“As long as it is sells” is the usual slogan about success of commercials. It does not matter if it is good or bad taste. Many of us would argue in such a way. But some of these commercials you remember and survive for a long time.
One of those is the British TV-commercial for a cigar called Hamlet. It went on for 30 years with 93 TV commercials. I do not know how successful it was in terms of selling cigars but it was very popular. The brilliant idea was to present scenes in which a man, having failed dismally at something, is consoled by lighting a Hamlet cigar. Much of the humor come from the fact that the product being advertised is deliberately unclear until the telltale cigar appears, accompanied by the tune of Bach´s Air on the G string, played by French musician Jaques Loussier and the line ”Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet”.
It was and still is fun and very British in every detail. (Being a Swede I tend to love British humor). Watching them now long time after they where on the screen, makes me believe that commercials have an important cultural value. They are documents of their time, telling a lot about the society in which they where part of. Perhaps that’s why we tend to like to watch them, even the contemporary ones. As commercials are very short, they are of course suitable for slapstick.
In Sweden we have had a very popular TV-commercial for ICA (a Swedish food chain) that has been going on forever it seems. They have become our pets or pillow that we can hug. One of the main actors cannot work as a free actor anymore because he is now synonymous with his commercial role. He is ICA Stig, no more no less.
The Hamlet and ICA films have some aspects in common. A commercial has an obvious purpose. The agreement is clear with the viewer as the film begins. “Ok I am here to sell you this product.” But when you do not get the product message immediately or if it is playing a minor role the message is then something else. This else is what professionals call brand marketing, selling brand values and not so much the products in itself. But I wonder if commercials sometimes becomes to good for the company. It starts to live its own life and could fit any type of brand. You do not care, as long the content is as good as the one before.
Why am I doing this comparison? One thing that crossed my mind is that Swedish and British people perhaps have similar humor. But mostly it is because TV commercials to some extent are culture. Especially when they continue for a long period of time and have qualities that go beyond the regular ones. You enjoy watching them. And who is the winner-those behind it or those in front of it?
To end with a quote;
I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx
Window in the Wall, India and China – Imaginary Conversations, is the title of an exhibition at Pearl Lam gallery in Shanghai. One piece by Li Zhanyang ”the Contemplation of the Four Great Figures” in the exhibition shows Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin sitting and contemplating on the same spot in the floor.
The work is of course interesting in many ways. Are they just contemplating or are they sitting there asking the same question: What has happened to our ideas and visions? Are we lost in translation or? Or are they sitting contemplating about what shall we do now? Is there anything in our visions that we did miss? They would of course feel lost if they were alive today. Suddenly you realize that they where as important for that has become today as those who are declaring their winning thoughts. Their mistakes have created a counter reaction that we now are witnessing. What would happen if Europe, USA and the east started in the same competition 100 years ago with the same model of democracy in their backpack? Probably USA would not have been number one for a long time. The world would of course have suffered less in many ways. Is it perhaps that they are contemplating about. You could hear them whisper: Why didn’t I think about that? Because they are stuck in their own visions I would say. They sit there by themselves. No one is around them. – And that they where men.
Posted: januari 5th, 2012
Comments: 1 Comment.
It’s all about meaning – layers of meaning you would say, but with different expectations.
It’s like going to Shanghai. You are looking for new meanings; something that you hope will be some kind of original or have a solid meaning. I was happy when I found this bag – they selves on top of the actual store made it in the shop.
Suddenly you get the feeling that this is what meaning is about, finding some kind of source of what makes you believe. Here you could see the whole production line. But do we care about that? I do, but that has probably to do with my naïve belief that there is some kind of original. (I am very modernistic, not so postmodern perhaps.) Still after the era of branding I do not see the obvious reason why we are doing the branding stuff. But the customer in general are longing for it. But what do we mean when we are talking about brands? The original meaning is that has to do with communication of values that is connected to making money. I have no problem with that. The problem occurs when we use it on every thing that we do and that is what society is doing today. Branding has become the overall definition of everyday life. You brand even yourself. What is left? You sell everything that you have? Even your grandmother or? Another way of seeing it is that branding represent the relation between them and us. Branding has become the bridge that we use to define us in relation to others. In that sense branding is like a shelter that we can hide ourselves behind. It is perhaps not so much about showing who you are anymore? Instead it has become part of our language that we can use for different purposes. Or perhaps even that is not relevant anymore. In an interview with a chic Chinese girl in a weekend magazine in Shanghai she was saying that she believed more in faith or random destiny how come she bought a brand instead of being very strategic about her selection. Follow your intuition she said and do not look so much for the brand. With that type of shopping behavior I will be scared if you want to draw a branding strategy. But it sounds very healthy. But if you ask a Chinese who just has moved to Shanghai to make a living that would not be the case. For many of the branding is the key to rich heaven. Branding is the thing where you put your feet when you want to climb the status latter in society. In the end we are all in different need of branding. Sometimes you see something that reminds you that there is something that is not branding. But it is of course an illusion. Jasper Morrison doorbell reminds you of it – just plain design.
