Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Missing New York

Several things happened this week that made me miss New York a lot.  One was that I read my friend Hila's beautiful piece about leaving New York after living there her whole life, Taking the Girl Out of New York.
I do not have as many palpable memories as she does, only having lived there for four years, but the moments I do remember are so vivid, maybe because the city stands out in such stark relief for me.  The way the subway smells when it's cold (not as bad as when it's hot), the way the windows light up with Christmas lights, the funny bridges up high between buildings, somewhere around 24th street.  Veselka Pierogies, wet sidewalks, the times cab drivers were friendly, driving through Brooklyn to and from the airport in the early morning hours.  The skyline; always the skyline.

I look at my friends' pictures of the city, and I wonder what it would be if I lived there still.  (Note: I keep wanting to write there as their.  Maybe I'm yearning for possession still?)  Aryn is a loose acquaintance, but I see so much of her life through its images, and she's inspired me in several subtle ways.  Seeing her kid grow up in the city calls up these deep feelings of wanting my own child to know what it is to be a New York kid.
Anticipating the next season of Girls does it for me too.  I've been emailing with my friend Alanna about it this week, and even that correspondence is making me realize just how much the experience of being a young woman in her early 20s in New York is both so universal and so individual, and how perfectly Lena Dunham captures it.

Maybe I'm not so much nostalgic for a place, but for a time.  I think this is also universal; in realizing how much we have changed, we long for a time that we feel like we understood ourselves better.  But this is simply an illusion of hindsight—it is entirely possible that I will look back at my present moment (in my early 30s now, in a dynamic growth phase in my career and in life) and wonder why I felt so terrified when my life was really so exciting.

Maybe I can do myself the service of extending a hand and saying, "You've got this.  Don't worry, it will all work out."  Because I do know, deep down, that that's probably true.  And the uncertainly of the present moment is what makes it so interesting, and real, and raw.
But I still miss those pierogies, and those sidewalks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Go Mighty or Go Home

If you're on Go Mighty, check me out here over here: emblemist.  I'm slowly but consistently adding items to my life list, and adding images and stories to boot.

If you're not on Go Mighty, I really recommend it.  It's a nice way to elegantly organize what you strive for, what you deeply desire and want to make happen.  And soon, it will be a way for all of us to come together to make our goals, values, and big-ass dreams seem not so far away.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mighty List

I've been a big fan of Maggie Mason and all of her mighty endeavors for years.  But like any tentative fangirl, I have admired mostly from afar, other than speaking with her briefly at the Anthology launch in 2010.  Well, no more!

I've been wanting to start my Mighty Life List for ages, but got sidelined by my roller derby habit + an ever-increasing day job schedule.  I'm hoping that by putting my intentions out there, I will be more committed to getting them done and crossing them off the list. I was very successful at my 101 in 1001 project, so I'm enthusiastic to go even bigger in scope and focus this time.  I'm also interested to see if this can get me reengaged in blogging and help me clarify what the direction of this space.

So without further delay, I'm going to get started.  

Emblemist Mighty Life List
1. Create a dahlia garden
2. Meditate every day for a year
3. Complete a Digital Marketing course
4.  Dye my hair an outrageous color
5. Hold a Wii Fit Olympics
6. Take an awesome and goofy group Christmas photo
7. Pin-up lingerie photo shoot
8. Travel to Machu Picchu
9. Do a CrossFit Muscle-Up
10. Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City
11. Write a book
12. Host a fancy lemonade stand
13. Go to Prince Edward Island in Canada
14. Celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival and eat Mooncakes
15. Have a baby
16. Make 100 beautiful things
17. Attend Loi Krathong, the sky lantern festival in Thailand
18. Dinner at The French Laundry
19. "Run with the Bulls" in New Orleans
20. Actually visit Paris (I was there for a day in 2002. Doesn't count.)
21. Take a train from Oakland to Los Angeles to visit my family.
22. Swim with sea turtles around the Galapagos Islands
23. Write a collection of short stories
24.  Create a grown-up sartorial style (i.e. get a makeover)
25. Cook 1 recipe from every cookbook I own

That should be enough to start.  These are coming easier and easier, so there will be more soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It's almost the season for eggnog!  I love eggnog; it's one of my favorite things about winter.  So understandably, I'm digging this rebranding from Sunnyside Farms done by Murray Brand that I saw on The Dieline the other day. 

