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: “People are moving away from ‘bad’ behaviors that created this economic mess: instant gratification, selfishness, greed and over-indulgence” ~ Peter Clarke

Do you have a FUSE Design Fact? What was the best thing you learned at FUSE 2010?
Share with us today and look for another fact next Friday!

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 11-13, visit the webpage.
In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! This week we have Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Strategic Design, 3M, who will be presenting the keynote address "Becoming a Design-Sensitive Company: How to Extend the Influence of Design Across the Organization" at FUSE 2011. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

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

There are many exciting projects that I am working on at the moment, in a variety of different categories, and many of them are classified as confidential, but if I have to pick up one that I particularly love amongst the recently launched then I would choose the design of our Filtrete® Water Station. The world is inundated by plastic water bottles and this is a renowned problem for our environment. Yet, plastic bottles are convenient, ready to use, portable, accessible anywhere. And, last but not least, in a branded world, they carry a pleasurable branded experience. People hates them and love them. Leveraging innovative 3M technologies, a careful analysis of user behaviors, needs and wants, and a deep understanding of the market dynamics, we came up with a simple elegant solution: a device that quickly filters water directly into four 16.9 oz. reusable bottles. The device and the four bottles can be placed all together inside the refrigerator and be ready for use any moment. A convenient, enjoyable, eco-friendly solution that blends the practical and emotional benefits of the two experiences into one, saving up to 3,000 bottles of water, over 100 lbs. plastic and more than $400, per year per family. And it seems people are appreciating the innovation we are proposing to them.

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

Design will be embedded strategically into any organization, no matter the market place, the nature of the business, the geography. From the bottom to the top of the organization hierarchy. We live in a society where
- The WorldWide Web has increased Awareness,
- The Global Market has increased Accessibility,
- Social Networking is acting as Filter and Amplifier of relevant information in communities of peers
- Four Different Generations are co-living for the first time in history, with different drivers and different backgrounds, into the same society

This hyper complex, hyper accelerated scenario has generated modern consumers that are getting more and more spoiled, self-aware and smart: corporations need to provide solutions that are holistic, they need to generate products or services that can enable the enjoyable fulfilling experiences that people are seeking. If your company won’t do it, that’s not a problem: somebody else will do it for you.

Design therefore is becoming not a choice anymore. It’s a must and it will keep expanding into corporations simply because it is the best discipline to act as interpreter and catalyst of the different variables to be considered when you are called to invent and execute holistic solutions.

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

I have grown surrounded by the fascinating smell and sound of Italian old wood, paper, erasers and pencils in the architecture studio of my father, in a small court in the charming city of Gallarate, out of Milano. My grandfather has passed the last 20 years of his life painting, with all kind of techniques and my house as a kid has been always filled with his art and the one of my own father. This background, blended with a visceral love for creativity, invention, beauty and art, has been the driver for my initial choice. And I have to admit, it has been a lucky intuition, as at the time I was only partially aware of the real charm of this fantastic discipline.
What keeps me motivated is the vision. I always aim for something bigger, smarter, better. In my life, in my projects, in my work. Always. Without rest. A life without a vision, without a dream, without the passion that everyday drives me to get to a better condition, to generate a better solution, to craft a better world, is not a life that I can even consider. Both in the professional and in the private field. Who knows me, knows it well.

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

Having the pleasure to open the conference with the first speech and doing it just before Karim Rashid, a friend, a partner and a professional that I admire for how has been able to design hundreds of products and environments appealing and accessible to the masses, yet unique and sophisticated, transforming his own name in a valuable brand. You can count the individuals that have been able to do all of it together, at worldwide level, on the fingers of your hands. I am sure there will be a good karma in that first hour of the conference….

5. What is your favorite brand?

I would say Steve Jobs: a man that definitely has reached the status of a brand thanks to his vision, to his passion, to his personal history, to his achievements. I will never forget his Commencement speech at Stanford. Each designer should be thankful to Steve, as he was able first of all to show to the business world that design can generate value for corporations beyond beauty and coolness.