Posted: november 27th, 2011
Comments: 1 Comment.
Or as Zygmunt Bauman’s put it; we now live in liquid modernity, which means that the individual are more and more involved in planning their lives and careers in short, time projects and episodes.
There is no solid forms or institutions that we can rely on. It’s no time for it. This means that the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting under conditions of endemic uncertainty. In that context design and art I would say comes into a situation that is completely different than before. One major implication is that Design has become more about exploring our dreams of solidness. I would give you one example. The kitchen machine and the trend of doing your own bread. In Sweden it has become a tremendous trend with buying or doing your own levain bread. For those of you who do not know levain is a French leaven and gives you fantastic great bread. The process of making it is not easy and a leaven is like a baby that you feed in your refrigerator. How come this explosion of leaven? Some would say it has to do with that we are more into back to nature and interest of having real stuff instead of preservative food. Others would argue it has to do with that we have more money to spend on it. I will argue that it has to do with a kind of substitute of the liquid life most of us live in, and that this trend represents a longing for living a solid life. There are Kitchen bakery machines on the market that more or less look the same since it was launched many years ago. And they still win the contests! For example this piece from Ankarsrum in Sweden http://assistent.nu/en/default.aspx
It was originally designed back in 1940. My mother had one but in those days it was Electrolux who made them. If you now buy one you can use the same parts as to a machine that was produced 70 years ago! But coming back to the user in 1940 compared to the user today you will have a long-distance call to make. In those days the machine represented the future, a tool for modernity and was a real help for the mothers back then. But the machines are used today to make the same things. But today you buy it not because it helps you to survive the modern life. Instead you buy it because you are not happy what modernity has produced. It has become a key for finding back to what it was all about – what a good bread could actually taste and also a longing for understanding and controlling the chain of life. Its connects you to nature and the understanding what you actually are eating.
The image shows parts of my mobile phone life. Each of them connected me and was items that I was engaged with in different ways. When I now look at them it reminds how technology and design has changed.
But still I have my favourites. Nokia 6210 for example. If they produced it today with latest technology I would probably consider buying it. How come? The feeling comes to me when I pick it up, how it fits my hand and fingers, when I press the buttons or turn it on. It still feels quality and the design is thought of in all parts. Compared with IPhone this phone tells you that our daily interaction with touch has changed. 6210 was made for one hand. The iPhone I mostly use with two hands. This has of course to do with that we less and less use the phone as a talk phone. Instead we use it as a computer. Following the trends the way we communicate will lead to that mobile phone life is coming to its end. In my ears it sounds that we are entering more into less direct interaction and instead enters a communication society of delayed interaction. 6210 was the promise of direct interaction. IPhone is the fact of delayed interaction with the rest of the world. But everyone seems to love it. You can hide yourself. The phone becomes your filter to rest of the world. It becomes both your information weapon and your handicap tool. In the beginning it was the phone that became mobile and that made us more mobile. Today the phone makes us less mobile in the sense that we can do everything more or less from the same spot and that I can plan things much more than before. Today I know exactly where too go to with the help of my apps. This is the end as Doors puts it - happy or not -that is the question.
Fashion loves you and it also makes you hate it. On the one hand the destructiveness of the endless mass production and on the other hand the desire for the creative genius that keeps the illusion alive and that gives us hope for something that is a theatre.
Are we now witnessing, as pointed out in article in Financial Times about the story of Galliano, that the belief in the genius is gone, that we now are entering hard core business without any excesses? Perhaps, perhaps not. Going to Prime Mark in London you will believe it is gone. As my 12 year daughter put it when we there; ”this is what I call shopping”. Raw Fashion Capitalism might it be called. But at the same day entering a exhibition curated by Judith Clark at Fashion Space Gallery hosted at London College of Fashion gives you hope of something that fashion is something more than just shopping or Galliano. The exhibition, Judgement of Paris tells you a story from Greek mythology about how Paris, the model of beauty had to choose at a banquet hold by Zeus which one of the three goodness Hera, Athena and Aphrodite was the fairest one. The goodness’s tried to convince Paris in different ways. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite who offered him the love of the worlds most beautiful woman; Helen of Sparta. Paris Judgement of beauty instead of power, wisdom or skill do not only tells a story about Paris but about the power of beauty.
