Herman Miller: A Way of Living

Every once in a while, I purchase a book based on the reviews I’ve read and fully expect the actual product to not live up to the hype. Usually, it’s that thing where my expectations were inflated due to glowing reviews that tout the quality of the layouts, the editorial, photography and more. With my recent purchase of “Herman Miller: A Way of Living” I have to say the reviews were spot on. (Amazon has this for about $20.00 less)

This book chronicles more than 100 years of Herman Miller’s history and the key events that have made it a cultural icon. Broken out into 10 chapters, the book creates a timeline that highlights key achievements, people, and events that have made the Herman Miller company the powerhouse that it is today.

Thanks to exhaustive research done by Herman Miller archivist Amy Auscherman, Sam Grawe and Leon Ransmeier the book is 614 pages of history, illustrations, photography, and essays that add up to a comprehensive history that in my opinion is the best book on Herman Miller to date.

Auscherman, Grawe and Ransmeier, spent the better part of four years combing the design collections at the Vitra Design Museum, UCLA Libraries, the Eames Office, Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation included for Herman Miller-related documents, photographs, archives, and illustrations for the new book and it paid off. They have gone into historic detail that not only delves into the company history but the influence that the products, architecture, and people brought to Herman Miller culture over the last 100 years.

The 10 chapters that go in-depth on everything from key figures in the company’s history (Nelson, Eames, Girard, Frykolm) to pivotal moments in popular culture that shaped Herman Miller’s trajectory, this book is the summation of Herman Miller’s existence thus far—the most expansive one to date.

“Even the nerdiest nerds and Herman Miller fans and people who have spent their whole working life at the company will have something to learn from this book,” she says. “I sit in this interesting position at the company where I kind of know the genesis of ideas that have proliferated and made the company what it is today. These ideas have been revisited and refined over and over again—not in a bad way. Usually, people aren’t coming up with something totally new, but they’re new iterations on something that’s already existed and making it better.”

Amy Auscherman

The book covers everything from furniture design, advertising materials, design research, human factors company culture, textile development and more. Each section or chapter is prefaced with an in-depth essay on the influence that this portion had on the company as it grew from a small Michigan based furniture manufacturer into an international powerhouse.

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A Little Christmas Rapping and Home Shaming from IKEA

According to Stash, this is IKEA’s first Christmas TV spot. Somehow that doesn’t seem right to me. I swear I’ve seen holiday-themed ads for IKEA in the past. Maybe this is the first one for IKEA UK.

The spot was put together by the UK VFX powerhouse Electric Theatre Collective. A cast of toys and tchotchkes come to life revealing the hard truth about a family’s home with a bit of rapping and “home shaming”.

Mother has put together something with rock-solid production value that was directed by Tim Kuntz. The 3D animation and live-action footage work really well together and that rabbit cookie jar absolutely creeps me out.

The original track was overseen by Dave Bass and Arnold Hattingh at “Wake the Town”, and the rap was voiced by the legendary MC D Double E.

It’s a fun piece that clocks in at a minute thirty so it’ll be interesting to see how they do the 15/30 edits for broadcast.

Agency: Mother

Production: MJZ
Director: Tom Kuntz
Producer: Emma Butterworth
Production Manager: Daniel Gay
Production Designer: Chris Oddy

VFX/post: Electric Theatre Collective
VXF Producer: Magda Krimitsou
VXF Coordinator: Larisa Covaciu
VXF Creative Director: James Sindle
2D Lead: James Belch
3D Lead: Patrick Krafft
2D Artists: Chris Fraser, Tomer Epsthein
3D Artists: Jordan Dunstall, Ryan Maddox, Mark Bailey, Remy Herisse, Edwin Leeds, Gregory Martin, Nikolai Maderthoner, Will Preston, Stefan Brown, Adrian Lan Sun Luk, Piers Limberg, Zach Pindolia, Olivia Grimmer, Romain Thirion, Richard Fry
Colorist: Luke Morrison

What if Everything You Thought Was Real Was Actually Fake?

