The other day I sat in a brainstorm with a bunch of fellow graphic designers, discussing the future direction of an international business. Someone in the team made a flippant joke about the moment: Most of us had gone to art school, not business school.
As designers we sometimes worry about engaging in the “business side” of things. But today’s businesses are desperate to find experimental and creative solutions and designers are just the problem-solvers they need. We’ve been trained to take a brief, assess the problem, instinctively create different directions, analyse the positives and negatives, reject one, create another, see what works, see what doesn’t.
We can rapidly create visual concepts that test how products, communications, experiences and interfaces can work together. And we can test multiple directions. It allows businesses to take risks they couldn’t imagine, because they can see tangible possibilities. That, is business prototyping.
There’s an opportunity now as designers to get beneath the veneer of subjective aesthetics and establish design, and design thinking, at the heart of tomorrow’s businesses – an opportunity we should grab with both hands.
As you all know, the Met Gala is often called the fashion’s Oscars. I like how this event is stress free and casual, considering to the awards that take place between January and Febraury; it’s nice to see the celebs take a break and make a come back if they hadn’t done a good job earlier. Lets take a look at what the models, celebrities, and the designers themselves dressed in. Prada and Givenchy took over the hottest celebs. I don’t usually much Prada on the red carpet, but this awards, i see and i like!
1. Anja Rubik (model) in Anthony Vaccarello: If she weren’t a model, there’s noway anyone can pull off that high slit.
2. Ashley Greene in Donna Karan: Simple and to the point
3. Claire Danes in J.Mendel: I love how this dress is a wrap-sorta-thing. The blue clutch to go with is cool and non-traditional.
Last summer I was convinced that I needed to invest in a DSLR. I was hoping to rekindle my passion for videography by purchasing a still camera that could shoot HD video. Plenty of research later led me to Sony, specifically to the NEX line that promises to be the next generation of interchangeable lens cameras.
As much as I trust their credibility and engineering, Sony, however, could never become my favorite electronics brand because of their insistance on using their own proprietary formats. Nothing is ever compatible or universal with them. Regardless, I overcame that point and planned on purchasing the NEX-7 for a hefty sum, until mothernature decided it would pause things for a few months. Devastated by the floods, Sony’s Thailand factories had to be shutdown for production and the release date of the NEX-7 was postponed till April.
But a lot can happen in 4 months, and a lot did. Olympus has now come out with the new OM-D line, based off it’s 1970’s OM cameras. The camera is a micro four-thirds camera and seems to be the next big competitor to Sony’s NEX-7.
As of now, reviews have been fantastic and I believe I just might be sold on getting this one instead. I’ll wait though to see a final production model hands-on and most importantly make sure that the HD movie mode rivals that of Sony.
Saying I cherished my time at SVA’s Masters in Branding program is an understatement. In fact, nothing can appropriately describe the year I spent with some of the most amazing design and branding talent that exists today. Much has come from this humbling experience and today there is concrete evidence of just how much was achieved during this time.
"Brand Bible" was a project initially conceived by Debbie Millman as a book that would chronicle the history of branding as well as show case some of the most successful branding work that has been done in various industries. Little did we know that a chance to coauthor this book with Debbie would be imminent.
For a solid 4+ months, we were in and out of the studio on Friday afternoons, as well as plenty of weeknights and weekends, working hard on researching, collecting and writing for the book. I was very happy to work alongside my friends and colleagues Chi Wai Lima and Jada Britto. We had a great time, to say the least. Our biggest opportunity came when we were welcomed by Rusty Clifton, Design Manager of Topical Healthcare at Johnson and Johnson’s Global Strategy Design Office to discuss Band-Aid®.
The book looks amazing and I recommend it to anyone interested in branding and design, not because I’m involved in it, but because there’s a lot to learn about the branded world we live in.
This week, the Italian fashion brand Benetton came out with a campaign titled “UNHATE”, that has taken to the web and people’s Facebook pages pretty quickly.
Although the campaign is clever and stays true to the brand’s history of social awareness campaigns, this one gained a lot of controversy over the portrayal of the Pope kissing an Egyptian Imam. My opinion: loosen up. There’s a good message behind this….much unlike the Dutch and French insisting on defaming the Prophet Mohamad’s image through caricatures….but that’s a different story.
