Thanks to Layer, the Beosound Balance, Looks as Good as it Sounds

I’ve always loved Bang and Olufsen products. I know many people will argue that they aren’t the best sounding audio gear for the price you pay, but you have to admit they make beautiful stuff. Bang and Olufsen’s design aesthetic, choice of materials, attention to detail, and yes, the audio quality in my opinion. Sorry folks my ears don’t hear well enough to play the granular specs game.

Design agency Layer has designed the new “Beosound Balance” for Bang & Olufsen and the look is so nice. The distinctive, sculptural silhouette expresses the speaker’s performance, with a large base unit supporting a textile-covered cylindrical speaker. Controlled with a touch- and voice-activated interface (using Google Assitant) on top. This is sort of Bang and Olufsen’s entry into the smart speaker market.

The result is a room-filling, three dimensional sound from a speaker that takes its inspiration from the design language of domestic objects rather than high-tech electronics products. This is the first project by Layer for Bang & Olufsen and was 18 months in research and development.

The form of Beosound Balance is driven by the speaker’s audio performance, with a simple, cylindrical base unit on which a more expressive form sits. Together, these two elemental forms combine to create a sculptural object – like a plinth supporting a sculpture or vase. It’s this look that sets it apart from the cylinder/block format of most smart speakers in the market today.

The timber base unit contains a large, omnidirectional bass speaker driver, which is positioned with a vertical orientation and topped with a metal mesh screen featuring perforations in a Fibonacci sequence. The bass is reflected off the rounded metal base beneath the top form, maximizing its acoustic potential and providing a room-filling, low-end rich sound. 

The softly sculpted upper unit contains the precise mid-range drivers and tweeters, which complete the warm, well- balanced audio performance. These drivers – which provide directional audio – are positioned under a seamlessly knitted textile cover. 

To reinforce Bang and Olufsen’s positioning of “Beosound Balance” as an object to be looked at as much as listened to, the speaker is crafted from a rich palette of materials that are more readily associated with homewares and soft furnishings than high-tech or audiophile products.

The base unit is made from FSC-approved solid timber, blocked and turned as in furniture production. This material choice not only oozes craftsmanship but also offers quality and superior sound resonance. The upper unit is wrapped textile, with a nod to interior upholstery; while the metal reflector and the interface panel are made from pressed aluminum and inspired by finely crafted tableware. The textile wrapped power cable is long enough that the speaker can be easily positioned around a room as needed, meaning the speaker is not constrained based on power needs. (I love the fact that they used a textile-covered cord. It always seems to be the one thing that gets overlooked.)

Beosound Balance won’t come cheap. It rolls in at $2250.00 dollars. Way more expensive than other smart speakers on the market. It is Bang and Olufsen though, and I’m thinking if you are considering B&O products you can probably afford this price point. You’ll be able to pick this up starting in March of 2020 on their website, third-party retailers and in Bang & Olufsen stores.

The Poster Designs for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Are Crazy – Awesome

I’m not sure what the selection criteria were for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but I’m digging the completely crazy set of images that were chosen.  The styles range from Manga to Cubism to Surrealism and Photography. If you compare these to what we traditionally have gotten the Tokyo posters seem almost out of left field. Hat tip to the judges for taking a chance and choosing posters that are a reflection of Japanese culture, and that take a chance. You can see all of the posters here and read the artists statements about the works as well.

The London Symphony Orchestra, Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano

I’ve been a season ticket holder to the Kansas City Symphony for ages, and I’m pretty familiar with their marketing materials. I know they don’t have the same budget as the London Symphony Orchestra, but they should watch this video and take notes.

Wowza talk about a stunner.

London agency Superunion and motion studio Found combine dance, pyrotechnics, and mo-cap to create a spectacular campaign for the London Symphony Orchestra’s 2020/21 season.

“In his fourth year with the LSO, Sir Simon Rattle leads a two-year exploration of music written in the first half of the 20th century. The title refers to a phrase used to describe the febrile atmosphere in Germany in the 1930s, as Europe lay on the cusp of profound social, cultural and political upheaval.

With such an emotive theme, Superunion wanted to create something unexpected, something that would reflect the tension and volatility of the new season.

This meant shifting away from the CG approach of previous campaigns and embracing practical live-action effects to create a dramatic, explosive and tension-fuelled abstract film.

Conceived for both film and print, the resolution was of huge importance. We opted to shoot on the RED Helium camera at 5K so as to capture as much detail as possible.

Filmed against black, from a dramatic top shot, we worked with dancer Ella Robson Guilfoyle, to interpret the motion capture data of Sir Simon Rattle’s baton into an expressive dance sequence. 

Costume designer Karen Avenell was commissioned to create a custom-made silk dress to further accentuate Ella’s movements.

The sequence would have been impossible to perform in real-time, so we broke it down into 19 individual bite-size movements. These were then edited together in post-production and re-timed to precisely match the motion capture data. 

This ‘base’ layer of fabric was then processed with a bespoke echo trail, to create a fiery flame-like effect.

