Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Virtues of the Mind

Image source: blog.myfatpocket.com

Mental virtues are not something most of us think about to any great extent. We tend to look at virtues as being character traits – courage, kindness, loyalty, loving – rather than relating them to the way we think. But the way we think influences everything about us, so it’s worth recapping the list of six cerebral virtues highlighted by New York Times columnist David Brooks.

  1. Love of learning: Being inquisitive is valuable. Some people are more naturally curious than others, but we should all want to learn more. At the very least it keeps our brains active and that in itself helps to keep us sharp well into retirement.
  2. Intellectual courage: Going against the grain is tough and it takes a lot of courage to hold unpopular views. As Brooks notes, the subtler side is knowing how much risk to take in jumping to conclusions - when to be cautious and when to be daring and be willing to contemplate outrageous ideas. 
  3. Firmness: You need to have conviction in your beliefs and not give up at the first hint of opposition. But you also don't want to be so rigid that you can't mould your thinking when new facts emerge. It's about being mentally agile and aware.  
  4. Humility: A tough one for academics, as prestige is not easy to obtain. But only the arrogant believe they have truly mastered a topic. There is always someone to learn from and more ideas to explore. 
  5. Autonomy: In simple terms, thinking for yourself. Questioning what you hear and read, rather than blindly accepting it as gospel. But also knowing when to take guidance and from whom. The best teachers are always the ones that want you to challenge them and ask questions. 
  6. Generosity: There is no point sitting on life lessons and experience. We need to share our knowledge and be gracious in how we do it. That means taking the time to talk with people to champion their growth. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Political Inspiration

Image source: telegraph.co.uk | 3news.co.nz

Two recent standout political performances are worthy of notice. Saatchi & Saatchi Deputy Chairman Richard Hytner and author of Consigleri: Leading from the Shadows wrote in The Huffington Post last week about the performance of former UK Prime Minister and longtime Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, and his “stellar performance” in persuading the majority of voters to keep Scotland part of Great Britain.

“At the eleventh hour,” writes Hytner, “Gordon Brown trumped Scotland’s First Minister with authenticity, humility and outstanding oratory…How ironic that those withering in their assessment of Gordon Brown’s performance as Prime Minister were forced to rely heavily on his excellent and impassioned advocacy to see off the SNP. It also supports the idea that a life in leadership transcends title and tenure in a single role. The thought that Gordon Brown’s greatest political triumph may have been won not as Chancellor, nor as Prime Minister, but as an elder statesman without office, should offer lasting hope to leaders throughout all organisations.”

Gordon Brown and the Labour Party was a client of Saatchi London in 2007 and coined the term “Not flash, just Gordon.” Well, that was pretty flash, Gordon.

The other politician turning in a stellar performance is New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who led the National Party to victory with 48% of the popular vote. The election campaign was vicious rather than visionary, with several attempts to tear down the government with “dirty politics” rather than the advancement of progressive policies. Key stood his ground and the electorate delivered a stunning endorsement of his center-right platform. The remarkable thing was that New Zealand has a proportional voting system enabling all voices to have a go at getting representation, and to achieve 48% of the popular vote is unprecedented in world politics. Even more remarkable was that his government increased their voter support after two re-election campaigns. Governments usually go on a slippery slope downwards once in power. Not so John Key. After the result he firmly instructed his party not to indulge in the arrogance of power, to govern in the interests of all citizens, and has embarked on a program of eliminating child poverty in New Zealand.

2 x postscripts: Leading political columnist Jane Clifton has written a long and considered piece on Richard Hytner’s book Consiglieri as it applies to New Zealand politics over the last three decades.

And New Zealand has the best designed government in the world, according to American political commentator Dylan Matthews writing for Vox last week. “The shire has a mighty fine political system,” he jokes. “New Zealand’s parliament is better designed than just about any other developed country government.” Matthews gives 3 reasons for New Zealand having “The world’s best electoral system:” MMP, unicameralism and constitutional monarchy. “MMP (for Mixed Member Proportional representation) discourages the kind of excessive party formation that happens under pure party-list representation, while still ensuring that smaller parties get some say.” Matthews explains that MMP allows democracy to function while the 5% threshold prevents everything getting out of control.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mechanical Music

Image source: npr.org

Robots can be useful. Absolutely. Creating them to do menial or dangerous tasks is a valuable advancement for our world. But I can’t get excited about robots being developed to create original music.