I was out on Vimeo checking out the latest work by Eoin Duffy for TedEd and decided to share this animation for a couple of reasons. First, the quality of the work is just outstanding. The quality of the animation and illustration is really well done. The sound design enhances the mood and works so well with the visual style of the piece, and the writing/narration leads the viewer through the story so well.

The subject matter is one of those great “wrap your noodle around these concepts”. What if everything you think is real is just a giant simulation that some supreme set of beings is controlling? What if its all fake and were just too complacent to realize this? Take a few minutes to watch the video and then spend the rest of your day contemplating all of this.

You can check out more of Duffy’s work on Vimeo here.

WRITER – Zohreh Davoudi
ANIMATION – Eoin Duffy & Henrique Barone
VOICE – Christina Greer
AUDIO – QB Sound
CLIENT – TedEd

You’re Going to Fall in Love with Colonel Sanders Finger Licking Good Dating Simulator.

This afternoon while looking at a number of video sites for inspiration on a freelance project, I came across the video below. It led me down a deep rabbit hole, (or would that be a chicken hole?) of advertising and marketing material that has been produced for KFC by Weiden & Kennedy and Psyop.

The game, “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator” was created by entertainment/advertising company Psyop for the fried-chicken brand taking the player through a three-day culinary school adventure. As the main character, your storyline involves earning your degree, supporting your best friend, and improving your culinary chops. But more than anything else, this is a dating simulator game, so the ultimate objective is to land the svelte Kentucky-fried colonel that is looking just as hipster as KFC’s CGI Instagram influencer version of the man.

The game was released on September 24th through Steam and is available to play for free. While this might seem like an odd marketing play by KFC it actually ties in with a number of other efforts they have produced in the past. Including a virtual reality nightmare of an employee training program and an 8-bit Atari-style game also starring the Colonel.

Graphics

The graphics are really well done. The game is flush with lush backgrounds, which frankly would into any high production shoujo anime like Special A. The characters, too, are appropriately well-rendered, blinking and pouting in a dynamic enough way to suggest some two-dimensional humanity. Not only that, the food illustrations actually look appetizing as well.

The dialogue trends toward slightly juvenile and cheesy, but with enough self-awareness that many of the lines can definitely be read as ironic. Just look at the culinary school’s deliberate mouthful of a name: “University of Cooking School: Academy for Learning.” That reads like something auto-translated by Google from Japanese to English.

Like most Choose Your Own Adventure games, this is fairly standard click ‘n’ go. But Psyop was smart enough to add some mini-challenges to switch it up, including a timed quiz and a turn-based battle against something called a “spork monster.” It’s definitely not dynamic enough to hold a person’s attention for, an extended amount of gameplay, but more than sufficient for the one or two playthroughs that a normal person is going to undertake.

Psyop introduces a whole host of characters to help flesh out the world-building of this game. There is best friend Miriam, a spectacles-wearing Professor Dog (head of the cooking school of course), villainous Ashleigh and Van Van, small-statured boy, you have sentient kitchen appliance Clank, the forgettable Student (yes, that’s his actual name), and, of course, the hot hipster Colonel.

Of course, all of these characters pale in comparison to the star of the game: Colonel Harland Sanders. The Colonel is the brand spokesperson and they have gone to lengths to present him in ways to help extend the reach of the KFC brand with a younger target audience.

This is such a solid way to use gamification to promote KFC, introduce a new line of products like the Mac n Cheese Bowls. It also ties in with their social media efforts and TV spots which have been leaning to more humor since the Colonel was reintroduced in 2015. KFC is promoting the game in all of their social channels while cross-promoting othe campaigns like “Rudy III KFC Wings”. The overall strategy put together by W+K for KFC just works. It’s offbeat enough to get your attention. The humor is memorable and reflective of the quality copywriting that has gone into every touchpoint. And more importantly, it works which is evident in how well the brand has done over the last four years. By taking risks and leveraging the Colonel’s off-beat personality and drive to sell chicken give them permission to do things like the Colonel Sanders bearskin rug stunt or a hot tub that looks like a bucket of chicken.

There is an entire campaign built around the Rudy III theme on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Braun Audio Returns with the LE1 Reimagined by Precipice Design

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the industrial design work that Deiter rams did for Braun. His influence and the work he did for Braun can still be felt today on so many product lines by other companies like Apple. 