The second one is Prada: elegance, class and innovation magically blended in perfect balance. Prada creations are music to see, harmony for your eyes. The brand is never showed off, and even when exposed is an accent of class stitched in a corner, in a delicate way, there to remind you and others the belonging to a superior world of charm and exclusivity.

6. If you could invite 2 people to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be?

The first one would be Plato. His theories about Love as the driver of the universe, as a process of pursuing the good by creation through both body and soul, as desire to create (and procreate), stimulated by any contact with beautiful things and deadened by the encounter of ugliness. Love as a driver to create in the body by generating children, or in the soul by creating works of art and philosophy, Love as a process and a bridge between the mortal and the divine each of us aspires to, a gateway toward attaining immortality.
Love as Design! What a wonderful dinner I would have with Plato! I wouldn’t need a second guest actually. He would be enough…..

7. What is your dream project?

Design a system that can establish the Happiness of People as the new most important metric for business analysts to judge corporation’s performance and stock value. Reward the stock of corporations that produce happiness in the society and happiness for their own employees. I would love to design a system and its related metrics that would ignite the corporate war for happiness.

The delicacy of meaning.

We use language to communicate, to add meaning and allow others to translate and understand. Meaning is both delicate and changing. As generations, we attach new meaning to words. Just try to explain that the word "
gay" means “happy” to your young kids. Then wait for their friends to say it in a different way and you’ll get the question, "Dad, why do people think I'm 'so' happy?"

And, there are more delicate forms of this idea. The phrase "totally unworthy" may remind you of
Wayne's World, or maybe that's just me. But you might be surprised to know that the phrase was also used in the Declaration of Independence by the founding fathers of the United States to describe the then King of England. A good example of how meaning changes throughout the years.

Now let’s get to the delicate nuances of words and how we use them in conversation. Have you ever had a moment when you couldn't tell if something was a compliment or an insult? Happens to me all the time. Here's one of my favorites from friends who knew me in college; "Wow, amazing, you actually wrote a book?"

Yes, "actually" I wrote two books. And, yes they "actually" sell in Barnes & Noble and on
Amazon.com. You get the idea, but try one of these phrases below on a Monday and the other on a Tuesday. Email me if you're not sleeping on the couch or at least getting an earful from your significant other on Tuesday.

Statement One: You look beautiful today. Response: Thank you.
Statement Two: You actually look beautiful today. Response: What did you say?

So, how does this relate to an extraordinary experience?

We had the tremendous opportunity to name a Herman Miller chair. In the world of naming, this is the Olympic marathon. We presented three sets of names; the final name chosen was Setu. The word means bridge in Hindi and also happens to be a yoga move. We landed on this because of the bridge-like spinal structure of the chair. It was also designed to take its place in the spaces in between, like hospitals, schools, airports and all the other locations between work and home. The chair bridged spaces in our lives. The name had the right meaning, and more importantly, it hurdled all international trademark clearances.

Capsule’s extraordinary moment was when we heard this name had been selected. We received accolades from our client, Herman Miller, and internal elation at another naming success. Capsule helped a client transform a word into a brand. It is the smallest of first steps, but one of the most critical to any brand.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

This time of year I tend to watch a ton of movies. Not solely because the weather is cold and dreary, but because Hollywood has released its nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards. For whatever reason, I feel compelled — if not ordered — to watch as many movies from the list as possible. And I enjoy doing so, even if it makes me somewhat anti-social for a few weeks in January and February.

There was some minor graphic design related news regarding the Oscars. The envelopes are being redesigned. Cool, I suppose. But I'm thinking once again about one of my favourite parts of the ceremony, comparing movies based on their typography.

