In my view, there are two distinctly different ends of the design communications rainbow. At one end is the creative practitioner, and on the other,  the message recipient. We as designers of messaging are trained to focus on honing our skills and developing our talents. A necessary path to establishing a person’s creative proficiency and individuality to be sure.

But what if we set all that aside, and solely considered the wants of the intended recipient of that message before we begin our creative journey? What if we were primarily concerned with what they say about a brand, how they feel about it, and most importantly, the experiences they have with it ?

Using that information, how would your designs and writing change? Would you speak to them with greater empathy and express concern for their needs before that of the brand? How would your designs give them ownership of your message as THEIRS.

Which end of the rainbow do you start from?


Positive thinkers are always in demand: They’re problem-solvers. They’re full of energy and ideas. They have an optimistic approach to life as they believe that new, difficult, and important things can be accomplished. That’s what makes them effective. That what makes them in demand. As the old saying goes, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

What are you willing to think about in a fresh way? Are you willing to give yourself to a different approach? Are you willing to learn from failure? Are you willing to trust that failure will lead to greater success? Are you willing not to give up?

Fear of failure is toxic. Pessimism and negativity shut down the creative engine. They trigger a cascade of biochemical reactions and emotions that adversely affect how you feel and behave.Positive and opportunistic thinking are the fuel that keeps it running. “What if?” is first gear. “Why not?” puts it in overdrive.

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

Chinese proverb


That’s right. They don’t. Today, they’re simply a highly condensed visual brand representation. I’m convinced of that. So are Scott and Alison Stratten. They’re so convinced, they devoted the first chapter of their book “UnBranding” to the topic.

Consider this. If logos are so important, why are they most often placed in the upper left hand corner of their brand’s website homepage navigation bar, and usually about the size of a shriveled peanut.

Sure logos have value. But that’s only because the brands they represent have that value.Luxury brands love to plaster them all over their products, from sunglasses to purses and from footwear to luggage.

The name ROLEX and its companion five-spiked crown on the dial of a watch immediately bestows “five figure” value on the timepiece, but that’s because of the brand and its meaning to a luxury watch connoisseur. But, matter? Logos? They’re down the brand meaning food chain behind authenticity, relevance, sharing, caring, transparency, tradition and a bunch of other personality traits.

To many graphic designers it may be considered insult and heresy to say this. But it doesn’t make it any less true.

Full disclosure; I like the look of a well articulated mark that uniquely represents the best attributes of a brand through a smart and creative use of shape, line and color. But what it really comes down to is what we think about the brand when we see the logo. Not what we think about the logo (unless we’re the aforementioned graphic designer).

Brand = meaning, and the more it means to you and me…and everyone else, the more important the logo that’s used to represent it. Plain and simple.

Try this simple test: For those of you familiar with the Superior brand, explain to someone who has never heard of the brand why a logo that’s a direct ripoff of a previous design matters so much.

And if they’re still giving you a strange stare when you’re done with your explanation, try telling them why a pair of Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Beluga 2.0 athletic shoes has a retail price of $400.00 and sells out immediately, without the brand name or the traditional three stripe motif to be found anywhere on the shoe.

Answer: it’s Kanye West’s design (and brand persona) that drives the shoe’s desirability. And, it’s more about exclusivity than aesthetics or logos.

With all this being said, the next time a prospective client says to me, “I think we need a new logo.” I’m going to suggest we take a close look at their brand first.

That’s what I believe. What about you? Please add you comments.


Borrowing the title for this post from the 1956 Peabody Award Winning Rod Serling teleplay is a most appropriate way to mark the passing of an undisputed “heavyweight champion” of design and creativity, Massimo Vignelli. From the liquid lines of his handkerchief armchairs for Knoll, designed with David Law, to his controversial poster design for the New York City Subway System, his work has been a constant reminder why he has been a master in the grammar of design for more than half a century.HANDKERCHIEF CHAIR

I was always struck by the directness and clarity of his design philosophy, best summed up in this quote taken from his free e-book published in 2009 looking back at his and his company’s work: “We think good Design is always an expression of creative strength bringing forward clear concepts expressed in beautiful form and color, where every element expresses the content in the most forceful way.”

Every time I unlock my iPhone I’m reminded of him, and while the flat icons have an almost “un-designed” quality to their execution, I can’t help but think that the designers were channeling Mr. Vignelli, either consciously or unconsciously. In all honesty, I had forgotten so many of the wonderful designs he created and it was only upon reading of his passing that I sought to refresh my creative memory. I’ve spent the last few days “clicking” through archives of his work and was both amazed and refreshed. Amazed at rediscovering the scope of his work. Refreshed by the timelessness of great designs, his designs.

The Wall Street Journal noted his passing in a recent article that chronicles Mr. Vignelli’s design career with a brevity that befits his creative philosophy. A philosophy that is well represented in another of his quotes: “Everything that is around us, this table, this chair, this lamp, this pen has been designed. All of these things, everything has been designed by somebody. I think that it is my responsibility to make the work better than it is.”


