Welcome to 2008

I can't believe how quickly 2007 has flown by.
Just wanted to say to everyone,

I hope 2008 is an amazing year for all of you...

Cirque du Soleil rocks

I just received a newsletter from Cirque du Soleil, and realized I haven't gushed about them on this blog.
I need that fantastic hat! What on earth is it made out of?
I have to admit to you all, I am a complete and total Cirque du Soleil groupie. Have you ever seen any of their performances? For those unfamiliar with Cirque, they are a circus performance company that encompasses everything that is magical and amazing about acrobatics, theater, lighting, music, choreography, costume, and of course, Color! Anytime a show comes into town, I am first in line to buy tickets, and have even traveled to Las Vegas specifically for their permanent show at the Bellagio, "O". If I ever relocate to Montreal, Canada where they are based, I would love, love, love to work for them.

But there is hope. Cirque du Soleil announced back in November that they will open a major new permanent show in 2010 at Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, home of the Academy Awards. So those of you in LA, here's your chance to get in on the action!

all images via source

Tagged for fun facts

A while back, I was "tagged" by Bellis to reveal some fun facts about myself. So, in honor of the holidays and sharing, here are a few, plus visuals, just for kicks.

I wore a orange creamsicle-colored dress (with a blue shawl) for my wedding. I used to create edible paintings for high-end cakes. Lots of celebrity events. Once, we did personal cakes decorated with faux dollar bills for some government function. They flew a chartered, private jet out to pick up the cakes. This one was an enormous pagoda for a weddingI can eat an entire pan of brownies in one sitting, if necessary.image source
I once tried ice-climbing. Yup, that's me rappelling off a frozen waterfall.
I am a chicken nacho connoisseur, always on the hunt for the perfect recipe.
Every birthday, my husband and I design and create birthday "crowns" for each other. They seem to get more and more elaborate every year. This carousel actually spun around.
So, there you have a few quirky facts about me.

Very happy holidays to everyone- I hope you all are enjoying yourselves. I, personally, am recovering from a prolonged food coma.

Starbucks- losing its brand image?

After (how many years?) of avoiding television advertisting, Starbucks has launched itself into sketchy territory with their first national television commercial. There's a great analysis of their branding misstep on Brand Autopsy which delves into their strange decision. Click to watch the commercials, then let me know what you think.
Screen stills of Starbucks commercial

Caribou storefront and coffee packaging
John Moore, of Brand Autopsy, points out that the flavor of these commercials is very Caribou coffee, not Starbucks. The cozy ski lodge concept and aqua blue color scheme are very much in tune with the competition, but doesn't really scream Starbucks. Caribou has the leaping deer/reindeer, and Starbucks has the siren. Caribou has aqua, Starbucks has forest green. In essence, we could easily swap out Starbucks logo for Caribou's in their commercials, and the product would translate perfectly for their competition. So, am I missing something here?
Starbucks storefront and coffee packaging
Leveraging your brand is all about capitalizing on the image you've created, the message you've communicated to your audience, and reinforcing people's ideas about who you are to them. So, IMO, Starbucks really bombed on this one, with a great little advertisement all about their competition.

Fantastic website color analysis

I subscribe to many site feeds, which I then try to slog through every so often, looking for gems of color news to share with you all.
One blog that never lets me down is Design Meltdown, by Patrick McNeil. Essentially a web designer critiquing and categorizing websites. Fascinating stuff.

His article on using pink on websites caught my eye. Here's a snippet from the article:
Some colors appeal to certain demographics; some have universal appeal; some are trendy; others are boring; but pink is the one color that when used well just makes me a jealous designer. Somehow this color can just ooze with style and elevate a site to an aesthetic other wise not possible. I love how this presumably feminine color can cut across the sex barrier and appeal to men and women alike.

One example of such a terrific site is SheUnlimited. This pink and black site is just beautiful. Looking at this site I can't help but wish I had come up with it. It is so refined, elegant, and just plane tasty. One great lesson to learn from this site is how much a wrapper for content can influence your expected response to the content. Without so much as reading a sentence I presume the content to be inelegant and well thought out; I don't expect flippant sloppy articles. The ability to shape expectations is tremendous and can ultimately lend to the success of a site. (source)

Then he goes on to show examples of other sites that use pink, but in very different ways, with very different effects. If you are ever looking for inspiration to design a website, or just get an idea of the slick sites out there, you should definitely check it out...

