Category Archives: Design talk

Bruce Lee Rises Again in Johnnie Walker Ad, but He’s Not All There

It seems the legendary dead are making a comeback promoting brands and products. There was undead Audrey Hepburn promoting Mars-owned Galaxy chocolate, while Bob Monkhouse was resurrected to highlight the plight of prostate cancer. Revival effects were also used in the commercial for Dior J’Adore, which brought back to life yesteryear’s beauties alongside Charlize Theron. Even earlier than that, Volkswagen and DDB London recreated Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain” for a commercial. And now “The Big Boss” himself is expounding on his philosophy about how to be a game changer.

The campaign was created by ad agency BBH China for Johnnie Walker in the newest iteration of its “Keep Walking” campaign. Celebrating the people he dubs “Gamechangers,” Mr. Lee spouts gems of wisdom, and according to the marketer, himself embodies a gamechanger, way before his time.

The Mill worked on the visual effects to bring Lee back to life, and Joseph Kahn shot the film, which was created in collaboration with the legendary martial artist’s daughter, Shannon. Video footage was initially filmed with Bruce Lee lookalike Danny Chan in Hong Kong. That footage was later blended with a 3D CGI model of Lee based on interviews, films and photographs with the late star. Every shot of Lee’s face was painstakingly created using CGI, a process that took over nine months, due to the level of detail required.

Director Joseph Kahn says that his team tried their best to honor Lee’s spirit by consulting his family. “We got Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, to come aboard and we really picked her brain to make sure that everything was accurate from look to soul,” he says. “We wanted to be as respectful to the man and legend as we could.”

David Gianatasio points out what’s the real problem with this spot.

“Re-enter the dragon? Johnnie Walker and BBH resurrect Bruce Lee via CGI technology (and footage of lookalike actor Danny Chan) for this boring Chinese commercial. The spot, approved by Lee’s daughter Shannon, has proven predictably polarizing. Some critics trot out the old objection that showing dead stars in ads is in poor taste, while others claim the memory of Lee—a paragon of physical fitness and athleticism before his death 40 years ago this month, at age 32—is somehow tarnished by his doppelgänger pitching whisky.

The bigger problem is that the ad is dull, something its inspiration never was. Fake Lee walks around a Hong Kong balcony, runs a hand through some water in a pool and mouths lines like, “Dragons never die, because dragons draw power from water. Water. It’s like instincts … You cannot grasp hold of it. But let it flow and it has the power to change the world.” Dude, drop-kick the faux-losophy … you’re supposed to be Bruce Freakin’ Lee! The guy was a human CGI machine who routinely defied gravity with furiously elegant fighting moves he choreographed himself. How can you bring him back and not put him in motion—shirtless, freaky, fists-and-feet-flying motion!?

Heck, they should have shown CGI Bruce battling barehanded against Undead Audrey Hepburn – or at least something more groovy than what’s on display here. Far from being disrespectful, I believe a highly physical, even frenetic approach would have honored Lee and captured the essence of the man. Bruce Lee was a mischievous badass who reveled in his sensational stunts and brought a transcendent sense of subversive fun to his movies. His violent yet controlled release of kinetic energy forged his connection with audiences around the world. Flying through the air while screaming at the top of his lungs was his defining spiritual statement. Instead, the spirits brand pours us prattle about being a … “game changer”?! Bruce would have demanded such jargon expunged from his film scripts and employed his unshod feet to smack the silly screenwriters upside their heads.

Sadly, the ad fails because Lee is present in body—sort of—but not in spirit.”

Absolutely Absolut


The old maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t change it” holds true for Absolut vodka. Since 1980, the vodka manufacturer has been running essentially the same print advertising campaign where the ads in the campaign make sly reference to Absolut’s distinctive stubby neck and see-through label bottle with tongue-in-cheek variations to the two word tagline.