Back to the Future

You could make a pretty strong argument that Lincoln, upscale marque of the Ford Motor Company, had lost it’s way, if not it’s soul for the better part of the last decade. While Ford styling was evolving in  utilitarian increments, Lincoln’s designers were wandering in a sea of chrome and disorganized proportions.

Well, things have changed with the advent of a new commitment by senior management led by Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford, who articulated the challenge, “We had to fix the Ford brand first, because without the [blue] oval, there is no Lincoln. Now it’s time to turn our attention to Lincoln.”

Ford launched a new advertising campaign for Lincoln late last year and even renamed the brand, The Lincoln Motor Company, a nod to it’s storied past. Four new or restyled models will roll into showrooms in the months ahead.

What remains to be seen is what type of buyers will be attracted to this latest effort at re-energizing the buying public. The Cadillac small car entry, the ATS, has gotten a huge marketing push and is creating a lot of buzz, while the German trinity of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW also have strong lineups. The Lincoln Motor Company has an uphill battle.

Here is the spot that sets the tone and style for the brand relaunch.


Full disclosure, the author has an M-B C300 AWD and Mini Cooper S in his garage.

Little Darth Vader vs. Bolt

or… the Battle of the Two Volkswagen Superbowl Spots

In one corner we have “The Force”, the 2011 Volkswagen 50-million-YouTube-views Superbowl commercial featuring a “powerless” diminutive Darth who re-gains the power of The Force with a little help from his father and a Passat.

In the other, we have this year’s Volkswagen Superbowl Spot, “The Dog Strikes Back”, starring Bolt, a St. Bernard – Australian Golden mix. A canine “biggest loser” metaphor for the return of the New Beetle.

Both entertain. Both offer a story arc of struggle and reward. Both have a surprise ending.

Does the former make the latter the better? Or does Little Darth still reign supreme?

Watch, smile and comment.



December 8, 2011: The Day the Internet Died

Time marches on. At warp speed. The web has reduced a news cycle “day” to eight hours. The life spans of electronic devices are now shorter than that of a snail darter. A new app is being “born” every 16.3 seconds.

Time marches on… at light speed.

And the latest victim of all this runaway innovation and technology is… wait for it, here it comes…

The Internet.

At least that’s the view of George Colony, chairman and CEO of Forrester Research. During his presentation at the Paris, France web conference, La Web, Colony dropped a few bombshells, to say the least.

His big prediction: it’s all Clouds and Apps.

His interview with WSJ provides some brief glimpses into the future of social media, the aforementioned, soon-to-be deceased Internet and the aggregation our personal files.

Here’s the link: http://online.wsj.com/video/the-internet-is-dead/16B0668B-9E31-42CF-B9FC-A2EE1304A7B8.html

Watch. Enjoy. Ponder.

Then think long and hard about what technical skills you’ll need in the near future to keep your career on the fast track.

Battle of the Brands: Tire Advertising…Let’s see how they roll.

With winter only a few weeks away it’s only appropriate that we cast the critical eye of the Brand Battle on those groovy rubber discs whose job it is keep our motor vehicles on the road during the wet and snowy days ahead.

So here it is. The battle of a two tire titans (pardon the alliteration).

Michelin vs. Bridgestone

Pick a set for the four corners of your car…and please watch out for those little furry forest critters crossing the road.

The Man Who Put the Whole World In Our Hands

Steve Jobs was the consummate innovator. A CEO without peers. His vision was without a horizon. He didn’t have to think outside the box because for him there was no box. He didn’t create things people wanted or needed. He created things that let people be more of who they were and go places they never dreamed they could…or would. He innovated design with technology and technology with design. The day he said that Apple was reinventing the telephone he wasn’t bragging. It was an understatement. His greatness was in re-imagining the ways our communicative behavior could be intuitively simplified and improved. His enduring legacy is evident in the sleek, cool instruments we hold, click and tap every day.

Somewhere up there he’s probably sitting on an iCloud and smiling.

Thanks Steve. Thanks for your passion. Your singular vision. Thanks for never letting good get in the way of great. Thanks for making the unthinkable possible. Thanks for making dreams come true. For making the incredibly complex incredibly simple. Thanks for making excellence standard. Thanks for taking a big bite out of life.

Thanks for Apple. Thanks for the Apple I, Lisa, the IIe, the Macintosh, the iMac, iPod,  iPhone, iPad, iCloud.

Thank you for being you.

I’ll be thanking you every day of my iLife.

The Battle is Back

After an extended hiatus and looooooooong summer vacation The Battle of the Brands is back. Actually it’s the battle of the insurance spokesguys.

Allstate vs Nationwide

Boring vs nerdy

Sterile vs silly

Just which one would Flo pick if this were the Dating Game?