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Books title

 

bookcase
Metaskills: Five Talents for The Robotic Age
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire
Rotman on Design:The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine
Making Ideas Happen
Do Good Design
Playing to Win
Problem Solved
The Information Design Handbook
HumanKind

The Education of an Art Director
Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing, and Sustaining Brands
The Method Method

Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits

The Brand Gap, ZAG & The cofounder Company

Brand Atlas: Branding Intelligence Made Visible

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

DOUBT
Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands

Designing Brand Identity

Ikonica: A Field Guide to Canada's Brandscape
The Breakaway Brand: How Great Brands Stand Out
Great Book Cover Design Site

The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture
Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design
Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company


Metaskills cover

"There is nothing wrong with fact-based knowledged and rote skills. These are useful and necessary tools for success. But in an era of massive change and daunting challenges, we need more than rote skills. We need the ability to think and act in new ways to ensure our long-term survival."
Metaskills
Marty Neumeier

c 2013 New Riders

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Metaskills
Five Talents for The Robotic Age
Marty Neumeier
c 2013 New Riders
$28 Cdn. Swipe Books

www.talentfinder.metaskillsbook.com

I picked up a couple of books at RGD’s 2014 Design Thinkers conference; both of them were from Marty Neumeier. I reviewed his Whiteboard Overviews back in 2012. So it goes, I think he’s a great thinker on branding and communication.

Interestingly, he’s turned his attention forward — there’s no looking back as you know — suggesting that now is the time for radical change. The old days of top-down rote learning are finished; in the Industrial Age, we learned to be like machines, we learned by repetition and conformity. Today’s cognitive skills must be reshaped and transformed. Technology now enables us to be connected, data now fuels network sharing, the human-machine collaboration is merging. Marty Neumeier says we’re entering a new paradigm shift: into the Robotic Age. How to succeed in this new age? Innovate. It’s the 'antidote to entropy: If we stop breathing, we die.' We need new ways of thinking and acting, in short, we need Metaskills. The new know-how skills are reflexive and adaptable. We have to learn how to learn using design thinking skills.

Central to learning is Feeling. It’s a basic requirement of innovation; it feeds learning, intuition, empathy and creativity. Sometimes we just fail. Yet errors feed our emotions; we remember them clearly. Our minds are "meaning-making machines". We turn pitfalls into learning opportunities. Critical to innovation is the ability to learn, adapt and determine a path forward — by being reflexive, by prototyping, by refining. The author writes: "The metaskill of feeling, the ability to draw on human emotion for intuition, aesthetics, and empathy is a talent that’s becoming more and more vital as we move into the Robotic Age. It’s the ability to connect deeply with people through vicarious imagination…." This will require the ability to contemplate — or see — the whole outcome, not just the parts.

Seeing is the next metaskill. The author writes "We claim to see what people mean; we look for answers; we envision a solution; we follow a line of thought; we draw conclusions; we connect the dots. In trying to make these connections, we’re searching for patterns that show us how objects and events are linked… We’re looking for the emergence of a complete picture." Seeing the tree is easier than seeing the entire forest. But the author suggests we need to see the tree, the forest and the relationships among people. And it’s a complex, mixed up, non-linear world. Roger Martin calls these situations wicked problems — apparent conundrums that don’t yield to analysis and straight-line logic. We must avoid partial answers and think about the entire solution. By taking a step back, we can search for connections and find relationships. Seeing is sometimes known as systems thinking. It requires seeing the big picture — and beyond — the long picture. It’s an evolutionary process. This can be challenging, considering that we usually look for linear predictable paths, not circular ones where cause and effect take time. He writes: "Systems thinking is the counterweight to intuition, the metaskill that makes the best of our rational brain." Designing solutions starts with framing — setting boundaries that will determine your conclusions and how you get there. As the saying goes, a well-defined problem is half solved. The author writes "Even the toughest mysteries will give up their secrets under the pressure of unrelenting passion."

Sometimes you gotta let go of reason and just imagine. Or Dream. Take a mental leap. The author writes: "Innovation needs a little uncontrolled madness to move forward. Applied imagination is the ability to harness dreaming to a purpose. Innovators then, are just practical dreamers." This requires moving from the known to the unknown by holding beliefs lightly — so that they don’t get in the way of what you might find. It’ll take trial-and-error; the willingness to let go of busies-minded best practices. Fortunately imagination is renewable. Used often and it’ll grown. Tapping into imagination is to keep problems as fluid as possible, reason by abduction — seek to answer ‘what could be’. Start from a position of not knowing, finding unexpected things. "Imagination is the child of obstinacy and playfulness" the author writes. The inventive mind succeeds when it’s fluid. Innovation depends on variety — it’s really design by evolution — connecting thoughts that were previously unattached. He offers ten learnable techniques for imagination: think about a problem metaphorically (from the linear to the abstract); think visually; start thinking from a place that isn’t obvious; take a mental leap into another domain; force connections by joining two unrelated ideas; assume the opposite; try to explain the central contradiction of a given problem — find the paradox; don’t settle for the expected outcome, ideas often trigger better ideas accidentally; keep asking questions; and capture ideas and record them. Great ideas should be unsettling. They should force change. They should afford new opportunities. Great ideas are concise because they’re based on strong internal order; they have a clearly defined purpose.

Creativity + craft = Making. It’s action. And it gets dirty sometimes. One has to feel their way towards a solution. When it feels right, that’s the first step to making something tangible. The author quotes writer Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way saying: "The creative process is one of surrender, not control." The basics typically go like this: discovery; definition; design; development; deployment. However, the author suggests it looks more like this: confusion; clutter, chaos; crisis; catharsis. Rational models aren’t helpful. He offers the no-process approach. Start anywhere. Dream. Research. Make a model. Test. Sketch. A chain reaction is set off. Ideas will flow freely and rapidly. By dreaming, we get the idea right. And by getting the idea right, we make. And so, by getting the idea right, we make something. Again and again. Getting the idea right is an interactive process. It’s a process of improvement. And refinement, or simpllfication The author offers five principles to simplify: think big, spend small; conquer multiple problems together; be single-minded and clear; look for the obvious; keep refining — subtracting. He writes: "Dreams don’t become innovations overnight. They require visualizing, nurturing, refining, protecting, proving, improving and selling in."

"We need to take responsibility not only for what we learn, but how we Learn. We need to be able to transfer learning form one context to another…" the author writes. Learning must be taken into our own hands. Traditional teaching methods provide broad strokes, but deep interest in learning is found by other vehicles: apprenticeships, workshops, on-line tutorials, reading. This is self-directed learning, enabling new skills to be built on the experience of the last one. Adjacent disciplines enable lateral movement of skills. The author offers a formula: practice x passion = skill. Here’s an interesting comment from the writer: "The optimization of a creative experience assumes freedom — the freedom to find the right balance between challenge and personal ability. You have to give it to yourself. You have to find your strengths, discover the right medium in which to express them, and allow yourself the necessary time to experience and push the limits of your understanding." Nature has equipped us with "goal-seeking minds that perform better in the context of purpose …" Purpose though isn’t enough, it must be coupled with strategy — creating a plan. Purpose determines mission, mission determines strategy, strategy determines tactics, tactics determine tasks.

Metaskills is a great, fast-moving read, diving much deeper in content than the short Whiteboard Overviews series. The five Metaskill concepts are presented concisely, with practical anecdotal evidence to support the concept. And it’s a big concept for radical change, taking on institutional pedagogical traditions. He writes: “There’s nothing inherently wrong with fact-based knowledge and rote skills. These are useful and necessary tools for success. But in an era of massive change and daunting challenges, we need more than rote skills. We need the ability to think and act in new ways to ensure our long-term survival.” The reality of the emerging Robotic Age is that we’re still trying to apply Industrial Age ideas where they no longer apply. “With the exception of language and math basics, the subjects we now teach in school are the wrong subjects. The right subjects — the ones that will matter in the 21st century — are metaskills. Students today should be learning social intelligence, systemic logic, creative thinking, how to make things, how to learn.”
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C C cover

"What we've found is that we don't have to generate creativity from scratch. We just need to help people rediscover what they already have: the capacity to imagine — or build upon — new-to-the-world ideas. But the real value of creativity doesn't emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas. That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out."
Creative Confidence
Tom & David Kelley

c 2013 Crown Business

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Creative Confidence
Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
Tom & David Kelley
c 2013 Crown Business
$34 Cdn. Retailers across Canada

www.creativeconfidence.com

Creativity: either you’ve got it, or you don’t. Tom and David Kelley, co-founders and partners of innovation and design firm IDEO break down this long-held myth - their message is that we are all potentially creative. We just have to tap into our own “creative confidence.” Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All offers methods to access this great sleeping potential. “At its core, creative confidence is about believing in your ability to create change in the world around you. It is the conviction that you can achieve what you set out to do. We think of this self-assurance, this belief in your creative capacity, lives at the heart of innovation.” they write in the book’s preface. We’re all creative, we just don’t fully access this resource. We all have the capacity to imagine, to take ideas and make them real. We’ve got to be brave and act on our ideas. So, cast aside your doubts about your ability to be creative: it’s in you. And their book offers the resources to make it happen.

Eight chapters, each with catchy, take-action titles offer guidance in accessing personal creativity.

Flip offers insight into the creative mindset: looking beyond the present and innovating for a better future. Three factors must be balanced to effectively innovate: feasibility, viability and the human factor of understanding needs. Innovative solutions must naturally work, they must be able to be reproduced and shipped economically, and they must get to people’s core beliefs and motivate them. Think of these three factors as overlapping circles, the sweet spot at the centre is the heart of design thinking: human-centred design innovation that connects the needs, desires and motivations of people. This process can be learned: it relies on our ability to be intuitive, building ideas that are meaningful and functional.

Creative confidence requires us to Dare: to overcome fear of failure. The authors suggest failure can be crucial to successful innovation. A failed experiment is not a failure if constructive learning is gained; so, keep moving forward. Repeated failure is the price of success. They write: “That is the surprising, compelling mathematics of innovation: if you want more success, you have to be prepared to shrug off failure.” Design for courage, the authors says. By overcoming fear, we stretch, or leap, our creative minds grow with practice. Learning from failure, acknowledging mistakes, we figure out what went wrong and how to improve it next time. This requires resilience: accepting mistakes, avoiding comparisons with others about measuring up to their success. Risk taking is a given requirement for overcoming the fear of failure. Seek out the advice of others, listen to them. The authors write: “What matters most in the end, is this: your belief in your capacity to create positive change and the courage to take action. Creativity, far from requiring rare gifts and skills, depends on what you can do with the talents and skills you already have.”

Innovation is Sparked by relentless curiosity. That spark though, must be cultivated. You must be determined to make something happen. Open your mind to new ideas and experiences the authors suggest that we think like travelers — we learn while traveling because we take notice of so many things. Engage the relaxed mind — there’s power in daydreaming. Clearing your mind will allow you to focus — make a “cognitive leap”. Understand the needs of the people and users you’re targeting. The authors write: “We’ve found that figuring out what other people actually need is what leads to the most significant innovations…. Empathy is the gateway to better and sometimes surprising insights.” Make observations. Field research can trigger latent ideas, uncover what is not so obvious. Start by asking “Why?”. This compels people to dig deeper, expressing underlying reasons. And reframe the question, start from a point that isn’t the obvious point of view. It can lead to new directions, generating more solutions. By altering focus, the real issues may become apparent. Even consider the opposite, flipping questions around to get past preconceived ways of thinking. Collaborate with others. Be upfront, you don’t have all the answers, so take off the pressure and build ideas with others.

So, take the Leap into action. Overcome procrastination. Assume a “do something” mindset. The authors suggest “go beyond being a passive observer and translate thoughts into deeds.” Spark positive action. Things will get messy, mistakes will be made, but the imperative is to keep moving forward. Commit to continuous improvements — it’ll become a learning experience. But how to do this? Well, work on “doable” pieces, start small. Set small goals first. Set milestones, build a series of small deadlines. Experiment with low-cost, fast-to-build prototypes, experimentation can become a key resource for new insight. Test the marketability of new ideas. Launch and learn — research, design, implement, launch, learn, make corrections, launch again. The authors encourage people to “Make ideas go viral — literally start a movement.”

Be passionate. Passion demands that we take action, make the effort to do something. This of course, requires great courage to Seek new ideas. By approaching what we do differently, we bring more to the job, contribute more. The authors suggest we have to find the sweet spot between passion and possibility. Jim Collins, author of Build to Last and Good to Great, describes the sweet spot as three overlapping circles, representing three questions: What are you good at? What will people pay you to do? And, what are you born to do? The sweet spot is the place where you find the vocation you’re good at, that you’re passionate about, and that someone will employ you to pursue. Leaping, of course, requires action. Unreleased potential is useless, unless you leap. The authors suggest that you share your plan; tell someone, tell people you are making changes. By doing so, you realize that your current situation is not the only option for you, leaping means taking the effort to try something new.

To achieve innovation at scale, leadership and activism are required. You need a Team. Creativity must be nurtured in a group dynamic. This requires buy-in from the top-down; people at every level of an organization must be committed. Fostering creative confidence across an organization can be challenging: fear holds people back. Participants must buy into the mindset working together toward a shared solution. People with different backgrounds, working collaboratively, are stronger together rather than working in single isolation. The resulting creative tension can lead to new insights and ideas. It may get messy, but open innovation platforms can produce great results.

Practice. Everyone needs to do it to improve; by Moving, you get better at it. The authors provide ten tools for moving forward. Engage in exercises that push you to think divergently, unconventionally. Increase your creative output by capturing ideas right away, write them down, whiteboard them, or dictation. Whatever works. Do a mental exercise like the Thirty Circles challenge. This is cool: Draw thirty empty, blank circles on a sheet, then quickly render them into something — a basketball, a fishbowl, a wheel. Compare notes with others, look for patterns. The goal is to be fluid and flexible. Start with empathy: get into the field — into the real user environment. Experiment with constructive critiques: feedback is essential to the creative process. Break down social barriers, get people together and relax, warm them up. Reduce hierarchy, so everyone is comfortable on a level playing field. Consider the customer’s total experience by thinking broadly; consider the arc of the user experience from end-to-end. How can it be improved. Be focused, define a problem and work on it: partner in a group and share ideas, reframing them as you go along. And finally, practice new behaviors, and make them habit-forming. Stick to experiment ideas and use them often - like mindmapping, or journey mapping.

What’s Next? Embrace creative confidence. To gain creative confidence in your creative ability, you have to take action one step at a time. Change your behaviour. Think in new ways. Take action every day; small incremental steps forward will become easy. Break down big daunting challenges into manageable goals. The authors suggest “Developing a creative confidence mindset becomes easier when you practice it regularly.” They boldly suggest that you must “start designing your life” by using the next month of your life as a design project: research yourself, seek out unmet needs in your daily routine, generate ideas about the changes in your behavior that might be doable and sustainable. Commit to changes that can be done right now. Make creative choices that will bring joy to your life.

Tom and David Kelley have written a great guidebook. Creativity is in all of us, not just in artistic, creative types. The tools outlined in this book are applicable in situations beyond conventional design-dominated situations encountered solely by design professionals. Creativity can be applied anywhere, anytime. Overcoming doubtful thoughts, procrastination and fear, the leap forward can ultimately be rewarding and life-altering. But it does require that initial leap into action.

Creative Confidence is the second book in my little creativity series. “We need creativity to move possibility forward” writes Bruce Nussbaum in Creative Intelligence. And taking the leap into action is essential to becoming confident in your creative aspirations. Both of these books engage readers in uncovering the possibility of great, unlimited creative potential.
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Creative Intelligence

"There is nothing ‘rare’ about creativity; it is something you can cultivate. Creative Intelligence can be found across many fields and disciplines, in all spheres of life — people who might never consider themselves “creative” are drawing on many of the same skills as those a musician or writer would use. Most important, CI is social: We increase our creative ability by learning from others, collaborating, sharing."
Creative Intelligence
Bruce Nussbaum

c 2013 Harper Collins

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Creative Intelligence
Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire
Bruce Nussbaum
Harper Collins, 2013
Swipe Books, Toronto $28.99 Cdn.

creativeintelligencebook.com

Don’t believe you’re creative? You don’t have a creative bone in your body, right? Well, don’t sell yourself short. “We don’t think of ourselves as creative because we don’t know how to identify creativity” writes Bruce Nussbaum in his book Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire. It’s in you, you just have to learn how to harness your competencies, frame them in the right context and make creativity meaningful and transformative. You can learn to be creative. Bruce Nussbaum suggests “Above all, creativity is about knowing what is meaningful in culture and harnessing technology to amplify that meaning.” He is the former assistant managing editor for Business Week and is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design. He blogs, tweets and writes on innovation, design thinking and creativity. He appeared at RGD Ontario’s Design Thinkers conference in Toronto, in November 2013 discussing this book.

