Lamest Contest Ever …

I just saw the lamest pitch for a crowd-sourcing contest ever: Mark Cubans’ pitch to redesign the Dallas Mavericks’ uniforms. quite obviously, it’s not THE LAMEST ever. That is courteous of your local church/synagogue/mosque etc., and is a “contest” to redesign the organizational bulletin for your mother’s friend or something.

Obviously, having designed the Dallas Mavericks uniforms would bring with it some bragging rights, and, sure, Cuban’s status as a mogul, business thinker, and Shark Tank all around smart guy, is a person whose attention may be worth having, leaning into other people’s problems for “some tickets” is comical. I like the fact that Cuban has a disregard for all sorts of rules, but seriously.

We live in a world of serious disconnect of design — on one end, we fawn over red-carpet stars who are “wearing” something you could tell me was bought at Nordstrom Rack, where, of course, they’ll pay thousands. Sure the design is unique and thoughtful, but to some extent there is some hiding and coasting and some design is flat, if not a disaster at other times. Yet on the other end, somebody’s going to sweat themselves and use IDEO-like best practices (not IDEO, of course, because who would touch this for … Tickets?) to develop a whole new vision for the Mavericks to have it buried in a contest because some staffer doesn’t like teal? … Just sayin’, it happens, for sure.

While not against contests per se, I’m against stupid ones …

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mac-moments …

With the passing of Steve Jobs, there’s no shortage of reminiscenes of Apple and its impact on design and, of course, the computer world.

I’m watching a show called “MacHEADS” (2010) — pre-empting my F1 watching — which covered the Apple story and aptly pointed out that in ’96, the company was on the verge of no longer existing. (Talk about a death-watch, ’96 was the last time the Orioles made the playoffs).

Jobs’ death has me personalizing the history of Apple as my own remembrances of him is in the wake of the ways Apple touched me.

1. My first remembrance of Apple is from college when all the PC labs were full and I had a paper due the next day.

After waiting some time, I just decided I had to use whatever computer to finish my paper and settled on the sparsely populated Mac Lab. Some hours later: a non-spectacular paper resulted (I got a “C”). Over the trauma of a large essay written overnight, I found how easy it was to edit and change fonts on the word processor. Back then, changing fonts was huge — even nearly a decade after Apple’s landmark commercial.

2. Fierce loyalty to Macs then came with the territory. Studies at the time compared the architecture of design programs on computers and showed how much more efficient they were on Macs over PCs.

I remember the last days of college and being at the end of the (free) “escalator” of access to programs and computers and thinking how great Macs were for designing anything. There was so much more out there, but for me it was a start.

When I got a job, networking in those days was an afterthought after having worked in the techology deficient government. (I used to enter payroll on a computer that looked like that one on Lost and you didn’t know if you made a mistake until two weeks later when you saw the aggregate report).

In the design office though, there was the powerful computer, the design programs and the printer (office and final project printing): all else was extra. I remember only checking e-mail three times a day (once in the morning, after lunch and on the way home — boy that’s changed). Often, the nightmare came in when I needed to interface with PCs.

From those experiences, most Mac Users I knew had nearly as much — if not more — experience working/fixing their computers/setting up networks/dealing with setbacks as the tech companies that set up the networks. (One thing I never agreed with was calling the help desks ‘Genius Bars’.)

3. Jobs’ reemergence translated into pushing the Mac into the hands of Hollywood in big ways as I became stoked when Mac products were the computers used in movies and the like. It seems like ages ago now, but the early days of Sex & The City — and Carrie’s Powerbook was another example that helped translate the iconic nature of the Mac (the scene I saw immediately validated the design update of flipping the logo to appear right-side-up for the viewer).

4. The opening of the store: time was when the push to open Apple Stores was a big gamble.

Witnessing first-time users, Apple products were big on the uptake when people viewed them — and had the chance to see them at work. For someone like me, it had always been a modern museum and a vision of what my office should look like.

5. The iPod. The iPod — even the early ones were amazing pieces of hardware which led the process of chipping away at what the experience of music buying and listening has become. Equally important was iTunes in my view. Creating a Mac and PC environment to develop workflow for the music market was critical to the success of the iPod.

I personally remember betting against the cost of an iPod and getting a Nike/Philips mp3 player. In the end, I was wrong: the software and the flash storage of the iPod reigned supreme back when a 10gb click-wheel iPod was something to have. The mp3 player software just wasn’t as good. Also, Apple also developed a strategy to cut through the piracy of mp3s where there was no structure up until then.

