“Humans Prefer Curved Visual Objects”

Of course when I saw the above headline in the August 2006 issue of Psychological Science: Research, Theory, & Application In Psychology and Related Sciences, I simply had to know more.

The researchers — Moshe Bar and Maital Neta of the Martinos Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School — compiled images of 140 pairs of objects, and another 140 pairs of “meaningless patterns.” They showed these to 14 subjects (all of the human, I suppose), who picked which of each pair of objects they preferred, in sharp v. curved object (or pattern) faceoffs, as well as battles between sharp or curved objects and “control objects” (a great phrase) characterized by “a roughly equal mixture of curved and sharp-angled features.”

The curved objects and patterns dominated!

“It is important to emphasize that there are exceptions,” the researchers note. Example: snakes, which are both curved, and often not liked. But still. Something for you designers to remember. I guess.

Anyway, the researchers have posted their entire catalog of the objects, patterns, and “control objects” here, if you’re curious.


WhyTheyHate.Us is a participatory web photo project using images submitted to Flickr, a popular photo hosting site. The images are chosen at random from uploaded photos tagged “whytheyhateus”.

The images displayed on the site are not curated, edited, or censored. Anyone can contribute any image to the dialog. Eventually every image will be shown in the random display.”

Interesting, no? This information courtesy of Stay Free! Daily.

Q&A: Sket One’s Product Customs

Several months ago I was very taken by some images I saw of vinyl figures made by Sket One, and spent a little time researching (well, Googling) him. The figures were part of a show called “Subcultures: The Art of the Action Figure,” at Channel 1, in New Haven, where Sket One lives; you can check out coverage of that show, with lots of pictures (including one that I use on the jump page) at Vinyl Pulse.
Eventually I decided to approach him as the second in my series of Q&As with people who are artists and entrepreneurs, finding ways to make a living from creative enterprises. He kindly agreed, and that exchange follows.

Sket One has been writing graffiti since 1986 (here are some of his pieces in that medium,via graffiti.org.) He graduated from art school in 1992, and also works on canvass, on products such as skateboards and shirts, and in the form vinyl figures. And, he works as an art director, at a sports marketing agency called Silverman Group. You can read his official bio and see examples of all his work (since here I’m mostly focused on one set of vinyl figures) at his web site, and on his Myspace page.

Since the thing that really got my attention was the Product Customs, I’ll start there. What inspired those? Would you characterize them as making a comment about brands and products and so on, or was it a more purely graphic-driven inspiration? And, of course, I’m curious how you decided on which products. (Windex! I wouldn’t have thought of that…)

The product customs were done for many reasons. I love pop art objects from my past. I also work for a marketing agency so I am drilled the whole “BRANDING” scheme every dear born day. The message I tried to convey is, first off, cool stuff is designed every day by designers who take their time investigate and study design, design some more, and the end result is something as simple as mustard and ketchup get picked up thrown in a basket and used (only later to be thrown out). So think about it: That packaged was designed by someone? Maybe a team? Well I noticed it, do you? Read more

Ham on a Roll

In Consumed: Jamón Ibérico: Paying for the privilege to be the first to own the caviar of pork products.

Some months ago, Harry Saltzman and his wife, Barrett Cobb, were planning one of their regular trips to Europe. Saltzman, a retired music professor who lives in Manhattan, is a foodie, and he was looking forward to the Spanish segment of the itinerary. A week before they left, he received an e-mail message from La Tienda, an online store he had patronized. The subject heading was “Do you want to visit your ham?”

Continue reading at the NYT Mag site via this no-registration-required link.

Additional links: La Tienda; Good Food with Evan Kleiman.

What is it about Second Life?

I thought I’d pass along this Washington Post story about Second Life. It mentions Suzanne Vega’s performance in that virtual world, and U2’s as well, and Regina Spektor’s. Duran Duran is coming soon, etc.

Marketing and record label executives say Web sites that put users into video-game-like virtual worlds are a unique way to reach out to audiences, who are increasingly spending their time and money on the computer instead of at concerts and music stores.

What is it about Second Life? Why is everybody suddenly interested in it? Every marketer, I mean. Aside from all the music-related stuff, there’s the previously mentioned American Apparel store, and Starwood hotels has something going on, and Second Life has been written about in Business Week and the Harvard Business Review, and various marketing blogs, it just seems to be a big marketer pile-on right now. Again: What is it about Second Life? Is it that, as a virtual world, it’s easier to sort of grasp than the more fantasy-oriented World of Warcraft-ish alternatives? Is it that the internal culture of Second Life seems more entrepreneurial? Something else?