Anyway, Lebanon soon enough took a liking to the campaign and came up with its own version of UNHATE. Saad Hariri smooching with Hassan Nasrallah, and Michel Aoun clearly enjoying a lip sucking with Samir Gaega. Priceless!
I believe I first flew on Virgin Atlantic when I was 15. I was heading to LA with my uncle back then. All I could remember was how amazing our flight from Heathrow to LAX was. It was 1999 I think, and Virgin had already implemented on-board entertainment. As a kid, it was heaven. How much conversation could I strike with my uncle on a plane anyway?
But the best part of it all was half-way through the flight when a beautiful blond flight attendant gracefully offered me ice cream! HEAVEN! Absolute HEAVEN!
I flew Virgin Atlantic a few times after that when I moved to the US. The service got better until one year when I flew an A340 from JFK to LHR. I can’t remember much of my flight, but I do remember being stuck with a non-functional entertainment system and mediocre food. I was highly disappointed. I lived in denial of that until my parents visited this May for my graduation. They flew Virgin Atlantic to NYC and unfortunately, they were as disappointed as I had been with the food and service. I tried to persuade them that they were just being annoyingly picky, but deep down, I knew there was a 99% chance they might be right.
But never fret, Mom and Dad. Richard has your back! Yesterday, Virgin Atlantic revealed a new upgrade to its economy class dining experience. Believe it, he heard ME and he heard YOU and we didn’t even say much. THAT is what makes a great brand. Listening.
The most successful relationships are those made of great listeners. And that’s why Sir Richard’s Virgin brand has succeeded throughout the years. Not only is he eager to create great experiences for his customers, but he makes sure that Virgin is engaged on a daily basis.
No contest, Virgin Atlantic remains my brand of choice. Honestly, I’m not really picky about airline food, especially that I always try to carry a sandwich and munchies on board with me. That aspect of the flight experience doesn’t make it or break it for me. But when you tempt me with ice cream, well then that equation changes. You have me! :-)
Uniqlo has been around in Japan and some European countries for years. It was only in 2006 that it was introduced into the US market, appropriately opening shop in Manhattan’s SoHo shopping district. The brand quickly gained attention from Americans and it’s become a SoHo landmark. The brand has grown so big, that in October of 2011 it opened up 2 new stores in Manhattan, including its new Flagship on 5th Avenue.
Last week, I decided to venture into the 5th Ave store after hearing great reviews and receiving a tip that there was a $9.99 deal on denim! I quickly put myself on a subway and headed over to 5th Ave last Thursday afternoon. Well, that was a mistake. I’ve forgotten how crowded 5th Ave can get as we approach the holiday season.
The crowds in the store were no different. My first assumption was that there were about 500 to 600 people in there at a time. How did they fit you ask? Ahh…well that’s the fun part. The store is a massive 89,000 square feet!!!—making it the largest single retailer on 5th Ave!! I was practically lost. The store is built in a somewhat pyramidal format, where you walk up and move in. It seems to go on forever.
My first status, as I checked myself in on Foursquare, was “What happened to Japanese minimalism?” to which a good friend of mine responded, “it’s in the prices”. Sure enough, the price tag on most items is pretty darn awesome. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the store is still SO big!
In fact, if there were a large variety of clothes that could justify the size, then I could probably understand. But the clothes happened to be somewhat repetitive.
So what’s this brand trying to stand for? I don’t really know I have the answer to that. The SoHo store is big to begin with, and from the looks of it, the Herald Square store is bound to be as large. As another good friend of mine said, it may just be that “in America, bigger is always better”.
The advertising and design community in Lebanon and the Middle East is growing, showcasing some very inspiring talent. But there are of course those that just don’t fit the bill. Over the summer, this horrible commercial started showing up on national television promoting a new “electricity” deal that the government was planning on. Besides the fact that the tune being used is anxiety inducing, the commercial in itself is not quite the smartest concept. What’s worse is HOW this commercial was shot. Although there is no written proof on my end, it’s quite evident that somewhere, somehow, someone at the electric plant in Lebanon was given orders to shut off electricity and turn it back on to shoot this spot. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this is ONE shot—not a composite.
