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posted by Kevin Archie May 30,2012 @ 08:00AM

Design Finds: Criterion Collection

A series devoted to beautifully designed things found in unexpected places.

Let's go to the movies.

Better yet, let's not — because going to the movies these days implies that you have money to burn. Ticket prices have skyrocketed faster than the price of gas, the going rate for a bucket of popcorn is practically five bucks a kernel, and a full month's salary will only get you what amounts to a thimble full of soda. You pretty much have to be Daddy Warbucks to get any semblance of pleasure out of the event.

In such dire times, we often look for respite at our local Blockbuster — kids, ask your parents what that is — scouring the deserted aisles for a decent Friday night flick only to find crappy big-name movies whose knockoff cover art is some overtly generic stock photo that doesn't even match the original poster art. But with the recent rise of Netflix and Hulu, even video rental is being redefined as a foregone pastime akin to buying compact discs at a record store.

Movie magic has been relegated to the dim light flickering from an iPad screen; old DVDs sold at yard sales for the price of a cup of lemonade; impressive movie collections on real shelves becoming impressive movie collections on digital shelves. Where's a film enthusiast to turn?

Enter the Criterion Collection, a company whose primary mission is to reproduce some of the greatest films from around the world in the highest technical quality possible. They choose movies that are often unheard of by mainstream audiences and give them the Criterion makeover, usually consisting of supplements to the film like interviews or commentary, updated packaging, digital restoration and most importantly, a new cover design. Below are some examples of Criterion covers (right) paired next to their Blockbuster-esque counterparts.

The Criterion Collection may not be for everyone due to their eclectic movie selections and somewhat pricey packaging, but I for one am thrilled they exist because if for no other reason, they reveal how design can breath new life into something old and unknown. They aren't just restoring old films, they're restoring the magic of movies.

posted by Apprentices May 25,2012 @ 03:30AM

On happy words.

What is your happiest word?

(inspired by Stefan Sagmeister's Exploration of Happiness)

Maria Fabrizio

Kevin Smith

Julie Turner
Just one? Baconandbooks.

Kevin Archie

Will Weatherly

Teresa Coles

Cathy Monetti

Ryon Edwards

posted by Kevin Smith May 21,2012 @ 09:12AM

Continuous Communication: 5 Core Goals

Given the much-discussed drumroll concerning Facebook’s initial public offering, it’s hard to imagine the event living up to the hype. There were stumbles from the start, followed by a modest rise. This morning, shares fell below the initial IPO price.

How the new $100 billion company will deliver on pressures to increase ad revenue might leave some users looking for less commercial alternatives. “Timeline” has been poorly received. Then GM pulled all Facebook advertising last week.

At this decade’s end, will we look back and laugh about how Facebook was so 2012?

While American’s aren’t addicted to Facebook per se, Facebook was the vehicle to an addiction to continuous communication. And I believe "continuous communication" is the new television: on all the time, with a limited number of channels (Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). The channels may change but the addiction is, no doubt, here to stay.

If you are struggling with engaging consumers addicted to continuous communication, consider five core goals:

  1. Instant – Nothing lengthy
  2. Interesting – Not about your brand
  3. Visual – More pictures than words
  4. Varied – Distribute on multiple channels
  5. Frequent – More will be missed than seen

Facebook now accounts for 9 percent of Americans’ time online. And still the average person spends four hours and 39 minutes per day watching TV.

They’re just on Facebook while they watch.




posted by Cathy Monetti May 17,2012 @ 04:16PM

Around These Parts This Week

posted by Ryon Edwards May 14,2012 @ 03:00AM

Collected Ephemera: for the love of print

For years, I've collected folders full of old ticket stubs, receipts, catalogs, booklets, invoices, postcards, labels and other printed pieces dating from 1900 - 1975. These items are best defined as "ephemera" — things that were created to serve a practical, short-term purpose — not really meant to be saved (or written about in a blog post some 50+ years later). But being a designer who loves history and design history, it comes as no surprise that these items interest me. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever met a designer that doesn't like rummaging through shelves of thrift stores or antique malls looking for cool printed “stuff”. I believe that collecting and studying these artifacts is really important — we can learn from the past and can find inspiration for current work.

I realize that some may classify all of this “stuff” as trash, but I see it as treasure. I appreciate the printing process, the craftsmanship, the hand lettering, the attention to detail and the history behind each piece. So I'll keep on colllecting — I'll just have to add some more folders to the filing cabinet.

Here are just a few samples I've collected over the years:


posted by Apprentices May 11,2012 @ 03:00AM

On moms.

Describe a great memory with your mom.

Will Weatherly

99.7% of my early life was spent playing organized soccer. Early in my career, at age seven or so, mom once took me to the fields near our house for mother-son practice. Even at that age, I knew mom wasn't exactly an athlete, so I expected little out of her. I positioned myself in the goal, and dared her to attempt a shot. Without even pausing to stop the ball I'd just rolled her way, she wound up and unleashed a rocket of a kick that sent the ball soaring what seemed like a mile high and a mile long. It didn't come near the goal, but that didn't matter. I knew it had surpassed any of the shots I'd ever taken.

