnson illustration of creating a good idea

I frequently read the Leo Burnett Blog because they discuss their work, but also talk about the process of creating the work. I stumbled upon a TED (Technology, entertainment, and design…check out the website, some very cool stuff ) video of Steven Johnson. Johnson is the author of Where Good Ideas Come From and Everything Bad is Good for You among four other books.

Johnson discusses how ideas are often considered eureka moments, that ideas are a single thing. What he argues is that an idea is a new network that has never fully completed. The idea is not a singular unit, but a connection between preexisting thoughts. Johnson thinks this network is brought through an environment internally, which can be mimicked externally to influence more ideas.

This environment for innovation happens when ideas are put together. This is what he refers to as the ‘liquid network’ , where people from different backgrounds interact and bounce ideas off each other.

He also believes that people underestimate hoe long it takes for an idea to mature. He calls this a slow hunch, which is that ideas linger in the back of people’s minds for weeks, months, even years. He says that ideas in this incubation stage need to collide with other people’s ideas that are in this same process of development.

He mentions Darwin coming up with natural selection. Darwin describes the concept as an epiphany, but when his notes and research were examined, he had the idea for years before. The research and information was all there, the net just had not been completed

What I ask myself after watching Steven speak is how to take this environment for ideas and implement this into my work? COLLABORATE. Take time alone to contrive ideas in the ‘slow hunch’ state, while others do the same, then go together and bounce ideas off each other. It may not happen that day, and that is okay, but it is building a web of thoughts.




31 Oct

I first learned about Ideo when I was reading a Good Magazine article on ’30 Places We Want to Work’. Among one of my favorite advertising agencies (W+K), and shoe brand (TOMS), was Ideo, a creative consultant firm in Palo Alto, California. Ideo has done creative work for great brands like Apple, Seventh Generation, and Prada (random assortment, yes, but all huge brands that are shaped by their image). I was extremely curious and began to research some of their work. Wow.

Not only do they create wonderful brand identities for companies, they also are extremely invested in social innovation. Their projects range from clean drinking water, treating blind children, and other problems facing marginalized groups. What does this have to do with design? Everything for Ideo. They employ what they call ‘design thinking’, which is creating and innovating new ideas to motivate and help solve problems. As a way to address energy problems, Ideo has created a range of animated videos to show people how climate change will affect their life. They work work mental health clinics, speaking to the patients and addressing their fears.

They also do branding work and I love what they have to say about that. ” Effective brands transcend logos, advertising campaigns, and social media presence. Sure, images and messages are important, but the real power in brand today lies in creating dynamic, meaningful relationships with customers that evolve over time. The most successful brands start an ongoing dialogue with people–that through a compelling mix of seamlessly connecting products, services, experiences, spaces, and digital interactions–fosters curiosity, trial, love, and loyalty.”  They go on to talk about branding as a way to innovate, not simply saturate the market. This is where advertising, or good advertising, should be going. Here are posters made for a rehabilitation program:

I must agree with Good Magazine, seems like a pretty wonderful place to work.

Typography of a Brand

31 Oct

After writing my previous blog post I began to research the origins of type. Some, like Baskerville, are old with European roots, created long before the idea of Indesign could even be fathomed. Others, are new, and have been classified by type enthusiasts as strictly American. I am referring to Gotham.

Gotham was created in 2000 for GQ magazine by the fabulous Hoefler & Frere-Jones. GQ wanted a masculine san-serif typeface and Hoefler and Frere-Jones looked to the signage of New York City for inspiration.

“We [Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler] both grew up in the city and independently we’ve walked around the streets and earmarked pieces of lettering or signage that we thought would be a good seed, or starting point for a project somewhere down the line. And we both noticed the letting on the Port Authority Bus Terminal up on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue. The lettering over the front door is this very plain geometric letter, but its not the type of letter that a type designer would make. It’s the kind of letter an engineer would make. It was born outside of type design, in some other world and has a very distinct flavor from that.”

