FUSE presents
The Private Brand Movement 2011
Changing the Game
September 19-21, 2011 • Wyndham Hotel • Chicago, IL

Submission Deadline: Friday, April 29, 2011
[Note: Papers are accepted on a rolling basis so early submissions are encouraged.]

About the Event
The producers of the FUSE Conference, one of the most popular events in the brand design world, we present the 2nd annual Private Brand Movement Conference, a revolutionary event for those involved in branding at retail. Today, private label brands are not just cheaper alternatives - they are brands like any other. In many instances, shoppers no longer can distinguish between national and private label brands. For 2011, the evolution continues, this year we’re expanding the content to cover the complete “branding at retail” continuum – from insights, to creation to selling in store. Created for the most forward thinking retailers, manufacturers and their partners, this event has been built in the spirit of collaboration – all sharing the same goal – help retailers create new ways to connect with their specific customers in unique ways.

Creating as a true collective voice of the industry, we’ll unite the best in branding, design, strategy and marketing of “own brands” to share the latest in packaging trends and uncover efficient and cost-effective ways to develop store brand success stories. This year’s theme is to celebrate, learn, collaborate and continue evolve the industry…Changing the Game…the evolution continues.

Presenter Qualifications
We are seeking retailer, private label manufacturers and national brand practitioners - who work to deliver unique retail value across all channels including C-store, club, dollar, pet, mass, apparel and grocery- who can share best practices in the form of real-world case studies, stories of what's worked and what hasn't. We also encourage you to submit team presentations, where two members of cross-functional teams co-present.

Content breakout sessions include:
Manufacturing in the New Age/ Brand Strategy & Design/ Portfolio Management/ Store Brand Organizational Structure/ Shopper Marketing & Store Brands/ Packaging Trends/ Marketing Brand Strategy / Customer Insights for Product & Packaging Innovation / Go to Market Strategies / Social Media & Digital to Drive Store Brands

Speaking Topic areas include but aren’t limited to:
  • Bridging the Gap between Merchandising, Marketing and Design
  • Creating Strength for Retailer Brands: A New Approach to Collaboration
  • Collaborating with your Customers: A Holistic Approach to Store Brand Management
  • Staging the Theatre: Using the Store Environment to Drive Awareness and Trial of Store Brands
  • Accelerating Innovation: Commercializing Ideas Faster
  • Principles in Designing across Categories
  • Portfolio Management
  • Brand, Price and Packaging: The Right Mix for Your Customer
  • Distinction through Green Packaging: Less is More
  • Consumer-Centric SQU Rationalization & Category Optimization
  • Designing to Peak Emotions: Reanimating a Brand’s Sensory Equities to Connect with Customers
  • Translating Trends into Valued Driven Products
  • Changing the Game: from Procurement to Product Development
  • Mapping the Brand Strategy for your Store Brand
  • Leveraging Proliferation in the Market Place: Using Private brands to Drive the Value Proposition
  • Mitigating Channel Blurring through Unique Store Brands
  • Combining Category Management & Shopper Insights for Growth & Loyalty
  • Map the Gap: Identifying Opportunities not Addressed in the National Brand Products
  • The Role of Promotion and Advertising in the Store Brand Marketing Mix
  • Rules of Engagement: What Shoppers Want in Store
  • Revitalizing Partnerships: Leveraging National Brand Equity to Further Differentiate
  • Redefining Value: The Innovation Conundrum
  • From Valued to Premium: Changing the Perception of Your Store Brands
  • Building Store Brands that Thrive in Economic Highs and Lows
** We are also happy to consider topics not listed here that you feel would add value and be appropriate for the audience.

The Audience
In 2010, this event attracted more than 150 senior-level executives from the world’s leading retail, manufacturing and design firms, mostly director level and above with expertise in strategy, package design, strategic planning, customer experience, innovation, product development, marketing strategy, brand management, structural design, consumer insights, shopper insights, shopper marketing and design research. Industries included Retail, CPG, Durable Goods and Consumer Healthcare.

View Photos from the 2010 Event here for a preview of your experience:

Submission Guidelines
Those who wish to be considered for the PBM speaker faculty should send the following via email to Amanda Powers, Program Director at apowers@iirusa.com no later than Wednesday, April 29th:
1. Benefit-oriented title of session
2. Summary of session along with three audience key takeaways (no more than 150 words)
3. Full contact details for speaker including name, title, company, email, phone and mail
4. Speaker headshot jpeg (optional)

If your submission is selected, portions of your bio and summary will be used to promote your participation.

Past Speakers from 2010
Maurice Markey, VP, Private Brands, SAM’S CLUB, Michael Ellgass, Senior Director, Grocery Marketing, WALMART, Annie Zipfel, Director of Owned Brands, TARGET, Kim Coovert, Brand Manager, Own Brand Food & Drug, KMART, Vassoula Vasiliou, Director of Creative Private Brand Development, OFFICE DEPOT, Nancy Cota, VP Innovation, Consumer Brands, SAFEWAY, Melissa Smith-Hazen, Director Strategic Design, Corporate Brands, AHOLD USA, Angie Hunter, Marketing Department, BLOOM/DELHAIZE AMERICA, Mary Rachide, DVP Private Brands, FAMILY DOLLAR STORES, Marcia Minter, VP Creative Director, L.L. BEAN, Moira Cullen, Senior Director, Global Design, THE HERSHEY CO., Kit Hughes. Art Director, PHILIPS

Speaker Benefits
Many speakers enjoy the exposure and prestige of being associated with the speaker faculty and opportunities to connect with fellow leaders on the roster. You will receive a complimentary pass to the event, giving you access to over 30 sessions and all of our networking activities ($2,300+ value). In addition, you will receive admittance to exclusive speaker networking activities and a substantial discount to off your friends and colleagues.

