How do you publicize something that is widely considered socially rude to talk about? It’s okay to urge people to get regular dental exams, annual mammograms, eye tests, and melanoma check-ups, but suggesting the need for a rectal exam is usually not well received (and often not meant in the kindest way). Yet colon/rectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in America. Ironically, it is also one of the most treatable types of cancer if detected early through regular rectal exams. Meredith’s Miracles Colon Cancer Foundation wanted to bring these facts into the public discussion and asked the ad agency, FCB Chicago, to raise awareness through a public service ad campaign. FCB delivered the warning to Chicago commuters by selectively posting ads on the back side of bus seats. In this case, the placement of the ad is the butt of the joke.
Winner of a 2014 Cannes Outdoor Advertising Award, this Corona Extra billboard campaign feels like a high school science project on steroids – e.g., drop a raw egg from 30 feet without breaking it, make a rocket that can shoot across a football field, build your own fog tornado. In this case, Corona and its ad agency Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago came up with a way to put a real crescent moon on top of a Corona bottle billboard.
It was all very clever and fun in a geeky way. The idea involved showing an open bottle of Corona Extra surrounded by the moon in its different phases. The beer bottle itself butted up to the top edge of the billboard. By calculating the angle of the moon at a specific geographic location, the time that it would be in its crescent phase, and other measurements, the creative team could precisely predict when the moon would rest on the bottle top like a wedge of lime. Such calculations, however, are typically beyond the ken of “right brain” advertising people, so they turned to experts at top universities and planetariums for help. The consensus was that on June 14 and June 15, 2013, the crescent moon would be positioned over the bottle top shown on the billboard at 15th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan. The historic lunar lime event was publicized online and via social media and created such a buzz that spectators came out specifically to witness the moon hovering over the Corona bottle. Such an occurrence is even rarer than a lunar eclipse.
Consumer focus groups have long been a mainstay of marketing research. It’s a great way to gather user perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude about a product. Chicago ad agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul pulled together a panel of mostly four-legged consumers to roll out Big Lots’ line of pet supplies and toys. Two improvisational actors served as panel “facilitators,” conducting a tongue-in-cheek user opinion survey. The panel of dogs and cats weren’t exactly forthcoming in their preferences, but they did give the discount retailer an opportunity to show the vast and varied range of pet products it sells. Read More »
In the realm of classic comic book heroes, there is Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, the Green Lantern …and Tintin the baby-faced boy reporter. A comic strip introduced in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist Herge (Georges Prosper Remi), “The Adventures of Tintin” relates tales of a Belgian teenager with a round head and a dorky quiff hairstyle who is dispatched by a youth newspaper called Le Petit Vingtieme (the Little Twentieth) to file investigative reports from hot spots around the world. Unassuming and good-natured, Tintin gamely goes wherever he is assigned, taking his little fox terrier, Snowy, with him. His travels often put him in the midst of political upheaval in the land of the Soviets, the Belgian Congo, China, Chicago, Latin America and elsewhere, and in trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, he is forced to deal with ruthless special agents, diamond smugglers, Al Capone gangsters and other villains who want to run him over, shoot him, torture him, kidnap him and feed him to crocodiles.Tintin and Snowy deal with each encounter without fear and get themselves out of each jam through quick-thinking action and sometimes through sheer dumb luck. What has kept Tintin so beloved over the decades is that he isn’t presented as an egotistical super human like Spiderman and Wonder Woman, but as an average young man who doesn’t seek out danger but doesn’t run from it either. In Brussels, Tintin and Snowy are honored with a life-size bronze statue, and they are even commemorated on a euro coin, which is legal tender in Belgium. An unlikely action hero, Tintin is probably the most admired fictional Belgian in recent history.
Newell Rubbermaid’s new Design Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, marks a monumental shift in the company’s design thinking and practices. This consolidation of design functions in a single location addresses how design in the 21st century has become a team activity that pulls in disciplines beyond design.
