Here at the Next Big Design blog, we're already looking forward to April when we will once again be heading to the FUSE conference. From now until April 18th, we're bringing back our popular feature from 2011: #FUSEFactFriday

Fuse Fact Friday will highlight some of the key takeaways from the 2011 conference, including inspirational quotes, main themes and more. Each week, we'll dive in to our 2011 executive summary and remember some of our favorite presentations and moments from last year. Today's FFF Fact is:

We are witnessing a revolution of responsibility.
The Power-Aware Cord
by The Interactive Institute



A number of the stories told at Fuse 2011 illustrated this point, from consumers moving away from goods towards experiences, towards more "green" design, towards trends of honesty and corporate programs of sustainability and social good.

For example:

• Cheryl Swanson/Toniq shared with us the power cord which lights to show resource drain, making invisible consequences visible.

• Michio Kaku inspired us to lie less since it actually uses more brain power

• Christine Mau of Kimberly Clark spoke about the Kleenex triangle pack.

Renée Whitworth of Flood Creative wrapped up this theme in our 2011 executive summary "My personal net on this theme: rather than discard, we should first try to deconstruct in order to eventually disrupt."

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 18-20, and the stories you can hear there visit the webpage. Plus, join us on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn to begin networking with the FUSE community now. 
Yesterday we featured our PROOF symposium here on the blog, but Wednesday, April 18, 2012 will also feature two other Fuse options. Choose from PROOF, a Full Day Workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago or the Destination Design Management: Design Leadership symposium.

Kicking off our Design Leadership symposium will be Peter Clarke, CEO of Product Ventures. At 8:45 AM Clarke will expand upon the topic, “From Drumrolls to Designs,” recently featured in the New York Times. 

From being a musician in the Marine Corps band, to providing the leadership to meet today’s design challenges for the world’s best known brands, Peter explains how discipline and creativity, often thought to be at odds with one another, are necessary requirements within both design and music.

Plus hear from speakers from 3M, Sterling Brands, Bayer Consumer Health, Citrix Systems, Inc, Merck Global Creative Studios, Kraft Foods, The KaosPilots and more. 2011 sold out, make sure to secure your spot for FUSE 2012 today.

We're pleased to offer readers of the Next Big Design blog 15% off of registration for this year's conference. Register with code FUSE12BLOG to save.
As you may know, our 2012 organizing theme for Fuse is "New Dimensions of Magical." As we look across increasingly blurry industry lines we're inviting new roles into the Fuse family. However, this doesn't mean that we'll be lacking in content when it comes to the topics you know and love at Fuse.

Our PROOF symposium on Monday, April 11, 2011 provided a vibrant day of buzzed-about sessions last year. This year, we're bringing back co-chair, John Silva, President & Creative Director, DuPuis, and more extraordinary sessions, including:

How to Know Which Approach to Trend Tracking Is Rights for You
Olga Patel, Sr. Manager, Innovation & Insights, Mars, Inc.


MacroTrends: Major Change on the Horizon: Stylus Macroviews
Tessa Mansfield, Managing Editor – Vision, Stylus

Embodied Cognition and the Psychology of Brands
Michael Hendrix, Design Director & Neil Stevenson, Design Director, IDEO

Starbucks: Nurturing and Inspiring the Coffee Buyer
Tom Barr, VP Global Coffee, Starbucks and Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher

One Year Later: An Open Forum on the Role of Research in Design & Packaging
Moderated by John Silva, President & Creative Director, DuPuis

Integrating Research for the Best Package Design Outcome
Stuart Bedford, Dir. New Business Development, Sherwin Williams

Building Consumer Engagement Through Insight Driven Retail Design
Ales Kernjak, Head of Global Store Concept, PUMA Retail AG

What's next? Why? What else? All of this and more is answered in our PROOF sessions – focusing on insights, innovations and trends that enable brands to build deeper, more meaningful connections with consumers.

For a taste of the type of speakers that appear at Proof, let's look back to 2011, where we interviewed Vickie VanHurley. Read the interview here.

One of our favorite quotes from the interview? VanHurley on what keeps her motivated: "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."

Our 2012 PROOF symposium will take place on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Register here to reserve your spot. We're pleased to offer readers of the Next Big Design blog 15% off of registration for this year's conference. Register with code FUSE12BLOG to save.
If your jaw doesn't fall from watching the video below—check your pulse, you may be dead.

We are often given opportunities to design the smallest of things (think: logos) and at times it can be hard to prove the value of something small. Right?

Consider this idea. Would you expect to pay more for the design of a postage stamp or the design of a 36-page magazine? Does one take more time? Perhaps the magazine does, in actual hours. But precise nature of designing a postage stamp is a unique expertise.

Would you pay more for one?

Think about it for a minute. What are you paying for in the design? The hours? The technical challenges in a design? The visibility of the brand (so the larger the brand, the more they pay?). The result or expected outcome (how much the design will deliver in revenue increase or cost decrease?). The size of the object (icon vs. billboard?). Or what it cost in the past to do something similar (similar to how homes are valued?).

It is a complex subject and one we've decided to face head on, because it is important to the success of design as a practice area and our business in particular.

