Finding Inspiration When it’s Least Expected

October 6, 2014 — Aimee LoDuca

Last week I took my Mom (at her request, of course) to see one of her favorite artists, Jason Mraz. Since I wasn’t really familiar with his music, I found myself concentrating less on his melodies and more on his stories. There was one song in particular that really captured my attention––“Shine,” inspired by the short film Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames.

In the film, Charles and Ray Eames use the system of exponential powers at a rate of 10 (or the effect of adding or subtracting another zero) to visualize the importance of scale. The film begins with a close-up of a man sleeping on a blanket; the camera zooms out and away from Earth and into the atmosphere exploring the depths of the universe. Eventually, the camera descends back to Earth, proceeds to enter the human body and explores the very DNA that makes us who we are.

After viewing the film, I asked myself how often we look beyond what’s right in front of us. The film isn’t only about the relative size of things in the universe but about changing your perspective, taking a step back from your everyday landscape and finding inspiration through a different lens. We’re all professional multitaskers, often having […]

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Heating is the New Cooking

September 26, 2014 — Steve Swanson

It’s a typical Tuesday night and I am at work after hours trying to get that “one” project out the door, when the the phone rings. “Dad, what’s for dinner?” Ugh. Double ugh.

So, in my haste to rush home and get food on the table, I stop by my local Super Target. I grab a cart and push past the produce aisle. My sights are set on the frozen aisle, looking for a pizza or a bag of something, anything, my kids will find edible. As I pass by the deli, my eye is caught by something different, something new. A “Mix & Match Meals” section. The package designer in me is compelled to take a closer look.

My first reaction is, “Wow, this looks pretty good.” I see sauce pouches with hero end-dish food photography and packages showing off “fresh” cut vegetables, sliced meats and steamed pasta or rice. The messaging at point of sale is encouraging me to “chose, combine and create” to make dinner in 15 minutes. That sounds easy, sign me up!  

I make my selections and head home eager to see if the convenience and taste is worth the premium price […]

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Building Blocks of Creativity

September 18, 2014 — Jane Sayer

As the festivities wound down at my daughter’s first birthday party, I noticed a pattern. The guests, ranging in ages 1 to 60, all started to play with Legos. Though the main attraction was my daughter’s new pink DUPLO Tub (the larger bricks complete with girly flowers and pet rabbit), my son’s ginormous tub of miscellaneous bits and pieces did not go unnoticed. This simple brick was somehow capturing the attention and imagination of young and old alike.

And of course that’s precisely the appeal and genius of Lego, a company that is as relevant to this generation as it has been to previous ones. It’s an empire that has morphed into a thriving subculture reflected in movies, games, specialty stores, competitions, six themed amusement parks and an adult fan club.

Adult fans of Lego, or AFOLs as they’ve come to be known, understand that the very appeal of Lego isn’t just in initial creations but in the destruction and recreation process. As every parent who has a Lego kit in her house knows, the fun begins when the first piece gets lost or breaks off and the kids start over, use their imagination and make something new.

The Lego […]

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When faking it isn’t a bad thing

September 12, 2014 — Patrick Sullivan

This past weekend I threw a surprise 40th birthday party for my wife. She’s a HUGE Neil Diamond fan so I went with a “Denim & Diamond” theme. My years in the design business have taught me that every detail needed to be considered: invitations, table decorations, themed alcoholic beverages, homebrew (yes I brew my own beer, SullyBrew), the wine, her outfit, the karaoke song list, stage and lighting and more. I even hired Tom Sadge, a Neil Diamond Impersonator, whom we’ve seen a handful of times.

To say it was EPIC would be an understatement.

If I could’ve had Neil himself, I probably would’ve passed. Yep, we actually prefer “Fake Neil.” Offstage he’s a normal dude, but when he’s “ON” he’s captivating. I have never felt cheated by opting for the “Fake Neil” because I believe his show is equal if not superior to the real Neil. It’s a testament to the time and effort he’s put into perfecting his product.

The same holds true for everything I purchase. Store aisles and e-commerce sites provide many options: some expensive, some cheap, some branded, some not. Ultimately I make a decision partially on price, but more importantly on the return I think that […]

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Food for Thought: Man vs. Machine

August 26, 2014 — Peter Robertson

Are graphic designers weakening their own artistic talents? Are new digital tools stripping away fundamental skill sets? Are we becoming an unoriginal, regurgitated production line?

My belief has always been that “design is a great idea.” Execution is important, but the process is paramount. To generate an idea, one has to shuffle through her imagination as well as outside influences. That’s the easy part. Translating that into a clear and tangible thought, and then onto paper, is the challenge. To be able to sketch what’s in one’s own head is far more convincing than just referencing other peoples’ work.

Am I the only one who fears that the tools we use today are taking away from fundamentally important skill sets? For example, keyboards are now affecting the original art form of clear and legible handwriting. As Paul Bloom of Yale University notes, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important… maybe it helps you think better.”

To cap it off, the digital tools and programs of today are mesmerizing but poor substitutes for individuality and thought. This could be a trap into which the next generation of designers and artmakers is falling. […]

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NYC coffee is supposed to be a buck!

