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I recently visited a friend's house to discover a canister of Cafe Bustelo sitting on their countertop. With its bright yellow and red design, it stuck out like a sore thumb in a space I lovingly (and accurately) call the epitome of a hipster haven. A quick Google of Cafe Bustelo history makes me think their branding hasn't changed a whole lot since it was founded in 1931. And maybe that's a good thing. In a neutral, Pinterest-worthy space, that misfit canister was elevated to an unintentional statement piece -- a functional work of art.
Industrial designer, S. Balaram once said, “If there is shit all around me, how can I eat my ice cream?” What his delivery lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in truth. We can exist without form, but why would we want to? Could we fully appreciate function of an object if there were no element of beauty? (Would Christmas magic exist if we stripped away all the wrapping?)
I've always been a fan of old things. I like rehoming baubles and bits whose stories have been surrendered at an under-market fee. One man's castoff is this woman's treasure. Part of me wonders if this affinity is a silent rebellion against the style that defined my generation. By the time I was old enough for advertising to imprint on me, the homey kitsch of the late-70s/early-80s had given way to a certain kind of neon-laden, ADD-priming marketing hysteria. (When I think back to the heart of those advertising years, the images in my mind are set to a soundtrack of laser light FX and the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall yelling, "OH YEAH!")
In a word, 90s branding felt very frantic. It wasn't trying to tell a story, it was just screaming at you, trying to be the loudest box in the room. I'm sure it worked to some extent, as I can recall more than one grocery-store meltdown over Dunkaroos and Lunchables.
Over time, 90s branding went the way of slap bracelets and "The Rachel Cut," quietly slipping into oblivion. In the decades since, it seems the children of the 80s/90s are now championing a new age of design. And while it's fun to joke "just put an ax on it," I really like the work that's being done these days. It's thoughtful, functional and beautiful. It reminds me that design is really a craft, not a profession or an industry or a skill. As for the people propelling the design engine forward? They just might be the closest thing we have to modern-day modern artists.
Good design doesn't have a shelf life. It says something about its era; the culture, the people, the priorities. It's one part nostalgia, one part dream. And decades down the road, it still has the power to make you stop and take notice.
It seems my Columbus infographic has hit home (literally) with a lot of people. It has been wonderful getting to virtually meet so many of my 614 neighbors, and a great reminder that cities are a reflection of the people who live there. In the instance of Columbus, what an awesome group of people that is.
If you'd like to connect on social, here's where you'll find me:
When I was little and we would leave a restaurant, two things would inevitably happen. My dad would pop a red-and-white peppermint in his mouth before we had hit the door, and as soon as we climbed in the car my mom would roll down the window, gasping for fresh air. I always liked the smell of mint so I never understood her aversion, but the day I walked face-first into a friend's vanilla candle-laden home, it all started to make sense. I felt like someone had smeared my nose in a cupcake. And while I love a cupcake just as much as the next girl, I'd rank artificial cupcake scent somewhere between "wet dog" and "dorito feet" on the olfactory offensiveness scale.
Among all the wonderful things I inherited from my mother, it seems I also inherited her acute sense of smell.
Which is precisely what inspired my first purchase of Mrs. Meyers hand soap. Actually, that's not true. The design drew me in, the scent sold me. I'd like to say "the rest is history" (because that would make for an epically succinct blog post), but it wasn't so. That afternoon, standing in the soap aisle at Target, was just the beginning of a true love story about to unfold.
There aren't a lot of brands I'd profess to love. Even fewer I would say make me feel giddy with joy. Mrs. Meyers is both of those and more. And as someone who so feels enraged over paying $12 for a pack of toilet paper that she has to text her sister to express said anger from the store, pledging allegiance to a $4 bottle of hand soap is kind of a big deal.
Months after becoming a Mrs. Meyers fan, I finally moseyed over to mrsmeyers.com to check out Thelma's website...only to discover a mecca of marketing excellence. (I'm only sort of joking when I say I tiny digital branding and identity angels descended on my screen...)
