event, lecture/discussion

Kate Moross Lecture, with a side of Wes Anderson

Went to this talk last night. Many times I'm just riddled with jealousy in going to these things because people are doing, making, saying, thinking the most interesting things. And they have others surrounding and inspiring them, collaborating.

Moross is young but ambitious. What I like most about her is her willingness to try anything, even though she may not know how to do it. She says "yes" to experimentation and has the confidence to convince others to give her a try. It's refreshing to see that.

What I've grown to loathe about the "corporate world" (in terms of graphic design) is the lack of experimentation. It's maddening to me to think that as a designer, you are supposed to have a set style and look and feel. What fun is that? I understand the importance of branding yourself and creating a nichė market, but that's not for me. I crave change and pushing boundaries and testing what you can get away with. This is the type of mentality that Moross also seems to possess, so I felt a kindred spirit with her.

At some point in her talk, Moross discusses her transition into working in film, more specifically music videos. And she said something that really rang true for me: "I never really understood why there's so much story-telling in music videos that has nothing to do with the type of music presented. To me, I try to artistically convey what the musician wants to communicate and how their music feels, visually." Now that's paraphrased of course, but I really appreciated why she said this. I often think similarly and wish that music videos just spoke for the music itself rather than distracting the audience with a story. That's not to say that there aren't beautifully successful music videos, but I think the best ones out there accurately reflect the musician's or the band's emotional response.

I mention Wes Anderson because when Moross commented on using film to visually represent rather than to tell a story, I thought of "Grand Budapest Hotel". Now, in the recent conversations I've had with friends about Anderson's latest release, we've all seemed to come to the same conclusion: the film was exquisitely shot and beautifully saturated with color, but the plot was yet to be desired. I couldn't help but wonder that if Anderson focused less on the narrative, and more about the visual, he might make an amazing music video director, or a director who works with films not containing much dialogue at all. I would love, love love to see him do this and I hope that he does.

The last point I'll acknowledge is about the final thought Moross left us with: "Don't be lazy". She said it so casually, but with a juvenile energy that could have only been spoken by someone not jaded by rejection or defeated by inhibition. Sigh. So simple, so right.


Jonah Berger's, "Contagious–Why Things Catch On"

The other day at work, and somehow, we hosted a discussion with author Jonah Berger and his new book, Contagious–Why Things Catch On.

All employees received an email briefly highlighting the accomplishments of Mr. Berger, everything from his latest work (a New York Times bestseller) to being a professor for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. I didn't know anything about him or his book but I figured it was an hour and a half out of the work day for me so why not.

He was the best presenter I've seen in quite some time: engaging, witty, thought-provoking. Turns out his new novel is about marketing/advertising, but not in the traditional sense. He seemed to present more the psychological aspect of the business, not necessary the numbers and the statistics. Berger argues that good advertising and marketing tells stories because people want stories, something emotional to relate to on a personal level. This delighted me, seeing that my own, personal design philosophy gravitates towards the emotional allure that design can have. It made me hopeful that maybe I have some of the right ideas that I can use in some better-suited career down the line. I find myself becoming more and more interested in using design to provide opportunities for its audience to reconnect and engage. I'm trying to figure out if, for me, that means more of an advertorial track (in a non-traditional sense) or what.

Aside from investing a personal interest in Berger's talk, I was particularly interested in how his advice could apply to my job. Being that I work at a newspaper, we make most of our money through advertising. There's countless arguments for why print is dead, particularly newspapers. And yeah, sure, I get it. But I hate when people say it; I wish instead their argument would be, "Print is dead–in the way that we know it." The difference being that one embraces technology and asks how it can either support print or how the two can marry to provide a complete product. I see so much potential, both from an advertising and marketing standpoint for these two platforms to complement each other.

One point that Berger made during his discussion was the idea of putting a "peanut butter with your jelly." He says that when seeing the phrase, "______________ and jelly", peoples' minds immediately pair the two together. Berger argues that the same has to be true for any audience. Give them a piece that automatically conjures up imagery/thoughts of the other.

To me, newspapers should also work this way. Newspapers should not be synonymous with print only, and yes,  I do think that if the newspaper industry is going to survive, it has to embrace a digital platform that complements its print counterpart, not replace it.