Latest Posts

Branded Entertainment from the San Diego International Film Festival

My favorite six selects from the branded entertainment program at the San Diego International Film Festival.

We live in what is arguably the most creative period in human history, but it isn’t demonstrated in the “creative industries” of marketing/advertising nearly as much as in other industries, tech, culture, pop-culture. This selection is an outstanding exception. The most enjoyable hour I’ve spent in front of a screen recently.

The bummer came at the end of the program during the panel discussion which was dominated by talk of the business justification of branded content, metrics and the state of the industry. Tedious for an insider, unbearable for outsiders.

The pervasive fear and confusion regarding disruption and change within the industry is understandable but the never ending discussions, the venting and self-reassuring is exhausting. The reality is that rate of change is outpacing us. What most of us are trying to get our heads around just doesn’t exist anymore and we are notoriously horrible at predicting the future. Reading related posts is like watching people in Plato’s cave that don’t realize the shadows being cast are from distant stars that have already burned out. Whatever you think it is or was, it’s gone. So shut up and make something great. Like these. Think entertaining brands not branded entertainment. Or don’t think at all, just get busy.

The Wolf

Gravity Cat


The Worlds Biggest Asshole

A Love Story

General Howe’s Dog

A Day of Design Immersion

Sunday January 8
Started the day rereading Grid Systems. I’ve always believed in returning to fundaments, reminded to ask basic questions and maintain a beginners mins.

Posters by Allen Hori. From his days at Cranbrook. Emigre #12
The hung on my walls for many years.


Rothko: Dark Palette

Pace Gallery. Chelsea. 01.04.14





Questions to myself:

“What I think” doesn’t seem like the right question.

These are not thinking paintings. These are feeling paintings.

What do I feel?

How long does it take to stand before each painting before you really understand how it makes you feel?

The great variety of sizes: what is the proper distance to stand in front of each?

Do simple, subtle paintings deserve more contemplation because of their subtlety?

How important are those juxtaposed rectangles of color versus those lines ripping through between them.

There is a fury in those edges.





Reading Pictures:
Mickey Mouse

One of the reasons that Mickey Mouse is so loved is his geometry.

Circles are the friendliest and most inviting shape. Mickey is drawn almost entirely of soft circular forms.


Even his “logo” is made up of three circles which have become universally recognized.


Revenge of the Analog

Revenge of the analog. Everyone is slowly, finally recognizing the failings of open office space designs.

A red flag when I walk into a shop is the lack of wall space for people to ideate and more importantly put work in progress up. An unfortunate feature of open office design. People sharing work via email or project management software has a horrible effect on the work and the culture.

If you didn’t design a creative space with walls usable of the display of work in progress you might as well leave out the toilets. In both instances, the shit just piles up.

“The more digital the company, the more analog the space should feel.”

Via The New Yorker:
The Analog Spaces in Digital Companies

Adapted from David Sax’s book: “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter”


Life Lessons, Well Worth Reading

Anthony Bourdain’s Life Advice

What’s the best way to motivate other people?
Make them feel special. Create an esprit de corp, and a feeling that you are an elite, that even if you have the shittiest jobs within a large organization, you should feel proud of the fact that you’re part of something. Recognize excellence. Celebrate weirdness, and innovation. Oddballs should be cherished, if they can do something other people can’t do.
_ _

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You
So here is my terrible truth about the adult world: You are the confused guy with the pocket knife. All of society is the bleeding gunshot victim.

“NASA Crazy”

“When people look at it… it looks crazy. That’s a very natural thing. Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy. It is the result of reasoned, engineering thought. But it still looks crazy.”

–Adam Steltzner, NASA engineer

Journal 7.18.16

Walking through a park on my lunch break. A swarm of dragonflies criss cross overhead. It’s fun to think of what it would be like for dragonflies to have air traffic controllers, but I think I prefer the elaborate randomness of a system that I can simply bare witness to without understanding.

Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, Even If You Kind Of Suck At It

The reslts, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making,” found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

“It was surprising, and it also wasn’t,” Kaimal explained to Drexel Now. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

The study, co-authored by Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal, and Juan Muniz, an assistant teaching professor in the department of nutrition sciences, invited 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, to participate. Markers, paper, clay and collage materials were amongst the tools offered up to the participants, who were instructed to create whatever they so pleased over the course of 45 minutes, with no further directives. An art therapist was on site in case the participants had any questions or concerns.
The results, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making,” found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

“It was surprising, and it also wasn’t,” Kaimal explained to Drexel Now. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

The study, co-authored by Kendra Ray, a doctoral student under Kaimal, and Juan Muniz, an assistant teaching professor in the department of nutrition sciences, invited 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, to participate. Markers, paper, clay and collage materials were amongst the tools offered up to the participants, who were instructed to create whatever they so pleased over the course of 45 minutes, with no further directives. An art therapist was on site in case the participants had any questions or concerns.

Article Link
Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, Even If You Kind Of Suck At It

Visual Journal : July 1 2015

I thought I had reached a point in life where I know longer needed to go into self-serve laundromats. Ironically it’s my expensive clothing that has using them again. My most delicate and expensive pieces of clothing — as well as t-shirts that came with very silly price tags — I carefully hand wash and dry at home. When near dry I take them to a laundromat to fluff, remove wrinkles and help them keep their shape. A fine example of the things you own, owning you.

Below are 2 postcard-shaped pieces of paper taped to the front glass door. The other sides were blank.

Back side of door: Reminds me of David Carson’s style and compositional sensibility.

VJ 160701_01

Front side of door: Reminds me of my fascination with mold patterns on white bread.

VJ 160701_01


I try to meditate almost every morning. I usually wake up before 6am, without an alarm clock, and enjoy taking the time to get my buddha on before I let the world or other people’s shit into or near my head. I like the breakfast nook area in the back of our apt. It’s relatively quiet and dark. The apartment next to ours was renovated and no one has lived there in quite some time.

Last week I get up, go to my spot and meditate for about forty minutes. I finish a with a sense of clam serenity and slowly open my eyes to see, directly in front of me, through the well-lit sliver of a New York City bathroom window… some dude’s junk.
My meditation spot has lost the private sanctity it once had. I now approach my spot apprehensively, timing my meditation around this guy’s schlong. This morning as I went to the kitchen to feed the cats I could hear music. It was my neighbor. This morning it was just his ass, shaking away to the sound of The Carpenters.

Your Toxic, Junk-Filled Semantic Environment

A fine example of the way information in the social media age is neutralizing and negating. Think of the deluge of contradictory, meaningless and insipid advice that pours through Linkedin’s feed. For years I’ve walked through bookstores increasingly convinced that peak-literacy and the easy with which books are produced is counter productive. In the same way that the easy production of surplus calories (high fructose syrup, junk food) has resulted in obesity and physical detriment, the easy production of content has produced a toxic, junk-filled semantic environment.


Cities, Large and Small

I don’t find the book reviewed here very interesting but the opening raises some interesting points about artistic (and other) innovation in America’s cities. The paradox that rubs is : 1. It’s too expensive to fail (experiment, do basic research or literally fail) in NYC or LA and 2. Smaller cities don’t have the population for the exchange of ideas or economic base necessary to achieve scale. This is one of Detroit’s biggest problems. It’s a tiny city at this point and their are too many people who want to take the stage and not enough audience.

But I invested in you!: How to be and asshole. by Sheila Heti
London Review of Books

But I invested in you!: How to be and asshole. by Sheila Heti

“There was a time when artists and writers flocked to inexpensive cities to allow themselves the trials of making art over the trials of making a living. In North America today, the main site of literary activity or literary business – which more and more amount to the same thing – is Brooklyn. Yet it’s probably one of the toughest places for a writer to live cheaply and noodle about, wearing rags. What happens when artists gravitate to places where they can make art only with great financial effort; where writers have to be journalists, adjunct professors, or work in cafés to pay the rent, leaving little time to write their novel, while learning every few months that one of their herd has secured a six-figure advance for their first book? What do their relationships and values look like, and how do their love stories unfold? This is the world of Adelle Waldman’s first book.”

What’s on Your Meme?

