That Sound You Associate With Brands? It Actually Has A Name: Earcon

Design comes in all shapes and sizes. In everyday life we interact, and react to visuals, interfaces and even touch and smells. But what about sounds? Earcons, or sonic branding is an often overlooked part of an experience, yet each one of us associates certain sounds with brands, events or actions.
Leveraging senses is a key way for psychological recall and in a world of “noise,” designers need a way to identify and alert beyond just visual queues.
Lost? earcons are everywhere. From the iconic Windows startup sound to the omnipresent “iPhone typing” clicks, sonic branding remains an important element of interaction, design, and branding.

Why It’s Hot
Brands have the opportunity to take their branding to another level with earcons. As seen with NBC, Netflix and T-Mobile, an earcon can cut through and identify a brand even if you don’t see it visually. This use of the senses works to leverage human psychology to not only increase recall but lead to affinity and familiarity.
We know that onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like the very thing it’s describing (  hiss, buzz). So whats the equivalent in sound design? That would be Skeuomorphism –  the design concept of making sounds resemble their real-world counterparts. ( think “recycle” sound!)

Play music on your Oreos

Oreo is a popular snack around the world, but is apparently not so popular with Chinese teenagers. A media and creative arts team at Dimension Plus (agency based in Taipei and Hong Kong), combined Oreo cookies with something most teens love: music.

The result was ‘Oreo Vinyl’, tiny cookies embossed with miniature grooves that play music just like a vinyl record. These cookies are housed inside a cardboard pack, with each cookie playing the “Oreo Anthem” in a different musical style. The project actively involved teens by getting participants at the Strawberry Music Festival, a popular youth event held in Shanghai, to compose each of the different songs.

The grooves on the cookies were made with laser cutting and engraving machines. The cookies can then be played with the Oreo Vinyl Record Player contained in each pack.

Why it’s hot:

Oreo found a way to directly connect with their target audience both in the creation of this concept and in its deployment. This is an innovation that is both unexpected and functional that is sure to increase audience engagement with the brand.

Twitter leaves its nest

Twitter has changed (again). It seems as though with every recent interface update, Twitter glided away from its original path. First, the favorite star was replaced by a heart, then the egg avatar was cracked and abandoned, only to be replaced by a generic profile icon and now literally everything else has changed! There’s no more perch on the birdhouse for the bird to sit on, the quill has completely vanished, and the reply is a generic speech bubble.


Why it’s hot:
Twitter’s interface was intriguing because it was different. But change is inevitable and supposedly the new interface is meant to drive more user interaction by making it easier to use. But is it really easier? Or are things just now unnecessarily bolded, rounded, and strangely thin? Has Twitter completely destroyed it’s nesting ground or is this just a migration towards something better?

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the new layout – I feel as though they’re telling me to get my eyes checked because of all the unnecessary bolding going on. But I guess that’s the least of my worries when there’s an orange man with very tiny hands who thinks his 140 character Tweets about “alternative facts” are life changing.


Ford Made a Crib That Simulates a Car Ride, So Babies Everywhere Can Finally Drift Off

Ford Spain has made a mind-blowing futuristic baby crib that lets you record your baby’s favorite sleepytime car ride and simulate it, complete with engine noise, at home—so your baby can fall asleep without having to take a drive every night.

The Max Motor Dreams baby crib is a unique way to advertise the Ford Max family car range. The bed comes with wood panel accents (recalling the Woodie station wagons that were the preferred family vehicle of the past), “restrained” engine noise machine, a LED streetlight simulator, and soft movement.

Although Ford has made only one prototype so far, it’s willing to put it into production if demand is high enough. If parents head over to the website and put their number in under ¿Quieres una para tu familia? (Do you want one for your family?). They claim you can resister for a test drive.

See video! 

Why it’s hot:

The fact that Ford decided to take on this project shows how much they care about their customers. They’re willing to invent beyond cars to make our lives better wherever we are. Also – with all of the car commercials of babies falling asleep in cars – I am surprised it took someone this long to come up with this!

Source: ADWEEK

strategy = only the right stuff…

image credit: martin dyhouse

Strategy is about choices, but mindful choices.

Doing everything is doing nothing, as the story goes.

The brilliant and legendary creative Dave Trott recently wrote a blog post relaying an anecdote from World War II that illustrates this idea that strategy is about choosing what to strip away (or to avoid) to create something truly powerful.

Why It’s Hot: 

As we build things, we should keep in mind above all – what does this ad, product, site, app, experience need to do. If something doesn’t need to be part of the thing in order for it to do what it needs to do better than any other thing, we don’t need it. Conversely, if it’s going to strengthen the effect of the thing, that’s what we need to do.

