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The passing and loss of (Lee) Alexander McQueen today is beyond description. There is nothing I can say that has not already been said, I did not know him but I loved his work. Here are a few of the write-ups in the papers and some of his work that has inspired me over the years:

BBC News
Daily Mail
Financial Times
The Times
2001 Times article
The Wall Street Journal
The Washington Post

“People don’t want to see clothes. They want to see something that fuels the imagination.”


































































Type Oscars

10/02/2010 — Leave a comment

It may be almost a month before the Academy Awards, but Ellen Lupton has already posted her picks for the Oscars of Type.

Personally I love her Best Serif pick:


Calluna, by Jos Buivenga

Which faces made your list, dear readers?

While catching up on news and blogs this evening after spending much of the last two weeks on the road, I came across a post by Seth Godin about branding that caught my eye. Over the last few months, my brand hat has been collecting dust on my career hat rack while I shift focus to more graphic art-intensive work; but ever the brand manager (Abranda, if you prefer), my ears usually perk up when the word ‘brand’ pops up on my screen.

In his post, Godin raises some interesting and valuable points about the breadth of meaning to brand beyond just the logo or visual touch points most of us associate with the word ‘brand.’ So often people seem to relegate branding to simply a function of marketing or design which is both frustrating and reassuring– frustrating in that the topic remains an uphill battle with some audiences, yet reassuring in that the need for responsible brand advocates remains strong. Godin summarizes the issue well when he states “Design is essential but design is not brand.

What do you think, dear readers? How do you define ‘brand’ or ‘branding’?

Earlier today, I came across a post from the Institute of Welsh Affairs blog by Rhys David (as linked by Quixotic Quisling) that discussed Wales‘ image or ‘brand perception’ among world travelers.

The post outlines the 2007 survey conducted by Simon Anholt and others, as well as the findings of this year’s survey in which Wales did not participate. Perhaps it is just my inner brand geek (have you met my alter-ego Abranda, yet?) but articles and discussions of this nature absolutely get my tail wagging. It is an opportunity to better explore and articulate the possibility of brands as more than just marketing. A brand can be a powerful thing for better and for worse.. and at its best, a brand can affect positive change.

What struck me in reading the IWA post was the concern raised over the people in Wales being “off message” when traveling and portraying their nation to others. An interesting dilemma that makes me wonder about the problem from which it stems– is it the agent carrying the message who is getting it wrong, or was the message off-base to begin with? A brand message can not be successful without a basis in reality– want to kill your brand? Make a promise you can’t or won’t keep. It is one thing to weave aspirational tones or goals into brand messaging, but to build your castle upon a foundation of fictitious clouds is ill advised– make a brand promise that is unrelated to the audience’s experience and your brand will no doubt fail. But I don’t know that that is the problem at hand– it sounds as though the Welsh people just need a boost with regards to national pride or esteem.

David raises a good point about the difference in branding a single organization versus an entity as broad as a nation and the difficulties of such diversity or breadth. Not surprisingly, the post alludes to Wales’ lack of brand-conveying international corporations or business like Ireland‘s Guinness , and the resulting dependence on the arts or sports for international conveyance of the national identity. An interesting point, but not one worth lamenting too much– so Wales does not have a consumable touch point like Guinness, so what. While the Guinness brand serves Ireland well as a national brand ambassador there is more to the nation than stout. So the Welsh brand yet to be articulated accurately is rooted in an abstract or complex tapestry of things– I would hope someone charged with the task would embrace these ambiguities and subtleties and explore them in a final brand identity for the nation.

For those interested in branding, I would recommend reading the IWA post, but I also recommend it to those who cringe at the word ‘brand.’ Branding does not have to be a four letter word, people; branding does not have to be about marketing alone.


04/11/2009 — Leave a comment

October was such a busy month that it’s hard to believe that we’re already four days into November; but here we are, the day before Guy Fawkes Day the TEDxMidAtlantic conference.
I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s conference holds and hope to have plenty to share in the days following the event. In the meantime, if you haven’t already read it, there is a thoughtful article about the conference in today’s Baltimore Sun.

And if you were not lucky enough to obtain registry for tomorrow’s event, beginning tomorrow (5 Nov 09) there shall be a live feed of the event available here.

Image: Me

The other day, I read an article in the Washington Post about one of my favorite things tastes– Old Bay.

