What makes something cool?

Part of the art of marketing is making something cool, but not too cool.

What?

Research shows that we gravitate toward the familiar, but that we’re also bored by it. We cherish the new, but we’re also scared of it. The art is in finding something innovative that still has roots in things we already trust and understand.

This is why Apple so rarely pioneers technology and, instead, leverages things that have already been tried and haven’t yet been optimized, Then they nail it.

And it’s why truly innovative companies can be “ahead of their time” and tank.

An article in The Atlantic provides some interesting examples in the context of a long piece on the brilliant designer Raymond Loewy who coined the term MAYA (“Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”) and said: “To sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”

There’s plenty of science to back this up:

In 2014, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Northeastern University wanted to know exactly what sorts of proposals were most likely to win funding from prestigious institutions such as the National Institutes of Health—safely familiar proposals, or extremely novel ones? They prepared about 150 research proposals and gave each one a novelty score. Then they recruited 142 world-class scientists to evaluate the projects.

The most-novel proposals got the worst ratings. Exceedingly familiar proposals fared a bit better, but they still received low scores. “Everyone dislikes novelty,” Karim Lakhani, a co-author, explained to me, and “experts tend to be overcritical of proposals in their own domain.” The highest evaluation scores went to submissions that were deemed slightly new. There is an “optimal newness” for ideas, Lakhani said—advanced yet acceptable.

We can lament our intolerance for innovation. But it seems that understanding it is a good place to start if you want to effect change.

Read more, including how Spotify figured out that Discover Weekly playlists should include songs you already know.

 

Helping out the honeybees

Does the bee die-off freak you out? It should. Bees are essential pollinators and they’re a huge part of why we have fruits and vegetables to eat. California farming without bees would be a disaster. But between April 2015 and 2016, the United States lost 44% of its bee population.

Now, at least one invention is helping. It’s a clever concept — a foldable, easy to set up, baited hive that attracts swarms and keeps them in the area, so farmers can be a little more assured that they’ll be able to continue to grow our food.

It’s another example of how design thinking can make a huge difference in the world. Check it out.

A second Silver from Graphis!

graphis-silver-award-2016Wow! We did it again! We received another Silver Award from Graphis, the international design journal. This one was for the same project — the rebranding of Legistics, international providers of practice support services and equipment to law firms. This time, the award is part of Graphis’ Logo Design 9 annual — a different competition, and still pretty damn cool.

We’re delighted that the work we did for Legistics continues to be recognized by our peers and our industry. And continues to make an impact on our client’s business as well.

Huge thanks to Anat Rodan and Amy Crossan for their stunning design concepts and execution. It’s gratifying to be leading such a great team.

The robots are coming

Absolutely fascinating to see how far Boston Dynamics has taken the independent, untethered robot. The agility, speed and accuracy are incredible. Watch how the ‘bot balances when it picks up a package — its “head” is used to counterbalance the weight of the box. Looks alive, and smart. Yikes!

UK Holocaust Museum competition

There’s been a recent competition for the architectural design of a UK Holocaust Memorial. It’s down to the short list.

On seeing the proposals, my first reaction was that nobody could top the concept by Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid Architects in the big photo at the top of the article on Design Boom. Its impact is immediate, visceral and brilliant.

But as you watch the short videos from each firm, you see the depth of thinking that went into these designs. And the blandest presentation is actually one of the coolest ideas. It’s absolutely worth checking them all out.

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Giant Sealy stretches —and wakes up the industry

For the past year, we’ve been working on a complicated, many-faceted brand refresh for Sealy — part of the world’s largest mattress manufacturer, Tempur Sealy International.

It involved a major rethinking and overhaul of the entire structure of their product line, brand architecture and marketing presentation.

On January 20, at the enormous Las Vegas Market trade show, the company announced the update and revealed the new line to stellar industry reaction. The brand was re-energized — and so were Sealy’s own sales staff and their national retail customers. The excited response was universally positive. We’re relieved (whew!) and delighted!

FreeAssociates was involved from the earliest stages, meeting with the brand experience team and brand managers, sales execs, product designers, ad agency and strategists to help define the brand, clarify its position, and craft its messaging.

Dozens of concepts were floated and vetted, tested and refined, through a grueling but thorough process that left no stone unturned. Over many months the design vocabulary was established and tweaked, until a powerful, unified evolution of the brand emerged.

Under the watchful eyes and thoughtful leadership of Director of Brand Experience Karl Myers and his Senior Manager Jonah Nelson, we crafted a comprehensive new branding system.

FreeAssociates has developed a refined version of the logo, color palette, the master brand style guide, point of sale displays and materials, product labeling, a feature icon system, sales guide, product guide, trade show campaign graphics and all the displays and information graphics for Sealy’s 14,000 s.f. permanent showroom at Las Vegas Market (interior designed by Jhipo Hong).

We’re truly grateful to be working with this talented Sealy team and to have an opportunity to help affect the course of their venerable 130-year-old brand.

For the full story, take a look at this article in Furniture World.

FreeAssociates wins Silver from Graphis Design Annual

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Graphis magazine is one of the most prestigious publications in our industry. And being accepted into their 2017 Design Annual is truly an honor.

Our re-branding of the COPi Companies as Legistics recently won a Silver award in the very competitive Branding category. We’re proud of the award, but prouder still of the work we did. We’ve helped Legistics move into a new mode, leaving behind their 1980’s copy-centric identity and creating a brand that speaks to the broader, deeper collaborative relationships these Professionals at Practice Support bring to their large law firm customers.

rainy-porsche Our work included renaming the company, developing the logo, and redesigning everything from a new website (which has won awards itself) to forms, signage, document boxes (their most visible form of “advertising”), uniforms, delivery trucks and even the race car that won the IMSA Continental Tire Championship this season.

Take a look at some of the program elements on the Graphis website. Many, many thanks to CEO Phil Frengs and Legistics for giving us the opportunity to create such a bold, exciting design solution.

The elegant design of human towers

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In Catalonia, Spain (where my wife’s family is from, coincidentally), they have a tradition of creating massive towers of human beings. They stand on each other’s shoulders and rise into the sky, like living sandcastles, only to collapse again from gravity and — I assume — exhaustion.

But photography has captured those elusive moments in some breathtaking images, showing off the careful symmetrical design and engineering of these temporary bio structures. Check it out.

 

Faces full of fur: designing beards

Blogging doesn’t really work well unless you keep it up. I haven’t been, it’s true. But this is pretty hilarious, and sort of cool. So I thought I’d post for your enjoyment.

You can see more of this madness here.

Legistics site wins Gold Communicator Award

trophy_goldOnce again, our website for Legistics has been recognized by an international design competition. We’ve received a gold Award of Excellence from the 22nd Annual Communicator Awards. Our site was selected from among some 6,000 entries, as one of just four to be honored in the Law and Legal Services category.

“The work entered…serves as a benchmark in gauging the innovative ideas and capabilities of communications and marketing professionals around the world. Each year, our entrants continue to amaze by reinventing the ways we communicate and market in an ever-changing industry.” noted Linda Day, executive director of the AIVA, the organization that sanctions and judges the competition. The Academy of Interactive and Visual Art is an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms.

Congrats to our talented team: creative director Josh Freeman, designer Anat Rodan, writer Emily Hutta, videographers Joel Lipton & Carlos Gutierrez and developer Stephen Slater. Huzzah!