All Posts in The Working Mechanism

May 2, 2014 - Comments Off on Never Hear Them Coming

Never Hear Them Coming

electric-car

Small wins.

The Danish Energy Agency allocated EUR 4 million for public and private electric car projects. This will bring 1500 new electric cars to the streets of Denmark in 2014. With about 6 million people, they are approximately 1.5% the population of the US.

Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom of 700,000 people, measures progress by the gross national happiness index. They also export 72% of their electricity. Nissan is helping them to build a complex infrastructure for charging their whisper-quiet Leaf electric cars.

Electric cars are so smooth, nimble and silent – you don't even hear them coming.

In the United States, we have oil lobbyists fighting against the existence of electric cars to their last breath, all part of our historically vaudevillian political system where money and power are sadly trumping progress. Getting these jackals to finally back off enough to even allow rational conversations about electric cars will require such a widespread public demonization of oil, that cowboys will have to kneel before the masses and swear that Texas tea is really made from fresh butterfly milk.

Remember, the United States (and arguably Canada and South Africa) has Elon Musk, the baddest-ass electric car maker in the world, headquartered right in Palo Alto. A ruthless innovator, rocket launcher and inventor like this hasn't been seen since "The Great and Powerful Jobs". And what do the bureaucrats do to Musk through lobbyists and political baboonery? They tar, feather and shit on him. He'll eventually take his magic ball and teleport to another playground. But, we're too busy punching the nerd in the face to notice that we're actually slugging an invincible warlock.

And such is our system. Obese and overwrought with so much rotten sausage that if we keep it up, we are likely to fall behind even the developing world in a generation or two. By the time we pluck our heads out of our own posteriors and realize that politics ain't reality tv, it'll be too late.

To get electricity you have to start with an alpha particle.

You want electric cars? You might have to travel to tiny Norway. In March 2014, Norway became the first country where over one in every 100 registered passenger cars is plug-in electric. Among the existing government incentives, all-electric cars are exempt in Norway from all non-recurring vehicle fees (including purchase taxes - which are extremely high for ordinary cars), and 25% VAT on purchase, together making a whisper-quiet electric car purchase price competitive with conventional cars. Take that oil lobbyists...

You want your government out of net neutrality? You might have to go to smart, little Brazil for internet freedom. Remember, when you disrupt the flow of free ideas by allowing money to clog the pipes, you'll have such a backlog of slime that you'll need to hire Godzilla the plumber to clean them out. And as we all know, Godzilla makes a big mess.

when you disrupt the flow of free ideas by allowing money to clog the pipes, you'll have such a backlog of slime that you'll need to hire Godzilla the plumber to clean them out.

It's also why a small agency wins. Small is nimble. Nimble is smart. Smart is quick. And assuming the person at the top of a small agency is open minded and searching for a future not caught in the past, then the possibilities are endless.

Made in NYC? Yea, I've heard of it - The Mechanism helped to write that book for the past 13 years. We're nimble, speed-hungry, cockroaches, nestled in the bowels of New York City. We're surviving, and we're whisper-quiet.

And you know what? You never hear us coming either.

April 29, 2014 - Comments Off on Meeting Milton

Meeting Milton

Meeting Milton art R2sAt the end 2013..... before this final season of Mad Men was in the can, I had the unexpected and most extraordinary opportunity to MEET Milton Glaser. Not only to meet the demiurge of 20th-century eclecticism in communications design, but to actually hang out in his studio space and chat with the man. This is that same comfortable and time-worn space in which Mr. Glaser has, for over 40 years, created some of the most memorable and thoughtful artwork, poster design, identity programs, campaigns and so much more.

His clients, those seeking meaning in their marketing efforts, comprise a diverse range of enterprise from film, music, theater and publishing, to cultural, civic and institutional entities. They came to Mister Glaser for something remarkable, some insight that would flick on a light switch for almost everyone who encountered his work.

Do I sound like a giddy schoolboy? That's fine. I came for the same thing. Something remarkable. Some insight that would reaffirm why we designers love to create.

I graduated from my design program during the mid-1980's when Milton already had attained mythological status. This was the era when post-modernism and deconstructionist sensibilities were part of a standard discourse. The notion of articulating expressions of the hand-drawn could instill value and meaning by adding a layer of subtext to anything from an annual report to a poster about AIDS awareness.

