We're taking some much needed time off from our coverage of brand identity, packaging, culture and design to celebrate the season with our loved ones. We want to sincerely thank you for your readership, your comments and your participation.

Here are our top posts from 2009:
Cowboys Stadium designed for more than just football
PS3 Media Center
Destinations: Bauhaus anniversary show in Berlin

We'll be back in January with more coverage.

We wish you Happy Holidays!
New York city is asking for your help. The city is currently accepting designs for their NYC brand condom wrappers. The New York Times reports that, the design competition — the deadline is Jan. 22 — is just the latest incarnation in the city’s long history of making the prophylactic widely available. For more information on entering the competition, please visit the links below.

NYC Health: Submit Your Design

New York Times: Design a Condom Wrapper, City Asks

What do you think of the competition? Do you think it will aid awareness? Will it help solidify the NYC brand?

Let us know your thoughts.
PCMag.com reports that Plurk.com, a microblogging service, claimed that an overseas division of Microsoft has essentially stolen its design. In response, Microosft has turned off the service, which it calls Juku.

Plurk filed a lengthy blog post detailing the alleged theft, which included code snippets and screenshots to prove the similarity of the two designs.

PCMag also reports that Microsoft stole proprietary code from their design. What do you think? Was Microsoft so intent on competing and demolishing Twitter that cut corners?
Branding celebrity with integrity’ is my chosen presentation topic for next year's FUSE conference. And whilst I don’t want to discuss all the finer points here, I did want to get the discussion going...And, let’s face it, it’s certainly topical at the moment now that the Tiger has lost his roar after his indiscretion was exposed. Love them or hate them, they are everywhere – celebrities, that is. But, there is a very real difference between choosing a celebrity to endorse your brand and branding a celebrity. And, put very simply, it comes down to buying into a face or a soul.

What does P Diddy really know about fragrance? - other than wanting to look and smell good as part of his successful R&B image, that is? But, as we speak, he is hawking his 'I Am King' fragrance across the media networks and, of course, this fragrance – as those before – is likely to be a huge (if probably) transient hit...Jamie Oliver also diversified from being the world famous chef extraordinaire to being the face of the Sainsbury’s TV Ad campaign and many questioned why he was doing this. But, Jamie was actually staying true to himself and the core truth of his brand which is his expertise in – and love of – food by linking with one of the UK’s oldest and leading supermarkets.

With the creation of homeware brand Jme, Jamie did indeed step away from the core offer of his brand but he did also retain his values and identity. It comes down to being real and authentic - creating a celebrity brand with true meaning - and not trying to be something you’re not or just bolting-on desirability in the form of the latest celebrity face. Of course, as we have seen with Mr Woods, humans are fallible. But, this is less likely to be a problem if you are creating a living breathing brand that is the embodiment of a living breathing person and not dictating a one-dimensional fixed aesthetic....And, there’s the crux – it is indeed about identity and how things look. But, it’s about ensuring long-term success of a celebrity brand through an intelligent design strategy that mirrors everything the brand does, says and delivers at its very heart and soul.

Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner Pearlfisher, will be presenting at the IIR’s annual FUSE event – FUSE: Reclaim The Future - on 15 April 2010, Chicago http://www.iirusa.com/fuse/home.xml
To find out more about Jamie Oliver and Jme, check out http://www.jamieoliver.com/

This post on the designblog highlights a new bike designed by Daniel Finkelstein that changes and shifts its position according to the needs of the rider, thus making it more convenient. Riders in the city might take advantage of the higher position which would allow them more visibility and reduces the size of the wheelbase for easier movement. The lower position though would allow the benefit of a convential recumbent bike. Definitely an innovative bicycle.

Phyllis Aragaki is the director of Target’s newly formed in-house design group, Target Creative Studio. It is her mission to create an environment that allows the team to dream and do the remarkable, every day. As the studio director, she leads a team of 150 designers, writers and production artists to deliver Target’s “expect more, pay less” promise and create meaningful brand experiences for its stores’ guests. Prior to her current role, Aragaki led marketing and advertising campaigns for a variety of business categories such as electronics, entertainment, health and value. She has also contributed to the development and evolution of Target’s owned brands and has served as a team lead for the organizational initiative that conceived the new in-house studio. Before joining Target, she was a founding member and executive creative director at Desgrippes Gobé, a New York–based brand design firm. Aragaki holds a BS from the Institute of Design at IIT and an MFA from Yale University.

Biography courtesy of AIGA

Phyllis will be presenting, "Innovating In-House Sparking Greatness Within Target's In-House Creative Teams" on Friday, April 16 at 2:20Pm
In a recent blog post at Yanko Design, they designed a coffee cup tote that allows one to carry two coffee cups at once, and after one is done carrying the coffee, the tote also doubles as the sleeve. What do you think about this design? What would you do different?

Date/Time: Wed, Dec 9, 2009 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Do consumers know the difference between national brands and store brands? Do they care? How do they describe private label compared to national brands? Does this differ across categories? How about across markets?

