Visual puns for 2013

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not: Developing a visual pun. For 2013’s New Year’s card is was some kind of obvious to combine the two changing digits of the years and thereby express the change in a typographic manner.

New Year’s Card 2013
Yet only a very few letter forms allow this creation of a horizontal ligature. Apart from 2 and 3 only the combination of 8 and 9 is a similarly natural fit. Of course one might able to force some other numbers into a fusion – or be another Herb Lubalin and do calligraphic magic.

Documenting exceptional brand experiences

bxp • brandexperience.info — a resource documenting brand experiences
It doesn’t matter how brands are created by consultants, but how they are perceived by customers. ‘bxp’ is a resource recording outstanding experiences and documenting exceptional touchpoints at brandexperience.info. Curated by interaction designer Hannes Jentsch and me, the platform intends to find patterns and collect best cases.

After experiencing bad and sometimes even evil brand behaviours we decided to take notes of the exceptionally great ones — mainly in order to discover why they appeared being so special to us. Since last autumn when the idea started growing after a surprising frozen-yoghurt experience at Madrid’s Barajas airport we were able to add stories from Berlin, Paris and London and are more than confident to collect further cases from other places soon.

During the last months we’ve not only documenting our experiences with a few brands, but been working on the site’s architecture and design as well. Based on the content management system WordPress ‘bxp’ will come in two versions – one standard site perfectly fitting desktop and tablet devices and an extra one made for your favourite mobile device to ease the reading experience on the way.

Right now we are testing and optimising the site’s design and working on a few articles for the semi-launch. We intend to switch ‘bxp’ into a public beta mode in late May. Please cross fingers we can hold this point in time …

Update:bxp’ was switched into public beta mode with three first cases at the end of June. We, my partner Hannes and I, hope to add one extended case per week and smaller reports in between. So please have a look and let us know what you think about www.brandexperience.info

bxp • brandexperience.info — preview to a resource documenting brand experiences

Creating meaningful experiences @ re:publica

Hannes Jentsch and Martin Jordan talking at re:publica XI’s re:design on creating meaningful experiences
From April 13th–15th Europe’s biggest conference for digital culture and society took place in Berlin for the 5th time — including a dedicated re:design track on how its field of work grows and alters. Together with Precious design studio, Hannes Jentsch and I gave a two-hour workshop entitled ‘Creating meaningful experiences’.

slide during republica’s Creating meaningful experiences workshop — Hannes Jentsch, Christophe Stoll and Martin Jordan

Preparation
In advance of the workshop we collected cultural probes to ease the participants’ alignment with a user’s perspective. Therefor we asked 12 people of both sexes and aged between 25 and 67 years to take pictures of one day in their lifes. Our supporters were backed by a brief task list suggesting possible key moments and inspiring them to take interesting image motifs. During the workshop the photographs were used to (re-)create personas in the first stage of empathising …
republica ‘Creating meaningful experiences’ Workshop preparation

[to be continued within the next days]

Global Service Jam: 48 h for a service innovation

1 weekend, 1 topic and 1263 service design enthusiastics in 59 locations — for 48 hours people interested in service and customer experience met all over the globe in mid March. Professionals, academics and students jammed to use user-centric design methods for creating a heroic experience. Together with Olga Scupin and Manuel Grossmann I co-organised the Berlin jam being backed up by incredible 10 fellow service design thinkers.

A documentation at length can be found on the Berlin’s Global Service Jam website –including lavish images giving a good impression of the 48-hour event. Even more graspable is our documentary – filmed and cut by the magnificent Manuel Grossmann:

As an input for the event’s participants Anastasia Gramatchikova and I gave a little introduction into user-centered service design methods and design thinking tools. The slides of the lecture held on evening March 11th at Fjord’s Berlin office can be found on Slideshare:

Brands in non-capitalist countries

Example of East German brand marks
Why did brands exist in socialist states? Without a free enterprise economy and therefore no predatory competition there was no need to differentiate products within a five-year plan — though brands existed in Eastern just as in Western Europe. A brand historic paper retraces the reasons for that and identifies diverging functions of brands in capitalistic and non-capitalistic systems.