Bruce Nussbaum quotes Craig Wynett, former senior innovation manager, Procter & Gamble: “We really need to deconstruct the creative act.” Or, more simply, “We need to crack the code of creativity” the author writes. He researched government and business, and found low success rates for transformative innovation. Seeking creativity is not an easy task. The author found that “social dynamics that lead to innovation — serendipity, connection, discovery, networking, play — mirrored organic messiness of creative educational campuses more than the mechanical process of a big corporation.” IDEO’s David Kelley told the author “You need two abilities to be competent in he world today. You need analytic ability and the tools to go with it. And you need creative ability and the tools to go with it.” For many, that seems like trying to read a foreign language.

Bruce Nussbaum developed an assessment for what he calls, Creative Intelligence. Forget that left-brain/right-brain business, cognitive neuroscience research has dismissed it. And forget the legendary light bulb myth — creativity behaviors activate the entire brain. It’s not just about the moment of revelation. Creativity needs to be explored in a much wider field, as it plays out socially, not just at an individual level.

Bruce Nussbaum has developed five core competencies for Creative Intelligence. Let’s take a look at these tools for making creativity routine:

Becoming aware of your own knowledge and skills, even if you haven’t recognized them as creative, is Mining for Knowledge. The more you dig, you become familiar with, and immerse in, knowledge; dots can be connected. Patterns are identified. Then you can see what’s missing. This requires an understanding of what is meaningful. We have to be aware of our skills, and knowledge and beliefs. KNOWLEDGE MINING enables us to use our own experiences as launching points for dreaming. Building bridges to those unconnected dots is daunting. It may require a look backwards to see how something new may be achieved. Or by looking outside an organization, establishing a network. Looking to the past, connecting dots, enables us to see where to go next, and to see what’s missing in the process. Knowledge mining requires an understanding of what people find meaningful and engaging.

Those beliefs we hold, FRAME our interpretations of the world. Framing offers an architecture or “schema of expectations that can help us interpret the meaning of a situation… the consequences of an outcome” the author writes. It can answer the question: “What’s going on here?” We take the frame we were born with for granted. By changing frames, we can change our lives. By breaking out of old conventions, we are free to interpret new patterns in new ways. Steve Jobs reframed the way computers were used: “away from engineered functionality toward user experience.” Today we are actively creating our own communities. Conversations, or engagement framing, shift from passive to active, from the impersonal to the personal. We seek participation in everything we do: think of smart phones and our connection to them.

Then there’s PLAY. Serious play though; that has rules and outcomes. Playing leads to learning — so that we can navigate the unknown and make connections. Play enables us to “answer puzzles that do not have one right answer is a better approach than solving existing problems that do.” Entrepreneurs play; they find disruptive solutions with multiple outcomes. Not seeking one single answer, but considering many possible unimagined solutions. Think of the rise in popularity of gaming; it harnesses the power of fun and motivation.

Globalization has empowered people to explore and experience for themselves the wide world. They wish to MAKE new things. The “maker movement” is growing. Generation Y loves Instagram and Flickr; they want to share their experiences online. Join in the fun. And they love their artisanal cheese, and locally-crafted beer. “Making involves learning the tools that can help us bring creativity to life” in our daily lives and in our workplaces, the author writes. New tools have greatly enabled making: once-impossible and expensive prototyping is now accessible and affordable. Ideas become something tangible. Digital platform Etsy brilliantly empowers the maker culture movement to a vast market of consumers.

How to make the leap from creativity to business reality? By PIVOTING. The “creative class” made popular by Richard Florida is driving innovation and growth. Entrepreneurial creative people are pivoting — or transforming ideas into business — from “inspiration to production” as the author writes. Entrepreneurs are passionate; they’re excited about their ideas. They seek to share their ideas with others — forming a pivot network. Creative thinkers are infusing their products and services with meaning, connecting with users. How users connect with products is critical to pivoting.

The final section of the book focuses on the economic value of creativity. Bruce Nussbaum takes a hard look at the decades-long accepted efficient market theory model of business. An economic model based on rationality, predictability and measurable risk it was adopted worldwide with devastating consequences. Risk, it appeared, could be controlled, thus it could be increased and leveraged. According to the author, this model became a game of squeezing cost and maximizing profit. He suggests the underlying principles of the efficient market theory were wrong. Naturally, there was little interest in innovation. Creativity, being unmeasurable, offered insufficient reward. Businesses just weren’t innovating. The author proposes we are entering a period of the creator economy: passive consumers are interacting and engaging with products and services. His term for this new reality: indie capitalism — an independent economy, free of prevailing economic theory. Much like the indie music scene, this new capitalism shrugs off the big establishment. Indie capitalism’s guiding principle: creativity drives capitalism. “Economic value is generated by the creation of new products and services” he writes. Think of the rise of technology start-ups; they embrace this new form of business generation. The social and cultural aspects of creativity are being recognized for their economic value.

So, how can creativity be assessed? It doesn’t support traditional metrics. There’s no algorithm for measuring creativity. Yet there are signs that identify the emerging importance of creativity as an essential asset to the new business success. Online crowd-funding efforts like Kickstarter assess creativity in their assessment models. The author comes back to Apple: a brand that is highly priced — their products aren’t cheap. Innovation and creativity have always been central to Apple’s core focus. Originality engages users, and it has economic value; it’s an attraction that draws us in.

He concludes that we can all be creative. We must overcome our own fear of creativity. Overcoming the challenges of the world happen when we explore new streams of possibility — we simply need creativity to move possibility forward. He concludes “We can all be creative.”

I liked Creative Intelligence. The five core competencies of Creative Intelligence are practical and applicable to everyone. This book is not just for business-minded decision makers. We can all mine for meaning in our own lives; digging deep to find creativity.
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Rotman cover

"In the emerging paradigm, the Age of Design, something new is happening…. In place of prediction and control, we seem to have nothing but chaos; in place of individual efforts, the problem-solving process is now clearly social; in place of basing decisions on facts, we base them on stories that give us a more coherent sense of meaning. In place of finding the 'right answer', we seek to gain a shared understanding of possible solutions."

Jeff Conklin
interview with
Karen Christensen
Rotman on Design
c 2013 University of Toronto Press

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Rotman on Design:
The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine
Roger Martin, Karen Christensen, editors
University of Toronto Press, 2013
Chapters-Indigo $39.95 Cdn.

I’m a big Roger Martin fan. He delivered a keynote address at the RGD Ontario Design Thinkers conference back in 2010. As former dean of Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Roger Martin is one of today’s leading proponents of design thinking. He has written extensively on design thinking, notably The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (2009) and more recently Playing to Win (2013) coauthored with Proctor & Gamble’s A G Lafley. Find reviews of both of these books On My Bookcase. They’re great reads.

For several years, Rotman School of Management has produced Rotman Magazine, described as ‘a leading purveyor of the very latest on design thinking for a management audience.’ This is another great read. The editors at the magazine have conveniently aggregated some of their best design-focused articles and assembled them into a new book, Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine. Highly recommended to anyone interested in design thinking and its role in business.

40-plus articles are bound into Rotman on Design, here are some I found memorable and meaningful.

In his introduction, Roger Martin says: “Organizations can no longer count on quality, performance or price alone… design has emerged as a new competitive weapon and a key driver of innovation.” Paola Antonelli, senior curator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, contributed this comment: “Design is about rethinking what you are doing. Make no mistake: it is not a route to easy answers. Rather than solving problems, design finds problems, and rather than providing answers, asks questions. And in our increasingly complex world, this is the stance we need to adopt.”

Rotman on Design breaks out into three sections: foundation of design, how design fits into the modern organization and emerging skill sets. Roger Martin gets the ball rolling with his now-familiar account of the transforming dynamics of business. Once, value was understood by the conversion of a mystery - or heuristic — driven to a formula — or algorithm — so that it could be expanded to large scale. General principles, once understood as mysteries, were set into rules or guidelines, thus the mystery could be explored and successfully understood. Today, design skills and business skills are converging, with implications for business. Designers are reaching into intractable problems and applying creativity and innovation to convert those mysteries into understanding. A new kind of business enterprise is emerging: traditional firms must start looking like, and thinking like, design businesses. Inductive thinking, or the need to prove something must be, must assume a new stance by applying abductive reasoning, exploring by doing, considering that something may be. What is possible? Being better is no longer enough; getting different, or into a new mind set is essential.

Jeanne Liedtka, professor at University of Virginia contributes several articles to Rotman on Design. She calls design this centuries secret weapon for competition. “Designing business strategy is about invention” she suggests. “Great design starts with the questions ‘What if anything were possible?’ After all, if strategy is an invention, a product of our imagination, and our assumptions are bound only by what we can imagine….” Against strong odds that resist change, design can overcome mediocrity. This new mind set requires new skills, new communication skills — learning to talk differently — and new processes that require a clear sense of outcomes.

Tony Golsby-Smith, picks on up on the need for new strategy in his article that proposes a new approach, or roadway. “Every strategy is an argument, every argument and every design is an argument.” He offers three critical elements to the new road tool kit: Corporate intent, or the need to become change agents; he suggests “Design is the art of invention” — invention works like a forge by melting down ideas and then building them into new possibilities. And finally persuasion — the goal being to move people, or community, into a new future.

Sohrab Vossoughi suggests in her article that we’re now in a new age of meaning. Rules of business engagement are changing. Brands are being defined by users and consumers, not by the makers of products. Consumers are looking for meaningful connections, demanding authenticity, they want that special experience. She suggests this is a shift from efficiency to effectiveness. “Customer equity, rather than market share, is the new measure of success.”

Design’s place in modern business organizations is the focus of the second part of the book. Fundamental change will be required if design is to be embedded in business culture and operations. Inductive and deductive thinking, the traditional utilities of business must shift to a third type of logic: abductive reasoning, which asks ‘What might be?’ critical thinking in the design process.

Peter Coughlan and Ilya Prokopoff in their articles, Managing Change by Design, offer tools for aiding business managers to connect with their customers needs and desires: clear understanding of the problem to be solved by Contextual Observation or seeking out people’s behaviour through observational research; Human-Centred Frameworks can simplify and bring together design opportunities to consider potential future possibilities, generating ideas when considering user needs; Rapid Prototyping enables quick exploration of ideas manifested in three-dimensional form.

Heather Fraser in her article writes about turning design thinking into ‘design doing.’ She writes “Creativity is technically the ability to create something new. Design is about the process of making or doing something new. Design is more aligned with innovation on a grand scale… it is about action.” This is another major shift in business culture — reframing mind set and methods by infusing a spirit of unending innovation into the workplace. What does this new mind set require? Open-minded collaboration, risk-taking and conviction.

Robert Fabricant writes about the challenges of employing design to complicated, or wicked problems; challenges that seemingly defy an answer, where off-the-shelf solutions no longer apply. He offers four gaps: The System Gap suggests that systematic approaches are conditional, they can’t be scaled and hinder innovation. The Discipline Gap means people are often stuck in their cultural safe spots, they look for validation and measurements before they will fund unknown scalable solutions. Shared understanding is challenging for stakeholders unfamiliar with new disciplines. The Evidence Gap suggests that measurement and evaluation hit roadblocks to scale — decision makers fail to adopt new solutions. The Solution Gap means that highly creative processes can’t always be shipped with off-the-shelf solutions. The design process is unfamiliar territory for stakeholders, success is not always immediate. Design is one ingredient in a larger strategy. These gaps can slow down progress.

So, in their article, Fred Dust and Ilya Prokopoff offer their solutions for designing at scale. Two elements emerge when taking on the challenges of systems at scale: designing systems that work and influencing people’s thinking. Designing a way out of wicked problems requires a human-centred system: design for people. Solutions needs to become viral, building loyalty among users appealing to a broad range of stakeholders. Traditional thinking in silos must be avoided. Whole ‘ecosystems’ must be considered when designing for scale. Systems must become ‘sticky’ when component parts are combined into a whole ‘ecology.’ And finally, to be successful, a system requires reciprocation, people giving back, or connecting to a larger human-centred group dynamic. People need to believe tap into their creativity and employ optimism, adopting design thinking that can change things for the better.

The final section of the book focuses on emerging skill sets. Organizations must become adaptable to meet the complexity of change. How to adapt? By embracing innovation, creativity and design. Just as nature adapts to changing conditions, so much business.

Jane Fulton Suri and Michael Hendrix write of the need to develop design sensibilities as a business asset; it means refining intuitions — meeting the needs and desires of customers, being confident about decision-making. Ivy Ross, VP Marketing at The Gap says ne of the most important sensibilities “comes from seeing things deeply in the moment, really pay attention, and taking it in at a visceral level.” They suggest that “The key to design thinking is to balance methods with sensibilities. Investing in peoples’ ability to make good judgment calls about the details that affect customer perceptions and experience makes good business sense. Design sensibilities enable managers to determine not only what to do, but how to do it. Combining design methods with strong design sensibilities.”

Sarah Rottenberg and Isabel O’Meara offer seven ways of looking. Our lives can inspire; by encouraging everyone to look inside, looking becomes a company-wide effort. Use empathy — by listening and learning — understand others and see the world through their eyes, from a new perspective. Zoom out, observe entire networks or ‘ecosystems’. Businesses must survey their markets, searching for opportunity where it is not typically visible. And zoom in, by looking at their own customer offering, businesses will see what makes them most valuable to their customers. Borrowing ideas can enable businesses to re-imagine themselves. When they look inside their own organizations, businesses can generate their own ideas, creating a culture of collaboration. When businesses find new ways of doing things, customers will even embrace new behaviours, overcoming barriers to become loyal to the brands they love.
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Making Ideas Happen cover

"Creativity is the catalyst for brilliant accomplishments, but it is also the greatest obstacle. Nearly all new ideas die a premature death. New ideas face an uphill battle from the moment they re conceived. …Even more powerful than the obstacles around us, are the obstacles within us. The most powerful forces that kill off news ideas are our own limitations."

"Our raw curiosity and sense of wonderment fuels our ideas, but bringing them to fruition requires steadfast commitment. …Your ideas must be treated with respect because their importance truly does extend beyond your own interests. Every living person benefits from a world that is enriched with ideas made whole…."
Making Ideas Happen
Scott Belsky
c 2010 Penguin

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Making Ideas Happen
Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality
Scott Belsky
Penguin, 2010
Swipe Books, Toronto $17 Cdn. paperback
scottbelsky.com

The light bulb is burning bright. You’ve turned on a great idea, it’s stunning in fact. But what to do? Quickly you’re paralyzed with fear of failure. Eventually the light dims and your million-dollar idea fades too.

Well, bringing your idea into the real world is possible — although you may be fighting the odds — it can be done. Behance founder, Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen offers a practical framework for bringing ideas into reality. Though, this book presupposes you have a great idea in mind right now; in fact, you may have too many ideas swimming around. Now, it’s time to get started and make your idea happen.

The framework is a combination of three core components: Organization and Execution, the forces of Community, and Leadership capability. These three elements form the major sections of the book. Successfully engage them and your catalyst for change, or your idea, can defy the odds and be pushed to fruition.

In section one, we learn that Organization is the guiding force of productivity. Making an idea happen requires the application of order, or process. Critical to organization is structure, it’s relational — ideas build upon ideas. The author argues that “organization is just as important as ideas when it comes to making an impact.” For ideas to have impact, they must be organized. So, Scott Belsky offers Action Steps.

Action steps are pretty clear. It’s the stuff that is actionable, they’re concrete tasks, what you need to do. Every idea is associated with a project — whether professionally or even in your personal life. Ultimately, everything in life is a project to be captured. Look at projects through the lens of action, breaking them down into doable steps. Action pushes ideas forward. Scott Belsky says “Ideas are made to happen only as the result of a well-managed work flow.” For business, creating an action-oriented culture reduces project management to its basic elements, it builds ownership and encourages interaction among team members. Execution is the sweaty part. It can be painful, but ultimately rewarding. As ideas become real, the real work is set in motion. Projects require vast amounts of time and energy; they require focus, self-discipline to relentlessly push ahead. Belsky’s Energy Line aids in allocating your time and energy to determine where and how to put your efforts to best use. Design is an iterative process — rapid prototyping advances ideas forward; design’s evolve over the course of their development. In an interview on workawesome, the author says “Innovation is a constant effort to conceive solutions and act without convictions for the purpose of testing.” Execution can be painful, your idea may even become less interesting, but it’s essential that you stick with it. Self-discipline will carry you across Belsky’s ‘project plateau,’ or that point where idea execution risks slowing down. Throw away ideas that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Be willing to let go. Embrace constraints. Be willing to change, evolve.