-Tobias Frere-Jones, from a Helvetica film outtake (if you’re interested in type, check out this youtube clip)

Here are some inspiration for the creation of Gotham.


USA Today called Gotham the ‘font of the century’. Ranging from Coca-cola, Saturday Night Live, Nestle, GQ, and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In a Newsweek article, the author discusses why the origins of the typeface Gotham worked in favor for Obama building his brand. It was an American based design, off the store fronts in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. It represents not the elite, but the general public.  “…sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.” I would disagree with the last statement. this typeface has become associated with democracy and the message Obama was conveying in his campaign. A serif typeface or a script would have changed his perception entirely. Never underestimate the power of type. Here are some more uses of this wonderful sans serif from



Typographic Cities

31 Oct

I love typography. I think that type can make or break a design. It can set a mood and evoke emotions. I love looking at the history of typography. I went to Philadelphia this summer and there were pictures of streets throughout the last hundred years and all that changed was the style of typography. You could identify the decade of the picture by just looking at the style of the type.

Show Us Your Type, is a project for designers to use typography to portray the essence of a city. So far, they have covered New York, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Berlin. Next up is Kingston, Jamaica. Here are some of my favorites.

Summer work published!

30 Oct

I have mentioned before that I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at Portland Monthly magazine this summer doing design work for them. Although I finished my internship in the beginning of September, my work is just now being published. The work cycle for the magazine was so fast paced. I worked on Flux, a student magazine published at the University of Oregon, last year. This magazine had about six designers and a fairly small book. At Portland Monthly, the book is about 80 pages and there are only two designers.

In school, there is a feeling of celebration and relief at the end of a term. The job is over and you can go on. But in the real world of creating a publication, the end of one issue, means the planning of the next should have already taken place and needs to be started immediately.

The pieces that I am most proud of from this job were the things I did on my last week of work. I thought of it as a final, but really it was a sign that I had proven myself enough to be trusted with larger tasks. Let me preface this by saying that I am obsessed with fashion. I understand that it can be interpreted as superficial and a waste of time, but to me it is fascinating and beautiful. Every time there was a fashion shoot for the magazine, I would ask to look at the proofs. I would stare at them and ask way too many questions about the process of a photo shoot. Eventually the art director asked me if I would like to art direct and design the fashion piece for the November issue.

He told me the shoot would be for a November trend and that we would find a model and shoot in a studio. I was so excited. In my mind, the whole process would take a long time, but with a deadline looming over our heads, the photographer was booked within a day, the stylist pulled clothes, and the model agreed. It took a matter of two days, and I was standing in a studio.

I felt a little weird directing people, seeing as how I was the intern. The art director said, “Renee, you’re paid to have an opinion.” And it hit me. Regardless of what job you are doing, people come to you because you have more knowledge than they do (or they think that you do). As a student, I definitely have an opinion, it is just difficult to always back it up entirely because I still have a lot to learn. This is my goal when I do have a job, to have an opinion and be able to back it up and stand behind it confidently.

Here’s what I learned throughout the summer: the “real world” is more fast-paced than school. More people rely on you. Have an opinion. If you want something, ask (I began asking for more tasks and staying later. Do something that you love (I wasn’t paid a dime and never thought about it. Except when I got a $40 parking ticket. Ironically for staying late.).

Anyways, check out the fashion piece that I worked on here. Here are two photos taken by Jim Golden. These are them before they have been edited (see the floor on the bottom of the first photo), and then after where the images are placed together. The concept was wearing the color camel two ways; one soft and feminine, and the other hard and edgy. The boots were $1,000 Christian Louboutins that were put on for the shot and never walked in to not scuff the bottoms, even though I desperately wanted to try them on. Being able to take the ‘November fashion trend’, to a trend, to a concept, and being able to implement our ideas collaboratively was a great accomplishment that I would love to do againl

This is inspiring. Watch this.