One answer: We have taken investment stakes in situations where fiscal performance is the expected measurement approach. Which has been successful for us with a vodka from Slovakia. But, we have also seen the challenges from this method, as it may not payout soon enough and it is likely challenging to relate the outcome to the design effort.

We value design from the beginning, and that ties in to how we value design in it's final form. We would like to hear from others on this subject.


Aaron Keller
Capsule
Here at the Next Big Design blog, we're already looking forward to April when we will once again be heading to the FUSE conference. From now until April 18th, we're bringing back our popular feature from 2011: #FUSEFactFriday

Fuse Fact Friday will highlight some of the key takeaways from the 2011 conference, including inspirational quotes, main themes and more. Each week, we'll dive in to our 2011 executive summary and remember some of our favorite presentations and moments from last year. Today's FFF Fact is:

"It’s not always about solving questions, sometimes it’s about creating questions."

Sometimes Fuse can be funny, and that was the case with our keynote session from Author Doogie Horner last year. However he also offered some insights about design and problem solving through visualization. He suggested that building a flowchart can help one build a stronger relationship with information.

As posted on the Beardwood & Co. Hoot blog about the session:

 "Words of wisdom from Doogie: “You never realize how much you know about something until you make a flowchart about it. Just get started and you’ll see the patterns emerge.”


Sometimes it takes that visualization to realize what it really is you are asking or solving.

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 18-20, and the stories you can hear there visit the webpage. Plus, join us on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn to begin networking with the FUSE community now.
For more than 15 years, FUSE Design & Culture // Brand Identity & Packaging has been recognized as THE MUST ATTEND conference for the world’s top brand strategists and designers, annually uniting hundreds of executives from Fortune 500 companies.

This year, we’re thrilled to co-locate FUSE University – a one day event designed specifically for students of brand and design. The curriculum provides a taste of life in the trenches as a brand and design executive and features real world case studies shared by today’s top brands. Also featuring interactive panels designed to help students make decisions about their career (am I an agency person or a client person), FUSE U is a platform for your students to build lasting connections with the best in the industry.

If you are affiliated with a university or know students who you believe would be interested in this opportunity. Please forward this along.

The FUSE U curriculum demonstrates the BUSINESS VALUE of brands and design.

This unprecedented exposure to the “real world” will provide students with a unique edge over fellow job seekers. Providing access to the top minds in brand and design, FUSE U is not only an opportunity to learn from the best, but to access an otherwise hard to reach network to encourage relationship build with a qualified audience of professionals. Ample networking time is incorporated into the event alongside the content which doubles as a value proposition for attending. Each participant will receive a certificate of completion of the FUSE U program giving them lasting ties to a network of thousands of FUSE participants – a designation sure to set their resume apart from the proverbial “stack.”

Helping to prepare the next generation of brand and design leaders.

FUSE University is a unique opportunity for students to experience the benefits of attending in person, curated events first hand. Access to the live exchange of ideas and real time collaboration will allow them to develop the interpersonal skills they’ll need to build meaningful relationships in the workforce, while instilling an appreciation for face to face, professional knowledge swap and business networking. They will benefit from learning from some of today’s top brand and design experts as well as experience the support one feels from being part of such a unique community that facilitates lasting professional friendships.

View the FUSE University curriculum here

I hope that you will pass this information on to students you feel could benefit from this unique experience. Cheers,

The Fuse: Design & Culture, Brand Identity & Packaging Team

Become a Fan of Fuse University on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FuseUniversity
Returning to the FUSE stage this year is Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director at Pearlfisher. This time she will be sharing the podium with Tom Barr, VP Coffee Design at Starbucks. Tess's series of blog posts will outline the key brand building principles that can evolve brands from exciting challengers to globally loved icons. Read the whole series here.

Icons are pretty audacious. On one level I think its rather terrible that a brown fizzy drink has the balls to suggest that it holds the key to something as hard and heroic and worthwhile as a harmonious multi cultural society - it feels like the sort of thing that only semi saints like Nelson Mandela should claim. But.......it's how brands work. They are both on a level with us, because they too are ordinary and everyday - and not all that unique - but they get it right when they also manage to speak to our collective desires. To move us and mobilize us towards higher ideals: we can both identify and idealize them.

Forgive me for a UK example - I'II labor it a bit so you can get the point if you don't feel it the way a nation felt it when this advert was released.

Like the World Series and Super Bowl in the US, The World Cup means a lot to people in England - even people who don't usually care that much about soccer care about it and get caught up in the Hoo Ha (terrible team pop songs - team debates - qualifiers - injuries) every pub in england suddenly produces a giant TV screen (which is not normal) and of course our abominable gutter press whip us into a frenzy (England Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks - YOU LET YOUR COUNTRY DOWN).

We are all hoping this time will be our time - when our little island finds a modern expression to live up to its glorious past.

And sadly on this occasion our hopes were resting on a very average little chap called Wayne Rooney - plain, rather uncouth, not very charming, ignorant and a little bit violent BUT a brilliant inspired footballer. NIKE puts up huge billboards around London with this average little chap posing as Jesus - bellowing with the raw emotion of how much he wants to win - of how much we want him to win - crucified by the St Georges cross which looks like blood - its outrageous - its sacrilegious but its sort of true - he could be our saviour - in the end he wasn't but for a while we believed in him and we were grateful that Nike did too.

