What do you think about when you see a bottle of Heinz Ketchup? If you’re like most people, you don’t pay close attention to it. But even commonplace objects have been designed, and simple questions about the design of something as unremarkable as a bottle of ketchup can have insightful answers.

So, what is the meaning behind the "57 Varieties" label wrapped around the bottle’s mouth, and why is it there? Why is a bottle of Heinz Ketchup transparent, instead of opaque?  Today, we associate ketchup with tomatoes, but according to Fast Co.Design, ketchup was actually around for hundreds of years before anyone even dreamed of using tomato.

The history of ketchup extends back to the 16th century, when British settlers in Fuji were introduced to a sauce used by Chinese sailors called ke-tchup. Local recipes for ke-tchup varied, but the first recipe on record dates back to 544 A.D. and instructs any manufacturer to, "take the intestine, stomach, and bladder of the yellow fish, shark and mullet, and wash them. Mix them with a moderate amount of salt and place them in a jar. Seal tightly and incubate in the sun. It will be ready in twenty days in summer, fifty days in spring or fall and a hundred days in winter." The original ketchup was in fact, fish sauce. But, when British traders headed back to England with a taste for the sauce, anchovies were taken out and replaced with walnut and mushroom ketchup.

As they experimented, the English enjoyed ketchup for 200 years before anyone thought of adding tomato. The resistance to tomato ketchup can be chalked up to the misconception among Europeans that tomatoes, which looked identical to deadly nightshade berries. Tomatoes were considered an ornamental curiosity for gardens ever since Cortez had brought them back from the Americas, but they weren’t meant to be eaten. Then in 1820, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of New Jersey, stood on the steps of the local courthouse and consumed a basket of tomatoes to prove they weren’t poisonous.

Image via Fastcodesign.com

In the 1830s that America realized tomatoes could be delicious. In 1834, an Ohio physician named Dr. John Cook Bennett declared tomatoes to be a universal panacea that could be used to treat diarrhea, bilious attacks, and indigestion. Soon, Bennett was publishing recipes for ketchup, which were then concentrated into pill form and sold as medicine. By 1876, tomatoes had undergone a remarkable turnaround in the court of public opinion. Tomato ketchup was popular and considered to be a tonic, a condiment that was healthier than normal ketchup.

But, at the time, nothing could be further from the truth. "Filthy, decomposed and putrid" were the words that cookbook author Pierre Blot used in 1866 to describe the ketchup being sold at the time. Prior to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the food manufacturing business could be described the same. The reasons ketchup was such vile slop are varied, but start with the shortness of the tomato season, lasting from mid-August until mid-October. However, by the late 19th century, Americans were used to expecting ketchup year around. A year’s worth of ketchup could not be made in two months, so manufacturers preserved tomato pulp to meet expectations.  Unfortunately, they did so with the same lack of quality control that was endemic in the food manufacturing industry at the time. The result was that ketchups in the 19th century were disgusting filth, and only got worse in processing. To prevent the ketchup from moldering further, ketchup makers filled their batches with harmful preservatives.

Then, because ketchup with the pulp sieved out is more yellowish than anything else, coal tar was added to dye the ketchup red. This was the state of ketchup when Henry J. Heinz released his first bottle in 1876. But Heinz was a visionary, believed that "heart power is better than horse power." Under his leadership, the H.J. Heinz Company was ahead of its time. The factories were models of progressiveness. Not only were Heinz employees given life insurance, death insurance, doctor services, but also access to dining rooms, medical stations, and gyms.

Heinz’s factories were such models of cleanliness that 30,000 visitors were allowed to tour the factory every year.  At a time when no one else cared, Heinz was obsessed with making his products as pure as possible. In fact, when Heinz began his career selling horseradish, he refused to sell it in the brown opaque bottles common at the time. Instead, he used transparent jars, so that buyers could see his horseradish’s purity for themselves before they gave him a penny.  It wasn’t until 1904 G.F. Mason, was able to find a good preservative-free recipe for ketchup. Before then, Heinz used many of the same preservatives as his competitors, even coal tar to dye his ketchup red. By 1906, though, the nut had been cracked, and Heinz was producing five million bottles of preservative-free ketchup every year. "It is always safe to buy the products of an establishment that keeps its doors open," Heinz once famously wrote.

