Merel Karhof has a knack for harnessing breezes and turning them into fun, sustainable goods we can use.
Merel Karhof has been using the breeze as muse for years, finding new ways to spin airflow into creative gold. Most notable, perhaps, is the London-based designer’s Wind Knitting Machine, which united a metal mill and loom to make one-of-a-kind scarves. Her ongoing Energy Harvesters series (I, II, III, and IV) underscores her continued fascination with the invisible force. And her latest project, a furniture collection, is not only ingenious but it’s the most ambitious yet.
Karhof sited the project in the historic Zaanse Schans region of the Netherlands, an industrial milling hub dating back almost 300 years. These days, it provides a stark glimpse back at the traditions that helped establish the region. On-site, Karhos harnessed whooshing gales and used original, still-functioning machinery in a three-fold process to make the furniture: a sawmill cut the wood that provided the structure for each piece, a color mill ground the pigment used to dye the yarn, and Karhof’s own knitting machine transformed those colored fibers into mini pillows to upholster the stools, benches, and seats. And much like she did with the scarves, whose length corresponded to time it took to make, each cushion is sized relative to how long it took to produce.
The concept alone is enough to make this one of the coolest design endeavors in a while, not to mention a thoughtful approach to sustainability. But the pieces are, frankly, quite fine looking. They have nicely minimalist forms and soft hues. We hope she’ll make more soon.
17 May 2013
The year is drawing to an end, so it’s time for my annual branding post. This year, I’m presenting the worst and best together, because that makes it easier to draw lessons from both. Needless to say, these rankings consist of my own opinion; I’m certain that other writers would come up with a very different list.
Rebranding involves changing the logo, tagline, or packaging of a product that no longer seems to represent the qualities a firm would like customers to envision when they think of the brand. Most of the time, rebranding efforts are fairly “meh” but here are two cases where rebranding has made arguably a difference.
Best: Cheer (Procter & Gamble)
P&G often seems to have more brands than it knows what to do with. As such, its rebranding efforts tend to be, frankly, a bit dull. Not so with P&G’s rebranding of the venerable Cheer line of laundry detergent.
Most companies, when rebranding a product that was wildly popular in the Mad Men era would go for some kind of retro-theme. P&G went in exactly the opposite direction, turning Cheer into something that actually seems, well, cheerful.
Worst: Windows 8
In the autumn of 2012, Microsoft launched a complicated operating system product strategy that attempted to maintain both backward compatibility to previous products (Window 8 and a new future in a new product category (Windows RT).
You’d think that since Microsoft is trying, with Windows 8, to hold onto its installed base, they wouldn’t tinker with the branding. Instead, the company launched a monochrome logo that has the “look and feel” of a freshman design project.
NEW BRAND NAME
Best: Pussy Riot
Imagine you’re a feminist punk-rock band in Russia. Imagine you want everybody in the world to know the name of your band. Could anybody possibly come up with a brand strategy that would be more likely to achieve that goal?
With a brand name like that, all that’s needed is a marketing tactic to propel the brand to the forefront, which the band accomplished by managing to royally annoy the world’s most powerful “elected” dictator, Vladimir Putin.
Worst: Pink Slime
Any company or industry who thinks that “Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB)” or “Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT)” make great brand names are just asking for a popular alternative brand name to emerge.
While the meat products industry tried desperately to fend off the fear, the ammonia-treated concept of “pink slime” encapsulated every consumer’s worst nightmare about food that’s not fit for human consumption.
While brand is primarily a result of the quality of a company’s products, brand advertising (i.e. ads about brands rather than products) can alter people’s perception of a company and its products. At its best, brand advertising turns brand weaknesses into strengths. At its worst, it simply reinforces negative perceptions.
Best: Chrysler (“Imported from Detroit”)
It’s been decades since Chrysler was “cool,” if indeed it ever was. As far as brand image goes, the company is probably more famous for almost going bankrupt than for any of the products that it’s made.
Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” series of ads are therefore all the more impressive, because they not only improve Chrysler’s image, but even the battered city where its corporate headquarters are located.
Incredibly creative stuff from Portland, Oregon-based Wieden+Kennedy.
Worst: Godaddy’s (Body Paint)
Godaddy‘s risqué superbowl ads were charmingly trite when they originally appeared a decades or so ago. However, this is one case where repetition has weakened the message (whatever that was) beyond the point of self-parody.