That was the first time mom's abilities outside the realm of "normal mom stuff" truly amazed and inspired me.

Teresa Coles

My mother taught me the basics of gardening, many of which are a lost art today:

  • How to drop seeds in the hole while riding on the back of a planting rig
  • How to shell a whole bushel of beans in one episode of Days of Our Lives
  • How to get the milk out of an ear of corn without splashing all over your face

Any many, many other farm chores that I didn't appreciate at the time.
Perhaps the biggest gift she gave me was an understanding of the land, how it sustains us, and what we owe it.

Kevin Smith

Me, Mom and my dog in a U-Haul for 14 hours from SC to NYC. I had rented an apartment at 22 West 15th Street sight unseen. We walked in and were relieved to find it nicer than we expected. Mom stayed the weekend and helped me get everything in place. Just before leaving, she joined me for a walk to my new office to make sure I knew just how to get there on Monday.

Julie Turner

After our first son was born, my mom came to our house every day for a week to help. Laundry. Rest police. Conversation. Started dinner. Advice. And the best meatballs I've ever had. It was a generous (and much appreciated) gift of time and talent.

Cathy Monetti

When I was in my early 30s, I got the chance to take the trip of a lifetime with my mother, Posey Rigg. We joined a tour group for several days in the Canadian Rockies, including stops in Lake Louise, Jasper, Banff and more. Mom and I got the opportunity to go white water rafting in Glacier National Park and I somehow talked her into it—something I still find unbelievable.

Being Posey, she was determined NOT to paddle. In fact, she refused to even hold a paddle while on that raft. Then she somehow secured a seat up on the rim beside the guide.

The rest of us paddled wildly, soaked to the bone as we made our way through the rapids. Mom? She just sat up there on the back of that raft, dry and smiling, fully pleased.

Ryon Edwards

After a grueling day of preschool, I remember my Mom coming to the door of the classroom to pick me up. In her hands was our newest family member — a black lab puppy, named King. I remember the excitement of the moment and the look of pure joy and happiness on her face. Thanks, Mom!

posted by Kevin Archie May 09,2012 @ 06:15AM

Design Finds: Poler Stuff

A series devoted to beautifully designed things found in unexpected places.

I was first introduced to Poler Camping Stuff through a design blog last year and I've had the camping itch (no, not chiggers) ever since. By that, I mean their branding makes me want to quit a job that I love to go live in the woods with friends forever. If you read my last Design Finds post on Best Made axes, you are probably aware of my affinity for the Great Outdoors and cheesy camping puns (see: pining over lumberjack paraphernalia) and are perhaps somewhat weary of such nonsensical outdoorsy quips. Well have no fear noble reader, for I'm fairly certain that I've exhausted all possible iterations of such tawdry wilderness lingo and can assure you that this post will not be nearly as campy as the last — well, starting now.

Poler is a company started in Portland by a bunch of skate/snow/surf boarding creatives who all share a passion for adventure and the Great Outdoors. They sell various camping equipment as well as branded apparel. Their logo is set in a wooly hand-drawn font and is often accompanied by a one-eyed monster/tree. I am currently the proud owner of their Two Man Tent — as opposed to just The Man Tent — as well as their beautiful canvas Rucksack (both pictured above). The Poler crew knows that details matter. The tent is the perfect size and shape for two people and has two entrances as well as a monster-eye-shaped window on the rain fly. The Rucksack has optional side bags for additional storage space, leather embellishments along the front and zippers and even a slot for your laptop — for when you're NOT camping of course.

Poler's branding shows the benefits of having creative people on your team. Talented designers like Caleb Owen Everitt and Aaron Draplin have helped keep the brand consistent and consistently awesome. Each item comes well-branded with their logo, or some variation of it, and is typically either black, orange, or camo. Every few weeks they release an Adventure Series — a photographic memoir of various trips and expeditions taken by one of their many talented photographers. The photographs, beautiful in an analogue/retro/1970's kind of way, serve not only as a catalog displaying Poler Stuff in use, but also as a harbinger of their brand essence: adventure.

Now get off your computer, go outside and stare at a tree.

posted by Teresa Coles May 07,2012 @ 07:26AM

Deadlines, Creativity and CreateAthon

Jay: “You won’t believe what I heard on Marketplace driving home today.

Me: “What?”

Jay: “A Harvard Business School professor did a study on the impact of really tight deadlines on the creative process. Now what does that make you think of?”

He pulled up the transcript right then and there as we sat on a bench at Lexington Middle School, waiting on our daughter who was ever-so busy socializing at the Spring Arts Festival. I scanned it to confirm someone had actually studied this dynamic, and sure enough there it was.