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Virtual Supermarketing in Korea


Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower seeds – One year since…

Ai Weiwei and his sunflower seeds. credit:

All the ceramic sunflower seeds were weighed in before the installation and must be weighed out again once the exhibition is over.

Autumn 2010 saw the Tate Modern unveiling the latest commission in The Unilever Series, Sunflower Seeds, by the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Born in 1957 in Beijing, China, where he lives and works, Ai has exhibited internationally, including recent solo shows at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and has contributed to many group exhibitions around the world, including at the São Paulo Biennial; Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany and Tate Liverpool, UK. Ai also founded the design company Fake Design and co-founded the China Art Archives and Warehouse in Beijing. His work is held in many major collections, including Tate Collection (Table and Pillar 2002).

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Channeling Ai Weiwei in Korea: Brendan McGetrick on Curating the Artist’s Democratic Vision at the Gwangju Design Biennale

Courtesy of Gwangju Design Biennale. "Athletic Body Design" - a mural by photographers Howard Schartz and Beverly Ornstein, is included in Gawngju's "Unnamed" category.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation appointed Seung H-Sang, a Korean architect, and Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and architectural designer, as co-directors of the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale. Eight curators and two designers have also been appointed for six major sections of the thematic exhibition. The 4th Gwangju Design Biennale is held at the Biennale Exhibition Hall and throughout the metropolitan city of Gwangju from September 2nd to October 23rd 2011.

Seung H-Sang completed Paju Book City project in Korea, and has gained international recognitions through projects like Guggenheim Pavilion in Abu Dhabi, Chao-Wei SOHO project in Beijing as well as Korea DMZ Peace-Life Valley, the graveyard of late former President Roh Moo-hyun and Commune by the Great Wall. He served as a commissioner of Korean Pavilion for Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008. He operates the architectural firm, Iroje, which he established in 1989.

Ai Weiwei is influential artist, curator, social commentator and activist. His ground-breaking work Sunflower Seeds was recently presented at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. The work consisted of 100 million porcelain seeds, each individually hand painted by 1,600 Chinese artisans. Ai’s work has been exhibited in the Venice Biennale, Documenta, the Guangzhou Triennial, the Biennale of Sydney among others. He served as creative consultant with the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & De Meuron for their “bird’s nest” Beijing Olympic Stadium project.

The theme of 4th Gwangju Design Biennale is Design is Design is not Design, and is divided into 6 different sections. The theme reinterpret the boundaries between design and non-design, and looks back and explain a variety of design concepts that determine the value of civilized society or are recognized as absolute accessories.

The exhibition theme, inspired by the first words in Tao Te Ching, 道德經 of Lao Tzu, 老子- ‘The way 道 that is the way is not always the way. The name 名 that is the name is not always the name.’, throws a complex question to the viewers with the interpretation of ‘design is design is not always design and non-design is non-design is not always non-design’.

Via ARTINFO, Janelle Zara sat down with writer, editor and curator Brendan McGetrick to discuss putting together the event without Ai Weiwei, the definition of design, and why this festival could only happen in the East.

“The beauty of being in Asia is that a concept like design is much less claustrophobic than in the West, where everyone has an idea of what design is.” Brendan McGetrick

GWANGJU, South Korea— “Svetlana Khorkina, Gymnast, 5’5″, 105 pounds.” This is a label written underneath a life-sized photo of the Russian Olympic gold-medalist, presented in a line of dozens of other athletes along the wall of a gallery at theGwangju Biennale exhibition hall in the city South Korea. Their bodies, all clad in generic black underwear, are short, tall, slender, and bulky, tailored specifically to their respective sports, with their daily exercise and diet regimens listed underneath. Read more…

Infographic: Animated video of the iPhone

From CNET UK comes this animated, infographic video charting the history of the iPhone. Spanning the technological bridge, the infographic video charts how the technological and design developments of the past few decades have influenced the look, feel and features of the different models of iPhone so far. If you want to know what connects the Walkman to Tim Berners-Lee to the NeXTcube, you’ve come to the right place.


