Thursday, September 30, 2010

How the soaring dollar made me a better creative.

It all started with this book. I had it in my Amazon wish list after I read Michael Beirut's review on the Design Observer. Bought it when the dollar hit $0.96 and it cost me probably $40 in the end. It's so fucking beautiful most people (including myself) are afraid to flip through it.
I will show photos of the book, which consists of the work of James Victore. But for now I was curious about the person who designed the book. With the power of google I found out it was designer Paul Sahre.
Another couple of clicks lead me to a video Sahre gave titled 'A designer and his problems' last year.

It's 2 hour long, but it's probably the most honest and accurate presentation I've ever seen of a designer (so expect frustration and swearing).
Paul focused primarily on his book cover designs. The best part was his recollection of this book cover:
If you're clueless like me, there's a typo on the cover.
The original title was 'A History of Western Philosophy'. And the mistake went through the publisher, the author, the print house, the proof reader even, unspotted. Paul realised it 4 years later and the books were just sitting on the shelves all this while, with a giant typo.
In the lecture he said something like ' I started remembering I changed 'A' to 'The' because 'The' simple looked better. The line just wouldn't sit well with 'A'.
So what did I learn? I'm halfway though his lecture, most of his interesting work came from a very personal experience(especially the series of silk screen painting of phone conversations with his brother when they were both going through relationship problems).

So the moral of the story would be: dig deep.
All thanks to the Australian dollar.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hembakat är Bäst.

Just when you(well maybe not you, just me) thought the cookbook market can't get any more saturated, enter IKEA to kick everyone's asses in the playground.
Their project 'Homemade is Best', involves photography, ingredients and huge doses of creativity (or crack).
Cynics like me would think: yea yea, it's beautiful, but I don't care unless the recipes work and result in my girlfriend exchanging kisses for my food.
But stare at the picture above. Look at it long and hard. Isn't that the most unique cookbook photography you've ever seen? Imagine you're a designer, or an architect. Won't that make you want to run out and purchase it and show off to your less creative family, how creative you are?
I hate IKEA for the same reason I admire IKEA.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My first ever complaint letter.

Dear BSC Bikes,

I am writing this mail to complain, and also to compliment regarding your business.

Last Wednesday, my bike seat fell off at the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale. Although I was embarassed, I fortunately didn't suffer any injury. My first reaction, due to your brilliant positioning, was that you had a shop in Artemis Lane, QV. So I pushed my bike, with my seat under my left armpit, and arrived at the QV store.

Business must be going well, because I noticed there were 2 levels in the shop. A staff was on the 2nd level behind the computer doing some computing, and I was pretty sure he saw me coming in, since there was no one else in the room. However, I assumed he was busy and waited patiently for 10 minutes. He went on computing. I eventually dragged my broken bike on to the 2nd level, to which he replied 'how can I help you?'

Gee, I don't know, my bike is broken because it doesn't have a seat?

He appeared not to sense the sarcasm in my tone, took a glance(I swear, a glance) at my bike and said I need to replace the whole thing. He walked into your glorious workshop for another 5 minutes and told me the shop's ran out of a 26cm something tool. He then volunteered to call the Elizabeth street branch to check, completely ignoring the fact that he didn't even ask me if I wanted my 26cm something tool to be replaced in the first place.

Alas, I had no choice because I sent a picture of my broken seat to my boss through my phone and lied to her that I was getting it fixed. I left your QV branch with a belly of fire.

10 minutes later, I arrived at your Elizabeth street branch.

The shop assistant actually came out and touched my bike. Physical contact! He actually moved and spoke like a person working in a bike shop. Do you know what is the best part? The best part, is that he fixed my bike seat with a number 6 allen key. That's it. Nothing was broken. No 26cm-something needed. Just some tightening.

Even now, 5 days later of the incident. I can't help but shudder to wonder what if your QV shop didn't run out of the 26cm something tool? Would I be charged for $100 for something I didn't need in the first place?

How is that two shops, identical brand, offer such inconsistent service? I am confused by your product, and now I'm not sure whether my impression on your brand is a positive one.

I am writing this mail not to screw your day or demand anything (if I cared any less, I wouldn't have written at all) I'm writing for the sake of that man in Elizabeth street who fulfilled his job description. He deserves a raise, or at least a promotion. He should be running that QV shop of BSC Bikes.

Have a nice weekend.

Best regards,
The guy with a tightened bike seat.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


This evening, while I was frantically skimming under the 'documentary' section of Borders, I realized I've developed an addiction.

