Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category
30th July 09
“There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher. This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole. Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect). Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.
The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space. So just a couple of meaty topics then…
14th July 09
For a good while now we’ve been hearing about the death of the big idea (put that phrase into Google and see what you get back), but before the coffin gets nailed down once and for all, I’d like to check for life signs. Not so that we can limp on, clinging to an old familiar industry cliché, but to make sure we’re not systematically talking ourselves into killing off something that still has the power to bring tangible and intangible value to the brands we serve. Read full post
9th July 09
How many marketing campaigns can you name that are properly innovative, laudable in their intent (cheap to produce & for a good cause), blindingly simple to interact with and delivered with laugh out loud wit? Here at Labs at any rate we reckoned we would be pushed to name one. Then along comes something that completely blows us away, the brilliant i.Saw and its sister product, Papercut.
We first heard about the whole idea when our friends from BBH Asia Pacific got in touch. Inspired by mountains of uncollected pages on the printers in the office, they’d developed a unique, downloadable sound effect application of a chainsaw, designed to drive home a straightforward message: printing unnecessarily = killing trees.
Peter Callaghan, CD on the project, explains the brilliantly simple idea: “Papercut is a simple reminder of where paper comes from. When you press ‘print’, you’ll hear the roar of a chain saw. It is not to make you stop printing, just print less, using only what you need. Reminding people that printers run on trees.”
The next step was to orchestrate a campaign to encourage people to download the app. The team given that task, Noel Yeo and Shawn Loo, explained they were intrigued by the idea of creating a product, rather than a classic viral. And with that, the i.Saw was born. An entirely spoof creation, the i.Saw is a USB-powered chainsaw (the answer to all your office needs, natch) complete with its own lovingly created product page.
‘Pre-ordering’ the i.Saw on the site initially generated a classic, automated email response thanking you for your order. Now a banner informs us that pre-ordering is closed, click here to find out why… which takes you to some brief copy revealing the spoof and offering you the entirely free, downloadable sound effect app. Genius. Read full post
30th June 09
Without doubt our find of the week (the year?) here at BBH Labs has been this staggeringly cool flash application, from a Singapore-based band called Concave Scream. I’d never heard of them, and now I can’t stop listening to them.
Created as a piece of marketing content for their new LP, ‘Soundtrack for a Book’, it consists of data visualizations of the front covers of 50 all-time classic books (think Moby Dick, Alice, Pollyanna, Last of the Mohicans), brought to life and mashed-up with the soundtracks from the new LP.
It is completely customizable & interactive. Each of the 50 books can be played with using controls at top right. You can add or accentuate colours, change rotation speed, create wallpapers, or simply opt for a more randomized effect. Go full screen for best effects (top right).
In a week when smart new ways to launch music have been recognized and awarded (for example, close to home, BBH NY’s launch of the new Oasis LP, a Titanium Lion winner in Cannes), this takes that to another level.
We’re certainly guilty of getting over-excited fairly frequently here at BBH Labs, but this is genuinely staggeringly good. Best of all, it’s utterly beautiful in a mesmerizing way, with the vocal-less music from the LP completely complementing the visuals.
The actual CD itself is a fairly well-designed piece of work too (see below).
“[Concave Scream] have a lot of naïve aggression and a dirty kind of
sound, which I think makes them a lot more credible than the other pop
acts which seem to be singing just for the sake of singing, with no real
point of view.”
- Malcolm McClaren, The Straits Times
For more info: www.concavescream.com
Email us at: email@example.com
17th June 09
We have been playing with this really impressive collaborative & spoken word tool, Bb 2.0, and melting our brains thinking about the possibilities, and where this could go next
Conceived by Darren Solomon, from Science for Girls, but with plenty of help from users, the tool is based around the insight that it’s possibly to play multiple videos on YouTube simultaneously. It’s similar to, but according to Darren pre-dates, the Kutiman YouTube mash-up videos (which are also awesome pieces of remixed art).
Darren & team go into the why and how in more detail in their FAQ, which are worth checking out. It’s an interesting experiment around using the crowd to conceive of and produce music, but one critical element stands out for us – the role of Darren as both editor (he filters and selects all the music chosen) and overall creative director (his vision, his direction, his imagination). In debates around the use of the crowd – in this case the musical talents of the crowd – the pivotal role of the editorial director is frequently overlooked. In a crowdsourced world the role of the ‘creative’ is more important than ever.
Thanks to @aaronkoblin for the tip off; his own version (kind of) of this is of course his pretty brilliant ‘Bicycle built for two thousand’ project.
4th June 09
This is simply a note of appreciation to David Byrne, who continues to remind me that interesting ideas don’t always require explanation and that great success can occur from the oddest of experiments.
Byrne doesn’t simply make music. He also designs chairs:
2nd June 09
“I love fools’ experiments. I am always making them”
Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
Brokeback to the Future. Must Like Jaws. Google Maps with just about anything. Danger Mouse’s the Grey Album. We just can’t escape mashups. When the very last music track, piece of software, data or film has been spliced with something else to create another new hybrid output, perhaps then, and only then, will the world rest easy.
Or maybe it shouldn’t. We could look at consumer-orientated mashup culture as just the start of something with even broader application. Taken to an extreme, I’m talking about mashing up entire industries. The marriage or mutation of skill sets inside an industry like marketing & communications, with those on the outside. The sole purpose of the experiment to devise radically new, hybrid forms of creativity.