Computer scientists in Paris and the US are working on this now. They believe they will soon have an algorithm that can create original compositions in the style of legendary figures like Beethoven, or soul singers like Ray Charles. But here’s the kicker, music, great music, hits you in the guts with an emotional punch. Robots can’t replicate that. They can only imitate and extrapolate on what we, as humans, have already produced.

Take this quote from an article in The Atlantic: “I would submit that you can certainly make a computer swing,” says Brooklyn-based musician and technologist Eric Singer. “You can kind of jitter that swing a bit to make it sound more human.”

But I don’t want music to sound human. I love that it is human. Maybe, you could argue that a commercial application for generic mall music, or when you’re on hold to your bank, is valid. But still, I would prefer if we left creativity to people and didn’t homogenise it. Music is one of the most magical and inspirational creative gifts we have. Every song has a story. Robot music has no mystery. No intimacy. No sensuality. You can’t love it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

15 Lessons From The Eames Legacy

Sometimes you come across things that have been around for a while that are still relevant today. Keith Yamashita’s small book Fifteen Things Charles and Ray Teach Us is one of them. Charles and Ray Eames shared a belief that design could improve people's lives, and this remains their greatest legacy. The book was published in 1999 but the suggestions remain simple and brilliant.
  1. Keep good company. Build relationships with influential people. Gain not just their company, but their trust and respect. 
  2. Notice the ordinary. Look around you. The wonderful mysteries of life are in your path throughout the day. 
  3. Preserve the ephemeral. Collect moments that would otherwise slip away. You can do this with photos, letters, or keep items from special occasions. 
  4. Design not for the elite, but for the masses. The most successful companies create things that people use every day. 
  5. Explain it to a child. Simple is best.  
  6. Get lost in the content. This is about passion and curiosity. If you want to know about something, seek to learn everything about it.  
  7. Get to the heart of the matter. Be upfront and honest. There is no prize for beating around the bush. 
  8. Never tolerate "O.K. anything." Aim for quality. Demand it of yourself and expect it from the people who work with you. 
  9. Remember your responsibility as a storyteller. Design is about conveying a story. Don't get so lost in what you are doing and forget about the story.  
  10. Zoom out. Take a moment to reflect on the relative size of things to the scope of the universe. 
  11. Switch. Never get bored. Why limit yourself to one or two things? Expand your horizons. Do more. 
  12. Prototype it. Test your ideas. The easiest way to do this is to speak to a close confident about it. 
  13. Pun. Revolution starts with language. Words are one of the most important tools of communication. Learn to use them for impact, but also make it fun. 
  14. Make design your life (and life, your design). Charles and Ray truly believed that design is a worthy profession that can bring good to people's lives. 
  15. Leaving something behind. Realize that you have a legacy. What will your mark be? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In The Hot Seat

Image source: bbc.com

As humans, we spend a majority of our time sleeping, standing and sitting, which is argument enough for an investment in a good bed, some terrific shoes and a great chair. Chairs are, unfortunately, often regarded as an afterthought. I find that people are ambivalent towards them mainly because they haven’t had the experience of a great chair. Have a relationship with a wonderful chair and this will become apparent to you.

Through the years I have collected chairs of different characters. I enjoy the thought process behind their creation, and also the personality they exude. In my homes you’ll find How High The Moon by Shiro Kuramata, Eero Aarnio's Bubble chair, and a couple of great examples by the Eames.

There are different chairs for serious conversations and intimate moments. You will even find that particular designs become symbols of a moment in time, as you will see from the BBC’s initiative to recap some of the most iconic chairs of the 20th century.

Paimio Chair: The Paimio is right at home in museums, galleries and the residences of architects and designers, no doubt because it is so stylish and modern. It actually began life in Finland in 1931, designed by Alvar Alto and wife Aino to help the breathing of recuperating TB patients.

Round Chair: Named the most beautiful chair in the world by Interiors magazine in 1950, Hans Wegner’s round chair became famous when it was used by the CBS for the first ever live televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy a decade later. America loved it, and it put Danish design on the map.

Lobby Chair: There is a long story behind the creation of this chair. But in short, Time Life asked designers Charles and Ray Eames to create a chair for their New York lobby. It was a huge hit and the swivel-style is synonymous with the 60s. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and you can find countless replicas today. None anywhere near as good as the original.

