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Archives: March 2006

Y? Because We Like You.

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Michael Hodgson called the Y Conference “the little conference that could,” but this little conference has been chugging along for 11 years now, becoming so popular that this year, it sold out, prompting them to offer 100 additional seats in a Satellite Lounge. Although over a third of attendees were from outside the state, it’s a very Southern California conference: diverse and blonde; young and pretty–owing much to the lower-than-usual ticket prices that attracted local students.

Hodgson, along with Thinkshop instructors Petrula Vrontikis and Stefan Bucher, had taken the train from LA with Art Center students, but Bucher was regretting the decision since he had left behind the framed original artwork from the February issue of HOW which was to be entered in the silent auction.

Speaker Debbie Millman had presented earlier in the day but simply glowed after her live on-site broadcast of Design Matters, although guest Art Chantry had been puzzled about the time difference between St. Louis and San Diego and had called in with just minutes to spare. But Millman said her backup plan would have been easy: “Run the Milton Glaser show!”

The charming Doyald Young, who was teaching a Thinkshop on scripts, told us about attending Hermann Zapf’s 87th birthday last summer at a castle in Germany. Speaker and Midwestern belle Ann Willoughby sketched dutifully throughout the sessions on a gorgeous brown leather-bound book that matched her outfit perfectly. Eric Baker made his presence known by guffawing loudly during Dora Drimalas’ presentation, then when his phone rang–to the shock of all around him–he answered it while Drimalas was speaking!

At the close of the first day, after bum rushing Tim Biskup, about 400 participants stepped from utter auditorium darkness into the garden at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, where well-deserved wine flowed, pinwheels twirled amongst the boxwood and a giant orange ‘Y’ faced a thrilling view of the Pacific. Iconic birds depicted in the conference materials dipped and sailed through the brilliant blue sky, almost as if they’d been hired by conference planners.

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The Design Public Meets Its Public

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Not so much a cutting-edge, investigative report with this one, but more of a “here’s someone cool doing cool stuff.” It’s an interview with Amber Nussbaum on The Design Public Blog. The site does a really terrific feature wherein they interview “a customer,” someone who has talked about their site, and in return, they interview them. That’s the case with Amber, who is a designer in Norfolk, Virginia. In the interview, she talks about her work, how she got into blogging, and what inspires her inventive side projects, among other topics. It’s a really interesting piece, just a slice of Design Americana, and perfect for a late Friday afternoon. Here’s some:

Why did I start blogging? I’m not sure. Post high-school graduation boredom? Probably. I didn’t even know what I was doing at the time, or that other people were doing the same thing. Web design was something I’d discovered earlier that year when I’d found Geocities, and taught myself some HTML. I remember having a Geocities page with a black background and lots of chartreuse and orange, and posting music news about bands I liked. Then it developed into me posting different opinions, pictures of my paintings and crappy poetry. I don’t think the point was for anyone else to read it, but just to put myself out there into the internet. I wanted a space. I mean, I was an artist, right? I needed a gallery.

Designboom’s Very Thorough Trip to Israel

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This writer has never been to the Israel, but he’s always been a big fan of the work that comes out of there. Just like in places like Brazil, or Northern Europe, there’s a distinct style that can’t be confused with anything else. Particularly, that’s the way it is there. The bright, yet somehow muted colors and the stark, clean lines. It’s almost as if everything that’s made is required to be sandblasted with a thin layer of sand. That said, we were thrilled to see that Designboom recently took a trip to Israel and highlighted some of the fantastic design work coming out of the country. Here’s a bit:

We’ve been told that there are not many companies interested to collaborate with local designers. People are looking for opportunities or new challenges, to find an entry point to work in the creative world. This is one reason why Israeli design has concentrated more on artistic expression then on functional / technical aspects. Young Israeli design in the recent past has focused on reuse of objects and recycling of materials, giving a certain “raw” aesthetic to their design.

