via davetrott by Dave Trott on 8/23/11

Even people who aren’t remotely interested in it can name one graffiti artist.
This makes Banksy the market leader in graffiti.
Given that he owns the market, it makes sense for him to grow the market.
Consequently Banksy doesn’t just do graffiti anymore.
He does books, films, posters, T-shirts, anything he can think of.
And he brilliantly manipulates the media.
Banksy has moved beyond just graffiti, into the much larger field of general outrageousness.
He took an oil painting, similar to a Constable landscape, and painted an attack helicopter into it.
Then, while someone distracted the guard, he hung it in the Tate.
It was several days before the curators spotted it and took it down.
Then he went to The Museum of Natural History.
Next to the other exhibits he placed several dragonflies, with sidewinder missiles under their wings.
Again, it was weeks before anyone removed them.
Later he went to The British Museum and placed a piece of Stone Age cave painting on the wall.
Alongside the men chasing mammoths with spears, he’d put a woman pushing a shopping trolley.
All of these were photographed and in the newspaper well before they were discovered by the curators.
This is amazing publicity for Banksy.
Consequently he’s become bigger than just graffiti.
His art is now fashionable amongst the rich and famous.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt own half a dozen Banksys.
Which is why a lot of ‘purist’ graffiti artists call him a sellout.
Because he’s moved beyond them.
Because he’s successful and they’re not.
But one particular graffiti artist is smarter than that.
’Robbo’ is using classic advertising thinking.
He’s decided to let Banksy grow the market, while he takes market share.
Instead of moaning about Banksy, just piggyback him.
He’s perfectly happy for Banksy to make more people aware of graffiti as art.
Meanwhile he’s manufactured a war between himself and Banksy.
He ‘claims’ Banksy defaced one of his pieces of graffiti.
This gives Robbo license to get even.
So he now defaces Banksy graffiti wherever he finds it.
Robbo paints his name into it.
People who previously only knew of Banksy have become fascinated.
This is classic Avis v Hertz, Pepsi v Coke, Mac v PC, thinking.
Create a two-brand battle in the public’s mind.
Go head to head with the market leader.
Provoke them and become a challenger brand in the public’s mind.
Then you blow off all the smaller brands in the market.
Consequently, gallery owners have contacted Robbo to stage exhibitions.
His work is now selling for serious money to collectors.
BBC4 even made a programme about the phenomenon.
It’s called Graffiti Wars.
In it, we find Camden council employs people just to remove graffiti.
But they were criticized for removing valuable Banksy graffiti.
Local residents feel a Banksy increases the cultural credibility of their area.
So when Robbo defaces a Banksy, the council have to remove Robbo’s graffiti, but leave the Banksy.
Sometimes they’ll even get an art expert to come round and inspect it.
He then retouches the Banksy back to its original condition.
Banksy is behaving like the market leader.
Robbo is behaving like the challenger brand.

Banksy and Robbo understand how advertising works, better than a lot of people who work in advertising.


Been away, I’m back.

February 5, 2012

No excuses, I neglected this blog. Not that I don’t have anything to say. I just moved my focus elsewhere. I realize that a blog is like a plant, it needs sunlight, water and nutrients (with a large dose of love) to exist and flourish. Finding a yellowed a dried out blog will force you to make decisions about what to do with it: whether to throw it out, look for any green life left in it, or walk away and feel no guilt.

I see some green. I have been at several conferences about the original topic and have received some very positive feedback from my presentations (sunlight, water and nutrients) and many times in the past I have bought house plants, goldfish and some ideas to life. This could be another time to perform some magic.

Today, with some help from a couple of sources, my daughter, Liz, who gave me this book as a gift and the author, David Lynch of Eraserhead, Twin Peaks fame. I usually read poetry and other short though provoking content before retiring for the night, good stuff to start off 6-7 hours of la-la land.

Ask the Idea

“The idea is the whole thing. If you stay true to the idea, it tells you everything you need to know, really. You just keep working to make it look like that idea looked, feel like it felt, sound like it sounded, and be the way it was. And it’s weird, because when you veer off, you sort of know it. You know when you’re doing something that is not correct because it feels incorrect. It says, “No, no; this isn’t like the idea said it was.” And when you’re getting into it the correct way, it feels correct. It’s an intuition: You feel-think your way through. You start one place, and as you go, it gets more and more finely tuned. But all along it’s the idea  talking. At some point, it feels correct to you. And you hope that it feels somewhat correct to others.”