Recently, I spotted a series of "alternative" poster designs from Mr. Shabba, aka Dean Walton, wherein he displays the movie's title arranged in white against a coloured background. This is essentially the same technique used during the Oscars ceremony broadcast. I love seeing the movie's typemark arranged as minimally as possible, removed from the poster and actors' faces, not surrounded by credits, nor animated in any fashion. In the case of the Oscars ceremony, it's meant to remind us of what we are already familiar with, but in doing so, the entire essence of the movie is wrapped up in these little letters.

I'm purposefully not displaying them here because I want you to think in your mind about what I'm saying. Think of Toy Story's blocky sans-serif, stacked clumsily upon itself, or The Social Network typed out in a web-safe font and reminiscent of Facebook's own logo. Think about the bold 19th century metal type that inspired True Grit or the swoopy little S in Black Swan. Some are more elaborate than others, of course. Think about Harry Potter or The Matrix, both type treatments are forever associated with those films. Let's not even get into classic movies like Star Wars or The Rocky Horror Picture Show which became famous in part due to their unique typographic title.

No matter our taste in movie fonts, we've probably never thought about how similar they are, generally speaking. The Oscars feature the best of the best, and usually this means some effort went into typography. For the rest, they use Trajan. Check out this great video illustrating just how many movies default to Trajan for their title logo. For knucklehead comedies, it's almost certainly Helvetica Extra Bold, set in bright red.

That just about says it all. So this year, when you create your Oscar predictions, remember to factor in typography. Subtract points for anything that uses Trajan. Bonus points for Helvetica.

Prescott Perez-Fox is an independent brand developer and graphic designer in Metro New York. He admits to using Trajan in past projects, but not on his blog, perezfox.com »

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 fact:
FUSE for thought: Lego adopts “innovation vocabulary”: designers align on “innovation ambition” across projects and departments worldwide

Do you have a FUSE Design Fact? What was the best thing you learned at FUSE 2010? What changes is your company making to increase innovation across departments or offices?

Share with us today and look for another fact next Friday!

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 11-13, visit the webpage.
Join us at FUSE 2011, April 11-13, 2011 in Chicago, and hear the story of one of Target’s most successful private brands. The "Giada De Laurentiis for Target: The Building of a Brand" session will share the story behind the creation of Giada De Laurentiis for Target brand from the identification of the business opportunity to how the brand was brought to market in nine short months. The presentation will also include a peak at the brand positioning, design process, packaging and marketing.

Giada De Laurentiis for Target: The Building of a Brand,
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

- Fiona Mitchell, Creative Visioneer, Target
- Michelle Mesenburg, Marketing Director, Target

Other featured sessions from leading CPGs and Retailers include:

• For the Love of Packaging: Design for the Relationship and Experience -> Private Brand P.O.V., Vickie L. VanHurley, Ph.D., Design Director, Packaging, Meijer

• Leveraging Trends to Build Brands: Treating Fragrance & Skincare Like Fashion, David K. Lyon, Vice President Brand Design, Bath & Body Works

• Building Iconic Brands, Olga DelaRoza, Procter & Gamble

• Translating Consumer Values Around Sustainability to the Luxury Goods Market, Jake McCabe, Creative Director, Coty Inc.

• Reviving an Icon: How to Stay True to your Roots Whilst Becoming a Global Icon, Mrs. Sandra Lee, Group Director, Crabtree & Eveyln

• Growing Brands Through Strategic Design, Christine Mau, Brand Design Director, Kimberly-Clark

• Approaches to Innovation that Transform the Commodity into the Coveted, Candace Walters, Design Manager, MillersCoors

• A Good Design is Only Half the Battle, Pio Schunker, Senior Vice President, Creative Excellence, Coca-Cola

• How to Drive Empathy into Design: The Case for Anthropology, Donna M. Romeo, PhD, Group Manager, Strategic Insights, Frito-Lay/ Pepsico

• Expanding a Brand Globally in a World with No Borders, Glen Spurrier, VP Global Creative Marketing, Kao Brands Company

• Packaging Innovation Fueled by Trends Insights, Jennifer Westemeyer, Brand Design Director, Kimberly Clark

• Brand Lifestyle Marketing in the Digital Space, Lisa Lopuck, Vice President of Marketing, Creative, Monster Energy Beverage Company

Download the FUSE Brochure for more sessions and full descriptions here.

