Category Archives: Creativity

The ‘UP’ Film Series

up SeriesI first discovered this documentary series in 1985 when 28 Up was released in the US. I had never heard of the film but a friend who was working in the industry suggested we see it.

The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television and originally broadcast on the BBC that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. So far the documentary has had nine episodes spanning 56 years (one episode every seven years). The series topped the list of The 50 Greatest Documentaries. The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child’s social class predetermines their future. Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, The UP Series has explored the Jesuit maxim, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives.man

JackieSueLynnIt is surprising that only two people have dropped out of the project and one person has died. One gets the impression that the remaining group’s participation is motivated by a mixture of sanguine acceptance, pride and a sense of duty to the project. The group was not meant to represent an entire cross-section of society; Mr. Apted hastily and arbitrarily chose the children from among schools he contacted at the time. There was no intention to continue the project as a series. In retrospect, Mr. Apted regrets the shortsightedness of his decisions, especially the gender imbalance of having only four women. composite

An astonishing, unforgettable look at the structure of life in the 20th century, The UP Series is, according to critic Roger Ebert, “an inspired, almost noble use of the film medium. Apted penetrates to the central mystery of life.” The latest installment, 63 Up, premieres in theaters this week and previous episodes are available on DVD. Rush to see it and binge watch the previous films.

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Book Review: Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen

Archetypes_Cover

I discovered this book at a weekend design seminar in San Diego last year. The moment I picked it up I knew I had struck gold. Any creative working on branding of any kind should have this valuable resource at their side.
Steeped in the psychological theories of Carl Jung, Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen uses a highly participatory approach to brand development, and combines a companion deck of sixty original archetype cards, in a kit that gives you the tools you need to:

• Reveal your brand’s motivations, how it moves in the world, what its trigger points are and why it attracts certain customers
• Forge relationships with the myriad stakeholders that affect your business
• Empower your team to access their creativity and innovate with integrity

Applying archetypes helps bridge the gap between the cognitive and intuitive sides of the brain and between internal and external business objectives. Archetypes in Branding takes you through a fascinating exploration of the important role archetypes have played in mythology and psychology—and now in business—to resolve brand inconsistencies and enhance trust with all stakeholders.

Author John Howard-Spink defines an archetype as “A universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender and age. It represents an eternal truth.” This is why George Lucas, when writing the original Star Wars trilogy, consulted with Joseph Campbell, author of the classic work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, to understand the archetypal characters found in mythic stories. So how does this apply to a brand, say, a household cleaner? You may want to position your product as the hero fighting against dirt and germs, the innocent promising a return to the simple life, or the caregiver nurturing and protecting your family. Each archetype resonates with the customer who identifies with the emotions they elicit.

Unlike many pop psych/marketing books on archetypes, this book provides more comprehensive analyses. It goes beyond the commonly used 12 archetypes to detail dozens of sub-archetypes, which opens up new possibilities for creativity. The book itself is beautifully designed and a pleasure to read. For anyone looking for a way to think about their brand as a story, this book offers great insight and practical application.

Find out more at: archetypesinbranding.com

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Don Blanding, An Artist Turned ‘Vagabond’ Poet

Vagabond's House 2I’m willing to bet most people have never heard of Don Blanding—the early 20th century poet who illustrated his own work with elaborate pen-and-ink drawings—but I grew up in a household filled with Blanding’s books, prints, and snippets of his verse running through my head. My dad was a fan from my earliest memory and spoke of the poet’s richly woven tableaux as if the places he wrote of might actually exist in the real world and not just in the imagination. All Blanding’s poetry depict highly romantic and idealized locales—South Sea islands awash in color, the scent of jasmine in the air; jungle temples choked in vines and brimming with treasure; Oriental ports-of-call populated with mysterious characters in exotic dress, much in the tradition of Rudyard Kipling and W. Somerset Maugham.