Braun has been absent from the audio world for more than two decades, but original stereo systems from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are still in demand. Not because they offer a superior audio experience, but because of the design and visual aesthetic they present.

The hottest Braun stereo collectible is probably the SK5 “Snow White’s Coffin” record player and radio. It is sublimely minimal in its execution with white powder-coated steel sandwiched between wooden side panels under a plexiglass case. The design was a radical departure for stereo gear when this was introduced in the 1950s. 

Snow White’s Coffin

One of my personal favorites from the Braun stereo family has always been the Braun Audio 1 from 1962. To me, it feels timeless. You can feel where it came from (the SK5) and understand the visual direction Rams was taking Braun over the next decade. 

1965 Braun Audio 1

In addition to the Audio 1, Braun introduced a set of minimalist speakers in 1959, the LE1. The LE1 is so simple in its design form. White rectangular slabs suspended on chrome tubular legs with a perforated black metal grill. The form is almost sculptural in quality and an even more radical departure from stereo systems of the day. You have to remember, in 1959 most stereo systems looked like a large wooden piece of furniture that would blend in with what was in your living room. The LE1 stands out. It’s meant to be seen as well as heard. 

The LE1 from 1959

The LE1 was the first electrostatic speaker available on the German market, the LE 1 provided a new housing for internal electronics produced by English engineering company Quad, then trading as Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The LE 1’s electronics were based on the Quad ESL-57, producing a distinctively detailed sound that still stands up well against the standards of contemporary hi-fi systems today. At the time of its introduction, the speaker was technically and aesthetically ground-breaking. Within the Braun audio program of the late ‘50s, the LE 1 was intended to accompany the first Braun component Hi-Fi system, the Braun Studio 2. 

The 2019 LE01 Series

For the first time in 28 years, Braun is back in the audio business. Well sort of. Braun Audio is returning with a reinvention of the aforementioned LE speakers from 1959. A perfect reintroduction to the heritage of Braun Audio, the new LE Series focuses on the purity of design, purity of performance and the purity of sound Braun was known for in the past.

These beautifully minimalist speakers have been re-imagined by Precipice Design. The London-based design company developed all consumer and trade touchpoints including brand and product narratives, packaging, photography, iconography, digital assets (website, and mobile app), video content, and point of sale concepts, print catalogs, and advertising, helping to re-establish Braun in the premium audio sector.

When you look at the complete set of design materials that Precipice created for Braun you are immediately aware of the heritage of vintage Braun while positioning them squarely in the modern market place. The imagery that is used across all touchpoints echoes the minimalist aesthetic that Braun became known for, not simply in the products they produced but in the owner’s manuals, advertising, and packaging that was produced during their heyday.

As I looked at the new website that Precipice produced I was struck by how it so closely mirrored many of the Braun printed items I’ve seen from the 1960s an70s. The minimal color pallet, sparse layout, concise messaging. The same look and feel are carried over to the mobile app, and on to the packaging. With the packaging focusing on the purity of sound while focusing on the brand’s heritage. Only key information about the product shown on the packaging. The uncomplicated packaging is typical of Braun and reflects the aesthetics of the classic speaker through dark tones and a graphic of the speaker itself.

The speakers themselves are an homage to the original LE1 updated to reflect today’s taste and improved technologies. Where the original 1959 speaker would probably prove to be too large in today’s home environment, Precipice’s vision shows how the LE1 can be reimagined to fit more discreetly into one’s home.

The new speaker brings the same vision Ram’s had in 1959. A minimalist slab in white with a black grill floating above a chrome stand. The speaker is angled slightly backward, and the controls are almost invisible. Precipice also introduces a solid black version of the speaker and two additional sizes, all of which use the same visual language. 

Floor stands have been designed as well, but I have to say I don’t think they work as well. They seem rather chunky except where they have been extended and used with the smallest of the speakers.

There is no word on availability yet. I’m betting these will be available this fall for the Christmas shopping season. The product was introduced around the first of September this year so you would think they would be ready for sale by mid-November at the latest. Pricing will range from $1200.00 for the largest of the 3 down to $380.00 for the smallest.