Attention to Vendors/Suppliers interested in participating in the event:
This call is limited to client side presenters. If you are a vendor, consultant, solution provider, or technology provider and would like to speak at the Private Brand Movement or have a presence at the event, contact Sarene Yablonsky, Business Development Manager at syablonsky@iirusa.com or via phone at 646.895.7474.

Due to the high volume of response, we are unable to respond to each submission. All those selected to participate as speakers will be notified shortly after the deadline.

For more information, visit the Private Brand Movement website
Follow the Private Brand Movement on Twitter
Connect with the Private Brand Movement on LinkedIn
Interview with Richelle Nassos of Me4Kidz conducted and edited by Jeremy DiPaolo, SVA Masters In Branding 2011

JD: Thanks for taking the time. What inspired you to create your products?

RN: I'm a mom, and at the time we had one child—we have three boys now—but our oldest was always afraid of first aid and the concept of the first aid kit. And I thought to myself why don't they make something in the market that's more kid-friendly? Kids get hurt. That's inevitable. The point was to figure out a way to take that fear and anxiety away for my child and for me, to keep mom and dad calm and to offer something organized, readily available and easily accessed. That's how we came up with it. The first product was the MediBag which was shaped like a doctor's bag—the initial design was red with bright, fun colors with kid-friendly items inside, so it took the fear away from the process.

JD: If there's one message that you'd like your consumers to know when they see your products on-shelf, what is it?

RN: Making first aid fun. That was our whole concept coming into it. Not that getting hurt is ever fun, but to make that process fun for kids so you could take the focus away from fear.

JD: In a recent discussion with NextBigDesign, you spoke briefly about design helping your company level the playing field, about "small" being able to take on "big." Can you elaborate on that? How critical is design to your products' success?

RN: Well, first and foremost, we wouldn't be here if wasn't for "the man upstairs" and a lot of hard work. My husband and I work extremely well. We complement each other in a million ways. All that aside, the most important things are having a good partner and leader. It's the trickle down theory—when you have a good manager in a company, everything else falls in place.

We're going on six and a half years now. We should have redesigned and repackaged a long time ago—we had done the packaging ourselves from the very beginning. Finding Flood and their unique ability to design and offer what the mass wants was just incredible. Me4Kidz resides on-shelf next to some of the biggest names in the industry: Johnson & Johnson, American Red Cross, The First Years, the largest guys in the business. We're small compared to them by a long shot.

The way the economy changed a couple years ago, the big box stores and mass retailers were cutting SKUs. We knew that we had to do something to stand out next to these big guys because it was tough competition. My husband and I realized that it was packaging. So we repackaged, and by the grace of God we found a company that was just a super, super match for us and it kept us in the game. It's grown our business substantially. So packaging is key. We're able, still, to not compromise our values: we still employ the disabled, we still use recycled plastic, we still use latex-free items. We're USA manufactured. We do all the things that matter to us that make a difference, but we're still sitting next to all the big guys. It's kind of a cool story, actually.

JD: Social media has also turned these ideas of big and small on their heads. How do you use this to your advantage?

RN: I definitely could do a lot more on Facebook and Twitter. We just don't have the manpower. My husband and I manage 10 countries now and over 4,000 stores and we have three young boys that we raise who are extremely active. We're both volunteering and coaching and at church and doing homework and running a business. That being said, we're limited in terms of how many arms and how many hours there are in a day. We focus on making sure everything gets out on time and that we're managing the company in all the other ways.

In regards to blogs and all the things that moms talk about on the internet, we're very active on that. You can go onto our website and see what's been done and said about us and it's just phenomenal. We're humbled beyond words. We've been on the Today Show, Rachael Ray and Good Morning America and we we've worked with the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. They've been so incredibly supportive. So if you refer to social media that way, that's just done mountains for us. It's humbling.

JD: Me4Kidz is a "family owned and operated business." You are a wife and mother of three "little bees." Do you feel that keeping your family in focus when telling your brand story lends your products more authenticity than some of your competitors?

RN: Oh, absolutely. People listen to our story. There's a million stories out there, there's a million products. Not only do we offer a unique concept, but our story is very heartfelt. For us, it's about making a difference. I think a lot of people brand their product to get it out there and say, "we're giving back" but how many are really giving back? Peter and I could make a lot more money if we were making our stuff overseas and not doing what we're doing. We're being rewarded, I truly believe, because of our journey to be different and to give back. When you do the right things in life, you're rewarded. Maybe not when you think it's your time, but it definitely comes around. I'm passionate about it. It's my story. They're my babies. It's my product. It's our invention. Yeah. That absolutely lends credence to it. Absolutely.
The third and final day of FUSE is now a memory, but today didn't seem to have a theme. Or rather, a single theme. Today was indeed the hodgepodge day.

Listeners at this morning's sessions might have been confused about which conference they were attending. To begin, we heard from Luke Williams of Frog Design, on how we can disrupt existing markets, rather than just innovate incrementally with subtle changes. Our next few speakers would seem very unlikely to attend the same conference, let alone to present in sequence. Jochen Eisenbrand showed us some of the many interesting artists working in Europe on eye-opening projects and exhibits. I don't think he even mentioned the word "brand" once. Doogie Horner reminded us how light-hearted our profession can be in his creation of the book "Everything Explained Through Flowcharts." Following him, Ian Schrager shared the insight of his many years about his work — and philosophy — working in the hotel sector. So why not end the morning with Jonathan Harris, who bills himself as an Anthropologist, but who I would sooner describe as a camera-wielding wanderer.

The theme, therefore, was randomness. Bringing together seemingly unrelated or disconnected concepts and disciplines is important to continual growth. It helps us empathize with our clients and connect with our audiences. I would argue that being multidimensional and thinking laterally is more important than the ability to drill super-deep, or to master the obscure, so I welcome the randomness.