I have to wonder, as I work in a predominantly digital realm, are we still as invested in the subtext of meaning in crafting a deeper message? A deeper experience? Can we be digital and deep?

And so I had an audience with someone who in my book, may as well be the 5th Beatle. Or perhaps a better analogy would be....the Gautama Buddha of creative thinking and brand design.

As I walked across 32nd Street, my hands were clammy and my heart raced. I rehearsed one or two of what I thought where intelligent observations or questions about Mr. Glaser's place in design history.  But how did I even get here? Who am I to have this opportunity? The afternoon was orchestrated by a former teaching colleague of mine. I had taught at the SUNY College at Buffalo NY for some ten years before I came to NYC To be a Mad Man once again. I sort of strong-armed my way into the event when I heard Milton Glaser had agreed to chat with a small group of students. And so here I was a crass commercial digital Mad Man, posing as an intellectual once again. Hoping no one will notice that I was torn, as most of us are, between both meaning and money.

Walking up to the building, I was delighted by the thoughtful phrase etched in the glass transom above the outside front door. "Art is work". A simple true statement.  This was going to be good.

We waited for Milton in an area that felt like the small kitchen in an old grade school. The afternoon's autumnal sunlight warming the yellow wood trim on the window sills. Artifacts of Milton's tremendously productive career on the shelving all around the room.

There was a large wooden dinner table from the 1960's with not enough seats around it for the nine of us, and so I chose to stand. While we waited some twenty minutes for Milton to join us, the other professors and the small group of college students chatted excitedly and rehearsed their questions with each other. I, the self-invited interloper, remained on the quiet side, rehearsing my little question in my head. Partly because I wanted to get it right, partly because I didn't want to share my thoughts ahead of time. I preferred to sound cool and casual.

And so Milton joined us. He beams kindness and understanding as he sits at the head of this well-worn table. "What can I possibly do for you all today"?  The question was directed at me. I realized I was mistaken as the leader since I was the only one standing in the group. I had to explain that Professor Pete Bella had put this together and these were his students. I was simply too far away from the closest chair when the music stopped, and so here I stood.

The first thing one notices as he speaks, is that Milton is extremely articulate and thereby quite economic in his use of words. There is not one syllable wasted on trifle and I imagine each of us around the table was thinking "I wish I were more like that - thoughtful and direct". I realized that he says so much with imagery and artistry in his daily life, that his understanding of those things around us and those things we are talking about, comes from a deeper reflection on life that is constant like a Zen Master. That his internal perspective is well considered, calm, and calming.

We were poised and ready.  Professor Bella asked Mr. Glaser to share with us what he thought the future held for young designers. I asked my well rehearsed "off the cuff" question, about his push against the cool aesthetics of Mid-Century Modernism by introducing a New Eclecticism that infused humor and ornamentation into the culture of corporate design.

What we got instead was a lovely story. 
Milton shared something that he saw on PBS the night before. (Suck-up that I am, I happened to have seen much of this show as well, and so I locked eyes with my buddy Milton and added my small comments of agreement- desperate to be liked by the man).

The story was about a blind horse and a goat. They had a most unlikely and loving relationship wherein the goat would take the Horse's rope-tether in his mouth every morning and lead the horse to both food and water. They sat in the sun together. They communicated.  When the horse eventually died, he was buried under a tree on the hillside where the goat and horse spent much of their time. After the horses passing, that goat would walk alone everyday, all the way to the spot where the horse was buried and just sit there.... all day.

It is a beautiful story I have shortened here. Milton shared that with us....and as he finished he held his right hand over his heart. He paused, filled with the love and meaning of that relationship. He was overwhelmed. He smiled a slow smile and gave us time to share that feeling.

We all took in that moment. Whether you had seen the PBS show or not, everyone in that room was moved.  In that short opening Milton conveyed so much meaning and clarity without being didactic or obvious. That is his gift. Milton Glaser has an ability to design, create, and communicate, while maintaining the human in humanity.

We did eventually speak more directly about design process and its place in our culture. Milton was also very clear about his distaste for advertising and marketing as a pure form of propaganda. He was adamantly against using our powers to persuade the unsuspecting individual to purchase things they don't need. To manufacture desire where there was none. He spoke of the political ramifications of the power of good design.  Advertising, whose job was to sell dreams and create desire can be used for good...or for profit....or possibly both.

I know it sounds obvious, but as we basked in that radiant intellect, we realized that we each have the power to speak to the human condition.