Every bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup sold is see-through is no accident. It’s a design statement: purity through transparency. Each bottle of ketchup somewhat brags about the company’s "57 Varieties" in a small label wrapped around the neck. That there are 57 varieties of Heinz products has never been true. Inspired by an advertisement he saw on a train for a company that made "21 varieties" of shoes, Heinz combined his favorite number, 5, with his wife’s number, 7, to brag about his company’s breadth of products. When he first began to put the "57 Varieties" label on his ketchup bottles, the H.J. Heinz Company already produced over 60 different products. So "57 Varieties" has always been playful nonsense. But the small label that circles the mouth of every bottle of Heinz ketchup sold? It’s purely functional.

Naturally, ketchup is watery, because the tomato pulp that gives it consistency is sieved out. As a result, commercial ketchup makers add a small amount of xanthax gum to their ketchup recipes to thicken it. But this ingredient has another side effect: It turns ketchup into a thinning fluid. That ketchup is non-Newtonian is the main reason why getting it out of a glass bottle is so slow. Allowed to flow naturally, ketchup only travels at a speed of 147 feet per hour. The only way to speed it up is to apply force, which through the principle of thinning decreases the ketchup’s viscosity. This is why you have to thump a bottle of ketchup to get it flowing from the bottle. If you apply force to the bottom of a bottle of Heinz, the ketchup closest to where you smacked will absorb the force of impact. It will flow freely, but the ketchup that is clogging the neck and mouth of the bottle won’t, leaving you no better off than you were before. The solution is to trigger the shear thinning effect at the top, not the bottom. That unclogs the mouth and lets the ketchup below to freely flow.  

All in all, a bottle of Heinz isn’t just a container of ketchup. It’s a design classic because of everything besides the ketchup it manages to bottle up: not just the history of a condiment or an object lesson in physics but the guiding principles of a great man who believed, more than anything else, that good design was transparent.

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
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Walk into any coffee shop and you are bound to find people hunched over laptops and tablets, working away. Turns out, they are not just there for the cup-a-joe and the free Wi-Fi. In fact, scientists have found that some need background noise to get inspired and create.

A new website, Coffitivity, now lets you bring the coffee shop to your cubicle. This free website was triggered by recent research showing that the sounds of espresso machines and caffeinated chatter typical of most coffee shops creates the perfect right level of background noise to stimulate creativity.

The New York Times reported that researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking by having participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a coffee shop, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. But, a higher level of noise, about 85 decibels, the noise level generated by a blender, was found to be too distracting.  

Ravi Mehta, an assistant professor of business administration at the university who led the research, said that extreme quiet tends to sharpen your focus, preventing you from thinking in the abstract. He explained, “This is why if you’re too focused on a problem and you’re not able to solve it. You leave it for some time and then come back to it and you get the solution.”

The creators of the Coffitivity site struck upon their idea after brainstorming on an unrelated start-up. “We had been in and out of coffee shops, and we were getting really good work done,” said Ace Callwood, a founder of the site.

Another member of the team, Justin Kauszler, noticed that when he returned to his regular work space, in a sterile office, his productivity plummeted. When Kauszler’s boss shot down his request to leave the office and work from a coffee shop, he and his colleagues decided that they would bring their favorite coffeehouses to their computers. With some audio equipment in hand, they eventually found a spot with ideal noise level, a place called Harrison Street Cafe.

“It had just the right mix of everything,” Callwood said. “You could get the coffee machine, and you had people talking and eating. It has two levels, and we got the vibe upstairs and downstairs.”
Coffitivity started on March 4, and that day it got about 120 page views. Since then, traffic has exploded. Seoul, Korea, is the top user city, followed by New York City London, L.A. and Chicago. Callwood and his colleagues at Coffitivity say they are creating an app and adding soundtracks tailored to specific countries.

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
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A brand is an organization, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. In a nutshell, a brand is a gut feeling people have about you.  And, it’s the designer’s job to form the foundation of the brand. You get that feeling via smart design, which creates the experiences people have with the brand. So, brands need to create an emotional relationship with people because we are all emotional beings and have emotional relationships with brands we trust.