Its a fine line when you start messing with the big stuff. Its the reason I want clever people to be in branding and not just save themselves for the rarefied stuff, because the way brands express themselves matters.

As you may know, our 2012 organizing theme for Fuse is "New Dimensions of Magical." As we look across increasingly blurry industry lines we're looking at new dimensions of Fuse. This year, one of our new features is a full day symposium, "Destination Design Management: Design Leadership."

Today, we wanted to look a little more closely at one of our exciting sessions "Leading Creative Collaboration to Make ideas and People Grow" with Rose Alba Broberg, Process Designer & Consultant, The KaosPilots

Based in 20 years of experience in leading the students of the worlds most adventurous business school, The KaosPilots Creative leadership program is now inspiring leaders all over the world.

 Join us for this session to learn:
 • The awareness of creative collaboration as a social process and what that means for the leader
• How to create a safe space for learning and creativity that will help the team to dare more and offer more 
• The practice of leading space instead of leading particles and how that shift releases the creative potential of the team

Check out the two videos below for a peek into the KaosPilot process:

You can also look forward to some of the following sessions in the Symposium:
FOR THE LOVE OF DESIGN:Inspiring and Reigniting Your Team
Colleen Dehmer, Package Design Department Manager,3M

Consumer Powered Innovation
DeeDee Gordon, President, Innovation, Sterling Brands
Guido Schmitz, Head of Packaging and Technology Innovation, Global Research and Development, Bayer Consumer Health

Inspiring Disruptive Thinking In A Predictable Corporate Culture
Catherine Courage, VP Product Design, Citrix Systems, Inc

Raising a Creative Culture: What we can Learn from Nature and Nurture
Ellen Craven, Design and Innovation, Kraft Foods

The Grass is Always Greener in the Lobby
Bob Calvano, Director, Merck Global Creative Studios

Learn more about Fuse, the Design Leadership Symposium, and the KaosPilot session by downloading the brochure. We're pleased to offer readers of the Next Big Design blog 15% off of registration for this year's conference. Register with code FUSE12BLOG here.

Plus, stay in touch for more conference news and industry updates by joining our communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
Here at the Next Big Design blog, we're already looking forward to April when we will once again be heading to the FUSE conference. From now until April 18th, we're bringing back our popular feature from 2011: #FUSEFactFriday

FUSE Fact Friday will highlight some of the key takeaways from the 2011 conference, including inspirational quotes, main themes and more. Each week, we'll dive in to our 2011 executive summary and remember some of our favorite presentations and moments from last year. Today's FFF Fact is:

"be relentless with details." 

Ian Schrager speaks with attendees at Fuse 2011
Last year at Fuse, keynote Ian Schrager spoke about why brand and design are so critical for the future of the hospitality industry. Schrager has been a trailblazer in the boutique-hotel movement, offering unique, well-designed experiences rather than just a place to sleep. In this 2001 feature for The New York Times, Schrager was quoted as saying, ''I don't sell sleep, I sell magic.''

Amongst all of his stories of creatively reinventing the hotel business, perhaps one of the best anecdotes of his session at Fuse came from a story about creating his very first hotel, Morgans on Madison and 38th Street in New York. Schrager said "every detail is a matter of life and death for me, because I never know which one is going to matter." In this case, when faced with a bus stop located in front of Morgans that lead to crowds in front of the doors, he relentlessly chased down the city until he was able to get the location altered. Even a detail as small as crowding in front of the doors, or a yellow line on the curb, could lead to a less well designed experience for visitors to the hotel.

To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 18-20, and the stories you can hear there visit the webpage. Plus, join us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to begin networking with the FUSE community now.
"Simple and engaging ways to bring your brand to life."

Kim ChisholmVP of Marketing, Mrs Meyers and Caldrea

This one will be good.

If you look at the conference schedule, it appears she'll be competing with Kellogg's, Frito-Lay and R/GA during the 3:45 track at the FUSE Conference. My money is on Kim getting the largest head count, though. Just saying. Nothing against the others, as they do appear to be solid competition.

Anyone taking bets?

Here's why I'm willing to put cash on the barrel. 

I had a discussion with Kim a couple weeks ago, and we couldn't stop talking about the interesting ways people were using Pinterest (if you haven't been pinning, I have to askwhat have you been doing with your life?). Later, when the conversation got serious, she referenced Agile Development as a way of working in a marketing department. If you haven't heard about it, here are some of the principles from Wiki:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
Working software over comprehensive documentation;
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and
Responding to change over following a plan.

Anyone that speaks to the inner-workings of an organization's design culture is likely going to be keeping the front row seats warm. Culture is the core of any successful organization. And from what we've heard on the streets (grocery aisles?) of Minneapolis, the Mrs. Meyers / Caldrea culture is one to be admired. 

So, while her topic seems to speak to the outward efforts of these brands, I am certain there will be a good bit on how to this culture has come to life.

If you're willing to bet, contact me.