Source: The Dieline
It looks like Sunnyside is getting away from the traditional down home on the farm motif, and moving to something a little more current, but with a retro feel.  I love the birds and holly.  Here's what Murray Brand said about their design:

"To ensure consistency with Sunnyside Farms' non-seasonal packaging, Murray Brand Communications designed a holiday series in which the brand's iconic birds are bundled up and ready for winter weather. Snowflakes, a holly tree and festive holiday typography were added to enrich the seasonal theme while remaining loyal to the brand's highly recognizable packaging graphics and core essence of fresh, local, friendly and family."

Source: The Dieline

Source: The Dieline

Big success! The packaging totally reads as friendly and fresh. I can't wait to test it out in my annual Nog Tasting and see how Sunnyside Nog measures up!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Pretty

This is just pretty.  There's not much to say after that.  The design is not revolutionary or anything, but a cleanly designed, well-functioning product is all you need.

Product: Renouve Anti-Aging Hand Sanitizing Lotion
Designer: Swiss Cosmo Lab

Originally seen via Lovely Package

Originally seen via Lovely Package

Would you use a collegen-boosting hand sanitizer?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For My Husband: Whisky Design

This amazing whisky packaging came up in one of my feeds, and I had to share.  This is from the design portfolio of Brad Surcey of Zeus Jones, and it's fantastic.  I love the clean lines, mid-century feel, and updated take on whisky packaging.

Brad Surcey, via Mint

And check out the typeface!

Brad Surcey, via Mint

I think Mike will like this as much as I do, which is a lot.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Be a Snob

Snob Duck soaps are handmade with the cleanest ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, greek herbs, fruits, honey and lots of love.  Marios Karystios was tasked with creating packaging that would reflect this pure pedigree.

Via Lovely Package

Karystios says of his design:
Vasilis Douros decided to create a handmade soap made of the purest stuff. His admiration of animals, (especially ducks) as he is a vegetarian, led to the chosen symbol.

We used the classic innocent looking rubber duck by contraries. A nice bow tie, clean and fresh but still with this snobbish look.

Via Lovely Package

I like that the packaging is clean, but not formulaic. The asymmetrical design and free form brushstrokes keep things interesting. The duck isn't twee, or caricatured. In fact, with his bow tie and rakish expression, he seems a little badass.  That's a welcome addition to bath time.

Originally seen via Lovely Package, which is a fabulous blog, if you like packaging and design.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Missing Out

There are two articles I've been turning over in my head this morning.  Anil Dash wrote a great piece last week about what he calls JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out.  It's in response to a fantastic essay, written last year by Caterina Fake about the opposite phenomenon, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Caterina's piece deals with how social media intensifies the feelings of disappointment, jealousy, and insecurity brought about by seeing all the cool stuff our contacts are up to, especially prevalent at events like SxSW, where you're getting a real-time feed straight to your phone.
Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are.
By monitoring these tweets, status updates, and check-ins, she posits, we are exacerbating the dual conundrum of disappointment that we're not doing the coolest thing, but also getting this fix as if we are. 

She goes on to say:
...Social software both creates and cures FOMO. If you didn’t know that party was going on, you’d be home contentedly reading your latest New Yorker. But since you do, you hungrily watch each new tweet. It’s an age-old problem, exacerbated by technology. To be always filled with craving and desire (also called defilement, affliction) is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, called kilesa, and it makes you a slave. There is true meaning in social media—real connections, real friendships, devotion, humor, sacrifice, joy, depth, love. And this is what we are looking for when we log on.
Anil's essay argues that we find the real connections when we log off.   After the birth of his son, he didn't check in to any social media for over a month, and found the experience incredibly joyful and fulfilling.  He hadn't realized how fantastic being free from FOMO was until he talked to a recent New York transplant.

See, in New York, there is always something going on.  That's one of the reasons I loved it so much—it's impossible to be bored.  The liability with all that constant activity is a humming stress, a "what if I miss out on something I really want to do."  And more often than not, as Anil points out, you do.

...Inevitably, I tell people: You're going to miss stuff. On any given day, in New York City, there's an event going on that would be the best event of the year back in your hometown. And most of the time, you're not going to be there.

