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"I'm a pattern observer... now of people's stories" Judy Wert @wertandcompany Design Deconstructed: Design & Leade… https://t.co/C0fSUUl5Rj

Words Matter

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We had the pleasure of meeting Jason Bacher this week, cofounder with Brian Buirge of Good F*@! Design Advice, continuing our blog series on words.

The project, which began on a whim, has grown into a series of talks, workshops and goods aiming to encourage risk-taking and even failure. Their use of humor (and profanity) in their Classic Advice Print (family friendly version pictured above) has “grown to represent the passionate approach to being a creative that we often preach about and continue practice ourselves.”

Why? Design

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An idea at the heart of the work is the central thought around Why? a new design blog by Rob Duncan (full disclosure: the designer of our wonderful and now responsive wertco.com site in conjunction with wordpress.com (thank you Matt Mullenweg!) and design firm Mucho. Focusing on great ideas in design, contributed by top designers this new site features great projects they find inspiring. The blog is a simple beautiful showcase of conceptual work — perhaps an antidote to the current mood of instant critique.

Why? will also live off the page in a series of talks — coming soon.

What are you thinking?

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How to Work Better

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Do one thing at a time. Know the problem. Learn to listen. Learn to ask questions. Distinguish sense from nonsense. Accept change as inevitable. Admit mistakes. Say it simple. Be calm.

Smile.

(Made large by Public Art Fund. From the exhibit Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better. Organized by Nancy Spector. On view until April 27th at the Guggenheim. Image: Copy of Jack Kerouac’s Typewriter.)

Guest Blogger, Anna Gerber

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Anna Gerber is guest blogging for us this month covering delightful new storytelling projects that have caught her eye. Anna is a Special Projects Creative Director who knows a thing or two about making stories, be they digital, on paper or brickwork as Co-Founder of Visual Editions and Creative Director of Editions At Play. Welcome, Anna!

Be Inspired

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Karen Is My Life Coach (By Anna Gerber)

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This is Anna Gerber’s third and final guest blog for us. She’s been writing about delightful new storytelling projects that have caught her eye. Anna is a Special Projects Creative Director who knows a thing or two about making stories, be they digital, on paper or brickwork as co-Founder of Visual Editions and Creative Director of just launched Editions At Play.

Here’s the thing. You’re really never sure if Karen is on your side or not. Or if she’s nice. Or if you even like her. Her eyes sparkle, her smile is warm, in one trailer you even see her sitting in front of a polite mantle piece. But she can also seem a little cult-leader-like: her stare can feel intrusive, her polite mantle piece probably too polite and her questions a bit much. Her creators capture this unease with their strapline: “She’s friendly. Too friendly.”

So what or who is Karen? Karen is My Life Coach is an app. It’s an app dreamed up by Blast Theory (based in Brighton, England). Karen is a fictionalised character, she is a made up life coach that asks you (the client? patient? user?) an awful lot of questions in a series of eerily realistic life coach session environments. The app is smart. Karen is smart as she amasses data about you and your behaviour in order to know how to respond. She’s like an interactive version of a cross between the Spike Jonze film Her and the UK Channel Four TV series Humans.

The thing is Karen is not a very helpful app. She is not a tool. Karen is unlikely to support you and guide you in a way that you feel you might want or need. But here’s what Karen will do: she will get you to question how freely you are prepared to be open and honest and intimate with your phone. She might even make you think twice about big data and how companies and governments collect information about you unknowingly all the time.

Powered by the rather thrilling intersection of theatre, art and technology Karen is smart, here is an app that makes a gentle and poignant cultural interrogation and it’s even funny if you want it to be. In an unnerving way. One things for sure: if you’re like me, it might make you feel wary of my phone. At least for a couple days. And that’s probably a good thing.

wonder.land (By Anna Gerber)

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Are you one of those people who hears the words “adapted from”, “inspired by”, “based on” or even “re-imagined” and your critical tentacles tense up? Do you find yourself thinking things like “I wonder how faithful this film is to the original novel?” or “What would the author think if she saw this dance adaptation?”. I know I certainly am, with my hand held high up in admission, head bowed down.

So when I walked into The National Theatre to watch wonder.land, the wild trippy musical “loosely based” on Alice in Wonderland (there it is, you see) I was full of that critical, snooty, cultural judgement. But just as easily, I transcended those misgivings and can tell you that, over two hours later, I left feeling surprised. More than surprised: inspired. I loved it.