The afternoon sessions seemed to be a series of case studies. I always find these of great interest because there is always something to be borrowed. If not the overall process, we can learn from the mistake made, be alerted to new pitfalls, consider channels or outlets we wouldn't otherwise explore, and find new inspiration in our own practice. And who doesn't love a bit of show and tell for a cool project. The theme of the afternoon's case studies appear to be the need for collective research. Designer can't simply dive into their sketchbooks and emerge with something 'cool', we've got to look wider, see what's out there in the world, delve into the past, question cultural relevance, and synthesize everything we find. The result, we hope is likewise 'cool'.

There were a few recurring themes for the conference as a whole which I would not mind adopting in the slightest. There is an apparent discontent (or perhaps a disconnect) with the hotel industry. Yes, I appreciate the irony that the entire conference took place in a traditional hotel, but everyone was talking about how to fix it, how these big brands which have been operating essentially in the same manner for 40+ years can connect with travelers. It's pretty easy to be better, just do the opposite of everything you see around you.

Boldness is another over-arching theme. Not merely in the actual design of artifacts, but in how we position a brand and how we communicate. Respect these days is earned by big moves, not by waffling between indistinguishable options. And yet somehow the boldest moves are also the simplest, committed by brands having the courage to go against the decades-old instinct to evolve very slowly. Forget about adding tail-fins to this year's model, it's time to build the jet-pack. Y'know what I mean.

So as we retire to our native cities and back to our offices and business-as-usual, we must be mindful of this year's themes. Think beyond traditional design, even to science and medicine. Look for inspiration in everyday things and the small adventures we all take part in. Dig deep for meaning in our research, don't just go for this year's trend. Be bold, above all. Be smart, be simple, and destroy your existing models. Courage gets noticed, following doesn't. It will be interesting to see what progress we can make next year. Who will bring stories of battles won and minds changed? Who will have a case study of a new course being charted? Who will be able to say, honestly, they are smarter than a year ago?
The third and final day of the FUSE conference kicked off bright and early with a rowdy suggestion to "disrupt." Luke Williams, creative director of Frog Design got a sleepy crowd warmed up with the suggestion to be an "intrapreneur," that is, someone who can look from within a company, within a brand position or strategy and constantly find a new way of looking at things. Williams suggests that one should not disrupt simply for the sake of it, but rather approach your projects as a competitor and continue to pursue new innovative ideas even at the height of your successes.

Jochen Eisenbrand followed with a presentation of design trends in Europe, eventually circling back around to the idea of custom personal design that Karim Rashid mentioned on day one. Doogie Horner took the stage after the break and shortly had the crowd cracking up and shouting out comic book onomatopoeia as he described the world through flowcharts (and perhaps cured us all of any lingering chart-phobia?). Ian Schrager was up next as he told a rather awed crowd of his inspiration behind Studio 54 ("People waiting in line to pay money, that is a business I need to be in") and the philosophies and work ethic that have made him a legend. Of creating hotels, Schrager said "Every detail is a matter of life or death, because I don't know which one puts (an experience) over the top." It was on that note that we entered into Jonathan Harris' project "We Feel Fine." An effort that takes the details of human feelings and translates them into fascinating visuals.

Overall it was a morning of passion and intelligence throughout all of the keynote sessions and an inspiring start to the final day of FUSE. Lots of food for thought to hold everyone over until next year was had before we even stopped for lunch.
Words are the foundation of our commerce. They give insight into how we think. They are what we use to exchange value.

Hence, we wanted to focus on four essential words, but not the four you may expect.

Sharing. Extra. Ordinary. Experiences.

Share: To have in common, to partake of, use, experience or enjoy with others. Sharing is an act of giving and an act of selflessness. We experienced plenty of sharing over the past three days. You likely witnessed many that we did; share your story, share the stories of others (always obeying Copyright laws), share handshakes, share thoughts, share a meal, share a cup of coffee (without passing germs), share gossip, share jelly beans, share mingle stick (nothing implied), share treats, share tweets (bugs bunny funny intended), share introductions, share conversations, share scent strips, share curious green shots.

If you didn’t share while at Fuse then you really didn’t attend the conference.

Extra: More than is due, usual or necessary. Making an effort greater than expected or containing more than expected. Extra time, extra effort, extra passion, extra emphasis, extra special, and extra thinking. Something beyond expectations is extra and hopefully you found a bit of extra in your time at FUSE. It was designed by those who believe in delivering extra for those who enjoy experiencing something with extra thought put into it.

If you didn’t see the extra over the past three days, you might want to check your eyesight.

Ordinary: The regular or customary condition, the parts of the mass that do not vary from day to day. This is the base for all other things. If we don’t know ordinary, then how do we define extraordinary? We have ordinary moments within a larger extraordinary experience, for contrast and deeper understanding. Ordinary might sound boring as a word, but the idea is essential in the process of learning. We need a comparison and we will all have ordinary moments.

If you only saw extraordinary at FUSE then you must not get out much (so we're saying there was ordinary there, and that's okay).

Experiences: Direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge. We all enjoyed experiences today. Capsule shared experiences leading up to FUSE and the conference itself offered a panorama of experiences through the voices and visuals of others. We traveled, learned and lived all around the world while sitting in the bowels of a Westin hotel (not a paid ad, we just like Westin). Experiences are the fuel of strong brands, the more memorable, engaging and relevant the experience, the more impact it has on the value of the brand.

If you didn’t experience anything memorable at FUSE then you might want to start taking a daily supplement of Ginkgo Biloba.

Four essential words: Share. Extra. Ordinary. Experiences. Use them with care, try not to turn them into the third rail of marketing (fill in: brand, innovation, engage, insight, disrupt). Words are important, use them with discretion, use them deliberately, and use them with consideration for what they really mean. Your peers will respect you more and so will your eight grade English teacher.

Capsule would like to thank the FUSE conference sponsors for sharing an extraordinary experience with all of us.