Clearly this agency follows a well-known political party, based on it’s name “Clementine”. Further investigation on my part has confirmed that “Clementine” is founded and run by the daughter of a controversial Lebanese figure. Regardless, I’m not here to play the political party game at all. Political allegiance doesn’t matter at this point. I’m just disgusted at the way politicians feel entitled to abuse their power.
We have a long way to go, Lebanon….a VERY long way to go….
“As soon as you place branding in the realm of service, it becomes infinitely more complicated. Consider the behavioral characteristics of flight attendants, or the experience of getting on an airplane. That is what distinguishes one airline from another. It isn’t the aircraft, it isn’t the product—it isn’t the time it takes. It is the environment, the seating, and the way you are treated. These things are much harder to manage. They are infinitely more complicated, and the traditional consumer goods business—P&G, Unilever, and companies of that kind—are completely incapable of understanding how much more complicated a service or retail brand is.”—Wally Olins from” Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits”, by Debbie Millman
P&G’s oldest brand is IVORY Soap. Most people won’t even notice it at supermarkets, but I have a feeling that’s about to change. W+K have also created a pretty cool ad campaign for it too. Check it out.
We all have those little pet peeves that we just can’t seem to shake off. And if you’re someone like me who’s constantly working on being a little bit more patient, you know how irritating stupidity can be.
A couple of months ago, I picked up Howard Schultz’s new book “Onward” where he talks about his new vision for Starbucks and how he pretty much saved the brand. That’s all great. But Howard, you missed one thing!
I can’t stand how many times I walk into a Starbucks, order a coffee (hot or iced) and then walk over to the sugar/milk counter only to purge about 1/8 of my drink to get some room for milk! This morning I made it a point to observe. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me being a wasteful d*ck! 4 out of the 5 people that surrounded me did the same thing!
So much is wrong with this scenario. Customers are unintentionally being asked to purge at least 1/8 of their drink, giving them one extra task to do, knowing most of them are usually in a rush. The biggest ridiculousness is the mess that’s typically made by this action and the trash bags that become full of liquid, causing a greater mess for the cleaning staff, not to mention how it all spills onto New York City streets once that trash is taken out! And most importantly, when you add up how much coffee is being wasted, you’ll realize how much money Starbucks is losing!
Where’s the strategy in that?
The solution is very simple. All that baristas have to do is ask every customer whether they want room for milk or not. Or better yet, just leave room and assume that everyone likes milk or cream with their coffee. I’ve been asked before, but it’s a not a consistent experience.
If not, the image above could serve as a great idea. In 2009, Tony Adams presented this idea on "My Starbucks Idea". If you like it, vote for it here.
Starbucks is back on the right track, and as someone who believes in the brand, I’d like to see these little nuances addressed. I want one less annoyance in my morning routine :-)
Brands are powerful. That’s a given. But as a designer I believe they are most powerful when you can recognize them from miles away just by their visual language alone.
Some of the greatest brands of our time have become iconic simply by owning a visual identity. Granted, that’s not enough to make a brand iconic, but it sure helps boost that status. Tiffanys owns the turquoise box. Hermes owns orange. Chanel owns black and white. Virgin owns red…and sassiness. The list goes on…
Last week as I landed back in New York, I was looking out the window admiring the planes at JFK, as I usually do. And I suddenly spotted an American Airlines plane and I began thinking about the potential rebrand that the company is looking at. Now nothing has been confirmed in terms of what will actually happen within the next 5 years, but considering that the company recently purchased 460 new planes to replace their old fleet, and considering that they solisited agencies to pitch for “cabin interiors” earlier this year, I’m banking on REBRAND.
So what would a potential “visual” rebrand of the American fleet look like? It’s hard to say. As much distaste as I have for the customer service of the airline, I still believe that the logo and livery of this brand, designed by the legendary Massimo Vignelli, is probably the best and most recognized livery of all time.
American Airlines is a brand with a strong heritage. If there were an official national airlines for the United States, it would undoubtedly go to American Airlines. What more than a brand that carries the actual name? Red, White and Blue and an Eagle on top. Could it get more American?