Ideas don’t live in isolation either, they need to be shared — in a community. Think of them as constituents: team members at work, clients, customers, family, a social network — anyone who holds a stake in the interest of making an idea happen. This fearless willingness to share comes with one necessary requirement: giving up your idea to others. You love your idea, but you can’t protect it forever — the secret must come out sooner or later. Wait too late, and your idea risks stagnation. Successful creative minds exhibit a fearless willingness to share ideas. By doing so, they gain input. Feedback from your community offers diversity of opinion; it means ideas are refined, constructive criticism is accepted and you’re relentlessly pushed to move forward. Feedback offers a reality check. Your ideas must be top-of-mind for others too. Listening to others, interacting, you gain their perspective. The author says “By sharing your idea, you take the fist step in creating a community that will act as a catalyst to making it happen.” Share your idea, and you significantly grow your chances of gaining momentum and making it happen. In fact, by sharing your idea, the members of your community assume their own risk-taking — contributing financially or with their professional reputations. Scott Belsky calls these Committal Benefits. When you’re fully committed — and fully accountable and transparent — your community will support you.

Leadership can be messy too. You may be unwilling to compromise your ideas. Decision-making must be made with focus on the long-term goal of bringing your idea to fruition. Leadership is about stewardship — building creative teamwork requires chemistry, a healthy mix of people with deep experience, energy and commitment. Even skeptical contrarians can be useful — their criticism will be helpful. Differing viewpoints can lead to friction, but good leaders value disagreement — they generate unforeseen insights. Leaders must instill a sense of empowerment and ownership in their teams, moving forward with a single purpose. Scott Belsky suggests “The most challenging one to manage is you.” Self-awareness is critical to leadership — we must be conscious of our emotions. Self-leadership means letting go of your own limiting inclinations. It’s a battle to fight against your own natural tendencies. Emotions trigger actions, and first, we must be aware of our ourselves. It requires a shift in mind-set and habits.

Current and iconic historic idea-builders provide great insights in this book. On idea-generating and the necessity to lead, the author offers a coupole of industry titans. Walt Disney apparently ruthlessly sunk ideas — he implemented a three-stage idea-building process: rapid idea generation, story boarding and then the ‘sweat box’ of unrestrained critical reviewing. Similarly, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, believed in strict process; it offers an efficient means for vetting ideas. Both men understood the necessity to tame wild ideas with a careful skeptical eye. On the need to organize ideas, Scott Belsky visited John Truslow at IDEO where visual documentation is employed to organize and structure information. Whiteboarding, even relatively simple stickie notes grouped on a wall can aide the necessity to prioritize thoughts and stimulate action. Rapid iteration practices enable IDEO's designers to play, experiment, tinker and collaborate. It's all part of their smart strategy that overcomes obstacles early in the idea-buliding process. Then there's Seth Godin, marketer, author, blogger and product designer. A prolific creative madman, he 'ships' — or executes — constantly, publishing more books, creating new business opportunities, even creating his own MBA program. While others may be overcome by doubt, preferring to avoid the risk of launching new projects — he embraces new launches relentlessly. The success of some of his projects is questionable — quite a few of them have failed — but he persists, making ideas happen repeatedly. Overcoming doubt and executing often, regardless of success or failure, Scott Belsky writes "He is comfortable with the risk of failure because he knows that such comfort is, in fact, the key to being able to execute." On the way to success, he encounters failure, but he's willing to carry that risk.

This is an insightful book. It’s practical. Action Steps are a useful tool for organizing and executing ideas. The author writes in his conclusion “Our raw curiosity and sense of wonderment fuels our ideas, but bringing them to fruition requires a steadfast commitment. …Please take yourself and your creative pursuits seriously. Your ideas must be treated with respect because their importance truly does extend beyond your own interests. Every living person benefits from a world that is enriched with ideas made whole….”
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Do Good Design

"Most importantly, all professionals need to learn about the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. This has become the dominant approach to full-cost accounting: it expands traditional accounting reporting to include social and environmental corporate performance alongside financial performance."
Do Good Design
David Berman, FGDC, RGD
c 2009 New Riders

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Do Good Design
David Berman, FGDC, RGD
c 2009 New Riders
SWIPE Books $30 Cdn.
davidberman.com

In the foreword to David Berman’s Do Good Design, Eric Spiekermann suggests “I have come to the conclusion that there is one thing we can do that nobody can stop us from. We alone decide how we work… we create our own processes, how we deal with our employees, our suppliers, our clients, our peers and even our competitors is totally up to us …but the way we work with each other and with our clients is where we can be different….” He suggests “Creativity has the potential not only to defeat habit, but also to affect positive change.” David Berman, ethics chair for the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), is the author of Do Good Design: an outline for change for good. He calls the book “a reflection on the quest to balance working for clients who are helping repair the world and sharing how to do that with others.” Do Good Design is a call-to-action for all graphic designers to embrace ethical design standards. In fact, he says “…the future of our world is now our common design project.” For a lightweight paperback packed with loads of images, Do Good Design is a fast read on a long airplane flight, but it sure packs a loaded message. Doing good, or great, design simply isn’t enough, we must ‘do good.’

The ‘sustainability’ label has stuck around for about ten years now. Interbrand describes it: “Sustainability can be defined as an ongoing effort to improve the quality of human life while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems… the reconciliation of environmental, social equity, and economic demands known as the three pillars of sustainability. The 'triple bottom line' serve as the basis for various sustainability standards and certification systems and guide numerous organizations on the path to greener, more responsible ways of doing business." It can generally be defined as “a business approach to creating long-term value by embracing opportunities and managing risks derived from economic, environmental, and social impacts.” David Berman’s book is really about sustainability. He believes we’re simply consuming too much stuff, much more than is necessary. “We are caught up in an unsustainable frenzy, spurred by rapid advances in the sophistication, psychology, speed and reach of visual lies designed to convince us we ‘need’ more stuff than we really do.” Over consumption is a learned addiction, we must cease upping this bad habit. Think of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis: irresponsible marketing pressure that inflated a crisis to the bursting point. And it was made possible by trickery and mass manipulation.

I suspect David Berman doesn’t enjoy a cold bottle of Coca-Cola on a hot summer afternoon. He is particularly critical of the world’s most-recognized product and consistent first place finisher in brand recognition. In Tanzania, he saw entire communities and public facilities branded with Coke signs — apparently for the low cost of only $200. He calls it a Coke country — masterful branding, but not very wise. Democratic ideals are lost when publicly shared spaces become marketing real estate. “As we corrupt common spaces, we corrupt our common mind.” he says. Physical and mental environments become polluted. Globalization enables progress for emerging nations out of poverty, yet it carries the risk of cultural vulnerability. He suggests culture can be protected by “expressing it within principled and ethical professional behavior.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes, globalization will be sustainable if we “managed the filters needed to protect our cultures and environments while getting the best of everyone else’s…”

David Berman doesn’t mix words: “…visual communicators manufacture misleading memories, and those visual lies can be as dangerous as melted steel.” A line must be drawn of what is acceptable. Markets can’t be relied upon to draw the line. It’s design professionals who must establish higher standards. Derivative misleading visual devices — blatant sexism of women to falsely promote consumer goods, the promotion of tobacco products - soon become clichés. The solution is to respect everyone. We must act responsibly with messages that “not only promote healthy behaviours but also embrace metaphors that reinforce them as well.”

David Berman believes now is the time for responsible sustainable design. Design can make a difference. It has the power to influence a well-educated public. Design has the power to communicate clear unmistakable messages to inform the masses. Our society is becoming increasingly visually literate, immersion in design means people are smarter, able to identify sometimes-subtle visual misrepresentations and reject them outright. There is always an ethical and creative solution. He says “Good design is a strategic, sustainable, ethical response to a business problem….” By thinking harder, we become innovators. Smarter strategy will turn out better results.

How do we make this possible? Change the process. Design must embrace sustainable practices. Learn the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit, making them part of full-cost accounting by reporting social and environmental corporate performance in addition to financial performance.

Designers can become agents of social change. Professional design certification — like becoming an RGD — is a force for good. Do Good Design offers contacts for many international organizations dedicated to professionalism in design. Design professionals can commit. He offers the Do Good Pledge: a three-part commitment to professionalism, personal responsibility and time. Act now by, 1: being true to your profession, 2: be true to yourself, and 3: give a portion of your free time.

Design will be recognized for its power to do good if designers have the will to act.

One more quote from David Berman: “Rather than sharing our cycles of style, consumption, and chemical addictions, designers can use their professional power, persuasive skills, and wisdom to help distribute ideas that the world really needs: health information, conflict resolution, tolerance, technology, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, human rights, democracy."
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Playing to Win

"Strategy needn’t be mysterious. Conceptually, it is simple and straightforward. It requires clear and hard thinking, real creativity, courage, and personal leadership. It can be done."

"No strategy lasts forever. All companies need to evolve their strategies - to improve, sharpen, and change to stay competitive and to win year after year. Companies should see strategy as a process rather than a result — adapting existing choices before business and financial results start to turn down."

"All strategy entails risk."
Playing to Win
A G Lafley & Roger Martin
c 2013 Harvard Business Review Press

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Playing to Win
A G Lafley and Roger Martin
c 2013 Harvard Business Review Press
Chapters-Indigo $25 Cdn.
playingtowin.net

I haven’t written a great deal about strategy in my previous book commentaries; in fact, I’ve barely touched it. Focus has been on design and branding. However, dig down and you’ll find strategy is what guides design and branding. No clear direction, then a branding strategy will fail. However, I have written about Roger Martin. I commented on one of his earlier books, The Design of Business and mentioned his appearance at RGD Ontario’s annual conference, Design Thinkers in 2011. I’m a big Roger Martin fan. So, when he partnered with Proctor & Gamble’s A G Lafley on a new book, I was hot to read it. Playing to Win is a great book. I loved it.

According to the authors, strategy is a relatively new phenomenon; historically it was categorized as management. In fact, many companies are unfamiliar with it and struggle to embrace it. It’s mysterious. Intimidating. Defining strategy isn’t easy since there really isn’t one clear way to describe it; and how to build strategy into business operations lacks consensus. For Roger Martin and A G Lafley, two men with career-long experience building successful businesses, strategy “is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace.” Strategy is choice: to become a unique winning player in the marketplace. Not just playing, but winning. Strategy really isn’t that mysterious. But it’s not easy either, it requires risk-taking. It is an iterative process, requiring tweaks. As the authors suggest, there is no simple algorithm for choice. But there is a framework.

Winning is at the heart of strategy. The authors offer a set of coordinated choices that ask five crucial, interrelated questions: What is your winning aspiration? Where will you play? How will you win? What capabilities must be in place? And what management systems are required to win? They call it the integrated choice cascade — or a series of five nested boxes, each one asking a question, influenced by the neighbouring box. It’s not a top-down, right or wrong flow, but a series of integrated modules that are tightly linked, often refined and reexamined as required.

The body of the book focuses on each of the five elements of the strategic choice cascade. An aspiration — or a statement about a company’s ideal future state, its guiding purpose - sets the foundation for all other choices; it must be very specific to a particular place. Where to play and how to win are essential questions in Playing to Win — they’re the heart of strategy. They define the specific activities of a company: what markets will it compete in, with customers and consumers, in which categories. How a company wins defines the choices for winning on that field: or how to win in a chosen where-to-play domain. How will it create unique value and deliver that value to customers. Capabilities are the activities and competencies the support the where-to-play and how-to-win choices; it requires a deep understanding of consumer, requires innovation to stay ahead, build great brand reputation, have the capability to go-to-market and operate on scale. Finally, management systems support and measure strategy, ensuring investment and sustainable capabilities into the future.

Where to play? How to win? It’s a daunting task: thankfully they provide a framework called the strategic logic flow, a direct approach that can be applied when making choices. Four dimensions need to be considered here: the structure of your industry, what your customers value, how your company fares in relation to competition and what your competitors will do in reaction to your chosen course of action. The strategic logic flow provides direction for generating sustainable competitive advantage. Understand the industry you’re going to play in. Determine what consumers want, need and value. Then, looking inward, determine your capabilities and costs, relative to the competition. Finally, consider how your competitors will respond to your actions.

Strategy requires that questions must be asked. One question can change everything. Inquire not about what is true now, but explore what would have to be true. Frame choices that would resolve a problem. Generate possibilities, or brainstorm a wider variety of choices, reverse-engineer the logic of all possible choices by asking what must be true for a successful logical choice, identify barriers to choice, design, test and assess for validity and then finally, select the best strategic possibility. The choice will make itself. This is the process for choosing where to play and how to win.
 
There’s no abstract academic theory in this book. Written for general audiences and for small-business entrepreneurs, even marketers and strategists will enjoy this book too. The P&G model is practical and applicable to so many situations, particularly in consumer-goods industries. Real-world examples abound in Playing to Win. Roger Martin interviewed many decision-makers among P&G’s stable of brands: Tide, Pampers, Swiffer and Olay among them. Remember Oil of Olay? Your mother probably used it. The brand was tired, it was uncompetitive in a market of aging consumers. Olay — they changed the name — became a contender because P&G thought differently about choice. P&G determined that women in their mid-thirties were a potential entry point in the skin care market. Women seek out preferred brands; they become loyal to them. They’re savvy, and willing to pay for quality. This was the market Okay needed to target. P&G research labs worked on more-effective compounds that would outperform the competitors. They opened their labs to dermatologists for independent testing. They “broadened the value-proposition” by listening to consumers other needs beyond dry skin and wrinkles; focusing on the visible benefits of improved skin appearance. P&G had to scale-up their game, find new distribution channels, lower costs and get into new markets like department stores. Olay entered the high volume, mass market; P&G would call it their ‘masstige’ category — attracting customers from the mass- and prestige-channels. The perception of the Olay brand was repositioned with new packaging, advertising, pricing and promotion. No longer just for your mother, Olay now fights “the seven signs of aging”. Olay Total Effects was launched. Momentum followed with Olay Regenerist, Olay Definity and premium-level Olay Pro-X. Today, Olay is a $2.5 billion brand with high margins and a dedicated consumer base. It’s a great story about making the right choices.

The right strategy can be the difference between success and failure; it’s too bad too many businesses don’t embrace strategy, treading with caution — or worse, with fear — regarding where they choose to play and win in their industry. Strategy requires buy-in from all parties involved. With a great deal of soul-searching, dedication and time, it can be done. The authors suggest strategy can be determined single piece of paper — it doesn’t require a binder full of explanation. The authors write “A great invention or product idea can create a company, build value, and win in the marketplace for a while, But to last, the company behind that idea must answer the five strategic questions that create and sustain lasting competitive advantage.” Have you defined winning? Have you decided where to play? Have you determined how you will win? Have you build core competencies that will enable your where-to-play and how-to-win choices? Do your management systems support your other four strategic choices? the strategic choice cascade, the logic flow and reverse-engineering process are the strategic playbook for business to craft wining strategy.
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Problem Solved

"We all know what problem-solving is, surely! We problem-solve constantly. Wake up, problem — bath or shower? Then another problem — cornflakes or muesli? Then another: bus or train to work? Problem: latte or cappuccino? Problem: take the lift for walk up the stairs?

In many respects problem-solving is our whole lives and maybe the ability to problem-solve is innate; it doesn't need teaching. But in a profession that depends on clients walking through the door with significant problems to be solved, you can see why some teaching might be needed."
Problem Solved
Michael Johnson
c 2012 Phaidon

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Problem Solved
How to recognize the nineteen recurring problems faced in design, branding and communication and how to solve them
Michael Johnson
c 2012 Phaidon
Chapters-Indigo $55 Cdn.