Capsule was invited to share extraordinary experiences leading up to the FUSE conference and while we spent time these last three days at the conference. We have enjoyed all of it, from the first blog post to the last day of speakers. It has been amusing, intriguing, though-provoking, energizing, fun and above all, extraordinary.

As my last post, I would like to make a case for the importance of unhappiness. This is it.

All this happiness crap is pissing me off.

We have countries measuring their happiness index. Really? Okay, if we’re going to have a “gross domestic happiness index”, let’s also measure unhappiness (GDU). You might say, [if you’re bright] well aren’t we doing that by default when we look at the numbers? Not necessarily, if we spend too much time understanding happiness we may overlook the need to also comprehend the importance of unhappiness. If we measure it, we make it important.

So, why does unhappiness matter? We can’t have black without white or cold without warm. There’s no happiness without sadness and misery. If all is good in the world [read: everyone is happy] and we have no problems to solve, many brands would go out of business. Brands need problems. Innovators need problems. Problems are often at the center of unhappiness, so let’s not get too excited about happiness.

Is the answer fostering unhappiness in innovation and design departments? Do we hire the next “angry” person who puts a resume on your desk? First, angry is not what we’re advocating. Impatience isn’t either. It’s really about dissatisfaction with the word “just.” Or deep distrust of those who say, “it's good enough.” It’s those curious, engaged thinkers and doers who know everything can be improved with enough mental energy and resources. They are not satisfied with average and have a natural desire to improve everything. If you’re wondering where we get this viewpoint, these are the people we hire.

We do believe in the pursuit of happiness, but always avoiding the pothole of complacency along the way.

Come visit us at Capsule if you want to be a part of our team. Visit Capsule if you want to have the Capsule team supplementing yours. Visit us if you’re curious. Visit Capsule if you’re seeking new opportunities for growth, design thinking and a new perspective on your brand strategy.

At FUSE this week we have enjoyed many emotions, topics and plenty of thinking. Let's be happy with a certain amount of unhappiness in order to motivate us toward a brighter future.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

Day two of the FUSE Conference has wrapped, and I currently feel the sort of exhaustion brought on by the first day of classes of a new semester. In the good way. Allow me to explain.

I read a lot of blogs. I follow many people on Twitter. I attend meetups, and lectures, and chat with my industry pals whenever possible. It's great. They're not at all dummies, but occasionally, I do find myself missing the intellectual demands of my life as a college student (and grad student). Intelligence, by most traditional definitions, is shoved into the background of day-to-day agency life, where the smarts of a designer (or strategist, or account exec) is usually anecdotal. So I welcome the return of the smart-guys to the design business. I'm glad to see so many of our speakers with PhDs and hear from published authors who didn't simply compile magazine covers into a coffee-table book (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The day started with Andrew Pek analysing our brains. Getting us to strive for enlightenment in our innovation. Shouting exercises and the throwing of crumpled paper can be just as stimulating as any math problem, if only because it's new. Andrew is a smart guy.

It's a bit of an understatement to say that our keynote speaker Dr. Michio Kaku is a smart guy. I thought it was funny how "creating a unified field theory" is just one of his accomplishments, with a whole list of accolades and endeavors to follow. Kaku's talk helped bring us back to a science-minded future, thinking of how technology and innovations which are just around the corner can affect our practice and business. We weren't charged to pick up Einstein's work where he left off, but we were, in a sense, charged with being part of the future, and understanding all that sciencey stuff.

A different kind of smarts is required when thinking about gender marketing, and how to bring a woman's need into the building of a brand or the development of a product. I enjoyed hearing from Agnete Enga and Paulette Bluhm-Sauriol of Smart Design's Femme Den who challenged us to think about how so much of our design, branding, and marketing efforts are stupidly male-focused. Time to smarten up.

Aside from the need to get smarter, we designers need to be bolder. Simple, bold, consistent design was the key to Turner Duckworth's successful work with Coca-Cola and the driving force behind the creation of evr by Dragon Rouge. I sit writing this from the lounge at The Wit Hotel, itself a bold design, as presented by architect Jackie Koo.

A smart solution isn't always an intricate solution. Simple can be smart, and it usually is. Boldness doesn't have to disrupt, sometimes it fits right in, as if it was there all along. Gone are the days when the smartest guy in the room was also the shyest. Designers, it's time be bold; time to be smart.
Day two of FUSE has been a whirlwind of tracking trends, connecting with our senses, figuring out the future and hearing the human side. Recognizing some of the outstanding humans that have been making noise here at the conference I pulled together the most retweeted moments of the day from our #FUSEDesign and #FUSEUni hashtags.

frogdesign: "We are human beings not human doings" -@AndrewZPek on pausing and tuning into others to tap creativity #fusedesign

jessiemcguire: "Great fragrances change like a great orchestra." Creative briefs should include. 'What does it smell like' #fusedesign #fuseuni

interbrand: "brand is the collective of a consumer's perceptions and expectations, validated by the desired experience." well said. #Crespo #FUSEDesign

debbiemillman: If someone asks you to make the logo bigger, you haven't designed it well enough. --riCardo Crespo #fusedesign

What stood out to you? Connect with the conversation on twitter @NextBigDesign and check in with us on Facebook as well for event art and photos.

As we’ve been tweeting and posting our activities over the past two days, our friends outside the industry have asked, “What does FUSE mean?” When the question was posed we realized that we didn’t know the answer. Does it have a meaning? When the conference launched 15 years ago, how did it get its name?

Well, we're creative people, when we don't know the answer, we seek out possible answers. So, we turned to the definition of Fuse:
Webster gives us these options:
: to reduce to a liquid or plastic state by heat
: to blend thoroughly by or as if by melting together

When this doesn't do it, again, we're creative people so we start making things up. Perhaps it was an acronym of some sort. Here are some we considered.

1. Future Understandings and Sights Enlightened.
2. Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education.
3. Find. Use. Share. Explore.
4. Fairies Under a Shared Enlightenment.
(to honor the woman having to walk around in a fairy costume)

Did we nail it? Anyone think we have it with option three above? Perhaps.