Beautiful, clean, on-brand site design! Amazing execution of brand storytelling! A tagline that integrates the phrase "like the dickens!"
Had I found the Holy Grail of marketing done right?
So here we are. You be the reader, I'll be the writer. And we'll spend the next couple weeks worth of blog posts taking a look at a company that is more than just another pretty smell.
Cupcake huffers need not apply.
Henry Ford once said, “”Every object tells a story if you know how to read it.” Chances are you have seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster (or variations on it) a thousand times. But have you ever really read it? Have you listened to its story?
This great little clip recounts the fascinating and little-known story behind one of the most iconic posters in the world. Give it a watch. If you’re anything like me, this three-minute history lesson will give you a whole new appreciation for an old favorite.
What words or phrases come to mind when you see a Starbucks logo? What feelings do you associate with the Porsche seal? What do you think about when you pass a truck with the FedEx mark painted on its side? Here’s a fun little midweek find that will give you some insight on how other people are answering similar questions.
Brandtags is a crowdsourced collection of consumer brand sentiment. The premise is that a brand exists entirely in people’s heads, therefore a brand is whatever they (people/customers) say it is. Brandtags is a place where people can share their opinions about brands freely, and brand owners can learn how their brands are viewed.
Check out Brandtags to try out logo free association, or to explore how others define the brands that play a part in our daily lives.
We are about to begin work on a new project. This is one of my favorite things about working in a creative profession. The possibility phase. Possibilities are infinite. The world is your oyster. This is the point at which we have no real direction in mind, we just know that we're going on a proverbial creative road trip to somewhere. And just like planning a real trip, we begin gobbling down everything around us for inspiration. You never know where it will come from. Often (if not most of the time) it comes from the most unlikely places. A flash of genius is just as likely to strike while I'm reading an article on sea turtle rescue or perusing street interviews from middle America as it is while I'm sitting in a form brainstorming session. Creative inspiration has a mind of its own. It doesn't really play well sitting behind a desk, but it loves to strike out of nowhere while you're at the grocery store, in the shower or driving down the highway.
This is all to say, this morning I was lounging in bed letting serendipity work its magic when I stumbled upon a series of wedding photos set around a food truck. A food truck wedding? Be still my beating heart.
A recent visit from the Type Truck has renewed my love affair with all things truck. (A blog post about this adventure is coming soon.) What's better than a cool truck / office on wheels? Truck + typography + snacks. If you could figure out a way to integrate dogs and champagne into that equation, you would have pretty much defined my version of mecca. But I digress.
Anyway, I had fun perusing some of the loveliest trucks in the land. And now I'm sharing them with you. So with no further ado, cue the apropos tunes and get ready to experience ...
9 DELICIOUS EXAMPLES OF FOOD TRUCK TYPOGRAPHY
MIHO (San Diego, CA)
Click the image below for a closer peek...
DOGTOWN DOGS (Santa Monica, CA)
DENVER BISCUIT CO. (Denver, CO)
SWEETERY NYC(New York, New York)
Deluxe Street Food (Denver, CO)
JENI'S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS (Columbus, OH)
PHYDOUGH (Los Angeles, CA)
WYOMING (Portland, OR)
DC EMPANADAS (DC)
Last weekend the weather was delightfully warm here in Greenville. The sun was shining, the birds were singing - it felt like spring. On one of several strolls with my dog, I came across three little boys playing with a box in their front yard. As I watched them play, it was obvious the box was not just a box. It was a fort, a playhouse, a tank, an infinite number of possibilities limited only by their imaginations. My Saturday stroll was a good reminder of how differently we think as children. When kids look at a box, they don't just see a box - they see possibilities. They see a box not as it is - but for everything it could be. Childhood is an infinite summer (even when it's just a winter reprieve in late January.) As time marches on, we begin thinking more concretely. We see a box where we see a box. Our days cease to be defined by quickly melting popsicles and tire swings, bellyflops and neighborhood games of "Kick-the-Can." We begin to mark our days and months with rituals of responsibility - bills paid, inboxes cleaned out, items marked off our TO DO list. Slowly, in a little boat for one, we allow the splishing and splashing of the tide to draw us out into the sea of adulthood, drifting further and further away from fun, imagination and possibility.
