Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Collecting vs. Curating

I just came across Frank Chimero's blog yesterday and I feel like I stumbled in on a divine secret.  Frank writes such great stuff about design.  His writing is so elegant—clear, focused, and totally current.  He wrote this fantastic post called Sorting a Mass, which is about how we collect, identify, and sort information on the internet.

We all bookmark, flag, collect, and classify items that are important to us.  Much of the content generated is the amassing of things we've seen elsewhere.  The web makes it possible to classify information like never before, but it's also an inefficient system.  What it seems to come down to, at least where personal content classification is concerned, is the difference between collecting and curating.

In Chimero's post, he sends out a query on the difference to Twitter and receives many responses.  Everyone seems to agree that:

Collection is additive. Curation is subtractive.
Collecting is for yourself, curating is for others.

A mass of items and an audience seem to be the commonalities, but it gets tricky: one can have a collection viewed by many (a Pintrest wall, a collection of Flickr favorites).  That collection has an audience, so is it curated?

Chimero posits that the delineation should lie with intent (italics mine):
I think the thing that separates the two is intent, not in the size of the pool of stuff or in the presence of an audience, but rather in the implied purpose of the gathering of content. To me, collecting is usually about propagation—the collection grows in quantity and diversity. Curating seems to be about illumination, and having that set of selected items, no matter the size, come to a point.

I’ve recently launched another blog called The Mavenist, which could be considered a collection, but it feels to be squarely in the realm of curation. What is the difference? It is in the arrangement. Collecting is having all the pearls lose on the table, curating is stringing them together into a necklace. (Of course, there is no better or worse between those two situations. One just has an extra pass of arrangement.)
I love this.  One of the reasons why I blog is because I like going through that process of selecting a design I like, processing through why I like it (or don't), and explaining that reasoning in this space.  Curating takes more time, more effort.  It is an art, very much like editing.

I remember that in a past writing class, we were instructed not to say "I like this" or "I don't like it."  Offering the reasons why something worked or didn't inside the story was the only feedback allowed.  This kept things objective, and taught us to examine why some things fit and some didn't.  That process has become very useful for curating.

It should be noted that I do also really enjoy collecting.  I have a group of Flickr favorites and a number of Pinterest pinboards.  I agree with Chimero that we are prone to collecting, rather than curating, and with the web muddying up how we do both, that presents some interesting challenges:
I think it’s important to note that while we may collect for ourselves, those collections are being published, creating incidental audiences. I collect my Flickr favorites for me, but they are accessible to you, so what obligations do I have to you when I consider to favorite something? What happens when sharing is the default rather than purposeful? It blurs the line between curation and collecting into something more of a gradient than a binary this-or-that. And that’s why those neat definitions in the tweets seem slightly off. The situation isn’t as tidy as it used to be.
He's right: it's not.  We used to just have museums with big collections and curated exhibits of those collections.  But now more information is accessible than ever was before, and what are we going to do with it all?  Especially since the mechanisms to analyze all of it are heavily skewed towards chronology and popularity.

Google has attempted to make it so that it indexes usefulness, and I suspect that is the ultimate goal; however, frequency of keywords can only do so much.  If there was a way to index not just whether or not someone "liked" a piece of information, but also could show that it helped them, or that they found it useful, that would be the golden ticket.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dieline Design Awards 2011

Dieline's 2011 Design Award Winners are posted on their site.  There were many fantastic winning ideas this year, including a salad green company's piquant design:

Design by Big Fish:
We were asked to create a brand for Britain’s finest salad growers. We found a man in the company who had a degree in watercress. His name was Steve Rothwell. He was clearly the mastermind behind their delicious, tender baby leaves so we suggested naming the brand “Steve’s Leaves”. They loved it. At the time, the salad fixture in supermarkets was one big impenetrable green hedge-like wall where everything looked the same. We seized the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and depicted Steve’s hand picking the leaves on the front with bright colours that reflected the intense flavours of these naturally delicious little leaves. We made the bags "one serve" portion size, which allowed people to mix and match varieties instead of just buying one big bag. (via The Dieline)

Love this concept—great example of thoughtful branding.

