Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life Takes Heart

I recently had the opportunity to take the creative lead on a series of television commercials for the WellStar Cardiac Network—the largest collection of heart docs in the Atlanta area. With the rest of the team at Mindpower and a crack team of directors, DPs, and still photographers, I got to take part in every step of the process, from initial concepting and storyboarding to location scouting and principal photography (with a killer Red camera). We filmed the backgrounds, backdrops, and foreground actors and volunteers each seperately, photographing them simultaneously, so we could composite the TV spots, and future print and web pieces, as needed.

Check out the results:

WellStar Cardiac Network Television Spot 1

WellStar Cardiac Network Television Spot 2

There's a great print series that we're developing to run alongside this series, so check back for more updates. FB

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Most Interesting Man in the World

Since they first appeared on the radio in 2007, I've been a huge fan of Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the world.

The Dos Equis campaign, as most of you know, captures the Most Interesting Man's witty advice, colorful commentary and incredulous tales of past experiences. According to Dos Equis' advertising agency, Euro RSCG Worldwide, the Most Interesting Man's unmatched suave and distinguished charisma appeals to the key Dos Equis consumer — adult men who live or aspire to live "interesting" lives. Indeed.

I remember laughing out loud when I heard some of the one-liners from the original (and still best) spots:
  • When it is raining, it is because he thought of something sad.
  • Even his parrot's advice is insightful.
  • His shirts never wrinkle.
  • He is left-handed. And right-handed.
  • The police often question him, just because they find him interesting.
  • He once punched a magician. That's right. You heard me.
  • On every continent in the world, there is a sandwich named after him.
  • His pillow talk is years ahead of its time.
  • His cereal never gets soggy. It sits there, staying crispy, just for him.
And my absolute favorite:
  • When he orders a salad, he gets the dressing right there on top of the salad, where it belongs…where there is no turning back.
All culminating, of course, with Dos Equis' signature closing: "Stay thirsty my friends."

It's the funniest thing I've heard on the radio since Bud Light's original "Real American Heroes"/"Real Men of Genius."

Nor am I alone in loving the Most Interesting Man. According to Millward Brown study cited in an April 2007 PRNewsWire report, the Dos Equis' campaign "is in the top five percent of most enjoyable ads in U.S. research history, posturing the Most Interesting Man to become pop culture's next brand-recognized advertising icon."

Check out some of this great radio writing in this animation executed for the supporting website at

Thankfully, a series of TV spots have followed up on this brilliant radio campaign and have expanded the character without making him silly. All of these spots are tied-in to the campaign microsite,, where you can test your skill in patience and strength (by arm wrestling Mao, Churchill, Stalin, or our most interesting man), apply to become the most interesting man in the world’s personal assistant (the previous one died on the job) and view various photos with our host performing assorted "manly" feats. You can see the seven current TV spots below:

The Most Interesting Man

...on Packages

...on Mixed Nuts

...on Careers


...on Rollerblading

...on Life

These spots were created by Euro RSCG Worldwide (by Simon Nickson and Laura Fegley, the Art Director/Copywriter duo) with Jeff Kling as Creative Director. Steve Miller directed the spots with @radical media. And for those interested in the man himself? The Most Interesting Man In The World is played by Jonathan Goldsmith (who I should've recognized from all those appearances on my childhood favorites, Knight Rider, Fall Guy, MacGyver...). FB

Monday, February 23, 2009

Visualizing the Credit Crisis

To say that most Americans don't understand the current financialocaplyse is, perhaps, an understatement. Confusion abounds concerning mortgage-backed securities, sub-prime mortgages, and the crippled condition of the banking system. And try as they might, most media outlets—however thorough or complete their coverage—fail to capture the problem in an easily digestible and understandable form.

So we're fortunate that Jonathan Jarvis, a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, chose to share his Media Design thesis, "The Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis" with the rest of us.

