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Paul Rand’s identity works

Paul Rand is perhaps America’s most famous identity designer, who developed logos such as IBM’s or NEXT’s.

Therefore it might be a shame to admit that it was only recently that I became aware of his works, nevertheless, I wanted to share appreciation of his identity document for Steve Jobs’ NEXT:

On the webpage, you need to scroll down to “identity presentations” section. Reading from photos is not comfortable but doable, especially if you are on a mac and can zoom easily.

One might find his approach to design problems rather intellectual if not pedantic, with all the detailed discussion of why this font and not another, why in italics and why in this color, but I find it quite fascinating, personally.

In fact, I found my way to this document passing from Steve Job’s record of his relationship with Rand:

Note the fragment when Jobs describes Rand’s way of working with his clients:

I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, “No, I will solve your problem for you, and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution – if you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how, and you use it or not, that’s up to you – you’re the client – but you pay me.”

This reminds me, by the way, of a common dilemma in consulting of whether we solve problems for the client or with the client.

But to finish the episode with Steve Jobs and Rand, here is the account of how the cooperation started:

Jobs had always had an eye for good design. He was especially taken with the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS, and Westinghouse, all of which were created by Yale professor Paul Rand. Rand offered to create NeXT’s logo for $100,000, but only if IBM consented.

This was an outrageous price, many times more than what Rand had charged IBM for its now-iconic logo. Two months later, Rand sent Jobs a copy of the logo and a brochure explaining every detail. For the sake of a more interesting design, Rand even renamed the company NeXT, saying the ‘e’ stood for education. The new logo (and the name behind it) lent prestige and clout to a company without customers or a product.

I think Microsoft products are pollution, but I like #2 ad

Latest ad with Gates and Seinfeld (they paid Seinfeld $10m to participate… I try to imagine how much they would pay to air an ad that long):

I’m quite alone in being positive about the ad.

Techcrunch: “I’m starting to feel bad for Microsoft PR, who’ve been tasked with defending these Microsoft ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.”

Wired: “feels a bit like an aimless sitcom pilot at 4.5 minutes with little mention of Microsoft”, “It’s hard to see how this set up is going to portray Microsoft’s products in a positive light”

All about Microsoft: “the latest Microsoft consumer-focused ad does little, if anything, to endear Microsoft or Windows to consumers”

Everyone complains that clips make no mention of Microsoft products. And that they even create self-inflicted damage by portraying Microsoft (personified by Gates) as out of touch with real people.

In fact that’s why I like the ads. I don’t see how Microsoft could win direct confrontation with “mac vs pc” campaign. Pushing Vista marketing would be like putting lipstick on a pig. It’s hard to imagine convincing people that it’s an inspiring product – through an ad.

I think what they can achieve with the ads is humanizing Microsoft’s image. It can only be done with a real person in the spotlight, and they selected Gates for the role, which seems a good (only?) choice. Gates symbolizes the evil empire, is not known for being entertaining or social (which adds element of surprise and creates buzz around ads) and making him likable will affect image of all Microsoft.

How to make Gates likable?

“We like people who are not perfect and make mistakes”. I thought it was out of Cialdini’s persuasion handbook, but I can’t find the exact quote.

In the end, Apple’s marketing might start to seem arrogant and snobbish, now that people begin to sympathize with awkward – but human – Gates.

Origami: story behind the buzz

Dustin Hubbard, Microsoft’s Mobile PC team Group Manager, gives some background for the buzz generated around “Origami” project:

The buzz started when the “leaked” video featuring device was discovered, however, Microsoft claims this was not staged:

Myth #2, we leaked the Origami video to create more hype. I can guarantee you that the discovery of the Origami video created by Digital Kitchen was completely unexpected. No one at Microsoft even knew that video was publicly available until someone posted it after finding it by doing an Internet search.

Anyway, the story makes an interesting case study of the viral marketing.

When the device was finally unveiled at Cebit, it turned out to be a smaller version of Tablet PC:

UMPC Origami

In the meantime, quite interesting “Origami” turned into a dull, but not unexpected given Microsoft’s record in (un)inspiring naming, “UMPC” for “Ultra Mobile PC”.

Not that the product itself is much more exciting than the name – it is reported to have a battery life up to 3 hours and cost around 1000$; why it would be better than the smartphones, PDAs and portable game consoles already on the market is anyone’s guess.

Sony after all not affected by rootkit disaster?

Andrew Orlowski wrote an interesting story related to Sony rootkit case (Sony unsinged by rootkit CD fiasco). I am personally curious about the bottom line aspect of all of this, so it was fun to compare someone else’s point of view.

My take-outs from his article:

  • Sony’s sales were actually little affected despite a storm in the blogosphere and mainstream media
  • The vocal blogosphere population represents in fact a minority of tech-savvy users, while most people are well served when their CDs can just play in stereo system and their car
  • Lawsuits will hardly make any more difference since corporations learned to treat them as merely operational overhead, following Microsoft?s case
  • Sony can just ignore geeks and lawsuits and move forward with its DRM strategy

It’s meant to be provocative reading and it serves its purpose well, at least as far as I am concerned. Couple of points that I was pondering upon are below. (read more…)