WorldSkills London 2011 – Singapore Visual Merchandising

Team Singapore punches above its weight at WorldSkills 2011 by winning 14 medals

Team Singapore at the Opening Ceremony of WorldSkills London 2011, O2 Stadium. 2005 Albert Vidal prize winner Viridis Liew, second from right, escorts the team as it courses its way through the stadium.

With their WorldSkill Team Singapore mascot 'Skilleon' in their arms and waving their flags, the high-spirited competitors of Team Singapore was extremely difficult to miss!

With some 1,000 competitors all over the world competing in 46 WorldSkills international trade skills areas, Team Singapore delivered its most outstanding results to date by bagging 14 WorldSkills Competition medals – 4 Golds, 1 Silver, 2 Bronzes and 7 Medallions for Excellence. Dubbed as the ‘Olympics of Skills’, WorldSkills is a prestigious international biennial trade skills competition with countries sending their best and brightest to compete for honour and glory.

Team Singapore, comprising a record number of 22 competitors from the 5 polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), participated in an unprecedented 19 skills categories, rising above 50 countries at the 41st WorldSkills Competition held in London this year, by finishing in sixth place.

Singapore maintained its unbroken run of Gold Medals at WorldSkills Competition in the nation’s strong events – IT Network Systems Administration (formerly IT-PC & Network Support) and Caring skills categories. Despite being one of the youngest competitors of Team Singapore, Mr Sim Mong Khim, Jared, bagged Singapore‟s sixth straight victory in the IT Network Systems Administration skills category since its debut year in 2001. Ms Li Kaiyun, Jaslyn, and Ms Rachel Chloe Chua also kept Singapore’s winning streak in Caring (Team event) since its inception in 2007, with Golds in 2011, 2009 and 2007. The Best of Nation Award, an accolade for a country’s best performer/s was also awarded to Jaslyn and Rachel; competitors from Nanyang Polytechnic.

Ms Chow Wai Kuan also did Singapore and her institution, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, proud by clinching a Gold Medal in the IT Software Solutions for Business skills category after the four-day competition.

Other firsts in Team Singapore’s results at WorldSkills London 2011: Ms Loh Yi Qi, from Nanyang Polytechnic, excelled in Visual Merchandising, a creatively demanding new skills area unveiled in this installment of WSC, by scoring a Bronze Medal as well. Republic Polytechnic’s first participation in the national contingent has been rewarded with a Bronze Medal through competitor Mr Chan Jun Wei, William, in the Information Network Cabling skills category.

Well done Team Singapore!

Sagmeister and the Making of “Here For Good”

Creative Advertising 2010

Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Design, in an initiative with the Institute of Advertising Singapore (IAS)  saw 7 of Singapore’s top Creative Directors presenting their advertising work to 800 students and academic professionals. Held on April 21 at  Nanyang Polytechnic’s auditorium, the event saw the likes of the Republic’s top creatives like Ali Shabaz- Chief Creative Officer, Grey Worldwide; Calvin Soh – Publicis Asia Vice-Chairman, Chief Creative Officer-Asia; Ajay Vikram  – Executive Creative Director, Publicis; Alex Lim – Creative Director, Publicis Singapore; Pann  Lim  – Creative Director, Kinetic; Sean Lam – Creative Director, Plate Interactive and Chris Lee – Creative Director, Asylum.

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The Pacific – Intro | Opening Credits | Director’s Cut

Directed by Steve Fuller who commented that this was the animatic that got his design company the HBO job.

President’s Design Award Winners – Singapore

Now in its 4th year, the President’s Design Award confers Singapore’s highest accolade on its top designers and designs across all design disciplines. Singapore designers and designs that are truly innovative and have improved the quality of life and enhanced human potential and national competitiveness are conferred the award through a process of public nomination and an international jury evaluation. This year’s President’s Design Award features 4 Designers of the Year and 7 Design of the Year Award recipients.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 20

Bruce Nussbaum is contributing editor to BusinessWeek. Previously assistant managing editor in charge of BusinessWeek’s innovation and design coverage, he was named one of the 40 most powerful people in design by I.D. Magazine in 2005.