This book leaped off the Chapter’s graphic design bookshelf space when I saw it a few months ago — big, bold block letters on a bright yellow cover. My attention was grabbed. And the subtitle prompted further interest: ‘How to recognize the nineteen recurring problems faced in design, branding and communication and how to solve them.’ Communication is often framed around the idea of problem solving: a client presents a challenge, something like increase their market share or rebrand an outdated identity to better compete in the marketplace — and designers head into the studio armed with a brief (hopefully) and research (even better) and get to work. They’re problem solvers after all. But along the way, obstacles present themselves, detouring may be required. Problem Solved, by creative director at London, U.K.-based johnson banks, Michael Johnson offers interesting workarounds to some of those common stumbling blocks. The author suggests “Problem-solving is not a restrictive art but a liberating one.” The book features many examples from Great Britain and Europe that may be unknown to some, but they’re insightful nevertheless. There are familiar references to American graphic designers and advertising men too. Literally hundreds and hundreds of images from the work of well-known, and lesser-known designers are illustrated in the book to demonstrate the massive variety of solutions to these common problems.

Originally published in 2002, reprinted numerous times, the second edition was published in 2012 with timely updates to text, photography and the addition of a new chapter devoted to flexible logo design. 1,000+ images of logos, posters, campaigns and more provide lots of visual references in the book; and just plain good eye candy for design types. If you don’t read the entire book, you’ll certainly look at it page by page.

Each chapter digs into a different problem, some of them likely familiar to design practitioners: the ‘Normal isn’t enough, so astonish me’ problem; or ‘Make my product stand out’; ‘Give me value-for-money’; ‘Breaking out of the mould’; ‘Shock tactics to get attention’; ‘Attention rejection’; ‘Make something genuine’; been there before, done that (or The Groundhog Day Problem); and ‘One size does not fit all’. The solutions offered are insightful and enlightening.

Here are a few problem solving examples I really enjoyed:
Competitive advantage doesn't last very long. Commodities and services just aren’t that unique; stuff just looks and sounds like other stuff — like soap — hence The Soap Powder Problem. Ad man Bill Bernbach’s legendary campaigns for Volkswagen’s Beetle in the 1960s pitched an unattractive, tiny, German-made car to the U.S. market by up selling the car’s ugliness. The car really did offer a unique selling proposition and people bought it. It’s really about differentiation — enabled by shape, feeling and brand.

Breaking out the 'big idea' or The Paradigm Shift Problem sounds familiar — the client request for something ‘truly revolutionary’’ — it's a daunting task, no doubt. When accepted in the marketplace though, breakthroughs are real game-changers. Another historical example: Avis car rental company told everyone that, yes, they were number two in the market — trailing Hertz — and that’s why they try harder. Agency DDB turned the paradigm that ‘never admit you’re second best’ on its head. It is by no means easy, but the author suggests it’s possible with the right conditions, and courage.

There are lots of logos in Problem Solved : FedEx and BP are examples of the Evolve or Revolve Problem. Brands don’t go unchanged for decades. Yet when change is required, it is often resisted — decision-makers find comfort in the familiar. Incremental change, or evolution, is less risky than revolution when it comes to changing brand identity. Landor’s logo for FedEx skillfully incorporates an arrow in its counter forms. British Petroleum, merged with Amoco from the U.S. Employing a flower-like silhouette, they have embraced green concerns in an industry with a bad reputation for environmental stewardship. Now BP, they’re Beyond Petroleum. Sadly, not all brands develop successfully: NASA and British Airways both underwent identity modernization only to retreat after political and public backlash to more familiar and comfortable places.

Information design is here too: The Information Rejection Problem. Another Brit, Henry Beck set out in the 1920s to simplify the confounding London Underground subway system. Simplifying the complexity of transit routes to elementary lines and angles, his functional map was was uncluttered to the point that rejection wan’t a consideration. Information-ignorance was overcome by employing clarity and readability. With public support, the map enabled Londoners to see their city. Today, Beck’s iconic map has informed countless designs around the world. It is a benchmark few others have come close to meeting.

Do I still have your attention? Are you still reading? Because today, being short on time, we tend to look more, read less. This is The Nobody Reads Anymore Problem. In the golden age of Madison Avenue advertising, long-copy ads had hundreds and hundreds of words. But faced with competing visual messaging, by the 1960s advertising creatives abandoned the word for the picture; pictures crossed cultural barriers, aiding advertisers in their need to globalize their products. The Economist, an intellectual person’s magazine on global issues has produced striking ads. Minimally designed — sometimes without a logo, razor-sharp copy is coded in put-downs: ‘Two thirds of the globe is covered by water. The rest is covered by The Economist’; ‘If you buy it for show, sooner or later it will’; ‘Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed’.

One more: The One Size Does’t Fill All Problem and back to identity design. Moving beyond traditional static logos, designers are now creating motion-based logos that are constantly transforming, morphing and animating. No longer printed just on stationery, logos are now seen on electronic devices enabling infinite possibilities for motion and seemingly random transitions. MIT’s Media Lab logo, enabled by computer coding, is constantly generating new shapes, adapting and moving — never the same. Yet the identity remains firmly intact and appropriate to organization’s purpose of exploring the convergence of computing, publishing and broadcasting. Even when printed, logos morph; London’s Tate galleries features a seemingly out-of-focus logo that is always shifting from letter to letter, reproduced in never the same form from catalogue to poster to digital. This ingenious logo invites a double-take, a reexamination of art and meaning, inviting viewers of art to think again.

Problem Solved is an enjoyable book. Great reading for design students, naturally. One criticism: sadly the book’s design itself. With so many images packed per spread, images are placed inconsistently from page to page. Text runs around images, often producing too-narrow column measures. Indented paragraph formatting does’t help either — I’m not a big fan of indenting, I never use it, preferring to add space between paragraphs — and this book illustrates how it can invite too much confusion. Clean, consistent placement of images in a tight grid from page to page with numbered references would aid this book immensely next time around. Otherwise, many design practitioners will likely find some, or many, of these problems very familiar!
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Info Design cover

Information Design defined:

Information design is the defining, planning, and shaping of the content of a message and the environments it is presented in with the intention of achieving particular objectives in relation to the needs of users.”
International Institute for Information Design

"Information design, also known as communication design, is a rapidly growing discipline that draws on typography, graphic design, applied linguistics, applied psychology, applied ergonomics, computing and other fields. It emerged as a response to people's need to understand and use such things as forms, legal documents, signs, computer interfaces, technical information, and operating/assembly instructions."
Sue Walker & Mark Barratt, Design Council UK

"Information design addresses the organization and presentation of data: its transformation into valuable, meaningful information."
Nathan Shedroff, nathan.com

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The Information Design Handbook
Jenn & Ken Visocky O'Grady
c 2008 HOW Books
Swipe Books, Toronto $44 Cdn.

Back in 2009 when I was studying for the qualification exam to become a Registered Graphic Designer (RGD) in Ontario a reading requirement was A Designer’s Research Manual by coauthors Jenn & Ken Visocky O’Grady, cofounders of creative think tank Enspace. After successfully qualifying for RGD accreditation, I attended RGD Ontario’s 2010 Design Thinkers conference which featured the authors discussing their latest book focusing on the emerging discipline of data visualization: The Information Design Handbook. I eagerly picked it up; however it remained on my bookshelf unread for some time untouched. Fast-forward to RGD Ontario’s Design Thinkers 2012 annual conference and the appearance former Pentagram partner and current head of data visualization at Bloomberg, Lisa Strausfeld. Her presentation at DT 2012 grabbed my attention immediately; she delivered the most effective presentation at the conference, in my opinion. Curious, I picked up The Information Design Handbook and finally read it. And even better, Lisa Strausfeld’s work at Pentagram is featured in two case studies in this book; but more on that later.

Information design is user-centered design. Universally accessible knowledge is increasing with the rapid spread of communication technology. Thus, clear visual communication is of critical importance; there is an overwhelming need for clarity. Visual representation must be able to cross language and cultural hurdles. Historically information exchange was based on a sender-receiver model — and relatively slow at that. Today, new communication channels are emerging, but there's also a paradigm shift happening: people are generators and creators of messages too. For information to remain relevant, delivery of data is dependent on clarity. Information design can provide meaning for the end user. It can employ strategies for delivering a particular message: the visualization of data to clarify or summarize complex content like charts and graphs; or nonverbal messages like symbols and icons. Strategies can simplify complex ideas, or they can put information in context — or even aid in visualizing entirely new ideas. Information designers utilize various artifacts: calendars, charts, graphs, schematics, icons, symbols, signage, maps, models and simulations, technical illustrations, websites, interactive media.

The Information Design Handbook is structured in three parts. Overview defines ID and builds the case for the designer’s input and expertise in providing clarity when communicating complex information so that it remains relevant, providing meaning in the presentation of data. The authors provide a great history of data organization — from visual communication’s earliest recordings in cave paintings and Sumerian pictographs, to cartography, to Scotsman William Playfair’s breakthrough in designing the visual representation of economic data in graph and bar chart form, thus people gained access and understanding of complex numerical and statistical data. More modern contributors to ID are covered: sociologist Otto Neurath’s development of standardized visual language ISOTYPE; to the first website development by CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee who proposed the connection of hyperlinks in text documents shared over a computer network enabled by a web browser (remember Mosaic?) — based on the practical application of a user-centered graphic interface.

The second part of the book covers information design’s principles; or the requirements to understand how “users receive and decode information sets.” Cognitive science theorizes how people learn; their processes and motivations for seeking clarity in complexity. We tend to learn through preferred sensory methods of experience: visual, auditory/verbal or kinesthetic/tactile. In the search for understanding how we retain information, psychologist George Miller believed that human short-term memory had the ability to re-code large amounts of information into groups: think of the configuration the 10-digit telephone number. Gestalt psychology theorizes that the human mind works holistically, always striving to self-organize, creating hierarchy to aid meaning. Wayfinding is based on the principle that we orient spatially by employing ‘route-based knowledge’ or ‘survey knowledge’ depending on our familiarity with our surroundings. The authors offer several communication models for relaying information to users. LATCH, developed by TED founder Richard Saul Wurman is a model that proposes people structure information by: location, alphabet, time, category and hierarchy. Or there’s the principle of least effort; we are inclined to familiar and easy tools. We seek the easiest, most familiar and comfortable way to sources of information. Similarly, uncertainty makes us uncomfortable; thus, in new situations we advance in phases, seeking the goal of understanding and predictable behaviour, minimizing difference. Information design is evolutionary - familiarity aids the introduction of new content, but incrementally. New information, revealed in familiar surroundings. The authors offer the basics in the aesthetic principles of design: grid systems, organization, movement, hierarchy, colour theory and typography etc. It’s a very useful primer on design fundamentals.

The final section of the book brings theory and principles into the practical area of the real world: case studies. They’re all excellent examples, but a few were standouts for me. The Justice Mapping Centre and Columbia University collaborated on tracing crime patterns. They employed specialized mapping software to visualize the tendency of recently-released criminal offenders to return to their homes and repeat their offenses. By colour-coding the active criminal population in neighbourhoods, research revealed regrettably how the criminal justice system became the primary government institution in the studied communities. Abstract data when organized, revealed a sombre picture of the urban social condition.

Lisa Strausfeld, while at Pentagram, was team leader on designing the user interface for XO, the computer created by the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. Children are quick and eager learners when adopting new technology. They’re enabled by advances in the development of graphical interfaces that make technology seemingly easy and intuitive. The challenge for OLPC: introduce low-cost computer technology to children in third-world environments — and design the computer interface that is essentially intuitive, linguistically neutral and inspirational for young users. Pentagram’s solution for XO’s interface is Sugar — it’s built on three centres: activities, people and objects. Represented by pictograms, children can organize their centres in spheres like: personal files, interests or shared activities. Users are encouraged to share their information; their laptop computers effectively become nodes in a computer net that enable signal sharing as a wireless router. XO, supported by Sugar, engages and excites children to learn, raising technology and literacy skills.

Two self-directed projects provide stunning examples of ID: Similar Diversity’s gallery exhibit and HistoryShots posters. Andreas Koller and Philipp Steinweber of Similar Diversity — working under designer Stefan Sagmeister — visually represented the common overlapping themes and words from the primary holy texts of the world’s most followed religions, 3 million words in total were collected. They essentially took digitized text and compared content, then represented commonalities in visual form, employing software and an open-source programming language called Processing. They organized the 41 most frequently referenced words and verbs then arranged them alphabetically. Scale, line weight, colour tinting and color-coding among other devices, were employed to chart the use of these common words based on an algorithm that compared words. The result is a stunning graphic organization of data, it is devoid of contentious issues, it's purely objective.

Finally, a series of posters that employ information design to recall events of historical significance in diagrammatic form. The posters are the creation of Dan Greenwald and other designers at White Rhino for their client, HistoryShots. Posters included The Race to the Moon, a retelling of the U.S./Soviet rush to be the first nation to land a person on the moon. The Conquest of Everest, in concentric circular rings, graphs the failure and success of expeditions to the highest mountain on Earth. White Rhino’s posters depicting the events of the American Civil War are stunning in their complexity. Dan Greenwald says, “It is very difficult to show multi-variable data within two dimensions… We spend a great deal of time trying to change the design to facilitate the story rather than trying to change the narrative to fit in a two-dimensional space.” Research for content required ruthless editing; data reduction was reduced to the bare minimum. White Rhino’s inspiration goes a long way back. Students of graphic design likely recall the famous statistical graph — a combination of data map and timeline — drawn by Charles Joseph Minard, who graphically recorded Napoleon’s March on Moscow campaign of 1812. It is largely regarded as one of the best graphs ever drawn.

All of the case studies in The Information Design Handbook demonstrate the information designer’s ability to visualize data; transforming sometimes complex data into meaningful storytelling. This is a great primer for anyone interested in exploring the fundamentals of ID. It’s a beautifully designed book and loaded with practical information. Highly recommendable.
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HumanKind cover

"Everything in this business comes down to two things: people and their behaviour. We can look at a business problem as a set of numbers. Or we can look at it through a more human lens. By looking through a human lens, we an change how people feel, think, and behave using the power of creativity…. Understanding people and their behaviour is the only thing that matters."
HumanKind
Tom Bernardin & Mark Tutssel
c 2010 powerHouse Books

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HumanKind
Tom Bernardin & Mark Tutssel
c 2010
powerHouse Books
Chapters-Indigo, Toronto $35 Cdn.

For Tom Bernardin, Chairman and Mark Tutssel, CCO, Leo Burnett Worldwide, conventional brand building is dead: "… we can only move people. We no longer position brands, we can only create content that encourages authentic conversations between people and brands based on a brand's human purpose." Marketers and agencies don't drive brands, people are now empowered to take control of the driver's seat; to move people emotionally, and thus, build lifelong emotional relationships. That's the power of HumanKind. Central to the HumanKind belief are: people, purpose and changing behaviour. It's what matters to people that is critical to brand survival.

People first, not just consumers. Business comes down to two essentials: people and their behaviour. It's all that matters. As human behaviour changes, marketers must adjust their practices to remain meaningful or they risk becoming inconsequential. People seek interaction with the brands they care about. Beyond receiving brand promises, people want to engage brands with the power to exchange experiences. Marketers are now change agents; they must dive deep into human behaviour, adapting to technology and innovation as the world expands and contracts.

By understanding people, HumanKind gets to Purpose. The authors write, "Purpose shifts the conversation from what a product does to what it means."
For brands to be real and authentic, human purpose must be at their central core. "A human brand purpose is simple a concise articulation of why a brand exists, what it believes, and what it's trying to do." It's not about what or how it does it, but why it does it. It goes from proposition to purpose; and it's ongoing, changing with the times encouraging connections, but not conclusions. Inspired designers often speak of the 'sweet spot,' Bernardin and Tutssel do too: purpose-driven brands are "grounded in the sweet spot where humanity and originality meet." Acknowledging purpose propels all business actions, driving creative thinking in real ways. Purpose "generates everything brands say, ask, offer and deliver."

Understanding purpose leads to Participation, or Action. Brand communication is about acting, not just advertising. Purpose enables participation. Brands that draw people to action invite feeling; they’re authentic brands enriching people’s lives. Advertising shifts away from the old model - ads as propositions - “to acts that involve, invite, delight, challenge, serve, inspire, teach, protect, tempt and ultimately incite behaviour change.” A page in this book proclaims boldly” Acts not ads. Acts go beyond being physical; they’re anything that makes a deep emotional lasting connection, a gesture, an idea. Big or small, purpose-enabled acts are experiences that provoke an emotional response, they strengthen the brand.