Now again, we're creative and until you take the project away from us we'll continue to work on it until we believe we've got it right. So, we explore further.

FUSE: Blending design, innovation, research and commerce. It is the conference where these unfamiliar people mingle (thank you Mingle 360), talk, exchange ideas, sing, laugh, connect, hand over business cards, shake hands, and generally find ourselves inspired by others.

Perhaps this isn't what FUSE meant when it was formed, but from our interpretation it has come to be known as a place where these four disciplines have been immersed in the same warm pool to hang out and learn from each other.

Day two has proven to be as fruitful as day one. Plenty of intellectual and emotional content to keep us all scurrying from room to room for the next insight.

Find us (Kitty Hart and Aaron Keller) and we'll share your story with FUSE. Find us and we'll share what we've learned so far. Find us and we're certain you'll enjoy the conversation.

We'll be back for more tomorrow. Now onto more Mingling and meaningful conversations.

Glee was our wake up call on the morning of day two.

It all started with a dedication to Glee, amusing and attention getting. Then we went into a trend discussion which included some Gaga and finished with an "Imported from Detroit." If this wasn't enough, we jumped feet first into a talk by Andrew Pek on adaptation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

If you missed the morning, here are the emotions you missed:

Chills on a couple occasions due to some great video content.
Laughter at a number of moments, because that's always a good feeling.
Silent wonder as we watched The Edge and other guitar artists jam.
Wonder as we listened to a conversation about scent and smelled jelly beans.
The vibration of collective creation, inspired by Andrew Pek.

If you don't like emotion, then here's the rational stuff you missed:

What does your brand smell like? Spend some time stewing on that one by Tracy Pepe.
What is netiquette and why is Korea teaching their children Internet etiquette?
What is innovative? Relevant, widely dispersed and unique. Is Twitter innovative?
How do we coach people to harness their own creative energy? Challenging? Yes.

The morning at FUSE has started out with a bounty of emotion and rational conversation. If you missed it, there are no make up notes. If you're here, you know what I mean.

We enjoyed Debbie Millman, Cheryl Swanson, Andrew Pek, Tracy Pepe this morning. Thank you all for some great thinking, emoting, singing, yelling, laughing and smelling.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

The first day of FUSE was a lively one at the workshop, in the sessions and notably on twitter. Let's take a look at yesterday's top tweets:

"Getting information off the internet is Iike taking a drink from a fire hydrant." @

Design is a signal that something has changed. --Janet Froelich

@klercollective: The longer it takes to find your need, the less likely you are to want it anymore. Instant gratification wins #fusedesign #fuseuni #svampsb

@danielin: Good work is the single greatest threat to great work. #starwood #fusedesign #fuseuni

@coconattt: "If we ask the customers what they want, they would say faster horses" - Henry Ford #FUSEdesign

@brandeffervesce: #FUSEDesign cut the crap and be honest with your consumer. Jennifer Westemeyer UbyKotex

@klercollective: @Interbrand changing the "I want" a brand to "I am" a brand...people taking on characteristics/persona of their brands #fusedesign #fuseuni

jeremydipaolo: Brands no longer belong to us. They belong to our users. - Interbrand #FUSEDesign #fuseuni

@scottperezfox: "it's not that artists see the future--they see the present. Everyone else see the past." - Karim Rashid #fusedesign

@frogdesign: "listen to your customers. Don't believe them. Interpret" Mauro Porcini #fusedesign

Kitty_Hart: Design thinkers are in love with their customers. Mauro Porcini, 3M #FuseDesign

What did you notice from day one? Did we miss anything?
Day one of the FUSE Conference has come to a close. Already, I can see one trend emerging. There is a sort of quiet rebellion from today's speakers. Not the usual blather of "challenging existing paradigms" and "innovate to evolve", but some serious anger just below the surface of our day-to-day practice. This year, it seems, the bad boys of design have come to tell it how it is, and how it should be.

Early in the day we heard from Marco Beghin of Moleskine who warned us that being a polarizing person means lots of people are gonna hate. By definition it's true — poles are diametrically opposed, often taking opposing sides of an issue. So if you're working within a brand or large organization, it's crucial to ensure that you polarize people to be on your side, and show them you're way of thinking. Let the other guys grumble.

Karim Rashid, industrial designer and all-around creative impresario, did a fair bit of talking about archetypes. In short, there are tons of existing models in our everyday design life which are completely impractical, outdated, or just downright bizarre. His examples include dining room furniture, which is endlessly created to appear as antique and traditional — a replica of something you'd find in the estates of Europe circa 1750. He went onto mention traditional leather shoes, and how amid the casual atmosphere of the workplace today, we're still stomping around in yesterday's foot-gear. He also spoke of watches, which, in his view, are needlessly complicated and downright old-fashioned in their using an intricate machine to tell time. I have to disagree with this point, though. I feel that watches are a gorgeous little way of tying us back to the machine age, and keeping us honest amid all the electronics doo-dads we interact with constantly. I have no love for watch advertising (and how it's all the same), but I love the fact that designers are constantly innovating in what you'd think is a mature medium.

Peter Clark and Wendy Church of Product Ventures gave us insight into their firm's side project attempting to resurrect Absinthe as a modern-day consumer spirit brand. A rebellious move, considering the bad rep the drink has enjoyed for nearly a century. With products like Four Loko coming under fire, can we see the introduction of something considered hallucinogenic and banned in many places? I can already see the conservative groups up in arms at that one.

Later, Stephen Gates of Starwood Hotels reveled in his own controversial status in the industry, earned in part by upsetting the designers of gizmodo.com, and otherwise his own internal clients who would resist the re-design of a hotel chain's website, for example. Stephen's mantras of the day are simply that "good is not good enough" and that "good design is the enemy of great design." Stephen's opinion is that the truly groundbreaking work, the kind of work needed to push a brand to the next level, is fundamentally disruptive. Therefore, it's a good thing when the management team says "I'm nervous." Change is supposed to make you nervous. If it doesn't, he warns, it's really just more of the same.