Private label and store brands are having an impact on many consumer purchases today, both in the US and Europe. And within these markets the definition of private label compared to national brands varies according to category and retailer.

When is a brand important? What makes a national brand different? Do consumers feel the same way about brands today as they did a year ago? Why or why not?

Showcasing BuzzBack’s unique portfolio of award-winning online research techniques, this webinar will highlight new consumer research conducted in the US and UK about purchasing behavior and attitudes associated with private label versus national consumer brands. The study will present ways to identify consumer behavior and attitudes about shopping via an online survey.

As you listen in, you will learn:
• What drives consumer purchases of private label brands and why
• Consumer perceptions and attitudes about private label compared to national brands
• Types of people who purchase private label compared to national brands

Featured Speaker
Brendan Light, SVP, Research and Development, BuzzBack Market Research

Register: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/781266785
Mention priority code MWS0020BLOG

Early bird pricing for FUSE 2010 ends TODAY!

The 2010 theme says it all, "Reclaim the Future". Visionary minds will lead us into the new "normal" of business. With a renewed spirit and growing confidence let's get back to business and focus on growth. Year after year people return to FUSE to refuel, for inspiration, information and community that makes FUSE a calendar event and a true "must attend". For 2010 we've brought FUSE back to where it all began - Chicago. So, join the conversation and register today.

Event: http://bit.ly/EBFUSE2010
Brochure: http://bit.ly/FUSE2010_Brochure
Register: http://bit.ly/Reg_FUSE2010

For over 14 years, the FUSE conference has been the destination of choice for championing change and challenging conventionalism. Consistently delivering a unique combination of visionary thinkers, top brand strategists and passionate creatives, the participants at FUSE experience provocative dialogue and leave with a renewed sense of what really matters. True exchanges happen. Ideas come to life. Real life stories are unveiled. The result? New ways of design thinking are defined. What's next? Collaborate with the best and explore the impact of design and brand strategy on the health of the category and the overall business now, and in the future ahead. Don't get left behind. Think Next.

Simon Pitman of CosmeticsDesign.com anticipates a boom in earth-friendly and innovative design for package design in 2010. Pitman notes that, "luxury and prestige products, packaged using more expensive materials and often dressed up with a variety elaborate finishes, are being passed over." Also, "that sleek, yet modest and subtle designs of private label and lower-end products are catching the consumer’s eye like never before."

As a package design professional, how are you reworking your designs for 2010? What is most important to you and to your clients?

Striking design and eco-friendly materials will drive packaging in 2010

Join us in April 2010 for FUSE!

http://bit.ly/8NU3g2Event Site: http://bit.ly/8NU3g2

The FUSE community unites brand strategists, designers, creative directors and trend forecasters assembling to explore the meaning of brands in a new world and the role of design and trends in keeping those brands relevant for consumers.
The single largest problem that continues to hinder interactive design from really coming into it’s own is the fact that designers allow their work to be led more by technology or production techniques and not creative thinking that creates a user experience or concept that will resonate with the consumer.

As a creative director I have had tons of interactive portfolios come across my screen over the years and I see the same problem over and over again. Designers who think that technology is an idea. Unfortunately most of this work has been produced in Adobe Flash and that technology has taken a huge amount of criticism over the years. I personally believe that pointing to Flash as the reason for ineffective user experiences and online advertising makes about as much sense as blaming paper for creating junk mail or the telephone for creating the solicitors who call during dinner. The fault should fall to the designers who have not taken the time to use a creative strategy as the basis of their work.

A good on-line creative strategy should define the values and brand attributes that need to be communicated to the consumer in a distinctive and compelling way that takes advantage of the medium. I use answers to the following list of questions as a starting point when I meet with a new client or start on a new project.

What are we advertising and why?
When you meet with your client about a new project, get a thorough understanding of the focus of the communications efforts such as: the brand, a specific product or service, a promotion or new news. Make sure you understand their reasons for wanting to be on-line. Often the rationale clients provide are expressed as marketing objectives not as communications objectives. Communications change the way people think and influence their behaviors. That is the difference between a marketing objective and a communications objective. What is it they are trying to achieve? Increase market share? Drive awareness? Increases frequency or penetration? Increase sales? Focus on uncovering the single most important obstacle the communications must overcome.

What is the brands communication past?
Get a clear understanding of where the brand has come from and where it is now is critical to determining where the brand needs to go. Look at the brands past advertising to gain a solid understanding of the it’s positioning, personality and focus. Research if the target of the brand’s activities have shifted and why. What are the reasons for this change?

Read the rest of this article here.

This post on the Design Blog highlights the latest Lenovo Thinkpad Notebooks which have been installed in buses and trains across Germany as seating as well as a conventional laptop. The laptop has a shockproof and waterproof keypad, but we're still not sure how comfortable these "laptop" seats really are...When do you expect something like this to roll out in the US?

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