For the past 15 years, FUSE has been the industry's conference of choice for inspiration, information, and connections because of the smart, generous, and passionate people who make sure of it. The ideas and feedback of the industry have helped shape what is certain to be the best FUSE yet.

The relationship between design and brand has never been more profoundly important than it is right now. Come to FUSE and explore how and why. It's your opportunity to achieve more. Download the FUSE brochure to see the full agenda 

12 Reasons Why You Can't Miss FUSE 2012's Dimensions of Magical
1. Find out why collaboration among all design disciplines is the way of the future from Coca-Cola's Head of Design, Vince Voran.

 2. Jonah Lehrer, Author of How We Decide & Imagine, demonstrates that creativity is not a single "gift" possessed by the lucky few.

3. Design Leadership Symposium. These sessions showcase how you can be a more inspiring leader and more strategic partner to the business. Hear from Sterling Brands, Bayer Consumer Health, Citric Systems, Merck Global Creative Studios, Kraft Foods, and The Kaospilots.

4. Sheen Iyengar, Author, The Art of Choosing shines a bright light on the many different facets of choice, exposing it in all its mystery, complexity and compelling beauty.

5. World renowned digital storyteller Joe Sabia on telling stories that don't suck.

6. PROOF: Insights, Trends & Innovation comes back to FUSE as a symposium and includes case studies from: Mars, Stylus, IDEO, Pearlfisher, Dupius, Sherman Williams, and Puma Retail AG.

7. Full day workshop on creativity and innovation at the Art Institute of Chicago provides inspiration and learning.

8. FUSE 3D: Industrial & Structural Design. Translate brand connection through form - Justin Coble, Industrial Design Manager, Mars Chocolate North America talk about how Mars has driven brand connection in its seasonal business through form.

9. Look backwards and forwards at the same time to understand how to create identities that are both reassuringly familiar and delightfully new with David Turner, Designer & Co-founder, Turner Ducksworth

10. FUSE 4D: Digital Brands & Interactive Design. Discuss the challenges, benefits, and opportunities that are inherent in today's mobile/web/tablet relationship with Steve Mummolo, Creative executive, NFL Digital Media.

11. More opportunities to connect with your peers, including two off-site cocktail receptions sporsored by CIULLA ASSOC.

 12. "The FUSE conference fuels my passion for package design, and gives me the motivation, courage, and tools that I need to take design management to the next level in my company. I look forward to attending every year - not only for the engaging presentation - but for the networking and camaraderie it creates with fellow design leader within our industry. I can't wait to get there, and I am sorry to leave when it's over." - Amanda L. Bach, Sr. Package Designer, Nestle

2011 sold out, make sure to secure your spot for FUSE 2012 today. We're pleased to offer readers of the Next Big Design blog 15% off of registration for this year's conference. Register with code FUSE12BLOG today to secure your spot. 

Cheers, The Fuse: Design & Culture, Brand Identity & Packaging Team

Fan Us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FUSEBrandingDesignCulture 
Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nextbigdesign
Returning to the FUSE stage this year is Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director at Pearlfisher. This time she will be sharing the podium with Tom Barr, VP Coffee Design at Starbucks. Tess's series of blog posts will outline the key brand building principles that can evolve brands from exciting challengers to globally loved icons. Read the whole series here.

Icons have very high opinions of themselves - they consider themselves important because they have something to say and they want to say it in a way that makes you listen. As a result they make bold definitive statements about themselves in ways that no-one else can follow.

Brands function as propaganda machines and their communications reflect this. In terms of their role in culture they don't have the option to persuade us gently like a novel or regularly like a newspaper - they are only products at the end of the day and therefore don't deserve too much sustained attention. They have to cut through our basic boredom with consumer culture and say something startling to make us sit up and take notice.

The best brand showcases draw an incredibly compelling analogy with some real or imagined myth that is a common part of our cultural imagination and associate themselves with it - the best example is still the launch of apple - even if not many people had actually read 1984 everyone was familiar with the vision of techno fascism because it was the dominant dystopia across culture generally. The language they used hit a deep chord of understanding in us and aroused our fears as well as our hopes and opened our minds to whatever their alternative vision for the future was. Before we had even fallen in love with their product we saw the role they could play in our lives and were longing for it.

It's interesting that since then they haven't made any similarly mythic statements, instead focusing on realizing the vision they set up, ensuring that the world does not look like 1984. Start big and all you have to do is keep on doing what you're doing.
Watch the full ad here.


Grand Central Vs. Penn Station

One of the most common comments I hear from clients goes something like, “I don’t know the difference between good design and bad design. I just know what I like.”

If you’ve done any kind of professional design work for any substantial amount of time you’ve most likely heard this statement in one form or another. While it wraps up so many issues and challenges into a seemingly neat little ball (a ball that keeps the client in the drivers’ seat by the way) for better or for worse it expresses a certain truth about the universality of ‘good design’.

Before I get away with myself and begin to write a novel on what the ‘universality of good design’ means I am going to, for the purpose of this blog, write a comparison.

The comparison is between Grand Central Station and Penn Station in New York City…

Grand Central feels like 10 seconds.