There is such a variety of sites to see here, you can really get a feel for the diverse messages the medium can communicate through color on a computer screen. How many of you thought about what the color on your blog or personal website says about you?

Branding in the hands of the public-smart or not?

Pepsico is asking consumers to decide what a new variety of its Mountain Dew soft drink should look and taste like in an online promotion it's calling "DEWmocracy."
Consumers will have the power to select the flavor, color, name, logo, label, and tagline for the next Mountain Dew.This online experience includes a story-based game that features a live-action short film, and an animated story presenting various challenges that will give consumers the tools to develop every aspect of the new drink. The core idea is this: players have to complete the challenges in order to develop the new flavor of Mountain Dew, with the twist being that next year, people will vote on the best ideas, and the winner will actually be produced.

The firm in charge of this campaign, Protagonist, is targeting the the 18-29 age bracket, nicknamed "Millennial" consumers. They're also going after other Dew drinkers, and online gamers.

"To the best of our knowledge, a brand has never given consumers this much control," says a company representative. "We felt that the best way to fully engage consumers would be to give them the power to create a new product." (source)

Pepsi will hype the game mostly through online sources--although the company has prepared a 30-second television spot and outdoor executions to promote "DEWmocracy," according to a company representative.

I can understand wanting to involve your brand loyalists to help drum up some excitement about a new product, but to leave a product's complete development in the hands of the general public? What do you guys think of this approach?

via sourceimage via source

Comfy restaurants-what makes them work?

It's all about creating a setting that’s warm and inviting. That's a main ingredient in what I look for when deciding where to eat out.

Let's talk chain restaurants.
Panera Bread Company's mission is to "bring bakeries back to neighborhoods across America" ala, European neighborhood bakery-style.
image source
They work to differentiate themselves with an emphasis on interior design several steps up from traditional quick service. Seating is provided in "zones". There's a "cozy corner" with leather sofas and easy chairs, a "community area" with high top tables that can be pulled together, and a traditional dining room. Lots of autumnal colors- rusts, brown, pumpkin, sage, with pops of purple and maybe some navy here and there.
image source
Panera is also trying to attract "chill out" business--people who come in between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner to have a pastry and coffee, sit on a comfy chair, and, relax in a way not possible in most fast-food restaurants. (source)
Ruby Tuesdays is another chain, set to embrace the idea of a welcoming interior. They recently went through a major overhaul, revamping everything from their logo, to their interiors.
Here's their old look:
image sources: left, right
And their new one:
image source
As Brand New so elloquently put it, "Gone are black- and white- checkered tablecloths and the hodge-podge of sports memorabilia that adorned the walls and were reminiscent of Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s".
image source
Hm, I'm seeing a bit of a trend here, with the autumn colors- lots of warm, muted tones, with splashes of brighter colors, light red or gold, here and there. And lots of different seating arrangements. Perhaps an interior designer, with knowledge about restaurant design, could comment on that?

I went into a local Thai restaurant some time ago, and could barely stand to wait inside for my take-out order, let alone dine in. The entire place had been painted in a dreary gray blue. And I do mean everything- all the decorations on the walls had been spray-painted to match the walls. I'm not talking a sophisticated light gray, but a medium heavy tone that reminded me of wet clay. I wish I could recall the name of the restaurant, so I could drive out there and snap a picture for you to see. Anyways, it just struck me how important color is to developing the mood, ambiance, and even perception of value, in a restaurant.

Pantone is stretching it

Pantone has a new promotional site, which features insights from visual thought leaders, as they call them, in a wide variety of design industries responding to the phrase, The color of my idea is

myColor myIdea lets people learn about the colors that inspire some of todays celebrity personalities in the graphics, fashion, beauty, architecture and interior design industries. Not necessarily trends, just personal preferences.

So, I was curious to see whom Pantone had nabbed for color quotes...

Patricia Field caught my eye, as she is the fabulous fashion stylist who did "Sex in the City". Turns out, her favorite color is that teeth-gritting ripe green you see above. And what did she have to say about it?

In this color I feel most balanced. It makes me feel calm. It makes me feel natural. It makes me comfortable. It makes me feel oxygen. It makes me feel life.
- Patricia Field

Now, correct me if you all feel differently, but hello, calming? Not the word I would have used to describe that color.

Here's another one:

I love PANTONE 65-1-2 C because it reminds me of a beautiful hydrangea, my son's favorite flower. -Kelly Wearstler, Interior Designer
I'm not exactly sure what we are supposed to be getting out of this...