The New Fancy-fied Face of Walmart

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This writer will admit that, in between living in big cities, Phoenix and then Chicago, respectively, he did a two-year stint in the thriving metropolitan mecca that is Iowa City, Iowa. And during this time, if you wanted something that couldn’t be found at one of the two grocery stores in town, you had no other choice but to go to the Target in Coralville, a fifteen minute drive away, or the Walmart, which was practically across the street. So more often than not, when he needed something bigger than juice or bread, he’d just go to the Walmart, which is not so big on aesthetics and made him feel a little dirty. But now it sounds like Walmart is taking a page from Target and is taking some time to think about their “look,” as we read in this post: “Walmart’s Newest Store Goes for Style.” It’s really interesting, thorough look at the possible beginnings of a big design renovation. Could it change the way people think of the stores? Just think of Target’s before and after. Here’s some:

Creative use of lighting is also found throughout the store. Some of the directional signage is lit from within, and portions of the Produce area have sparse halogen lighting, with many shelving units being lit from within. The low light creates a more subdued atmosphere and may actually make the food look better (I was hungry, so I may be biased there). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Walmart took some pages from HEB’s Central Market design book, as it was very reminiscent of that style.

Gel Squeezes Out More Fun

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Gel host Mark Hurst was kind enough to remind us there are only three days left to get the regular ticket price for Good Experience Live, that zany conference with such an eclectic gathering of speakers, it sounds a lot more like guaranteed admission to a super cool cocktail party.

What we didn’t know is that although Good Experience goes live one time a year, there are oh-so-many other Good Experiences to be had in the form of their website, which we’ve been voraciously exploring whenever we have a moment to spare. We can’t really see how Hurst has a moment to spare, seeing as in addition to planning a conference, he’s constantly updating This Is Broken, one bad customer experience-related design a day; monitoring his open source restaurant guide addyourown; compiling his Uncle Mark gift guides; and inventing things like Goovite and GooTodo. Hurst spends his entire life making sure all these experiences are 100% good. Just imagine what kind of conference he could put together.

Gel is May 4-5, 2006 in NYC. Register here.

George Murphy, Captain of the S.S. Bigshot

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Here’s an interesting interview with one of the people who have steered the big, big, BIG ships: George Murphy, founder of the Modo-Group. After law school, George went to work for “a small regional coffee roaster and retailer” which went on, quickly, to become Starbucks. He handled all of the in-house creative and design, and then went over to Coke and did the same thing, while also helping move things for McDonald’s here and there. So to say that the guy has worked with some pretty big clients (actually, not cleints, he was the in-house guy, so never mind)…let’s say, huge companies, goes without that last babbling sentence. It’s a good read and the guy seems down to earth, which is always surprising and nice, even if it shouldn’t be (this writer, like the rest of you, admits that he’s a big fat lefty and was bred as such so that any time a big corporation is mentioned, he thinks pigs dressed up as the Monopoly Man, smoking fat cigars, burning piles of hundred dollar bills, dancing atop the suffering proletariat. See? Just like you). Here’s a bit from the interview:

I was fortunate to be at Starbucks at an explosively creative and productive time. The business model was not so refined then. Big brand decisions were being made daily. Howard Schultz had assembled an incredibly talented team of executives to help him with those decisions including Scott Bedbury in marketing, Arthur Rubinfeld in Store Development, and Wright Massey in Design Development. For me, it was a crash course in brand development by some of the best in the business.

Starbucks at that time conceived of itself primarily as a purveyor of coffee and coffee drinks. In those days, even our store designs reflected this functionally efficient, austere definition – green and white – not much more. There was even a chair that we called the 10 minute chair because that’s about how long you could tolerate sitting in it!

Oh the times!

Surface Magazine Talks Shop Tonight with Teng and Gabellini

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If you’re in The Big Apple tonight (no, not Cincinnati, or Tucson, the other one, New York), it sounds like the place for a designer-y person to be is at the Surface Magazine discussion and dinner party. The talking part is moderated by the magazine’s design director, Laetitia Wolff, and is between Michael Gabellini, who designed the top of the Rockefeller Center, and fashion designer Yeohlee Teng. They’ll also have some industry heavies surrounding them, including the Guggenheim’s curator, Nancy Spector, and Edward Leida at Fairchild. The whole thing goes down starting at 6:30 tonight in the screening room of the Tribeca Grand. Here’s the whole write-up:

Surface Magazine presents a conversation between Michael Gabellini and Yeohlee Teng who will compare their architectural and fashion creative process by discussing topics such as sources of inspiration, innovative approaches to materials research, and the completed product within their disciplines.