The Sherman Foundation, after carefully monitoring the success of the ice bucket challenge has high hopes for the serialization and “how many organs can we remove from you and sell on the black market challenge”. We’re anticipating queues like magnolia bakery, circa 2001.

Vanity Fair’s Gorgeous Tableaus and the Contemptuous “Bitch Face” of Advertising

Historically, Vanity Fair has done an amazing job of collaborating with photographers and stylists to create gorgeous photographic spreads with narrative depth and a rich, almost painterly qualities. (The typography has been disappointing of late but perhaps that will be addressed in a future post.)



In the issues that arrived today I was dismayed to see these two spreads — Prada and Burberry — presenting large groups of models forming unified confronting human walls of “bitch Face”.



Contempt has always been the theater and template for cosmetics and fashion photography. A method to degrade and humiliate consumers into purchasing products in an attempt to win over the approval of all those dismissive glares that come bundled with every issue.

These spreads actually combine the contemptuous assuault with the non-verbal narrative you see so often on the covers of rap and rock CDs: “the ambush”.


An insidious two prong attack.

“The mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in its mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Huffington Post’s Treachery of Images

The homepage and section homepages of the Huffington post have an interesting format for a digital publication. It’s closer to that of a print newspaper’s front page: a bold headline over a large attention grabbing photo. What’s different and intriguing is that many of them lack any sort of lead-in or explanatory text. Just bold juxtapositions of word and image that are sometimes quite oblique. A recent favorite.


Even the NYPost’s digital edition, arguably the paper that owns “front pages” from a cultural conversation perspective doesn’t go as far. They have a cascading heirarchy of images with headline overlays. One primary and two secondary stories share the prime real estate followed by four tertiary stories that flow into smaller groupings of articles down the page.

There is something very modernist and non-digtal about The Huffington Post format. The big type image combo feels like paste-up, collages, or like old print ads.

The mechanics at work on The Huffington Post’s front pages are actually similar to those behind the classic VW ads created by Doyle Dane Bernbach in the 60s. The genius behind those ads was that they presented the viewer with a headline and an image that were at odds with one another, that didn’t quite fit together, that created a tension that could only be resolved by the participation of the readers mind.


Decades ago, newspapers quite literally brought the news to people’s doorsteps. We now live in an age where the news streams in at a constant flow of bits a packets. We have a level of familiarity and context with most stories before we arrive at any news site. That’s what makes The Huffington Post word/image constructs so interesting and revealing of their function. Unlike the DDB ads that drove its readers to a clever, persuasive point, The Huffington Post covers act as emotional sounding boards, eliciting an emotional response and stirring all the preconceptions and biases you have about the hinted material. You are emotionally engaged and telling yourself your own story about the news even before you have a chance to click and read a single word of the text.


It was René Magritte that most famously pitted word against image in his work “The Treachery of Images”. The painting, of a pipe, included the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” (“This is not a pipe”). The painting’s paradox, like the juxtapositions in the ads of Doyle Dane Bernbach and the home pages of The Huffington Post shift the point of meaning creation and reconciliation for the page (or canvas) to the viewers mind.

Margritti this is not a pipe

Our collective dysmorphia: Barbie’s fake and real and the thigh gap obsession.

Created by artist NICKOLAY LAMM

Article on CafeMom: Artist Creates Barbie With Average-Size Body & We Wish Our Daughters Could Get One


Graduate School Barbie comes in two forms: Delusional Master’s Barbie (TM) and Ph.D. Masochist Barbie (TM).



Model whose excessive plastic surgery made her a living Barbie shows off doll-like proportions in high fashion shoot.

real barbie

A piece in Vice about Thigh Gap


Brand Volatility

This chart would be so much more insightful if it showed a much longer timeline, and included a few more brands, like Kodak maybe. (Instead is a colorful graphic with popular brand names). Brands are the connection between business and culture. The real story isn’t about rising and falling fortunes, it’s about rapidly increasing cycles of volatility and disruption. Brand thinking is having more trouble than business strategy when it comes to keeping pace. No one’s written the “innovator’s dilemma” for the brand side yet. There need to be more “protean” models for brands, or better fake outs and quicker costume changes.