Why acts? Acts lead to Populism. Deep-felt acts become immersed in the greater community on a massive scale. Leo Burnett in Lisbon, Portugal encouraged shoppers to literally purchase hope from the Red Cross in a shopping mall. The greatest HumanKind-driven act has been Earth Hour: an annual event that has empowered millions of people to take action on climate change. The authors note, “HumanKind says that by using purpose as inspiration for acts that allow for participation, people will respond.” Or, from people to purpose, to participation, to brand populism. The authors write: “Brand populism is what comes from a HK approach and belief in the unifying power of mass marketing. Work inspired by a human brand purpose can weave a brand into people’s lives so much so that the brand itself becomes a part of the social fabric. The value of the brand to society becomes equal to the value of society to the brand. It’s hard to imagine the world without McDonald’s or Kellog’s cereal. HumanKind is a people-centred approach to communications; it’s built on trust, authenticity, respect and purpose that seeks to invite people into meaningful, enjoyable and sustainable participation with brands. Successful HumanKind brands become “people brands.”

So, to come back to that quote, “We can no longer build brands, we can only move people.” That’s a tall order. This book offers insight into Leo Burnett’s human-centred philosophy. Moving people; or engaging people in experiences that move them to change, that change behaviour. A tall order indeed.
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Education_AD cover

"Art direction is not a gift that will alter world events. … While art direction may not bring peace, feed the poor, or end racial enmity, it does serve a valuable function that should bring pride to the many who practice it. When well done, art direction is integral to the smooth and aesthetically pleasing flow of communications — which is no small accomplishment in a glutted information age."
The Education of an Art Director
Steven Heller & Véronique Vienne
c 2006 Allworth Press

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The Education of an Art Director
Steven Heller & Véronique Vienne, editors
c 2006
Allworth Press
Swipe Books, Toronto $22.95 Cdn.

How many ways can you describe “art director”? The designation seemingly defies definition; but this book’s coeditors take on this task with wide-ranging successful results. I really enjoyed reading this anthology. Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne are world-leading voices in design and communication: He is the co-chair of the MFA Design program at New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA) and a prolific writer on design-related issues. And former graphic designer Veronique Vienne is a magazine art director and writer based in the U.S. and France. They have coedited numerous books together. The Education of an Art Director is a compendium of interviews conducted by the editors with educators, writers and art directors around the world; they also offer their own essays and experiences related to the profession.

From film, magazine publishing, advertising to design, art directors operate in varied environments, and their job titles differ too, among their honorifics: creative director, design director, communications director, visuals editor. In fact, in the film industry, art direction falls to the production designer who is responsible for a film’s overall look, the equivalent title of a creative director in the publishing and communications world. Confusing. So, what must an art director be? A few random responses according to a few of the contributors to this book: an advocate, a delegator, a manager, a catalyst for others’ talents, a detail-oriented team motivator, a collaborative leader, a talent broker, a consummate tweaker and a protector of ideas. They require empathy, curiosity and exceptional listening skills. Not to be forgotten: inquisitiveness , open-mindedness, , vision and passion. You get the idea. An art director must wear many hats as the phrase goes.

Art direction is about providing visual intelligence. It’s about setting the aesthetic standards of publications. Visual thinking is essential to this task. Art directors literally “direct” the attention of their audiences: “art” is employed as an indicator, guiding readers from point A to point B. The AD organizes the visual navigation devices that ensure information is conveyed clearly, with impact. The title itself implies action; readers of magazines for example are “directed” in a progression, page-by-page. Thus, design is wed to editorial “content” or the art — imagery and text and typography. Design conveys the subject matter in a tangible and visible form.

The Education of an Art Director asks 11 questions, among them: Can art direction be taught? Are all art directors alike? How do art directors collaborate with others? When is the editor an art director? With each question, the editors assembled interviews and essays offered by the contributors. Sunita Khosla, formerly of Ogilvy & Mather, India and presently owner of her own communications company observes that it is not necessary for an art director to be a skilled illustrator or photographer, but it does require the skill to brief teams and ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength. She says “You must know how to judge creative work and weave everything together like an intricate tapestry.” Ken Carbone, Carbone Smolan Agency NYC, believes “An art director is someone who does just that, takes all of the emotional and persuasive power of art and directs it toward a design solution that works for business. An art director has to be part navigator, part coach, part diplomat in finding the essential balance between art and commerce. He or she must know how to motivate a design team to do their best to meet the functional goals of a project, and negotiate with a client when necessary to go beyond convention for exceptional results.” Steven Heller says “Art directors are usually designers, or at least they thoroughly understand the dynamics of graphic design. Some of the best illustrators are also fluent in design and typography…. The marriage of type and image is the essence of design and the meat of art direction….” Ina Salz, design educator at the City College of New York says that “managing is what art directors spend most of their time doing. Relatively few of our working hours are purely creative. Most of our working hours are spent managing our staff, managing pre-press, production, technology or legal issues, managing budgets, managing schedules, managing the creativity of others.” On the value of imagery, Phyllis Cox, associate creative director, Bloomingdale’s observes “There is magic in great pictures, but there is also a process that helps the art director get from the vision to the final photograph. Whether for commercial, editorial, or purely artistic purposes, every photograph starts with an idea. The resulting image is dependent on the strength of this original thought…. Creative people are constantly confronted with the annoying and unanswerable question, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’” Newspaper and magazine design consultant Ronn Campisi believes that “in any publishing endeavor, no matter what the media, is about taking ideas, information, whatever, and putting it into some kind of tangible, real, visible form. The minute you do that, you are designing and art directing. Therefore, the design, the form the information takes in the real world becomes the thing that defines everything you do.”

Véronique Vienne believes that the responsibility of the AD is to present material in ways that are thoughtful, graphically engaging, well articulated, skillfully executed that produce great visuals. Steven Heller concurs, “Visual thinking is key. And art director must be fluent in the languages of illustration, photography, typography. They determine the look of things ….” Both Heller and Vienne offer personal experiences of their respective careers. She writes thoughtfully of her working experience under Condé Nast Publications legendary editorial director Alexander Liberman. And he recalls his early — and very brief — career experience at Andy Warhol’s Interview. Later, he offers a history of Madison Avenue icons and legends of the Creative Revolution: Bernbach, Rand, Lois, Agha, Brodovitch and Dorfsman among many. He recounts the rise of the Big Idea and of the Creative Revolution’s natural demise.

Steven Heller confides early in the book’s opening pages that he secretly wishes that a hard definition of the term “art director” will remain ill-defined. He’s right, of course. Grasping at a set definition is an unlikely exercise for something that can be so subjective. Yet this entertaining book offers up sound definitions. Art directors will enjoy this book too.
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Brand Bible

"For at least 4,000 years, man has marked cattle with red-hot branding irons to prove his ownership. Literally millions of designs have been originated — some romantic, some dignified, some even comical — to distinguish herds. There is a true story behind every brand, frequently a tragedy, a comedy, a tender romance, more often a proclamation of hope."
Oren Arnold
Irons in the Fire: Cattle Brand Lore
Brand Bible
Debbie Millman, editor
c 2012 Rockport

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Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing, and Sustaining Brands
Debbie Millman, editor
c 201
2 Rockport
Swipe Books, Toronto $50 Cdn.

In the foreword to Brand Bible, contributor Steven Heller draws the basic connection between brand and bible. They’re essentially about “storytelling elevated to narrative.” Both convey storytelling through signs and symbols that appeal to their respective followers be they modern consumers or adherents of faith. They’re linked by the same intention, but not exactly the same function.

Debbie Millman, Chair of the Master in Professional Studies Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) New York City, served as editor, collaborating with SVA members of faculty and SVA students in a year-long research project. Collectively they researched the history of brands and their impact on culture and behaviour; they interviewed leaders in branding, strategy and design; and profiled some of the most memorable past and present brands in America. From ancient cave paintings to Facebook, humans feel compelled to document our place with symbols and statements. Debbie Millman suggests brands are “inherent in our humanity.” Our need to be branded, or marked, comes from our ancient need to connect, to find security in groups. This book is the result of all their research.

Brand Bible functions as a concise resource on fundamentals arranged by themes: building, sustaining and designing brands. It looks back to the the Industrial Revolution as the genesis of the modern branding age with the rise consumer demand and the introduction of product manufacturing. People were empowered to emulate the grander life and they found it irresistible. Early modern entrepreneur, potter Josiah Wedgwood transformed his industry by making luxury goods accessible for the masses. Fast-forward to post-World War II America, weary of wartime austerity, consumers sought the new and modern. A modern national identity was forged: consumption was freedom. Dreams were branded into reality. The book brilliantly illustrates the history of modern U.S. consumer icons: Coca-Cola, Kellog’s, Levi’s, Nike, and Starbucks among many examples. The pictures throughout the book are a visual treat with examples of the history of consumer packaging and the evolution of household appliances and health & beauty products and their sometimes brilliant advertising. Iconic beauty was made accessible for all through mass advertising; personal care brands ensured their growth by connecting on emotional levels, ensuring their ongoing success with consumer communities.

Today, a brand’s ability to control messaging has shifted out of marketer’s hands into new media channels driven by users. The one-sided monologue has been co-opted and even subverted by the tools that made brands so successful. Peer-to-peer networks (internet) enable users to share experiences, uncensored. Social media and mobile Web access continue to shape the online retail environment. User reviews and blogs have empowered consumers with effective tools that influence consumer purchasing power. Smart brands utilize these electronic tools to sustain consumer loyalty. Brand heritage is no longer enough for assured success. The noise of the shouting consumer has increased in volume as brands have joined in the dialogue. Brands have been segmented and slotted into niches, targeting specific market segments. It’s a messy business, constantly shifting and evolving.

In their research, SVA students interviewed leading branding, strategy and design leaders who have created everything from book covers, hotels, packaged goods and department stores. They’re really engaging conversations. Scott Williams, president of Scott Williams & Co., working with hospitality brand Starwood, believes: “At its core, branding is about… telling an amazing indelible story…. up until recently, we didn’t talk about theatricality and stagecraft in the world of brands… there’s a certain magic or pixie dust that people use in order to create these moments that become forever locked in your memory and tied up with your emotions.” Brand heritage became a repeated theme in these conversations. Michael Beirut from Pentagram, in his experience with luxury goods retailer Saks Fifth Avenue, tapped into that retailer’s design heritage, capitalizing on the client’s position as a leader in retail. Yet Saks must also appear to be progressive, modern and forward-looking. But they’re not replicating history either. Matteo Bologna of Mucca Design, believes: “You look at history and you try to replicate it in a way that looks authentic. Yet it’s totally fake, so you have to put in a lot of love.” Ultimately, he believes brands are about telling a good story. Jennifer Kinon and Bobby Martin of Original Champions of Design (OCD), when updating the iconic Girl Scouts identity, sought “to be archeologists of design and find things in the brand that were there in the beginning.” (Their task was daunting considering the logo’s distinguished pedigree: it was designed by Saul Bass in 1978.) Scott Williams echoes that notion too, he speaks of the great power of observational research: “When people accept the status quo, they stop innovating. By observing, you find the obvious and pay attention to things previously taken for granted.”

Well-crafted stories, and an even greater resource of archival brands, products and campaigns, Rockport has published another great design volume.
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Method cover

"To create a movement, we focus communications around two key ingredients: change and participation. Every marketing initiative should draw attention to some kind of change — a change in products, our industry, or the world at large — and should inspire participation from our advocates — inviting them to engage with the brand and share control in how campaigns take shape and spread in the market."
The Method Method
Eric Ryan & Adam Lowry
c 2011 Portfolio/Penguin

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The Method Method: Seven Obsessions that Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down
Eric Ryan & Adam Lowry with Lucas Conley
c 201
1 Portfolio/Penguin
Available across Canada, $31 Cdn.
Method

You’ve likely seen Method at Shoppers Drug Mart or Canadian Tire for a while — I love Method’s all-purpose multi-surface natural cleaner. But my greater interest in Method really was sparked while attending RDG Ontario’s annual conference, Design Thinkers 2011. Method cofounder Eric Ryan was a keynote speaker. He offered seven ‘obsessions’ or rules that Method’s creators live by that have been critical to over ten years of business success. The Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down describes in detail the company’s up-and-down history and offers the seven obsessions in great detail. The book is coauthored by cofounders: Eric Ryan (who has an advertising background) and Adam Lowry (a climate research chemist) and Lucas Conley. This is an abundantly readable, fast-moving book; the coauthors invite readers who may be venturing into start-up territory to swipe their obsessions and use them.

Ironically, the household consumer cleaning products industry is dirty; toxic chemical contents that require warning labels on packaging abound. The big industry-leading players were slow to embrace ‘green.’ Sensing a gap in the marketplace — and without practical experience in household retail — Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry didn’t actually invent new products, they chose to disrupt the industry itself. They looked at a category (consumer packaged goods) where leading brands were lagging by failing to recognize major cultural shifts in consumer attitudes and occupied the space between (seizing an opportunity). Their belief: Design safe, natural cleaning products for the home that actually bring enjoyment to life: Make cleaning fun! Take a personal care approach to home care. This would be their competitive advantage.

The Method Method thus describes the key motivators for ongoing authentic brand success. Use culture as a competitive advantage: obsession #1. For Method, culture is about the binding energy generated by employees, customers and media. Culture encompasses the shared values, practices and behaviours of employees, delivering superior customer service and driving innovation. Collaborative cultures drive innovation. Resilient cultures attract talent, inspire customers to spread the word and offer the ultimate competitive advantage by being impossible to copy.

Obsession #2: Create advocates, don’t sell to customers. Today, customers wish to participate, they’re not passive. New media empowers consumers, it has revolutionized how they shop and share their opinions. Social media is in fact earned media, any media received for free, like blogs or viral YouTube videos. Old, paid media tools like television and radio are less efficient (however they do represent the best way to reach a mass audience with predictability). Method inspires advocates, they become evangelists. See Method advocate Nathan Aaron’s website. Method seeks to grow a devoted core of advocates while shrinking less-engaged customers: thus, fewer customers buying more products. Narrow-focusing on audience builds and effective marketing model. For Method, it’s about niches.

Overwhelmed by global issues, business today has the greatest opportunity to change humanity’s relationship with nature. Personalizing sustainability to inspire change is obsession #3. What’s the greatest threat to the green movement? Consumer apathy. For Method, sustainability is the core of everything they do. They’re bringing green to the mainstream by making sustainable products people actually want to buy. To be truly innovative, people must adopt new products in vast numbers. Consumers must be inspired by causes they connect with on a personal level. Consumers are the boss, and brands must speak to them on a one-to-one level.

If your business isn’t the biggest, be the fastest: obsession #4. Speed may be the biggest competitive advantage. But being fast assumes risk. Rushing products to market — like Method’s failed venture into their body wash line, Bloq. Speed requires balance — and agility or knowing when to step up the pace or slow down when necessary. Corporate culture can speed things up, it requires everyone is on the same page. Enter collaboration: a quick culture empowers open debate while remaining clear and aligned with the final goal. Great execution requires a strong point of view with certain criteria: Is a Method product smart? Is it Attractive? Is it Sustainable? Will it generate advocates? All of these central questions are informed by Method’s brand mission: Inspiring a happy, healthy home revolution.

Customer, vendor, marketer and manufacturer come together in the retail environment: Deliver retail differentiation is Method’s obsession #5. The retail landscape is shifting: Chains are being consolidated, small brands are being crowded out of the store, customers are chasing the lowest price possible and direct-to-consumer online shopping is challenging the shopping mall. Brands like Method must bring meaningful positive change to retailers. Method’s incremental growth in one decade has transformed — or ‘disrupted’ in their words — the need to buy soap into a want by making it an impulse buy. Selling products is essentially a transfer of emotion. Method has successfully aligned their passionate belief in their products to their customers and their retail partners like Target. They always had Target in their minds in Method's early start-up days. Both the brand and the retailer shared a commitment to design, Target inspired Method by reinventing the idea of design at mass. Both believe design can be democratized with a successful formula: high style with low prices.

Being product-centric, delivering a stand-out experience is obsession #6. Product manufactures are constantly searching to gain the attention of consumers by advertising to attract even mild consumer interest. Product categories mature over time, when basic needs and wants are satisfied, consumers trade up to greater satisfaction. How? By fulfilling a unique user experience that’s memorable and unexpected. Users will return again and again to products that offer great experiences. We live in an experience-driven world: most basic and rational needs and wants are satisfied, products must deliver more than quality, they must offer an emotional proposition. Method’s experience ‘pillars’ transform quotidian tasks of cleaning the home into pleasurable and satisfying experiences. Well-designed products, agreeable fragrance, hard-working and environmentally responsible ingredients are Method’s key requirements in all their products.

