We love a good story of positive impact. So of course when we heard about Yazmany Arboleda’s latest global art project, we couldn’t help but share.
For the fourth installation of his Monday Morning series, the Colombian-born artist is planning to distribute 10,000 pink biodegradable balloons to commuters in Kabul, Afghanistan. Partnering with local and global human rights organizations, the pink balloons will represent women’s rights.
For all the New Yorkers out there, check out the 10,000 Balloons Pop Up Event happening on the Lower East Side next Monday, May 6, to help celebrate and participate in this incredibly unique experience.
10,000 balloons stands apart from Arboleda’s other Monday Morningpieces because for the first time, the series will be financed by people around the world. One dollar buys one balloon - an effort to create equal ownership of the project by all who contribute. Additionally, inside each balloon there will be a message from the person who bought it.
Arboleda calls this campaign a “living sculpture” that brings joy, wonderment and a new sense of awareness to people.
Rebecca Dersh works in marketing at Wolff Olins New York.
In the first of a series of interviews with inspiring female leaders, Wolff Olins’ global COO, Sairah Ashman, interviews Zena Bruges.
Zena Bruges is managing director of The Future Laboratory, a business that helps clients look into the future to understand how consumers will behave. After studying at Edinburgh University, she has led a number of successful creative consultancies.
What are the most significant shifts influencing your business?
The need for speed and flexibility. We’re increasingly working at an accelerated pace and need to be agile in our business planning, so we can adjust and adapt easily. Clients are relying on us to help them understand what the world will look like in 2, 3 and 5 years it used to be 10. Consumer tastes change far more swiftly now with product innovation and cycles needing to keep up. This is definitely influencing the needs of our clients and how we work.
What do you see as the key growth accelerators for you over the next 12 months?
We’re sitting on a product that not a lot of people know about, so we’re very focused on raising our profile as a way of unlocking growth. We’re also looking at expanding into new markets where our offer is attractive and effective which means mature markets rather than developing ones.
What role do you see brand playing in helping achieve your goals?
We’re hugely aware of the power of brand in the marketplace for ourselves and for our clients. Studies continue to reinforce this and and it’s especially the case for younger generations. Brands are very much an integrated part of life. Like you, we believe brand is an entire experience and not simply a corporate identity. Staying true to this philosophy as we promote ourselves and grow will be critical.
What or who inspired you in the early years of your career?
I spent an early part of my career in New Zealand. It exposed me to a really positive can-do spirit and gave me a sense that anything is possible. My boss at the time was also really good at helping me stretch, giving me room to deliver, encouraging me to trust my own judgement and to just get on with stuff. It’s really stayed with me and stood me in good stead as I’ve set up and run multiple businesses that sense that everything is possible.
What advice would you pass on to others just starting out?
Be entrepreneurial. Think about what’s good for the business you’re in. And what could be a new business even if you don’t want to set one up. Develop ideas and be an opportunity spotter. Be curious and confident, but never arrogant. And have fun!
‘The Digital Age’ is an immersive, seamless experience so pervasive that terms like ‘the Internet of Things’ are not at all silly - but trying to think critically about it - without resorting to its proprietary tools for thought - can feel like looking at an image in the mirror. Will ‘digital natives’ become better equipped to do this, or do they lack the perspective of having ‘lived’ elsewhere?
There is a lot ‘out there’ (on the Internet) saying that the Internet is eroding concentration, so I feel I should issue a spoiler: this isn’t that.
Last weekend I went to see the British Museum’s exhibition Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind, read (two more pages of) Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and watched the episode of Girls in which Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham’s depressingly familiar character, shunts, sloth-like, along her floorboards in total isolation for days on end, eating condiments from the jar and googling phantom medical conditions rather than finishing (or starting) her ebook.
Each examines human response to environment. Ice Age Art argues for its contents to be considered art, not artefacts - as much psychology as art history, Kahneman reveals we are on autopilot 95% of the time, and Lena Dunham is only moved to her feet when a splinter lodges in her rear. This unholy (and atypical in self-improvement terms) trinity of a weekend set the tone for a week in which I am going through a self-conscious patch in my longterm relationship with technology.
