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I am worried about Earl

December 2, 2010


It all started out so well. The app was designed, the movie created, and Sympathetic Earl was just so excited. It seemed he really could have a shot at competing with the other app ideas. The only thing left was some support from his friends. Earl seemed blissfully unconcerned with this stage of the competition. “-I have lots of friends”, he said, bubbling with joy. “-They will see me for the beautiful creature I am and vote for me. I am just so happy!”

So the days went, and it was time for voting. Earl was excited. However, pretty soon we started seeing Earl change. His normal, happy demeanor changed to being quiet for long periods of time, subdued. After a few days he stopped shaving and looked tired. Nothing seemed to make him laugh anymore.

Naturally, we were concerned. At first, we thought he was having a bad day. Anybody can have a bad day. But then day became days, and soon it had been a whole week. And Earl was getting worse, not better.

It turned out that Earl had not gotten the support from his friends he was hoping for and expecting. After four days of voting, he has only gotten 22 votes. To put that in perspective, the leader in the competition is now at 153 votes and rising fast. As it stands now, Earl won’t even place in the top ten needed to come before the jury and have a shot at winning.

I am afraid for Earls mental health. He’s just sitting there, staring out the window. He’s not himself. He’s not even sympathetic anymore, just pathetic. I can’t stand to see him this way. I can’t understand why this had to happen. Is it because Earls friends don’t understand the voting system? It’s pretty obtuse:

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Hangover? There’s an app for that.

November 29, 2010

Designed by Scientists! Yes, that is a quote from Kick-Ass.

The guy at the hardware store looked a bit nervously at me. I had just bought what could only amount to a serial killer outfit. Paper coveralls, face masks, latex gloves. And there was this psycho gleam in my eye as well. But i was not about to go all Dexter Morgan on someone, i was just feeling more inspired than i had in a long time. The guys to thank for that are World’s Best Bars together with web agency Great Works. They are hosting an app design contest in which you are to come up with the perfect app for WBB and make a movie presenting it. Just reading about the competition made me cackle with glee. I had already made one film about my virtual bartender app idea, when my pal Johan just rattled off a whole string of excellent app ideas. Sadly, I only had time to do one, and behold, it’s the beerB4wine application.

What does the app do? Oh, nothing much…. it just CURES HANGOVER. Or more to the point, prevents it from even occurring. What could be better for a network of the world’s best bars?

How does it work, you ask? Well, of course, i cannot go into the extremely complex calculations that take place, fully tapping the raw processing power of the iPad, but i can tell you that it uses an ancient formula at it’s core, which i can show you the German version of below:

“Bier auf Wein lass es sein,
Wein auf Bier dass rate ich Dir.”

Please take a moment to stop by the World’s Best App competition site and vote for my application to win.

 

After all, i think it is our responsibility to the world and future generations to cause an application like this to be created.

Corporate Klas versus Art Klas – FIGHT!

November 17, 2010

Ok, folks, welcome to the annual Corporate versus Art Klas smackdown. Today, we have quite the fight for you, between these two giants. In one corner, the slightly thin-haired Art Director, veteran of both Grey and Ogilvy, with almost 15 years experience of art boards, pitches, three-letter acronyms and countless cups of lukewarm espresso, the one and only Corporate Klas!

In the other corner, the paint-stained chainsmoker with horn-rimmed glasses and way, way too much cheap hair gel, a man so devoid of work ethic even other art students think he’s lazy, wearing cowboy boots and a duffel coat, the inimitable Art Klas!

These two are the antithesis of one another and yet they live in the same body! Their fight has gone on since 1971 and tonight it comes to a head! Let’s get ready to rrrrumble!

Round 1:

Ooo! Corporate Klas opens the fight with a nice, corporate website! http://www.ragnsellsmiljokonsult.se/ Lots of grey there. Looks like a full redesign of a major Swedish company, Ragn-Sells Miljökonsult AB. Nice one!

Well, Art Klas is reeling, and who can blame him. That is a corporate website, right there. Solid professional. Corporate Klas has really brought the pain. Let’s see what the paint-smeared one does to get out of this corner.

Round 2

Whoa! Is that… what is that? It’s a website devoted to finding the muppets hidden all around us? Oh, my god, it is. http://hiddenmuppets.posterous.com Look at Corporate Klas. He’s gone pale as a sheet.