Industries as diverse as architecture, astrophysics, poetry and genetic engineering are already showing us how it’s done, collaborating and cross-fertilising with each other to evolve. A BBC podcast not so long ago explored this whole area with almost Darwinian alacrity, a guest on the show summing up his take as follows:
“How do we produce original knowledge? …We no longer need specialist knowledge, but trans-disciplinary creative solutions.”
Andy Miah, editor of ‘Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty’
The implications for creative businesses seem particularly significant. Despite the pride the communications industry has taken historically in its ability to seek inspiration from far & wide, it’s undeniable that large chunks of it currently maintain a pretty insular, closed off existence.
Consider this then a rallying cry to break down the walls, take a step outside and embrace the new forms of creativity that lie waiting for us at the intersections with fields, disciplines & cultures different to our own.
30th May 09
Posted by Ben Malbon & Heidi Hackemer
I’ve just finished an awesome article in ‘New York’ magazine by Sam Anderson called ‘In Defense of Distraction‘. I say finished. I mean barely finished. I’ve been reading it for four days.
The truth is, it took me waaaaay too long to read the piece. Not because it’s not a really top quality dissection of the attention crash, its causes, and ramifications – it is – but because almost every sentence I read contained a phrase, name, concept or idea that I wanted to get more information about. I barely finished a single sentence in one go. I spent more time on Google than on the New York magazine site.
My colleague Heidi (@uberblond) also took a crack at it. In her desperate attempt to not meander off into conceptual undergrowth, she opened a new tab with a Google search every time a thought hit her. At the end of the article, she had racked up almost twenty tabs of where her mind wanted to go. It turned out we both struggled to finish what is a really excellent, highly readable article on a subject we’re both really into. Not good. Some would say pathetic.
In Anderson’s piece, David Meyer, one of the world’s leading experts on multitasking & cognition describes this phenomenon in bald, almost harrowing terms. He sees our distraction “as a full-blown epidemic—a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought.”
This struck a chord with us, although we were both barely paying enough attention to the piece first time around to register the thought. Only when we compared notes did we recall skim-reading that quote as our bit-addled brains struggled to process thousands of concurrent potential search terms at once. Our mutually pathetic attempt at pointed concentration got both of us thinking: if two averagely-smart people can barely concentrate on something that *really* interests us, what does that mean about our ability to think creatively? Hmmmm . . .
Well we haven’t got any smart answers to that one, but fortunately, as we both took so long to finish the piece, in the meantime something on this theme snuck in and offered an interesting counter-argument. A recent piece in Wired magazine by David Allen, ‘How to be creative amid chaos‘, proposes using the disordered reality of over-stimulation, continuous partial attention and multi-tasking as a liberating force that can feed, not stifle, creativity. Allen muses on how, perhaps, the skill of the next generation might lie on mastering how to extract meaning from this cacophony. He cites the example of Evan Taubenfeld, a guitarist and producer in a rock band.
He was telling me how he’s learned to produce an album most effectively. Some of the best ideas for his songs happen while he and his band are working on another one. Now he has a whiteboard in the studio. They’ll be in the middle of one thing, suddenly get inspired about something else, and stop to capture it. Evan said it’s chaotic, but once the band got used to it and trusted the process, they were way more productive and more creative than ever. Before he realised the power of capturing thoughts as they occur, and building in just the kind of structures that he needed to foster and support the process, he experienced lots of wasted and frustrated energy, with much less output. Trying to exert the “discipline” of staying focused on one song at a time stifled his creativity. The coolest thing about the new process, he said, was that making music was fun again.
We thought this was cool, and inspiring. And we’re now less worried about not finishing pieces we start. Far from trying to install some form of order around the cacophony, maybe we should jump into it? Maybe we resist order and accept that it’s from within that craziness that we might craft and find creativity?
You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. (Nietzsche)
27th May 09
11th May 09If data visualisation is the new rock and roll, Elvis has (just) left the building. Aaron Koblin played to an enthralled audience of BBH-ers this afternoon, blew our minds and incredibly kindly agreed to be interviewed by Labs afterwards.
Our interview to follow soon, but to whet your appetite, a quick download of our (and your) key questions for the rock star of the data visualisation world.Balancing immediacy and intrigue: A frequent criticism of data visualisation is that while often extremely beautiful, sometimes it doesn’t make the information contained any clearer-it can sometimes even seem to obfuscate in the name of art. Should great data visualisation simplify or should it embrace complexity and reward exploration? Should it be reductive or expansive in intent?Where left brain meets right brain: When embarking on a project, which comes first, the data or the technique? How critical a role does software play? Do the themes and memes recurring in data visualisation reflect the artists’ preoccupations or the data sets available?Proliferation versus privacy: One of the key enablers of data visualisation is the phenomenal explosion in the amounts of data we now generate everywhere we go. We live in a golden age of open-ness around personal data but will we reach a tipping point where we reclaim our personal privacies? Or will we opt in to share anonymised data for the common good?The power of synesthesia: Some of the most compelling data visualisation projects are those which express one medium-almost one sense- by means of another. Visually representing dance or music, aurally representing data sets-what is it we find so compelling about this “synesthetic” effect?
Crowd-sourcing versus the wisdom of the crowd: Koblin’s recent work experiments with crowd-sourcing but suggests an ambivalence about the process. While a central theme of data visualisation is the wisdom of the crowd, how does it skew the data if the crowd knows it’s being watched? Is the unconscious wisdom of the crowd purer and more compelling or is conscious collaboration of the masses the future? How important is the role of the curator in that process?
Answers – or at least compelling and considered answers – on a blogpost near you shortly….