Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Straight Line That's A Curve? Hyperbolic But True.

It sounds either impossible or something which only lives in the realm of the fantastical, such as that distant and murky realm of Quantum Mechanics in which matter can purportedly exist in two places at the same time.

OFD has found that however impossible problems appear to be or daunting challenges might seem, progress and solutions can often come in a surprisingly simple way: from seeing things from a different perspective.

We sought this ourselves recently, and did what we compel our clients to do on occasion: step away from the problem - and the office - and go seek some inspiration where it matters. For the nature of our problem, we went to The Exploratorium, a brilliant laboratory of ideas which encourages interactivity and literal hands-on learning.

How can something straight fit into a curve?

It was one of the provocative riddles we encountered on an entertaining and thoroughly inspiring field trip.

The answer was simple, with a new perspective. A line rotated in the right plane makes a hyperbolic curve. The hands-on exhibit allowed the viewer to manipulate a steel rod literally through a curve in a piece of plexiglass. The visual evidence was irrefutable yet mind-bending nonetheless.

When is an idea not an idea?

The image is instantly recognizable for its place in the recent election campaign. Its existence is a testament to the success the democratic party achieved in conscripting influencers to support its cause, such as the artist Shepard Fairey.

Now, it's not without controversy. According to a recent piece in The Guardian, the AP is taking legal action, claiming that the artist stole its image and used it without permission.

Of course, this is not the first time that allegations of copyright infringement have surfaced, nor also in high-profile circumstances. But it raises an interesting question:

When is an idea not an idea? Put an other way, how much change is needed to an original for it to become a different idea?

We think Fairey's cause will be helped by the fact the style that defines the piece has fueled a populist movement, one in which people convert images of themselves into this distinctive graphic form. (Obamiconme). These have been appearing all over the internet, including being used as personal icons in social media venues such as facebook.

That suggests an idea of its own merit to the legal lay people here at Open Fridge Door.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Giving Digital Music that Warm Vinyl Feel in the Age of The Internet - Part II

We posted a curious find on October 15th last year, one that stirred some unexpected nostalgia.

We've brought it back because it seems that original link to the video has been shut-down. Someone at You Tube determined there was a copyright issue. This is strange indeed for if anything the video provided exposure for an artist (for free). The evidently rough sound of the album recorded through a poor quality video camera wouldn't discourage people from buying the music. The quality really is quite bad. (For decades, The Grateful Dead allowed bootlegs precisely because they helped fuel interest in album sales.)

But You Tube demonstrate short-sightedness in another regard. Instead of trying to 'silence' people sharing music, why not incorporate a seamless way for that music to be bought and downloaded? Why not convert awareness and interest immediately into purchase? Why not have functionality built into the site or linked to iTunes? A great missed opportunity indeed.

As a tribute to the age of vinyl here's another example, created by someone inspired to copy the originator of this nostalgia inducing experience.

There's something oddly fascinating about seeing an album turn on a record player while the song plays. Millions of teenagers spent hours doing exactly this, camped out on a bedroom floor scrutinizing the liner notes while the record spun mesmerizingly. How times have changed.

But in addition to the warmer sound that is attributed to vinyl, it was also a time in which where the music was stored and how it was being retrieved was there in full view, something that with cds, iPods and dvd is hidden as a matter of course.

The Opportunity for Brands in a Time of Adversity

The adversity felt right now is a collective squeeze, a nation tightening its proverbial belt in a reaction (if not anticipation) of a greater need for frugality. Many companies are experiencing softening sales.

We at OFD think that for certain brands, a time of adversity is an opportunity. It's a chance for brands to strengthen relationships with existing customers, but perhaps the biggest upside comes in inspiring a connection and bond among people currently outside the brand fold. Doing so the right way can stabilize sales and reverse a downward trend, instead of a purely tactic response of price discounting, which can erode the brand's perceived value not to mention profits.

The cultural context

This is a zeitgeist moment. On a mass scale people are struggling financially and psychologically with extended uncertainty; the road through the turmoil is unclear and people have braced themselves for a tough journey ahead.

The brand connection opportunity

Brands can inspire a bond by going beyond mere empathy for how the current climate is affecting people and instead take actions that show genuine understanding and commitment to help.

The idea: Fuel For Everyday Life
Be a champion of the people in their pursuit of moving forward by being the fuel that energizes people and feeds their need to keep going....for getting through their day/week.

The action
Something as simple as a message about the importance of fueling one's day in conjunction with distributing samples at unemployment lines, malls where busy mom shop or to commuters as they file in to work in the morning, could help to give contemporary relevance to products in a context broader than the typical ones these brands are associated with.

The point
Just as adversity builds character, so a brand's character can be built when inspiring a valued connection during a time of adversity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Using a Little Visual Wit to Help an Idea Stick

We're bombarded daily with communications imploring us to recycle, to think of the consequences of our actions. These messages have been long overdue, but many of them are being tuned out simply because they are becoming too commonplace.

It is a challenge many companies and their brands face. In the 'noise' or 'clutter' of advertising and promotional appeals, being noticed at all is harder than ever. It was Mae West who famously intoned "It is better to be look-over than over-looked" when asked if she minded being gawped at. Many brands should be so lucky.

So this charming piece of communication stood out effortlessly in a sea of sameness. Here, visual design and a little wit have been imaginatively employed to get the message across without getting in the way. And that's the trick. Not 'design' for its own sake (all too common too is seems these days) but one which inspires the reader to linger and - importantly - take something away that will be remembered.

The Other Thing That Tourists Leave Behind

Tourists to San Francisco arrive in great number, a reverse diaspora of different cultures converging upon our own. The currency they bring remains after they are gone but there's something else similarly valuable which they leave behind if we're lucky enough to notice - a fresh perspective on the city we live in, one whose familiarity often makes us blind to some of its fine features, character and vitality.

The opportunity is quite literally everywhere around us and comes from that ubiquitous, indispensable accessory of well-equipped travelers. In their act of lifting up cameras - or often these days it seems, phones - to a scene or landmark they want to capture for a memory, so too our own perspectives are raised, and we have the fleeting chance to glimpse our environs in a new way, through the eyes of an outsider.