Paris Brown. The media reaction to 17-year-old Paris Brown this week made me want to take to my Facebook wall with a nostalgic status about growing up IRL, then, on reflection, to instantly quit Facebook and learn a craft or dig up the garden. Then came Zuckerberg’s Facebook Home. A subtle but rippling change – for which a clue is in the name.
Whereas Paris Brown, in trouble for adolescent over-sharing via social media, is a strange hybrid of a teenager (she was earning £15,000 as “adviser on youth” to the Kent police commissioner) her experience of technology is anything but. Social media is home. And, as recession is writ large over the property ladder like the buttons on a telephone for the partially sighted, it is likely to be the only place digital natives can store their lives for the near future.
I was born nine days shy of 1989. This is apparently the official birth year to qualify as a ‘digital native’ according to 89plus, the ‘diamond generation’ project curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Simon Castets. On a good day this means I was born prematurely - on the red carpet - just outside the ‘digital native’ domain, but on a bad day I identify with Lena Dunham’s ambiguous relationship with internet related prefixes; the word you recognise is still there (book), but the ‘e’ part just doesn’t sit right somehow. It’s a narrow twilight zone; between our elder siblings – who were on solid foods and playing swing ball long before MSN Messenger arrived - and Paris Brown, who cut her first milky incisor on Twitter.
Whilst justifying my surgical intimacy with Facebook to, say, my granny may feel like standing behind a tourist getting acquainted with their first Oyster pass (for any non-Londoners, that’s personally affronted and frustrated), I have decided to savour these few and far between moments of disconnect. Not calling it home, she uses technology consciously, deliberately, and with purpose - like a guest politely navigating someone else’s kitchen. Plus every “brand strategist” needs to be taken down a peg by their granny.
Olivia Sudjic is a strategist at Wolff Olins London.
They identify four fundamental culture types (although you can find several co-habiting in the same organisation in the form of different teams or business units).All 4 are determined by where they sit across two dimensions – sociability and solidarity.For example a low sociability and high solidarity score would indicate what they call a ‘mercenary’ culture – where the accent is on energy, drive and results.The opposite would indicate a ‘networked’ culture – where a feeling of friendship and family is core to what the business values and how it delivers.
The titles may feel provocative, but they don’t claim favourites.There’s no right or wrong approach, just what best suits your purpose and business environment.The book goes on to characterise the four different cultures in detail, what they look like when performing at their best and what happens when they aren’t.
Goffee and Jones also raise important questions around the ethical issues you might face in each of these cultures.Their premise being that work is not just about money, career and security, but also truth, goodness and beauty.Your work is an expression of who you are and what you believe.As such it makes sense to align yourself and your work with a business that believes and behaves in ways you can support.
It’s good to know that a company can migrate its culture from one state to another, although the journey looks more challenging in some instances.By necessity or design everything is possible with effort and application.
If you have an interest in company cultures, want to assess your own or even re-design it, this book is really good place to start.It’s been invaluable to my own work and maybe it will inspire you too.
We’ve had the incredible privilege of working with many great businesses and brands over the years.And some outstanding leaders too.But not all of them have been successful.Or at least, not as successful as I imagined they would or should be.
When I explore why, I find myself returning to the question of culture.It’s obvious that a leadership team should invest time, energy and money in developing a clear well thought through strategy.It’s a no brainer that some kind of operating plan will then be needed to deliver successfully.And of course some carefully crafted measures are then required to signal priorities, assess progress and course correct.At some point along the way the question of how to motivate, inspire or simply communicate to ‘the troops’ comes up.This is usually when the wheels come off.
Any leader or business thinking about involving their people this far down the line is in for a rough ride.Creating the ideal conditions for your people to thrive, equipping them to make the many decisions needed daily to deliver effectively and recognizing their contribution in producing a positive outcome isn’t an after thought once your strategy is set.It’s the thing that will determine your success.
If strategy is primarily a cerebral exercise, then culture is largely an emotional one.Strategy is about decisions and directed action, culture is about behavior and choice.You may have the power to tell me what to do, but you certainly don’t have the power to tell me how to feel about it.And it’s how I feel that will determine how I perform and what my impact will be.To ignore how strategy and culture live together and inform one another lies somewhere between corporate ignorance and suicide.
