Archives For December 2012

Amish families have an amazing tradition that they say helps purify crops and minimize materialism: they burn down their biggest barn. Then the next day, poof!, they build a new one in about 5 hours, even if it’s ten degrees below zero and blizzarding like crazy outside. It’s called the New Year’s Barnfarkle, and it symbolizes each family’s commitment to beginning the new year with great strength, while shedding the need for material possessions like Amish furniture. Talk about a tradition that features the burning and rebuilding of barns, eh? Wow!

Just kidding. The Amish don’t burn down a barn every New Year’s. They don’t even use calendars, so how would they even know when a new year beings? Kidding again. Seriously, how would they know when it’s Thursday if they didn’t use calendars? Wait. I’m not quite completely sure they do or do not use calendars. Although they certainly are selling pie on Main Street in my town like clockwork on Saturdays. Hey, if you’re Amish, I’m real sorry about my stupid and slipshod calendar reporting. Also, today is Monday, just in case you don’t have any calendars laying about the barn as you read this.

To all of you, best wishes for a Happy New Year, from Idea Bucket global headquarters. May your 2013 crops be pure.

Please feel free to share any other ways that people don’t usher in the new year below.

The picture was taken by coleypauline.

Advertisements

The evolution of information graphics saw some cool highlights in 2012, and the New York Times does a great job of compiling and curating it here.  The famous 512 Paths to the White House which played out dramatically in real time in November, the patterns of where the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder hit their shots, how an orchestra conductor’s gestures and patterns flow while jamming Stravinsky. Check the creative examples of visual communication and technology coming together.

Andy_Onion_copy

Simply looking at a chicken brings out the double chin.

Some lucky Wallmans were born with multi-chin powers, enabling us to conjure up a double chin with incredible ease. I simply smile, and a second chin jumps out from below the first and says, “Hi! I’m the other chin!” Breathing is much harder for me than making a double chin. With just a touch of effort, three or four chins can easily be summoned.

Three teenage daughters claim to be our children, and they keep my wife and I in a steady stream of text and social network communications. Recently at the end of a text exchange, one daughter texted me back an unusual emoticon face. It had two smiles. :)) I didn’t get it, and texted back “Huh?”

She replied, “It’s the smiley face :) Wallman double chin style :))”

Brilliant.

It’s a timeless chin. My father and grandfather before me were storied displayers of the multi-chin. Back in 1994, Scott Dikkers was the editor of the Onion in Madison. He knew I had a suit and tie, so asked if I’d pose for a cover photo. And lo! by tilting my head just a few degrees, even back in the 90’s, Chin II comes out to party.

Eighteen years later, we have a Wallbranded Wallmoticon. A family joke, told in three characters. A personalized punctuation picture that says a thousand words.

Proof yet again that the power of symbols beat words by communicating more with less.

Got any other examples of the personalized emoticon or personalized symbol?

Instagram, you rascal. You come out swinging, bury Hipstamatic and a lot of other photo sharing wannabes, but golly, you’re an organizational frowny face. Flickr has got you beat in spades as a place to share photos. And today, Twitter offers the fancy filters and ease that made you unique. How can you possibly win?

As more and more people and pros get into Instagram (here’s FlakPhoto.com‘s Instagram page for photographers, created by the ultimate curator’s curator Andy Adams), the need for people to manage, organize and display their work has got to improve. That’s where Instagram could win. It could grow even more by offering functionality that benefits not just consumers of photography, but creators of it. Flickr simply doesn’t have the sex appeal that Instagram’s got right now, which is unfortunate, because it’s a fantastic tool for slightly-serious-to-serious creators of photos.

Now Twitter is offering filters and Instagram-like functionality. You gotta be feeling nervous about that one, Instagram. But way back in 2011, Instagram got $7 million from Twitter, so it’s not like they’re sworn to each other’s demise. Then Facebook bought Instagram for a cool billion dollars, so it’s not like its beatable, unorganized platform is a great big hobo out there.

Most likely, Instagram is already on this in their secret underground laboratories, ready to out Flickr Flickr and stave off Twitter. Otherwise, right next to Hipstamatic in the digiphoto graveyard, Instagram runs the risk of having “We Were Hot Once” on it’s tombstone, which Mashable says is totally possible. So I’ll just relax and wait for the email that tells me when Instagram will take slightly more serious photographers slightly more seriously.

(Here’s my Instagram, and my Flickr.)