6. For years, my desktop computer was a G4 Cube. Great computer. Great form factor.

7. Somewhere in here has to be noted the failure of Microsoft Windows to take advantage of its size advantage in the mid 90s coupled with the gaffes and problems with its operating systems. Mac proved over and over people could have more computer as long as the penalty of translating their work from a PC-world wasn’t too steep (email, MS Office, internet, etc.)

8. The iPhone and iPad. Both of these devices are enough by themselves to be great accomplishments, though I don’t own either. I always had a love-hate relationship with Mac products so that I never wanted to be the early adopter (I have a thing against expensive phones and being an early-adopter who gets caught out there in technological no-man’s land.)

I just heard a 1996 Jobs interview on Fresh Air where he talked about the post-PC world that takes full advantage of an internet connected world. The “think different” mantra of Apple, coupled with some high-end failures opened the conditions that led to well-curated products that also successfully cultivated content as well (iTunes/appStore popularity).

Well, I considered lining up my Macs for a portrait to send in to the New York Times as they were requesting today, but this portrait is more satisfying in that not all my Mac products are still around (sold The Cube on eBay/threw out the Powerbook).

NBC’s Growing Role In The Versus Channel…

NBC is softly preparing to absorb the Versus Channel, the home for the Tour de France and other cycling events and it worries me some.

NBC has in some cases made a mess of TV coverage of The Olympics because they use a tape-delay strategy, compiling all the American-involved sports at prime-time. That’s fine in the sports where Americans do well, but the fly in the ointment is when the sport is really popular and interested people look up the results elsewhere. Even with a 12-hour delay they use teasers if history’s a guide.

A better strategy would be for them to couple a channel like Versus with their own Universal Sports to air more live coverage of events, airing a manicured summation in the prime-time. And they own plenty of beta channels, so even though they do some of this maybe it would seem like their denying less access if they did a better job of it.

The hope is that they improve coverage of TdF, not weaken it. The tour has its strong following so it’s not likely they’ll mess with it too much–at least not early on.

Speed Channel, a subsidiary of Fox hurts F1 by delaying a block of four races (the summer races) to the 1pm slot on Sundays instead of airing them when they come on (1pm in the locale where they would race).

I’m an F1 fan. I know if the race is in Malaysia, get sleep on my own time. The ratings might be better but the commercial breaks are murder.

Speaking of Speed Channel, how do they combine F1 and international motorsport on a channel with Nascar? And how does Versus combine cycling with hunting? I mean that’s like four different channels: stock car, int’l motorsport (F1, Le Mans), hunting and cycling (and marathons, etc.)

Banning of Robocalls a good move to permission marketing.

August 28, 2009 – NPR’s Morning Edition reported that the FTC has recently banned most automated telephone calls today in a story listed on the NPR website. This is good news whose time has been coming for a while.

From the NPR website: “Government regulators issued a new rules Thursday banning telemarketers from sending out prerecorded phone marketing pitches. As of next Tuesday, robocallers face up to $16,000 in fines, unless they have your written permission do so. There are several exceptions including calls that prorvide airline flight information.” (More online)

It’s time that marketers of all stripes realize that they should put some thought and strategy behind marketing messages to people. Whether it’s the duplicate catalogs or unwanted email, the technology is in place to tailor our messages to inform, remind and not anger folks when we need to communicate a product or service. But the “robo-call” people have sent it over the edge leading to a contraction of the service. And good thing.

These messages are sometimes misleading and take advantage of people’s time and patience by plying messages when one might otherwise be relaxing. One thing marketers should know is that people aren’t sitting around wondering about health care options when they’re interrupted at the dinner table. That’s why a real person asking permission for your time is the time-honored and effective way to communicate with a person. We live in an on-demand world, where marketers are best served by making their message available in an “on-demand” format.

The same message vilified by many, may be welcome to others if the prospect can get it when they want. That’s why building rapport with clients (whether you speak to them face-to-face or not) is so vital today as it ever was. We can create and promote systems that allow “easy-in, easy-out” systems, that allows folks to get the information they need, when they need it. And let this be a lesson to the increasingly out-of-work robo-call marketer.

EFI Group Logo Design


Working with an engineering group, I recently developed a new logo for EFI Group. The logo combines letterform and crosshair imagery to create a focus element on their principal market—industrial market engineering consultation and implementation. Many thanks to them for a great process and a special thanks to Rob Emenecker of Hairy Dog Digital for partnering with me on the project.