22 Oct

This is part of Levi’s new heritage campaign made by Wieden and Kennedy Portland. More than a campaign, this is an amazing documentation about life in many parts of the country. W+K plays off the concept that the people in Braddock, Pennsylvania.  are similar to the pioneers of Levi’s in the 1800’s. This is a part of the ‘Go Forth’ campaign.

Last year, the ads depicted 20-somethings running around with Walt Whitman poetry narrating the scene (Shown above). Personally, I don’t think that campaign embodied the American drive and spirit that it aspired to. These ads were very harshly reviewed by the advertising community as missing the mark. Although they are beautifully directed and well-produced, it does not portray a ‘go forth, american’ message. That being said, I think this year is a whole different ball game. All filming is being done in Braddock, Pennsylvania, giving proceeds to the community and trying to build back the economy.

The campaign is using all residents of Braddock, telling their story or work in a poor economy. The print ads have tag lines such as “Ready to work”, Everybody’s work is equally important”, and “We all are workers”. Levi’s and W+K both address the lack of reality that last year’s Whitman campaign had, and attempted to capture a genuine sense of optimism contrasting with a somewhat grim reality.

“We wanted to engage consumers in a conversation about real work,” said Doug Sweeny, vice president for Levi’s brand marketing for the Americas at Levi Strauss in San Francisco.

“We wanted to show people who were really doing the work, the hard work, to rebuild after the recession,” he added, and it is serendipitous that “they need a good, sturdy pair of jeans or a trucker jacket to get down to work,” said Tyler Whisnand, co-creative director for Levi’s at W+K.

Mayor of Braddock praises both W+K and Levi’s for not rolling in with fancy equipment and free merchandise, but came with a purpose and sincerity. I love this. More advertising should do this. Rather than make New York look like a rural location, go to the rural location and help the community.

Visit If We Ran the World to find out what has been done at Braddock, Pennsylvania because of these efforts.

Another Vice Served at Starbucks

20 Oct

(Illustration from Core77)

Starbucks is adding a new drug to revamp sales during non-coffee hours; alcohol. The Starbucks store in Seattle located on Olive Way is serving wine, beer and cheese. Arthur Rubinfeld, president of global development for Starbucks, states that the redesign will work with local artists to design a community atmosphere using recycled materials.

The reason for this change? Starbucks gets 70% of its business before 2:00 p.m. Starbucks also wants to create a brand that is friendlier, and more a part of the neighborhood.

Until now, the decor of Starbucks has been identifiable regardless of location. This unique, localized design has been tested out by Starbucks in two locations, but without the Starbucks name attached. I find this a very interesting tactic. Starbucks knows that the corporate identity that has become attached to their brand conflicts with their attempts to appear local and a part of the community.

Risks for this new Starbucks is that it doesn’t look like Starbucks, but it does have the name attached. Rubinfeld says that a ‘local’ redesign of a store can cost anywhere from $25,ooo to $400,000. Is this too much of a risk? Former marketing chief Scott Bedbury says, “Brands have to evolve or die,” he says. “It’s a tall order. But if anyone can pull it off, it will be Starbucks.”

If it is popular, the profits will be amazing. Starbucks was able to take a cup of coffee, add some milk, and charge $4. A $10 alcoholic drink would not be out of the ordinary for this company. I think that this concept has potential, but needs extensive research done based on the location. There was a Starbucks I used to go to in high school that had local artists perform on weekends and was open 24 hours a day. Although I went when I was 17, I know that alcohol at an event like this would be successful. Starbucks is also right to work on the atmosphere. Currently, it is not a drinking environment, and many customers would be bothered by drinking in a place that is made for work and productivity. What do you think? Will this be a successful tactic, and if so, how will Starbucks shift their brand identity include alcoholic beverages? Starbucks has lost a vast amount of coffee sales to Mcdonald’s. Do people prefer a dive bar for evening drinks as opposed to a corporation that strives to appear a part of local culture?