I don’t need these, but I wouldn’t mind having them. Full information and specs are available on the Braun Audio website.

“The Finish Line”. Honda’s Amazing Formula One Racing Promotion.

Four things I like. Good Design, auto racing, animation/motion graphics, and high-quality video production. When these elements combine into something that epically leverages all of them it’s hard to contain myself. 

I love this video. I’m not sure who the production company was behind it, or if Honda did this in house but the end result is spectacular. The video showcases Honda’s involvement in Formula One racing opening with racing legend Richie Ginther at the wheel of the Honda RA272, which won Honda’s first F1 race at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. The car then morphs into Ayrton Senna’s iconic MP4/4 from 1988 making its way around the narrow corners of the Monaco Grand Prix. Then the animation jumps all the way to 2006 when Jenson Button won the Hungarian Grand Prix at the wheel of Honda’s own F1 car and team. From there we cut to Max Verstappen and his heroic win at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, and then again at the German Grand Prix.

The piece is interlaced with live-action footage from the races, highly stylized animation, nice use of typography, all built on a limited color pallet of red, black, yellow, blue and white. The style of the animation has a nice graphic novel look, that is matched perfectly to the driving music and soundtrack of engine sounds, crowd, and announcer overlays that help pull the whole thing together. The small details like the speed lines that emanate from the bold titles and the insertion of the Japanese text is a really nice visual design touch that is carried throughout the entire video.

Well done Honda. This is one of the better promotional pieces I’ve seen for Formula One. I’m not sure where this is going to run but I have a feeling during broadcast F1 races. It has a run length of 60 seconds and could be edited down to a 30, or even a 15-second spot if needed.

The high production value on this is sure to pay off. So a solid spot.

A Case For Art and Architecture Books

When most people think of a book, rarely do they think of it as a work of art. Most of us think of books as a tool for the communication of ideas and information. If the layout, typesetting, and design are well executed the book becomes a seamless experience. You might be attracted by the cover, subject, and writing style, but it’s still just a book. The publisher Taschen has found a way to transcend this concept by producing limited edition books that elevate the content to a true art form. 

I often turn to the Taschen website for design inspiration simply because their book designs are so good. Page layout, use of typography, color pallets, etc. When it comes to visual design, Taschen nails it. Lately, I have been returning to the Limited Edition section of the site, not for inspiration but out of pure lust for what can truly be called works of art. Case in point “Piano Virtuoso” a $1250.00 limited edition, 200+ page tome on the life work of architect Renzo Piano. 

This book is limited to a run of 200 and comes delivered in a hand-built wooden crate that is identical to the ones his studio uses to deliver architectural models to his clients. It has a hand-pulled lithograph of an original drawing by Piano that is signed and numbered of the Menil Collection Foundation in Houston, Texas that also elevates this to a status beyond what we typically consider a “book”.

With this being limited to an edition of just 200, and a price point of $1250.00 I’m going to have to be content either browsing online and dreaming or opt for the less expensive version of the book with no hand-built case or lithograph. One of the local Barnes and Nobel stores actually has a copy of the non-limited edition books so I had a chance to actually see to see it in person last week. 

Like everything Taschen produces, the quality is top-notch. Beautiful page spreads that built a visual rhythm as you scan from page to page. There is an elegant use of photography, illustration, and type that helps to anchor the body copy and showcase Piano’s genius. Gatefold spreads are used to show the architecture in the context of its surroundings allowing for panoramic views. The copy is crisp and concise giving just enough information without becoming overwhelming or granular. The book does a great job of building the story of Piano’s career to date and the many existences of his singular aesthetic.

As for the Limited Edition version f the book being a work of art, I would contend that it’s close. It’s definitely a piece of fine craft when you think about the hand-built case and the limited edition print that come with it. Maybe not a work of fine art but a highly collectible hand-crafted object showcasing the art of a genius. If I could justify it, I’d add it to my small collection of Taschen XXL books. From the photo’s I think it looks absolutely amazing. That wooden case is exquisite.