The paper will be completed and published soon …

A personal perspective on marketing

It took me almost a decade to realise what marketing is, is not and should be. About 8 years ago — at the age of 19 — I started to work as a student marketing assistant at a fast-growing financial service provider where smart software engineers created products and services that marketers had to sell. To me marketing was the last link of a chain. Back then I didn’t have clue it could be just as well the other way around.

Five years later I found myself in Latin America, among a team of brand consultants and within a marketing and rebranding process of a large tv channel. While the new brand should become shiny and desirable, the product wasn’t appealing at all and thus the brand couldn’t be either. “Good advertisement kills the bad product faster”, I said to myself, started reading David Ogilvy and left the team for another one.

During my various studies in the field of design I was lucky being taught by teachers focusing on the bigger picture and spreading an integrated approach. Hence the term design doesn’t work with the narrow German meaning, but with the English idea of creating the new and engineering the unthought and undone. At different stages of both my educational and early professional career I learnt what surprising results can be generated by combining strategic / analytic thinking with creative / conceptual thinking.

Earlier this year I joint the Hasso-Plattner-Institut and its School of Design Thinking postgraduate programme. Within multidisciplinary teams of psychologists, strategic controllers, media scientists and law students I dove even deeper into projects causing “creative destruction” — a term Theodore Levitt used in his famous 1960 article “Marketing Myopia” — to use product and service innovations reinventing whole organsations. How ever you might call the tool set combining close observation of customer behaviour, analytical thinking and collective ideation it’s all about the mindset behind it.

Marketing being an art and science at the same time is capable of being the source of change in organisations, is able to challenge convention and achieve new growth. To me marketing isn’t just about selling goods others invented, built and want to get rid of anymore. To me marketing is about conducting wholistic experiences and designing interactions between brands and people that last. It is about prototyping, testing and measuring those plus permanently improving these. Marketing is about understanding people’s behaviour and collecting knowledge about their needs, habits and desires to create new businesses, new products and new services.

All this only leads to one conclusion: that marketing as a highly user-centric discipline must be used as a glue between all links of the chain in development processes for products and services — used by people using both parts of their brain.


This text was originally written as ‘Letter of Motivation’ for a marketing class I eventually never took.

Prepaid power to the small people

I’d like to share a 3 week research project I worked on while being at the School of Design Thinking. Together with my fellows Jan Grippenkoven, Anna Ißelburg and Olga Scupin a concept for a service product named ‘Tally’ was conceived dealing with the question of “How might we sensitise children at the age of 7 to 12 to energy consumption?”


In-depth interviews with kids, parents and teachers revealed that energy and its usage are too abstract to be understood by both the young and the old – especially when provided in kilowatt hours.

A two-part service concept addresses that. Instead of kWh ‘Tally’ translated the children’s currently consumed energy into comprehensible use hours and allows kids to manage the weekly rationing given by their parents. A hardware plug counts the amount of energy being used and communicates wirelessly with a software. The application visualises and forecasts the remaining use hours for each device as well as a compiled overview of all appliances.

Here is how ‘Tally’ is suppose to work:
The energy counter is plugged between a device and the power socket – otherwise all appliances in the kids’ room stay current-less.
Tally service innovation concept to sensitise kids for energy consumption — created while at HPI School of Design Thinking

A recently connected device has to be registered in the software. Thereby its power consumption is detected and constantly measured. Power is provided according to the weekly rationing given by the parents.
Tally service innovation concept to sensitise kids for energy consumption — created while at HPI School of Design Thinking

A status display shows the remaining amount of energy and gives forecasts as well as calculations of usage hours of all connected devices.
Tally service innovation concept to sensitise kids for energy consumption — created while at HPI School of Design Thinking

During the 3 weeks of the projects using the HPI’s academic version of its design thinking framework we went through all six phases of the process in which we gathered great insights through several qualitative interviews and an intensive testing phase. Our final prototype, including an ‘tabable’ iPad mockup, got very positive feedback of potential users — both parents and kids — nevertheless we didn’t continue working on ‘Tally’, but maybe this blog post attracts someone’s attention …

Update: The project was featured in German interaction design magazine weave’s September issue.