You miss a wonderful event or a really special moment because you're too broke to go, or because you couldn't get tickets in time. You stay home because you weren't going to know anybody there, or because you were going to know everybody there. You stay home in case she calls, or in case he shows up. You get halfway to the party but turn around because you're underdressed or overdressed or still hung over or because you have to work in the morning.
 When I read this, I got a sucker punch to the gut.  I spent so much time gripped by the Fear of Missing Out in New York, poring over Time Out, reading blogs, even a brief stint with Daily Candy, just to make sure I knew what was going on.  And then I usually got too intimidated to go.  New York plays hard.  It's one of the toughest crowds.  It was fascinating, elusive, gritty, and I loved it, even as I was afraid of it.

In the Bay Area, I'm less crazy.  I know myself more.  I'm not scared to go out.  Something about the scope of San Francisco and Oakland feels more doable.  When I do explore, it's the right balance of exciting-with-an-edge-of-nervous, rather than the anxiety-riddled, insecure, and solipsistic cocktail of emotions I experienced on a night in Williamsburg, Nolita or the Lower East Side.

Also, I know how to say no now.  I've begun to understand that just because something is happening, it doesn't mean my life is any less rich for not being there.  That's the hook, the feeling that everyone is doing something awesome without you.  But, it's also possible that whatever you're doing is exactly what you're meant to be doing and you might even enjoy it more.
Sometimes, you don't go to that amazing event because you're just going to stay home and read a book or watch TV or flick away idly at your phone, only realizing you've missed the moment when it's already too late. And then, when you get old and wonderfully, contentedly boring like me, you stay home because you'd rather be there for bathtime and bedtime with the baby than, well, anywhere else in the world.
This is the Joy of Missing Out.
We can take charge of all of this by carefully editing what we actually want to do from what we think we should be doing, or what might make us feel better, or what will give us more social currency.

There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping.

...Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I'm willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone. I think more and more people are going to retake this agency over their feelings about being social, as well. That's a joyful thing.
Check out Caterina's article and then Anil's piece.  There's a lot there, and I have much to think about how I can be more mindful about what social pressures I agree to, how technology influences my feelings about how I spend my time, and what I can disengage from to be happier, joyful, and more engaged in the stuff I really want to be doing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brand You: The Power of Personal Branding

This time of year, late July, is always a time of reflection for me.  It precludes autumn, my favorite season, wherein I buy new notebooks and pencils to scratch down resolutions, plans, and goals, taken over by the alluring promise of going-back-to-school, and all the new hope and sincerity that entails.

I was thinking today about my new direction—a self re-branding, and wondering why it made me so uncomfortable.  It seems so myopic, so solipsistic.  But this self-focus is a big part of our culture.  We think a lot about who we are and what we have to contribute.  We measure ourselves and our accomplishments by the achievements of others.  Resumes, business cards, Linked In profiles all collaborate to make us into soundbites of success.

I don't love that, make no mistake.  But, this is who we are, and this is the way the world works—in shorthand.  I've talked about this before.  It's inescapable, so rather than fighting, I'm going to package myself the best I can.

Fast Company has a great article by Tom Peters that's dated (1997!), but it's still prescient.

No matter what you're doing today, there are four things you've got to measure yourself against. First, you've got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. Second, you've got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value. Third, you've got to be a broad-gauged visionary -- a leader, a teacher, a farsighted "imagineer." Fourth, you've got to be a businessperson -- you've got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes.

It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.  - The Brand Called You, Tom Peters

I love my day job, but I'd like to take on some consulting projects and freelance work.  No one will ever know what I have to offer unless I market myself.

Nubby Twiglet has one of the better personal branding blog posts about why as a creative person especially needs to do this.
The best part about being in control your own brand is that you are in charge of your destiny. You’re in charge of you. Changes can be implemented rapidly. And, the payoffs for being successful mean more because you’ve built the brand yourself. The success is yours. - The Power of Personal Branding

So, first step: defining what my brand is, then figuring out how to implement that visually, as well as in words.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about this little blog lately. I lost interest for awhile, due to Roller Derby + a promotion at work + you know, life.  I think part of the problem is that package and brand design alone doesn't light a fire under me—devoid of context, these are just items on a shelf, another tribute to the vast sea of consumerism and aspiration.

Despite my lack of motivation, I couldn't let go of Emblemist. Whenever I visit, I like this space.

So, I tried to think of a solution, something that could keep me here. This, I think, is the answer: context. What's missing from this blog is why what I do matters to me.

I put my perspective on everything: why a piece of branding does or doesn't work for me. My opinion is all over the place. But... why does this matter? Why do I think branding and identity and the surface of things is so important?

