Friday, May 29, 2009

An Engaging Book Experience

Though it's been out for a number of years now, I just recently stumbled upon this book from Nick Bantock: Urgent 2nd Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera. Link

[You may know Bantock's Griffin & Sabine trilogy, a tremendous series of books about a romantic correspondence between two people across time and space. What sets these books apart is Bantock's extraordinary artwork and, like an engaging 3D book, letters and cards you actually open to read. (The sneaky aspect of peering through this handwritten exchange adds another level of curiosity and pleasure.)

My favorite of his books are Paris Out of Hand and The Forgetting Room. The latter is the story of a man uncovering the mystery of his grandfather's past about which Booklist calls, " elegant and dreamy illustrated novel about one man's spiritual and aesthetic awakening."]

So why write about Nick Bantock in a blog about Experience?

Quite simply, because his books provide a rich, multi-sensory experience -- he transforms the passive reader into an interactive participant in a visually pleasing, tactile world of the story.

But back to the main point of this post...

Urgent 2nd Class peeks behind the scenes at the work of Nick Bantock and how he creates his art. A "how to" book for those with willing spirits.

Chapters include: "Faux Mail", "Dubious Documents", Maps, Handwriting and Type, and "Commercial Ephemera."

If you're not familiar with Bantock's work, begin here:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dumpy Strip Malls

A blog of note to anyone who follows grass roots retail -- you have to check out Twin Cities, Minnesota-based Dumpy Strip Malls.

How quickly, this reminds us, fortunes change. (Though it doesn't take long to see why many of these spots are dead or dying.)

I especially love Dumpy Strip Malls' pithy comments on these dated retail outposts.

If you like this, also check out the Dead Malls blog and Web site.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Marketing the Ultimate Product

Came across a new (for me) site over this past weekend, Webdesigner Depot.

The post that caught my attention was this:

30 Artistic and Creative Résumés

Browsing down through the various examples is fascinating, even inspiring. This is a nut I've been interested in cracking for a long time: How does one break through the ordinary, black-N-white world of resume clutter in a creative, impactful way?

Almost more interesting than this gallery of CVs is the comments section that follows.

First, there is the discussion about readability, typography, and format.

But also, you'll find the classic debate about the potential response to this type of resume in a company Human Resources department or hiring managers. Would many of these gatekeepers reject this non-traditional approach?

An example -- BJ Neilsen says:

"Most of these completely miss the point of a resume. When hiring, I don’t want to see a resume convoluted with design elements. Give me a sheet of data nicely typed with good leading in a readable typeface. Then give me a portfolio folder. Don’t do both in one, it defeats the purpose of both."

I disagree. In today's hyper-competitive job market, it's all about differentiation, breaking through the clutter. Of course, there has to be substance as well -- "creative" means nothing if it is not meaningful.

The question I'd ask -- would I want to work for an organization that doesn't "get", or isn't intrigued, by a unique approach?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Two Questions about Brand Impressions

EVERYTHING a customer encounters forms a brand impression. In the absence of word-of-mouth advice, customers form opinions based on what they perceive. There are two essential questions that beg for answers and form the acid test for a firm or brand: 1.) Would I want to do business with this organization?; 2.) Would I recommend this organization to a friend?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Warning: Button Overload!

Stepped in an elevator yesterday with a colleague at a downtown Minneapolis hotel on the way to a meeting...

Once in the elevator, we turned to see this.

We had to do a double take to figure out which surface/button to push for the 3rd floor -- is it the one on the left or the right?!

In this example, the black circles have raised floor numbers and braille; the white buttons are the ones you press.

I understand the requirements for blind/visually impaired people -- the raised numbers and braille have to be mapped to the appropriate button. But, in this case, having to feel one's way around this button layout leaves a lot to be desired.


UPDATED: Interesting post on Elevator Button Chaos Theory from Jeffrey Austin White

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to Chase Customers Away...

Finally caught up on my backlog of The News from Lake Wobegon podcasts while on a walk the other day.

There was a little snippet in the May 2nd episode that really caught my attention:

"And then he heard footsteps, big boots, coming up behind him. It was Art, the proprietor of Art's Baits & Night-O-Rest Motel, who doesn't run a motel anymore because he hates people and he got out of the hospitality business.