In addition, we filmed an array of pyrotechnics and practical effects [sparklers, flares, smoke grenades, and chalk dust] at high speed which were later composited into the sequence to enhance the volcano effect, culminating in an epic final shot.”

Mike Sharpe, Creative Director at Found Studio

This so nice. I’m mining the internet to find any related marketing and advertising materials. If I track them down, I’ll updated this post with them. I have to say, I’m not sure how any of them could compete with the drama created by the choreography and music presented in the video.

The next step for the London Symphony Orchestra, is to replace that hideous logo with something as grand as this video. That however is a topic for another time.

The Things We Do For Love.

Holidays have always been a reason for marketing teams to mashup branding or advertising elements in an attempt to capitalize on a specific holiday’s panache or excitement. More often than not the success of these campaigns tends to fall short. Usually the campaign is a half-baked idea, or an afterthought with the results being poorly executed and delivered, resulting in nothing more than a mention in one of the advertising trade publications or blogs.

This year there were three campaigns that I ran across for Valentine’s day that range from bad (Pepsi) to possibly good (KFC) – depending on the long-term execution of the latter. So, let’s take a look at these and see what cupid brought us in 2020 for Valentine’s Day marketing mashups.

I’ll start with the bad. Pepsi somehow thought it would be a good idea to create an engagement ring to promote Crystal Pepsi. A ring made from something like cubic zirconia housed in a cheap cardboard box emblazoned with the Pepsi logo. Why? Because nothing says “I Love You” like a cheap ring in a logo box.

The engagement ring features a lab-grown, clear-cola-containing 1.5-carat diamond set into a platinum band (this might actually have value if you melt it down). Real Crystal Pepsi was broken down into elemental carbon and then added into the artificial growing process to create this exceptional stone. (color, cut and clarity are outstanding I’m sure) The resulting bling sits inside a white ring box featuring the retro-chic Crystal Pepsi logo.

The ring is only available through a social media contest where entrants share their proposal plans using the requisite mentions and hashtags on Twitter. One lucky proposer will win the one-of-kind Pepsi engagement ring, freeing up a year’s worth of someone’s salary to buy a replacement ring with an actual diamond in it.

Pepsi worked with creative agency VaynerMedia to create the Pepsi Proposal campaign, which runs until March 6th, with the winner announced March 16th.

Another outstanding mashup is the Heinz Ketchup chocolate box. Yes you read that right chocolate truffles filled with tasty, tasty ketchup. Why? Because nothing says “I Love You” like nausea inducing confections packaged in a heart shaped box.

Heinz UK partnered with confectionary wizards Fortnum & Mason for Valentine’s Day creating a red and cyan box with gold foil, which actually looks really nice and matches the Fortnum & Mason brand quite well. From a packaging standpoint I really like this. I question the novelty of the execution though. In my opinion this will be read as a joke, and while it might appeal to some, most are simply going to say “gross” and forget about it. I’m not sure how this will elevate the Heinz or Fortnum & Mason brands long term.  

This isn’t the first time Heinz has tried to ruin the magic of a romantic Valentine’s Day Last year they released ketchup caviar, a move in what now seems like the first attempt to forever tarnish this holiday and, likely, your marriage. (Someone at Heinz apparently isn’t loved)

Now for the one that might actually work. KFC Crocs. Yes, the shoe everyone loves to hate has been done up to look like a bucket of the colonel’s finest. This one might actually work. The love connection is a bit obtuse, with KFC joining forces with avant-garde artist Me Love Me A lot (MLMA), who often showcases her eccentric and provocative art on Instagram, where she has over 1.2 million followers.

MLMA introduced a platform version of the shoe where the sole becomes the chicken bucket and the toe is adorned with a little drumette at New York Fashion Week in order to generate buzz and give KFC a platform to announce that a more subdued version of the shoe will actually go on sale next month which means this might have some staying power.

I actually like this because while there is novelty to the campaign, there is an actual practical use for the shoe, and some people are going to be all in on the fact that their ugly crocs are a bucket of chicken. Time will tell through sales though and I predict that these will end up being a collector’s item featured on American Pickers in 10 years.

No Branding Required.

There aren’t many brands that can get away with removing all brand identity from their advertising. McDonalds is one of them that can. The product is so ubiquitous that the purveyor of fast food can not only remove the golden arches, they don’t even have to show product.

McDonald’s has created a series of outdoor ads in recent years that have boldly expressed just how deeply the fast-food brand is embedded in our collective consciousness. McDonalds Canada created a series of outdoor ads that used cropped sections of the golden arches as a wayfinding mechanism. McDonalds France used a series of rain-streaked cityscapes to promote their delivery service. Although minimal in design, there is no doubt that this is McDonald’s. The latest from Leo Burnett UK, not so much.

This new series of posters from Leo Burnett for McDonald’s UK has taken renowned typographer David Schwen’s type sandwiches and created, well, type sandwiches.

There is no mention of McDonald’s anywhere on these yet you know exactly what they are from the ingredients listed. That is definitely a Big Mac and a Filet o Fish. This could be applied to the majority of the McDonald’s sandwich line with a similar effect.