Let FUSE inspire you to achieve new heights of greatness for yourself and your brands. Register here.
2010 sold out, make sure to secure your spot for FUSE 2011 today.

The Fuse: Design & Culture, Brand Identity & Packaging Team
In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! This week we have Richelle Nassos of Me4Kids, who will be presenting "Packaging As Advertising: A MediBag Case Study," in the Brand Strategy Track on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

1. Tell us about a project you are working on or recently completed that you are proud of?
Our most recent accomplishment is the SMILEBUDDY – a dental hygiene kit for kids – Getting kids to enjoy the experience of keeping their teeth clean is anything but fun..so we wanted to put the FUN into keeping kids teeth clean, because our SMILE is for life!

2. Think ahead 5 years, what major changes for design do you see?
I don’t see a lot of major changes in design, we just did a huge overhaul and we are very happy with it. Time brings change, we understand that and as a manufacturer in the big box stores you have to keep up with the most recent trends, but we also want to affirm our brand and look so Moms are comfortable with our packaging and get used to seeing our touchy feely little characters that both Mom and child can relate to. We strongly feel that in our own little way that “small” is able to take on “Big” when you partner with the right retail buyers. Some of our loyal buyers have been somewhat of a “mentor” and we are grateful for that. We feel that design is getting more attention/focus from the C-suite, but it is also going beyond that to actually leveling the playing field. David and Goliath kind of stuff.

3. What inspired you to get in the field? What keeps you motivated?
My husband and I are inspired simply by making a difference, having a quality of life to be able to spend more time with our family and we love being our own boss. We stay motivated by our passion for LIFE and we draw energy from the Man upstairs!

4. What is one thing you’re excited about for this year’s Fuse?
We are so honored to share our story with others and let them know that dreams do come true and being the “underdog” isn’t so bad after all. FUSE is such a wonderful opportunity for us and we feel equally blessed that we were able to partner with an elite company such as FLOOD that understood our drive, focus and passion to still have that small family look in a BIG box world. I am also looking forward to hear the insight of one of your speakers, Olga DelaRoza of Procter & Gamble.

You can find Richelle at Me4Kidz.

Authenticity matters: the planet will thank you.

I've picked on Cameron Diaz in our packaging book for attaching herself to the environmental movement. She gets a high rating from "who's who in green" but do we trust everything we read online? I don't even trust what I write online so I verify with a couple of other sources, which isn’t hard today. So, in five minutes of searching for more articles on Cameron I find, in her words, something from an interview with Playboy.

DIAZ: "Oh gosh, I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten on a plane for love. It’s not unusual in this business; my lifestyle demands it. I’m always traveling for [whispers] ... You’ve got to go where it is."

I removed the word after [whisper] because this is a PG-13 blog.

Well, Diaz, your lifestyle demands it? Really? How many offsets do you have to buy to get on a plane countless times for what you whispered above? Maybe instead of offsetting that behavior you could curb that behavior? Put an environmentalist’s chastity belt on it Cameron and then you’ll be a bit more eco-authentic. Perhaps you could try riding your Schwinn for love instead.

Cameron Diaz is eco-icky.

Don't pretend to be a friend of the environmental moment and then do things like you allude to above. Because the environmental movement isn't a fad or a movement, it’s a requirement. You also can't just crash the party and pretend to be a friend; you have to behave differently when you show up. Cameron, are you willing to become "airplane celibate?" Or are you just doing this because you have to look like you care about something?

Come on, we want you at the party, on the bus, in the club, don’t get me wrong we need to believe you. You do have the sexy thing going, but you're a fake environmentalist. The planet doesn't need more fakes; it needs a reality check that doesn't bounce.

Finding yet another superstar brand that still isn’t being authentic is disappointing.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

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 the Next Big Design Blog, @NextBigDesign, the Fuse Facebook Page and the FUSE LinkedIn Group.