So what makes a great culture?In truth, there is no universally ‘right’ or ‘best’ culture for an organization.It’s a question of creating a culture appropriate for your purpose and business environment.Richard Branson does a great job setting the context for Virgin Atlantic.Michael O’Leary does the same for Ryanair.It’s unlikely you’ll ever confuse the two in terms of focus, spirit, ethos or operating practices.But they’re both successful.
Most folks would rather work for Virgin than Ryanair of course. And it’s clear that businesses with a purpose beyond profit generally pay more attention to how they treat their people, partners and customers. They generally outperform the market and their competition over the long term too. Just ask Jim Collins, he researches and writes about it – a lot.
By design and default we’ve created a very strong and positive culture at Wolff Olins.Over the years we’ve evolved our strategy, reorganized ourselves many times, changed leadership and tinkered with our business model.But it’s only when we’ve unknowingly and gently drifted from our core purpose and values that we’ve ever felt unsettled and unsure of ourselves, prompting the need to refocus and rebalance.
At Wolff Olins our business is very much our people.I think we all get, in a very literal sense, that what we deliver is a direct consequence of how we feel.If the right conditions are in place for all of us to treat each other well and thrive, then so does our work and our business too.
Over the years Wolff Olins has welcomed many wonderful newcomers with a friendly “we don’t expect much from you while you’re here, just that you do the best work of your lives”.The job of leadership around the place has always been to make sure we get what we need to do so and enjoy it.
With this in mind I’d encourage any business to take a very upfront people centred approach to strategy development and to perhaps consider the following:
Hire wonderful people…better to have 100% of the right attitude and 70% of the right skills.You can only train for one of these.
Focus and liberate…be disciplined and explicit in your goals and boundary setting, then encourage everyone to be experimental and individual.Best of all give everyone the tools and resources to be successful.
What gets measured gets managed…pick your metrics carefully and ensure you understand their cause and effect.Make one of them to listen very carefully to your people and customers – they’ll tell you everything you need to know to be a success.
Practice what you preach…whatever your culture, this is where the rubber hits the road.We learn by sight, experience and action.Make what you do and how you conduct yourself as a business matter.
Pay attention to what you celebrate…everyone else will and it makes crystal clear what you believe in, reward and stand for as a business.
And if you’re wondering why your strategy isn’t working then it’s probably time to ask your people where you’re going wrong.Better still, make them part of creating the answer.
London-based designer Tomi Lahdesmaki just launched Forage Press, a new collaborative publication for artists, designers and illustrators to contribute music “articles,” (visual interpretations), born from their favorite music inspirations. Tomi is a Finland-born designer currently working with Method London (via San Francisco). We chatted this week to learn more about the new project.
LA: How would you describe Forage Press?
Tomi: Forage Press is both an online and offline publication and collaborative platform. It celebrates the union between audio and visual creativity through original, visual-based articles that are composed by creatives across the globe.
How did you come up with the idea?
Mainly the idea was born from my own desire to create the type of content that Forage Press will feature. I am absolutely crazy about music, and often find myself inspired to create visuals based on my favorite bands or artists. I wanted to open up the idea to others instead of just creating them on my own. I’ve found from my professional experience that much of the creative community is equally inspired by and passionate about music. So the idea was born to create a simple (and free) brief asking creatives of all mediums to interpret a musical inspiration through a series of original images. With very few rules to limit the results, the visual articles can end up as literal or as abstract as they want.
I also love the experience of buying albums. Listening to the music while browsing the images and package design truly heightens the whole experience for me. I wanted the articles of Forage Press to feel like one of those experiences – you enter a space a for a moment and listen to the music, immersing yourself into that moment and enjoying the visual article.
There are a few things out there based on a similar idea (joining visual and musical creatives)—countless typographic-lyrics blogs, and DesignersMX. How is Forage Press different, and can you see it being used for other purposes?
The main differentiator is the fact that the images and articles are all original content created specifically for this publication. And even though the contributors have a lot of freedom when creating their articles, there is a clear theme that binds our content and separates Forage Press from other design journals and blogs – the subject matter. It’s really important that at the end of the day, each visual article still presents and explores some form of music, whether it be a band, song, genre, era, etc..