“I was over at the President of Singapore’s residence last night to watch him personally give four Designer of the Year awards. Boy, are they promoting Design in Singapore!

The winners of this year’s Designer of the Year are:

Tham Khai Meng

Tham Khai Meng, the Worldwide Creative Director of Olgivy & Mather, New York.

Chris Lee

Chris Lee, founder of Asylum Creative (I had lunch with him and he’s great talent. Lee also spoke in Mandarin to his dad when he accepted the award—the only person in the evening to do so)

Koichiro Ikebuchi

Koichiro Ikebuchi, director of Atelier Ikebuchi

Look Boon Gee

Look Boon Gee, managing director of LOOK Architects

The US equivalent is to have the annual winners of the National Design Awards go the White House and be thanked by the President’s wife. So the message in the US is, what? Women know design and real men aren’t interested?”


Full List of Award Recipients for 2009 Designer of the Year

Koichiro Ikebuchi – Director, Atelier Ikebuchi Pte Ltd

Chris Lee – Founder and Creative Director, Asylum Creative Pte Ltd

Look Boon Gee – Managing Director, LOOK Architects Pte Ltd

Tham Kai Meng – Worldwide Creative Director, Ogilvy and Mather

Design of the Year

Genexis Theatre, Fusionopolis – Arup and WOHA

Henderson Waves – RSP Architects Planners and Engineers (Pte) Ltd

Paper Fold – Exit Design

Republic Polytechnic – DP Architects in association with Maki & Associates

The Met (Bangkok) – WOHA

Urband Origami – Nanyang Optical Co Pte Ltd

X-halo Breath Thermometer – Philips Design

THINKINGOUTTABOX congratulates the winners of the President’s Design Awards 2009!

What promises can your consumer experience make?

By Steve McCallions

“I promise.” It’s a simple statement. One uttered by children trying to convince their parents that they will be good, by husband and wife on their wedding day (and every week on trash day). A promise builds a strong emotional connection between two people. They are simple words, but when spoken from the heart (and delivered on), they form the foundation for meaningful relationships–and consumer experiences.

Meaningful consumer experiences are based on a relationship between brands and people. By clearly promising something to people that is authentic and relevant, brands can increase the value of their products and services and connect on an emotional level.

Companies that deliver great consumer experiences understand the importance of a promise. Beyond a communication device, a good promise defines what a brand is willing to do for its customers and delivers on that through a series of artifacts. A good promise is simple and clear. It’s relevant to people, but if it’s only relevant it remains empty.

As we wind down the age of overabundance, people are exhausted by empty promises. An effective promise must also be an authentic expression of the brand–something that a company cares deeply and passionately about. A promise built on relevancy and authenticity forms the foundation of a relationship built on trust. Today, people are looking for that.


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Demystifying Design: An Argument for Simplicity

By Joe Duffy

Principal and chairman of Duffy & Partners, Joe Duffy is one of the most respected and sought after creative directors and thought leaders on branding and design in the world.

Joe’s work includes brand and corporate identity development for some of the world’s most admired brands, from Aveda to Coca-Cola to Sony to Jack in the Box to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. His work is regularly featured in leading marketing and design publications and exhibited around the world.

In 2004, Joe received the Medal from the AIGA for a lifetime of achievement in the field of visual communications. His first book–Brand Apart–was released in July 2005 and in 2006, he was recognized as one of the “Fast 50″ most influential people in the future of business by Fast Company.

What is design?

What is design? It’s art and commerce, fashion and environment. It’s industrial and digital, graphic and experiential.

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When great design becomes its own language

By Joe Duffy

Principal and chairman of Duffy & Partners, Joe Duffy is one of the most respected and sought after creative directors and thought leaders on branding and design in the world.