Many people believe a brand only consists of a few elements –colors, fonts, a logo, and a slogan. In reality, it is much more complicated than that. You might say that a brand is a ‘corporate image.’ The fundamental idea behind having a ‘corporate image’ is that everything a company does, everything it owns and everything it produces should reflect the values of the business. It is the consistency of this core idea that makes up the company, driving it, showing what it stands for, what it believes in and why they exist.

Michele Serro, Founder and CEO of Doorsteps receives a lot of compliments about the design of Doorsteps, which she is always eager to pass along to her team.  “It makes us feel good. But it depresses me at the same time,” she recently told the Huffington Post.

Why? Because, according to Serro, design should be a cost of entry. For Doorsteps, "great design" is just another way to say "the app is intuitive to use." People often talk about the power of brand. In the digital world, brand isn't about logos or taglines, as nice as those things can be. Publicity, marketing, and great brand names are necessary, but they are useless when the product experience is unpleasant.

“Brands are built off the backs of the user experience,” she explained. “Design's role is not to make something look pretty. It's to make something useful. Beauty can be a nice byproduct of deep usability, but it's never the goal.”

That's why Serro says design should accomplish three key things:

Clarify: Any website possesses an entire universe of content. Great design streamlines content so users can easily find the right nugget of content when they need it. It should be visual and easy to navigate. Information should be simplified with everything in context - including the ability to ask questions.

Be Intuitive: “When things are clear, people are happy,” said Serro. “When I search through my Gmail for a message I sent back in 2007 and I find exactly what I need, I find an odd but satisfying sense of peace.” When people browse a website that is intuitive, it mitigates the risk that they will miss the information I need.

Delight: Creating a positive emotional state for your customers matters because when customers are delighted by brand experience, they're more likely to come back. When they are frustrated with an experience, it increases the chance that they’ll find another path to success.

“The visual design should be aesthetically pleasing, but the communication must also be human,” she explained. “Good design isn't just about the pretty pictures being in the right places, but also about copywriting and interactions.”

Reassure: Doorsteps, for instance, is in the real estate industry. Today, buying a house is the biggest financial -- and possibly emotional -- purchase a person will ever make. But most real estate brands, websites and digital experiences, offer a low-end, even cheap feeling experience. And yet, there are thousands of delightful tools out there for industries that have less emotional implications than home buying.
Good design inspires confidence. Customers are more likely to trust you to store financial details, process payments, and safeguard accounts when you get the details right.

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
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"Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you” is a famous saying by advertising creative John Hegarty. He is the cofounder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, one of the world’s most awarded creatives, and the mind behind some of the most well-known advertising including  Levi’s"Launderette" and  Audi’s "Vorsprung Durch Technik. “ He has applied his creativity well beyond advertising, according to Fast Co.Create, so he has shared insight on getting more creative.

“You have to stay riveted to what is going on around you,“ he said. The working life span of a creative can be short. While artists can repeat the same ideas, creatives need to continually come up with new material. One way to turn a 10-year career, into 20 years, according to Hegarty, is to stay connected.

Be Like Paul Smith
To illustrate the importance of staying connected, Hegarty pointed out fashion designer Paul Smith’s experience in the Milan airport. Smith had some time to kill as his flight was delayed, but instead of retreating to a quiet seating area, he took a stroll around. A  bracelet charm which had fallen to the ground caught his eye, so he picked it up and decided it would make a beautiful button for a shirt.

Success Can Breed Failure
According to Hegarty, getting recognition for your achievements can be dangerous. With the awards comes the nice car and the big office, all of which can prevent outside influences from coming in. “You become isolated, and creatives cannot become isolated because they have to be part of culture, “he said.

Taking risks is easy when you are starting out, because no one knows you and failure doesn’t stick. He commented, “Your success really does eat away at your future opportunities. It takes great courage to break through.”

Once you’ve achieved enough to be held in high regard, people may stop disagreeing with you. “You need people around you that you can trust to say "that’s a shit idea," Hegarty added. “Every McCartney needs a Lennon.”

Expand Your Personal Circle
Hegarty likes spending time with people in professions different from his own. “Talking to people in different industries about what they do is fascinating,” he commented. “It opens channels in your thinking you didn’t know were there.”

Hegarty is an avid reader of the Financial Times, though he doesn’t always understand it. He said, “You have got to read stuff outside your comfort zone, as well as doing things you love. You can pick up a business article, get a creative angle on it and find the solution in creativity.”

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmanadCicc. 
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