Catching the Big Fish
Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity
by David Lynch

I will check in regularly with this blog, so it can grow and soon have some flowers.

Welcome: New Designers

August 27, 2010

Next week is the start of a new semester in Communications Design, as is many other design programs across the country and around the world. Thousands of students are starting their design careers in classrooms, a little nervous, confused, and a little bit stressed out. On the other side of the coin they are excited, passionate and ready to go. One good thing about the academic calendar is that the fall semester is about new beginnings, rebirth and a clean slate. I thought that I would read to our sophomores these two quotes by Marty Neumeier, President of Neutron about the world that, as designers, we have to work in.

“Thanks to unprecedented marker clutter, differentiation is becoming the most powerful strategy in business and the primary beneficiary of innovation. So, if innovation drives differentiation, what drives innovation? The answer, hidden in plain sight, is design. Design contains the skills to identify possible futures, invent exciting products, build bridges to customers, crack wicked* problems, and more. The fact is, if you wanna innovate, you gotta design.”

* A wicked problem is a puzzle so persistent, pervasive, and slippery that it can seem insoluble.

This is the world you are designing for:

“… where customers control the company, jobs are avenues of self expression, the barriers to competition are out of control, strangers design your products, fewer features are better, advertising drives customers away, demographics are beside the point, whatever you sell you take back, and best practices are obsolete at birth; where meaning talks, money walks, and stability is fantasy; where talent trumps obedience, imagination beats knowledge, and empathy trounces logic.”

Now we are ready to start learning about design.

A couple of times a week I get something from my investment brokerage firm in a plain white envelope. Inside might be an annual or quarterly report, an addendum to an earlier report, changes to these reports and other materials directly related to my investments. Generally, I open the envelope and take the contents and flip through the pages of 1-column, 10 point text in long paragraphs broken up by some tabular matter. Sometimes paragraphs are set in ALL CAPS! Lately, when I pick up the mail and sort it, these mailings from the brokerage firm go directly into the paper recycling box.

Does anybody read this stuff? I take my investments seriously because Social Security might not be around much longer and these investments are all I have to live on for the years after I officially stop working. These mailings are unreadable, and I love to read. All the formatting of type and layout says, “Don’t read this shit and don’t worry about it because the lawyers, the brokers and accountants have taken care of everything.” Oh, yeah, this really makes me feel better to know that the ones that got us in this economic mess don’t really want us to understand what they are doing with our money and how well they are doing it.

Quite a few years ago I had a large insurance company as a client. I will not name them because since then I have found that most insurance companies behave in a similar manner. My design studio was contracted to the repackaging of a substantial disability product line, which to insurance companies, means lots and lots of paper and things to hold the paper.

I looked at of all their and their competitors previous packages and found them incomprehensible to anyone except maybe a seasoned sales agent. After reorganizing, color coding, and creating clear info graphics to aid in comprehension, I moved then to the text. Some well placed and well written heads and subheads helped to navigate the reams of information. I then read the body copy, many times, and created a brief summary or abstract to be placed at the beginning of each piece. Now if the average person were to be handed this brochure or folder, they could easily understand what was the main message without taking the vast amount of time needed to read the entire piece.

We were really proud of this because no other insurance corporation was as transparent and clear as these pieces were. Well, I found out why. When our comps were reviewed by the client, the legal department sent back a simple answer, a sticky note on the top of our comps that simply said, “NO!” So much for trying to make all this legalese mumbo-jumbo comprehensible and transparent for the sake of the end-user. I would venture to say that I am not the only designer that tried to change an industry bent on using customer ignorance to their advantage.

I still get this crap, I painfully try to understand them but then end up tossing them into recycling. At least in their next life they might be used to make something new where we are able see the truth.

Build on their passion.

July 25, 2010

Our backbone course is the 18 credit Design Problems, made up of half juniors and half seniors to encourage and enable mentoring. The concept is simple: each credit represents a substantial design project with extraordinary depth and breadth.

But it is the students creating their own unique problems is what makes this class extraordinary. The student’s select problems that inspire, arouse their curiosity and are passionate about. One thing I have learned is that students having ownership and authorship in their work, perform better. They are very proud of coming up with projects that are innovative and entrepreneurial.