Joe’s work includes brand and corporate identity development for some of the world’s most admired brands, from Aveda to Coca-Cola to Sony to Jack in the Box to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. His work is regularly featured in leading marketing and design publications and exhibited around the world.

In 2004, Joe received the Medal from the AIGA for a lifetime of achievement in the field of visual communications. His first book–Brand Apart–was released in July 2005 and in 2006, he was recognized as one of the “Fast 50″ most influential people in the future of business by Fast Company.

Joe Duffy

Joe Duffy

Learning languages

I’ve never been very good at learning a language.

I was terrible in high school Spanish and couldn’t grasp it at all until I started traveling to Mexico and had to learn at least enough to get by or starve. I tried to take up French some years back when I was working on a project in Paris and could barely retain enough to order in a restaurant or ask for directions on the street.

I’ve been going to China every year for the past ten and I can hardly get beyond “hi”, “how are you”, “goodbye” and “thanks.” Learning languages and how to play the piano are my biggest failings in life. Oh well, there’s still time, some day…


Making up new languages

On the other hand, I am quite good when it comes to making up new languages–if I do say so myself.

Every new brand design project we take on requires that our entire team master the art of visual and verbal linguistics. If you think of any successful brand, you will no doubt know what I mean.

The brands that have been designed in the best possible ways have their own proprietary language that tells their story, sets them apart from all the brands they compete with, and connects them in a very meaningful way to their audience.

The basic elements of a brand’s visual language–type, color, photographic/illustration style and layout also establish a filter for making decisions on how to best “speak” from the heart.

If all the basics are in sync, it will make choices like story, set design, talent, wardrobe, physical space, dialog and tone of voice easy to make.

It’s really no different than being true to yourself when you speak to others about how you really feel or most importantly, who you really are. It’s also the key to creating the world that surrounds you in a one-off, true to you kind of way. You already know the real you, from where you came, what got you here and what you stand for.

These basics are the filter for designing your own language that sets you apart from everyone else. We all know the people who are most successful at this, as well as the brands that have been designed in a unique and meaningful way.

I can think of no better example of combining these two examples of originality–brand/person–in one piece of brand communication than this now somewhat old positioning spot from Apple that coincided with Steve Jobs retaking the helm and Chiat\Day’s brilliant new phase of work with him.

For my money, there has never been any brand that has so beautifully mastered the art of creating its own distinct language in everything they do.

Apple iPod + iTunes Commercials

Apple’s reputation of releasing critically acclaimed advertisements may be said to have started way back in 1984. That was the year they launched the Macintosh personal computer with the TV commercial masterpiece “1984”  directed by acclaimed film director Ridley Scott. Since then, the company has always enjoyed tremendous success when it comes to their marketing – their cool TV ads were distinctive, having a consistent style that differed from their other ads.

Apple TV ads are obviously all about branding, but how they became iconic is the message that is sent out “Whoever you are, we know you are special”.

Diego Massanti, a musician from Argentina has an archive of Apple Ipod and iTunes videos on his blog… check it out!


David Hanson: Robots that “show emotion”

About this talk

David Hanson’s robot faces look and act like yours: They recognize and respond to emotion, and make expressions of their own. Here, an “emotional” live demo of the Einstein robot offers a peek at a future where robots truly mimic humans.

About David Hanson

David Hanson merges robotics and art to design life-like, social robots that can mimic human expression and emotion. Hanson is the founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics — a company that aims to create robots as socially adept as any human being. Through his organization, he has seen the success of robotic facial hardware that establishes eye contact, recognizes faces and carries out natural spoken conversation. Hanson hopes these robotic faces prove useful to cognitive science and psychology, and to the entertainment industry. 

A former Walt Disney Imagineer, this young entrepreneur and roboticist has been labelled a “genius” by both PC Magazine and WIRED, and has earned awards from NASA, NSF and Cooper Hewitt Design. If Hanson succeeds, he will create a socially intelligent robot that may even one day have a place in the human family.

