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The Tasting Economy

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WarbyParkerI fear commitment in almost every aspect of my life. I prefer to order two appetizers rather than one entree. I go to the fitting room with 50 articles of clothing and come out empty-handed. If a book doesn’t have a summary on the back cover, it’s going straight back on the shelf. I need to have a teaser experience before I make any rash decisions on a new thing.

Online shopping is easy, convenient, and limitless in its offerings. But this endless aisle of choices that I can only experience with my eyes, on a screen, makes the commitment-phobe in me go a little crazy. I’m a glasses-wearer and I never once considered buying frames online. Afterall, choosing new frames is like choosing a new face. But just where I thought the internet came up short, Warby Parker proved me wrong. They have a trial system where you can select 5 frames from their online shop and they deliver you this tidy little sampling to test the frames, for free!

I would love to see this tasting economy—as I have decided to call it—take off in every market. Imagine if you could order 5 pairs of jeans in different sizes, without risk. Or if you could get free samples of filet mignon delivered to your door. The ability to order anything on earth at any time of the day has made us extremely selective (read: snobby) consumers. Soon, it won’t be enough to have the world at our iPhone fingertips. We will want every purchase to be customized to our individual needs, and we can’t have tailor-made belongings without first trying them on for size.

Technology as a Time Machine

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What if before you sat down at a restaurant, you knew which table had the friendliest waiter? Or, if before leaving the house, you knew you would get stuck behind a school bus on your usual route to work? Thanks to Google Maps, Yelp, and other location-based apps, we can get to wherever we want to go. But, what about our experience when we’re there? Or the experience of getting there? We can’t predict if our waiter had a bad day, or if the car in front of us is going to drive 25 MPH under the speed limit. Or can we?

When I was on the NYC subway the other day, I opened my CityMapper app (my favorite app for navigating big cities) and discovered a new feature that reaches beyond the typical GPS functionality. The app now informs you which section of the train is ideal to board, based on your ultimate destination. For instance, I had to transfer trains during my journey, so CityMapper let me know that if I ride in the middle section, I can make an easier and faster transition. Previously, these bits of knowledge could only be acquired through habit, over a long period of time.

This very small detail speaks loudly about what’s ahead in technology and I’m excited to see how it’s going to launch us forward in time, and improve the quality of our experiences.

A Better Bus for London

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In terms of human-centric design, I have always held London as the standard to which every city should design their systems. During my visit this past March, I noticed the red double decker buses I had come to know and rely on, have assumed a whole new futuristic facade. After some investigating, I quickly discovered that this makeover goes much deeper than just looks. read on

Who Becomes A Designer?

PeeledOrangeA great article was passed around the office this week (courtesy of Hannah F’s gem-finding skills) that I feel the need to continue circulating, titled “Who Becomes a Graphic Designer?” Author Juliette Cezzar helps us reassure our own purpose and place in this creative life, which is always a welcomed assertion.

In addition to describing the daily habits of a designer, she also mentions that an intuitive designer is typically a person who is not satisfied by exploring only one interest in their lifetime, but rather, is interested in some combination of several disciplines like language, structure, people, and making. Like an orange, a designer is naturally segmented, but held together by an innate desire to uncover relationships between multiple things. Indulge here.

 

 

 

 

Creating a Feeling

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WNBA_NBACurrently, I’m enrolled in an evening class at the School of Visual Arts in New York called “The Feeling of Design.” The goal of the course is to analyze and construct specific feelings, notions and genres that design can impose on the viewer. In one of my class sessions, my professor, Sue Walsh of Milton Glaser Inc., juxtaposed the NBA and WNBA logos, which, she emphasized, are vastly different in look and feel.

It is almost comical how overtly “feminine” the women’s league is portrayed compared to the men’s. It would make any female designer want to immediately start the redesign process. Everything from the fluid lines, to the pastel colors, to the reference to glitter and sparkles, to using names like “Dream” and “Mystics,” enforces the once-accepted idea that women are more delicate and reserved than men.

Conversely, the men’s logos suggest speed, athleticism and intimidation, with their use of line, color and animal symbolism.

While it is clear that design has the power to enforce stereotypes, it’s important to remember that it also has the power to change them. As designers, we must constantly reference visual history to achieve a certain feeling that connects to our target audience, but it is in that process of transforming something old into something new that we can begin to adjust how people view the world.

Minimize Me

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Upon seeing the Starbucks Mini Frappuccino for the first time, I was admittedly a bit puzzled by this marketing scheme. How many people are actually going to opt for a smaller product that only saves them a few cents? Starbucks claims this mini frap will only be offered for a limited time, which, in my mind, means they are merely testing the waters of this daring business tactic. The more I think about it, however, the more I believe it just might work.

