Monday, 29 September 2008

Every penny counts...

I've been meaning to put this post up for a a while and every time I see a shiny new penny in my loose change I berate myself for not getting my arse in gear. So here it is, a little piece on a fantastic piece of design that will be seen by see by millions upon millions of people everyday, will outlive it's creator and even has the royal seal of approval!

What I'm talking about are the new set of coins that have been created by desingner Matt Dent and have begun to be minted this year.

I first heard about the whole project at Interesting this year when Matt did a 5 minute talk on how he had entered the 'New Reverses' competition back in 2005 and then how his ideas came to fruition. More details on the processes here.

As with all things I'm a massive fan of simplicity. I feel that if something needs justification (especially in communications) then it's already failed. This design however is perfectly simple it requires no explanation.

I also like it because it takes it's inspiration from days of yore. I remember studying heraldry at school aged 11 and it was fascinating. All the different rules you have to follow and what each symbol represents and the importance of the different colours available. The Royal Shield of Arms is obviously a much bigger crest and one we see a lot of...

The first to get a this design are 1p coins and I'm yet to see any more at the moment but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

One thing that Matt says on his blog that really resonates is:

'I could imagine the coins being played with, looked at and enjoyed in a way which was foreign to coinage, and could imagine their appeal for kids messing with them in school as much as for folks in a pub'

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Lost in translation

This morning we had a new shower installed in the office (which is an epic event in itself as I could write a whole piece about shower rage) but I couldn't help but laugh when I read the safety instructions which appealed to my puerile side...

It read like condom instructions that had been translated from Chinese to English via Babel Fish and reminded me of those signs you often get emailed such as this...

More can be found here.

Monday, 8 September 2008

What's in the mystery box...?

Image courtesy

On Saturday I went to pick up a parcel from Post Office HQ and whilst standing in the enormous queue and watching people come out with parcels/packages/not enough ID I got thinking. Receiving a parcel taps into a very raw human emotion that I don't think anyone can avoid and is so powerful it takes you through a whole range of emotions before plonking you back where you started, but hopefully slightly changed for the better.

What I'm talking about is the power of anticipation. That encompassing feeling when you get delivered a parcel which you weren't expecting and you have no idea what's in it. It brings back all those very early memories of trying to sit patiently before opening your presents at Christmas or knowing that your new bike is being picked up by Dad on his way home from work and will be there when you get in from school (not sure why I was doing longer hours than Dad, but it was a memory that stuck).

More recently I think it's still possible to re-create this feeling, but I think we all suffer that pessimism that is so rife in London where everything is not quite good enough. Nobody seems to get stupidly excited like you did as a kid, even for the briefest of moments when you suddenly remember you've got the night of nights planned and the day off the next day. Suddenly everything can go to hell and you are fully consumed in your own world, untouchable and indestructible.

I used to feel this a lot about the most stupid of stuff like knowing I was having steak for dinner that night and having a giggle on the way to work. The Americans seem to have it right and whilst they can sometimes sound insincere they certainly know how how to get excited by things. Ok, this exuberance might jar with a lot of us but it’s also strangely infectious if you’re a part of it rather than from it.

I believe there are four main stages to finding out 'what's in the mystery box'.

1) expectation/surprise - both as powerful as each other, although the former can lead to a much greater anti-climax.

2) reveal-ation - not a word I know, but it's the moment when you open the box/rip off the wrapping paper/undress the girl and what you've been waiting for (for however long) is revealed.

3) the hug and roll – i.e. does the feeling last? Is it the gift that keeps on giving? Does it matter?

4) the love in – does the surprise excite you so much that you can’t help but brag to your friends about it? I know the first thing I did on my bike was cycle it straight next door and refuse to give my mate Rich a go until tea time.

I hope that you’ve already drawn upon your own experiences of opening the mystery box to understand my viewpoint on this but what I also hope is that there is the understanding that this emotion is currently a bit lacking in both the way we interact with brands and their communications with us as well as the way we connect with one another.

There are exceptions of course, just look at the hysteria around the iPhone, and I hope there is a way that brand communications can be developed to make people feel the same way they did aged five, sat under the Christmas tree.

In this day of mass communication and greater consumer understanding this is an increasingly tough remit and I think the answer will come through technology and continued re-invention. Even if what’s in the mystery box is fantastic and the person you’re giving it to knows what’s inside, it’s the barrier of the box that must be utilised to it’s fullest. Timing and scant details lead to the best type of intrigue, just look at Cloverfield. Talking of which JJ Abrams, makes a fantastic TED speech on this very topic. It's all about getting your potential recipients talking about the box in their own language, making up their own theories about what's inside.

And because you can never have enough Family Guy in your life and there always appears to be a clip you can refer to I leave you with this. (good throughout but 2min 40sec is where it gets relevant)...

Thursday, 4 September 2008

If you're ever bored at work...

Spend 5 minutes on this site.

It'll put everything in perspective and probably make you laugh. My favourite today:

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Wish you were here redux...

About a year ago I talked about an idea I had for an out of office widget for Facebook that would see your friends receive a message in an OOO style if they got in touch via a message or wrote on your wall.

Although we soon worked out that the original concept was a little bit technically ambitious I've managed to convince the client to sign off a pared down version that I think will work just as well.

There will be less in the way of OOO but more 'I'm off on holiday soon, this is where I'm going and looking how frickin hot the weather is going to be!!' This widget will sit on users profile pages (although annoyingly new Facebook has just hidden all apps in the 'Boxes' section of profiles) and whenever anyone visits your page they will see how long until your holiday as well as what the weather is like over there. Friends will then get the chance to use the widget themselves and put it on their pages/blogs/websites etc etc.

We're using Gigya as a platform to build this so that we can put it across as many platforms as possible and the whole process has been fairly straight forward, although we did have a few issues trying to integrate various feeds which update the weather and destinations etc.

There are a couple of font tweaks still required and I'll update accordinlgy but take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think!

Fly Thomas Cook Weather Widget