Well people, that is pretty far from serious business. Look’s like classic Art Klas. Not making anyone any money, and involves sticking muppet eyes to public places and snapping pictures. It’s even open for anyone to contribute.

So what do you say, who wins this first bout? Looks like an even match to me. Tell me what you think!

Confessions of a glass addict

October 27, 2010

Working as a designer / art director, i have always had the need for a decent still camera for my daily work, and the desire to be able to produce video as well. A few years back, i jumped on the chance to buy Sony’s first HD capable camcorder, which set me back quite a bit but i considered it worth it if i could produce video with that professional, cinematic look i craved for my projects.

Turns out that HD really only means a higher definition of the same video quality you get from any camcorder. I guess i should have figured that one out for myself, but, well there you go.

It was recently i started noticing the video samples coming out of video capable DSLR:s, like the Canon EOS 5D mark II and the Canon EOS 7D. I realized that this was the kind of video i had been after all along. I had almost convinced myself to buy a EOS 7D  – way to expensive for a still camera, but i figured that if it took super video as well, then… – when reviews started coming in for the Rebel t2i / EOS 550D. Way cheaper than the 7D, but with pretty much the same video capabilities. Having almost convinced myself that i needed a pro camera for my work, the 550D felt like a bargain.

I bought the camera, took some test video with the kit lens, and…. meh. Video, sure, but nothing special.

Disheartened, i felt that i again had dropped a load of money on a piece of equipment that didn’t somehow magically transform me into a master videographer. A few days later, i stumbled on a blog that flatly stated that people who bought a Canon DSLR and not picked up the excellent 50mm 1.8 lens were just plain stoopid. And so, natuarally, i bought myself this piece of glass in a cheap plastic housing. Affixed it to my camera, and… magic. The light, the depth of field, the vibrance… oh my. The only way to travel.

So now i have a new gadget fetish. I’m now a burgeoning glass addict. I’ve borrowed a 30mm Sigma 1.4 lens and the kit lens is now gathering dust in a corner.

Now to combine it with the Glidecam 2000 rig i already own, i have the capability to create some nice panning shots, given that i can master the finicky balancing of the camera.

Another must-have accessory is the Gorillapod DSLR with which you can create a tripod out of whatever is handy. Unlike the Glidecam, which is way bulky, the Gorillapod is eminently portable.

It’s starting to become clear that all the tools i need to create the level of video quality i want are available to me now. Which means I only lack the time and talent to make kick-ass movies.

The story of the hamster that would not die

June 21, 2010

hamster_withg_signOnce upon a time, a large ad agency had a nice big client. It was in the middle of summer, and capacity was way down when the call came from on high. Immediately produce and deliver two design concepts for an email marketing campaign. Two digital art directors were tasked to come up with a concept idea each, and present it to the customer the day after.

I don’t know what possessed her to do it. I really don’t. I think she was a bit fed up. I know we both were. I mean, we had a lot on our plates, especially her.

I made a concept that was safe and sane, on the verge of boring. She made a concept that had hamsters in it. We presented our concepts to the project managers, hours before the client presentation. The project managers actually looked pale when they saw the hamster boards. This was hours before the presentations, we absolutely had to present two tracks. No other creatives were to be had, even if there had been time.

Moreover, sensing that the hamster track was met with some skepticism my colleague threw her hands in the air and growled ‘-You got your concept. There. But I don’t have time for this anymore. I got work to do.’ And she stomped off.

Leaving yours truly to present both tracks. Now, it might be important to stress the fact that this client wasn’t some nice, hip consumer brand. No, this was heavy duty B2B known for being extremely conservative when it came to creative, and also our biggest client. This was a pickle. Because now I had to proudly present my hamster idea to the client as if it was my own beloved brainchild. I did some research, and found a nice big doctoral thesis that cute animals are not to be underestimated in advertising. I included this document, some 60 pages of it, with the PDF:s of the creative. Couldn’t hurt, i thought.

And so came the time of the pitch. The team piled in to the little stuffy teleconference room I was convinced would soon reek of roasted hamster. Roasted Art Director, for that matter. The first track, the conservative idea i had made, resulted in a resounding ‘meh’ from the client. Their gist was that it was ‘…ok, I guess, not very surprising…’. At least it passed, although not with a big margin.