Fashion is of course about beauty. If it where not then we would not then have fashion. The problem arises when it are put in hands of people in power in which ethical codes are lost completely. Perhaps this is what has happened in Paris. But if the fashion world becomes more like a predictable marketing campaign we will also get lost. Because that has nothing to do with beauty in its deep artistic sense. But the fashion world has also seem have difficulties to deal with the sustainable questions which has created alternatives. Pantstopoverty.com is one, neighbourhoodies is another example that tries to find alternative ways of dealing with fashion.
The driving force is to find new ways how we look upon fashion and how we consume. Shopping is serious business, its not about spending money – its about what we think about ourselves and others and what we want our society to be in the future.
The event is in itself is social. Now design itself is becoming more social. But what do we mean with social? I have picked two aspects of it. One that relates to our need of being social. The other play on the ethical dimension of design. Social design has been going on for a while now. It is a reaction towards global mass production and the ecological problems we are facing. How can design make us more social and help us find new ways to solve problems. For example how can my neighbourhood be a resource for my needs? What will happen if we share things collectively rather than just buying it to our own homes. This way of asking questions will make us look upon design in a different way.
You can of course find all different kinds of projects and products during the Milan design week. Three-dimensional products are still mostly what is all about.
Food design is an area that has got an attention lately. Midnight dinners by Arabeeschi di Latte with Annette Weber I found interesting. Their project Underkitchen tries “to reveal the hidden, subtle and abstract nature behind food and hospitality”. They not only want to blur the boundaries between food and design but also “to create an open platform for food-related collaborations.” One thing that strikes me is the way they want us to open our minds what we not only mean by food and design but also how we relate to food in itself. I am not sure that it triggers my appetite but that is perhaps not the crucial thing here. Instead it is more like an experiment. But the project reflects also our contacts or longing with getting in Asia, especially china. This is best shown in Hermes collection. The goal is of course the new wealth in China.
Who does not want this device? How often do we not have that feeling of looking for a way out? On my latest trip to London I found this piece in gallery in east end. The person behind is Andrew Friend, graduated from RCA 2010 in design interaction. On his webpage http://www.andrewfriend.co.uk you can read that his ” work is focussed on designing experiences between people, technologies and their surroundings. He is interested in the extraordinary, fantastic and desirable (or indeed undesirable) experiences and outcomes that may result from these interactions.”
I really like this. It is real and not real at the same time..
When the Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt handed over the government’s farewell gift to Mona Sahlin in Parliament, few may have reflected over the fact that when he revealed that it was an Ipod with Mahatma Gandhi’s audio book thoughtfully uploaded onto it, he was helping to advertise a company’s product.
It probably didn’t occur to Reinfeldt either. Most of us perceived it as a gift of the times. In some cases, one may feel downright discriminated against if one happens not to be one of those not in possession of an Iphone. For example, when you ring Taxi Stockholm you are told that you may make your booking via your Iphone app. How is it that a single product can become a type of Trojan horse in our consciousness and daily lives? Could this be attributed merely to technically outclassing your competitors? Hardly. Attempts to explain this phenomenal success are many and have resulted in numerous books and theses on, above all, the founder Steve Jobs. Now, when Jobs’ personal health crisis is the focus of media attention, the question is once again on everyone’s lips. In other words, how is it that without blinking an eyelid, we can talk about concepts when in fact they are products. In his famous Commencement Address as Honorary Professor at Harvard in 2005, widely available for viewing on the internet, he said the following;
”If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class and personals computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do… I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts, and since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.” Watch the video here.
The roots of Jobs’ project date back to European industrial history, more specifically, the German painter Peter Behrens’ comprehensive work for German AEG at the beginning of last century. Behrens is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern industrial design and corporate design. His office drew everything for AEG: fonts, marketing materials, products, exhibitions, buildings and personnel housing. Behrens’ assistants were not just any ordinary mortals. Among them were Mies van der Rohe, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) and Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus movement). Behrens himself remained in Germany while many of the others fled to the U.S. (Gropius, for example, became a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design).