Teresa Amabile, a contributor to NPR’s Marketplace on workplace performance and the author of The Progress Principle, shared some research findings that were frankly not all that surprising in the general work world. For example, she cited that professionals in her study indicated they were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem on a tight deadline.

(By the way, does that mean they are 55 percent MORE likely to be creative? Isn’t that pretty good?) But I digress.

What caught my eye was this: “We did find some creativity under high pressure, but the enabling circumstances are rare in most workplaces. People have to feel that they are on a mission to tackle something crucial — and they have to be protected from interruptions and extraneous demands.

Let’s see: A 24-hour work marathon during which a company closes for business and releases its staff to develop marketing strategies and creative deliverables for nonprofit organizations. Might that constitute a higher sense of purpose? Perhaps even generate national, award-winning creative work? Check. Check.

So I’m off to find my soul sister Teresa (she even spells it right, it’s so karma) and load her up with some CreateAthon ammo. I’d love to have a cup of coffee or a good email over her comment that “the most important (thing in motivating people) in making progress is meaningful work.”

Wouldn’t it be cool if we CreateAthon-ers ended up in a Harvard study to help prove her thesis true? Then again, we already know it is.

posted by Apprentices May 04,2012 @ 03:00AM

On good reads.

Recommend a good read...

Cathy Monetti

, by Charles Frasier
(my current Favorite Book of All Times)

Teresa Coles

by Stephen King
A page turner I'm only about a third of the way through; definitely need some quality beach time to soak it all in!

Kevin Archie

A Moment in the Sun
, by John Sayles
An ambitious historical novel chronicling the events that marked the turn of the 20th century, this book is a beautifully written masterpiece whose numerous characters intertwine almost as ornately as the words on its cover.

Jody Piland

Cash Mob Boosts Newton Hardware House
I think this is a really cool idea. It's like a flash mob, but instead of dancing, large groups come to a small business and spend at least $20.

Will Weatherly

The Reason For God, by Tim Keller

Kevin Smith

Old School, by Tobias Wolff

Julie Turner

The Hunger Games trilogy
1. Perfect beach read
2. Book > Movie

Ryon Edwards

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson


posted by Julie Turner May 03,2012 @ 03:00AM

The New Failure

I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but I come from a stable of accomplished gardeners — on both sides. I guess eventually it just catches you. I finally caught the gardening bug at our first house about 10 years ago.

The house was a traditional, tiny downtown starter home owned at one point by someone who was quite a gardener. In the time between her and when John purchased the home, the yard and plantings overgrew. Beneath all the tangles and years of neglect, all that beauty was still there, waiting to be rediscovered.

Area by area, we hacked out the clingy vines and cut the wild weedy trees. We pulled out years of thick English ivy. One by one I learned what lived there and how it needed to be cared for. By the time we moved a few years later, I handed the new owner a thick manual of plant placement diagrams, pruning instructions and details of improvements we’d made. It was no Biltmore Estate by any means, but I think we managed to recapture some of the yard’s original beauty. While the new homeowner managed to destroy most of that work within a year, my green education stuck.

My green thumb had finally taken root.

Three years ago, I decided to graduate from a mildly successful jalapeno plant grower to a full-blown raised bed gardener. My neighbor, who is an accomplished gardener, cheered me through all my fears and insecurities and shared more know-how than a pile of books. I still remember the excitement of seeing tiny starts of romaine lettuce and thinking ‘I could grow lettuce at home!’ I wasn’t thinking at all about the superior taste of homegrown veggies nor was I thinking I’d get much more than a salad or two. I ended up getting weeks and weeks of crisp lettuce that made store-bought lettuce taste like sawdust. So now I am completely spoiled.

My first garden did fine for a complete amateur. My second spring garden did much better, which led to a summer and winter garden that year, too. Now in my third year of gardening, it’s safe to say I am always growing something.

All my life I’d thought my parents had some classical training. How were they able to amble through a yard and identify almost everything? How did they know where to cut, when to plant and if something was dead or dormant?

It turns out, there’s no big secret to cultivating a yard or a garden. You just stick your hands in the dirt and give it your best shot.

I think we’ve been afraid to do things ourselves for too long. What if I fail? What if it doesn’t work? I don’t know how to do that. But these days, fear is giving way to something better, something brighter.

Consumers of the new economy have a rekindled sense of DIY. They are seekers, and learners. They collaborate, cultivate and share. It may be something as simple as learning to garden or joining forces with a friend to form a new company. There’s an exciting fearlessness that’s refreshing after the drought of a recession.

Consider the explosive growth of the digital scrapbooking site, Pinterest. While primarily used by young women, it’s growing by never-before seen leaps and bounds. It’s even managed to sneak its way up in usage right behind Tumblr and Facebook.

The new reality is that nothing is out of reach in the minds of today’s consumers. Trying and faltering is no longer a failure. It’s how we learn.

Being afraid to try is the new failure.




By the numbers

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