Facebook’s fonts join the rest of the human race

Facebook users are self reporting, throughout the network that their fonts are changing.

One Web forum user guesses:

“They might be doing what Medium do which is have a CSS font-family stack that covers multiple platforms so the platforms native font is used to give a native feel.

So on Macs it’s San Francisco, Android it’s Roboto, Windows is Segoe UI etc.”

Why it’s hot:

This is how most sites broadcast content online. All we hear from our clients is how they wish they could customize FB fonts, but what FB needed to do is be flexible and customize for its users.


Now is the most exhilarating time to be a circle

The future of design is circular. IDEO has created a new guide for designers that encourages them to create products that stay in closed loops and business models that discourage waste.

Designers are traditionally part of the linear economy—creating products from raw materials that would eventually end up in a landfill. But they’re beginning to consider the entire system and design products with materials that can be used in closed loops.

Why its HOT:

IDEO tends to be on the forefront of design and methods of applying it to develop new products and services. There is some merit to thinking about ways in which you can reduce waste while also keeping users using your product or service over time without needing to search for something new. For instance, when Philips designed its light-as-a-service model, it created custom light fixtures with components that can be individually replaced, saving material and making the lights last as much as 75% longer.

“Effective circular design looks beyond a single product lifecycle for a single user, to designing a bigger system—one that creates more value by enabling multiple usages and users of that material.” – Chris Grantham

IKEA Makes Itself Part of a Longer-Lasting Solution for Syrian Refugees



IKEA, long known for its defining slogan “Swedish for common sense,” might be better defined as “Swedish for change.” The brand is often the first place Westerners turn to in times of change: moving out for the first time, the start of a new relationship, the ending of a relationship, moving to a new city, downsizing, etc. These life events usually come with a trip to IKEA. It makes complete sense then that a brand so intertwined with change would be part of the solution for Syrian refugees and others in finding shelter for hundreds of thousands of displaced persons around the world.

The Swedish-designed refugee shelter project is the brainchild of Johan Karlsson, and industrial designer based in Hallefors, Sweden. After doing some volunteer work with Sweden’s Refugee Services abroad in 2010, Karlsson noticed how poorly designed many refugee shelters were. In addition to being cramped, lightless, damp living environments, the shelters easily blew over, flooded and fell apart. Karlsson recognized the need for an economical, lightweight and simple design solution. He took an idea for a new concept of shelters to IKEA where he was granted funding from the IKEA Foundation, the humanitarian arm of the corporation. With the money, Karlsson founded Better Shelter and partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide quality temporary shelter for refugees.

Today, Better Shelters are in camps in Iraq, Lebanon, Chad, Ethiopia, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.



According to the UNHCR, the average stay in an UNHCR refugee camp is 17 years. Most tents that are available for refugees to live in last only a few months. The shelters that Karlsson designed last a minimum of three years. Karlsson’s shelters are self-standing, modular, white structures with peaked roofs high enough for an average adult male to stand up in and large enough to accommodate a family of five. Built with lightweight plastic and metal the shelters can be shipped easily around the world. Similar to IKEA’s principles of design Karlsson and his team paid close attention to the transport volume, weight, price, safety, health and comfort of the shelters.

The shelters can be assembled in just a few hours and require no special equipment to do so. The houses can be disassembled just as quickly and reused as needed. In addition, the structures feature windows, mosquito nets, ventilation, a solar-powered energy system affixed to the roof for lighting and a mobile phone charging outlet, and lockable doors to keep women and children safe from sexual violence, a common problem in many refugee camps.


Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

This is a great example of a brand taking it’s strong suit and taking on relevant humanitarian efforts.

Harnessing Pixar’s Cute Factor, Robot’s Goal is to Light Up Your Day


Pixar character animator, Alonso Martinez, has made an adorable real-life creation: Mira.

Martinez, who’s worked on films like Up and Inside Out, says that the robot—a peek-a-boo-playing sphere that lights up one half to express excitement—was built with the goal of creating strong emotional connections.

“Experience with my last robot taught me that I wanted to concentrate all of my efforts toward what I cared the most about,” Martinez tells PSFK. “I love creating characters that make people smile and one day I hope to make robots that not only entertain us, but provide insights into our lives and fuel us to be better.”

But already, Mira seems to do just that: With a tiny camera installed on her head, she is able to detect and track faces and will soon be able to detect facial expressions, too.

“With the ability to hold her in my hands it was not only easier to make sculptural decisions, but also think about how users might interact with her,” he says.

With a more minimal design that consists only of lights, sounds, and head movement, the current version of Mira was built to see if she had enough degrees of expression to be able to form an emotional connection with humans. The next version, meanwhile, will look to achieve prolonged positive engagement with us.