For the creative adult, we spend most of our lives trying to find a way to return to the eternal summer of childhood. A place where the mind and imagination work in harmony - one challenging the other to be better, do more and dream bigger. A time when mistakes were nothing to be feared, just a spark for improvisation. A moment when night writing with wildly twinkling sparklers made all of us feel like the poet laureate of our front yard.
Hemingway once said, "The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing." I am inclined to agree.
Today I'm encouraging all of us to think differently. Tap into our imaginations. Change up the drive home. Stand on our heads. Challenge yourself to see something you've seen a thousand times before in a new light. Try to describe the taste of Â a strawberry. Pick up a piece of sidewalk chalk and write a love letter to someone in your life. Practice seeing possibility instead of accepting reality. Find your inner child and give him/her a spin on the tire swing.
It's Wednesday, after all.
ps: I stumbled across this video over the weekend. A look at well-known logos through the eyes of a 5-year-old. If you haven't seen it - take a peek. And enjoy.
I love wine. I love drinking wine, learning about wine, talking about wine and collecting wine. I love going to wine tastings and sharing bottles with friends. Yep. I love wine. And while we've all heard the tidbit of conventional wisdom that advises against judging a book by its cover, I have a confession: I often judge a bottle by its label. (I know, I know. I can hear all our oenophile readers groaning in horror.) That doesn't mean I'll drink an icky wine, but it does mean I dish out mental marketing bonus points if your label (or copywriting skills) catches my eye.
It was for this precise reason I found myself drawn to an unusual bottle of wine last week. Enter Meeker Vineyard's "Winemaker's Handprint" Merlot, an aptly named wine with a handprint where the label should be. It looks as though someone has dipped their hand in paint and grabbed the bottle - because that's precisely what they have done.
After a little research, I discovered the story behind the curious "label."
"The three winemakers spend 50 days out of the year (or 1/7th of the year) dipping their hands in paint and imprinting them on a total of 16,000 bottles of wine (an approximately paint cost of $40,000 a year!) Each of the three winemakers has their own signature color for the thumbprints.
Why drink to the hand? According to Lucas, the winery had several Merlot “shiners” (bottles without labels) and needed a gimmick to sell the wine because at the time, the winery wasn’t known for Merlot. Painted handprints on the bottle was the answer."
To turn vine into a vintage, I believe you have to be part scientist, part artist and part romantic. Winemakers are a special kind of historian, adept at predicting the future while preserving the present and paying homage to past. If you listen closely, you can hear wine whisper when you uncork the bottle. It can tell you about the season and the sun, and the land where it laid down roots. It can tell you if the soil was rocky or the frost came early that year. If it lingered a few days too long or was plucked a moment too soon.
To me, there is something magical that comes from knowing each bottle of Meeker's merlot passed through the master's hands to my own. A little blessing as the vintner sent a message (and a story) in a bottle on its way. It connects me to the wine and to the people who took it from bunches to bottle. It makes me feel like an integral part of a life cycle from ground to grape to glass.
And from a wall of wine, this simple little something different creates a touch point that connects me to one bottle, one vineyard, one brand.
Last week I read a great description of touch points on Social Media Explorer:
"[Touch points are] a simple concept, really. Increase the number and frequency of high-quality touch points with your customers, and you stand a better chance of being top-of-mind when it’s their time to buy. Touch points are a way of sending “I care” or “Here when you need us” messages to your customers. Done well, touch points can keep customers feeling good about their decision to go with your brand or company. And everyone wants to feel as though they made the best decision, the right choice."
Is your brand making the most of every opportunity to reach out and touch(point) someone? And if not, isn't it time you started?
Want to learn more about touch points? Check out this post.
A bonus read for my fellow wine-lovers: Check out this tongue-in-cheek read about choosing wine by the label