The Rise and Fall of the World’s 10 Most Valuable Brands


CVS self-service checkout
Sound and Experience design

There’s a CVS near my office that I pop into occasionally to buy an energy drink, or whatever. The checkout stations are all self-service with computerized voices to guide you through the checkout process. The problem is that they haven’t gotten the volume or the acoustic targeting quite right so the effect is an aural wash of the same computerized voice talking over one another, giving similar sounding and often contradictory commands: “please take the unscanned item out of the bag”, “please place the scanned item into the bag”, “please select your language”, “please select your payment type”. The result is something right out of the film Brazil, somewhat comical, dystopian and exhausting.

Sound in experience design still doesn’t get enough attention. Jamba Juice shops are incredibly loud. They didn’t design for that at all.

On Computer Wallpaper Metaphors: Power, Death and the Subconscious

Since the beginning, Apple and almost all computer manufacturers have relied heavily on images of outer space (or abstractions of space) as the default for wallpaper backgrounds: Pictures of “the universe” served as a metaphor for the mind expanding potential of the computer.

After upgrading to iOS7 my iPhone displayed a picture of a rippling body of water. A symbol of the unconscious. Appropriate given the inward looking emotional self involvement of mobile social media.

Expansive bodies of water are also visual metaphors for death. If you analyze from an art therapy perspective it prompts the question “is Apple, as an organization feeling a sense of loss?” Maybe they are, on several levels. These things express themselves in the most subtle and subconscious ways, even on an organizational level.


Maintaining a Connections (Manhattan’s disappearing clotheslines)


A great image (taken out the rear window of his east village apartment) and a wonderful insight on the clotheslines that are disappearing from Manhattan by my dear friend Robert Rosswag. (Quote and image pulled from his Facebok page.)

“One of the things that fascinates me about the whole wash line idea is that it requires cooperation between strangers living in two different buildings. You connect with them – literally – based upon a shared need. There’s poetry in that!”

The Scarecrow

I’ve always maintained that great advertising reconciles the paradoxical problems produced by the products it promotes. (a lot of pee in that first sentence). AT&T’s “reach out and touch someone” campaign is a classic case in point. The invention of the telephone encouraged people to “leave home”, live live’s of geographic dispersion and long for intimate, personal connections. Connections that could be reestablished… with a phone call.

A beautifully crafted piece, but there’s that uncomfortable, uneasy feeling I get when a brand connects on an empathetic point and makes a cultural commentary on an issue that they are, in reality, a contributor to not a solution for.

Still. Beautifully done.

Labor Day’s “Devil’s Night”

Manhattan is so very “28 Days Later” on Labor Day weekend (eerily quite save for a few freaks who haven’t gotten out). I see a perfect opportunity to start a new national holiday, an annual festival, zombie apocalypse theme night of underground partying on the (Sunday) night before Labor Day. A perfect way to lament the increasing loss of jobs at the hands of technological efficiency and globalization. Labor Day’s “Devil’s Night”.

Short notice but we start tonight!

Reading Pictures
Ben & Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham

An interesting layering of visual metaphors and devices. First, the use of a pastoral farm setting to reframe the processed food product as nature’s bounty and it’s origins as being “from nature”. This has become a common device to present process foods, like Lays Potato Chips, as wholesome and natural.

In terms of overall structure, there is a definite narrative timeline that begins with creation (farm, farm animals) and ends with the final product being delivered to the viewer of this ad.

Second, Ben & Jerry’s packaging as cornucopia (“Horn of Plenty”), a deep and boundless gift.

Last and most interesting are the use of the trojan cow and catapult. These elements, at first, seem to undermine the narrative setup. If it’s a story about where the ice cream comes from, why does it end in duplicity and siege? The catapult, ready to fire, is aimed directly at the viewer of the ad. Is it a way of taunting the boundary between print page and reality?

We start with real cows in the background and end with an artificial wooden cow in the foreground. Is the trojan cow a confession? that your gift of bounty is not what it appears to be? That what is inside is not quite what you were led to believe? Or is it just a clever way of teasing you, inciting you, building a primal anticipation for the thing you are so bloodthirsty for (Blueberry Vanilla Graham Frozen Yogurt) and letting you know it is on its way?