This week's fact:
#FUSE for thought: Lego’s radical design program “D4B” cuts toymaker’s traditional design process from 24 months to 6 months!

Do you have a Fuse Design Fact?

Share it with us today and look for another fact on Friday!

To find out more about this year's Fuse, visit the webpage.
Ozzy Ozbourne and Justin Bieber, for some reason
Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber, for some reason.

I'm not a fan of the Super Bowl. Not only because I play and love Rugby, but because the Super Bowl has come to symbolise all the gloss and absurdity of consumerism, mass media, and ritualised sports in America. A friend of mine once labelled it "a de facto holiday to celebrate American sloth," to which I quickly added, "... and wrath, and greed, and gluttony." Pretty much all of our sins wrapped up in one shiny package.

Super Bowl advertising had a good run. Yes, I use the past tense. Super Bowl advertising peaked, and is now on the decline. As the influence of the 30-second spot continues to deplete, the continued dedication that large brands have for Super Bowl advertising proves more and more sad. Today, consumers just don't care what's on tv, no matter have shocking or cheeky. It shows a trend that big brands are out of touch, using the same old tactics to reach a brand new audience.

This year, for the first time in a while, I watched the game live, with attention on the ads. After filtering out all the FOX promotional junk and over-the-top movie trailers, I realised that every brand applies the same approach to their advertising: clowning. They're attempting to hold on to our attention — and their influence — with a most pureil technique. They're acting like clowns.

Theoretically, I don't mind if a brand assumes the clown as a brand archetype. Brands like Bud Light have risen to prominence latching on to youth, careless, clown-sensitive beer drinkers (ie, bachelors). But now we're seeing the same mindless clowning used ubiquitously by brands like Doritos, Pepsi, Cheverolet, CareerBuilder, Snickers, eTrade, and Best Buy to name a few. Check out the ads for yourself, and tell me they don't all go for the same bottom-feeding humour — some kind of normal situation with an out-of-place character or dialogue. Maybe a device that backfires and causes bodily harm. Craig Ferguson, host of the Late Late Show on CBS, summarised the ads on the following Monday night asking his audience, "did you see the one where the guy gets hit in the balls ... all of them?" The slapstick has to end.

My choice for ad of the night goes to one brand that actually treats the audience like adults. Royal Caribbean's 30-second spot "February" promotes their cruises as winter getaways, not as the wacky neighbor. The ad features a soundtrack from yesteryear with wintery lyrics and on-screen copy set against the obvious summery imagery of folks in bathing suits and other relaxing outdoor scenes only available in latitudes afar. The subtle approach worked on me, as I not only remembered this ad, but thought enough of its execution to write this article. I haven't quite taken the step of booking a cruise, but if I had the money (or a girlfriend) I'd be floating the idea.

The reason this ad stands out for me is that it's one of the night's few that didn't try to clown me. Royal Caribbean positions itself as a grown-up brand, easing my pain during tough winters, setting up a memorable experience, and generally being my buddy. In other words, they're not the type to kick me in the balls.

Someone will point out how much money Bud Light actually makes on their Super Bowl impressions, but I'm not bothered solely by numbers. The long-term growth of a brand is about creating relationships, taking consumers on a journey, not just telling them a joke. Clowns are in-and-out in 5 seconds, friends stay with you a lifetime.

Prescott Perez-Fox is an independent brand developer and graphic designer in Metro New York. He tries never to mention [American] football or clowns on his blog, perezfox.com »

You know what your brand colors are, do you know your brand scent?

We have seen a flurry of innovations coming after flat screens entered the marketplace. When 3D television launched, my internal dialog (we all have one) was saying “who in the world would buy into that idea?” Then a friend came over, someone I respect deeply, and told me all about his new 3D television. He had me considering it – and thinking at least it would keep those goofy glasses to the privacy of one’s home.

