How do you grab the attention of jaded creative directors? By arousing their curiosity. In a campaign for Kontor, a dance music label in Germany, Ogilvy Deutschland developed a “Back to Vinyl” direct mail piece that used high-tech gimmickry to promote the new Boris Dlugosch release. Ad agency recipients got a large flat package that contained a vinyl record inside, instead of the usual CD or USB. The vinyl came with instructions to place the record on the printed turntable on the back of the envelope, then activate the QR code with a smart phone. Recipients could listen to the latest Dlugosch track and “move” the needle to play other tracks as well or to contact Kontor via the connect icon. Needless to say, the vinyl promo often became the talk of the office and didn’t get thrown away.
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If this thermostat looks like something that Apple would have designed had it been interested in home heating, there’s a reason. Tony Fadell, who conceived of the iPod and then went on to work on the iPhone while at Apple (he left in 2008), came up with this household device through his own company, Nest Labs. The clean Apple aesthetic and intuitive ease-of-use are evident in the Nest Learning Thermostat. The temperature is displayed in bright, clear numerals, and the rim ring acts as the dial. The LCD-lit center turns red if you are raising the temperature and shows blue if you are lowering it. A green leaf appears under the number to indicate a setting for optimal energy savings. Not only that, the Nest programs itself, using software to analyze and track your usage patterns over time. Once it learns your preferences, it adjusts itself automatically, and even turns itself down to the “Away” mode, if it doesn’t sense any movement in the house. The Nest also comes with a mobile app that lets you change the temperature and schedule remotely by laptop, smartphone or pad.
Programmable thermostats, even ones that can be controlled remotely, are not new to the marketplace. What makes Nest exceptional is that it is designed for the user. You don’t have to squint to read the temperature gauge or gnash your teeth when trying to figure out the instructions to get it to do all the things that the ads promise it can do. It doesn’t try to impress consumers by displaying the complex engineering of the product. That’s more intimidating than impressive. What good design does best is create an interface with the user that makes the complex simple. Given the large number of consumers (including me) who don’t know how to program their existing thermostats, a device that is pleasing to view and as easy to use as an iPod is a welcome advance.
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