Publication: Fast Company

How RadioShack Got Its Groove Back

May 6, 2014

The beleaguered electronics retailer wants to get back to its roots: being MacGyver to MacGyvers.

During the Super Bowl, RadioShack aired an ad that kicked off the retailer’s new “Do It Together” marketing campaign. Two zoned-out red shirts stand in an old outlet-mall RadioShack store. The doors bust open. Enter Hulk Hogan, Cliff from Cheers, Mary Lou Retton, Alf, Sargeant Slaughter, and others. They scour the premises for their favorite stuff and carry everything out the door, leaving the red shirts standing alone in the dust. The tagline? “The ’80s called. They want their store back.”

Cool ad, but it missed the point. It’s the Radio Shack of the 2000s, and even the 2010s, that people hate. Some crappy smartphone outlet store replaced the RadioShack many of us knew and loved. Many of us are still nostalgic for the original do-it-yourself store of the ’80s–a place of weird computers, cool robot kits, strange circuit breakers, and random electronic circuitry that taught many of us to love tech. That’s the store–in spirit, at least–that we want back. And thanks to a team-up with CBX, the same branding firm that reimagined Duane Reade, RadioShack is trying to get back to the […]

Continue Reading

The Creative Case For Stuff

April 4, 2014

You’ll never have breakthrough ideas if you’re living life entirely through a screen. Which is why Rick Barrack, chief creative officer at branding firm CBX, recently dumped 10 pounds of sand on a conference room floor.

By Rick Barrack

Rick Barrack, the chief creative officer at the branding firm CBX and the man responsible for Duane Reade’s successful redesign, believes that a life lived entirely through a screen is one that’s probably short on genuine creative output. Which is why at CBX, it’s all about the tactile. The objects around his team, Barrack says, help them dream up new directions and identities for their clients’ products. CBX’s office, he says, is “built around the spirit of theatrics” that has gone as far as filling a room full of sand to re-create the feel of a beach. Here, he shares his creative case for stuff.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Stuff Is The Stuff Of Inspiration

“One of the areas that we find really important, particularly in this day and age of the computer and social media and such, we find it necessary and critical to get back to our roots. What I mean by that is, […]

Continue Reading

Rick Barrack

February 3, 2014

Rick Barrack is the chief creative officer at branding firm CBX, which recently helped Duane Reade do the impossible: execute a redesign to become cool (at least, as much as any drugstore can be cool). Established in 2003, CBX has worked with popular consumer brands ranging from Arby’s to M&M’s to Snapple.


“The dynamics of e-commerce, as it has evolved, created a new shopping behavior. People demand more information. And now, outside of e-commerce, we have to provide that as well.” »


Read More:

Rick Barrack on FastCo

Continue Reading

Helicopter Branding: Why It’s Bad…

February 21, 2013

By Christina P.

Just because a brand may feel like your baby, doesn’t mean you should become an overbearing parent. Here’s how to let go of the reins, for long-term benefit.

A famous piece of wisdom from child-rearing expert Dr. Benjamin Spock is making the rounds again: “Better to relax and make a few mistakes than to try too hard to be perfect … Children are driven from within themselves to grow, explore, experience, learn, and build relationships with other people. A lot of good parenting lies in simply allowing your child to go with these powerful drives.”

It’s refreshing to see the parental pendulum swinging to the point where mistakes are now considered a key aspect of growth. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for this trend to trickle into the world of brand innovation. Unfortunately, it seems that “helicopter branding” still continues to thrive in corporate America, as companies hover protectively over their successful brands, sometimes stifling growth in the process.

Like helicopter parenting, helicopter branding actually comes from a positive space: The deep love for–and, therefore, drive to protect–a successful brand. Counterintuitive to any “brand parent” is a willingness to set their “brand child” up for […]

Continue Reading

The 100 Most Creative People in Business

May 14, 2012



Rick Barrack is the chief creative officer at branding firm CBX, which recently helped Duane Reade do the impossible: execute a redesign to become cool (at least, as much as any drugstore can be cool).

“The dynamics of e-commerce, as it has evolved, created a new shopping behavior. People demand more information. And now, outside of e-commerce, we have to provide that as well,” Barrack says. “… E-commerce has provided exclusivity, and people want that in retail stores. Duane Reade narrowed offerings to make it feel more relevant–and exclusive–to New Yorkers: At the Wall Street location, the sushi bar is called Up Market and there’s a stock ticker; in Williamsburg, there’s a growler bar. It’s telling the consumer, We understand the way you live, where you live, and what you need from us.”

Click here to read the conversation about making retail exciting again between Barrack and Story founder Rachel Shechtman, No. 80 on our Most Creative People list.

TIMELINE 1973 Attends his first Indianapolis 500; hasn’t missed one since in 39 years

1987 Purchases first X-ACTO knife, which has survived for more than 25 years

1988 Secures first design internship […]

Continue Reading

The Brain-Dead Design Behind The USDA’s New Dietary Chart

October 24, 2011

By Rick Barrack:

Last month, I attended “back-to-school night” at my four-year-old’s preschool, where the teacher spelled out my daughter’s curriculum for the school year. Not only did she inform me that my kid would be learning eight languages plus calculus by the time Christmas rolls around; she also told me that I should not pack her lunch box with cookies, chips, or sugary juice boxes, as that would be a major Montessori faux pas. (Personally, I’m surprised they don’t have an organic chef on staff, given how much I’m dishing out in tuition.)

