I love Mad Men. We all love Mad Men, right? The high stress of coming up with the perfect idea, pitching, building client relationships over an old fashioned, or eight. Unfortunately, the age of Men in non-ironic fedoras is over and so is the way of the print and television dominated industry. This is not an essay about that well trod subject. This is about structure.
The mid-century model was Copy, Art, Accounts, usually siloed in that order. A beautiful, perfect “idea” had a powerful transformative property that hook the consume propelled commercial art into the vaunted halls of the fine arts (as if there were any real historic difference).
This philosophy of a conceptual force that drives work is as appealing now as it was in the eras of the Salon. What has changed is how that finished work manifests and who creates it.
French painters like Jacques-Louis David were the eighteenth century superstars in the dominant form of academic art, historical painting. What does this have to do with advertising? Broad cultural appeal and reach. Panting salons and expositions were a little like the mid-twentieth century version of the cinema. Everyone who could go, went. Art had the power to move people through beauty and symbology.
The art of this period was a product of the time it was created in, time shaped by technology. The industrial revolution rapidly changed European society from what still looked mostly feudal to something resembling what we’re accustomed to today. The middle class rose, became increasingly literate and secular. Classic historical and mythological texts were taught in schools. There was a shared cultural base and a fair amount of longing to get back to a more rustic bucolic past. Art responded as art does, and one form became dominant for, in the modern sense, a long time. It may have remained static for a lot longer if not for this.
Technology changed everything again. The camera introduced new ways to look at the world, shape, light and time. New pigments in tubes allowed painting to move out doors. We began to cycle through new forms of painting; Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism.
As we crossed over into the twentieth century this change became more and more rapid as artists responded to world-wide war, depression, disease, and war again with; Expressionism, Futurism and Dada.
Until we get to the mid-century, the time of Mad Men. Painting has lost much of the popular appeal and connection with the population. Technology changes how people connect and are entertained. We move away from social spaces and into the theater and around the radio. Which brings us to the age of art for commerce, the age of advertising. We are a nation of readers and listeners. Television is still in its infancy.
There is great power in the combination of art and copy to tell a story, and evoke an emotion.
This is my favorite part about Mad Men.
Technology changed us. The world has changed us. We do not read in the same way we once did. We don’t look at stories, watch television or sit through movies in the same way. Interactivity (broadly speaking) is the new camera, the telephone, radio and television. We have become connoisseurs of UI.
Some of the old forms persist, but are used and treated differently.
The same should be said for advertising. A new model:
let’s unpack that a little.
Creative still provides that hook - the idea that makes us interested. Art is part of it, so is copy. The two have been together so long.
Technology is the new literacy and programming the new writing. We live in a world permeated by software, it’s inevitable that we adapt to it. There is still some distinction between Design and Technology - but it’s blurry even now.
Strategy looks holistically at how the agency works with brands to connect with their customers. It’s about building public and private relationships that take in account the changing work environment and technical landscape. Strategy brings it all together.
Building a better watch part 5
A shell is the outer UI layer between the user and the operating system’s functions and services (the kernel).
“An affordance is a quality of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling.”- wiki
(Side note: for more on affordances and the idea of user centric design, read Donald Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things.” )
Shell UI depend on affordances to convey function, purpose and action. The two work together. For example, the little pagination dots that often appear on iOS are a piece of the operating system’s shell UI. Having them light up when you swipe between “pages” is an affordance that implies additional content. Here’s a few examples of Shell UI and affordances for the iPhone.
Shell watch concept: Timeline
Our hypothetical watch has a wrap around screen that maximizes the available pixels and allows for the idea of front and back, present and potential, or past.
Most of the day the watch functions as a watch with timely content (events, email, messages) pushed to the front. Flip your wrist and get a wrap around menu of available apps, with one in focus at the center. Tap or swipe up to push it to the front of the watch, displacing the default clock mode.
Rather than relying on sound to convey action, weak electric pulses emanating from the inside of the band make it feel like content is moving across the device and buzz or pulse for alerts.
For the next few weeks I’m exploring what I would like to see (and what should be achievable) in a smart watch, from technology to input and interface.
A bit about me:
For the past 12 years I’ve worked as an interactive and experience designer creating a wide range of work: websites, mobile apps, museum experiences, installations. I think in drawings.