As for being used for other purposes, I certainly have a lot of ideas for the future and how I would love to see Forage Press expand. But I’m also trying to not implement those ideas just yet because I really want to see how the publication moves organically – what kind of new relationships form from this and what ideas others may bring to the table. Even when I began this project, I had a lot of additional ideas, but I forced myself to concentrate on just the key features. That goes for any product launch – you can’t solve everything at once, and some of the most wonderful ideas come from the users and viewers.
Who do you hope will get involved in this project?
At the moment I am loving the creative network that is growing from just being in contact with our contributors. In the future I would love to collaborate with other independent companies, and have musicians create original content with the visual contributors.
Do you know what synesthesia is? I’m obsessed with it. Forage Press is kind of like that. Actually, it’s not really. But that would be an interesting angle. Especially if some of the contributors were synesthetes themselves. This is not really a question…
Yes I do, and I think this is an element of Forage Press. There is a reason visual and audio creativity have always had such a strong bond, inspiring each other. There is something truly wonderful and uplifting about enjoying experimental creativity that touches those senses, they are very much linked.
This week AOL celebrated the premier of Makers, an unprecedented digital video and broadcast initiative made in partnership with PBS and filmmaker Dyllan McGee. The program and full-length documentary aim to capture the stories, achievements and breakthroughs of America’s most iconic and prolific women over the last half century — collectively impacting virtually every aspect of today’s culture.
“AOL wants to be known for groundbreaking firsts in the digital media industry, and we are thrilled to be partnering with PBS as they stand alone in their unparalleled ability to educate the world on the most important movements of our time,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman & CEO of AOL. “Partnering together to bring MAKERS to life is exactly the type of future-forward programming we believe in.”
The series features high-profile icons ranging from Gloria Steinem and Hillary Rodham Clinton, technology trailblazers Marissa Mayer and Meg Whitman to unsung heroes such as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer and up-and-coming inspiration. The collection of over 100 stories is just the start, “We are committed to using storytelling to help the next generation of women,” says McGee. “There is still a lot more work to be done.”
Makers.com, the dynamic media and community platform AOL launched prior to the documentary, features a deep catalog of engaging highlights from the series and works to uncover the women who are continuing to lead the charge today. Maureen Sullivan, SVP & General Manager of Women’s Content and Lifestyle Brands at AOL told the press “MAKERS.com was built to utilize the latest innovation in video and mobile technology.” The site lets users individually curate and discover the stories of all these amazing women.
We’ll be watching on February 26 at 8pm as the full-length documentary series launches on PBS.
It makes you fat and then it kills you, according to Nilofer Merchant in her recent Harvard Business Review blog post. She’s started doing her meetings on the move and it seems to be having a transformative effect. She’s now covering 20-30 miles a week. And it’s making her more creative: “if you want out of the box thinking, you need to literally get out of the box”.
I love the idea that something so simple might help us think more laterally, improve the quality of our work and make the time we spend with each other more rewarding. What better way to solve a problem than to take a stroll around the block together?
Ask anyone who even slightly cares about a band or a specific genre of music and they will tell you that they do much more than listen…
Real fans feel music. Real fans buy records on the sleeve design alone. Real fans have the download, the single, the Japanese import and the 12inch of the same record because it just feels different on vinyl. Real fans can taste the snakebite and smell the sweat in the venue when they heard ‘that’ song for the first time.
Music lives in fans’ hearts and they take that spirit with them everywhere, not just when they walk into a venue or turn on the hifi.
HMV, UK’s largest music retailer, going into administration last week shows just how much the former top-dog has lost its way. Yes HMV’s old business model is sickly, but there’s something in its heritage that could be it’s cure. In the 50’s it was one of the very first experiential shopping experiences. With road closures for store openings and personal booths that played everyone from Little Richard to Big Joe Turner.
HMV was a sensory overload on the High Street…The 80’s love of plastic and disposability should have been the warning sound. The bloated record industry went a bit Phil Spector and shot itself in the foot with astronomical margins for CDs and their tacky jewel cases, forcing the stores to become grand warehouses for alphabetised blandness. And everyone knows that someone who organises their CDs in alphabetical order is a bore…
By the early noughties, fun, danger and exploration had left the building. Bays of iPods and speakers neatly displayed next to the racks of CD holders showed the customer how confused stores had become. Outside the store, HMV did little to celebrate our passion or get people more into music.