It is my opinion — as a self-proclaimed fellow bad boy of design — that all criticism comes first from passion, not from jealousy, anger, bitterness, or any other ego-bolstering subconscious practices. We want more from our peers and our profession, from our clients and from ourselves. And so we ask for it, sometimes in less-than-sugary terms. All designers should be bad boys, when the situation calls for it. Constant self-improvement is part of our "never done learning" philosophy. Design is never done. Design is never finished. We are never satisfied.
We laughed, we cried, we thought, we listened, we talked, we Mingled, we looked, we listened more, we commented, we tweeted, we retweeted, we blogged, we clogged (not really), we enjoyed. One day of Fuse resulted in the following.

We learned it's never too early to bring up the phrase, "the big idea." Ok, I guess we knew that already, but it's always good to be reminded.

We watched an Italian (Mauro) compress a 60 minute speech into 30 minutes. And we thought Italians talk fast in their native language! Keeping up was a challenge.

We were impressed and delighted by the intriguing presentation approach of Marco Beghin as he reminded us that analog and digital can co-habitate. I am now shopping for a new Moleskine journal.

We sat with our mouths hanging open as Karim Rashid talked about living digital and living in our current social structure. Anyone else think it really must be hard for Karim to live in our "less than designed" world?

We learned about a new Mingle technology and found ourselves mingling with a fair number of interesting people. Awkward at first, but everyone's doing it.

We came back from lunch and a fight nearly broke out in a research discussion. Really, the audience took over and we all enjoyed the impromptu debate.

Then, we moved into a presentation by Kotex and talk about female body parts. Way to make the men in the audience squirm, Jennifer. We really enjoyed it.

We'll be back for more tomorrow. Now onto more Mingling and meaningful conversations.

What do focus groups reveal about consumer behavior?

Let's put it this way, if you want to learn how an elephant lives do you go to the zoo? Or do you go to where the elephant lives, eats, poops, and dies? How can you learn about purchase behavior when you're not where the purchase behavior happens? Where does purchase behavior happen? In the aisle. Where do focus groups happen?

Yeah, that's right, "how can focus groups reveal purchase behaviors?" They reveal more about corporate consumer behavior.

If you were in the research session today, you enjoyed some dramatic theatre. We had a discussion where the audience took over in a great way. The discussion was dramatic and there were misinterpretations and misunderstandings.

A fist fight almost broke out.

Someone took the microphone up to the front of the room and gave some "focus" to the focus group conversation. If I wasn't sure I would have thought this was a planned thing, but I'm certain it was all by accident.

The discussion should have gone further. The solutions should have been revealed, we were almost there. It was good to hear the passion around research and we got some clarity.

Thank you FUSE for creating the platform for the discussion. Now let's continue it here and beyond.

So, I ask the broader community. What do focus groups reveal about consumer behavior?

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,
The morning keynote sessions in the opening symposium of FUSE 2011 raised a number of questions. John Silva, President & Creative Director of DuPuis Group asked, how can be escape parity? Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Strategic Design at 3M asked how can you spread design innovation throughout a company? And Marco Beghin of Moleskine America asked 'How do we exist on the digital analog continuum?'

Starting off the day, John Silva explored parity. First asking "Is parity always bad?" it can be helpful when you're in 'not losing' survival mode, but it isn't the recipe for winning. Silva's recipe for avoid "the grind" is as follows:
1. Have a meaningful consumer insight
2. Have a real point of difference
3. Have inspired, emotive creativity
4. Use collaboration, wisdom and courage

Mauro Porcini was up next asking "Who do you design for?" The answer needs to be not "consumers," but users and ideally someone you love. Brands should seek to create tangible solutions as well as intangible inspiration. Start with the "wow" aspect of visceral impact, continue with an interactive experience. This should lead to spontaneous, word of mouth spreading of the brand story.

Marco Beghin was up next discussing the digital analog continuum, and the way the things we carry with us in the world become shorthand for who we are. Using his own Moleskine notebook and a projector to tell his story, Marco explored the way technology and tradition interact. Moleskine tries to design for the modern nomad.
Taking it one step further, Karim Rashid wrapped up the morning general session by discussing the way the physical world is becoming a seamless extension of the digital world. From movement of more to less, the dematerialization of most of the world's goods (from money to holiday gifts) to the way virtual innovation has lead to increased opportunities for individualization in everyday life. Says Rashid "You could argue that you no longer need anything physical in the world, unless it creates an enhanced experience."

Increased technology allows for more opportunities for creativity and technology has increased the boundaries of creation. 92% of the world's products are made by machines. As a result machines can even custom build objects any way they can be imagined. The future as Rashid sees it is one of humanization and personalization in an increasingly industrial age.
The sharing has started, with an extraordinary morning.

The event started "easy", with an opening speech by Mr. Silva. Moved into "quick" with a thoroughly interesting speech by Mauro Porcini from 3M. Then, dipped into "engage" with an analog / digital presentation by the president of Moleskine America. And, finally we jumped into "thoughtful" with Karim Rashid, he talked while his work was streaming in the background.

The content started off light with "the big idea" coming out rather early. But, it quickly moved to the deep end of the pool with Mauro and Karim Rashid taking on "design thinking" and "designed experiences." The morning couldn't have been packed with a more gratifying meal of intellectual content. And, instead of coming away with that, "oh, I'm full" feeling, I felt like it was the right amount to get us all started.

Then, its into some more rational vs emotional conversations about research. The question was posed by John Silva, "Do focus groups really reveal purchase behavior?" Which, of course because we're research fascinated, we blogged about already.