Because design is how we communicate with the world.

It's sometimes our only method of communication, and I am big into communication. If you know me, you'll vouch that I am very wordy. I love reading and text and typography and fonts and kerning and texting and talking, a lot. What I love more is how good design communicates to us without having to speak. It hits something pre-verbal within us, appealing to our senses, inspiring an immediate response, invoking our most primal needs and getting us to act on them.

I want to keep talking about that. But I also want to undertake a larger project: rebranding myself.

That sounds heady and not a little solipsistic, but here's what I mean at the heart of it—I want to be more intentional about what I communicate about myself to the world.  Both in my writing, and in my life.

There are many blogs out there that focus on branding and packaging and they do it well (Lovely Package, The Dieline, and Brand New are my oft-cited favorites).  I could spend a lot of time trying to be the best brand identity blog out there, but (a) I would lose.  I just don't have the design or agency background to do that properly, and (b) I'm not sure I want the focus of this blog to be so narrow.

I'm admit to some trepidation about increasing personal content.  This will not become an "another instagram photo of my latte" blog.  But I would like to use my personal experience at creating a brand for myself and possibly a burgeoning business to inform my perspective on other elements of branding and identity.

That's where I see this headed.  And I can get pretty excited about that.

In the meantime, here's my favorite recent package design: Waldo Trommler Paints, designed by Reynolds and Reyner.

Gorgeous paint cans with simple, easy to read fonts and bright colors.  You should read their sound methodology on the creation of this brand, but here's an encapsulation:
How to create a brand that stands out? We need to find the design solution that hasn’t been used by any of the competitors. At the same time showing the main features of the company – friendliness, quality and innovation. WTP is not just a manufacturer of paints – it’s an assistant, always ready to help, suggest and defend from the hassles and problems. Repairs with WTP is simple, convenient and fast and this is what in it’s simple design.

Totally a win, if you ask me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Tea for Me

We all know how I feel about bland tea packaging.  I was happy to find a great example of dynamic, modern tea packaging on my beloved Lovely Package today.

Tea Bar, a cafe in Amsterdam where you can select, mix and match, and drink a blend of teas, asked Proud Design to create a series of packaging that would reflect the unique nature of each tea.

I think they've succeeded.  Their design is eye-catching, clean, and honestly, a bit of a conversation starter.  A cocktail umbrella?  A flexed bicep?  A lava lamp?  What has this to do with tea?

Each package reflects the main attribute of each tea for a design that's fresh and visually interesting, but not as transparent as one might think.  I like that though—since you don't have a ready clue as to what exactly each tea is, you're forced to ask questions and educate yourself about each of the varietals, which probably leads to a far better tea experience.

Plus, this just looks cool.

Post originally seen here, at Lovely Package.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

DC's New Logo is a Super Fail

What do we think about DC Comic's new logo?

Nothing about this says comics to me.  It says "Ha! I'm a TYPEFACE!".  Not that every comic company logo has to have a thunderbolt or swoosh or star or whatever, but there's such a rich visual history to draw from with comics that this stripped-down logo just feels flat to me.

Armin has some great points about it in this post on Brand New

The sticker peeling/page turning concept is something many of us have done in the sketch phase at some point, heck I have even presented it to a client, and that’s where it should stay as there is nothing particularly original about it. But let’s assume it’s the right way to go, there is a lack of finish in the execution and it might be the clunky way the “C” closes, which was done to make sure it is visible, but few “C”s we use day to day look like that, they are usually more open and they end at nicer angles, not 0°. The visual idea has merit, there is an interesting relation revealed between the “D” and the “C” but it’s not properly pulled (pun!) off. And the typography underneath the monogram seems to be a complete afterthought.
DC, you employ a bunch of artists.  We know you can do better.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Student Work: Nick Dunlap

This wine packaging by Nick Dunlap is interesting.  It's a 20s-style "Prohibition Preparedness" kit, with a bottle each of Hooch Estate Vineyards Chardonnay and Merlot, and breath mints, disguise labels, and a corkscrew.

While I love the design, being a fan of all things 20s, I wonder if it wouldn't be more appropriate for a different kind of liquor?

I associate Prohibition with malt and hop beverages, home distilleries, flasks tucked into garters.  I don't really associate it with wine.  During Prohibition, alcohol could be imbibed—it just couldn't be manufactured, transported, or sold.  Beer and whiskey sales skyrocketed in this environment, probably due to the availability of their source grains.  But there's really only a few places in the United States that you can grow grapes.