Following the talks, an intimate five-course dinner party will be held for a select group of twenty to meet, greet and further elaborate on the innovative discussion. The dinner parties will take place at the Tribeca Grand featuring culinary delights from Chef Darrell Raymond with paired champagnes from Veuve Clicquot.

If you happen to attend, or even better, are part of that intimate twenty, and want to drop us a line about how swanky and cool this was, we’d love to hear all about it. Hopefully it’ll be better than that advertising sit-down series with Clow and Bogusky (we didn’t want to dedicate a whole rant-filled post about this, so, instead, we’ll just ruin this one by inserting it here).

Bazooka Joe Now “Firm Handshake Joe” To Avoid Promoting Violence

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Looks like an iconic piece of Americana is about to get a major overhaul. Bazooka, that gum that tastes delicious for nearly the entire five seconds it takes to read the comic, has been handed over by Topps, its owner, to the New York wing of Duval Guillaume. It’s cautious territory, you have to imagine, as it’s one of those things that people don’t care about until it’s about to change and then everyone comes out of the woodwork with pitchforks and torches (which are never safe when you’re in the woodwork — remember to light them after you exit). Let’s hope there are months and months of meetings, hundred pages briefs, and lots of late nights, which will all lead to Joe getting a slightly more modern haircut, and the reds being a little more “red.” Here’s the scoop:

The agency is developing a new marketing and communications strategy for Bazooka maker the Topps Company with an initial launch budget of around $4m (£2.3m). The product was best known in the UK in the 1970s when it competed with the likes of bubble-blowing Bubblelicious. Paul Cherrie, managing director of The Topps Company, said: “Bazooka is an American icon, a world icon for that matter. We’ve improved the product and are introducing new Bazooka bubblegum products and packaging in the coming months — a whole comprehensive marketing programme — and putting a concerted effort behind its revival.”

UPDATE: Yes, it’s exactly what we thought, new haircut and everything.

Finally, A Reason to Watch Spike TV! Wait…

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What’s more manly than 3D raised blocky letters and strongly ramped faux light sources? Very little it seems, according to Spike TV, the cable network that shows a) James Bond movies and b) wrestling featuring a lot of commercials for James Bond movies. They’ve released their new logo this week after getting flak from people for the one that rolled out with the network in 2003, which was deemed too un-masculine (so apparently that means that there exists out there a group of muscle bound, testosterone-fueled font/logo admirers, unlike the rest of us who are pasty and nearsighted). Here’s some of the story:

Two-plus years later, though, “metrosexual” is no longer a buzzword and Spike is rebranding itself as, well, even more masculine than it was before. The network on Wednesday unveiled a new, more aggressive logo that it says will stand “in stark contrast with the cursive lettering … of the past.” The new logo, along with the cheeky, double-entendre tagline of “Get More Action,” will be seen on-air starting in May.

“Spike is an entertainment brand dedicated to men. We are a destination that will inspire and define men through bold, action-packed original entertainment,” says Niels Schuurmans, creative director at Spike. “We feel our brand positioning and new logo reflect that, and are dedicated to helping our audience ‘Get More Action.’”

The logo goes live in May.

Forget Paying Taxes, Come To Chicago and Spend!

329auction.gifIf you’re in Chicago tomorrow, or on April 25th, and you’d like to give a poor UnBeige editor some money so he can bid on things he definitely doesn’t need, but desperately wants, you’ll find him at the Wright20 “Books on Modernism” auction. Talk about some fantastic stuff. There’s a series of Bill Owens’ “Suburbia” monographs, a “Skyscraper Furniture Catalog” from the 30′s by Paul T. Frankl, and ninety-two issues of Arts & Architecture magazine, from 1950 through 1967, among countless other drool-worthy treasures (just don’t drool too closely). You can take a look at the full preview on the site, and then register by phone, fax in a bid, show up in person, or even sign up online. It all goes down tomorrow, starting at 10am, at 1440 W. Hubbard. Sounds like a blast. Next auction is “Branded Luxury” which sounds kinda snooty.

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