August 25, 2014 — Mia Gewertz

One of our core capabilities at CBX is the development of store offers and advisement of c-store clients on how their coffee program should function. I work on many of these coffee program offers and recently experienced an invigorating “my job applies to the real world” kind of moment.

The short-order restaurant next door to my apartment was recently bought, renamed and redesigned. While the changes were nice, they didn’t change my opinion about the shop. I wasn’t going to order more and was unlikely to sit, much less, sit longer. But good for them for trying something new.

One recent morning, as I picked up my coffee and dropped $1.25 on the counter, the cashier informed me that the coffee was now $2.25.

My jaw hit the floor. ($2.25 for drip coffee? What? When did that happen? It’s drip coffee?! Even $1.25 is too much!)

The cashier tells me they’ve changed their coffee brand and upgraded their coffee machine. (Bewildered look still on my face.)

The cashier (who may have been the new owner’s relative) and the short-order cook (from the old guard) saw my reaction and looked embarrassed. “Yeah, sorry. There have been some changes.” I threw down the extra dollar, muttering, and walked […]

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Dream Kitchen Nightmares: 5 Lessons My Kitchen Remodel (Re)Taught Me About Client Services

July 25, 2014 — Dan Moore

I recently underwent the second most painful renovation a homeowner can experience: the kitchen remodel. (The most painful one, of course, is remodeling the only bathroom in the house.)

As somebody who works in a client services role, I found it interesting to be on the other side of the coin. Undertaking a home renovation served as a great refresher for some basic, client services tenets:

1. Have a clear sense of vision. One of the best ways to ensure success of any redesign project is to have a strong sense of the end goal. In my case, I moved forward with the remodeling in order to enjoy the house for another decade, not to quickly upgrade and sell. That realization helped me tailor the budget, design choices and expectations.

2. Hire the right people to guide you through the project, and listen to them. Having grown up with a carpenter father, and having done a number of smaller projects in my home and duplex, I was fortunate to come into this process with a pretty good set of expectations. But it was my first kitchen, and the people I worked with provided a wealth of additional ideas and suggestions. […]

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World Cup Through the Eyes of a Designer

July 18, 2014 — Cecilia Jayo

After 32 days of suspense and surprises, the world can finally breathe again. Whether you were watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup to see the U.S. goalkeeper break a World Cup record, or to see if Ronaldo would rip his shirt off in the rain (taka a moment to picture it… *deep sigh*) there’s no denying that the tournament this year was exciting for all.

As a designer, something I look out for every World Cup year is its branding. Each World Cup is branded in a completely unique way, so it’s always fun to see what the next host country will come up with. The official emblem, for example, is created years in advance of the tournament and usually represents a combination of soccer sportsmanship, a global community coming together and a little something about the host country. The branding is also shown in everything from posters to tickets, and even the soccer balls themselves.

It’s interesting to see the evolution of World Cup branding throughout the years and how certain elements have become more carefully designed and branded. What’s also clear is that as the years have passed, more FIFA corporate brand consistency has helped unify the still […]

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Is it really that easy to raise money on Kickstarter?

July 16, 2014 — Adam Hildebrand

I’ve recently become all-too familiar with Kickstarter since the recent launch of my boyfriend’s campaign for his brand, The Dream Hoodie. His goal was to raise enough funds (using a flagship product) to incorporate the company, develop more product samples and get a website up and running.

To the untrained observer, the process seems pretty simple: make a video, fill out some information about your project and share the living daylights out of the campaign (with every human you’ve ever interacted with… since your pre-school teacher). Because I wanted to be a good boyfriend, not to mention the fact that  I make my living as a marketer, I became his Kickstarter partner-in-crime.

We did a lot of research on what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign and learned a lot along the way. Here are my key takeaways:

1. You aren’t just launching a product, you’re launching a brand: On Kickstarter, you need to create a video and a website. After an initial first crack at writing copy, we realized that in order to succeed, we needed to take a step backwards and figure out our purpose – what was our reason for existing in peoples’ lives? Technically, we were just […]

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Ben & Jerry’s “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie”

July 1, 2014 — Julie Doughty

A sweet swirl of flavor & strategy

Product naming typically involves hard decisions between corporate objectives and customer appeal. Renaming tends to come only after careful consideration of the equity that’s lost along with an abandoned name.

Enter Ben & Jerry’s. It’s finding ways to have its cake and eat it too by introducing new flavor names that both delight customers and serve business interests at the same time. Its latest genius move has been the “renaming” of Chocolate Fudge Brownie to “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” in support of the Vermont Food Fight initiative, which has been working to defend a state law that requires labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food.

The new name doesn’t confuse loyal customers because it retains the crucial words “Fudge Brownie.” It is also limited in scope: Ben & Jerry’s is only renaming the flavor in its company-owned stores in Vermont. (In grocery stores you’ll still see regular old “Chocolate Fudge Brownie.”)

So why go to all the trouble of “renaming” if the rollout is so limited? By announcing a renaming and donating a portion of its proceeds, Ben and Jerry’s draws attention to its larger corporate initiative to remove GMOs from all […]

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