It's an addiction of the documentation of modern art. I am now reflecting in front of my computer and I'm amazed at what I've read/watched in a month:

1. I guess it all started with Penguin's The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. I don't think I understand Warhol more than his silk screen paintings of the Campbell soup can and Marilyn Monroe. I enjoyed his exhibition in NGV 6 years ago and he gave me the idea of having a time capsule in shoe boxes. The book is surprisingly witty, funny and rational, opposed to my impression of him in fine art classes as an air head (he is, pretty self-indulging). Perhaps I would try to post his whole book in Facebook. I wonder if that's illegal?

2. Annie Leibovitz: Life through a lens. What can I say? Apart from Leni Riefenstahl she's the other female photographer that inspired me. I was just happy she had a DVD.

3. Rem Koolhaas: Kind of Architect. Bought it because it was going cheap in conjunction with the Melbourne International Film Festival. It's wanky European narration aside, I actually found his hyper-rational approach in architecture convincing. My favourite part would be how they tried to explained the Chinese CCTV building was actually the World Trade Centres broken and twisted in a loop.

4. Visual Acoustic: The Modernism of Julius Shulman. Shulman is an architecture photographer. I admit I've never heard of him before watching the DVD(narrated by Dustin Hoffman). Apparently he pioneered the look and feel of modernism architecture. You see this old man going around preserving his favorite building which he took photos of when he was young. I especially enjoyed the part in the trailer when his assistant questioned his choice in lenses while capturing Frank Gehry's Disney concert hall and he simply replied 'well that's why they chose me'.

5. The Mona Lisa Curse. Available free on YouTube (for now). Robert Hughes, critical acclaimed Australian born art critic introduces the destruction of the art world all thanks to capitalism. Well filmed, well written, if you were to watch anything on this list please make it this one(because it's free). You shouldn't miss how Hughes slaughtered this Mid Eastern millionaire on their views on Warhol and why he owns 800 of Warhol's art . Yet I have to admit, Hughes principles on what 'art' should be feels like an elitist, white supremacy world to me.

6. Chuck Close. Again, up until Friday I had no idea who he is. Chuck Close is a human computer who paints portraits in such a mind boggling way that he becomes a modern art icon by default. The documentary wasn't that engaging because it was basically his friends getting interviewed. But as an introduction to Close, it was more than enough.

7. Who the @#$% is Jackson Pollock? This is possibly the most interesting of all. Teri Horton, a truck driver in California purchased a painting for $5 in a thrift shop, only to realized it may be a painting of Jackson Pollock (her initial reaction was the title of the documentary). The documentary not only follows her journey of obstacles and support to prove the painting's authenticity, the art world is also depicted as a really weird, alien space.

8. Painters Painting. What a load of rubbish. I couldn't finish the film, because it was just an old American narrative of how the art world was. It didn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'll try rewatching it at some point.

I fear that I'm becoming an old man that looms around 'general interest' in DVD shops. But in the meantime, I wish more people would take interest in these subjects.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Clem down.

Once every decade or so, big news hit the ad land in Melbourne.
Yesterday was one of those moment when the Omnicom network bought over 70% share of Clemenger BBDO, the most creative agency in Melbourne/Oceania/the world.
I know you don't give a shit. But it's a big deal because it affects the industry.
It is the equivalent of Walmart from the states acquiring majority shares of Queen Victoria Market. Perhaps a normal client or the average consumer won't be able to tell the difference (Just like how we won't know the Commonwealth bank ads are done by an American agency), but there will be a fundamental change in the nature of the agency and the industry.
On top of my head, I can think of how the creative + management department will have a new faceless boss to report to.
We will be importing more American/Global creative directors to Melbourne.
More money to America = less money to nurture the already frail talent pool in Australia/ New Zealand = sad creatives.

Too pessimistic?
At least Mr. Clemenger is now $80 million richer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Real men don't cry.

Brochure in art form.

Whenever I fantasize about doing great work, I would also imagine how difficult the briefs would be. Is it a hard product to sell?
On top of my head, I'd think intangible services like banks and insurance companies would be a hard sell for advertising creatives.
For designers I'd assume architecture talk posters would be one of the hardest to crack. Simply because there're shit loads of information, all bearing the same importance, and you need to keep the school's logo, with different dates and venues intact. Basically it's a brochure on a poster.
That's why I envy the shit out of Michael Beirut for his posters of Yale School of Architecture. Over the years he's been able to create a voice, brand even for the school, and at the same time make all the information appear to be relevant and elegant. On top of that he uses only one colour.
He pretty much lives in my dreamland.

Poster taken via