Surprised? Yes. Amused? Maybe. Wondering? Always.

What does this mean for scent? Here’s a pattern you’ve probably noticed. 3D movies take off, now we have more 3D content. Enter 3D television and consumers have something to consume at home in 3D, other than a McDonald’s BigMac.

With all the screen technology innovations, where next? And will we see a pattern? Will we see more scented movies, then scented television? The technology exists in a couple forms, and made waves back in 2007 with “Willy Wonka.” But, it seems to have become stuck in the stink.

Well, if FUSE and Tracy Pepe have any influence, we will see our world getting scented up soon. Tracy has been given the charge to design a scent for the FUSE conference, while she speaks at the conference. A unique FUSE scent, amazing in my view.

Will we call this the smell of innovation? And, what does innovation smell like, for that matter? What does design smell like: a freshly carved No.2 pencil? I believe we will find out in April.

My interest in scent goes far back and continues to grow as I learn more and as we design more experiences for clients. I spoke on the importance of designing to the senses in 2009. Let me tell you, after stuffing 1000 envelops with the banana-scented invitations, my staff were ready to kill me, with a banana.

My understanding of the science of smelling has now expanded exponentially following my recent conversation with Tracy. Here are five things I learned. Tell me if you are already familiar with these factoids.

One: P&G is aware of certain product categories that are only purchased on scent.

Two: Disney has been scenting their parks for more than 20 years. And no, it’s not the hallmark smell of teen angst.

Three: Scent is connected to the limbic system in our brain, which is directly linked with emotion, behavior and long-term memory. As brand and design people we love to reach those consumer parts.

Four: Similar to music, smells have top, middle and base notes; each has a purpose and contributes emotionally to the experience someone has. Music to my nose.

Five: Scent is coming to MoMA along with Parsons and Coty in March, to explore this new area in the design of experiences. This should be an interesting event.

These are just a handful of items you will learn from Tracy Pepe if you attend her event at FUSE. If you are curious like me and have a nose on your face, this will be a good one to attend.

Now, to my extraordinary moment, because I know you’re wondering how I’ll tie this one. We (brand owners) spend so many creative, financial, and planetary resources to get people to remember our brands. Right? And, what sense ties closest to long-term memory? Scent.

What is the scent of your brand? That’s right, I’m asking you to tell me what your brand smells like. Be prepared with a good answer because Tracy will ask you as well.

One complimentary copy of our Logo and Packaging Design books to the most creative answer posted.

See Books Here.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

Supermarkets offer a lot of variety. Too much, perhaps. (photo via The Economist)

Our capitalist upbringings have taught us that choice is a good thing. We have choice of everything we buy and consume, from toothpaste, to coffee, to deodorant. And that's just before getting dressed in the morning. Choice is what drives our brand-focused consumer economy. In fact, the story of brands is very much a tale of emerging choice — the general stores of the 19th century stocked commodity products like soap, cereal, and clothes, and over time we were introduced to Ivory, Kellogg's, and Levi's alongside the generic competitors.

But we have departed quite a bit from the scrappy innocence of Victorian free enterprise. These days, supermarket shelves are crammed with choices upon choices of similar brands in any given category. We give consumers too much choice, and in many cases they are unable to make an informed decision about which brands to buy be faithful to. This is called the Tyranny of Choice, the feeling being overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of choices, so indistinguishable from one another that we consumers can't help but feel as we're on the sticky end of an elaborate scam. The concept isn't new, having been discussed in Scientific American, The Economist, and the BBC, to cite a few media examples.
How many varieties of jam do we need? (photo right via The Daily Mail)

This is rather timely in my own life as I am the new owner of a cat. Choosing a brand of cat food might seem like a non-choice, but being a the cautious consumer, I had to do my own research. Next thing I know, I'm caught in a bizarre Möbius Strip of reviews and price comparison and rumours and recommendations. Do I go with a cheap supermarket brand or a niche pet store brand? Do I take the recommendation of science-focused vets or obsessive cat-lovers? And what about organic cat food, is it worth the money? Choices, choices, choices.