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting interview with Second Life Creator Philip Rosedale, conducted by Andrew Keen, who seems pretty interesting himself. But check out some of Rosedale’s comments, where he hints at just how big a deal he thinks Second Life could be:

I think that when you talk about Second Life and you think about what’s making Second Life work today I think you actually can look back at eBay you know as an example of the community and the commerce aspects that are — and then the Internet itself, you know — that are so key to getting things like this to take off.

Partial answer to the question of whether Second Life is “a game,” per se:

It is always the nature of new mediums–instant messaging, the Internet itself, electronic mail–those new mediums are always used initially for play.

Partial answer to a question comparing the numbers of people registered to use Second Life vs. the number of people who visit certain Web sites:

Second Life is a much more significant–requires a more significant commitment of time right now to understand. Again this is exactly like using Mosaic in 1994.

Those are all pretty aggressive comparison points. Is this what’s going on, marketers agree with this stuff? Or are they just trying to impress their clients by knowing about yet another non Tivo-able platform?

The International Review of Wine Packaging and Aesthetics, Vol. 3

Four Sisters Winery
Papa’s Red, Dry Red Table Wine
$11.61 with tax (Warren County, New Jersey)

There are wineries in New Jersey. We have visited one – Four Sisters Winery. We tried a few things and basically to be polite R. bought a bottle of this Papa’s Red stuff, thinking at the time it was the best of what he had sampled.

The bottle design is, self evidently, awful. Says E: “It’s the prefect label for this wine. Tacky. It’s like something you’d buy at a terrible knick-knack store. Cute-kitten-statue-collectors might drink this, and they’d serve it to their guests and everybody would love it. Because it’s horrible.”

R. would like to offer a rebuttal, basically to prevent the state of New Jersey from having to endure any additional criticism. But he cannot, in good conscience, do so.

REGARDING THE ACTUAL WINE: Close to undrinkable, it turned out.

NOTE: The International Review of Wine Packaging and Aesthetics will return in approximately one month, with Volume 4.

Update: Barking Irons

From time to time, I’ll provide updates here of developments with the upstart brands that I followed for the brand underground story.

Here’s one. Sportswear International’s sixth annual “Sportswear International Fashion Awards Winners” were just announced, and Barking Irons won “Best Newcomer Brand.”

I should admit two things. One is that when I started following the various brands who ended up in the story, I wasn’t making some kind of upspoken bet about their future success, etc. I didn’t know what would happen, and for my purposes, it didn’t actually matter if they succeeded, or threw in the towel. Two is that I actually don’t konw enough about the fashion business to say anything about the significance of Sportswear International.

But … this certainly sounds like good news for the Casarella brothers. And I’m quite happy for them. Congrats, guys, congrats…

Amazing Race

The decision by the overseers of the TV show “Survivor” to divide competitor teams by race in its upcoming season was not a publicity stunt. I know that’s the case this because I’ve been hearing and reading everyone associated with “Survivor” say so, to every media outlet in existence, all day. The whole thing is a “social experiment,” they say (an assertion Lisa de Moraes examines in entertaining fashion in this Washington Post story).

Moreover, The Times reports:

Mark Burnett, the series producer, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the decision to organize the teams by race was made in group discussions with CBS executives and was in no way intended to promote racial divisiveness.

“In America today,” Mr. Burnett said, “I really don’t believe there are many people who hate each other because of their race. But even though people may work together, they do tend in their private lives to divide along social and ethnic lines.”

Mr. Burnett noted that in many cities, members of ethnic groups tended to cluster in neighborhoods. “In New York you will find areas like Little Afghanistan,” he said. “Maybe in the year 3010, when we’re all coffee-colored, it really will make no difference. But right now, it is what it is.”

So the idea really isn’t to promote racial divisivness: The idea is to exploit racial divisiveness. That’s different! And in a way it’s surprising no one came up with this concept sooner. It’s not like race- and ethnicity-related matters aren’t already a regular feature of the news cycle, whether it’s debates about immigration or racial profiling at airports, or that politician in Virginia welcoming a non-white man to America, or Andrew Young’s unfortunate remarks about Korean, Jewish, and Arab shopkeepers seling wilted vegetables to blacks. If Americans want a dialogue about race, there’s an opportunity every single day.