As I left that day, saying good-bye to my good friends, Professors Stan Friesen and Pete Bella, and my new friend Milton Glaser, I was still giddy. I carry that with me everyday. (that and a selfie of me n Milton) - And I thank Milton for the conscious appreciation and new energy.

I can say with confidence that everything is OK in the design world. 
Horses and Goats not only get along, but live and love in harmony.

And YES it is OK to feel deeply and design digitally.

Published by: michaelanthony in Non-Profits, The Design Mechanism
Tags:

March 31, 2014 - Comments Off on James Beard Foundation Launches JBF Kitchen Cam

James Beard Foundation Launches JBF Kitchen Cam

Our friends at the James Beard Foundation are doing something very exciting. Starting tonight they are launching #JBFKitchenCam:

Anyone who has ever dined at the Beard House knows that the experience includes an opportunity to pass through the townhouse's historic kitchen and see our visiting chefs at work. Starting next Monday, anyone with a computer or a mobile device will get to peep the action, too.

On March 31, we're launching the JBF Kitchen Cam, a live, three-angle camera feed that captures the excitement and atmosphere of the 200+ dining eventsthat take place at the Beard House over the course of a year. The official launch coincides with a special dinner by JBF Award–winning chef Daniel Boulud, featuring a menu inspired by his latest cookbook and memoir, Daniel: My French Cuisine.

 

Looking forward to checking it out tonight.

 

March 21, 2014 - Comments Off on Marketing the Meme

Marketing the Meme

480153805-2

A marketing revolution occurs every time a meme is discovered.

If you blinked, you may have missed that for the moment, it's all about health-related wearables. Generation X not only wants to, but firmly believes that we can live forever. Ask Ray Kurzweil, an elder statesman of futurism and author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, and The Singularity is Near, with the help of our machine overlords and a nice regimen of pills, we'll soon be downloading our brain into the Universal Mind. Health wearables, in their current state, are the perfect snake oil to market to a generation hell-bent on avoiding purgatory. It's Terminator X. And it's not a matter of if, but when.

Data is King - the device is just the royal messenger.

If you asked me two minutes ago, I would have said that one way Apple could save itself from inevitable obscurity (high-noon is coming for Apple under the marketing machine of every other tech company that wants to destroy them for the simple reason that Steve Jobs existed and pissed them all off) was not even to bother releasing a digital watch. They needed something "bigger," but still in the spirit of a wearable. A watch or wearable for checking email, or knowing that your mate is drunk texting you at 2am (in my opinion) was already existing quite comfortably in the realm of Samsung and a dozen other crowdsourced devices. However, give me a discrete and clever device that is plugged into the cloud by transmitting my health information and data in real time to be compared against the rest of the planet - well there's something that I can get behind. Smart, predictive medicine and fitness - imagine how much that would help our race to fill up the overcrowded planet even quicker!

Wearables DevCon is happening in San Francisco in March, so it seems that all Apple needs to do is fart an idea into the wind (Note: I'm not insinuating that Apple invented the wearable industry, it's just that Apple has been teasing the idea of a watch for so long that they've become the boy that cried werewolf), and the world's innovators now proceed to leapfrog them rather than wait to build on their platforms. It makes for a real mess when it comes to products. Too much competition eventually becomes unregulated noise, and too many unregulated products rushing to market will kill the market before it has a chance to blossom.

I discovered this on a recent trip to Best Buy. I was there to observe a business model rolling under itself - a library of tech that is filled with browsers but very few buyers. It turns out that Best Buy has an entire aisle dedicated to health wearables - each device more specialized and useless than the next. Nothing on the shelf fully grasps the concept of a health ecosystem, because they are the shoddy output of mindless corporate meetings called to simply "Market to the Meme."

health-devices

If Apple gets the health wearable right, they could dominate, but the domination will come from the thoughtful integration of the device into iCloud. Google had a health cloud product (Google Health) many years ago, but unexpectedly shut it down due to a shift in the wind, like many of their other products. Think of how ahead of the game they could have been with the release of Android Wear. Right now, some executive who made that decision is hiding under their hydroponic desk chamber - because they could have been light years ahead of Apple.

With Healthcare like every other industry, Data is King - the device is just the royal messenger.