The afternoon has now moved into a discussion around feminine hygiene products, which I'll leave for others to discuss. Though, Jennifer Westemeyer gave us a great perspective on the subject matter.

Now on to our friend Peter Routsis of Benjamin Moore. Great presentation with insights into where brands originate, "your brand is your culture."

And, what a better way to finish than a behind the scenes on how the Old Spice campaign came to life. Nicely done, thank you Wieden + Kennedy for all your contributions to our culture.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

Leading up to FUSE 2011, the staff in the IIR offices was truly excited about this year's theme of "sharing extraordinary." Dan Madinabeitia, Director of IIR's in-house Art Department, decided to lead a project designed to encourage FUSE attendees, and perhaps design professionals across the world, to come together, share something of themselves and engage on a collective creation. Hence the "Sharing Extraordinary Project" was created.

We went behind the scenes to learn more about the project. Watch the video on our facebook page here.

At this year's FUSE conference, attendees will be invited to create a unique design given only a 4x4 square of paper, colorful markers, and their creativity. Squares will be collected into the sharing extraordinary wall, and by the end of the event we hope to have a creation as diverse and interesting as the conference attendee list. The resulting creations will be shared on Facebook during and after the event, where attendees can tag their photos and comment on others.

We've already gotten started with some examples here. Share your own at the conference in Chicago April 11th-13th.
Each week leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be bringing you an interesting fact that we learned at FUSE 2010. You can find it across the FUSE Network on twitter @NextBigDesign, the FUSE Facebook Page and the FUSE LinkedIn Group.

This week's FUSE for thought: “Brands are like people; they have personalities. But the first thing you notice about a person is not their personality; it’s their appearance.”

Do you have a FUSE Design Fact? What was the best thing you learned at FUSE 2010?
Share with us today and look for us next week with live coverage from FUSE 2011!

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 11-13, visit the webpage.
London Logo?

It was late Summer 2009 when a minor scandal hit the Internet. The Mayor of London put out the call that London needs a new logo. Not just a new logo, but one logo to rule them all. A single graphic identity to unify all the official branches of London life, concerning tourism, transport, the arts, sport, government, etc. etc. Following the success of Wolff Olins's NYC efforts — creating a single identity for all things New York — London sought to take a similar approach and bring order to the chaos. It was a noble plan, because once illustrated, the need was indeed apparent.

Existing London Identities
The many logos of London. Can we have some unity please? Image via Brand New

The scandal, if we can call it that, was in how the design firms were selected for a chance at the £400,000 fee associated with the project. In short, a huge list of criteria were included in the brief/tender, thus eliminating all those three-person firms that are doing really great work. Requirements concerning fire insurance, community outreach and charity donations, carbon footprints, and even something to do with LGBT policies tainted the whole project with a stink of public-sector red tape and corporate pandering. A deadly combination. A few notable firms were shortlisted, but the project was shelved, and no creative work ever emerged from said agencies.

In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! In the final week leading up to FUSE 2011 we spoke with Agnete Enga, Product Designer and Paulette Bluhm-Sauriol, Communication Designer from Smart Design. Agnete and Paulette will be presenting "We Need to Talk" at this year's FUSE conference. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

About "We Need To Talk":
“We need to talk…” No one likes to hear this in a relationship but for Agnete Enga, Product Designer and Paulette Bluhm-Sauriol, Communication Designer from Smart Design, these words are essential. Companies are really struggling to connect with the female market, and by opening up a healthier dialogue with women, they believe your brand’s connection with women can be stronger.

But how do you get her attention, and more importantly, her long-lasting commitment? It’s simple: Have a meaningful relationship with her.

Okay, that’s not simple, which is why “we need to talk” at Fuse this year in Chicago. As experts on designing experiences that women love, Agnete and Paulette will share essential relationship advice to boost communication between your brand and the world’s largest business opportunity — women.

Agnete and Paulette were kind enough to share some time with us an record an interview for our FUSE Speaker Spotlight podcast series. Listen to the interview here. To see examples if some of the work discussed in the podcast visit the following links:
Cardinal Endura Scrubs
OXO Tot Sprout Chair
More about Femme Den

Music for this week's FUSE podcast was contributed by Audiobrain.

About Smart Design:
Improving daily life, that’s what Smart Design strives to achieve with each and every design challenge presented. Through purposeful innovation and design leadership, we have delivered hundreds of products enabling enjoyable and satisfying consumer experiences time and again.

In 2010 Smart Design was named National Design Award winner for Product Design and we have been listed as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.

Smart Design has a 31-year history of turning insight and innovation into successful consumer products, communications, and brands. Our multi-disciplinary approach brings together experts in product, graphic, and interaction design, business factors, engineering, and design research to ensure that our solutions connect with people. Smart Design’s consistent results are delivered by an international staff of 130 – working in teams across offices in New York, San Francisco, and Barcelona.

The Femme Den is an internal collective at Smart Design that is paving the way for a deeper understanding around design and gender. Our work stimulates positive change through engaging clients and the design community in a fresh dialog on this universal topic.

Learn more at www.smartdesignworldwide.com and hear more from Agnete Enga and Paulette Bluhm-Sauriol on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 in the Cultural Anthropology, Insights & Trends track at FUSE 2011.
Designers these days spend a good amount of time on the Internet. Most of us are addicts of some ilk, whether it be Twitter, blogs, Facebook, news, or podcasts. So it didn’t take long for us to spring into action when we heard news of the earthquake-cum-tsunami-cum-near-meltdown in eastern Japan. We lent our support in the way we know how … by designing stuff.

Seemingly overnight, a flurry of posters popped up encouraging people to donate money to the Red Cross and other aid organizations. Many of these capitalize on Japan’s flag — itself a design icon — using different visual cues to associate earthquakes, flooding, breaking, and general stress to the otherwise ordered flag.