Finally, obsession #7: design. Today design is mainstream. We all have our own understanding of what it means: aesthetics, ergonomics or even analytics. For Method’s creators, design is their purpose: to create innovation consistently in all their products and to always improve with every decision so that innovation becomes their competitive advantage, with positive environmental impact. They love design and believe it is an effective business tool that is immediate and impactful. Their strategy is to deliver great experiences for the majority. Design has become democratized. Method has successfully brought design thinking and business thinking together: combining inductive and deductive reasoning of predictable and reliable systems with the imaginative possibilities of abductive reasoning: of what might be.

Method's cofounders imagined a business with a social mission to do good in the world. Method is a mission-driven company. They challenge readers to find their own obsessions and social mission. It will be transformative and good for the economic bottom line; by doing so, the search will lead to what differentiates new brands from all others. The Method Method offers sound advice to begin the search for distinction.
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Brand Thinking cover

"Scientists and anthropologists tend to agree that humans are, in essence, pack animals, which explains why we feel safe and more secure in groups…. Perhaps our motivation to brand, and to be branded, comes form our hardwired instinct to connect. Perhaps not. In either case, what is indisputable is the breakneck speed at which brands have grown over the last century and the number of people who have literally and figuratively bought into these brands. The prospect that this trend will show down is remote; as a result, the underlying causes and outward expressions of these activities and practices are worthy of thoughtful discussion."
Brand Thinking
Debbie Millman
c 2011 Allworth Press

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Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits
Debbie Millman
c 2011 Allworth Press
Chapters-Indigo, Toronto, $34.95 Cdn.

Rob Walker in the foreword to Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, Debbie Millman’s latest book, suggests brands don’t really exist, strictly speaking. Brands are ideas — they provide meaning and order in a world of clutter — they’re ideas just like Christianity (which could be considered a brand by some, but more on that noble pursuit later), the financial markets and consumerism. In the 1920s, commodities shifted, they became branded commodities; competition in the mass marketplace made branding necessary. When consumer products became cheap and available for all, they required differentiation. Today, brands are complex, for businesses, they’re challenging to manage. They’re also ubiquitous, they’ve become part of our culture. Branding Thinking shines the spot light on 22 brand creators and thinkers, lead in conversation by the very capable and engaging Debbie Millman. This is a great book for anyone interested in the world of branding.

You won’t find exactly 22 definitions of brand in this book, but there are certainly plenty of suggestions. And when asked to describe branding, the contributors journey in their conversations into fascinating territory. Wally Olins, former chairman of Wolff Olins, suggests “branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition. It’s about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family.” Stanley Hainsworth, who has worked with two of the world’s leading brands — Starbucks and Nike — speaks of the need for experiences when designing brands. “Rigor in matching the vision to the brand experience is essential, and that must define every brand touchpoint. No one is going to pick up your product and try if if they don’t want to buy into the experience.” Brands engender an emotional connection with the consumer. And they do it on a repeated basis day after day. Brand experiences have the power to delight in unexpected ways, they can unify, they can be life-changing, and even fun — when that happens, connections are made. Designer Joe Duffy and ad man Alex Bogusky, both speak of brands as badges we live with, they become statements about us, “you have this inclination to badge yourself in order to feel worthy,” says Alex Bogusky.

Stanley Hainsworth believes, as others in the book suggest, that a brand’s most important aspect is story telling. Cheryl Swanson, president of Toniq, believes brands are totems: “they tell us stories about our place in culture — about where we are and where we’ve been. They also help us figure out where we’re going.” The compelling brand story told in design, advertising and in words, suggests they have totemic, or emblematic, almost religious value. Apple users are zealous in their belief in Apple devices. Users of Method brand cleaning products are cult-like in their belief of “People Against Dirty.” Author Seth Godin believes brands are euphemisms for products that offer expectation, connections, experiences and promises. They aid us in our daily decision-making processes, providing clarity amid so much clutter.

In his interesting dialogue with Debbie Millman, Brian Collins, CEO Collins, speaks of intrinsic stories to be found in brands. He believes they have become “the best device for perpetuating mythic archetypes." They’re literally stories. Kids on a basketball court tricked out in Nike athletic gear, they’re summoning the goddess of victory. Stories give meaning and when called upon, they activate archetypes; mythic prototypes like a goddess, and even Eve. He suggests Apple computer is really the biblical character Eve: the seductress. No one can deny the alluring qualities of the latest Apple iPad or iPhone. Beyond describing brand, it is curious to see how the conversations in the book expand upon ‘other noble pursuits’ like religion, it becomes an interesting leitmotif picked up by several interviewees.

Design anthropologist, Dori Tunstall in her work seeks to understand how to design products and experiences that resonate with people: how design processes define what it means to be human. Heavy stuff. People seek to make things special and meaningful, making the abstract concrete, and thus generating creativity.

Brand Thinking concludes with comments from authors Tom Peters and Malcolm Gladwell. In separate interviews, both men express frustration with the term ‘brand.’ Tom Peters simply prefers the term ‘story,’ for him it is more personal and meaningful. Malcolm Gladwell is certainly not the first person to believe ‘brand’ is overused, “The more broadly you use the word, the less useful it is as a way of distinguishing or describing complex phenomena.” He makes a valid and compelling argument.

This book looks into branding from fascinating points-of-view; conversations diverge in interesting directions, but in timely manner, return to the focus of brand thinking.
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Whiteboard covers

"There's an old saying in business, 'What gets measured gets done.' As brands become more measurable, companies are focusing on ways to increase their value. One way is to follow the example of currency: Use design to encourage trust."
The Brand Gap
Marty Neumeier
c 2006 New Riders

"Customers today don't like to be sold — they like to be buy, and they tend to buy in tribes. Better advice for companies is to focus their communications not on a Unique Selling Proposition but on a Unique Buying Tribe — that has a natural affinity for the company's products or services. In a tribe, news spreads quickly, which gives brands extra traction."
ZAG
Marty Neumeier
c 2007 New Riders

"Apple can keep innovating because it has a culture of innovation. The ingredients of revolution, renewal and agility are baked in. Business history is dotted with the innovations of one-hit wonders, but innovative cultures are rare. To build an innovative culture, a company must keep itself in a perpetual state of reinvention. Radical ideas must be the norm, not the exception."
The Designful Company
Marty Neumeier
c 2009 New Riders

For more quotes from branding-industry leaders, thinkers, designers and writers, go to:

The Brand Gap, ZAG & The Designful Company
Marty Neumeier
c 2006—2009 New Riders
Swipe Books, Toronto, $25.95—$33.99 Cdn.
liquidagency.com

Marty Neumeier launched design magazine, CRITIQUE, in the 1990s. It was a great magazine, well designed and insightful. His former company, Neutron, a design think tank on brand-building merged with Liquid Agency in 2009. Today, he serves as Liquid Agency's Director of Transformation. He travels as a branding speaker. His three books, published under the series banner as "Whiteboard Overviews" are: The Brand Gap (2003), ZAG (2006) and The Designful Company (2009). They're practical, concise and sharply focused books; he targets brand building principles and keeps the content flowing quickly. These books feel like they could be presented, not just read. In fact, Marty Neumeier is also a speaker and he presents an 'innovation' workshop built on the strength of his whiteboard overview. Given their brevity, it's appropriate to consider all three books concurrently.

The Brand Gap offers an intriguing definition of brand: "A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It’s a GUT FEELING because we’re all emotional, intuitive beings, despite our best efforts to be rational. It’s a PERSON’S gut feeling, because in the end, the brand is defined by individuals, not by companies, markets or the so-called general public. Each person creates his or her own version of it." That's compelling. Control of brands is in the hands of users; companies can influence the branding process, but they can't control it. A brand's strongest attribute? Trust. This is the determining factor when consumers buy. By enabling design, companies build trust. Design requires strategy and creativity together. And there's the gap — Analytical thinkers (the strategists) on one side, they reason, relying on numbers; and on the other side the creatives, they're intuitive, visual thinkers. It's the difference between logic and magic. A rift between strategy and creativity is a brand gap. At worst, brand gaps are barriers to communication — and competition. But when bridged, an effective brand can communicate straight to users' minds and hearts. Distance-shrinking messages are the building blocks of a charismatic brand.

Charismatic brands have no substitutes. They claim the dominant positions in their market categories. They command the highest price premiums. Even more important though, they are least likely to be commoditized by price competition. The author suggests there are no dull products, only dull brands. Charismatic brands are built on five principles: differentiate, collaborate, innovate, validate and cultivate. Differentiation requires that you know who you are, what you do, and why it matters. What makes you different? Management guru, Peter Drucker said business is shifting from "ownership" to "partnership" — or collaboration. It's not about having the most people, but the most people working together. At the heart of better design and better business is innovation; it magnifies drive, providing traction to produce the uncommon. The author calls this, zag. Brands must be relevant and meaningful. Validation provides necessary reality checks for exceptional brands. Branding is a process, it can be learned, taught and cultivated. Brand knowledge must be caught and passed along, imbedded in an organization.

When others zig, it's time to ZAG; the second book in the whiteboard overview. We live an a world of overabundance, or clutter: product clutter — too many things, feature clutter — more is always better? and media clutter — so many channels connect us, that we risk becoming disconnected. The challenge for manufacturers and marketers is not to offer more, but to offer different. Stand out from the competition by finding your market 'white space' which is yours to own and defend: this is the principle behind zag. To ensure success, organizations must naturally find their zag by designing it, building it and renewing it.

You can't lead by following. The white space can be found by uncovering a need state: look for a job people are already trying to get done, then help them do it. This is how Procter & Gamble has become so successful. The process for designing your zag is lengthy, according to Marty Neumeier it requires 17 checkpoints: Who are you? What do you do? What’s your vision? What wave are you riding? Who shares the brandscape? What makes you the “only”? What should you add or subtract? Who loves you? Who’s the enemy? What do they call you? How do you explain yourself? How do you spread the word? How do people engage with you? What do they experience? How do you earn their loyalty? How do you extend your success? How do you protect your portfolio? Success will be found, by deviating — or differentiating — not by following.

The Brand Gap bridged the distance between strategy and customer experience; ZAG focused on radical differentiation. The third book, The Designful Company, shows how transformation is possible by collaborating. In The Design of Business, Roger Martin wrote of ‘wicked problems.’ Marty Neumeier offers his view: they’re so persistent, pervasive and confounding, they tend to shift around when solutions appear to be in sight, but those solutions aren’t right or wrong. They’re unique. Global warming is a wicked problem. For business leaders, technological change, sustainability and balkanized markets are wicked problems. It’s not good enough today to be better. Business has to get different. Innovation is driving business to differentiation. And design is driving innovation. Think of design though, beyond products; design is moving to included processes and systems. Design is driving innovation. Innovation powers brands. And brands build loyalty. Thus, growing profits.

To be a designful company, a business must develop a ‘designful mind,’ or a mind that invests in the ability to invent the widest range of solutions for wicked problems. Beyond knowing and doing, business must now also make new solutions by adopting a culture of innovation based on design thinking. Innovation is driven from company culture lead by a visionary who fosters creativity. Innovation builds momentum with every small input. The author calls these inputs, levers — there 16 levers in The Designful Company. It begins by taking on a wicked problem, weave a story, organize a lever of change by establishing an innovation centre. Respect for design can only succeed when management brings it inside an organization by creating a ‘metateam’ that collaborates on advanced creativity. And that team must move together where ideas are shared freely. Designful companies tend to be democratic, they work from the bottom-up. Ideas are unpredictable, while known quantities are safe and certain. The hurdle is to invest in big ideas but spend small; ultimately innovation will succeed — and be measured — by the marketplace. Peter Drucker said “Every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution; or, every level must be involved in non-stop training.” That includes brand training that is custom-fitted to the the company culture and mission. A chief brand officer must have a seat at the decision table to shepherd the value of the brand. Value comes from human networks more than electronic ones. Wealth comes form imagination, empathy and collaboration. This talent must be acknowledged and rewarded. Design thinking is challenging, no doubt about it. Even problematic. But it’s necessary for change, because design is change.
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Brand Atlas cover

"We believe that is is time for a radically different resource that synthesizes and visualizes marketplace dynamics, fundamental brand concepts and brand management tools and processes. We wanted to appeal to the reader who has little time but great desire to understand brand fundamentals quickly…. We wanted to create original diagrams that visualized ideas and concepts rather than data. Technology has become so provocative and powerful that it often distracts us from the most meaningful work ahead of us: to be original, to think about big ideas and design a better future."
Brand Atlas

Alina Wheeler and Joel Katz
c 2011 Wiley

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Brand Atlas:
Branding Intelligence Made Visible
Alina Wheeler and Joel Katz
c 2011 Wiley
Swipe Books, Toronto, $35.95 Cdn.

brandatlas.com

Brand Atlas nicely complements Alina Wheeler’s earlier successful book Designing Brand Identity, now in its third edition, which has become standard reading for design students and branding professionals. However, this new book is compressed and slight in size. The world’s first atlas appeared over 430 years ago, aiding seafarers. Maps have aided people, helping them understand where they are in relationship to where they need to go. In our contemporary world, road maps have diminished in use, replaced by electronic global positioning systems. Brand Atlas provides an interesting road map for navigating the world of brand-building. Mapping brand isn’t exactly like a cross-country road trip though: the author’s objective is to distill relevant ideas of brand thinking to their essence, capture the best practices of brand building and demystify branding lexicon with straightforward simplicity. Brand Atlas offers a compendium of simplified single page branding descriptions supported by information graphics created by information designer Joel Katz.

Brand Atlas is divided into three primary parts: Dynamics, Intelligence and Drive. A fourth section, Details, expands on some parts of the previous sections in greater detail. The first part covers the changing dynamics of brand: disclosing global sources of materials and services, embracing networks that are transforming the way customers make choices right now, embracing new methodology based on design thinking, engaging in new two-way conversations, maintaining brand promises, embracing open source and social networks, using cloud computing to reach brand-building team members, creating consumer experiences across multiple venues and the need to make it easy for users to know a product’s story by appealing to the marketplace.

Like a road trip, the view changes constantly. Branding principles provide the underlying strategy for reaching the destination while the dynamics shift. In the second part, Intelligence provides the basic concepts of brand building: the ‘big idea’ imagined by the visionary which supports brand strategy, the need for connectedness with a brand, touchpoints that fuel recognition and establish differentiation, delivering the brand promise, reaching consumers’ hearts and minds, appealing to the senses, ensuring brand authenticity, being positioned in the customer’s mind in the right place, researching the competition, using brand as an asset to support shareholder value, spinning-off existing brands to extend marketplace reach, aligning the brand so that it feels familiar to customers, unifying brand through visual and verbal architecture, trademarking logos, having a distinctive name and being irreplaceable.

The third section, Drive is about shaping and sustaining a reliable brand. Brands require investigation, strategic imagination, design excellence and project management skills. Simplicity may seem counterintuitive, but for brands it's essential; repetition and familiarity are memorable, comforting. Brands must be built from the inside out inspiring employees by committing to the values of the company's culture. Collaboration is evolutionary, by focusing on problem solving and generating a connected approach, the brand unites a company across departments. Managing brand is important for the long term; identify what matters most and focus on it. Brand principles remain the same: strategy, creativity, analytics and execution. Listen to customers, investigate competitors, identify trends, become the brand of choice. Analysis and discovery go hand in hand — focus on understanding, clarifying and positioning to find the essence of a brand. Utilize metrics to inform continuous improvement. Use SWOT analysis as a strategic planning tool. Encourage a safe environment where people may speak honestly.

Information designer Joel Katz contributes meaningful user-friendly diagrams that set the stage for Alina Wheeler's text. For every page of text, there is an accompanying diagram. One reviewer suggested this book is like a Swiss Army knife: individually, each part is useful and serves a purpose. Text and diagrams are supported by quotes from branding professionals and thinkers, they offer insightful comments relevant to each branding tool. Brand Atlas is a useful reference guide for team brainstorming, and when required, provides an entry point into the much more detailed Designing Brand Identity.
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Design of Business

"Design-thinking firms stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their business. They do so with an eye to creating advances in both innovation and efficiency — the combination that produces the most powerful competitive edge."
The Design of Business

Roger Martin
c 2009 Harvard Business Press

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The Design of Business
Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage
Roger Martin
c 2009 Harvard Business Press
Chapters-Indigo, Toronto, $26.95 Cdn.
rogermartin.com

Roger Martin is dean of University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, author and frequent contributor to business magazines. His newest book is Fixing The Game. However, sticking to my ongoing theme of design thinking, I’m going to comment on Roger Martin’s last book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage published in 2009. I first learned about this book at RGD Ontario’s 2010 Design Thinkers conference; to read more about the conference, go to C&D.