Fail often. Fail early. Fail cheap.

“Prototyping is failing forward”, I was taught recently at the School of Design Thinking. Though the institute mainly focuses on the creation of products and services prototyping early to fail faster is a significant advise for the field of communication design, too …

… and a lesson the German car manufacturer Audi had to learn just in these days.

It’s latest ad campaign is build around a caption only engineers can come up with: *
Maximale traktion — Audi-PosterSince I’m not a physicist or car enthusiast I’m not familiar with the term of “traction”, so I didn’t get it at all. Two days later and in broad daylight I was able to spot two more letters I missed earlier and to finally get the wordplay “Maximale (At)traktion” (similar to English “Maximum (at)traction”).

The visual problem was a simple one: the first two letters came in red outlines instead of full colour which made it impossible to read on a backlit poster at night. So after a couple of days Audi, its ad men and probably a few confused customers must have seen the same so the posters were changed to this design:

Maximale Attraktion — Audi-Poster

An earlier test of the poster in a more realistic environment including backlight would have revealed that the caption is illegible and truncated due to technical and cognitive challenges. This would have saved some money for the changes and avoided an unpleasant situation for the agency in charge.

So again: “Prototyping is failing forward” — a relevant rule for communication designers too as proven above. Insightful prototyping to all of you!

(* — no photoshop, just a backlit poster at night)

Finding shapes & telling stories

Moleskine letter sketches

Geometrical Letters in Sketchbook
Sometimes branding is really about finding shapes. But it’s the least part. Most of the time the process is about understanding the client’s problem, observing his real needs and defining the task which is quite often different from the one given you in the very first encounter or original brief.

So I was surprised finding this older sketchbook picture on my hard disk which is obviously documenting the search for geometric shapes. Although this being a rare double-page spread unfortunately I cannot recall the organisation behind the acronym and therefore guess those sketches never led one to any visual solution.

In one of the recent projects with Thomas Manss & Company there was the necessity to create a visual identifier for the start-up of two media consultants.

While understanding a client’s business, there is always the quest for what is special or even peculiar about it and for a story worth to tell. During this process with the consultants of Kasper & Notbohm it became clear they are best at advising their clients which media to use and guiding them how to orchestrate all the different channels. The consultancy then helps balancing the volumes of those.

Having found such a narrative nub there are basically three ways to tell the story visually. The identifier can be whether a logotype, a initial or a symbol — plus the combinations of two of these. Turning up and down the diverse media channels was an image most forthrightly conveyed in a graphic mark and led to a very neat and appropriate symbol for Kasper & Notbohm’s practise.

The reason I do not remember the purpose of the recovered shapes is that geometric letters forming an acronym can barely tell you anything which consequently might direct to a completely different task in the wide field of branding …

Symbol for Kasper & Notbohm media consultants

Ice cream never got more flavourful nor colourful

Eiskalt interior concept

Eiskalt interior concept
The challenge was to design a modular shop-in-shop system to be installed in shopping malls centering an innovative ice cream mixing machine that allows mixing every possible ingredient with basic ice flavours.

A new puristic brand name – ›eiskalt‹ (›ice-cold‹) – was developed. It is accompanied by colorful formula-like particles that make the idea of the unlimited possibilities of mixing ingredients visible and turn its deliciousness into pictures. The shop design goes along with the graphical idea by adding numerous cylinders to generate booths of different sizes.