We now live in a society that condemns anything labelled “super-size” and celebrates the clean-eating, cross-fitting, muscle men and women of the world. In a collective effort to reverse our national stereotype as “Fat Americans,” it seems that everyone has jumped on the health and fitness bandwagon. Everywhere you look, you encounter a piece of fitness-centric advertising, from billboards to Instagram posts and everything in between.

Starbucks has translated this health craze to one simple idea: less is more. With the understanding that marketing reflects reality, they merely reduced the size of their smallest serving. With that one simple move, they have promised customers exactly what they want: health and subsequently, happiness.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, you definitely can’t deny the cuteness of the teeny-tiny cup.

Nothing is original. Or everything is?

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originalTo judge a piece of creative work on a degree of originality is like judging a pancake on how far you can throw it. Just a few days ago from the time of writing this post, Marvin Gaye’s family won a lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams on the claim that the duo copied Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up” in their 2013 hit single, “Blurred Lines.” Now, I am certainly not one to defend this song on its musical merits or contribution to society, but to say it’s a copy of Gaye’s 1977 track, well, that’s a bit of a stretch. Ideas come from everywhere. Did Betsy Ross sue Jasper Johns for painting the American flag? Do apple farmers have a stake in Steve Jobs’ empire? Many people like to say that nothing is original, but as a creative optimist, I say everything is.

In my opinion, the best creative work is that which uses its environment and its influences and re-contextualizes them or repurposes them, in a new way. How can you possibly evoke a feeling from your audience if you’re not allowed to reference something they have felt before? Even if the melody of “Blurred Lines is more than just similar to that of “Got to Give it Up,” that melody was never paired with those lyrics, made with those instruments, sung by those people, in that moment. The departure from the original is what makes this case controversial, so on the legal spectrum, the border between forgery and inspiration is definitely a fine line, or should I say, blurred.

The Casual Internet

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Gone are the days of mundane computer dialogue. Since the dawn of the world wide web, the language on the internet has slowly but surely transitioned from suits to flannel, from fine wine to craft beer, from Mozart to Lil Wayne. Once upon a time, we were faced with webpages that spoke to us with perfect manners. Now, the word choice on websites is more creative, outlandish, and informal. Here, Tumblr even abbreviates “little” to “li’l” and replaces the traditional “OK” button with an amusing “Oh, fine” button. Is this shift in terminology a reflection of the need for more creative approaches in web design in order to stand out amongst the increasing number of identical websites? Or is it a way to make technology more amicable and consequently more…human? Are we now accepting the fact that we are treating our phones and computers like they are humans themselves? In denial of our dependence on the internet for personal connection, I am pushing for the former.

The Best of The Best of 2014

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It’s safe to say that the words “like” and “favorite” have gotten their fair share of cyber-exercise in 2014. In a world where personal opinion can now be disclosed with the click of a thumbs-up icon or the press of a heart shaped button, nearly every piece of online content is accompanied by some sort of user ranking or approval (because you’re only as good as the number of likes you get, right?). With the close of the year, digital collectors and internet lovers like myself strive to gather the best of the best that was shared online in the last 12 months. To do so, they compile the most visited, favorited, shared, liked, and re-blogged posts of the year and organize them into a tidy list. I have chosen my five favorite “Best Of” Lists from my most-loved art and design sources. The best of the best of 2014, you might say.

1. The Dieline’s Top 100 Posts of 2014 – a not so reductive list of the year’s prettiest packaging.

2. It’s Nice That’s Top 50 – an impressive collection of all things creative, including design, illustration, photography, video, and more.

3. Brain Picking’s Best Articles of the Year – Maria Popova’s best responses to and reflections on interviews, articles, books, and brain food alike.

4. Design Collector’s Top Motion Videos of 2014 – The year’s most moving motion design.

5. Mashables 12 best iPhone Apps of 2014 – Because you can never have too many amazing apps.

The New Haven Line Logotype

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While I am sure most commuters will agree that the Metro North Railroad is long overdue for some physical refurbishment, there is one element of these trains that has stood the test of time, at least on the exterior of the New Haven Line. Designed in the early 1950s by Swiss born designer and photographer Herbert Matter, the New Haven Railroad logotype remains, arguably, one of the most recognizable marks of the New England area. With its clean typography and bold yet minimal use of color, this mark is an ode to Matter’s Swiss roots. He cleverly combined the areas in which it services (New York, New Haven, and Hartford) by reducing them down to the two letters N H. And as you probably assumed, Matter went through hundreds of renditions of this mark before the final execution. You can see his painstaking design process here.

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