Back in the 1950s, America was on the move, literally. Automotive sales skyrocketed. In southern California, young families hit the road. Two brothers, the McDonalds, couldn’t understand why drivers were bypassing their small chain of drive-in restaurants. They needed a new approach. They developed a new concept for the quick-service restaurant: they cut the menu offering, standardized food preparation and installed service windows where customers picked up their own food. It worked. Salesman Ray Kroc envisioned the model could work on a vastly larger scale; he bought the chain and billions would be served.

Roger Martin refers to the McDonalds story as journey along the knowledge funnel. Ray Kroc stared into a mystery seeking to understand how he could stop all those drivers in their tracks. He pursued a vision of mass production by constantly refining the operation and reproduced it on a global scale. Exploring the mystery, narrowing the field of inquiry down to a manageable size and converting that heuristic — or rule of thumb — to a fixed formula or algorithm are the three steps in the knowledge funnel. The author suggests that “the company that gains efficiencies by pushing current knowledge through the funnel also gains an offensive advantage” enabling it to deploy savings and free up personnel to look back into the knowledge funnel to entirely new mysteries. By doing so, they become design-thinking businesses.

Design thinking requires the logic of what might be, or abductive reasoning. For many businesses, this is unknown territory — they prefer the safety of reliability, it’s consistent and outcomes are predictable. Abductive reasoning though, requires validity, it “drives the intuitive spark that leaps across the gap separating the world as it is from the world that might be,” the author suggests.

Roger Martin offers several well-know examples — mentioned in other design-related books on TomCulture.com. The list is a familiar one: Research in Motion, Target, Cirque du Soleil, Herman Miller, and of course, Apple. Roger Martin’s scrutiny of these explorers of design thinking is different though: He knows these people. Mike Lazaridis is a design thinker; he argues that you must leap beyond what is possible today, product design “has to be audacious from a technical point of view,” he says. The mystery for RIM was to provide wireless email in a personal digital assistant; then drove it to a heuristic — the BlackBerry — the algorithm is servicing its customers with RIM’s carrier partners around the world and on its own proprietary network. He challenged RIM’s designers to look deeper in the knowledge funnel; the result was better products like BlackBerry Pearl and BlackBerry Curve.

A.G. Lafley, former CEO of the world’s largest consumer packaged-goods company, Procter & Gamble knew P&G’s brands were losing market share to retailers' private-label brands. He had to win back customer loyalty. He believed design thinking offered a solution. He engaged outside expertise from a network of design experts: Tim Brown from IDEO and John Maeda from Rhode Island School of Design among others. They believed that design thinking required: a deep user understanding, visualization, prototyping and refining, and a new activity system to bring ideas to life — and to make them profitable. A.G. Lafley knew P&G’s management was driven by reliable, airtight strategies; he knew they had to become comfortable with ‘logical leaps of the mind,’ validity-driven solutions that would generate new product innovations. Some results of P&G's gaze into the knowledge funnel: the Crest SpinBrush, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and the popular Tide To Go stain removing pen.

Other examples: Guy Laliberté of Cirque du Soleil, put creativity ahead of profit taking. He created a new heuristic: the Cirque show. Cirque productions are constantly being reinvented, he relied less upon tested reliable methods and believed he could balance management and creativity. Bob Ulrich at discount retailer Target created a new heuristic: a strategy based on innovation, design and quality. He collaborated with fashion and product design superstars like Michael Graves and Stella McCartney to create affordable clothing and products. Finally, Roger Martin calls Steve Jobs a hybrid leader; a champion of validity and enabler of design thinking. With credit to Apple’s star designer Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs interpreted consumer perceptions on which Apple products should move forward. He was the visionary. All of these leaders were committed to balancing validity and reliability as a central component of their activities. As CEOs, they all actively participated in a design-friendly culture. They took active roles in nurturing the design process inside their organizations, or they ventured outside to the design industry for guidance.

Roger Martin concludes the book by referring to his previous book, The Opposable Mind — the concept of a personal knowledge system — or a way of thinking about how we acquire knowledge and expertise, a way we view the world. This system can be utilized by design thinkers too. He says “Design thinkers set out to design business rather than to replicate what currently exists.”

This is a small volume, fewer than 200 pages, but each page is thought-provoking. It’s clearly written, well-paced, moves along nicely with new observations into unique, but applicable design-driven solutions. Published in 2009, the situation for Research in Motion and Apple in 2011 have changed — with much media attention given to RIM’s falling market value and to the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs. One wonders how Roger Martin would write an epilogue to The Design of Business today.
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Made to Stick

"A strategy that is built into the way an organization talks cannot be inert. If your frontline workers can talk about your strategy, can tell stories about it… then the strategy is doing precisely what it was intended to do: guide behaviour."
Made to Stick

Chip Heath and Dan Heath
c 2007 Random House New York

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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Chip Heath and Dan Heath
c 2007 Random House New York
Chapters-Indigo, Toronto, $32 Cdn.

heathbrothers.com

The Heath brothers call Made to Stick a ‘nurture’ book; it’s about nurturing ideas, good ideas face difficulty in the world. What they need is stickiness. To stick, ideas must be understood and remembered — they last and they change opinions and behaviours. Designers can benefit from this book, definitely; but so can managers seeking new strategies in their organizations; teachers conveying themes to students that will stay with them; an editorialist attempting to change readers’ opinions; or a preacher in a pulpit sharing deep spiritual meaning. They all seek to make their ideas stick.

Chip Heath is a professor of organizational behaviour at Stanford University; Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University and former researcher at Harvard Business School. This book is a New York Times bestseller and is abundantly readable and, yes, practical. I really enjoyed it. If you believe ideas require a naturally creative mind, you may be interested to know that ideas can be nurtured and designed to stick. The authors extensive research reveals that even wide-ranging ideas tend to draw from common attributes. They suggest, like urban myths and proverbs, long-lasting ideas have “natural talent.” These attributes are organized into six principles, the authors employ a useful mnemonic device: the acronym they created is SUCCES. Very convenient and memorable.

S is for simplicity: stripping down an idea to its most critical essence, or, its core. This is not an easy task. The authors offer useful tools: weed out the superfluous, the value of the intent must come from its singularity, don’t lose direction, force prioritization. By reducing the volume of information, an will become stickier.

How do we hold attention? While we can’t demand it, we can attract it. We can gain attention by breaking a pattern. We adapt quickly to consistency, but by changing things up, unexpectedly — the ‘U’ in SUCCES — we gain attention. Unexpected ideas surprise us; we seek answers to resolve questions created by being surprised. To stick, our ideas must be uncommon. Introducing mystery and curiosity into our stories, we open up the ‘knowledge gap.’ These gaps create interest. We seek to resolve them. A complex business strategy is abstract. But when that strategy becomes tangible, it’s concrete. The authors cite Southwest airlines as THE low-cost airline. That’s concrete. Understanding concreteness mobilizes and focuses our brains. Concrete ideas are easy to remember, they simply stick.

Concrete details lend credibility to an idea — C is for Concrete. The authors suggest that persuading a doubtful audience is an uphill battle because we have preset biases, we believe because our parents and friends believe — they offer external credibility. We trust authority. Yet sticky ideas are persuasive too; they sometimes require internal credibility — our messages must stand on their on feet. Details boost credibility. Statistics, scale and context add credibility to our ideas. The authors suggest the greatest source for making ideas credible are measurable credentials, or allowing users to test a claim. What is one of the ad industry’s oldest questions? “Try before you buy!” Believability is established by drawing on details, persuasion, statistics and by telling a great story.

Statistics are analytical. They lack emotion. They’re abstract. Charitable organizations know that people don’t give to support the heart and soul of their administrative needs, they give because they care about people, animal welfare, social causes and the environment. Feelings inspire donors to act. We’re wired to feel. E is for Emotion. Many ideas in fact are already associated with emotions, it's already present and does not need to be produced. We appeal to things that matter to people — chiefly, our own self-interest.

Finally, ideas stick when they tell a story. Stories provide simulation and inspiration. The authors suggest that the right kind of story is basically a simulation, a good story can evoke in our minds a physical activity. Stories provide context; they’re the hooks that can prompt memory, thus, making them more lifelike and true. Stories can prompt us to respond and take action. In fact, the authors suggest stories are the most effective SUCCES principle; they’re usually concrete, always emotional, contain the unexpected and should strive to be simple.

Think of the SUCCES model as a checklist, the authors suggest it can be a deeply practical tool. While it’s not instinctive, it does require application. And, it’s convincing. By applying these principles, our stories can potentially become amazing because they stick. I definitely recommend you pick up this book, and apply it to your own ideas.
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Glimmer cover

"Design is meant to be a tool for change, but (Bruce) Mau thinks the most complex designs can go beyond spurring change in the present — they can also anticipate and build in accommodation for future change… he sometimes refers to a principle he calls 'designing for constant change.'"
Glimmer

Warren Berger
c 2009 Random House Canada

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Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even the World
Warren Berger
c 2009 Random House Canada
Available across Canada, $35 Cdn.
glimmerbook.com

Can a non-designer think like a designer? Warren Berger believes it’s possible; in fact, we just have to recognize the glimmer of possibility and nurture it. It’s accessible to anyone. It begins with a faint light, a “glimmer moment” when we look at an idea in a new and crystallizing way, see the possibility of how it may be changed or transformed — to see not what just is, but what might be. Thus, the light can shine with the glow of creation and innovation. The process of recognition and nurture is the application of design.

Glimmer is one of many recently published books to focus on the concept of design thinking: the methods and processes of investigating a problem by defining it, conducting research by employing empathic skills and observation, forming an idea, proceeding to a prototyping stage by refining along the way with many iterations and ultimately execution and implementation. Design thinking methods can be applied to the manufacture of products and hard goods to the transformation of a company’s organization and structure; and ultimately, as the author suggests, the design of our own lives. We makes choices in our daily lives, adjusting when necessary, however invisible it may seem, design is in everything we see and do.

Multi-disciplinary designer Bruce Mau contributed to Warren Berger’s book Glimmer. In fact, I’d suggest he is almost Berger’s co-author. Warren Berger gained access to Bruce Mau’s studio — and his creative mind — to advance Mau’s ideas on the movement to embrace a new way of thinking about design. Mau is a firm believer in design thinking. Glimmer draws heavily on Mau’s 1998 Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Glimmer is separated in four diminishing principles: Universal, Business, Social and Personal. Among other recommendations from Mau’s manifesto, which are expanded upon in this book, we’re invited to ‘Ask stupid questions' — or question conventional wisdom and break out of old patterns and behaviours. By ‘Jumping fences’ we can employ abductive reasoning — leaping from the reality of the known into the imagined world of what might be. By ‘Making hope visible’ we question what exists today and seek out new possibilities and share them with others, thus generating momentum for new initiatives for everything from new products to social movements. Other principles follow, concluding with ‘Begin anywhere,’ put out ideas immediately, it does not matter if conditions and timing may not appear to be optimal, over time and by trial, complex design problem solutions will emerge. Mau suggests “The goal is to be an expert coming out, not going in.”

Of course, Bruce Mau is not the one and only designer to be consulted by the author. Design thinker Tim Brown, president of the experimental design company IDEO is referenced too. He believes that design thinking is transformative; ‘bringing together what is desirable from human point of view with what is technologically feasible and viable.’ Designer John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design offers his belief that good design must achieve simplicity by adding and subtracting; the key is “Subtract the obvious and add the meaningful.”

What are the results of design thinking? Glimmer offers a few design-driven solutions. Designer Yves Behar with Nicolas Negroponte, developed the One Laptop Per Child program, a low-cost, low-energy personal computer targeted for children in the developing world. Dean Kamen, witnessing a man in a wheelchair, questioned conventional wisdom, and asked why could not the man stand up, or climb stairs? By employing ‘smart recombinations,’ the Segway scooter was born. New York School of Visual Art design Student Deborah Adler brilliantly looked deep and designed an award-winning solution for labeling and bottling pharmaceutical prescription drugs.

Glimmer is a non-designer’s book. It’s optimistic. Warren Berger invites readers to seek out their own glimmer moments: focus on the better, get out into the world, build on what exists today, slow down and engage at a deeper level, and finally, allow events to change you. Design is as much about you and the product.
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books e-reader small

Reading Books: Paper to Pixels
RGD Ontario and the Design Exchange host a panel discussion on the evolution of book reading: from paper to pixels. Read my comments from the event on C&D.

DOUBT cover

"I'm Doubt and I make it my business to push you — not off a cliff or into a wall — but to think for yourself and find better ways of doing things… That f'ing voice you hear and think, 'Not again.' But you know I'm right."
DOUBT

Paul Lavoie and Jane Hope
c 2010 TAXI

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DOUBT: Unconventional Wisdom from the World's Greatest Sh*t Disturber
Paul Lavoie and Jane Hope
c 2010 TAXI Canada Inc.
Swipe Books, Toronto, $21.99 Cdn.
doubttheconventional.com

This diminutive book is self-published by Canadian ad agency TAXI, created by co-founders Paul Lavoie and Jane Hope. ‘Doubt the conventional, create the exceptional’ is TAXI’s creed; this book is dedicated to the practice of Doubt. To embrace doubt is to ‘abandon the security of established conventions.’ By failing to accept doubt, one will always look at problems the same old way, the authors suggest. ‘Without doubt, the chances for new thinking and big ideas will pass you by.’ TAXI’s co-founders describe Doubt as a ‘pesky presence’ in their creative practice - it keeps the ‘what-ifs’ flowing.

Doubt is a character in the book, rendered brilliantly by illustrator Gary Taxali. Not interested in friendship, he seeks out those who wish to change the world - people described as Disciples of Doubt by the authors - those who are thinking, designing and bringing about change in their own way by looking beyond conventional thinking. A seemingly obvious solution to hospital patient infection rates: a five-step intensive care checklist protocol developed by U.S. physician Peter Provonost. The list has saved lives and millions of dollars in health care cost. He reminds health care practitioners not to overlook the mundane. MIT professor and digital pioneer, Nicolas Negroponte developed an affordable — and durable — laptop computer suitable for the world’s one billion impoverished children who lack adequate access to education. The One Laptop per Child program wirelessly connected children to each other; the result of giving children a laptop is soaring attendance in bricks-and-mortar schools. Other well-known stories are featured in Doubt: marathoner Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, the spirit of sharing information on the Internet informed the development of the Open Source Initiative, and from Bangladesh, the world-changing micro credit Grameen Bank that provides tiny, but life-altering bank loans to lift poor people into higher standards of living.

Doubt is fantastically designed by TAXI creatives: just two colours, each spread is unique and attention-grabbing. Pesky Doubt is featured prominently throughout the book in the most amusing situations. The stories are short, you’ll fly through this book in no time and you may find yourself returning to Doubt, it seems Doubt just has a way of sticking in your mind — he just can’t be ignored.
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Lovemarks

"Stories have huge value in business because they look in the right direction. At people. You cannot tell a story without characters and emotion and sensory detail."
Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands
Kevin Roberts
c 2005 powerHouse Books

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Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands
Kevin Roberts
c 2005 powerHouse Books
The World's Largest Bookstore, Toronto, $29.50 Cdn.
lovemarks.com

Marketers must ensure users of their products and services of the value of what they're getting. It’s a cornerstone of branding. Ensure value. Be consistent. Offer a quality product. Perform. Repeat again and again. However, brands have reached a tipping point according to Kevin Roberts, CEO worldwide of global agency Saatchi & Saatchi; they're stuck on being bigger, brighter, better, faster, easier, newer — and most importantly — cheaper. Given the pressure of competition, brands are now commoditized, they must deliver their message in a world where it is difficult to be heard among new communications channels like satellite television, internet, social media. Consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Human attention — or the attention economy — is the new currency. Marketers are competing for attention.

Why the need for attention? To build relationships — to make emotional connections; humans are powered by emotion, not by reason, the author suggests. And what is the greatest emotion? Love, of course.

And Love can change businesses and their brands; they connect in a deeper way with their followers. When embraced with Love, these exceptional, inspired brands become Lovemarks — as developed by Saatchi & Saatchi. Consumers, committed to their valued Lovemarks, become ‘Loyal Beyond Reason’, the author suggests. As he repeats often, 'Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.' They're personal. A Lovemark could be a brand, a person, a place, an organization. Lovemarks will become the future beyond brands.

Lovemarks stand above the crowded marketplace when they fully embrace mystery, sensuality and intimacy. Brands have lost their sense of mystery; but Lovemarks recognize that mystery is incalculable. Think of the Starbucks in-store experience of smell, sound and taste for example; they recognize the expanding potential of senses in building customer relationships. In the crowded marketplace, one doesn’t often think of brands in terms of sensitivity; yet it is intimacy that is essential to building emotional connections.