“McDonald’s is a leader, only a handful of global brands can communicate like this. The redacted and graphic nature of this latest campaign exudes the confidence McDonald’s and its iconic products deserve.”

Pete Heyes, Creative Director at Leo Burnett.

It’s a pretty bold move and one that not many brands could pull off. A global brand like McDonald’s can get away with, and does with great effect.

Dyson Lightcycle Morph. Well Designed but Pricy.

When you hear the name “Dyson” the first thing that pops into your head is vacuum cleaners. Over the years Dyson has done an amazing job of advertising and marketing their vacuums and it has paid off for them. When I hear the name “Dyson” I think of the design. Industrial design and technology to be specific. Why? Because Dyson has always done a really great job of producing not only very functional products, but beautifully designed products as well.

They are a company that truly understands how form and function do go hand in hand, much the same way Apple does. Because of this, you end up paying a premium price for something that products from other manufacturers do with equal performance, but maybe not with the same quality of design and materials that Dyson offers.

Case in point the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, a new floor and task lamp from Dyson that looks at what lighting does, and how it affects mood.

the Dyson Lightcycle Morph employs local daylight tracking to offer customized solutions that mimic natural light. The lamps are connected to the Dyson Link App, allowing for full adjustability depending on the user’s task, age, mood, and local daylight.

“Task” for focused light, “Indirect” for less intense situations, “Feature” for dramatic lighting and “Ambient” for a warm glow that is designed to mimic candle light. These are the four general light settings the lamp offers. It also offers pre-set modes called “Study,” “Relax,” “Precision,” “Boost,” “Wake-Up,” “Sleep,” and “Away.” Users are able to save up to 20 custom light settings that can be controlled by a dimmer and
color temperature selection feature.

Here’s the kicker though. The lamps cost $650.00 and $850.00 respectively. So what do you get for that? Well, the LEDs are supposed to last 60 years, which if you amortize the cost over that length of time actually is an OK value. (provided the rest of the lamp lasts that long). You also get a lamp that is made from high-quality materials, with a built-in motion sensor to help save energy, integrated USD charging built into the base, and intelligent touch-activated slide controls.

“With the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, our aim was to challenge the fundamental conventions of contemporary artificial lighting and find a solution. So we developed a light that tracks natural daylight and intelligently transforms for different uses – providing the right light, at the right time, precisely where it’s needed,”

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

It’s also a beautiful object in its own right. Thoughtfully designed by the Dyson team, and while that might not factor into a lot of people buying decisions, it will have an appeal for that audience that loves good design. There are truckloads of LED lamps available on the market, but in my opinion, this shows where Dyson’s design thinking extends beyond simply creating a nice looking LED task lamp.

One thing that most people don’t think about are things like packaging and assembly. How they are an integral part of the design process and the end-user experience. The video below shows how Dyson tackled this. Both the packaging and lamp assembly are done well. The packaging not only holds the parts, but it functions as an assembly stand for the base on the task lamp. (this isn’t the case on the floor lamp and in the video, the woman assembling her $850.00 is rolling it around on the floor. I think I would have put down a cloth to prevent scratches) The lamp goes together quickly and is on and ready to explore in minutes. There is some waste in the floor lamp packaging, but that’s to be expected since the vertical shaft is almost 48 inches in length. Overall Dyson did a pretty good job with this though.

“Artificial light is still a relatively new concept for humans. If you were to shrink evolution into 24 hours, artificial light would only have existed for around seven seconds.” Because of this, human circadian rhythms are still mostly in sync with the natural rising and setting of the sun. Lightcycle Morph’s adaptability moves beyond artificial light’s typical limitations to create a more realistic and personalized lighting environment for users.

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

Will I be purchasing either of these lamps from Dyson? No, I won’t. I don’t have any need for either of them at this time. That doesn’t mean I can’t admire what went into the design and construction of the Dyson Lightcycle Morph. It really is a well thought out piece of industrial design that I bet quite a few people will pick up for their home or office.

Ed Ruscha and Jack Kerouac – Motorized Photographs Of Sunset Blvd. And Other L.A. Streets

Ed Ruscha has always been one of my favorite artists. When I was in Art School at the University of Kansas he had a heavy influence on the work I was producing at the time. Not so much his photography, but definitely his paintings and print works. The video above was Commissioned by The Getty Museum on the occasion of their 2019 Getty Medal to the painter, draftsman, photographer, and bookmaker, Ed Ruscha.

Produced by Matthew Miller the Getty Research Institute’s preservation and digitization of over a million images from Ed’s Streets of Los Angeles photo series. Miller then had Ruscha record a voice over for the piece using excerpts from Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”.

I think this is a wonderful way to experience Ruscha’s photography of Los Angeles in a new way. If you are unfamiliar with Ruscha’s books I recommend checking them out. If you Google “Ed Ruscha Books”, you’ll be able to find them. Start with “26 Gas Stations”, or “Some Los Angeles Apartments”. They’ll give you a solid insight into where Ruscha’s head was in the early to mid-1960s.