Such ads no doubt appeal to the kind male techie who’s yet to be kissed by anybody other than his mother, there are plenty female webmasters (webmistresses?) who are likely to find these ads tedious and annoying.
OVERALL BRAND MANAGEMENT
Brand management is all about taking a good brand and making it better. When it’s done right, it reinforces the positive feeling that people already have about the brand. When it’s done wrong, it causes people to question those feelings. These two huge firms respectively burnished and tarnished their brand in 2012.
Apple is perennially among the most respected brands but with the death of seminal CEO Steve Jobs last year, it was unclear whether consumers would feel the same about the brand, or whether the company would be able to sustains its fabled “cool.”
While the company experienced a hiccup with its mapping application, it released a string of products that continues to put relentless pressure on its competitors and dominate key growth categories of consumer electronics.
While Facebook had become, to a certain extent, the “face” of the Internet, it (and CEO Mark Zuckerberg) often seems to be doing everything possible to alienate both users and investors.
What’s worse, Facebook continues to generate massive complaints about changes in privacy controls and its user interface. One is left with the impression that, despite its successes (or perhaps because of them), Facebook is stumbling.
10 May 2013
Execs and investors from Pandora, Ideo, Andreessen Horowitz, Soundcloud, and Kleiner Perkins, among other masters of disruption, share the wisdom they’ve gathered on the way to the top.
Looking at the success trajectories of today’s disruptors–from Pandora cofounder Tim Westergren to Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales–it’s easy to think that they had everything figured out from a young age. But many of today’s success stories learned lessons later in life that they wished they had known as they were beginning their careers. The eight investors and entrepreneurs below share the advice they wish they had gotten in their early twenties.
Tim Westergren: Avoid the risk of not trying and the regret of wishing you had.
Jimmy Wales: Spend wisely early in life so you can achieve the financial independence to follow your dreams.
Bill Ready: Surround yourself with great people and be fearless in pursuit of game-changing ideas.
Alexander Ljung: Realize the power of simplicity.
Philippe Courtot: Focus on what makes you truly happy.
Bing Gordon: Work as hard as you can, and then work harder.
Paul Bennett: Take the time to listen.
Scott Weiss: Surround yourself with leaders in your field.
via FastCo Design
Following the immense success of its first competition, the e-commerce site announces its second, to coincide with the international contemporary furniture fair.
Fab.com may be the web’s fastest growing e-commerce site, but its ambitions don’t stop there. The real aim, its founders have said, is to grow Fab into a global design brand–a stylish alternative to giants like Amazon and Wal-Mart–and the company has already designed over 3000 original products to that end. In March, Fab announced another initiative for expanding its offerings: a crowdsourced competition, calling for designers around the world to submit their ideas for the company’s next big product. Now, they’ve narrowed the field down to 12 finalists–two of which you can see here for the first time–and announced a second competition, coinciding with this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City.
The first Disrupting Design competition, which was held last month in Milan, drew submissions from over 150 international designers. Though the company had initially intended to select three winning designs to sell on the site, the strength of the submissions was such that the judges, including Yves Behar, Rob Forbes, and others, ended up shortlisting 12 to put into production.
One of the finalists is a simple metal end table by Urbanize, a Belgian studio comprised of recent graduates Pieter Dauwe and Joachim Van Durme, that cleverly combines a flat surface and a v-shaped storage slot into a single lightweight piece. The second is a set of pastel candle holders by designers Gemma Roper and Sophie Borch-Jacobsen, who work under the name Nice To Be Nice Studio. All the finalists will share revenue with Fab for the sale of products they designed, and Fab’s currently ironing out contracts with the other ten winners, who will be announced later this month.
But for Fab, which recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Hamburg, Germany, the crowdsourcing won’t be a one-off experiment. Building on the success of the first competition, it’s announcing a second open call for up-and-coming designers, coinciding with ICFF later this month. Designers are encouraged to pre-register their proposals by emailing email@example.com; presentations to the jury will happen at the Javitz Center in New York City on May 21, between 1 and 3 p.m. This time around the judges include acclaimed New Zealand-based designer David Trubridge and Eames Demetrios, director of the Eames Office (and grandson to Charles and Ray), among others.
via FastCo Dessign