Penn Station feels like 10 years!

Every morning I take the New Jersey Transit rail into Penn Station in New York City. I commute across town to Grand Central and then to my office on 43rd street and Third Avenue. While making this trip for almost seven years, what never ceased to amaze me was the difference between the two experiences, especially on the days when I chose to walk.

On a nice afternoon, and if I have an extra 10 minutes I may leave my office and walk from Lexington to Madison through Grand Central. When this happens I go across town by foot, usually passing Bryant Park, making my way down to the entrance of Penn Station on 34th street and Seventh Avenue.

Grand Central is a massive architectural structure with space that allows a half million commuters to pass through it every day. Many days at rush hour, I’ve left work with a colleague and gone through Grand Central at rush hour without missing a beat in my discussion, only to find myself outside again on the other side of the building. I’d just walked two avenue blocks and probably through a crowd of about ten thousand people.

When I arrive at Penn Station however, the experience is much different. Penn Station is located beneath Madison Square Garden and at rush hour there are taxi cabs lined up and vendors everywhere outside, in front of the structure. The station is overshadowed by the Garden and sits hidden in the basement. To get there you have to go down stairs where the overstimulation continues. Depending on how you enter the building you may have a completely different experience.

Grand Central sits below the MetLife building and asserts itself proudly in its locale. There are custom made roads and tunnels around Grand Central that establish it as the landmark that it is. Inside it has a massive center room that lives up to its name. The room is open allowing commuters to walk freely from one point to the next in a straight path. There is an information booth in the center of the room and vendors (food shops, newsstands, etc.) are on the located on the outside of this central room. If you’ve never been to Grand Central before you would intuitively know where to get information. The entire structure is built around the information booth.

Penn Station is not centralized. The open area is in the back of the station towards 8th avenue and there are compartmentalized areas for commuter sitting, standing and ticket purchases. Vendor shops encircle this area mixing the commuting crowd with the waiting and eating crowd. During rush hour the standing area fills up and is difficult to navigate through while the blocked off sitting area can often still be almost vacant. The sitting area is very un-welcoming as you have to show a ticket to be allowed to sit. This is no doubt a reaction to the issue of homeless people loitering in the past. Its almost always empty in comparison to the standing area and I still don’t know if I would be allowed to sit with my NJT ticket.

The disjointed layout can result in disjointed behavior by those traveling through the station. You get to see the worst in people during rush hour when there are train delays at Penn Station (a real New York City treat!). I’m sure the booths are there but after seven years I still don’t know exactly where to get information at Penn Station.

In Grand Central all the trains are organized around the structure of the central courtyard. You could go to the booth, get the information you need and head straight to your train. I can’t ever remember having the desire to strangle someone at Grand Central. At Penn Station this happens to me weekly... and that’s not nice… ☹

Penn Station has tunnels, stairs and escalators. It is a poorly marked labyrinth where tunnels 1 through 10 are upstairs and tunnels 11 through 20 are downstairs and around the corner. I remember making the walk to Penn with a colleague who makes a very similar commute to mine and showing him the way to get to the back of his train through the basement. He was not only surprised to discover an entirely separate path to his train but that there was a completely separate waiting area. “I never knew this was here,” he said… no kidding.

To me Grand Central Station feels like 10 seconds. It is the ‘iPhone’ of commuting by train into New York City. Penn on the other hand feels like 10 years. Its disrupted by commercial vendors and is overshadowed by Madison Square Garden which sits heavily on top of it like an oversized red starburst on a magazine cover… I think you get the picture. I will close by saying that I am by no means a ‘train station architectural expert’. I just know what I like in a train station. ☺
Here at the Next Big Design blog, we're already looking forward to April when we will once again be heading to the FUSE conference. From now until April 18th, we're bringing back our popular feature from 2011: #FUSEFactFriday

FUSE Fact Friday will highlight some of the key takeaways from the 2011 conference, including inspirational quotes, main themes and more. Each week, we'll dive in to our 2011 executive summary and remember some of our favorite presentations and moments from last year. Today's FFF Fact is:

"be comfortable not showing/telling the whole story; let others fill the void." 

Fuse keynote Jonathan Harris discussed his project Today, and its relationship to storytelling. As he collected photos from each day of his life during his 30th year, Harris learned about his relationship with both the memories and events tied to each photograph and with the overall progression and storyline that evolved from the project. The video below explores further:



To find out more about this year's FUSE, coming up in Chicago on April 18-20, visit the webpage. Plus, join us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to begin networking with the FUSE community now. 
Returning to the FUSE stage this year is Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director at Pearlfisher. This time she will be sharing the podium with Tom Barr, VP Coffee Design at Starbucks. Tess's series of blog posts will outline the key brand building principles that can evolve brands from exciting challengers to globally loved icons. Read the whole series here.




We've alluded to this one already. Iconic brands have purpose. They chart their own destiny and do not follow others. Instead, they force others to follow them. Their job is to express their purpose with total originality time and time again. This needs to be done through the way they re-express their core visual equities (design), through innovative new product ideas and through new cultural meanings (communications).