Spine Chair: The product of an artist. That much is obvious on sight. Andre Dubreuil turned to crafting metal furniture in his London flat in 1985. A year later, inspired by the French, he came up with the Spine chair. Designers loved it. It’s no longer in production, so if you want an original good luck. They go for a bomb at auction.

Barcelona Chair: It just looks so inviting. Simple, and open. The Barcelona chair, despite its name, is of German descent. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the Spanish royals as a sort of contemporary throne in 1929, and displayed at the International Exposition in Barcelona. It was in demand straight away. Still is today.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Genius Isn’t Enough, Execution Is Everything

Image source: fortune.com

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” – Einstein

When someone writes a biography, they are not only tasked with mapping out the events in a person’s life. A good biographer ponders the connections in life, and tries to recreate an authentic story. Walter Isaacson has spent a fair amount of his life immersed in the minds of geniuses. He has written books on Einstein, Franklin, Kissinger and Jobs, so when he says that we’re abusing the word ‘innovation,’ I am partial to hearing him out.

Innovation is something of a 21st century catch-cry, explains Isaacson in an interview on Salon.com. Products are marketed as innovative. Tech geniuses are described as innovators. Governments pump money into encouraging businesses to innovate. Just browse the number of book titles on the topic - there are many people trying to work out the formula for innovation success!

To grasp Isaacson’s key thread, innovation is often muddled as something that germinates in the mind of a genius before being brought to life in a dank garage. It’s something we think other people do. But in reality, it’s a collaborative process. Innovation requires visionary ideas that are executed with style.

Isaacson’s upcoming book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, is all about the execution. Genius isn’t enough. Execution is everything. And to change the world through innovation, you need a team.

As Isaacson says: “I think sometimes we underestimate … or sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the importance of collaborative creativity. So my book is not a theoretical book, but it’s just a history of the collaborations and teamwork that led to the computer, the Internet, the transistor, the microchip, Wikipedia, Google and other innovations.”

The Innovators is out in October. Put it on your list.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Last Word on Brands

Image source: amazon.com

Just out is a digest on everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-brands in 2015. Kartik Kompella has orchestrated 18 brand experts from around the world to compile a 425-page doorstopper The Definitive Book of Branding. Kartik lives in Bangalore where he is the founder of Purposeful Brands. He has been associated with brands in various ways from an advertising planner, brand consultant, DM and CRM professional to marketer and international conference speaker. He is especially passionate about Cause-related Branding and was responsible for the first ever study on consumer attitudes toward CSR in India. His Lovemarks are Pink Floyd and cricket.

Fortuitously, perhaps presciently, he has given me the last word in the book. Naturally, my chapter is on Lovemarks as the future beyond brands.

Fellow contributors include Adam Morgan (Challenger Brands), Helen Edwards (Passion Brands), Richard Mosely (the Employer Brand), Mark Batey (Meaningful Brands), Jan Lindemann (the Economy of Brands), Sicco Van Gelden (City Brands), Jean-Noel Kapferer (Luxury Brands), Daryl Travis (Brant Trust), Patrick Hanlon (Primal Brands) and Al Ries (Positioning).

Kartik has assembled a great body of endorsers, including this great summation from Phil Chapman, Vice President Equity and Communication- Global Chocolate, from Saatchi & Saatchi client Mondelēz International:

“Kompella has marshalled an outstanding body of Brand thought, both contemporary and timeless, paying into my own beliefs and prejudices. The thesis is that Brands must be at and in the hearts of our organisations. Brands that keep winning are built to make the world a little better every day, built with clarity of purpose and authenticity behind causes which resonate. They create compelling connections and new perspectives which celebrate their unique brand distinctiveness through everything that they do, every day. This is in the face of two enormous challenges; first, most shopper decisions are unconscious and implicit, when forced to articulation they are often misleading, misconstrued or misinterpreted. Secondly, in the age of real time global social digital connection, the days of controlled brand ownership and confidentiality are over. It is only what we stand for, communicate and deliver that counts. We had better do it better, faster and more tenaciously than others. This book is a great starting point to understanding branding success today.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Value Proposition Design

It’s not the most inspirational title for a book, but then looks can be deceiving. Their last book Business Model Generation has sold a million copies in 30 languages, is currently #430 on Amazon and has 288 five star reviews. I met co-author Yves Pigneur, Professor of management and information systems at University of Lausanne at an event we both spoke at in 2011 staged by the Swiss innovation company Creaholic. In a beautifully architected way the book riffs through subjects such as customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, activities, resources, partners and cost structures. I tell you, a million copies.