Created by the almighty Damon Albarn, Moira Buffini and Rufus Norris, wonder.land highlights include the coolest, most glitchy, ravey, Gorillaz inspired rabbit you’ve ever seen; a broken-home Alice whose avatar is everything she isn’t (complete with sky high Alexander McQueen-esque platforms); the Cheshire Cat blown up so big on screen you just want to climb into that Bowie grin; a headmistress turned Queen of Spades that made me think of a hipsterfied Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull; and a Mad Hatter (Alice’s debt ridden father) who could be a cross between Albarn himself and Johnny Depp. What’s there not to love? There’s even a virtual reality music video-as-app which is like watching a whole sprawling mini-universe squeezed into the teeny screen of your mobile phone. And in all of this, there’s a mash up of familiar, clever cultural counter points. A constellation full of the world around us — it’s loud, it’s claustrophobic, it’s visually saturated. And utterly familiar.

Of course Albarn and team aren’t the first to tackle Alice in Wonderland: before wonder.land came Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland and then there was Tim Burton’s wild ride of a film (cue: Johnny Depp) and there was Penguin’s polka dotted Yayoi Kusama beauty of a book and then there was Alice for the iPad that blew our digital minds open so wide we thought we’d never come out.

So maybe the real testimony here is the story itself: a story so good it calls out to be revisited and made familiar again and again and again. And maybe it’s okay if this Alice is more about gaming and social media than it is the traditional Lewis Carroll narrative. One thing’s for sure, Alice 2.0 makes for a fabulously wild ride.

(Anna is guest blogging for us this month covering delightful new storytelling projects that have caught her eye. Anna is a Special Projects Creative Director who knows a thing or two about making stories, be they digital, on paper or brickwork as Founder of Visual Editions and Creative Director of Editions At Play.)

The Pickle Index By Anna Gerber (Part 1)

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The Pickle Index is many things.

It’s a story about pickling and exchanging recipes and there’s also something about a circus. At least I think it is. What I do know for certain is The Pickle Index is completely ridiculous and also very ambitious and lives as both physical book-as-object and also crazy-digital-book-as-experience. You’ve got to love Eli Horowitz – carpenter turned McSweeneys Editorial Director turned wood cabin living entrepreneur – and Russell Quinn – digital powerhouse Englishman also living in the woods (I feel a theme coming on) – for having the chutzpah to dream up and make this book-cum-app-cum-recipe exchange at all.

The Pickle Index comes as a boxed edition with a fancy pants trick that lets you piece the two separate books together – lush large format illustrations become even more lush and larger when you place them alongside each other. Clever. There is abundant playfulness here, but there’s also something else: you are made aware, truly made aware, that this book is a physical object. So much so that it doesn’t really matter if this larger, more lush experience adds to our reading of the story because here we get to touch, feel, handle, have a play. And (to me at least) if you’re going to make an object (it can be any object, while we’re at it, it doesn’t even have to be a book) then you might as well make it something people want to spend time with and explore, sniff around its edges. You can even shoot high for permanence and make it a very beautiful keep-able object, which The Pickle Index certainly is (its makers tag it as ‘handsome’). 

The Pickle Index By Anna Gerber (Part 2)

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There’s more.

You also get to play with The Pickle Index as a downloadable, notification-able, serialisable app. They call it an immersive, exploratory experience, an app that takes you inside their pickling world; it’s the story told as a short serialised novel (a novel in ten days) or as a pickling recipe sharing app (no time frame here). Or both. Your choice. Either way, it’s very much a digital book that stays faithful to its form. Here is a world that couldn’t live any other way, it blends film together with a novel that is delivered to you daily:  you get news of each day’s “events” and even the option to collect recipes in your own “cookbook”. Recipes about pickling. Will you actually do this? Or read this? Probably not (I haven’t). But the thing is I do like knowing that if I wanted to, I could. And anyway it’s a nice nod to the ‘every story is told by author just as much as it is by reader’ literary bedrock.

Okay, so here’s something that keeps me up at night: why do we call this kind of project “Bold! Brave! Ambitious!” when the shifting sands of what makes a book is hardly new? Israelites used the scroll before the Romans invented the book as codex. This shift was mega, giving us pages (pages!) and a new reading of narrative. Movable type came a few thousand years later and made distribution possible through printing. And meant we could spread stories beyond the church. In came the paperback. (Thank you Penguin.) And the internet. (Thank you Tim Berners-Lee). And bam here we are in 2016 asking what kind of edge we need to call a book a book. Because every shifting sand needs an edge to work with. 

The Pickle Index has a lot of these edges. We have sentences. We have words. We have a story. Tick. We have an appreciation for craft and design and the book as object. Tick. We have fun and play, we even have a spoof Kinfolk YouTube video. Tick. And we have a digitally native experience, something you couldn’t have in the physical world. Tick. The only thing missing is a great story. But hey, maybe that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.

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