An easy choice for the cat. (photo via Suite101)

This isn't unique to cat food, of course. Coffee is a classic example; where once the choice was limited to your preferences of milk and sugar, we may now choose the nation or origin, the caffeine strength, the flavour intensity, the fineness of the grind, and if said coffee is organic or fair trade certified. Yikes. Cleaning products are another great example of over-choice. Every brand vaguely associated with cleaning now offers a full range of products from toilet cleaners to air freshners to disinfecting wipes. Since they all do pretty much the same thing, which is best for which purpose? Better ask somebody.

Trouble is, even in this Google-soaked era, it's difficult to find insight on brands and products. Information, yes, but insight takes some digging. To solve my cat food conundrum I posted a question on Reddit.com in the cats category, and received dozens of comments within hours. Question-asking sites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers are gaining momentum by the minute. (Some say this form of 'social search' is the next billion-dollar industry, but let's leave that for another article.) My first resource for finding recommendations and answers is usually Twitter, where among my 744 followers someone is sure to have been in my predicament and lived to tell the tale. Consumer Reports is an old standby for product reviews, and Amazon can be very useful for reading user reactions to a specific product or model.

How do we as brand stewards avoid the Tyranny of Choice for our consumers? One dramatic but obvious way is to limit the number of brand extensions. Do we really need 14 varieties of trigger-spray glass cleaner in one brand portfolio? Do we need to have 4 strengths of caffeine defining our coffee? Take the bold step of recommending to your client or brand team that you limit, not extend, the number of products and SKUs for any given brand. Focus instead on owning a category and asserting yours as the best brand. Be the best air freshner, fair trade coffee, or dry food for indoor cats. Single focus, reduced choice, happy consumers. Sic semper tyrannis.

Prescott Perez-Fox is an independent brand developer and graphic designer in Metro New York. He often rants against tyranny on his blog, perezfox.com »
In the weeks leading up to FUSE 2011, we're going to be hearing from the speakers! This week we have Vickie VanHurley, Meijer; who will be presenting "For the Love of Packaging: Design for the Relationship and Experience Private Brand P.O.V.," in the PROOF: Packaging Research & Innovation on Monday, April 11, 2011. To learn more about FUSE, download the brochure here!

1. Tell us about a project you are working on or recently completed that you are proud of?
Developing a new brand completely driven by design. Being able to define the brand through the relationship the consumer has with the product and ultimately the brand. The brand definition was implemented in the design of all packaging SKUs introduced in the new brand. It was exciting to interject the emotional aspect. Humans are emotional beings and we use emotion to assist in decision making. We must acknowledge and utilize this when engaging consumers through design across marketing, advertising, and point-of-sale efforts.

2. Think ahead 5 years, what major changes for design do you see?
Continuing to recognize the importance of including emotion (other than humor) as a marketing and design factor. As we forge ahead, consumers want and expect to build relationships with their products and brands, be involved in a relationship with their products and brands so to speak. Design will play an integral part in delivering the story/conversation with the consumer.

3. What inspired you to get in the field?
Practically an artist from birth! I was drawing from the time I learned to hold a pencil. I was determined to make a career out of art. Graphic design and illustration felt natural and appeared to be a logical course for me to follow. I must also acknowledge my love affair with packaging from an early age (the empty animal cracker box I carried as a purse). To sum it up in one word: destiny.

4. What keeps you motivated?
My love of shopping (it’s genetic) and packaging design. In addition to that, an allure of the power of packaging (as a communication and brand building tool) along with shopper behavior and the relationship consumers build with their products and brands.

5. What is one thing you’re excited about for this year’s Fuse?
Simply attending! This will be my first FUSE conference! I was introduced to FUSE several years ago but previous agendas did not afford room for attending.