The second book by Yves and co-author Alexander Osterwalder is “Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want” and it promises to be another winner for them and publisher John Wiley.

Here’s the pitch:

Value Proposition Design is for anyone who has been frustrated by business meetings based on endless conversations, hunches and intuitions, expensive new product launches that blew up, or simply disappointed by the failure of a good idea. The book will help you understand the patterns of great value propositions, get closer to customers, and avoid wasting time with ideas that won’t work. You’ll learn the simple but comprehensive process of designing and testing value propositions, taking the guesswork out of creating products and services that perfectly match customers’ needs and desires.

Practical exercises, illustrations and tools help you immediately improve your product, service, or new business idea. In addition the book gives you exclusive access to an online companion on Strategyzer.com. You will be able to complete interactive exercises, assess your work, learn from peers, and download pdfs, checklists, and more.

The book is on sale around October 20. Get your Amazon pre-order in now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Remo’s World

Remo Giuffré is a Sydney creative legend. He has a long track record as an entrepreneur, retail merchant and brand builder. I first came across him at his iconic REMO General Store which he founded on Oxford St in 1988, it was clear an eclectic retail curator was at work, aiming to delight on every shelf and shop corner. Said Christine on Lovemarks.com, “The original REMO General Store was an oasis of quality in a world awash with feculent ephemera. I went there to find inspiration as much as any product. That kernel of commitment to things inspired and inspiring continues in their online presence. I go to the REMO site and feel like someone has tapped into my brain and brought together just the things that I might enjoy. The epitome of the Lovemark.”

I featured Remo in The Lovemarks Effect in 2006 as a role model for how to create a Lovemark. Remo was an early TEDster and is the Licensee for TEDxSydney at the Sydney Opera House which has become the leading platform and pipeline for the propagation of Australian ideas, innovation and creativity to the rest of the world. He founded the General Thinking network in 2001.

Now Remo has a book coming out, General Thinker, which tells the stories and examines the experiences that have guided and shaped him along my path as a founder, entrepreneur and brand builder. “I have experienced both great success and brilliant failure in my life to date; all the while learning lots about myself and others. This book is a personal memoir, but it's also about people, experiences and brands; and an ongoing exploration of what it takes to engage, delight and create desire. It’s a book about work. It’s a book about love. It's about me, but also about you.”

There’s a Kickstarter underway for the printing costs of the book, looks like it’s doing well, but pile on in and be part of the Remo party. I’ve ordered 25 copies for starters.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Doing the Business in Blackpool

Image source: twitter.com/SimonDalley

It was quite a week standing on my feet: two closing speeches at Esomar, the world research conference in Nice, and in Paris for an alumni event at the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools Insead, followed on Friday night being ringmaster for the Be Inspired Business Awards staged by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and rigorously supported by the Lancaster University Management School where I am Honorary Professor of Creative Leadership.

It was a home turf event though I did underestimate my “sure I’ll help out” offer. This was no walk in the park: 1,000 passionate people in the audience, a stage in the round, almost three hours on show, over 140 finalists from 1,231 entries and 19 award winners. Phew!

The North West is a proud region full of enterprising businesses and exporters. Among my favorite winners were:
  • Chelsom of Blackpool who won both Creative Business of the Year and Exporter of the Year – since 1947 Chelsom has designed and created quality decorative hotel lighting, cruise ship lighting and lighting for commercial contracts worldwide (if you’ve been to Ian Schrager’s Berners Tavern you’ll know the sort of ambience they create);
  • Business Woman of the Year: Janet Thornton, Inspired Energy (Kirkham), the fastest growing energy consultancy in the UK with over 1500 clients and over 7.6 billion kWh managed annually.
  • The Foxton Centre (Preston) who won Most Inspiring Business of the Year. They have been working with rough sleepers, street sex workers, young people, people with alcohol abuse issues and other people in the community who need our support for over 40 years.
  • Lancastrian of the Year: Eric Wright, Eric Wright Group (Bamber Bridge), a leader within the building industry with services from construction and civil engineering, to property development and facilities management.
See write-ups of the event by Norman Tenray and Simon Dalley.

Take it away North West!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Neat in Nice

Image source: esomar.org

In Nice yesterday for the ESOMAR conference (the European Society for Opinion and Market Research) speaking about “Winning in the Age of Now.” Closing keynote to 1,000 of the planet’s top market researchers. Lots of warmth, fun and camaraderie. See seven minute interview here.