HMV became bland, like an Amazon.com warehouse in real life.
Suggestions that labels like Universal, Warner and Sony will join forces to “save” HMV don’t bode well for the brand’s long-term viability. Their involvement is likely to perpetuate old model thinking, putting formats before fans, and prevent the necessary transformation that needs to take place.
The key for HMV to find its feet again is to remember what it’s selling—and it’s not five inches of plastic. It’s selling icons, future memories, soundtracks to adolescence, friends and the experience of finding music. Their job is to excite people; make them dwell, explore, discover.
That said, here are four ways we think HMV could do their job better:
1) MIX IT UP With each HMV store stocking the same anodyne guff anyone can buy cheaper online, customers are only likely to go into store if they know what they want. There’s a parallel to look to in the world of fast food or fast fashion: Byron burger sell patties all over London but no two restaurants are the same because no two sites are the same. Topshop has different stock in every store, spanning the range from big volume to boutique. And while some of HMV’s current stores might be the wrong size, there is still a place for various sizes and shapes of HMV stores up and down the country. What if HMV Hackney had exclusives that HMV Kings Road didn’t?
2) BECOME A DESTINATION AGAIN HMV has some iconic retail locations, but there is no reason to meet your mate in the once brilliant Oxford Street store. HMV could stop acting like a supermarket and became a destination again. A place people want to hang out in to experience the passionate, exciting and escapist world of music that shapes young identities and returns spirit to old ones. Think in-store gigs, in-house DJ’s not high rotation fodder, record label take-overs, second-hand sellers, boutique concessions. Give His Masters Voice some personality again.
3) EMPLOY PASSION Celebrate difference and discovery by hiring all sorts of people that live and breathe music (just like Majestic staff not only love but speak passionately about wine). Reward staff that write reviews, go to gigs, tattoo their favourite band to their arm. A conversation with someone in store should always leads visitors to walking away with more great discoveries. Amazon proudly claims to never have accidents, but we’ve all discovered brilliant bands by accident. HMV can be the place where we do that again.
4) EMBRACE DIGITAL Not as a competitor to the retail store, but something that compliments it and gives people more of what they want. Just as our music tastes are a mixed bag of obscure artists and guilty pleasures, so too are our listening habits that include Spotify, vinyl, iTunes and good-old radio. Digital isn’t just a channel. It’s a cost-efficient and scalable way to play a more useful role in customers’ lives. HMV can lead the way with curated email newsletters, surprising online radio stations, and shared playlists for all the music moments in our lives.
Today, we’re enabled to listen to more music than ever before. This is a great thing. HMV can be one of the few brands at the very top of the tree that help us get more into music and become fans. Real fans feel music and will follow it everywhere. And that’s a powerful place from which to build a brand.
The Nile Project officially launched this month with its inaugural Nile Gathering in Aswan, Egypt, kicking off a series of music residencies, workshops and conversations to lay the foundation for its future programs.
The Nile Project is the brainchild of Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero, two friends who met in San Francisco. With a common background in African music and a common concern for the future of the Nile basin, Girgis and Hadero came together to start a new initiative with a mission to tackle the cultural and environmental issues surrounding the river. Using musical collaboration as the inspirational gateway, the Nile Project aims to increase awareness, educate, and empower Nile citizens to work together to foster the sustainability of their river ecosystem.
Last year Wolff Olins helped bring the Nile Project to life, providing a brand that is completely unique, yet accessible, at the same time. We collaborated closely with Sadek Bazaraa of GHAVA, who is himself part Egyptian, to help develop the Nile Project identity. The identity draws from multiple aesthetic influences in the region. Establishing a versatile set of brand elements including symbols, color, pattern and typography style, the identity is adaptable in any environment and resilient in keeping with the Nile Project brand, regardless of where it is used or by whom. The result is a brand that is itself a celebration of all the peoples and cultures of the Nile region.
With international partners like TED, Lincoln Center, and Ashoka, the Nile Project aims to cultivate cross-cultural collaborations and establish a platform for social enterprise for the region over the next few years. This will be a musical initiative with measurable impact, so keep your eye out as these exciting collaborations unfold.