The account director was visibly nervous. ‘-Ahem, as to the other idea…’

The clients voice came back from the tinny speaker of the conference phone: ‘-Yes. The mouse.’

‘-Uh, actually, it’s a hamster. Uh, we have Klas here, the Art Director, maybe you could explain…?’

I drew a deep breath. Use the force, Luke. Use the force.

‘-Well, as the documentation i sent you clearly shows, you should never underestimate the power of cute. At the end of the day, people quite simply like what they see. And everybody loves a cute hamster! Also, it is a nice contrast to the more boring… i mean conservative.. image you…uh… normally use. It will certainly surprise your customers! Also, the theme is very versatile. The hamsters can be made to do all sorts of cute things, so this can really be a long-running theme. We really feel this one could be a winner! Eh… what are your thoughts?’

Clenching my teeth in anticipation of the epic smackdown i was about to recieve, i waited for their reply.

‘-Well, we kind of like it. We feel it is very fresh, very edgy.’

The account director who had been cowering in a corner preparing for the spatter of atomized Art Director snapped to attention:
‘-Uh, excuse me? We didnt get that last part. Edgy?’

‘-Yes, we are very happy with it. The mouse is very cute. Especially the one holding a little birthday cake? But maybe, we’re thinking it could hold a package instead?’

‘-Oh yes, no problem, we can just do that in photoshop, absolutely.’ A feeling of unreality was seeping into the conference room at this point. Was this candid camera? Had the client suddenly mastered the dark art of sarcasm? They were starting to sound enthusiastic, for chrissake!

‘-Oh yes, and ***name redacted*** would like it maybe to be a dog, instead? A dog is more like our way of doing business than a mouse.’

Here, being the resident hamster expert, i had to step in. ‘-Well, you see, the problem with that is there are many different type of dogs, and we would need to find out exactly which dog is the symbol of your company. And even then, it would possibly not work as well for some of the clients as for others, uh, you know, there’s a lot of difference between a dachshound and a….. uh, dalmation. A hamster is a hamster, you know?’
I had that old familiar feeling of being on very, very thin ice. The client was evidently not happy with this answer.

‘-Well…. yes. But we would like to see more creatives with the mouse holding a package. And also a dog.’

We emerged from the teleconference blinking at the bright afternoon light and marveled at air that actually had oxygen in it. Little did we know that we had witnessed the birth of the Amazing Immortal Hamster.

First off, because my little furry friend had not gone up in flames as i fully expected, i did some quick research into the fine art of hamster imagery. Turns out that there are a finite number of hamster stock art images, and to boot, there are a whole bunch of different kinds of hamsters. Go figure. This meant that if we wanted cute images of hamsters, we might have to photograph them ourselves. Thus, I learned the gruesome truth that in order for a small furry adorable animal to do adorable stuff like sitting in a teacup or holding a little birthday cake, they had to be quite docile. As in, still. As in lightly killed. Hamster clip art are most often made with stuffed or dead hamsters. As hardened as my advertising agency heart was, i could not see myself ordering the actual death of a small furry hamster. We were in trouble. The hamster idea needed to die.

The team, however, were in good spirits. We were sure we would see the death of this little rodent yet. After all, the client had requested two tracks for testing purposes, and were sure to go with the safe, conventional track we had prepared for them.

The dog was the first to die. It was a simple matter of selecting a range of different dogs and sending an innocent email to the client asking which dog best summed up the brand image of the company. In a very short while, the sound of a dog getting torn to pieces in a inter-office email barrage reached us. We had high hopes the hamster would join the choir invisible as well. But word came back that the hamster was now in the lead for the alternate email track.

We realized that the hamster was doomed as it progressed up the chain of command at the client. It would certainly be incinerated by the cigars of the top floor, as had so many more deserving ad ideas in the past. However, it would benefit us if the hamster met with an early demise. So we came up with the Amazing Cartoon Package.

The Cartoon Package was just that, a cartoon package with arms and a little cute face. We presented it to the client as being more in line with their brand image while at the same time preserving the power of cute the hamster had. After all, it was the very concept of cuteness, not the acctual hamster itself, that was the point? Yes? Yes?