Released a Saatchi & Saatchi ‘Red Paper’ Brand Loyalty Reloaded. The subject of Brand Loyalty is much debated in this fast-moving digital world. Is it still relevant? What is the 2015 equilibrium between retention and acquisition? Is Brand Loyalty still achievable? If so, how? This 11,000 word ‘Red Paper’ makes the case that the economics of Brand Loyalty are as compelling as ever, and that declining loyalty levels are attributable in part to the failure to meet the rising emotional needs of consumers. In the Red Paper you will find why: Big Data needs Big Love; Emotion is the driver of sales; Loyalty is a two-way street; Creativity is a catalyst for loyalty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heinz Ketchup – It’s Irresistible

Image source: dailytech.com

Heinz has the number 1 or 2 market share in more than 50 countries, and is in Forbes top 100 World’s Most Valuable Brands. People love Heinz so much they simply demand to see it in the iconic bottle. Some restaurants have said it actually costs more to serve the ketchup in the bottle, instead of from their bulk purchase, but they do it anyway because people love Heinz.

One of Malcolm Gladwell’s reasons for why people love Heinz so much is that they like the familiar. He uses the example of a child trying a new food, like tuna or Brussels sprouts, and wanting to alter the food to make the unfamiliar familiar. People don’t just like the taste of the ketchup, they like knowing Heinz ketchup will always taste good, even if the other things on their plate don’t.

So why, after 138 years, when almost every food has been revamped, has no other ketchup competitor even come close to Heinz’s success, even given the emergence of better tasting ketchups, according to taste tests? The New Yorker argues that Heinz is “irreplaceable,” words that will warm the hearts of new owners Warren Buffet and Brazilian hedge fund 3G. But the answer is more than that. “Ketchup is magic. And Heinz is its magic brand.” The relationships Heinz has built with their customers have been grown through generations (and a good appreciation of bottle and label design). Customers from all corners of the world love the brand, and that love makes Heinz irresistible.

p.s. My personal favourite is HP brown sauce. On breakfast sausages, on bacon sandwiches, on cheddar cheese. For all the reasons we love Heinz….But you had to be there!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Quiet Weekend Away… In Space

Image source: joy4mind.com

A trip to space is the stuff of dreams, and it’s getting closer for the average Joe and Josephine. NASA isn’t the only show in town in the Age of Now. Industry has got a whiff of the potential and is accelerating the development of new technology that is going to make casual space travel a reality. The space initiatives of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are well mapped. Out on the edge in New Zealand. Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab, has unveiled a 10-tonne rocket that is capable of sending satellites to space for less than $6 million. The current cost of sending a satellite into space is about $155 million. Jeff Greason, founder and CEO of private space company XCOR, says: "I'm in the private space business because I don't feel like waiting 20 years for something to happen. So I'm focused on what can we start doing right now."

NASA remains on the curve of creativity. In the article NASA Is Betting on These Five Extraordinary Ideas by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on Gizmodo maps the work of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program which selects concepts from researchers and universities and independent companies that should receive backing from NASA. It has just released the names of its next five Big Ideas.

A Mothership That Deploys Hedgehog Rovers to help NASA explore small solar system bodies, for example a small planet, moon, or even asteroid.

Orbiting Rainbows to build a massive optical system in space using huge clouds of dust particles so that NASA could see distant objects in space at a high resolution.

A Telescope Carried By A Sub-Orbital Balloon to launch balloons more than 30 feet wide into sub-orbit which would act as a reflector for the telescope inside, making it easier to image objects in space.

Looking Inside Asteroids Using Subatomic Particles. You could use this technology to, say, learn more about what minerals are inside an asteroid for potential mining purposes. Or, it could give scientists a clear picture of the size and makeup of an object that might be on a collision course for Earth, helping to generate a strategy to knock it off course.

Image source: cnbc.com

Right now there are companies looking into space hotels for tourists. Can you imagine settling in with a Bordeaux and taking in the view? Could I do this? It would be unforgettable, no matter the tolerance exigencies. It’s the mystery of space that enthrals us. It grips us. So few have been there and those that have spent years training for it. We seek it because it’s so exclusive. So hard to fathom. So unattainable.

If space suddenly became attainable, would space lose its appeal? No way. There will always be further to go. More to explore. The possibilities are endless. I say light it up.