Stella Artois is a good example. Its purpose is really embarrassingly functional - it's about being a premium beer. Here the idea of being more expensive than other mainstream beers is transformed into the true meaning of value - what would you do for a Stella? Their latest campaign brings a totally original perspective to this concept. Uncowed by the incredible success of the long running campaign that preceded it - hard thinking paid off - their new campaign is beautiful but mainly a really brilliant and original piece of thinking.


Beer as a category trades on excluding women; creating a safe space for men to bond and be rewarded - beer is everyday in its demotic: common, down to earth, jokey. If Stella's role is to elevate the product, showing it to be worth more than other beers (and simultaneously challenging its UK based wife-beater image) to draw an explicit analogy between it and a much adored goddess is the last thing you'd expect. It works from the product point of view too: revere it, worship it, adore it but ultimately...devour it!

 ABSOLUT is another brand that used to pride itself on originality - understanding that the key advantage of vodka was its versatility, it made a name for itself for showcasing and championing creativity - constantly reinventing and filling its icon with new meaning. These days their originality is not up to snuff. It needs to do a "Stella", to think harder and take a radical new position on creativity. After all, we can all agree that unyeilding originality is essential for iconic behavior but we could all do with a bit of inspiration as to what it actually is.


Brands today live across all media. This year we've added a new focus to Fuse - FUSE 4D - to delve into interactive and digital design and focus on translating brand assets and values to the interactive environment.

However, this won't be the first time the Fuse audience hears from digital and interactive designers. Last year one of our top rated speakers was Ben Blumenfeld. Ben discussed the way designers at Facebook allow the company to be more impactful and do more design more quickly and covered topics from Facebook hackathons, to "ship and iterate," to the structure of Facebook's design department.

Watch our quick video interview with Ben below to hear more about his visions on the future of design and the Fuse experience.

Learn more about our new Fuse 4D: Digital and Interactive track here.

For details about Fuse, and the Digital and Interactive track, download the brochure. We're pleased to offer readers of the Next Big Design blog 15% off of registration for this year's conference. Register with code FUSE12BLOG here.
If he was wise, President Obama would call on the creative community to thank us for the contributions that have led to an uptick in our country's economic condition. The design/innovation/creative communities are, after all, most likely to contribute to the top line growth in our economy. But he didn't call—so let's get back to it.

Building on last week's creative therapies, the next three are essential. Touch, Pause, Recruit.

Three // Touch:
Skin is the largest human organ, yet we often give it very little credit when it comes to how it impacts our sensory experiences. The next time you get a chance to stop and really feel something, take your time. Hold it and think about how it feels. Put it up against your face (yes, odd, but don't worry sometimes being odd is good). Now take this to another level. Touch someone. Keep if professional, but touch an arm or a shoulder and watch what it does to someone. We have become an "anti-touch" society for a variety of reasons, and to such a degree that the word "touch" often has some negative meaning. Let's take it back and connect with people through the use of touch. It is essential to human existence and connecting with the world around us.

Touch someone and then initiate a discussion about their response.

FUSE Inspiration : Etsy
Four // Pause:
For as long as you and I have been alive, technology has been an integral part of our everyday activity (typewriters and fountain pens count). Technology isn't the problemthe lack of a pause in our lives is the problem. Taking time to reflect lets our subconscious brain get to work processing recent activities. Take this time in any form that is comfortable to you. For me, reading allows my brain to go there. Others do yoga, meditation, or just break away for quiet time in a quiet space. Allow your mind to wander and make connections between all that you've experienced in your day. Ideas should be the outcome, but not the expectation.

Pause, listen quietly and let the powerful grey machine do what it does best.

Five // Recruit:
Many people assume social networking means sharing what you had for dinner on Twitter. Right? We've all heard someone say "I don't have time for irrelevant stuff in my lifepeople telling me when they're using the restroom." If you're on the inside you know otherwise. It's about leading an interesting life and sharing it with others who do the same. Now, when you are recruiting others to your perspective, you socialize it. This isn't blabbering about how you have designed the best lifestyle for yourself.  It's about being interesting by exhibiting authentic interest in what others are doing. The digital social spaces merely make such efforts more efficient, fasterand certainly more global in reach.

Recruit others outside their comfort zone by socializing your life, your interests and your perspective.

These five "STFD on your comfort zone" concepts are siphoned from a culture tank here at Capsule. We have found our culture is what has given us the opportunity to be successful as a firm for more than twelve years.

If you would like more, ask for our books: "Design Matters//Packaging" and "Design Matters: Logos"


Note: Want to save money on your FUSE registration? Use discount code FUSE12AK for 15% off!


As we look forward to Fuse 2012 we'll be featuring some of our exciting speakers here on the blog.

Keynote Maggie Macnab, Designer, Macnab Design, Educator, UNM and Santa Fe University of Art and Design; Author, “Design by Nature” and “Decoding Design” will be presenting "Remembering What We Know" on Thursday, April 19th, 2012. Back in January, we posted a video of Maggie speaking about her most recent publication and now we are pleased to present an interview with Macnab diving deeper into the subject as a prelude to her session at Fuse.

First off, you have a new book out called “Design by Nature,” can you tell us a little bit about that and what inspired you to write it?