Tim Gunn, co-host of the reality series "Project Runway", chose beige as his inspirational color for interiors. Beige? He says,

There is a unique quality, resonance, richness and aura to this color that soothes and calms me. It’s restorative...It heals, it repairs, and it’s always part of me.
-Tim Gunn

I think Pantone might be stretching things a bit, in their attempt to promote a new system of color specification products for graphic designers. To avoid confusion, the Pantone Goe System is different than the Pantone Matching System. I'd try to clarify how this new system differs, but honesty, I found it rather confusing! Those of you who are designers and own any of Pantone's crazy expensive fan decks are probably groaning right now. "Another fan deck to purchase?!"

What do you all think of this new site?

Lesson in Form and Content

Great video about the late Paul Rand, an amazing graphic designer. Paul Rand Video
Without content, there is no form. Without form, there is no content. A work of art is realized when form and content are indistinguishable. -Paul Rand
So simple, but so true. Here are the essential elements to consider in any design, be it interiors, products, logos, art...if it's visual, it's design. (click for bigger stills)
(Click on image for bigger view)
video stills via Imaginary Forces

Who Owns This Color?

It was inevitable that someday, companies would start battling over the exclusive rights to certain colors. After all, marketing research indicates that over 80% of visual information is related to color. One article put it quite eloquently:
The colour of a product, its packaging or the material used to promote it is often a crucial way of distinguishing the goods and services of one trader from those of another. The use of colour in a product or its packaging is widely recognised as being crucial to building a brand image and marketing and advertising agencies agonise long and hard when deciding which colour, or shade accurately reflect the brand values. (source)
Deutsche Telekom, the mother company of T-Mobile, owns the European trademark on a specific color of magenta, to be used within the tele-communications sector.
Here's Deutsche Telekom's registered color data from this pdf list of company trademarked colors.

But people are taking color trademarks the wrong way, and there is outrage on the web.

image source
There's even a fun "Free Magenta" site that has been created in opposition to this demand for exclusivity. My question is, are they for real, or is this merely a parody?

What people need to understand is that a color can be trademarked for branding purposes, but only within the scope of its specific industry niche. This actually isn't all that revolutionary. Owens-Corning has a trademark on the use of pink for insulation, and Tiffany & Co. has a trademark on its signature robin's-egg blue for their jewelry brand. Just think, if a construction company started using tiffany blue on their building materials, this would not affect Tiffany's brand.

I really want to squelch these common misconceptions that spread like wildfires online.

TV shows- sets that speak through color

Expanding on my last post about movie sets, let's dip into television sets a teensy bit.

The sitcom, Ugly Betty, has garnered quite a bit of attention and interest from critics. The show even received a 2007 Art Director’s Guild Award. The producer’s directive for the show's look was, “I want it to look ridiculously fabulous.” I love this description:
Ad agencies, publishing houses, operating rooms, office cubicles: dull, duller and dullest.Then along came "Ugly Betty," set in the sleek, chic offices of a high-fashion magazine, and before you could say "Oscar de la Renta," that changed.
Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) and her co-workers spend their days in an environment where steel-gray file cabinets and dust-colored carpeting would be ashamed to show themselves. -source

image source
They wanted the Mode offices to look high-rent and slightly futuristic, like something that might be found in such design capitals as Tokyo or Amsterdam.
Here's what set decorator Archie D'Amico had to say about color's role in the show's set design:

“We created a world of colorful counterpoints for the various characters’ sets and try to keep the explosions of color alive, well and kicking throughout each episode. Color is at the core of what distinguishes the sets and reflects the lives and work environments of the characters.”

For those of you who have seen "Ugly Betty", do you think they achieved their goal with color and its role in the show?

quotes and images via source except where noted

What's with my header?

Editor's note:
Yeah, as some of you have pointed out, my header is all pixelated. There is a bug in Blogger's programing with banners added on or after December 1st. Hopefully, they will have things fixed soon!
In the meanwhile, if any of you were considering swapping out your custom header, I would suggest holding off 'til this is fixed.

What do the holidays mean to you?

The blog Absolutely Beautiful Things has a competition going on-submit pictures from your home, neighborhood or city of what captures the essence of the holiday season for you.
For me, it's all about twinkly, colorful light displays. After all, this is the season of lights.
I submitted some snapshots of my neighborhood's glorious display of excess.
Check it out, vote for your favorite, or submit some of your own!