In 2012, after Newell Rubbermaid adopted its Growth Game Plan strategy focused on four winning capabilities, including design and R&D, it brought in acclaimed designer Chuck Jones as its first Chief Design and Research & Development Officer to make the company more agile and responsive to consumers through design. Jones’ reputation preceded him, having successfully built global design and development teams that boosted sales and won awards for innovation at companies including Whirlpool and Xerox. Here, Jones talks about how Newell Rubbermaid is creating a brand-and-innovation-led company that is famous for design and product performance. Read More »
The words “typeface” and “character” are fitting terms to describe fonts. When listening to good designers talk about them, you would think they were gossiping about people. They talk about their emotional qualities, complain about what they perceive as their flaws, get blushingly specific about their physical beauty. For them, some typefaces are casual flings, good for a quickie when the mood strikes and the lighting is right; with others, they are in love and ready to commit for life. For many designers, a studying letterforms is more engaging than reading what the collected letters have to say.
In a town renowned for its spectacular architecture, the new Aqua Tower has become the latest attraction in Chicago’s skyline. Designed by Jeanne Gang, principal of Studio Gang Architects, the 82-story mixed-use building is much more than the standard straight rectangular glass tower. The contoured façade appears to undulate, rippling between waves of concrete balcony overhangs and organically shaped areas of glass that mirror back the sky.
Although this undulation seems random as if formed by nature, it was designed to serve an environmental purpose. The balcony overhangs shade the interior from the scorching summer sun keeping interior temperatures fairly even, and they protect the building from Chicago’s heavy winds — so much so that the building doesn’t require a tuned mass damper to stabilize it against wind vibrations and sway. Built to LEED certification, Aqua Tower incorporated many other green and energy-efficient features, including an 80,000 square foot rooftop garden and six different types of window glazing to cut solar load on the exposed glass.
Here’s a case of taking the same visual concept and using it to communicate two different marketing messages. This “night light” print ad, created by Cossette West in Canada, promotes the fact that McDonald’s is now open all night, 24/7.
It builds on a visual idea, conceived by Leo Burnett USA, for an outdoor marketing campaign touting McDonald’s as having the “Best Fries on the Planet.” Visible from three miles around, the billboard shot vertical beams of golden light up from a super-sized French-fry packet, illuminating the night skies of Chicago. Although this spectacular “tribute to fries” garnered lots of accolades for its ingenuity, the outdoor light show was also called insensitive for what some considered an uncanny resemblance to the Twin Tower “Tribute in Light” commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy. We don’t think so. For one thing, the billboard – which came down last week – was only shown in Chicago near the company’s headquarters. Also, the red box of fries is so iconic that viewers immediately associate it with the fast-food giant and chuckle. Don’t know whether this marketing concept will be extended beyond print ads and billboards, but maybe it should be turned into a promotional giveaway of a real “french fry” night light.
Chicago-based commercial photographer Francois Robert has a unique way of seeing things that most of us don’t see. About 20 years ago, Francois and his Swiss designer brother, Jean, made us aware of anthropomorphic features in inanimate objects such as padlocks, mops, door knockers and light switches, and photographed these expressive faces and presented them in the book, “Face to Face.”
Bear with me. This is hard to explain. We got interested in this story because we loved the graphics and packaging for the new Museum of Unnatural History in Washington D.C., which isn’t a museum and not a real store either. It’s the Washington D.C. location for 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization founded to assist kids aged six to 18 with their writing skills. It got its start at 826 Valencia Street (hence the name), a storefront location in San Francisco’s Mission District. To make the place seem “cooler” to kids, the 826 founders decided to disguise it as a “Pirate Store” and stocked it with pirate supplies like peg legs, message bottles and hooks. Kids loved it and sales helped support the tutoring programs.
What do cartographers do for fun? They make typographic maps.
At Axis Maps in Hewitt, Texas, what started out as a clever little typographic map party announcement for a gathering of geographers in Boston grew into a full-blown typographic map of the city. Andy Woodruff, one of the principals of Axis Maps, says that he started the project because he was intrigued with the idea of expanding the style of the party invitation into a full city map of Boston. His off-hours project caught the attention of his Axis cohorts, Ben Sheesley and Mark Harrower, who decided to make both a color and black-and-white typographic map of Chicago. The maps occupied them off and on for nearly two years.
“There was nothing automatic about making these maps, unless you count copying and pasting,” says Woodruff on the Axis Maps blog. “Everything was laid out manually, from tracing streets over an OpenStreetMap image, to nudging curved water text, to selectively erasing text to create a woven street pattern.”