SideBySideETC

Above: how we currently text. Below: how ETC technology will allow us to communicate more with symbols, images, and logos.

Happy birthday, text messaging. Today marks its 20th year as a communication form. So what a great day to pontificate on the next big thing in communications, which is right at our fingertips. Or, should I say, our thumbtips.

Imagine using pictures when you text and message and write online, in addition to words. It’s almost here, it’s cool, it’ll change how we communicate, and it came to me in a really neat way. Better grab a cup of coffee. This could take a minute.

I’m President of KW2, an ad agency in Madison, Wisconsin. We bought our building around 1990 from Towell Advertising, which was the longest-running ad agency in Madison. Three generations of Towells made ads here for long-time Madison businesses. But soon after we moved in, Towell Advertising changed its name to Roundhouse, and completely changed their business model to become a promotional agency.

Can you imagine? Here’s Bill Towell, all of 36 years old, telling his dad and grandfather he’s going to toss away the model they spent a couple of lifetimes growing. I bet that was an interesting conversation.

I’d known Bill over all these years, because a couple of good pals of mine worked at Roundhouse. Bill was always kinetic and intense and full of passion. His office was in a train car. They made their employees take a one hour lunch every day from noon to 1:00 PM on the dot. This is when I knew it wasn’t an advertising agency any more.

Well, Roundhouse worked really well, is still going strong, and Bill sold his share in the business a few years ago. In “retirement,” Bill drove around folks from the Porchlight homeless shelter for a year, mastered the art of lounging, and took a few classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I bumped into him on LinkedIn, and invited him to see what we’ve done to the building he said goodbye to some 20 years ago.

It was fantastic. So much history. The names of classic Madison advertising folks and brands and campaigns was great fun to hear about.

Then in the “see you later” home stretch of our chat, Bill kind of blew my mind. He told me about how he and a team of digital folks across the globe figured out how to get pictures seamlessly integrated into digital communications, in the places words would typically go. Wow.

He invented the next big thing. It was one of those that you hear about and go “duh” and you smack your palm on your forehead. Palmsmack! Of course!

It’s called Enriched Text Content (ETC). It allows people to insert images, pictures, images, logos, and graphics into alphanumeric text. Palmsmack! What took so long?

If you go to their site, baddonkeysocial.com, it would seeeeeeeem to appear that Kraft is one of the first big brands to jump on board. And given that Forbes has Kraft ranked as the #14 social brand in the world, well, this could indicate that one of the world’s largest food manufacturers thinks Bill is on to something.

This makes so much sense. We’re going more and more and more visual as a species. Instagram had 10 million shares just over Thanksgiving weekend. Do you think we’re a visually-driven bunch of mammals? Seems like it. Words are work. Pictures are not. Pictures are fast. Words are . . . less fast. Poor boring old word-based texts. They’re going to look like black and white TV next to high def, wide screen LCD TV.

Look at how just the last few years of digital evolution has already changed how we communicate. A cursor arrow. A trash can symbol. A colon with a parenthesis next to it. New shortcuts in communication are getting created and used all the time.

What are the long-term implications? I think this will significantly change things. Are we headed towards a visually driven language, or alphabet? Will new symbols be created to visually communicate?

There’s value to the user. In the time that it takes to text the word weinermobile, a texter could send an entire ETC message, like the one here. Reading messages with symbols is faster as well. Palmsmack!

The value to brands will increase. A text or email or blog post with logos in place of pictures will make those branded messages worth more, yes? Many logos will not work, and will have to be tweaked. Nike, the NFL, sports teams, and Apple will look great. Other brands like Harley-Davidson Motorcycles may need some identity work to get their logos “text logo” ready.

More symbols and fewer words in the future? Makes sense. We’ve always loved symbols. Thirty-five thousand years ago, some French communicator tagged cave walls with symbols of the giant creatures that they hunted. He (or she) didn’t graffiti the word “DINNER” or “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!” on the wall, the caveman/woman made symbols. Then the Egyptians, over 5,000 years ago, invented symbols to depict words, giving birth to the idea of written language. Then there’s the 15th century sign in an English street that showed a symbol of a boot on it, indicating where a black plague survivor could pick up a pair of sensible Mary Janes.

And then there’s ETC, the technology that paves the way for more symbols being used more often in some of the most popular forms of communication in this era.

We’ve gone from pictures on cave walls to pictures on social walls. Pretty cool.