On the flip side, I was surprised at a few of the winners.  Coca-Cola's packaging wasn't that impressive.  It's hard to be innovative when you're a very established brand; those companies are often tied to iconic traditionalism.  Still, since the Dieline seems to award innovation and new ideas, the summer flip-flop motif doesn't seem like it would put Coke over the top.

Kleenex won for packaging tissues as pie:

That gave me pause.  I'm pretty used to companies packaging non-food as food, and food as non-food.  It doesn't seem all that avant-garde to put the product in a wedge and package it as pie.  Cute, sure, but not award-winning.  Coming up with a more sustainable way to package a paper product, or even a more efficient dispensing mechanism would have been a clearer win for me, but this reads as overly precious and a bit twee.

Other than that, there are a lot of really good examples of interesting and inspiring packaging.  Check out the winners on the Dieline.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fancy Fins

Check out these adorable craft scissors and their even cuter packaging:

This is student work by Melissa Ginsiorsky, via Lovely Package

“Fancy Fins is a line of quirky decorative craft scissors that is guaranteed to make a splash with artistic youngsters. The packaging itself acts as a safe and reusable carrying case with an easy lock system, and reveals the cut pattern of each pair of scissors through patterning and use of a die cut.”

Awesome work Melissa.  This packaging is both functional and charming, and its aesthetic totally suits its intended audience.

Friday, June 17, 2011


There's a a very interesting article up on Mashable about a new website, Consmr.  Consmr aggregates reviews from consumers, bloggers and a couple of editorial publications and ranks products based on an average of these reviews. 

The site also has a game layer, much like foursquare: users are awarded badges (called "pieces of flair") for engagement and ascend through different levels as their involvement increases.

I think reviews sites are a brilliant idea for brands.  Without investing much time or money, brands get direct feedback from consumers about what does and doesn't work with their product.  And consumers benefit from having information before they buy.  Many of them are looking for that information. 

A recent survey by consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail supports [Consmr's] vision. The report found that one-fifth of consumers research food and beverage purchases, nearly one-third research pet products and 39% look up information on baby products.

Yelp has been a massive success for businesses and clients.  I consult its app regularly when I'm in an unfamiliar area and need to find a restaurant, coffee shop, gas station, or place to buy red cowboy boots.  There is no app for Consmr yet, but its founder, Ryan Charles, envisions creating one to allow customers to access its information in-store, allowing for more informed purchasing choices.

I can't wait to test this out.  I'll probably test out a Consmr profile and see how it goes.  Once the site gets larger, brands other than Coke and Mars Candy will be represented, and my choices about what to buy might become smarter. 

I do wonder, long-term, about marketing information being so open.  In general, it does help marketers tailor to my preferences, which saves me time and money.  But what's the cost of so much purchasing information about me circulating around?

What about you?  Would you sign up for Consmr?  How do you feel about review sites?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I think with the coming of summer, I've been super keyed into all the golden hues around us.  This packaging really hones in on the good of gold.

This Nanatsukahara butter cake packaging designed by T-Square Design Associates is lovely, sophisticated, and warm.  The bottom of the 7 looks like a drop of golden butter.

It's also surprising.  Inside are trees. 

And a cake!

“This cake uses special butter from Nanatsukahara farm, Hiroshima Prefecture. We wanted to use the package as a vehicle to communicate where the cake was made and coming from, enjoying the scenery of the farm and of course, the butter cake too.”  (via Lovely Package)

I love how elegant this is, but also how the interior landscape catches the viewer off-guard.  That element of surprise is winning.

This next package wins points just for being beautiful, simple, and refined.  It's

Ecological beer design, from Dídac Ballester, via Lovely Package.  Just lovely.   And that's something I don't expect beer packaging to be, so it's another instance of surprise and delight. 

Surprise and delight are good things to inspire in an audience.  They're second only to consistency and trust, which we all crave.  Hopefully the products inside match the quality of their packaging.