He just put up all these warning signs all over: "Don't clean fish on the picnic tables; how many times do I have to tell you?!", and so forth.

Eventually people just didn't come back to the motel."

Very funny. But true.

[Listen to it here (scroll down to "Segment 4"), a direct MP3 link to it here, or listen/subscription via iTunes here. The whole May 2nd News from Lake Wobegon is about 14 minutes; if you want to just hear this snippet, start around the 10 minute mark.]

Have you seen this -- an overload of signs that repel customers?

The example that comes to mind for me is an independent pharmacy in my neighborhood with a door chock-full of negative signage. They've toned it down a bit, but the photo above was taken just today -- the first thing you see as you approach. What kind of experience does this create?

What examples have you seen?

Music & the Arts in Healing

A pleasant contrast to an earlier post on hospital food, heard a great piece on Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition this morning:

An instrument to soothe the soul
MPR | Link

"A small company in Stillwater has given birth to a new musical instrument called the Reverie Harp, which is so easy to play that anyone can make beautiful music. The harp is becoming a hit with therapists, patients and their loved ones, who use it to calm stressful times."

About a month ago, MPR ran another related story, Artists Ease the Pains of Recovery. This profiles a group of over-50 artists that work with trauma patients using a variety of creative tools: drawing, music, poetry, etc.

Both are beautiful examples of sensory stimulation and its potentially positive impact on human emotion, health, and overall well-being.

Speaking of Comcast

Earlier this year, Wired Magazine had a cover story on Comcast CEO Brian Roberts:

The Dark Lord of Broadband Tries to Fix Comcast's Image
Wired | Link

"Roberts hadn't anticipated the backlash. Subscribers accepted that cable TV was just entertainment, but the Internet felt more essential, like water or electricity, and consumers were starting to think of broadband as a constitutional right. Back in the days of basic cable, consumer complaints were always local and easily contained. But the Internet, as it turned out, was different. This was becoming a nationwide battle over who the pipes belonged to. Comcast had invested billions to build its network. Now its heaviest users were demanding that Roberts effectively hand over control to them."

Check it out.

Airlines AND Comcast Customer Satisfaction Up -- What gives?

You may have seen articles over the past few days about improved customer satisfaction scores for both the airline industry AND Comcast. Two industries many love to hate.

Let's look at each of these in a bit more detail.


Fliers say airlines' service has gotten better
USA Today | Link

"Despite extra fees for everything from luggage to lunch, passenger satisfaction with airlines went up for the first time in six years, according to a consumer survey released Tuesday.

The airline business scored 64 out of 100 in the first quarter of this year, a 3.2% increase over the same period a year ago, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which randomly surveyed thousands of consumers across the U.S. Major carriers saw improved scores, or at least no decline.

But don't uncork the champagne just yet."

My assessment as a fairly frequent flyer over the past few years on multiple airlines...

A combination of airline layoffs and fewer passengers has led to a greater focus -- albeit minimal -- on the customer. But there's much, much room for improvement.

Your thoughts?


This is company I have had an ongoing love/hate relationship with for many years -- through the its evolution from the MediaOne era, then AT&T, back to MediaOne and, eventually, Comcast.

How have they pissed me off? Ah, let me count the ways:
  • > A couple years ago, chatting with a Comcast employee at a party, I discovered that my cable modem was horribly outdated. Why didn't they let me know?! I pay a monthly fee for the privilege of having this modem! It took a few phone calls and actually going down to the Comcast offices to get a new, speedier one. Now, two years later, I wonder if I'm using the most up-to-date modem...
  • > With the advent of digital cable, I bought a small, cheap digital antenna. It ended up pulling in about 20-30 channels over the airwaves -- all for free. "Great," I thought, "I can give up cable TV." With a call to Comcast, I discovered it would actually cost MORE to drop cable TV and do only broadband.
  • > The implementation of Monthly data caps
  • > Confusion, confusion, confusion - what, exactly, is the difference between "Basic Cable", "Basic 2 Cable", "Digital Starter", "Digital Classic", etc.?! Also, part of our "basic" service includes multiple shopping channels, the Golf Channel, and others I will never, ever, in-a-million-years, watch. Instead, I would gladly pay for just the channels I want -- Hell, I'd even pay more.
On the love-side of the equation, no one -- at least for the moment -- beats their broadband service. And it's enabling me to ween myself off of TV altogether. Instead, I watch my TV and movies online, on demand: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, network shows (ABC, NBC, and CBS), Netflix's instant watch options, and other video sites such as Hulu, YouTube, et al.

