Wednesday, 12 January 2011

dandad got me writing 2

So: there's no denying that this year has been undeniably tough. As both a company director and as D&AD president, I've seen the industry struggle with signing off new projects, deflating budgets, and staff creaking under the pressure - but the gloom has been tempered by some pivotal and really exciting developments.

After quite a few years working in digital (formerly 'new media', now 'interaction' or whatever catch-all phrase has been handily coined in the last 20 minutes), it seems to me that a certain maturation happened this year. It feels as though we finally found a real acceptance for what we do and that it is, at least in well-considered and well-crafted examples, something where the benefits (be they KPIs, buzz, loyalty or whatever) are real and recognised. We've also made some clients and people famous along the way.

New tools and channels have been popping up often-ugly heads for years, and I personally have spent the last 15 trying to work out what's most appropriate. It's not just having the tools, it's knowing what to do them that's important. Audiences are smarter, more careful about where they're putting their money right now, and, most importantly, vocal. Do something good, and you'll need to do something great next time. Do something bad/ poorly executed/ ripped-off (insert bandwagon-jumping Twitter/ Facebook campaign here), and chances are there won't BE a next time. Big ideas that reach and speak to specific audiences need the right tech or channel to work for them, not the other way around.

Thankfully, some of these amazing new tech tools have permeated everyday life - cue Facebook, Google, Sky+, Twitter, Oyster Cards, Kinect and yes,  Apple, which, for the most part, work well and adapt to what people want. These may well be our Trojan horse, proving to mainstream audiences that digital 'stuff' can help and not hinder.

It's no easy hill to climb. The scope of what we do has become wider and deeper, requiring real collaboration and unrelated skill sets that have never met over drinks in the pub before.
At long last, previously fragmented parts of communication are undeniably coming together: UX meets art meets advertising meets writing meets new platforms. This is highlighted by the collaborations, mergers, departures, hirings, and firings of late, but the overriding thinking is that digital skills and thinking have to be the spine of any organisation.

Finally, the precocious digital kids seem to be in the right place. We need to keep, not just thinking, but most importantly, learning about new consumer behaviours. We should accept that we're inexorably flowing towards a totally connected world where we'll have to intuitively understand the exact location of that fine line where technology stops being clever, useful and appropriate and instead becomes distracting and gimmicky.

We have the world to talk to, and it's listening and wanting to take part. Roll on 2011.

Friday, 29 October 2010

dandad got me writing...!

So, then: it's been a long week in communications, a week which saw the coming (and rapid departure) of a new logo for one of our most respected high street stalwarts, and one of our literary fathers questioning the purpose of the social media space... As I said – a long week.

In the last few days I’m sure we’ve all watched on as GAP became entrenched in a rather messy engagement with bloggers and tweeters, ending in the sheepish retraction of their box fresh – and rather mystifying – new logo. As far as I (and Michael Johnson) know, this was a battle fought purely online. Yes, they replaced the logo at, but I don't know of any storefront or swing tag that rolled out the new identity. Nevertheless, it seems the proposed change was a real suggestion, which raises a few questions.

Surely Laird & Partners now hold the record for a U-turn on a rebrand activation. But, as Scott Hansen points out in his open call for designers to 'have a go' at redesigning the logo, it isn’t as easy as you think. He goes on to say that 'these mega-rebrands are always hit with a wave of inevitable criticism', a feeling that Michael Johnson echoed when I spoke to him earlier about 'Gapgate', in that people seem inherently pre-programmed to complain, especially where logos are concerned. [Insert personal experience here]. He emphatically agreed that yes, the GAP do really need an update from the 'lexicon of love' aesthetic they seem to be stuck in, but we both agreed that this storm of publicity has proved that there's a time and a place for crowdsourcing and a global rebrand just isn’t one of them. The move is over GAP, which I think we all know will choose to stay where they are. Genius.

