Tag Archives: creativity

Nights at the Museum

1 Sep


The way in which we experience the world is constantly evolving. The consumer experience is becoming more and more important and developed, with increased use of technologies that make them smarter, faster and more impactful than ever before.

The V&A’s recent exhibition Savage Beauty celebrated the extraordinary creative talent of Alexander McQueen. This retrospective was stirring and beautiful, celebrating McQueen’s work in all its glory. Looking at the whole exhibition experience however, we fear it failed to push the boundaries of curatorship. It feels as though McQueen’s truly audacious vision could have been more fully realised through technological and visual innovation, especially as the curators had such a wealth of material at their disposal with which to capture the essence of his creativity.

What this exhibition highlights is a huge problem that museums and art galleries are facing – consumers are expecting experiences on multiple levels across several touchpoints. Although museums were originally at the cutting edge of creating incredible experience, the rest of the world has overtaken them. They must now compete with brands such as Punchdrunk’s immersive theatre productions or Bompas & Parr’s flavour based culinary journeys – which both provide truly immersive experiences across multiple platforms.

Therefore, for museums and galleries to push themselves at the forefront of cultural experiences –and maintain it – they need widen their horizons and look beyond their category. Imagine if the next art exhibition you visited is intensely sensorial, or enables you to interact on a personal level with each of the paintings?

Semiotics of the Silly Season

15 Jul

Every year the UK is visited by a fifth season: the Silly Season.  It occurs in the summer, especially when parliament is in recess, the football not happening and kids are off school. Typically, with nothing much happening and with business activity of most kinds on the wane, the news media go wild-and-inventive rather than the usual (ahem) sober-and-accurate, hence the silly label.

If you thought this was a quirk of British culture, think again. In Germany they have the sommerloch (the “summer  hole”); in France it’s la morte-saison (“the dead season”); Sweden has a nyhetstorka (“news drought”); in Spain there is the serpiente de verano or “summer snake”, a reference to the news item itself; while in Finland they have mätäkuun juttu, literally a “rotting-month story”.

Bafflingly, many cultures also refer to this summer slump using the image of a pickled cucumber or gherkin. In Norway, news at this time is called agurknytt or agurknyhet, literally “cucumber news”, while the period as a whole is labelled “cucumber season” or “cucumber time” in the Czech Republic (okurková sezóna), Slovakia (uhorková sezóna), Poland (Sezon ogórkowy), Hungary (uborkaszezo), and Germany (sauregurkenzeit). While this pickled characterisation is unknown in Britain, it surely rings true. The gherkin is a lowly foodstuff known for its superfluity (to a great many burger eaters).



It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon; but is it one that brands have capitalised on? Not very much. The reason is obvious: the dominant meaning of the word “silly” is negative. Who wants to be associated with notions like inane, trivial, juvenile, irrelevant and shallow?

But silliness evokes another set of meanings, including fun, playful, childlike, expressive and innocent. Could a brand take explicit ownership of the Silly Season and thus communicate more positive values like these once a year and on an ongoing basis? You bet. Probably go easy on the gherkins, though.

Classy Fun

30 Jan

We have been observing silliness and fantastical play aimed at adults for a while now. From ridiculous events and cocktail craziness at event space Drink Shop Do, to a giant Twister at the top of the Shard, and a day dedicated to floating down an East London canal in a blow up dingy, it’s been funny, frivolous and fantastical!

Next on the scene is a new ball pit specially created for adults in a West London gallery space, dubbed ‘Jump In!’. Containing 81,000 balls, the 30-person ball pit is meant to “champion the transformative power of joyful play”, and also support children’s charity organisation Right To Play.



While there’s a nice charity link in there, it’s still just a ball pit, and therefore so far so not brand spanking new. So why are we so interested then, beyond the pure cerebral joy of diving headfirst into a glorious 81,000 round plastic balls of course?

Well, rather than following the neon multi-coloured-with-abandon cues of the kids’ world of dress up, show and tell and other games (like many of our above examples do), the clever folk at mastermind agency, Pearlfisher, have imagined the grown-up play space in an altogether, well, more grown-up way.

This is classy fun, folks, and an aesthetically considered space is the order of the day. The balls are white – all white. Against a backdrop of a white gallery space, that means there isn’t a jot of colour in sight. And the event is framed as an ‘installation’, the very word forcing an appraisal of the space from a mere playpen to a place to have fun, play, but also contemplate and consider.



So could this be the start of a crossover to the fun and the aesthetically pleasing? A move from the unconsidered to the considered perhaps? In whatever manifestation it presents, the ‘new’ has never had the pleasure of being new for long, and as emergent crazes and ideas become more wide spread and popular, it is reimagining them that continues to add the element of interest and provide extra longevity.