Follow Vickie on Twitter at @TheDesignDoc
Listen to a short interview with Vickie. Read the transcript of the interveiw.
Workshop: Corporate Creative Renaissance: Leadership, Not Control - Chris Conley, Co-Founder, gravity tank

Chris Conley’s teaching, research, & consulting is focused on a multi-disciplinary approach to business innovation. His ground breaking work in getting cross-disciplinary teams to work together has been recognized by major corporations that have hired him to cultivate an innovative culture within their organizations. He is now collaborating with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation to bring design & innovation methods to philanthropy and create sustainable growth for some of their most important programs. Prior to gravitytank, Conley was tenured professor of design and innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology and prior to that, the Director of Global Design Planning for Motorola. Recognized throughout the industry, Conley was the 2006 chair of the IDEA/Business Week Awards and is a regular speaker at design conferences and competitions worldwide.

Chris is a founding partner of gravitytank and former tenured professor at IIT Institute of Design (ID). He works with gravitytank and leading firms like Samsung, Autodesk, Coinstar/RedBox, Plantronics and Unilever, to cultivate an innovative culture within their organizations. He guided a number of seminal programs between Unilever and their retail partners that culminated in the creation of their Customer Collaboration Centers in six global cities. He is working with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation to bring design & innovation to philanthropy and create sustainable growth for some of their most effective programs. Conley was the 2006 chair of the IDEA/Business Week Awards and is a regular speaker at business conferences and leadership summits that focus on innovation and organizational culture. Chris holds a Master of Science degree in innovation and an engineering degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

gravitytank co-founder Chris Conley presents at “Why Design Now?”, a conference held by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and sponsored by GE on how design is playing a broader role in solving global challenges.

Make sure not to miss Chris's workshop Workshop Corporate Creative Renaissance: Leadership, Not Control Chris Conley, Co-Founder, gravity tank at Destination Design Management 2011 in San Francisco, California February 7-9, 2011.

Hope to see you all there!

Take some time for FUSE: Your brand needs you.

Rational reasoning is a necessity for business. The more we make a case and use words like we use numbers, the more we can rationalize our decisions in business. This pushes words like "feel" and "believe" out to the edges of our corporate language, because they can't be proven or rationalized. So, if you can't beat them, join them. Let's rationalize the importance of brand.
BusinessWeek offers us the fundamental metrics for now.

Think of your brand as a $1,000,000 piece of machinery on the manufacturing floor, or a multi-million dollar hotel property, or any other seven-figure asset in your organization. Brand assets like Coca-Cola have been estimated to reach 70% of current market capitalization. And, on the other side of the spectrum, brands like GE at 25%. Pull out a pencil and do some cocktail napkin math, get to a range of what your brand could be worth. Got it?

Now look around and ask yourself, what do we know and who knows it? Does your agency of record know the most? As a shareholder in your organization, I hope not. They are accountable to another board. Who should know the most about your brand assets? You. Not the marketing department or the sales department or the operations group, but you, the employee. You the director, chief officer, or manager of important aspects of your organization.

If you've spent enough time understanding the concept of brand, you know it’s intangible and yet a very real asset to an organization. As an asset (
sometimes worth billions, see Coca-Cola) it requires management, consideration, and plenty of thought. Now, here's where it gets interesting. As an asset that doesn't appear on the balance sheet, it can be leveraged for revenue without all the other considerations. But it also needs the oversight of your board and should be important to your shareholders, if its asset value is of any significance. Because if you leverage your brand incorrectly and damage it, the rest of the organization suffers.

The FUSE conference offers the best blend of content, covering the spectrum of current brand and design subjects (in my humble opinion). If you think you know everything, there's no hope for you. But, if you have a philosopher’s view of the world, you know the pursuit of knowledge doesn't end at the graduate school doors.

If you need a numbers-based argument, take a look at the full price of attending FUSE. What is the percentage of your napkin calculation of brand asset value? If there are more than two zeros to the right of the decimal point, you should sign up immediately. Your shareholders will thank you.

Get smarter about brand management, both the rational and emotional aspects.

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,


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