Maggie outside of Silver City, New Mexico
at the edge of the Gila Wilderness, 2009 (Mark Coble, New Mexico).
I grew up primarily in New Mexico, a gorgeous place that includes everything from hot, sandy deserts filled with reptiles and birds to towering pines standing sentry over the cool, silent mountains. New Mexico’s skies spread out all around you and go on almost forever. I have never been able to justify sacrificing my quality of life to make more money in a more densely packed market. I was always a “nature-lover,” having been introduced to it as a way of life by parents who took me camping and horseback riding from my earliest memory.
Maggie’s Bohemian parents, Arden and Sandy Macnab.
Galveston, 1956. Sandy built the surfboard (oh, how far we’ve come!).
Collection of M. Macnab.
My dad was an architect and artist and had me drawing from nature at a very early age. He also read science fiction shorts as bedtime stories, which I loved. My sights were set beyond experiencing the everyday world in an everyday way very early on. My earliest interactions with nature, art and a love of exploring were extrapolated into my design work from the beginning. Nature has always been a touchstone for me. Nature is honest and direct, two qualities that are very important to me, and it became my mentor early on. I have always wondered how things work in nature: why a bug looks the way it does, or why a rainbow is so elusively beautiful. Nature is an incredibly available classroom, has all the materials, and is a patient teacher when we allow it to be.

My early experiences set me on a lifetime path of trusting nature implicitly as an adult while questioning some of the human systems that present themselves as “true”, “valuable”, or “necessary” while simultaneously going counter to it. As a designer, looking into nature for solutions always returns a diverse range to choose from. As a teacher, I have an endlessly inspiring resource with which to instruct students. As a human, I have a deeper appreciation for life and for the world I live within.

You’ll also be discussing that topic some at Fuse this year, and the title of your session is “Remembering What We Know” – what does that title mean, and why did you choose it? 

I’m not addressing conscious memory in the title as much as memories of the thousands of previous generations who lived in direct contact with nature, studied it and had a depth of understanding of how it works. Experiential “memory” is contained in our genetics, and even though modern culture is far removed from such a direct experience of nature, it is the common denominator of all humanity and provides an eternal and internal gauge of who and where we are. It lasted far longer than our short introduction to information age technology. But because the modern world overrides our intuitive experience of nature with an inordinate amount of human systems—educational, political, religious—directing our most intimate and personal interpretations and responses, I thought it important to remind people that we come into the world whole and complete. We don’t need to be told what to think. We arrive fully prepared to unfold through our individual experience of relationship as we move through life when given the appropriate support for the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects of our being. The ability to spontaneously “unfold” as life progresses is known as an “emergent property.” It is an inherent property of all life. A fertilized egg doesn’t need to be told to divide into cells that migrate into their appropriate positions and become an organ, a blood or nerve cell—it simply does whatever is needed in the moment.

Banking and financial logos
typically have corners instead of curves
to describe precision, efficiency,
stability and security.
Can you give some examples of forms in nature that are echoed in design?


I’ve been recognized for my logos for over 30 years, but it was teaching critical thinking for the last 15 that helped to pull the subliminal into awareness so that I could understand how certain universal relationships can be effectively integrated into design to queue the message for its audience. These principles and forms are understood by all people—in all cultures and eras—in approximately the same way. Like most designers, I had always done this intuitively, but because I teach I had to understand the process to convey it to my students.

Logos that speak to continuity,
regeneration and creativity
often include spirals.
Valle Encantado,
a non-profit in the South
Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico
“cultivates community”
with locally based
agriculture and crafts
(Maggie Macnab, 2010).
For example, the compact, angular shape that most bank logos take on directly addresses their necessity to convey security, efficiency, precision and stability. This is why you rarely see a spiral as a bank’s logo (and, in fact, logos with corners are far more dominant than curves in industries that have to do with money because angles describe precision).
It just wouldn’t fit the message in an intuitively accessible way. The spiral, on the other hand, works very well for non-profits or organizations that are focused on human-centric services.


Swansongs, a non-profit
musicians’ collective
in Austin, Texas,
provides music by request
for those transitioning
into death (Maggie Macnab, 1999).
The spiral shape in nature, not coincidentally, is associated with connecting and regenerating energy—and its creative function is described directly by its shape. A logarithmic spiral connects varying diameters of circles into a smoothly and geometrically progressed spiral shape that grows geometrically outward, just as you see in an unfurling seed sprout, a nautilus, or an embryo of any vertebrate animal (or human). Each circle is whole, autonomous and contained within itself (exactly as its form describes), and the spiral is constructed by connecting these whole pieces of energetic information into a single and continuously expanding curve.
Embryonic stage of a mouse
(Credit: Seth Ruffins,
Biological Imaging Center,
California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena).
Non-profits who serve human interests connect individuals with services that support and vitalize them, increasing the probability that the individual will be able to contribute themselves with more productivity and usefulness within their community by expanding themselves into it.