No. The little cartoon package was sent its merry way into the hallways of the clients marketing team, but very soon we started to receive little pieces of cartoon cardboard in the mail.

‘-Our marketing manager feels that the box-man is just not as cute as the mouse. She especially likes the one with the mouse sitting in a teacup. Maybe he could have a little cap on, with our company logo?’

The hamster was growing, and started to look a little dangerous. We were getting a bit unconfortable. Strange and worrying mails from the client started dropping in, bearing witness of a mighty war that raged in the upper management hallways of our clients headquarters. A high-level manager of a different part of the company suddenly mailed us directly, demanding that we immediately come up with a set of images using a cute terrier. This order was countermanded by an even higher manager, who said no other animals than hamsters could be used, but that it was vital that the hamsters ‘had on at least a piece of our company uniform’ and displayed a ‘positive, can-do attitude’.

We now had a major headache. The hamster images that had been presented to the client represented the least awful of the gazillion stock photos we had looked through hunting for hamsters. Photoshopping in pieces of clothing, small packages and the like was simply not going to happen. It looked like crap. In order to do the hamster track we would need to take our own hamster images. Which would be expensive and most probably involve doing nasty things to small, fuzzy animals.

There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. The marketing research tests. The clients insisted every creative produced be thoroughly tested and the test results acted upon. Real people, not in advertising, would surely go with the safe, sane alternative track that included nice pictures of office people smiling instead of little furballs that had zip to do with what the company was selling.

Research tests sure are fun! It’s such a delight to work with a concept through a pitch, endless revisions, painful redesigns and tweaks just to have the work submitted to a research group that probably for cost reasons always seem to consist of two people, a 70-year old grandmother and a surly truck driver who for reasons known but to the wise men of the research agency . These two, then, are watched  – sometimes through one-way-glass –  by a bunch of nervous people hanging on to their every word as if it was writ in stone dictated by a burning bush. The results are fun, too, especially as you can easily guess whom of the two research subjects each pearl of wisdom came from.

‘-Research shows the target audience does not feel the color yellow is appropriate. Also, it feels that the room is a bit cold and that it misses its grandchildren. Our recommendation is that the creatives be changed to reflect on this.’

The feedback on this particular test was inconclusive but leaned towards the pictures of smiling people. Smiles and high-fives were exchanged by the creative team and everyone drew a sigh of relief. The hamster was now pining for the fjords.

Or so we thought.

Turns out the hamster had friends in high places. Every time we tried to go ahead with our other track, an email came from upon high, and here was the hamster again. Every time we submitted a new artwork, it was compared, unflatteringly, to the cuteness of the hamster. Different managers stepped in and demanded new artwork with the hamster. In the end, the hamster track was resurrected and handed to the bewildered project manager from the client, who was dumbfounded: ‘A rat? This is the symbol of our company? I don’t think so. Get rid of it!’

We, the agency, looked with compassion at our new project manager, who had not yet learned the might of the immortal hamster. In time, we felt sure, he too would learn of the futility in resistance. But he killed it. It took him a long time, and as the weeks passed, he more and more got that thousand-yard stare of a war veteran, but eventually the squeaks of the hamster subsided.

I guess the moral of the story is that you don’t mess with hamsters, or any other cute animals for that matter. They are more powerful than you can ever imagine. The hamster is now dead and the email campaign has been sent, featuring smiling office people and being very successful indeed. But all of us who worked with the project now look around us nervously at the sound of a squeak or rattle. It could be the hamster, back again from the dead.

First days with the iPad

April 19, 2010

The first impression i got unboxing the iPad was ‘magnificient’. It really is.

You, however, are not! You are a dirty, greasy human being and you will sully this magnificient piece of glass and metal with your touch. In about five minutes of usage, the screen was so smudged it was hard to see through the layer of disgusting finger-fat. Ewwww!

I recently bought a 24-inch cinema display. The iPad and the cinema display are siblings. The material, the glass, the sharpish edges and the funky tapering of the back curvature are the same. The problem is, if anyone should put their greasy fingers on the face of my Cinema Display i will hunt them down and destroy them. It’s simply something i need to do, like a grizzly mother when someone gets between her and her cub. The iPad, on the other hand, is made to be touched. This is a puzzling design flaw from Mr. Ives.