"The Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis" captures the global financial condition in a masterful animation, easily showing the relationship between American homeowners and the dashed fortunes of investors and bankers the world over. It cleverly illustrates obtuse financial jargon, such as leverage and the federal reserve lending rate, making sense of a sometimes mind-bending financial puzzle.

Watch this video in high definition at

Jonathan's goal is to give form to a complex situation and to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. And apparently a lot of us need that visual cue to help us sort out the crisis at hand—as of this writing, Jonathan's website was down due to the high demand on its bandwidth and the costs associated with that level of traffic. Hopefully this demand means we'll see a lot more of his explorations into the use of new media to make sense of our increasingly complex world. We could use it. FB

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Industries That Thrived During the Great Depression

Listening to the Prez talk about the current financialocalypse got me thinking about the Great Depression (it was neither great nor depressing...discuss!) and what, if any, markets thrived during that global economic buzz kill. Turns out, a lot did. Most are pretty obvious, but if we’re looking to roll in new clients during the recent unpleasantness, these might be sectors to watch:

FOOD. People still eat (well, most of them) regardless of income and even when foregoing health care expenses. The classic Depression-era example is Kelloggs out-marketing Post.

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS / ESSENTIAL CONSUMABLES. People still need soap and solvents and diapers and gasoline and stuff. P&G is the stand-out Depression-era success in this category. For that matter, so are perceived essentials. Camel almost destroyed Lucky in the 1930’s because people needed cigarettes. In our epoch, maybe people need coffee like they once needed cigarettes (the perfect opportunity for Jittery Joe’s to destroy Starbucks?).

COMMUNICATIONS. Print and radio boomed during the depression. Now, this certainly isn’t the case any longer. But those communications markets that are now replacing them might be. I am, reminded of a friend of mine who recently got laid off who canceled his cable but not his Internet or cell services, because he needs those to work from home and, in the case of his internet, to watch conventional TV programming.

CAPITAL GOODS. While the new production of capital goods during the Depression was almost zero, the resale value of them appears to have gone up. Nowadays, there are a lot of factories out there looking to sell off their means of production – someone must be handling that transaction. You can bet that if the stimulus package hits, and infrastructure projects go up despite Caterpillar's reduced production, that a market for related, resold parts will emerge.

MILITARY / GOVERNMENT. Perhaps this goes without saying. But we’re fighting two wars and, even if we pull our combat troops from Iraq, those Humvees are still gonna need tires and those marines are still gonna need armor for a long time. And with Black Water kicked out of the country, other US security companies have the opportunity to rush in and fill that branding black hole. While some departments of the government (NASA, NEA, etc) might get their budgets slashed, you can bet the DoD and the DoS won’t be among them. After all, it wasn’t the New Deal that ended the Great Depression. It federal spending and bond investment for WWII.

SECURITY. The simplest arithmetic of the Depression, or any recession: As the economy goes down, crime goes up. Dekalb county, Georgia just this week announced it will be spending $1million on tasers for it's police, despite budget shortfalls. Security consultants aren't only needed overseas and, as the recession lingers, may become more valuable domestically.

ANYONE WHO KEEPS ADVERTISING. This is the single greatest economic truism of the depression. Generally speaking, those companies that not only survived but did well and grew during the Great Depression weren’t representative of any one marketplace but, rather, were those that continued to act as though there was nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend on their service/product. And they advertised. Alternately, companies that cut spending during that era actually dropped out of public sight, causing customers to feel abandoned and to associate the effected brands with a lack of staying power. This drove customers to more aggressive competitors and appears to have caused a certain amount of financial mistrust when it came to spending money with the no longer visible companies.

Who says a history degree is useless. Just wait ‘til Germany invades Poland again and you’ll see what I mean (‘cause you know they will...) FB

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fight.Boredom's Best of 2008

Since 2002, we've done our best to use Fight.Boredom as a vehicle for discussion and critique of creativity, pop culture, and graphic design in and outside of the workplace. And over the course of all that time, the website has changed shape several times – from a monthly to an annual newsletter, both in service of Cloudjammer Studio, before finally transforming into the blog you read today.