“Like the cognitive development of a baby, Mira is at the stage where the funniest thing in the world is object permanence, hence why she loves playing the game of peek-a-boo,” Martinez says. “Humans are absolutely incredible at pattern recognition and as soon as robots acts in a predictable way, it breaks the magic of the illusion of life.”

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

In the developing world of robotics, we see function and form, but now this development is the start of built-in emotional connections — previously just science fiction. The idea is literally in its infancy, but I will be curious to see if emotional technology becomes an ongoing trend

Why Every Media Website Redesign Looks the Same (Including our clients’)

If web design is art, we may be entering its minimalist phase.

“To a certain degree, websites always look the same. Design is fashion and it follows trends. We’re in the middle of a trend of big and clunky, not just because of responsive design but also because of touch,” Clark added. “As touch has spread from small screens to laptops and desktops, all desktop designs have to be touch-friendly, and that has influenced the aesthetic, too.”

Numerous major media sites have shifted to responsive design with similar results — multi-column, boxy and flat designs that look almost strangely similar.

The lack of shadows, gradients or really any elements that attempt to illustrate depth are gone, in favor of what is known as “flat” design.Flat design arose in concert with mobile. In addition to having a modern look, the minimalist motif looked impressive on smaller screens while also minimizing page load, meaning that websites would come up faster on slower mobile networks. Flat design is also a hallmark of many of the new media sites.



Why It’s Hot (and Relevant To Us)

Working on the Verizon account and experiencing the horror that was “new branding”, I can tell you first hand that the “flat” look is exactly where everyone wants to be. With all these sites conforming to one similar look while keeping it responsive, it’s no wonder our creative teams struggle to provide work. The challenge we’re all facing is differentiating from our competition while keeping in mind the best user experience. This isn’t necessarily news to anyone but something to keep in mind when we work on future projects.

The Fashion Industry Makes Wearables Wearable

There is a lot of buzz about consumers abandoning their wearable devices soon after the devices are purchased, which has led to a slew of more fashion-forward devices popping up (for example: Ringly, the ring that shows your phone notifications). It’s no surprise that now high-end fashion designers are entering the wearables market too.

Tory Burch has now released jewelry applications for fitness tracking device company FitBit. The bracelet designs channel Tory Burch‘s classic look and feel, making the wearables look less awkward and tech-y, yet more stylish and sophisticated. The new designs can help consumers to make the wearable devices a part of their everyday jewelry routine.

Read more about fashion and tech partnerships via Mobile Marketer.

Why It’s Hot | Over the past few months, we have seen dozens of new renditions of wearable devices, with each trying to be more user-friendly than the last. With fashion designers now venturing into the wearable space, hopefully consumer abandonment will decline; however, only time will tell if the regular wearing of the devices enhances engagement and truly transforms people’s lives, as FitBit intends.

3-D Printing a Full-Size Car

A German engineering firm has crafted and 3-D printed the frame of a full-sized luxury car. No longer confined to small-scale prototypes or designs, this is a breakthrough for the capabilities of 3D printing. Although large-scale printing of this magnitude is still years’ off, it seems inevitable that 3D printing will replace large assembly lines sometime in the future.

According to Wired magazine, which first reported on the story March 19, “We’ve seen 3-D printing applied to cars before, but EDAG’s design is unique because it shows that with the right equipment you can produce a structure at a massively larger scale. Rather than printing out tiny parts and assembling them together to create a whole, the Genesis proposes that future cars could be produced in fewer steps by assembling large, exceptionally strong unibody parts.”

Why It’s Hot

3D printers are currently confined to producing small-scale parts and designs. As they scale to full-size designs, though, the ability to customize and rapidly bring to market different products (and not just cars) will revolutionize design and production and disrupt the assembly-line model that has been in place since Henry Ford. That will have enormous implications on the pace of innovation, marketing and costs.


Navigate Jacket guides you as you walk

Forget staring at Google Maps on your Android as you navigate to meet your friends at a restaurant.  Fact is that pedestrian accidents are on the rise as people are looking at their smartphones as they walk around. Now, a high-tech jacket from Wearable Experiments has been developed to help people keep their heads up so they don’t have to look at maps as they walk around. Called the Navigate Jacket and introduced at SXSW, it vibrates through sewn-in sensors that communicate via Bluetooth with your phone to tell you when to turn left, turn right, etc.

Why It’s Hot

Wearable clothing is not only cool technology, but can also provide practical functionality.  Consider the possibilities for fire fighters navigating a burning building or rescue workers locating lost hikers, and you realize the benefits of this jacket and other wearable technollogy go far beyond making a fashion statement.