Still, the packaging and concept are pretty cool.  I would have created it with a solid whiskey in mind for a more authentic fit.

Originally seen at Lovely Package.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gazelli Cosmetics

What I'm struck by with this is how different it looks from the kind of cosmetic packaging I'm used to. It doesn't have a heavy botanical influence, but it also lacks the sterile, uber-cleaned-up aesthetic of modernism.  It's certainly clean, but also interesting.  I like that it shows a woman, the intended audience, but not a super aspirational woman, if that makes sense.

Designed by Gazelli Cosmetics in Azerbaijan, they say about the brand:
Ghazel is a form of lyrical poetry that praises beauty, youth and love. These short poems speak of the untouchable, mysterious beauty of women, whose silk dresses and strands of rubies haunt the days and nights of men enraptured by love.
Love that.

Originally seen on Lovely Package.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Greatest Movie Ever Branded

I'd had The Greatest Movie Ever Sold on my list for awhile, and finally got around to seeing it on a cold and rainy evening last week.  For someone who thinks a lot about brand placement and advertising, it's become a nearly canonical film in the short time it's been out.

Morgan Spurlock, famous for Super Size Me, explores product placement and advertising inside the context of a documentary.  The whole movie is about the process of making a movie and securing advertising partners and brands to sponsor the movie.

The New York Times says it best in this review of the film:
Like “Super Size Me” his new film is a documentary comedy in the Michael Moore mode but without a political or moral agenda. Mr. Spurlock has Mr. Moore’s prankster’s instincts, though not his sense of outrage. Exploring product placement in movies and on television, the documentary is as much celebration as it is a critique of what is called co-promotion, in which movies like “Spider-Man 2” are infiltrated with images of brand-name products that pay for the exposure. If “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” affects the attitude of an exposé, Mr. Spurlock is really a gleeful participant in the corruption (if that’s what you want to call it) that his movie purports to criticize.
Instead of being apart from it, Spurlock is entirely inside of it, critiquing the way in which we advertise to the masses, while lining up his next sponsor.  The tagline of the movie is, after all, "He's not selling out; he's buying in."

I think what's interesting about this film is the amount of transparency Spurlock got from his sponsors.  Many of them agreed to be filmed, were pretty clear about what they wanted out of the film, and what their budget and agenda for it was. I wonder how much of this has to do with who is in on the joke and who isn't?

I mean, we all know that companies do heavy product placement because affinity with a popular character or show sells their product.  Multiple impressions equals greater awareness and bigger profits is the rationale.  But for companies to show us that they know that we know, and be open about their sponsorship, marketing, and advertising processes is a pretty fresh take.  If you look at the main sponsors of the film, it's largely design-conscious, young, modern brands.  POM, a purveyor of trendy pomegranate juice is the main sponsor, followed by JetBlue, Merrell Shoes, Amy's, Mini Cooper, and Seventh Generation.  There are more, but this is clearly a film with a cool factor—the title song was written by Ok Go, a band revered for its cheerful innovation and indie sensibility. I wrote about their collaboration with brands last year.

I think we'll be seeing more transparency from brands in the future.  At least, I hope so.  The brands that didn't sign on to the project I found off-putting.  There's so much protection surrounding brand image, that you have to wonder what they're hiding.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for Mr. Spurlock's next release.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not like it took much effort, but...

I actually had a post planned for today, but I'm going dark to protest SOPA & PIPA.  Want to know more?  Read up here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quick Hit: Brand New's Worst of 2011

A little late to the party on this one, but have you seen Armin's post on The Worst Identities of 2011?  Totally spot-on and entertaining. 

I totally agree with him on Eurostar, Sportsnet, Petco, and JC Penney.  Petco especially raises my hackles.  They changed their slogan from "Where the pets go" to "Where the healthy pets go."  So what, my older, infirm pet is no longer welcome at Petco?  It seems overly ridiculous and maybe even discriminatory.  Not a winner.

I don't agree with him on the Edmonton Zoo logo.  The elephant wasn't super recognizable to me: it looked like a tadpole-walrus hybrid.  The owl, on the other hand, is more eye-catching and colorful.  The Get Closer slogan is a nice touch too.

And we all know how I feel about Netflixster, so let's not start.

Go look at the awesome article and weigh in: what do you think was the worst branding disaster of 2011?