Seventy years later, Jobs, in a similar way, unites artistic flair and training with industrial production. In other words, it isn’t just the Ipod, Iphone, Ipad or their apps that may not have existed if he hadn’t attended that calligraphy course. Neither Facebook nor Twitter might have come to dominate social networking to the extent that they do now. Sahlin might instead have been given a printed book. It is said that a picture can say more than a thousand words and, indeed, the longing for the consummate, perfect style seems, above all else, to be able to inhabit the imagination and consciousness of a whole world, or to quote the Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Joseph Brodsky:
”The purpose of evolution, believe it or not, is beauty. For it is beauty that survives it all and generates truth simply by a fusion of the mental and the sensual”. (1995)
In the end however, it should not be forgotten that without those original, essentially European visions, Apple itself might very well not have come into being.
-How has the role of the designer changed over the last couple of years?
In times of disruptive consumption the designer’s responsibility has been heavily questioned. Being a designer today you need to understand and take responsibility for the whole process. The need for understanding the whole value chain has affected the role in that sense that you on the one hand must be like a Swiss army knife and be able to get into areas that you did not had a clue of before. In that sense the role has shifted towards more like a project-manager in which you need to be able to work with many different competences. It is not enough to only focus on the product. In that sense the role has become more pro-active than re-active. Instead of asking what the design world can do for you the designer is today asking what they can do for the world as whole. On the other hand as we live in a society in which everyone more or less is branding him or herself, branding the designer is more difficult today than it was ten years ago. In the world of individual brands anyone can be a designer. It’s just a matter of time when we will see the next blog/Facebook-furniture designer that will come from the blog/Facebook-world. The reason is because companies value those who have built up a customer relationship and are aware of what the customers wants. This means that the role of the ivory-tower designer is gone. You need to be connected and to find the right interpreters of the future.
-Our world is multifaceted and problems are getting more and more complex – how can hybrid thinking and an open-minded holistic mindset take design into a new dimension?
By facilitating it in the right way to occur. For example, put the designer in teams that involves competences that they usually not work with in the working process. When did you involve a biologist last time you where up to design a new chair? To get started use the design thinking process as a tool for everyone involved. Empathy-prototyping-abductive logic is key words in the process. Risk and Fail is necessary ingredients to create a success and do not forget the analytical dimension. Make use of ethnographic methods to get as close to another person’s situation as possible. In the end you will probably end up with a design that is more relevant to the needs of your customer and not only a new product that reminds you of the last furniture fair you went to.
-How can we better use storytelling as tool when changing the predominated notion of ’objects’ into more memorable and sensuous experiences?
Storytelling as tool is used more and more, especially in marketing. Just take a look at the commercials on TV – The popular notion of creating characters and intrigues that you can follow. The best ones is when you do not realize that you look upon it not as an ad. You have empathy for the characters and do not take notice of the products. Bingo! Storytelling is what it is; Stories. And there are good ones and there are bad ones. It’s like when you go to a wedding or a 50-year anniversary party. Some speaches are terrible, others are brilliant. But you can learn. Some companies teach their staff to become storytellers. But the best storytellers are of course the customers. When that happens, you will probably hear some kind of a memorable and sensuous experience that they had. The trick is That experience must be good. Otherwise you have problems. The most well known storytelling book ever written is of course the bible. And how has these stories been kept alive during all the years? Better example of telling stories about memorable and sensuous experience is hard to find. So you need a certain place or forum to talk about them. Not necessary a church. I believe Facebook is better though it has no atmosphere.
Finally, companies tend to objectify experiences. Probably because they see it as a product. If that so, one way to improve the use of storytelling as tool is to translate the experience into the story. Use it as a metaphor.
-How can we design with a more humanistic perspective and thus contribute to cultural and social changes?
Involve designers and make use of design methods within your company to explore and develop whole value chain, from the coffee bean to the espresso cup.
Develop your methods how design can improve customer needs. Design needs to be more connected and contextualized to the overall societal and cultural changes that is now happeninge. Companies need to understand this process in order to know how to deal with design within their company. Days are gone when you could say design is a competetive advantage. Today its just a ticket to the game. So the challange is to get to know what is to come. Unfortunately the trendspotting trend that is exploding at the moment is not the solution. Its more like a quick fix. You do not create competetive advantage by runing in the same direction as the rest of the gang. To become a leader you need to take risks. Trendanalysts is the safe ride.
Educate management teams the importance of having a design strategy that is solid and will survive future generations of potential customers.
-How can you be part of shaping the future?
As a rector/president of a art and design school my role is of course to built a platform that meets the challenges for the future society in our fields of interest. How we as a school connects to the society , how we develop our curriculum and research. I will also take the opportunity to say that we need to be much more aware of than we are today, especially when you take notice of what is happening in Europe today in terms of economic cuts within education, that education and research is the most important tool to built a humanistic society with competitive advantages.