the grass is greener on the internet

Copycat Coles
October 18, 2009, 5:49 pm
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It’s becoming a game of ‘spot the difference’.

There’s some mentality that the moment your main competitor does something, you’ve got to do what they did.

When that something is ‘make lots of money and use it to completely change the layout of their stores’, it’s a bit more difficult.

One, it’s expensive. Two, they’re going to have a massive headstart on you.

So sometime when Woolworths was having their consultation with Hans Hulsbosch and started rolling out their new corporate identity, Coles was having a chat (with McKinsey, if the rumours are true) about its own identity crisis.

Lo and behold, a new store layout!

This humble observer would like to present to you what’s new, what looks suspiciously similar and where Coles might be breaking from the mould.

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Less is more, for outdoor?
October 10, 2009, 4:16 pm
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Ads have become an expected part of our lives. We just expect them to yell ‘buy me!’ at us, so we’ve learned to ignore them unless they’re really interesting or something we’re looking for. (Or bored.)

So ad agencies crank it up all the time; it’s got to be more inventive, more sparkly, more entertaining, and of course artsy enough to win some awards.

But it’s interesting to see when they decide to go the other way. Like this bus stop ad:


Part of me wants to say, “You spent heaps of money buying all that space, and you’re not even using it??”

But I think in this case, ‘less is more’ rings true. Seeing these ads had me curious for weeks. In what I think of as the Apple syndrome, simplicity and sans serif is now a differentiator. It’s more effective for the ad-wearied because it’s less like a pushy salesman in paper form.

Only I would have to repeat that classic client line: make the logo bigger!

I didn’t know what the ad was for until I found I’d been invited to the event on Facebook. Fail.

Hope for their sake that it works, our casino is the only one in the nation to be losing money. I do like their current TVC, though I can’t see it appealing to anyone I know who currently hangs out at the casino (which I guess would be the point).

iPhone: got yours? Which one is it?
July 23, 2009, 4:47 pm
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In the top ten of ‘times I have felt very Asian’ would have to be when I pointed out to a friend that her brand new iPhone did not have the appropriate infrastructure to support dangly things**.

Not a great omission, you’d think.

That is, until everyone at the table gets their iPhone out, compares them, and then can’t figure out which is which.

Now iPhones come in four colours; Blackest Black, Whitest White, Covered and Heavily Smudged. Three out of those four don’t look very good (which is half the point of having an iPhone). This means that there is a proliferation of black iPhones with very little external recognisability.

How about an app that tells you which one's yours? It could scan the fingerprint smudges...

How about an app that tells you which one's yours? It could scan the fingerprint smudges...

For a company driven by good design, this should have come up as a potential problem. Currently about a third of my friends either already have an iPhone or are about to buy one. Not to mention the iTouch, which is essentially the iPhone except not a phone.

Macbooks are not much easier to recognise, unless one defaces that clean surface with stickers.

So far the only Mac product with any sort of external self-expression is the iPod Nano. Notably the addition of colour has not reduced the iconic status of the device.

True, the simplicity of Apple products has been touted as allowing them to be for anyone as ‘they can be whatever you want them to be’. But the practical issue remains.

So for the next iPhone, please Apple…we don’t care about copy/paste, turn that design genius to identification!

**As this post’s token irony, the iPhone doesn’t support Asian language input either.

Time for a new film distribution model
July 6, 2009, 9:26 pm
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The South Australian Film Corporation wants to revolutionise film.

The Australian film industry, unlike the American and Indian behemoths, does not churn out mega-productions. [‘Australia’ doesn’t count.]

What Australian film offers is a completely different product; arthouse dramas, gritty portrayals of suburban life and a voice for Indigenous stories. So why are we using the same distribution models?

I went to a presentation by the CEO of the SAFC a few weeks ago. They’re trying to encourage more low to mid level budget film-makers to come to South Australia. For emerging artists it’s a cheaper location with no sacrifice on scenery.

But there’s no point having great films being produced if they’re consistently battling the norms of distribution and performing under budget.

The current model is one you’d be familiar with. Films make most of their revenues in the first week of showings, and a failure to make it big or receive good reviews within that time mean that it’s doomed. This means key factors of success are; the budget for pre-release promotion, the reputations of the actors/director and most of all the distribution. They need to be reaching as many theatres as possible at convenient times.

Indie films rarely have any of the three.

They rely on word of mouth, reviews and awards to build their reputation. They suffer from not having the budget to be shown at regular times in larger cinemas, which means that they do not register in the mass consciousness unless they win awards. Even if they do manage a win at Cannes, the inconvenience is enough to put off all but the most enthusiastic.

I’d love to be able to watch more indie movies…but they are never available when I want to see them. Trying to find a time to see ‘Samson and Delilah’ was difficult, and it’s been deemed a moderate success.

So please, it is time for a new film distribution model. With Bigpond movies starting to introduce home movie viewing and broadband access picking up over the next few years, they need to ‘capture the long tail’ and look beyond the norm that movies need to be seen in a theatre. Release indie films online, gain audiences and save money.

It’s a big step. But surely the example of Youtube shows it can work.

Woolworths: Spot the differences
March 2, 2009, 11:17 am
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According to the Weekend Australian, Woolies has been recording excellent revenues these last couple of months, due in part to the $1 billion which has been spent on new store layouts over the last 6 months.

So when I had my first opportunity to visit the new Woolies store that opened up here a month ago, I decided to have a little game of ‘spot the difference’ to see what the big deal was.

These are just my impressions – if you’ve spotted something extra, give me a yell.

So what’s new?

As some of you know I was a little skeptical with the new designs, but I’d have to say congratulations to Hulsbosch for the new store layouts.

In short:

  • ‘Fresher’ – less clutter
  • Strategic presentation
  • Products placed by thought process

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If you learn nothing else from Tropicana…
February 24, 2009, 11:06 pm
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Yesterday we got the news that PepsiCo has withdrawn its latest packaging for Tropicana juice.

Brandcurve’s post on the topic several months ago was bombarded with comments about how much people loathed the design.

The new design cut back to simplicity with clean lines, simple pictures and bright colours contrasted with white space. In theory, a bit like Apple’s design concept.

So what’s so bad about it?

I have two words for them: subconscious cues.

In the f&b world, simple design reminds us of generic home-brands. It doesn’t try and impress us – so it just doesn’t.

For Apple, minimalism means making complex technology look simple and accessible to us.

Context is so easy to forget sometimes.

But context determines how we interpret the world, and that’s one of the key things branding consultants need to understand.

Stationery Identity
January 28, 2009, 8:39 pm
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A good friend just visited – whenever we get together we swap stories of cool places to go to, and more recently business cards of places we have found that the other would like.

So far this has led to really cheap sushi, lots of bookstore cafes, vegetarian brunches and a ridiculously cool Austrian hat. We share a fascination with good design and thought-provoking books.

We also discussed the value of internal branding, which is the project he’s currently assigned to. He was quite impressed by companies like J&J that that a complete internal branding kit – complete with RGB values for company colours, regulations for logo use and templates for all forms of stationery.

His task is to create just that for his company (a consultancy focussing mostly on IT).

Internal company identity is vital – I really believe that’s where synergy comes in. But it’s ridiculously difficult to measure, which for me prompts the question…how much do the stationery, office space and objects around you contribute to your company identity?

Obviously the other people in an office really affect identity as well, but I’m sitting here in our little basement office where we have little to no branded stationery and part of the lighting is…well, faerie lights, and I’m wondering what effect that will have. (Gotta love the NGO life.)

Well, if stationery works then these companies have it made…

See more at Graphic Fetish.

More cards at 1stwebdesigner