So perhaps when it comes to the world of play and frivolity, where adult play in a kid’s world was fresh for a while, perhaps even fresher is adult play in an adult world.

Now, where do we sign up?

Sound Derision

9 Apr

On a recent trip to the cinema one of our number was presented with these four ads before the film began. It got us thinking, here are a few observations.

Firstly, have a look at these adverts from two charities:

Marie Curie


Race for Life


They are both a montage of tiny moments from people’s lives. This is a very powerful and emotive technique, one that has been employed in film and television for years. It is a perfect way for charities to create compelling and touching communications that will heighten awareness of particular issues and speak to emotional truths about how people have experienced them.  Now have a look at these, from two mega-brands:





It is interesting that all four of these adverts employ the same montage style. This won’t get past consumers, especially with this style so dominant in the advertising world today. Their is a risk that whilst it works wonderfully for Race for Life and Marie Curie cancer care, when brands like McDonalds and Sony employ this style it could appear to be an emotional over-claim.

It raises questions of emotional authenticity. It seems spurious to attempt to place these brands, while certainly loved by some, as pivotal lynchpins in the lives of us all.  It can be tough to be a new stepdad or stepson, but it could seem as if McDonald’s is suggesting that the pound-saver menu might help smooth the rough patch. And Sony, quite frankly, it looks a little like you’re claiming the fall of the Berlin Wall as one of your successes.

As an aside, we would also like to take the opportunity to tell you David Bowie (yes you) that it makes us a bit sad to see Sound and Vision on an ad and given the John Lewis treatment its always been one of our faves – and it seems to actually be you singing it. 

We know how valuable an emotional connection can be to creating a compelling piece of brand communications; however have these gone too far?  We’re concerned that this sort of emotional over-claim is the sort of thing that big brands will come to regret in the future as consumers become cynical about it as a tactic. Is it enough to simply put your brand in the midst of a moving story or significant moment that bears little relation to what your product provides?  We think a brand should be trying to build emotional traction by focusing on what it actually does and the role it actually plays in our lives, not hoping to glean that traction by simple proximity.

In fact there was a fifth advert that was shown before that film that really hit this brief, it too used this sort of montage style to create a compelling feeling around their brand, but in Lurpak’s case it was entirely within the limits of what they can actually offer. This is an ad we can get behind.


Should We Hold Back?

8 Feb

Grayson Perry’s ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman‘ is dominated by the figure of Alan Measles, the artist’s 50-year-old teddy bear. The ragged, dog-eared toy has become the “God of Perry’s imaginary world,” playing the part of hero and ultimate male role model. Scattered throughout the exhibition are images of Alan Measles – Alan as fertility god, Alan cast in bronze as a huge toy soldier, Alan as motif for all that is good and brave and strong – but Alan himself, the tatty teddy bear, is nowhere to be found.

Alan Measles (alanmeasles.posterous.com)

Alan Yentob, in the Imagine documentary, asked Grayson Perry why Alan Measles was absent. Perry explained that, even though the British Museum is safe and special enough for the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone, Alan was too precious to leave there. He was not only more prized than any other object, but more personal – the one thing not for showing, the one thing  so meaningful, so tied up with memories, that it is not for display. The absence in the exhibition of the talisman himself felt honest, and more moving than if he’d been propped up in a display cabinet for all to see. It felt refreshing.

We live in a world where everything is up for grabs, everything is to be shared. Weddings or break-ups, beach holiday or family Christmas snaps, even the precious first pictures of a new born. The bestselling book charts show as wide a range of revealing biographies and tell-all autobiographies as could possibly be desired. Things seem to be validated simply by their exposure.

Tracey Emin, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With (guardian.co.uk)

Tracey Emin is a clear example of this in art. She reveals the most intimate and distressing details of her history – love affairs, abortions, her relationships with her parents and grandparents. We have total access. No holds appear to be barred.

With more ways to share than ever before, perhaps it is time to consider which things are not available for public consumption?

Ambit Magazine

6 Feb

Ambit Magazine Ambit #207 was launched on January 26th with readings from contributors, including Lotte Kramer’s beautiful and moving poetry.

Founded in 1959 by Martin Bax who still edits the iconic British literary institution. It has counted J.G Ballard, Carol Ann Duffy and Geoff Nicholson as contributors and editors, and continues to promote new work.

What’s more they’re not slack when it comes to design either – have a look at some covers. Read an interview with Bax and subscribe via their website.

Ambit Magazine covers (www.jgballard.ca)


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