And, sound design principles are universal: the way permaculture designers approach landscaping high food yields from arid climates is to maximize the relationships in nature for the most benefit with the least impact.
Permaculture principles such as
designing from patterns to details
and valuing edges are universal and
displayed in other forms of design as well.
Permaculture site plan design for the
Children of Uganda’s Sabina Primary School,
an orphanage in Africa for children
of parents who have died from AIDS
and other causes (Amanda Cuyler, USA).
By observing nature and designing what works from the broadest patterns to the finest details permaculturists are able to create functional, high value landscaping that produces a higher yield of better quality food, and holds more water by maximizing nature’s patterns into details of relationship. Design provides a similar yield by appropriately using gestalt principles, visual and typographic conveyances, and elements such as color and empty space to support the user’s experience without a lot of work on their end in understanding the message.
This digital mosaic of Brazilan futbol star Robinho
based on the Brazilian flag, uses several
principles of gestalt including figure/ground,
continuance, similarity and proximity
(Charis Tevis, Greece).
When we experience nature, we experience elegance in its most immediate and seamless delivery. Everything in nature has a function because it has a relationship, all while having absolutely no waste. Visual communication can provide the same service to its audience by making relationships and not wasting the viewer’s time.

You’ve been critical of the educational system; and left school early to begin working yourself, how do you think the educational system could change to encourage more creativity? 

Firstly, let me say that teachers and farmers are my heroes. Feeding the mind and body are the most noble of pursuits. But the mainstream educational systems that dominate our culture today are limited in their usefulness for the issues we are facing. What is the sense of teaching math but not music? Or science instead of art, rather than as well as? All of these areas are complimentary and understanding their relationships set the stage for better, more comprehensive, more creative, and more effective problem solving. Standardized testing does nothing to support creative, critical thinking. Why would a multiple choice question carry more weight than an exploratory, eccentric one that might hold a very unexpected but appropriate solution? Children are taught the single answer is the acceptable one. That’s not the way nature works and that’s not the way humans work. Wonder is one of most important qualities you can support and encourage in a child. Human beings excel in asking questions and as a result we come up with diverse options as solutions. Thinking creatively is applicable in almost any situation and its value spans a lifetime. It provided infinite possibilities for my future by opening up an authentic interpretation of my personal experience rather than trudging along the well worn path of regurgitated ideas (no thanks!).
A personal symbol developed from
the five primary shapes by Gurujot Khalsa,
a student of mine in 2010.
This symbol represents Gurujot’s
commitment to his Sikh spiritual practice
of chanting and meditation, dress,
and unwavering courage
(Gurujot Khalsa, New Mexico).

I encourage my own students—who are typically young adults and for the most part internationals—to seek out work that they have an affinity and passion for. It’s great to do work for good money, but money can’t be the ultimate benchmark of success, particularly when design is a discipline that is so entwined with personal sensibilities—both of the designer and the audience.

Designers have to see the big picture and interpret how to effectively create relationships to be good at what they do. Designers have exactly the kind of thinking we need right now by using both sides of the brain in balance. We’re in a place that requires very creative solutions to some very big problems. As Einstein said, the systems that created the problems cannot solve them. This means all possible solutions on the table from all kinds of sources. We need people who can think well beyond what they’ve experienced and trust themselves to go into unknown territory. The implications of this sort of problem solving goes well beyond graphics or advertising, of course, but the great thing is this approach works perfectly for great design, too!

For those working in the field, what are some ways they can work on reconnecting with nature and intuitive design? 

One of the most common design mistakes is not appropriately matching the visual to the message. Subsequently, these messages are dismissed by the viewer as having false or valueless information. This happens almost instantaneously because we’ve been reading nature’s language for millions of years and our filters are quite effective. Appropriate matching of nature’s language to your message gives it a much higher likelihood of creating a relationship with the viewer, which increases the probability of noticing it in the moment and retaining it in the future. And design isn’t decoration. The best design is deeply engaged with its message. Designs that are seamless and without discernable effort are the most beautiful and effective. Beauty is a quality can’t be absolutely defined, but we all know it when we see it, and is appreciated universally. Just as in nature, aesthetics have a very specific purpose: they help to describe the value of a function. Designers can see the function of the message and use universal principles to introduce it to the audience. Naturally, this works very well for global communications; regardless of where you declare your allegiances, we are all humans walking the earth, first and foremost.
We don’t know what this is,
but there is no doubt it is deeply lovely, sensual and moving
(Cristian Boian, Romania)

The primary intention for the book is to create better (“better” being more aesthetic and more useful) design—I’m a communication designer so graphics are the dominant theme of the book, but design is just about the broadest profession there is and includes all related disciplines: the built world, product, industrial and environmental design. All design disciplines use the same universal principles. The secondary intent is to bring the individual’s awareness of nature up a notch or two and encourage their own hands-on interaction with it. It’s hard to understand the disconnection we have from nature. This lack of awareness degrades life and all we generate, including design. It seems like an obvious statement, and yet we live in a world that continually disregards the sanctity of nature and its essential necessity to our survival. We’re swimming in redundant, junk information instead of learning from nature’s elegant solutions and putting beauty into the world. My mission is to teach others to not contribute to meaningless noise—beginning with looking for design solutions right outside your door.


For more information visit www.designbynaturebook.com. To learn more about the session and Fuse 2012, download the brochure.

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