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Archive for the ‘New Ideas’ Category

In a new spot for Schweppes, something as simple as a bursting water balloon becomes a ballet of exquisite beauty. Using high-speed cameras and actors, and almost no visual effects, director Garth Davis creates a stillness filled with potential, capturing tiny moments of time that could be chaotic but in his hands become crackling, magical pockets of unreleased energy. The soundtrack couldn’t be more perfect (“To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra), easing into the sound with naked piano chords that elevate in tempo and intensity as the balloons begin to explode.

The mesmerizing quality of the spot leads to the brand reveal at the end, which disrupts the flow somewhat – the viewer must reach for the connection to a company that makes tonic water – but it’s easy to reason that away by simplifying the message to fizz-bubbles-popping balloons. If one goes further it becomes a bit more complicated – are we talking about refreshing? Celebratory? Childlike? Perhaps, but for a product that is normally mixed with booze, maybe those aren’t the connections we are looking for.

A great interview with the director is featured on Creativity Online today. It’s wonderful insight into the work that goes into making this work of beauty.

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Posted on Veer yesterday, a fantastic student project hypothesizing what the Star Wars titles would have looked like if the fabulous Saul Bass had done them. Complete with jazzy soundtrack and spot-on for the distinctive Bass style. There’s also a link in the video responses where someone took the titles and “remastered” them á la the “improved” version of the original classic movie. Absolutely fantastic, and an especial pleasure for those film/design geeks out there.

Also on Veer, an intriguing series of art pieces has been created by distilling the pages of certain magazines down to specific elements (advertising logos or headlines, for example) and then combining them on a single black and white page. It’s a fascinating look at the style of certain magazines, either quite restrained and clean (National Geographic) or in-your-face advertising hurricane (Vogue). They are also very pretty, from a stark graphic point of view.

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I read an interesting article this morning that sparked a great discussion between a variety of designers offering their opinions and personal experiences on a polarizing topic in the design world: team or solo? This is something I’ve grappled with since design school, sitting through four years of critiques where the personalities in the room may be more interested in shredding any possibility of personal style rather than offering constructive observations on one’s work. Trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t take the criticism personally proved to be an almost impossible task when I felt that my best work came when I poured my heart into it. Discovering that for the most part my style didn’t fit the mold of what was considered “high design,” or what I called “design for designers,” to some degree I was able to distance myself from the critique process, take what I felt helped my design and push on with what I felt was right – after all, the world doesn’t need a bunch of designers making the same thing, right?

Then at my first agency job, I discovered a whole new edge to the critique process. A job comes in the door, and the team of 6 designers all take a creative brief and make comps. Then in some of the most painful, grueling meetings I can remember, we’d gather at the conference table and review the comps with the creative director, choose the best ones to show the client, and trash the rest. Then the client had the opportunity to “cut & paste” the resulting group of designs into an often bizarre montage of styles, and the project would get tossed to one of the designers for completion, regardless of how much input they had on the original design. As a result, a tense and often nasty competitiveness existed within the group, and everyone knew that their brainchild would likely be modified to the point of oblivion by the end anyway.

Since then I’ve worked for other agencies and now I work for myself, with no peer critiques and only myself to answer to. I find that the freedom to develop my style has improved the quality of my work, and the responsibility is refreshing. But at the same time, I miss having a creative professional sitting feet away that I can bounce ideas off of, take an idea to the next step, or work through a block with.

For the most part I think agencies tend to drift toward the negative kind of group design, but they don’t have to. In the design world often “agency” becomes a bad word for designers who have had these kinds of negative experiences, myself included. But it doesn’t have to be that way. An agency can be a creative think tank, a group of like-minded but unique creative professionals working individually and together to produce a wide range of great work. A client may not look at the portfolio and say that it all looks like it comes from the same agency, but they know that they are going to receive a unique approach to any challenge they bring in the door. And of course, the designer coming to join the team knows that they will be given the freedom to improve and develop a unique style and craft, while being nurtured in an environment of trust and positive feedback.

In a perfect world.

 Found on Veer

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Cloverfield poster

I wrote a few months back about the ingenious trailer for the now-named Cloverfield movie, featuring a hand-held camera of a party which gets rudely interrupted by a mysterious large monster crashing through downtown New York. Giving only the date of release, interested viewers are intrigued enough to track down hints and clues on a variety of websites, set up forums discussing their findings and hypotheses, and basically work themselves into a frenzy over the upcoming movie.

Basically it’s the viral concept, carefully crafted into a marketing strategy that has been wildly successful in this instance. It helps that the man responsible for the movie is also well-known for his series Lost, who drops tantalizing hints onto websites, into episodes, on DVDs, online games and various other places to keep the storyline as complex and engaging as possible.

But I think the real discovery here is the idea of personal investment in one’s characters. In Lost, the viewer slowly uncovers the histories of the characters, and through personal effort (the “search”) finds out more about each person so that the character feels real to the viewer and also very personal. The triumph of solving a puzzle or searching down a clue involves the viewer and requires the kind of personal investment that puts them into the storyline, almost as if they really know the people involved and are trying to help them in real-time.

In Cloverfield, the viewers are able to find videos, photos and information about various characters and their relationships with each other, in real-time, leading up to the movie’s release so that by then they’ve been experiencing this storyline for months and can’t wait to find out what happens to their friends. Truly genius, and an important mantra for advertisers: get your audience personally invested in your product, and you’ve got a winner.

Here’s a very thorough recap of the entire marketing effort on Movie Marketing Madness. Very much worth a read.

Found on AdFreak via Twitter.

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A short film

The significance of the message in this short film might take a couple of views to catch, especially some of the smaller moments. Either way it’s beautifully made, succinct and hopeful. Made by Hillman Curtis, found on Veer.

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When presented with a design challenge or a trivia question, if plain old thinking doesn’t get me the answer my first reference is often Google. Type in the search query in a certain way, with or without quotation marks, and often I find the answer or inspiration that I am looking for. Image searches are used to research overused icons, Wikipedia to find facts. It’s become second nature to use the internet as a tool to find everything from recipes to maps and beyond, with the expected mental filter in place to sift through the junk, all without ever picking up a book or a library card.

Does this make the research less reliable? Does it cause an overall cheapening of the general intellect? Is it cheating if I look to Google for a little help on my crossword puzzle (even if I make a rule that I must find the answer in the preview blurb)?

It’s all about asking the right question at the right source. If the answer can be found quickly and correctly, why not do it the easy way? The days of buying an expensive set of encyclopedias to grace your bookshelf are over – in fact, they were over more than 10 years ago when encyclopedias started appearing in the form of CD-ROMs.

If something can be done correctly and quickly, why is quickly often seen as a negative? Practice makes perfect, and the more something is practiced the more quickly it can be performed. Humanity has been practicing information distribution since the invention of the written word. Research no longer has to be synonymous with time-consuming in order to be effective.

Comments in response to Cheryl Beckett’s article Research Lite: Design Research Made Easy (If Not Accurate) on aiga.org

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It’s the last day of 2007. This was a year of big changes for me, making the leap into self-employment and parenthood at the same time. It’s been a year of lessons and new experiences, and of figuring out what kind of professional I want to be. Along the way I’ve discovered that a lot of the beliefs that I held when I worked at an agency – about what makes good work, what keeps good clients, what relationships are important – were either dead wrong or at least fairly naive. I’m sure 2008 will bring a whole new batch of lessons for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To stop learning is to decide that I can’t ever do better, and if that’s true what satisfaction is left? Happy New Year, everyone.

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