What Burnett seems to have concluded is that we don’t want a dialogue. We want an argument. No, better than that, we want a flat-out competition. Let’s all pick sides, root for somebody, and see who wins. As Burnett might say: It is what it is. In this case what it is, is something you can sell ads against.

The International Review of Wine Packaging and Aesthetics, Vol. 2

Marquis Philips Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.
About $17. (Jersey City)

Here the obvious attraction is the creature featured on the label, which looks a bit like an illustration from Alice In Wonderland. Also notable, however, is the two-part label. The top part has a ticket-like look. The only visual tie-in is the double-rule. The result is a pleasing — even if not entirely successful, on a technical level — design. The overall look seems to aim for whimsicality, but with sophistication, and the effect is pretty good. E calls it “one of the best wine bottles we have bought so far,” and I agree.

Still, let us be honest: What made us buy this was the monster illustration. The backmatter on the label on the other side of the bottle explains that this is a “mythological creature” called the Roogle, which “represents the lasting friendship and the shared destiny that link” Australia (where the winemakers are based) and the United States (where the distributor is based).

While E professes no opinion regarding label explanations, R pronounces it “annoying and somewhat disappointingly didactic,” and contends that it would have been better to have left it out. Even just calling the creature Roogle would have been preferable to spelling out the details, like we’re a bunch of idiots.

Ultimately it is R’s belief that if you have a cool monster-thing, just go with it.

REGARDING THE ACTUAL WINE: Good, but nothing special, and probably overpriced.


I admit it: I haven’t been spending very much time in Second Life. I’ve visited a little, and I actually made my first consumer purchase with Linden currency the other day, but more about that later. The point is I clearly haven’t been paying enough attention, because the virtual store that got me interested in Second Life in the first place — the American Apparel “in world” location — was “attacked” earlier this month.

The attackers were members of The Second Life Liberation Army. Here’s what they say about their action on or about August 11:

Following the lack of any progress towards introducting citizens voting rights to Second Life the SLLA began in-world military operations.

The SLLA selected as its first target the American Apparel Store in SL. Volunteers from the SLLA have been posted to the store and are preventing SL residents from buying any goods from this vendor.

The SLLA has no complaint with American Apparel but is seeking to introduce voting rights to Second Life.

Hunh. Okay. Well, I don’t know anything about the underlying issue here, but of course I was interested. So, just now, sent my avatard, Murk Story, over to the store and, once again, he found himself all alone on the island. So I had to resort to looking for other people’s accounts of what went down. –> Read more

The International Review of Wine Packaging and Aesthetics, Vol. 1

No serious wine consumer makes decisions about what to buy based on the aesthetics of the label or the bottle.

But here at Murketing HQ, that’s exactly what we do. And it is for this reason that we — “we” being me (henceforth known as “R.”) and my wife (or “E,” to you) — have founded The International Review of Wine Packaging Aesthetics. This will take the form of posts, on this site.

Other than that, it seems pretty much self-explanatory. We will add only this point of clarification: Many wines we buy regularly and enjoy will not be included here, because the packaging is of no interest.

In the future, the International Review of Wine Packaging Aesthetics will appear once a month. But to give this exciting new project a suitably “big bang,” we begin with a barrage: Vol. 1 today, Vol. 2 tomorrow, and Vol. 3 the day after that.

It’s not until this moment, as I’m finallly prepared to post Vol. 1 and am reading everything one more time, that I realize how similar all this is to the “Music” and “Printed Matter” reviews that used to close every issue of Paul Lukas’s immortal Beer Frame. Coincidence? Lame knockoff? Homage? You decide. Or, just skip the whole thing and enjoy one of Paul’s current projects, Uni Watch.

Anyway, here we go:

Volume 1

Torres. Sangre de Toro. 2002.
($6 New Orleans, $7 Jersey City)

We started buying this variety when we lived in New Orleans, because at the nearby Whole Foods it was very cheap — and because it had a little bull on it. A little plastic bull. Free! The label, with a rustic Spanish feel, is unremarkable. The real attraction is the bull, attached via a nice grosgrain ribbon. “It’s a free gift,” E. points out. “It’s very unusual for a wine to come with a free gift.” The bull is surprisingly realistic in its rendering, E. continues –“a complete bull,” with white horns, and anatomically correct detail. Look closely at the bull and you will see that it says “Torres,” on both sides. R. really likes that sort of thing.