We encourage the students to clearly define their problem, then execute their best possible solution(s) in a form reflecting the their particular interests. It might be a publication, a packaging project, an information design system, a retail design, an advertising campaign, a website design, an integrated branding system, an exhibit design, and so on. Each project is, in essence, a student’s own personal independent study. Instead of a student reporting to a faculty advisor once a week as done in traditional independent studies, we put them in the classroom. Lot’s of them.

This facilitates learning from each others process. The entire class will be completely involved with each of the student’s individual projects which completely involves them in all aspects of design through the process of weekly critiques. Classes are long and arduous with each student presenting their project(s) and the students and faculty critique of the work.

We want them to be complete designers first, then to see how the design process can manifest itself through diverse media. In their senior year we encourage the students to extend a couple of their favorite projects resulting in vast depth and breath of a single problem that couldn’t be accomplished in an average time slot in a semester. These completed class projects make up the majority of content of the student’s portfolios, which result in the class portfolios that are as different from each other as our Syracuse snowflakes. Most are renaissance portfolios, a little of everything. Others are specialist’s portfolios, focused on the students’ passion about an aspect of design that they feel they want to pursue.

What really makes them unique is that each student’s portfolio is an example of their personal interests and passions, it is a direct reflection of them. So when a potential employer responds very positively to a portfolio, they are responding directly to who the student is, not just a design solution to a project.

(This is an excerpt from the paper presented at the 2010 UCDA Education Summit at Lawrence KS by William Padgett)

The content in our Design Strategies class is student driven by our juniors. On the first day of class, we ask the students to come up with their most important questions about design that they want answered. Anything goes, everything is fair game. We get hundreds. The class pick twelve. We assign 12 teams who will then research the problem, come up with answers and present them to the class each week. This class is about creativity and strategies for getting many answers to questions, very right-brained.

The following semester is very left-brained. The Design Project Management class is again run by the juniors and takes on the role of an actual design firm. The players are CEOs (us, the faculty), teams, managers, senior and junior designers, account execs, bookkeepers, secretaries, and, of course a real client. We have taken on design projects from small non-profits, like the Harriet Tubman House, a historical museum, to a branding project for the international financial giant, JPMorgan Chase. In this class, learning is under fire with live ammo. At the end, they present their proposals to the client. It’s a win-win situation: our class learn a lot in a short amount of time and the client get 20 + designers for 12 weeks solving their problems. In the summer we follow up with interns from the class implementing the class work for the client.

If you give the students the freedom to determine their own future, they will be responsible and do extraordinary things. If they know that they have the power, not us, to educate themselves, they will rise to the occasion.

(This is an excerpt from the paper presented at the 2010 UCDA Education Summit at Lawrence KS by William Padgett)

For all you typophiles, here’s a sign for your studio:


On our first day we take head-shots of the student’s and have them fill out a questionnaire about themselves. I read the questionnaires and memorize each name with a face. During the second class I usually stand at the front of the class looking directly at each one of them so they can read my lips as I say their name.

They are no longer anonymous, I know their name before they can remember mine. It is a lot of work for me but they immediately realize that if I do extra-ordinary work to learn all of their names in a week, I then expect them to work hard too. Simple gestures like this are very powerful. They never forget it, the program bond starts there.

The entire faculty must review your student’s work often, by that I mean the end of every semester. We even review our sophomores at mid-term. The review sheets rate them on design skills, conceptual skills and along with and more importantly, their attitude. This document is for the student’s eyes only, not to be sent home or to the department and furthermore, it’s not a grade. It is an instrument to show the student where they are successful and where their problem areas lie so that they can accurately address them.

Even more importantly, it also allows the entire faculty to instantly see:
How the individual student is doing in the major
How the class is doing as a whole.
How the faculty are doing.

Their last review is the week before graduation when the faculty take all their finished portfolios to the Syracuse University Townhouse in New York City. We invite over 2000 design professionals and Syracuse alumni to “review” the portfolios and leave feedback for our graduates. We then place that feedback directly into their portfolio on graduation weekend. They are off the bus running! Some are working by Monday, most within the month.

(This is an excerpt from the paper presented at the 2010 UCDA Education Summit at Lawrence KS by William Padgett)