Monday, September 8, 2014

No Ceiling for Simon Rogan

Image source: telegraph.co.uk

I have celebrated the virtues of chef Simon Rogan for years to anyone who would listen. His food is truly astonishing. Divinity on a crisp white plate. Back in 2008, I wrote on this blog that his restaurant L’Enclume in seductive Cartmel was about to take the world by storm. It now has two Michelin Stars and was rated second to Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck in last year’s Good Food Guide.

This has all led to the opening of Fera, Simon’s new restaurant in London’s most glamorous institution, Claridges. On the menu are dishes such as plaice braised in nettle butter, dry-aged Herdwick hogget, pickled tongue, hen of the woods, turnips and alexanders.

There is arguably no greater stage at Claridges from which he can offer his cooking. If you want to get a feel for what has driven him, then read this article on Billionaire.com. His attention to detail and quest for perfection is unwavering. Save up for this experience.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Willow Meet Leather

Prior to the American Civil War, the glorious game that is cricket had a decent foothold in the yet to be United States. It is logical really, given we English never left our beloved sport behind no matter where the ship was destined. Apparently, after a good 300 years of baseball dominance, cricket is starting to make a comeback.

The credit is largely due to the burgeoning Indian population, along with a decent splash of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and the ever-present Caribbean influence. The Atlantic reports that there is rumored to be 30 million cricket fans in the US today. It’s an official high school sport in New York City. ESPN now live streams Indian Premier League matches and has owned the Cricinfo website for some time.

We are yet to sight the beginnings of a national team, but give it five years. There is plenty of talent in the US. Combine that with a hint of bravado and natural confidence and maybe, just maybe, I will live to see an American team grace the hallowed turf at Lord’s. Nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Designer Cities

Image source: nycurbanart.tumblr.com

What would you create if you could build a city from scratch? Artist Damien Hirst, the world’s most successful artist by measure of net worth ($350M) looks to be making his vision a reality, with his plan to build his own designer city given the green light. The city, dubbed “Hirstville” by critics, will be on the outskirts of Ilfracome in North Devon, UK. The plan is divisive and controversial, with some arguing that he is treating the city like a commodity and calling it a “vanity project”. Those in support argue that the project will create jobs and population growth. The project will see the construction of 750 homes, a school, playgrounds, office buildings and a health centre.

Can artists and designers have a positive influence on cities? New York City’s Department of Transport has an on-going Urban Art project that sees the whole city like a canvas for art. The project aims to invigorate streetscapes with murals, sculptures and projections. Concrete slabs have been turned into creative murals. Street installations have brightened up the streets. Decorating streets will attract tourists and improve morale of those who live and do business in these spaces.

Designer cities are not a new concept. Songdo in South Korea was conceptualised by the architects Kohn Petersen Fox as a city of the future. It boasts the wide boulevards of Paris, a New York style Central Park, tiny beautiful parks like Savannah, a canal system inspired by Venice, and a Sydney Opera House-style convention centre. It is the poster-child for a smart city…but lacks history. Model cities like Songdo are a reflection of contemporary designers’ visions. But what really creates a city is those who live in it, the people.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spark Me Up

Image source: Rebecca Rose

Back in 2009 when I was at the start of a six year posting to the New Zealand Telecom board, we introduced a new visual identity. Internally, we started calling it ‘spark’. It was dynamic and it stood for energy and momentum. The name struck an organic embrace.

Earlier in 2014 Telecom announced it was rebranding and Spark was officially adopted as logo and in name. Rebranding is an enormous challenge – especially for legacy brands like Telecom – but they managed the transition with aplomb, generating excitement about their new customer focus, and anticipation over what to expect next.

I recently signed out of my board role and was fortunate to combine a farewell from Telecom at Eden Park watching the All Blacks utterly annihilate Australia to retain the Bledisloe Cup. After the match I was presented with a farewell present from the Spark board. My own Spark, a sculpture by Rebecca Rose, a product of Titirangi on Auckland’s rugged West Coast. In 2012, she presented a stunning piece of work at the International Arts Festival in Wellington and then approached Telecom, recognizing the synergy that existed between her work and their vision. Telecom bought it and installed it in their atrium.

Rebecca crafted my very own mini-version. A one-of-a-kind gift from a remarkable artist. Thanks to Jenny Steele and the whole Spark NZ team. And thank you Rebecca.

Image source: Rebecca Rose

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day