We find this gimmick to be fully satisfying, and “the bull wine” is a recurring purchase for us. The wine is also available in Jersey City; it costs a bit more, but you still get a free bull.

Interestingly, we have noticed that there is another variety of this wine with no bull. This is not a surprise, insofar as a plastic giveaway is likely to be seen by at least some wine consumers as an off-putting gimmick. This bull-free variety is more expensive, and perhaps it’s better. But it is of no interest to us.


Bingaman X Bekman!!!

Photo by Summer Hot Shot Kate Bingaman.

One of my favorite pastimes is spying on Kate Bingaman. You may (well, you should) know her as the person behind Obsessive Consumption. She also teaches graphic design at Mississippi State University, and in connection with that she has a newish site going that basically seems geared toward, you know, people taking her classes — but check out the trove of cool images linked from this recent post. See why I’m spying?

Anyway, today my surveillance revealed the following: She is one of ten photographers included in a Jen Bekman project called “Hey Hot Shot!” (“Hey, Hot Shot is the latest effort by Jen Bekman to discover and support emerging artists. Over the past three years, the gallery has established its reputation as a champion of young and emerging artists.”) Since I’m a fan of Bekman and her gallery as well, I’m going to do my best to make it to the September 6 opening, and I think you should, too.

(Today’s headline is a tribute to the blog High Snobiety, even though that site has absolutely no relationship to the above. On any level. At all.)

Carry Art

In Consumed: Poketo: How a promotional vehicle for undiscovered artists became a desirable purchase.

Back when they lived in San Francisco, Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung were part of that city’s tight-knit community of young artists, and they would help organize or participate in a variety of gallery shows. It was always a lot of fun, but there was a problem. “No one was buying art,” Myung says, “because all of us were pretty poor.” Their response has gradually turned into a small business called Poketo, which has worked with more than 70 artists in creating wallets, messenger bags, T-shirts and, beginning in the fall, stationery and housewares.

Continue reading at the NYT Magazine site by way of this no-registration-required link.

Related links: Poketo; Poketo blog; Poketo Myspace page; The Little Friends of Printmaking; Boy Girl Party (Susie Ghahremani); Hot and Cold; PCP.

The Unbelievable Hype

As noted on The Hundreds’ site: Someone has started Don’t Believe The Hypebeast, and it’s pretty amusing. Early reports on the (streetwear-scene-satirizing) site include aNYthing being sold at Wal Mart “alongside other premium Walmart labels such as Wrangler, Nascar and Starter,” and a Lupe Fiasco collaboration with Maharishi and Lenscrafters. Also this: “Chuck Taylor has been tapped by Converse to create his own footwear. Ever since the announcement of this almost unfathomable collaboration, the ‘streetwear’ message boards have been on fire.”

Update (Aug.23): Streetwearing Your Way To Success — “Good luck and make sure you send us some promo tees when you get that feature in the NY Times.”

Brand Blogger Q&A: Food Market Index (regarding Whole Foods)

This week’s third Q&A is, like yesterday’s, probably the beginning of a series: A series of interviews with brand-specific bloggers. In this case I imagine the series will be less open-ended (but I could be wrong). I’m starting with a relatively new brand blog, one that focuses on Whole Foods. It’s called Food Market Index, and so far it’s been quite good. The proprietor is Mr. Food Markets, Rob Denton, who kindly agreed to answer some questions.

When did you start the blog, and what goals did you have in mind?

May, 2006. My goals for the Food Market Index were to have fun and to try to amuse and inform readers. It was also a creative outlet for my ideas about organic foods, shopping, and Western civilization in general. I wanted to explore an area of personal experience that is also a familiar one for millions of people.

And were you perhaps inspired by any other brand blogs, or not so much?

Not at all. Oddly enough, I wasn’t all that aware of other brand blogs until after I started mine. I found that every niche has its fans — from Trader Joe’s to Toyotas. Some of the other brand blogs are quite inspiring in their scope and execution; others are a little snarky for my tastes. I feel like I walk a middle line down the shopping aisle — I like Whole Foods Markets, obviously, but I can also laugh a bit at the whole milieu, and at myself and fellow consumers too. [ Read more