The author advises that the mass market must be transformed. Inspired consumers, emboldened by loyalty beyond reason, will embrace Lovemarks and own them with empathy, commitment and passion. This is the great challenge for business — inspired consumers must be the centre of every single effort. Its a game-changer. Thus, respect is built, and Love is inspired.

Lovemarks is an interesting book; its provokes thoughtful consideration of the future of brands and their evolution. Brands, it would appear, will be transformed by Love.
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Designing Brand ID

"Brand identity is the visual and verbal expression of a brand. Identity supports, expresses, communicates, synthesizes and visualizes the brand. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move."
Designing Brand Identity
Alina Wheeler
c 2006 Wiley

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Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building and Maintaining Strong Brands
Second Edition

Alina Wheeler
c 2006 Wiley
Pages, Toronto, $49.99 Cdn.
alinawheeler.com

Reviewer's note: This review is based on the Second Edition, published 2006. The most recent Third Edition, Designing Brand Identity was published in 2009.

Alina Wheeler is a branding consultant and frequent speaker to business management, design creative teams and university students.

‘My business is managing perception. My service is strategic imagination. My passion is brand identity,’ says Alina Wheeler. That passion for brand identity is now clearly and precisely expressed in print with her book Designing Brand Identity. Why the need for another book on branding? Because it did not exist. Lots of branding books brilliantly showcase global brand success stories; but she felt there was a need for a resource ‘to guide people through the process of creating a sustainable, differentiated brand identity.’

This is an essential reference book that provides the framework for the highly disciplined process of creating, implementing and sustaining a brand identity. It breaks down all aspects of the total brand identity process.

Life is accelerating. Brands must leverage the power of symbols — they’re tangible, we respond to them. Brand identity is the ‘visual and verbal expression of a brand’ — it supports, expresses and communicates the brand. It beings with a mark and evolves into a system of communications tools. Brands, as we know, are promises — the ‘big idea' — they’re ‘created in the mind’ as Walter Landor suggests. We trust brands, we follow them loyally. Up-front, the author makes the distinction: This book is about creating, building and sustaining that essential visual system that becomes memorable, authentic, meaningful, differentiated and offers value — these are the ideals that characterize the best brand identities.

The book is structured into three parts. Perception digs into those characteristic ideals and fundaments that make great brand identities so successful. Process is the real heart of the book; it's the framework that underlies brand identity initiatives from researching, clarifying, designing creating and managing a brand identity. Practice showcases best practices; it offers loads of successful brand identities that outline project goals from process and strategy to the creative solution and outcomes.

Designing Brand Identity is a valuable resource for design professionals, marketers and senior business managers.

In 2010 Alina Wheeler participated in RGD Ontario’s Design Thinkers annual conference in Toronto. To read more about this great event, to go C&D.
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Ikonica

"Culture is not simply an environmental factor to consider — it's the bedrock of our brandscape, as formidable as the Canadian Shield itself. The interplay of commerce, community and culture — within organizations as well as in the marketplace — is a constant refrain in the first-person stories we've
collected."
Ikonica: A Field Guide to Canada's Brandscape

Jeannette Hanna and Alan Middleton
c 2008 Douglas & McIntyre

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Ikonica
A Field Guide to Canada's Brandscape
Jeannette Hanna and Alan Middleton
c 2008 Douglas & McIntyre
Swipe Books, Toronto, $34.95 Cdn.
ikonicabrands.com

Co-authors Jeanette Hanna brand strategist, and Alan Middleton professor of marketing at Schulich School of Business York University, trekked Canada's ‘brandscape’ and recorded their findings in Ikonica: A Field Guide to Canada's Brandscape. Their documentation is handsomely presented with credit to designer Paul Hodgson and his masterful treatment of text and imagery; this is a lovely book.

The authors suggest we are shaped by diverse forces — from geography, weather and history and social conventions. It is essential for business to understand this environment — business must be aware of the interdependency of natural systems. Canada is a small economy; our brands must exploit our natural resources.

It is essential to recognize the ‘spirit of place,' those essential attributes that enable us to thrive and make meaningful contributions. This spirit affects brands because they reflect the climate, geography, history and social values that inform Canada. Values — or codes of behaviour — drive brand success.

For business, this spirit can be found in product quality, great service, design excellence, differentiation and culture. The authors suggest culture is the bedrock of Canada’s brandscape — or as John Sherry describes it, the importance that brands occupy in the everyday lives of consumers. Business operates with its own values, traditions, history, goals and competencies. They change over time. They must be authentic. Authenticity is the lifeblood of brands; it must be genuine. As they suggest, authenticity breeds belief (culture), belief breeds belonging (community), belonging breeds loyalty.

The main body of Ikonica is its ‘brand experience atlas’ — or 24 insights gathered by interviews with Canada’s top brand executives: from an initial small-business operator (Linda Haynes at ACE Bakery), air carriers (Robert Milton from Air Canada and Clive Beddoe WestJet) and technology companies (Rogers, Siemens) to cultural institutions (William Thorsell ROM).

There is a common river of thought throughout Ikonica’s experience atlas which I think was best embodied by the comments from senior VP, communications and marketing, Judith John at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Branding … is about the authentic truth behind the image, the promise of performance, the consistency of experience. All effective branding happens from the inside out." The brand is an individual responsibility which belongs to all stakeholders — especially staff, when they own the brand, they really respond.

Judith John and Dr. Anne Golden, both held senior management positions at the United Way Toronto. I had the privilege to meet both of these women while working on two projects: The Report of the GTA Task Force and The Report of the Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force. Dr. Golden chaired both reports. To learn more about these documents, go to my online portfolio tombranded.com.
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Breakaway Brands

"Breakaway brands are modern brands that mix rational selling with making emotional connections in a highly relevant and aspirational way… To do more modern work, clients must embrace more modern marketing approaches and employ creative talent in tune with today's more casual, fast-paced, multicultural and irreverent world."
The Breakaway Brand

Francis J. Kelly and Barry Silverstein
c 2005 McGraw-Hill

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The Breakaway Brand:
How Great Brands Stand Out
Francis J. Kelly and Barry Silverstein
c 2005 McGraw-Hill
Chapters-Indigo, Toronto, $39.95
thebreakawaybrand.com

arn.com

Francis Kelly is president and CEO of global ad agency Arnold Worldwide. He developed Arnold’s Brand Truth creative philosophy. He co-authored What They Really Teach You at the Harvard Business School. Barry Silverstein is senior VP Arnold Worldwide.

Too many brands fail for a multitude of reasons: they’re me-too look-alikes that prefer to follow rather than take leadership roles to become category leaders, they’re driven by fear, by the bottom-line, they don’t take risks, leadership fails from the top down according to Ron Lawner, Chairman, Arnold Worldwide. Too many brands slide into commodity status. They deserve to fail.

Kelly and Silverstein suggest that only 20 percent of brands today are assuming ‘breakaway’ status. Why? Many brands prefer to follow in herds. Marketers are risk-averse — they lack internal leadership. The marketing landscape is shifting which requires brands must be distinctly different.

Brands must breakaway from the herd. This requires a new breed of company. They must amaze and delight consumers. To borrow from breakaway brand consumer-electronics category leader, Apple: Brands must ‘think different.’ They must be positioned for success and connect with their audience to form emotional connections.

At the heart of the breakaway brand process is the requirement to maintain a strong brand truth: the commitment of leadership to make the brand perform as promised. Brand truth must be well articulated, strong, real and unique; its based on promises that can be kept. Upholding defining characteristics like: a winning position, innovation, audience insight and a winning mindset is the simple fact that every great brand is built on a truth. To borrow an overused phrase, the brand truth is a brand’s DNA.

The authors offer many examples throughout the book of outstanding breakaway brands that deliver. Apple reinvented itself from a personal computer brand to a personal electronics leader by becoming a breakaway brand under leadership from Steve Jobs; it tirelessly innovates with new products — like the industry-changing iPod and its connection to iTunes — thus remaining current and fresh in the mind of consumers. As the authors suggest, it has become a category of one. Disney differentiated itself by marketing magic to children. Mickey mouse and Snow White, they’re not just characters, but sub-brands. Disney creates one gigantic entertainment event from theme parks, to a cruise line, to retail and home entertainment. All customer touch points are sharply integrated.

Breakaway brands produce unique products; they produce standout campaigns that cut through the clutter; their packaging is not merely wrapping, but part of its identity; their promotions become experiential where the brand comes face-to-face with the consumer. Increasingly, consumers are participating in the marketplace through word-of-mouth contact driven by the internet — the new breakaway agent. And at the core of every brand is leadership from the top which requires an attitude of creativity and continuous improvement. The most important point offered by the authors: True breakaway brand marketing campaigns almost always deliver extraordinary results.

I enjoyed The Breakaway Brand, although the repeated use of the term ‘breakaway’ became tiresome. The authors offered tangible rules for achieving outstanding success.
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Great Book Cover Design Site
Book archive

For me, bookstores are like the LCBO; I spend more time looking at wine bottle label designs than I do considering the actual vino! Bookstores and the hundreds of great book cover designs are great inspiration. So, when a former colleague forwarded this site, I had to post it. Bookcoverarchive.com is maintained by Ben Pierratt and Eric Jacobsen: they also post a blog on the site. Its a great site to surf; browse book covers, guess font names and learn about the book cover designers. Bookmark this site, definitely.
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AgeofPersuasion

"Mr. (David) Ogilvy is right: the best research is pure. It's not used as a crutch or laden with foregone conclusions. Research can reveal astounding and powerful answers, but first, you have to ask the right questions. And even then, great advertising requires a balance of insight, instinct and calculated risk."
The Age of Persuasion

Terry O'Reillyl and Mike Tennant
c 2009 Knopf Canada

The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture
Terry O'Reilly and Mike Tennant
c 2009. Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Swipe Books, Toronto, $34.95 Cdn.

terryoreilly.ca

Terry O’Reilly worked at DDB and Chiat/Day in Toronto in his early ad days then found his voice in radio and has been writing ever since. He co-founded Pirate Radio & Television in 1990, specializing in award-winning radio and television commercials. He is the co-creator and host of The Age of Persuasion on CBC Radio 1 — a sequel to his 1995 advertising series, O’Reilly on Advertising. Mike Tennant produces The Age of Persuasion; he also has a lengthy freelance career in award-winning advertising writing.

Think of this book as a natural extension of their long-running radio series. Like the radio program, the book is an enjoyable and compelling insight into the world of ‘mad men.' The best stories from the radio program have been packaged into print form with lots of 'value-added' extras. The Age of Persuasion is a primer on the rich history of advertising from its early traditional forms like radio moving forward to the contemporary multi-channel ad universe — a space that is foregoing advertising conventions, adapting new technologies to spread product and brand loyalty.

Advertising — or more accurately, persuasion, is not a science but an art — as the authors suggest, is part of our modern culture that goes back over a century. The authors tell tales from ad age trailblazers Albert Lasker, Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy to the use of electronic social and mobile media, viral marketing, guerrilla marketing and instant messaging.

Persuasion comes in many forms. Of young consumers, the authors write: ‘As their attention shifts from mass media to smaller, online social networks, they’re sharing information and opinions about products and brands and fashions. For the first time ever, consumers are moving much faster than brands.’ A brand is an experience. It appeals to senses and emotions. They must be authentic. Brands aren’t about what you know, they’re about what you feel. Brands must connect with consumers — and deliver, if they fail to connect, consumers will walk away. Marketers tap into those 'connections' with seamless persuasion. On advertisers, they write: ‘They must invest genuine personality in their brand, respect their customers, and above all, honour the Great Unwritten Contract, which requires them to give something back in exchange for the interruption caused by their advertising.'

This is a great book. Funny, engaging and very persuasive.
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LookBothWays

"If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don't stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don't compromise and don't waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now.
Now."
Looking Both Ways

Debbie Millman
c 2009 HOW Books

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Looks Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design
Debbie Millman
c 2009. HOW Books
Swipe Books, Toronto, $29.95 Cdn.
debbiemillman.com

Debbie Millman is President of the Design division at Sterling Brands, blogger and author of three design books, the most recently published title is Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design.

Look Both Ways is a series of illustrated essays that examine the relationship between design and everyday life. She offers personal reflections on the emerging awareness of design from childhood and fascination found in her father’s pharmacy filled with intriguing packaging, to emerging brand awareness in high school and the appearance of a ubiquitous alligator embroidered on shirts and red tabs on denim jeans. Imagery has informed her life from early childhood; she is a keen observer of detail and meaning beyond the surface of an object.

One is immediately drawn to this book for its design audacity. Conventional typesetting has been discarded, replaced by remarkably expressive hand-rendered typographic expressions in multiple forms from child-like chalkboard scribbles, neat printing on filing cards to embroidery. Initially, I suspected this was the work of many hands contributing to the book’s dramatic effect; yet it’s is all the author’s handiwork — literally. The reader is compelled to stop and admire her craftsmanship. Each story is appreciated for the way it is expressed on the page. Toss into the mix unconventional typeset body copy, each brief essay is new and compelling.

This unconventional typographic treatment suits. Look Both Ways is a deeply personal expression of the connection between design and daily life expressed in short stories. She offers observations from design and branding to thoughtful reflections on the importance of design artifacts The author’s thoughts are deeply personal — offering recollections from childhood experiences to failed marriages; they are lighthearted, whimsical, nostalgic and heartbreaking. She prefers to recall images from her past, rather than what was said or done. Those images have power and beauty that live in her imagination.

She concludes while revisiting her alma mater that she could look both ways — backwards and forwards in time, simultaneously. She recalled her early adult experience at university and the expectation of a young professional life to come. Yet in the present, she acknowledged both the unknown yet to come and the known, her life experienced.
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DoYouMatter

"Customer experience supply chain management starts with the end in mind — and continues with the design of every aspect of the corporate culture and operations so as to choreograph a total design and delivery of every detail of that intended experience."
Do You Matter?

Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery
c 2009 FT Press

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Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company
Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery
c 2009. FT Press
Swipe Books, Toronto, $26.95 Cdn.

doyoumatter.com

Do you matter? It’s a bold question for any corporate leader to answer. If your company ceased to exist, would anyone really care? Have you really connected with your customers on an emotional level to the point that they’re invested in your success? Is your company a positive force in the lives of your customers?

Robert Brunner, formerly a Pentagram partner, served as Director of Industrial Design for Apple; and Stewart Emery, author of Success Built to Last ask this bold question of their readers — Do You Matter is directed to high level corporate decision-makers.

Brunner and Emery sample well-known brands that have embraced the essential element for success: Design. Using design to manage what the authors call the ‘customer experience supply chain’ is how any company will matter in the minds of its customers.

Design establishes the relationship between a company and its customers. What one sees in a store, interacts with — all things that are experienced are used to form an opinion and develop consumer loyalty to a company. Customers must feel they have joined something, a community of shared experience. The quality of a customer’s experience is the essential element of continuing success — this is what really matters to corporate leaders. A design-driven culture needs to matter to them; but to their customers it doesn't matter because good design is natural and transparent. Companies must be committed to being design driven with a constant eye on the customer experience supply chain from top to bottom, in all operations of a business.

Design is a living, ongoing process. It's about human experience. It is felt in the mind of the customer. When many individuals share the same feeling, they’re bringing life to a brand. The authors write: ‘Howard Schultz did not believe he was in the coffee business, he was in the experience business. The way into that shared experience was a better tasting cup of coffee in a carefully designed atmosphere.’ The Starbucks latté became an icon, a portal for a community to a unique experience. Corporate leaders must always think like a customer. Their products and services are talking to people. Design is there to tell the story. Design takes a customer’s need and tells its story ‘all the way to the expected fulfillment’.

To be a truly successful design-driven company, senior decision makers must embrace FLAVOR — Brunner and Emery's six core aspects of being design-focused: FOCUS on the customer experience, design a LONG-TERM strategy, be AUTHENTIC, stay on top of the customer experience supply chain by being VIGILANT, being ORIGINAL means research, discovering an opportunity - designing it, and implementing it — and finally REPEATING the design-driven process again and again, only differently.

Repeated references to Apple are understandable given Robert Brunner’s experience but they become too common. However, their description of the development of the iPod is educational. That’s not just an MP3 player, its ‘a portal to an incredibly valuable ongoing customer experience.'

Reading Do You Matter was indeed a valuable customer experience. I’d it recommend to designers, art directors and senior managers.
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