It’s almost as if the iPad wants you to be ashamed to be human. Or to work using white cotton gloves. Like a mime.Why do i find that strangely appealing?

That same magnificence, while dazzling at first, gives way to further shortcomings. The iPad, in effect a small Cinema Display, is heavy. You hold it gingerly, afraid to drop it or ding it into something. You treat it with respect. Problem is, to realize its full potential, the iPad needs to be the portable wonder-window you carry with you always and everywhere, like…. oh, I don’t know… the iPhone?

Herein lies the crux and the main reason, i think, I’ve not yet fallen in love with the iPad. The only reference I had of what the iPad would be like when waiting for it was a large iPhone. The iPhone is light, portable, and always connected. Given that you get a decent case for it, it’s kind of sturdy. You can pick it up, and plonk it down at a table, together with your keys.

You do not plonk the iPad. Any plonkage and it will surely shatter, like a porcelain plate – which is pretty close to what in terms of heft it feels like when you hold it.

And of course, that other thing you do with an iPhone. Actually use it. To surf, to consume data, to contribute, to interact. The reasons for Apples flat out refusal to allow tethering with the iPhone is at first bewildering, but as you think it through, thoroughly depressing. Apple is of course bowing to the demands of the ISP:s and telcos not to introduce a gadget that will piggyback on existing bandwitdh deals. It’s that old TANSTAAFL song again. I understand there’s never gonna be a free lunch. I’m not a teenager. But I’m chafing at carrying around one piece of equipment from Apple that can talk to the internet in my back pocket and another one that cannot right next to it, while they of course can talk to each other. Disallowing tethering is just plain stupid. I used to love Apple, but I’m not loving that greedy stupid vibe I’m getting more and more.

The iPad needs to talk to the Internet if it’s going to succeed. The wifi iPad is a non-starter. Potentially, Apple has just pissed off a half a million early adopters.

There are, of course, a couple of areas where the iPad is showing huge promise. When you are connected, it works great. Checking Twitter with free app Twitterific is a dream. This experience is actually better than using a desktop computer. You can separate your distractions from your work by having an iPad on the work desk. To me, this could be a workaround for the ever-increasing need to handle distractions in the workday.

Painting on the iPad is a revolution, at least for me. It makes computer art as intuitive and accessible as pen and paper, even better using the right tools, such as Sketchbook Pro HD and Layers. I’ve put in an order for a Pogo iPad stylus, and have high hopes for it. It’s clear, though, that my iPad will earn it’s keep as a creation tool.

Gaming on the iPad has yet to win me over. I guess it depends on the games and who you’re playing them with. It will be interesting to try out Charadium for iPad. Arcade games are basically eye candy, nice to look at but not terribly engaging.

One aspect of gaming on the iPad – or doing anything else for that matter – is how public anything you do becomes. If you use your iPad on the bus or train, people three rows behind you can see clearly what you’re doing on your screen. With the iPhone, gaming had a bit of privacy from tha smallness of the display. Not that i play games that are NSFW, you understand. I maybe just don’t want to advertise that I’m harvesting carrots in We Rule when i want to look like a hot-stuff Donald Draper checking my latest award-winning napkin sketches on my way to the big meeting.

One last thing that was a pleasant surprise was how good it feels to type on the iPad. If you’re like me, and basically type with your index fingers, the process of tapping on the glass of the iPad works great. It’s fast, responsive, and the results are passable. The only problems arise from the awkwardness of Apples auto-correction-system.

The bottom line of this first impression of the iPad is that although it’s a great machine, i had kind of expected insanely great.

More to come. Like the iPhone, we have yet to see what path the iPad will take. I’m sure I’ll be there to see it.

Making me look at my iPhone in a new way

February 3, 2010

Yeah, so Night Recorder, a nifty little app with a quirky and cool looking interface that will record sound. Voice or sound activated, of course. And can upload sound clips to a server, that’s nice.

Oh, and it can record when the phone is in standby mode.

Hey, what, wait. What? That means this app turns any iPhone into a perfect bugging device? Any iPhone laying dormant nearby might be recording every sound you make right now.

K-e-w-l. And a little scary. Why on earth would it be possible for the microphone to be active and working on a phone that’s off?