[Whew -- good to get that off my chest...]

At any rate, my personal ranting aside, here's the report on Comcast's climbing customer satisfaction:

Comcast's customer satisfaction leaps
Philadelphia Inquirer | Link

"The Twittering for customer troubles, little cards apologizing for missed appointments, and discounted bills for lost TV service are paying dividends for Comcast Corp.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a nightmare for Comcast in recent years, shows a surprising surge in customer satisfaction for the cable giant. The new annual results are being released today."

Interestingly enough, DirecTV (a service I am seriously considering) leads the customer sat rankings.

As mentioned in the article, customers' frustration has led to monumental efforts such as (which, it turns out, accomplished its intended job) -- check it out. Very creative and, obviously, effective.

It looks like Comcast is perking up and listening to its customers.

And, could this new-found philosophy be paying off? See Comcast's Q1 Profit Grows 5.4%

But, apart from a simpler, improved monthly billing statement, I haven't felt/witnessed any changes.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Gladwell on Gumption

Have you seen the latest New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell?

When underdogs break the rules.

"A non-stop full-court press gives weak basketball teams a chance against far stronger teams. Why have so few adopted it?"

What do Lawrence of Arabia, David (of "and Goliath" fame), and a girl's basketball team have in common? Check out this piece to find out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Hospital Food Experience

You may have seen this floating around the Web -- it's been referenced in multiple places...

Ranging from disgusting to elegant, here's a Tumblr site devoted to capturing photos and stories about hospital food world wide:

One can't help but wonder -- what is the impact of this food on the healing process, both physically and emotionally?

Same goes with the design/layout of a hospital room.

Of all the times uplifting aesthetics, nourishment, and emotional support is needed, recovering in a hospital has got to top the list.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Sensual Coffee Experience

A bit dated -- but something I've wanted to share for quite a while -- is this item from American Public Media's radio (and podcast) program, The Splendid Table:

Stumptown Coffee on The Splendid Table, January 24, 2009

"Coffee mania is alive and well in Portland, Oregon so we're heading there for a lesson in cupping at Stumptown Coffee. Cupping is how the industry evaluates coffees and you can do it at home. Stumptown's cupper, Liam Kenna, explains how."

Kenna walks host Lynne Rossetto Kasper through the coffee tasting process. Seeing this on video would not be the same as listening to this experience. Kasper provides an absolutely titillating narrative of the scents and tastes along the way -- beautiful. You will never taste coffee in the same way again.

Link to the program:

Or listen/subscribe to the podcast via iTunes (my recommendation) here.

Stumptown Coffee, Portland, OR -
Also read about their "Cupping Room" in the News here.

37 Data-ish Blogs You Should Know About

FlowingData has a great posting by Nathan Yau entitled: 37 Data-ish Blogs You Should Know About.

He breaks down his recommended blogs in the following categories:
  • Data and Statistics
  • Statistical/Analytical Visualization
  • Maps
  • Design & Infographics
  • Others Worth Noting
Tremendous inspiration -- it's well worth taking a test drive and finding your favorites.

(Mine include Chart Porn, Strange Maps, and one that isn't listed, but on my "Daily Fix" list: Indexed.)

Be sure to also check out the Comments section for additional suggestions.

Inaugural Post: Mr Beck's Underground Map

Still glowing from a recent trip to Great Britain in late March, visiting London and Oxford...

At a visit to the London Transport Museum, I bought Mr Beck's Underground Map: A History by Ken Garland (link).

It tells the story of Henry C Beck, an engineering draughtsman (British spelling) for the Underground Group, who in 1931, completely redefined the map's design.

His simple diagram, based on the horizontal, vertical, and 45-degree lines of electronic circuit schematics, elegantly cut through the confusion of earlier versions. Before Beck, Underground lines were shown with surface features or followed the literal geography of each line. The result was an overload of unnecessary information.

Beck's design made a complex system cognitively digestible -- something we can get our minds around. The power of simplicity -- Absolutely brilliant!