In all that time, we've always been thrilled by the feedback we've gotten from clients, friends, and casual readers who've either subscribed to or stumbled upon our site. And we've always been surprised by the amount of web traffic Fight.Boredom receives – especially now, more than a year after Cloudjammer Studio's official dissolution and the end of Fight.Boredom's email subscriptions.

Between March 1 and Dec 31, 2008 – corresponding to the date we installed Google Analytics and the end of the calendar year – Fight.Boredom received over 13,000 unique pageviews (over 17,000 total) with an average time on page of 1:43. And in that time, a few articles in particular really stand out.

Thanks in large part to an appearance on, our March pop-culture post "I Think Star Wars is Turning Japanese" rocketed to the top of Fight.Boredom's metrics, scoring almost 6,000 unique pageviews – almost 900 in one day alone. Other favorite articles included our 2005 piece "SCAD Comes to Atlanta", personal favorite "Arabic in Graphic Design: Al Jazeera's Cartouche", and longtime fan favorites "Cursing Like A Sailor In Primetime" and "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker".

Much to our surprise, the majority of visitors were Firefox users (53%). But, to be expected, most were Americans (66%), PC users (78%), and almost all were new visitors (94%) who found us through Google (56%) of Stumbleupon (22%).

And in the past year, we have, as in years past, kept our ears open, listening to a wide variety of the best music available both at home at in the workplace. In addition to reviewing the best and most popular of the website's articles, we wanted to share with you, as we have in years past, the best of our annual playlist:

Adele's "Cold Shoulder"
From the album "19"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
Hopefully this soulful British songstress will serve a much needed antidote to Amy Winehouse.

Coldplay's "Lost?"
From the album "Viva la Vida"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
A softer, more sentimental acoustic version of the heavily played Lost! that feels like a perfect anthem for a bittersweet year.

Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark"
From the album "Plans"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
A touching, darkly romantic track that calmed our frazzled nerves while Ann and I drove to the hospital to have our son.

Flight Of The Conchords' "Ladies Of The World"
From the album "Flight Of The Conchords"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
We were late comers to this show – especially since we don't have HBO – but we've fallen in love with their hilarious music.

Iron & Wine's "Carousel"
From the album "The Shepard's Dog"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
Hands down, one of the best albums we've come across in recent years.

Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around"
From the album "American IV: The Man Comes Around"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
If you haven't seen the explosive season 1 finale to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, masterfully set to this apocalyptic track, then you need to.

My Morning Jacket's "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, Pt. 2"
From the album "Evil Urges"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
While none of MMJ's album cuts compare to their live performances, this fantastic track caps a great release.

Radiohead's "Reckoner"
From the album "In Rainbows"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
A fantastic album, from beginning to end – and, if you got it during Radiohead's online sales experiment, at a great price, to boot.

Snow Patrol's "Shut Your Eyes"
From the album "Eyes Open"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
Another track that soothed Ann and me on our way to the hospital to have Jack.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps"
From the album "Fever To Tell"
Listen to or buy this song on iTunes
Ever since we rocked out to this song while playing Rock Band, we've been addicted to its hypnotic rhythm and vocals.

Thanks for a great 2008! FB

Friday, January 9, 2009

Conan The Designer: Redeeming an Icon

As professional creatives, most of us have, at one time or another, faced the thorny challenge of refreshing or otherwise reinvigorating an established brand. But only the most fortunate among us have ever had the chance to tangle with truly ubiquitous cultural brands – a shame because cultural icons are often exciting subjects and because a great deal can be learned about how reinvention and research inform such a challenge.