Ben - Jerrys  Blueberry Vanilla Graham

Tim O’Reilly: Birth of the Global Mind

Tim O’Reilly: Birth of the Global Mind from The Long Now Foundation on

…I ended up in my own thinking tying that into the poetry of Wallace Stevens who had this notion that truth is actually a fiction that we persuade each other of and it’s ultimately aesthetics that is the future of human cognition, its not this engineering mindset we find in “object truth”, its actually this notion that that “reality is an exercise of the most august imagination”.

…people would say “why does Plato describe this with this fantastic mystical imagery, he must have been influence by the pythagoreans” and I say “nonsense!” I know exactly why Plato describes things like justice with this incredible flowery language, because when he was first thinking about it thats exactly what it was, it was a new idea! it was powerful! it was numinous! it was full of juice! of course you describe it that way… it was like wow! the experience was WOW! and now we rehearse it and we go “yea I got it, I read it in a book”… you guys know that the first time you experience something it has power, and later on… you know… its boring.

Big Data, Urban Prototyping and Sentient Cities

I had the pleasure of attending a talk by and meeting Peter Hirshberg of the Re:Imagine Group last week. The talk focused on their work and trends in the use of “big data” in bottom-up, civic innovation by collaborations of artists, designers, technologists and activists. He covered a massive amount of interesting territory: city as platform, internet of things, sentient cities, urban prototyping, creative currency, collaborative consumption, tactical urbanism…

Some of what he covered is contained in this video. Well worth a watch.

Other things referenced in his talk:

The Bay Lights from Words Pictures Ideas on Vimeo.

Great story about a team in San Francisco that developed a municipal app, over a weekend, to collect data and help busses run on time.
“The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has every intention of spending a few years and untold dollars creating its own, more robust version of the tool. But the team hacked together the basic parameters of the SMART Muni app in a 48-hour stretch in late July, fueled by pizza and beer.
They coupled a GPS data feed showing the location of Muni buses with a user interface that could allow MTA managers to more easily spot and fix problems. It will also allow riders to glimpse delays they want to avoid, or communicate issues throughout the system.”

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (@GAFFTA) brings together the best creative coders, data artists, designers, and makers to create experiments that build social consciousness through digital culture.

Peter Hirshberg’s Blog

Very few people truly have the stomach and the balls to be creative.

The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas (research study)

An interesting research study on why people overtly claim to value and champion creativity behave and make choices which are risk-averse. People will unconsciously work to diminish uncertainty and make choices that are least likely to negatively impact them on a personal level.

“People often reject creative ideas even when espousing creativity as a desired goal. To explain this paradox, we propose that people can hold a bias against creativity that is not necessarily overt, and which is activated when people experience a motivation to reduce uncertainty.”

“research documents that teachers dislike students who exhibit curiosity and creative thinking even though teachers acknowledge creativity as an important educational goal (Dawson, D’Andrea, Affinito, & Westby, 1999; Runco, 1989; Westby & Dawson, 1995)”

May 4, 2012

Superhero movie franchises are have become the new durable goods. In the past you could count on an renewing stream of newly married couples purchasing dishwashers, washers and dryers. Not the predictable reliable consumer model it once was. What is proving durable is the recasting and reintroduction of Ironman, Spiderman and even The Avengers to old and new generations alike.

Every generation gets the Batman they deserve.

The Photokeratic Age

I’m going to engage in a bit of futurist speculation: Now this may seem counterintuitive (as well as dystopian and pessimistic) but is it possible that what follows the information age is a new kind of dark age, one marked not by a loss of knowledge but a kind of photokeratitis (snow blindness) caused by the explosion of communication and overexposure to media manipulation, spin, junk science, distracting spectacles, contradictory research studies, lies, a crisis of credibility, uncertainty, the collapse of master narratives (see Lyotard), proliferating conspiracy theories (“alternate explanations of what the fuck is really going on”) and the resultant tribalism, subjectivism and regression to infantilistic ego (and sexual) gratification? Is this the “photokeratic age”?