I can’t recall the specific moment in my life where I discovered this amalgam of spices, but I’m pretty certain it was my father who made the introduction. Since that imperceptible moment in my childhood, Old Bay has been a flavor central to my love and perception of Baltimore and the taste of home. Every time I have moved somewhere far away, Old Bay has been a co-pilot. Everywhere I have traveled for any length of time, Old Bay has been a friendly companion. During my sojourn in Sweden, Old Bay was a quiet comfort– a taste of home in what sometimes felt like a surreal, parallel universe. It is an element that helps me define home regardless of language, culture or postal code.

To see this unusual flavor highlighted in a national newspaper is, if nothing else, a novel boost. I’ve been back in Baltimore a few short weeks after many, many years away; seeing a hometown favorite is terribly reassuring– a confirmation that, yes, I belong here. Jane Black’s article in the Post does an excellent job of outlining the history of the spice and its cult status among some of the locals of the Mid-Atlantic. I will admit to my membership in the brotherhood of the Bay, just don’t expect me to share our secret handshake.

How about you, dear readers? Are you Old Bay aficionados? Or is it a flavor you’ve not yet sampled? What condiment, spice or flavor do you use in a cultish or obsessive way?

Image: The Perfect Pantry

Good Design

21/05/2009 — Leave a comment

“Really good design is an object that makes you think about how we behave and our social conventions but still really works”

Ellen Lupton is quoted as having said that during a visit to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair last week in an article yesterday by Penelope Green in the NYTimes.

I can’t help but agree with her. I also liked Penelope’s summary of another of Ellen’s thoughts, that design is “critical thinking married to action.”

And conveniently, yesterday’s article included a nod to the new book Ellen wrote with her sister, Julia, Design your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things.


12/03/2009 — Leave a comment

My love of Alexander McQueen continues, strong as ever – his Fall 2009 collection, Horn of Plenty, is gorgeous. I’m especially awed by this beautiful pattern marriage of houndstooth and magpies:



“People don’t want to see clothes. They want to see something that fuels the imagination.”

Randy Pausch

Today we lost another brilliant mind and creator…

More about Randy

The Last Lecture

The world is a little darker without one of the most brilliant contemporary American designers… He made things better, beautiful and fun… He was an incredible artist and designer..


19/11/2007 — Leave a comment

From the NY Times (as usual)… What a beautiful portrait…

Beauty = Simplicity + Power


24/09/2007 — Leave a comment

Tripping over this photo and article in the New York Times almost makes me a miss living in Gothenburg

While once again reading the NYTimes, I came across an article discussing the increasing trend of buying American made.

It makes me wonder though, how the increased desire or demand for local products will affect the demand and use of raw materials. How far does the definition of “Made in America” extend? Does the increasingly affluent lefty class of people scrutinizing labels for “Made in America” know or care where the raw materials came from that yielded their new item?

Came across an article on cartography in the New York Times today that caught my eye. It raised an interesting point about the nature of some maps indicating the politics of its artist or commissioner. It also ended with an intriguing thought:

“Navigation is about more than going from one point to the next. It’s about fulfilling one’s aspirations.”

Definitely food for thought while making ready for my vacation next weekend…

I was reading the the New York Times today, and one article in particular caught my attention.

The article gave a brief exploration of the current trend in naming colors after foods. It was only a few paragraphs before I found myself thinking of Patrick Jordan’s Supertrends concept and lecture(s). This article on food-colored cars struck me as yet another sign pointing towards hedonism in particular.

I found it interesting though that the author discussed the varied range of available color palettes on the auto market, and yet the current crop of vehicles on the US roads these days seems far less varied than the supposedly available range (though perhaps the diverse range is more focused on the high end market – even the aspirational cars seem to be limited to fairly patriotic colors). In keeping with Pat’s uncanny eye and sense for trends, I find myself drawing a parallel to the abundantly patriotic color palette of cars on the US roads today (predominantly red, white/neutral (white, grey/silver, champagne/gold, black), blue and occasionally yellow or orange) and the present social, economic and political climate of the nation.

I remember talking to Pat several years ago in Pittsburgh about this phenomenon – the more successful or “healthy” the social/economic/political climate, the more varied the available and consumed color palette of cars, the less healthy, the more constricted the palette. Pretty abstract in concept, and yet oddly true.