GAP insisted it wasn’t a stunt, but feeling online leant towards 'crafty publicity gimmick'. Yes, the whole episode has been mismanaged, but it highlights yet again the pivotal role in identity work of strategic thinking coupled with beautiful craft skill – things seemingly missing here. If indeed the idea was to create 'buzz' around the identity and stir up some debate around GAP, they’ve certainly succeeded (I mean, I’m writing this, for one) but at what cost? Consumers are very wise to brands and how coherent they are (or aren’t). This may well be a big glitch in the public’s perception of the GAP brand. It does, however, illustrate that people with similar viewpoints can swiftly find common ground, form a collective voice, and change things.

This mobilisation of the angry masses brings us neatly to the other frisson of the last few days – our literary godfather Malcolm Gladwell denouncing social media and its real effectiveness in mobilising like-minded individuals into effective communities. He stated that online communities lacked "emotional connection or engagement", let alone the ability to change issues of a more humanitarian or political focus (dare I say it, something ‘worthwhile’). In his New Yorker piece, he wrote off the notion of social media bringing about social change as "strong, and puzzling, claims", going on to ask, "Are people who log on to their Facebook page really the best hope for us all?”

Unsurprisingly, the media space in the firing line responded in their droves, with the Guardian’s Josh Halliday calling him “laughable” and Biz Stone himself saying the piece was "entertaining but kind of pointless”. So why did we get so het up about this...?

Well, my theory runs something like this...we live in an age where we have new, very shiny tools to communicate with each other – it’s an 80s term but we are living in the information age. Neville Brody (for one) has repeatedly reminded us that we are experiencing an era of real change – his Anti Design Festival is a great example of a mixture of grassroots and digital mobilisation unique to its time. This change could be likened to the second industrial revolution, where electrification, the combustion engine and mass production were the game changers. These days, it’s computing, telecommunications and information that are the young upstarts affecting not just business, but all aspects of our lives.

Technology has permeated our culture and specifically, in relation to Gladwell's article, how we communicate. Compared to the legacy of failed tech platforms that attempted to connect us (Geocities, UpMyStreet., Wal-Mart’s ‘The Hub’…!?), today we have things that work. For the most part, they not only work very well, but – hey! - work wherever you are, on whatever platform you’re on, and are stable (unlike 10 years ago). They have actually become part of our daily routine, like tea and toast or getting stuck in traffic.

The fact that they are so embedded in our culture, our routine, our businesses and our social life means that we become defensive when someone attacks it. It’s like learning a new language and then being told that you can't use it. Gladwell has said that he doesn't really engage with digital media, saying that he finds it intrusive and is trying to make more space for what's important to him – a sentiment I completely agree with, but damning an entire mode of communication seems a bit drastic.
Wherever people do mobilise online, it may be their first personal foray into activism, surely something to support?

One thing in this whole fandango seems clear – people power is alive and well online. The only question is what we’ll do with it. My year at D&AD will hopefully bring some of these more philanthropic issues to the fore. We have some great ideas for how to do this, but we'll be asking for your help soon – and if this week’s taught us anything, it’s how many opinions there are on the internet, so stay tuned to give us yours.

it's been a long time...(thanks rakim)

how to look at the world

kase 2 the master

my childhood point of reference, the chrome angelz

maths + relationships + minimalism

the beauty of a simple narrative


Thursday, 15 April 2010

my little pony...

celebrity dog wank.

Monday, 22 March 2010

ice ice baby

beautiful stuff from katie paterson...

3 litres glacial meltwater, 3 litres silicon, 3 turntables [2007}

Sound recordings from three glaciers in Iceland, pressed into three records, cast, and frozen with the meltwater from each of these glaciers, and played on three turntables until they completely melt.

The records were played once and now exist as three dvds. The turntables begin playing together, and for the first ten minutes as the needles trace their way around, the sounds from each glacier merge in and out with the sounds the ice itself creates. The needle catches on the last loop, and the records play for nearly two hours, until completely melted.

sentiment for the week

after slipping into my old routine of buying things i don't need at these...(sometimes having lady sized feet is a benefit)...

its nice to be reminded of the directives that one should concentrate on...

via preik