Mr. Conde
Weeping Sun, by Mr. Conde

Daniel Freytag
Epicenter, by Daniel Freytag

poster by Zac Neulieb
Amplitude, by Zac Neulieb

Angel Script from Veer

It’s not just posters, though. Veer joined in by offering a font download for a donation, and t-shirts such as that on Merchline all go towards the cause. Scout Books has a similar promotion, with a very Japanese design to entice a donation/purchase.

Scout Books
Scout Books Japanese design

t-shirt by Hydro74
T-Shirt by Hydro74

In recent weeks, editions of Bloomberg Business Week and The New Yorker both featured Japan-focused covers, making use of the sun and cherry blossoms, respectively.

Bloomberg Business Week cover
Bloomberg Business Week cover

The New Yorker cover
The New Yorker cover by Christoph Niemann

Once the smoke cleared, Japanese designers got in on the act taking part in a campaign to encourage the population to save energy — a move that will lessen the demands on the damaged power grid and help aid overall recovery and rebuilding. This collection is oh so Japanese.

Save Energy

Save Energy

Save Energy

This design reaction to the events in Japan reminds us of two things. First, it serves to reignite the conversation about cultural iconography. Japan, in this case, is rich in its own icons, from the rising sun flag, to the calligraphy of its language, to the block prints and etches of their pre-industrial age, to the playful and bold look of anime and video games. Designers the world over can use these tools to create new designs, referencing, but not mocking, the country of origin. Second, it helps refocus on the fact that design is, at the very heart of all things, a communication tool. Posters carry a message, and to drive that message home we need strong visuals, we need to connect to the audience and create an emotional impact. It’s an exercise in simple design, and basic graphic communication.

Prescott Perez-Fox is an independent brand developer and graphic designer in Metro New York. Visit his blog, perezfox.com »

Everything is designed. Everyone is a designer. So, where does that leave us?

Think about it. Step outside your day and look at your world. You drive in a designed car or take a designed train. You live in a designed house or a designed flat. You work on a designed computer, unless you use a PC (small bit of humor). You wear designed outerwear and underwear. You work at a designed desk and perhaps sit in a designed chair. You eat designed meals and read designed books. You walk through designed cities and communities. So, is everything designed?

What does it mean to say everything is designed? Is it only about aesthetics? A parallel question goes out to business and commerce, is it all about the bottom line?

Can’t be. That’s jank. [See a definition for jank below.]

Here’s how we see it. Not all things are designed. Some things are just created. Some people and organizations have a “that’s good enough” attitude. This leaves design to represent those items, intangibles and experiences that are approached from a more thoughtful perspective. Thus translating to a method, belief system and group of people who take a more holistic approach.

So, design = something thoughtfully planned and non-design = jank.

Not everyone thinks like a designer, even some with a designer title. Some are capable of producing beautiful works of art and aesthetically pleasing design [which shouldn’t be discounted], but they are still not design-thinkers. If design is to be used as a business strategy platform, it needs to be clear what good design actually is, right? And, if it’s only aesthetics then buildings would be falling down all around us. The reference is subtle, but important.

While I haven’t seen one winning answer to the good/bad design challenge, we do know how to foster an environment where design thinking thrives. Here are some methods to develop design thinking in your organization.

  • Start with a collaborative environment where ideas are shared early and often. The physical space shouldn’t be underestimated because it makes tremendous contribution.
  • Gather a group of people with varied disciplines and backgrounds capable of getting specific work done. Then, infuse in them a belief system around what your design philosophy means.
  • Provide the minimum necessary tools and resources to get the work done, but not the maximum requested.
  • Pay a reasonable salary and reward the results of their work, not fiscally.
  • Give a broad picture of what success looks and feels like, then let the effort begin. Keep in tune with what’s being done, but stay out unless you’re deep in it daily.

This is merely one facet of the argument for design as a business strategy. The extraordinary experience for me was when I observed businesses like P&G, Target, and Apple using design as a business strategy platform. It left me with a warm feeling inside and an extraordinary experience to tell.

So, the question, is your business strategy designed or are you set up to just get it done [whatever it is]?

Put more clearly, are you jank or are you designed?

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

Jank [def]: broken, superfluous, meaningless, stupid, ridiculously moronic, or of questionable quality.

In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! This week we have Marco Beghin, President, Moleskine® America, Inc. who will be presenting "Moleskine Explores the Analog Digital Continuum," on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

We recorded an interview with Marco as part of the FUSE Speaker Spotlight podcast series. Click here to listen to the podcast. Music for this podcast series was provided by Emmy Award-Winning Sonic Branding Boutique Audiobrain.

1. Tell us about a project you are working on or recently completed that you are proud of?

2011 is going to be very exciting for us at Moleskine®. We have a number of new collections and initiatives launching throughout the year. I am very excited about sharing some news of it with the FUSE audience in Chicago.

2. Think ahead 5 years, what major changes for design do you see?

We expect people to become more sophisticated in how they integrate both analog and digital products into their lives. They will continue to be both mobile and connected and their identities will be defined more by the objects they carry with them than where they are at any moment. I see designers recognizing the opportunities to solve problems all along the spectrum of analog to digital.

3. What inspired you to get in the field? What keeps you motivated?

I love design and business. I have always wanted to do something that helps people express themselves. Everyday our users can open their notebook to a blank page and write their story. We provide a open canvas that helps people unlock their creativity.

I am also very interested in how people establish a personal connection with a brand. I am fascinated by the the study of the body and think the objects we choose to keep physically close to us is very important to who we are.

4. What is one thing you’re excited about for this year’s FUSE?

A pause. I know I am busy and I assume all the important people attending the conference are busy as well. I am excited that we can take a pause together to share ideas, our stories, and to really dig into this theme of Sharing the Extraordinary. It is really special that everyone is willing to make time for this.

People can follow the larger world of how people engage Moleskine products at www.moleskine.com and www.moleskinerie.com or on Twitter @Moleskine. As always, follow FUSE for more updates on twitter @NextBigDesign.

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