“This moment is the Kitty Hawk of androids. We’re seeing the arrival of conversational robots that can walk in our world. It’s a golden age of invention.”

David Hanson, in TIME

David Hoffman shares his Sputnik mania

About this talk

Filmmaker David Hoffman shares footage from his feature-length documentary Sputnik Mania, which shows how the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to both the space race and the arms race — and jump-started science and math education around the world.

About David Hoffman

In David Hoffman’s long film career, he’s made documentaries on everything from Amelia Earhardt to B.B. King, from double-dutch jump-roping to F-15 fighter pilots.

Lately, he has become fascinated with the Atomic-era Space Race, turning out a feature-length documentary about the Sputnik era. Sputnik Mania was scored by Thomas Dolby and has played at festivals and theaters around the country.

Documentary filmmaker David Hoffman has been capturing reality for almost 4 decades, following his wide-ranging interests and turning them into films for PBS, The Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic. Highlights from his career include the groundbreaking experimental doc King, Murray, which blurred boundaries between truth and fiction as it tracks its subject through a debauched weekend in Las Vegas; A Day With Filmmaker Timmy Page, about a 12-year-old auteur; and his series of films on American indigenous music.

Hoffman suffered a devastating setback in early 2008 when, nine days before TED2008, his home, containing a vast archive from his long and fascinating career, burnt to the ground. His next project: to reframe his life and rebuild.

“I have often tried to understand how David does what he does. After observation, it becomes glaringly simple. He listens! I mean; he really listens, to people and situations.”

Alberto Aquino Alejandro, co-founder, Helio Solut

David Carson on design + discovery

About this talk

Great design is a never-ending journey of discovery — for which it helps to pack a healthy sense of humor. Sociologist and surfer-turned-designer David Carson walks through a gorgeous (and often quite funny) slide deck of his work and found images.

About David Carson

David Carson is the “grunge typographer” whose magazine Ray Gun helped explode the possibilities of text on a page.

David Carson’s boundary-breaking typography in the 1990s, in Ray Gun magazine and other pop-cult books, ushered in a new vision of type and page design — quite simply, breaking the traditional mold of type on a page and demanding fresh eyes from the reader. Squishing, smashing, slanting and enchanting the words on a layout, Carson made the point, over and over, that letters on a page are art. You can see the repercussions of his work to this day, on a million Flash intro pages (and probably just as many skateboards and T-shirts).

His first book, with Lewis Blackwell and a foreword by David Byrne, is The End of Print, and he’s written or collaborated on several others, including the magisterial Book of Probes, an exploration of the thinking of Marshall McLuhan. His latest book is Trek, a collection of his recent work.

Alison Jackson looks at celebrity

About this talk

By making photographs that seem to show our favorite celebs (Diana, Elton John) doing what we really, secretly, want to see them doing, Alison Jackson explores our desire to get personal with celebs. Contains graphic images.

About Alison Jackson

Why can’t you make it through the checkout line without flipping through page after page of pregnant celebs in Us magazine? Alison Jackson knows why.

Recognizing the deep-seated need of the world public to see the Queen mum seated at the toilet, Elton John getting a colonic, and Keith Richards ironing his knickers, Alison Jackson set out to create the images that we really want paparazzi to capture. Armed with cheap photographic equipment, celebrity look-alikes, and a canny sense of what we think people are doing when we’re not looking, she creates images that are equal parts belly laughs and pure scandal.

Jackson’s newest book, Alison Jackson: Confidential features over 300 of her images in outrageous succession. She is also the auteur behind the popular BBC series “Double Take,” which focuses on the (fake) outrageous behavior of dozens of popular British political, entertainment, and sports figures. Her biggest frustration is the penchant of her doppelgangers’ real life subjects to take on behavior more outrageous than her photographs.

“She fearlessly tugs away at the curtain that separates what we assume we know and what we really know about our icons and movers-and-shakers, and the result is stunning”

Sharon Steel, The Phoenix


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