Blanding portrait 2Unlike many modern artists and writers who spend considerable time cultivating a public persona to enhance their image, Blanding never had to invent or embellish his “street cred” as a bohemian world traveler. Serving in two world wars, traveling to Europe, Central America, and throughout the United States, he tasted the life he captured in verse.

Donald Benson Blanding was born in 1894 in the Oklahoma territory. After graduating from high school in 1912 he spent two years at the Art Institute of Chicago studying art with the plans of becoming a commercial artist, what today might be called a graphic designer. He earned his way partly by teaching drawing and working as a theater usher. In 1916 after seeing a play called Bird of Paradise he was so enchanted by its depiction of Hawaii that he left for the islands a month later, arriving in Hawaii “with five dollars in his pocket.”

Hula MoonsIt was in Honolulu that he landed his first job as a commercial artist, working as a cartoonist and spot illustrator for a local newspaper, and painting portraits on the side. He returned to the mainland the next year and served a short stint in the army. Blanding traveled to Europe in 1919 to study art in Paris and London but his love of Hawaii lured him back to the islands in 1921 where he got a job working at an advertising agency. At one point he was given a temporary assignment as a copywriter, which led to a weekly column in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. To differentiate himself he wrote his copy in rhyme and over the next two years his writings became so popular that the editors suggested he compile his work into a book and in 1923 he published Leaves From a Grass House. After two additional books he submitted a collection of poems, complete with his own pen-and-ink illustrations, to New York publisher Dodd, Mead & Co. who in 1928 released his book titled Vagabond’s House. The book met with immediate success and became Blanding’s most famous work. By 1948 it went into its 48th edition, selling more than 150,000 copies. His long poem “Vagabond’s House,” for which the book is named, is about an imaginary retreat filled with exotic mementos collected from years of traveling the world’s back streets and seaports.Blanding Samples

In subsequent years Blanding wrote over a dozen more books of poetry, all illustrated in his signature style and all dealing with the themes ofBlanding signing adventure, travel, and wanderlust. He toured and lectured extensively throughout his career and appeared on radio and television programs. Despite living for lengths of time on the mainland, he always returned to his beloved Hawaiian Islands and is often called the poet laureate of Hawaii. In 1927, he suggested and founded Hawaii’s annual holiday, Lei Day, on May 1st.

art deco-art nouveauTo a modern audience his illustrations may appear quaint and outdated but one must keep in mind that his artistic style is rooted in the art nouveau and art déco traditions of his era, like the examples pictured to the left. Blanding was a classically trained artist who became a master of blending art nouveau’s sinuous lines and plant forms with art deco’s bold and geometric motifs.

studioMany would consider Blanding’s poetry excessively sentimental. Literary academics of the time characterized him as a poet in the “popular genre,” a derisive term meaning that he wrote poems that appealed to the tastes of the general public rather than highbrow society — a way to distinguish between a hack, who turns out fluff for popular consumption, and poets of true talent such as his contemporaries Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams—much like one would compare J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis to J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. Point taken, but to that I say, sometimes I like Masterpiece Theater and sometimes I like Desperate Housewives.

my collectionHis books can still be found at second-hand bookshops. Blanding’s poems and artwork still exercise their charms over me, even after all these years; they possess the ability to transport my inner vagabond to those imaginary, extraordinary places.

Some Lines Scrawled on the Door of Vagabond’s House
by Don Blanding

West of the sunset stands my house,
There…and east of the dawn;
North to the Arctic runs my yard;
South to the pole, my lawn;
Seven seas are to sail my ships
To the ends of the earth…beyond;
Drifters’ gold is for me to spend
For I am a vagabond.

Fabulous cities are mine to loot;
Queens of the earth to wed;
Fruits of the world are mine to eat;
The couch of a king, my bed;
All that I see is mine to keep;
Foolish, the fancy seems
But I am rich with the wealth of Sight,
The coin of the realm of dreams.

To read Don Blanding’s long poem Vagabond’s House click here.

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