USDA’s MyPlate Initiative

Unsure of how to achieve the optimal nutritional intake for my daughter, I turned to the USDA’s MyPlate well-intentioned initiative designed to (and promoted by Michelle Obama) remind parents of the basics of eating right. Given how much debate there’s been lately about childhood obesity and diabetes, I think there’s no better time to take a good, hard look at kids’ diets. So you can imagine my disappointment when I felt more baffled than ever after having a look at the primary graphic: a circle (presumably a plate) carved up four food groups, which looks to have spawned a smaller circle labeled […]

Continue Reading

For Twitter’s 5th Birthday, New Grown-Up Logos

July 15, 2011

By Rick Barrack:

You’ve grown to 140 million tweets per day and impacted global politics. It’s time you moved beyond the cartoon birdie. Here’s three takes on a new Twitter logo.

Happy fifth birthday, Twitter! While five years seems like a blink of an eye, in the world of social media, you’re a mature adult now. And you’re ranked as one of the ten most visited websites worldwide by web traffic analyst Alexa. Your meteoric rise can be measured by comparing the measly 400,000 tweets per quarter in 2007 to today’s average of over 140 million tweets per day–nothing to chirp at.

So it’s way past the time for you to grow up as a brand. In other words, how about presenting a more appropriate image that reflects your current status? The following are just a few suggestions of how we think you should toast your fifth year as a media heavy.

This streamlined execution of the current bird icon speaks to the simplicity and user-friendliness inherent in the brand’s DNA. The short, straight “chirp” lines signify a quick and direct way to communicate within the 140-character limit that the brand personifies. In addition, the simplicity of this […]

Continue Reading

You Asked, and Rick Answers: A Revamp Of the Sherwin-Williams Logo

April 11, 2011

In January, Rick Barrack asked you what logo most needed an overhaul. The answer? Sherwin-Williams. Here’s his stab at a quick refresh.

“No, but seriously guys? Tell us how you REALLY feel!” That was my first thought as I read the, how shall we say, rather assertively worded answers, comments, and tweets in response to the list of logos FastCoDesign posted as contenders in its “Overdue for a Redesign” competition. The responses were outstandingly entertaining, including:

About Verizon:

Please put Verizon on the list. It’s a hideous eyesore. Absolutely, without a question, Verizon. A crime against design.

About Hallmark:

HALLMARK! That scripty font makes me nauseous.

About Kmart:

Kmart can just be renamed zombieland.

Much to our surprise, while this blog suggested dozens of logos that suffered from a variety of ailments, the nearly unanimous choice for a “Design-Me-Up” makeover was the venerable, 150-year-old Sherwin-Williams Company of Cleveland, Ohio. First Lebron James, and now this. Tough year in Cleveland. Here’s what people had to say:

Sherwin-Williams!! It looks like they’re PRO-pollution of the environment as long as it’s done with their paint.

Let’s go with Sherwin-Williams. As a design-related product there is no excuse.

I gotta go with Sherwin […]

Continue Reading

Could You Create a Brand That Celebrates Reuse Instead of Consumption?

April 4, 2011

By Rick Barrack:

How the phrase “certified pre-owned” can help brand the idea of used products into vintage chic!

Boy, do I remember my first car.

Like the vast majority of Americans, it was used and it was crap. Reliable it was not; in fact, I can assure you that my first car was made out of metal, plastic, and betrayal.

I was reminded of this car when I come across a few slickly produced commercials for Mercedes? “certified pre-owned sales event” recently. Virtually indistinguishable from new car ads, these soothingly voiced 30-second spots touted the irresistible benefits of certified pre-owned vehicles, presumably for the luxury buyer on a budget.

Certified Pre-Owed. That sounds a little better than “used,” doesn’t it? Especially considering that a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO if you want to get all acronym-y) is simply a used car that has passed a safety inspection and carries a warranty.

One reason for certified used-car popularity is that these programs arguably allow consumers to enter a market segment that they normally couldn’t afford to enter, which many view is worth the added cost of certification. And the words “pre-owned” really do help! Think about it: Whereas the word “used” […]

Continue Reading

How the USPS Can Rebrand Itself: Clever Pop Up Shops

December 17, 2010

By Rick Barrack:

Once heralded as an innovative strategy to draw in holiday shoppers, the concept of the temporary store, or “pop-up,” has quickly become as prevalent as the average corner bodega. Now pop-up stores are more like The Boy Who Cried Wolf: since they appear so often, they’ve lost their cultural caché and are as expected as any other marketing ploy.

Maybe this is why my ears perked up when I heard about a new pop-up store at luxury British department store Selfridges? for Marmite. Yup, Marmite: That sticky, dark brown paste made from yeast extract, that Brits either love or hate. The Selfridges shops in London, Birmingham, and Manchester will feature 150 different Marmite-inspired products, in turn elevating the brand from supermarket product to hipster must-have. Now that’s cool: the perfect mix of high and low.

The Marmite pop-up store features Love/Hate graphics illustrating the disagreement that divides Great Britain.

Such inventiveness got me thinking about other (somewhat maligned) brands that could do something really cool with the pop-up. And who better to benefit during this crazy holiday season than that oft-scorned government agency, The United States Postal Service? The post office is the one place almost […]

Continue Reading