But now consider this. Remove the “AA” logo off the tail. Remove the “American” from the body. You’re left with an iconic glistening silver body and red, white and blue stripes. Would that be heresy? Or would it be an unprecedented approach by a globally iconic airline to stand out from the crowd and claim its right to being “awesome”?
As outrageous as it may seem, many brands have been using this approach recently, and so far it’s been quite elegant and successful. The pioneer behind this was probably NIKE who first removed the word “NIKE” from their logo and stuck with the “swoosh” instead. MTV followed suit by removing the words “Music Television” from their brand. Most recently Levi’s and Starbucks have jumped on the band wagon leaving us with mere symbols of their respective brands.
It takes time for a brand to be able to do something as bold as removing its name off it’s visual identity. It takes years of building customer loyalty and recognition. The companies listed above have all proved to be essential (at least for some) in their daily lives and they’ve gained a global audience that most importantly “trusts” them to do the right thing.
Will the American public trust American Airlines enough to allow it to pursue such a drastic change in its visual identity? Although theoretical at this point, there’s always a possibility that some crazy CEO might surprise us with the excuse of “innovation”.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post (read here) about the rebranding efforts of Zaater W Zeit (ZWZ), a prominent Lebanese fast food chain that has taken Lebanon by storm and become an essential and iconic brand within the the Lebanese food culture. In an effort to freshen up it’s image, ZWZ made a decision to engage in a rebranding initiative that unfortunately has not been received well by the Lebanese public.
Popular opinion shows a disconnect that has been created between the brand and its consumers; almost certainly NOT what the intent was at all. I continue to run into friends and acquaintances who express their disappointment in the current change.
My first instinct, when I learned of this rebranding, lead me to believe that management must have hired an up-and-coming design agency, probably started by inexperienced AUB students who landed a couple of successful design projects right after graduation. My thoughts lead me to believe there was a complete lack of strategy.
But this week, as chance would have it, I picked up a copy of ArabAd Magazine in hopes of catching up on industry happenings in the Middle East. Right at the back of the issue was an article on the ZWZ rebrand.
My shock was evident as I learned that Pearlfisher, one of the top brand strategy firms worldwide, was behind this change. Strategy wasn’t lacking at all. Back in February, I had met Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director at Pearlfisher, at the Destination Design Management Conference in San Francisco and again in April at the annual FUSE Conference in Chicago and I listened to her present the Pearlfisher process and showcase many of their successful brand initiatives.
I guess the point of the story is, culture and perception play an extremely crucial role in branding. Understanding the nature of your brand, your consumer and the environment is essential to a successful brand positioning or rebrand. It’s important that the brand be perceived correctly in it’s environment. Pearlfisher, in my humble opinion, hasn’t succeeded in convincing me of their strategy for Zaater W Zeit. It may very well be that not enough research was made around Lebanese culture which eventually lead to this controversial and debatable end-product.
A while ago, the Lebanese Canadian Bank was caught in an unhealthy situation where it was accused of involvement in money laundering. The Central Bank of Lebanon soon exonerated the bank of any such case, but the damage had been done. Loyal customers began fleeing the institution and the trust put into the name had somehow began to dissolve away.
Last week I became aware of what is to happen next. SGBL, another trusted banking institution in Lebanon, has taken over and is now in the process of converting all Lebanese Canadian branches into SGBL branches. In a way this is a great strategy to save an otherwise very well-run bank and to keep employees from losing their jobs. But how will it affect existing customers of the Lebanese Canadian Bank? Will they be as comfortable using the services of SGBL? Will they decide to stay on? Or will they be tempted to finally make the transition to bigger and better banks like Audi and BLOM?
It’s always interesting to observe transitions in the lives of brands and those loyal to them.
The Louboutin brand has always been identified by it’s trademark red souls, just as Tiffany’s has always been identified by it’s blue box. Unfortunately, competitors have picked up on consumers’ lust for these red souls and have begun to immitate. You’d think it were fake brand manufactures doing this, but in fact it’s the likes of Yves Saint Laurent who are guilty.
Try walking the streets of any metropolitan city today and you will see the red souls. Chances are, they’re Louboutins! Unfortunately, a New York judge didn’t see it that way. He’s ruled against the company’s request to trademark the color red and stop other competitors from using it. What will this do to the brand? How will it affect this one point of difference that the brand owns?