Case in point: the monumental challenge presented by established cultural icons such as Conan the Barbarian. For nigh on 77 years, the burly Cimmerian has prowled American pop culture at nearly every level – from his 1932 genesis in Weird Tales to generations of short stories, comics, novels, films, and, inevitably, a whole subgenre of satires. And I'd wager that if you surveyed a sample of the American public, you would find a fairly concrete but simple perception of the character as a one-dimensional, stupid barbarian.

It is into this environment that Wandering Star and Del Rey invited a series of artists – including Mark Schultz, Gregory Manchess, Jim and Ruth Keegan, Gary Gianni – to reinvent the character Conan for a new series of Robert E. Howard's original stories.

The challenge is not unlike that regularly faced by creative professionals the world over – to take an established brand and breathe new life into it. Only most of us, even when dealing with titanic corporations and organizations, rarely have to confront a icon of such ubiquity – much less one associated with as iconic a celebrity as Schwarzenegger or so long and storied a public career.

But as a recent series of posts at Tor's blog recently demonstrate (both about the nature of the icon and the illustrators who refreshed it) the answer to this challenge isn't an impossible one. Indeed, the team of illustrators who recovered Conan from the character's public image found the answer by going back to the source – the original tales of Robert E. Howard.

This exercise is an excellent analogue for any creative project that seeks to break the inertia of a long-running but stale brand. Rather than mire themselves in the legacy of second or third generation characterizations of the Conan icon – or even the classic depictions of the character by Frank Frazetta – the illustrators each turned to a portion of the original short stories and novellas with which Howard invented the barbarian.

What the illustrators found, and brought to life for Del Rey, was a character far more complicated than than a simple savage – or even a shirtless Austrian. As artist Mark Schultz told Irene Gallo at Tor:

Conan has achieved a sort of iconic status which unfortunately carries with it a gross simplification of the complexities of the character as originally written by his creator, the massively talented Robert E. Howard.

Howard created Conan, and the genre that later came to be called "sword and sorcery," not simply as venues for bloody action, but as expressions of his views on life, history, and society. That he could disguise his philosophical musings within rousing good adventure and compelling character was but one aspect of his talent.

The one-note depiction of Conan as snarling, mindless killing machine has become short-hand for the character and, unfortunately, the only aspect recognized by the wider public. It's a powerful, dramatic aspect in a commercial sense—and one too easily returned to by illustrators aping their predecessors—but does a disservice to the richness of the character as written by Howard.

I've tried in my depictions of Conan to always refer back to the descriptions of his creator. Howard wrote him as a triumph of pure merit over established societal mores. Conan has a genius for rising above his circumstances and improving his situation: he comes from Cimmerian poverty to become king of the greatest nation of his time, and that doesn't happen merely because he is the most physically imposing warrior. Howard depicts him with plenty of smarts, curiosity, empathy, adaptability, self-depreciation, charisma--in short, all the factors needed to make a superior leader. He grows and changes throughout Howard's stories. I'm always attempting to keep that in mind as I draw Conan.

Such research – in this case going back to the original depression-era stories – mimics the professional creative who discards trendy campaigns and inherited messaging and goes back to a brand's source – to the meaning, the culture, and the core message of the brand in question. And in such an activity, the opportunity to reveal the lost quality of a simplified or wayward brand is enormous. Consider the simple warrior brought to life by Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to Howard's layered and complex version of the Cimemrian, as described by Tor's Douglas Cohen:

We should also consider the predominant theme in most of Howard's original tales: the triumph of barbarism over civilization. Howard saw a certain noble beauty in the simple ways of the barbarian, and considered them superior to the decadence of the civilized world (he and H.P. Lovecraft actually exchanged a series of renowned letters that debated the virtues of barbarism vs. civilization). Conan was by no means a philosopher or a man of deep thoughts, but when the story came back to Howard's predominant theme, Conan proved himself more than capable of elucidating his thoughts on what he wished from life. Conan was never stupid; he lived life through his body as opposed to his mind because that's what appealed to him. When he needed to use his mind though, he was more than up to the task.

Let's hope, as designers, we're up the task as well. FB