So a successful launch of iWatch (don't get me started about how perfect that name is for a device which keeps an "eye on your health and well-being") would require the following:

  • Data infrastructure - The means to record personal Health data safely and securely. iCloud is already in place for that.
  • Automatic sync - A device which reports automatically to the cloud - we're all too lazy to sync our devices. Ask Nike how many people sync their Fuelband a month after putting it on.
  • Price - The price point has to be fair for this as well, because the more people using it the better. It should be released as a discrete necessity, with the basics included like heart monitoring, steps taken per day, and calories burned.
  • Open source development - A means to use the data and present info graphics and tools for individuals. Apple got it right with iOS and the App Store. Not everyone will be a runner, but a running app, a weightlifting app tracking reps, weight lifted, a pill taking app that reminds you when to take them, etc. -- all will be part of the health ecosystem with the right developers making money for their hard work.

Due to their formidable marketing prowess, the first loud shot has been fired by Apple in the healthcare and fitness revolution with the announcement of Healthbook. The only question is how thoughtful, nimble and careful they can be anymore when the snarling wolves are at the back door of their spaceship -- and they're all wearing Samsung watches on their paws... Integrated neatly into their own proprietary healthcare ecosystem.

March 17, 2014 - Comments Off on U.S. to Give Up Key Internet Governance Role

U.S. to Give Up Key Internet Governance Role

Obama administration officials moved late Friday to end the U.S.’s role in overseeing Internet domain names and addresses, announcing plans to relinquish its role by the end of next year and turning the keys over to the global Internet community.

Commerce department officials announced that the U.S. government would relinquish its role overseeing Internet addresses in favor of a to-be-determined global body.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has managed the use and governance of domain names and Internet addresses for the U.S. government since 1998, when it was awarded the task by the Commerce Department. Based in Los Angeles, ICANN oversees the Internet’s address system and has moved in recent years to open up new domain names.

via U.S. to Give Up Key Internet Governance Role | Re/code.

Pair this announcement with An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web.

Published by: antonioortiz in Government, The Thinking Mechanism
Tags: ,

April 29, 2013 - Comments Off on Menu Metropolitain

Menu Metropolitain

I hope you are enjoying the fairer weather that has suddenly arrived...finally and thankfully. I was glad to simply have a home weekend and spent most of it asleep. It was well needed. One of our wonderful clients, the James Beard Foundation, has their big award season coming up. It means lots of work for them and for us, but it's all well and good thanks to this jolly old guy below.

A fantastic foundation for an outstanding man

I've been living in NYC for quite awhile now and though I still hesitate to call myself a New Yorker (Brooklyn for life!), I've definitely grown familiar with the ins and outs of the city. The James Beard Foundation is just one of the many wonders the city possesses amongst its many restaurants, theaters, museums, and more. And it's all underpinned by the city's constantly expanding subway. Check out these marvelous photos of what's going on beneath our feet care of the MTA!

East Side Access East Side Access

And like any great metropolitan center, we have our amazing selection of splendid museums. The famous Metropolitan Museum of Art on the East Side has a sparkly new website with great modern look and adaptive layout. Be sure to look through the upcoming exhibits and visit if you can. The site aims to add a fresh layer of visual stimulation to their more traditional homepage.

For all its beauty, one spends so much time head tucked down or in the previously mentioned tunnels it's easy to forget the beauty all around this metropolis. This groovy mirrored video montage of the city by Sebastien Desmedt is a fantastic reminder of the city's many marvels. I especially love the way the easy-to-abuse reflection effect plays off the repetition and pattern naturally found in a city, giving the entire thing a sense of normalcy despite the persistent manipulation.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Published by: benchirlin in Non-Profits, The Internal Mechanism
Tags: , , ,

January 21, 2013 - Comments Off on MLK’s ‘Merica

MLK’s ‘Merica

Happy Martin Luther King day. Today we honor the memory of a man who stood up for what he believed in spite of the colossal obstacles in his path. The timing of this holiday couldn't be better as we choose again to swear in the first African American President in our history, proof of the progress made. Yet the many issues now facing the President, and our government at large, remain a huge challenge. Yet all of us, from famous civil rights leaders to the everyday Joe, are given a chance with each new challenge to either flourish or fail. Such challenges are inspiring.

This week I sketched a quick portrait of today's hero, one of the best American's or our age.

This week I sketched a quick portrait of today's hero, one of the best American's or our age.

We recognize people who overcome great challenges with fame and celebrity. Their likenesses become representations for all that they have achieved. Who can forget the quintessential image of Obama by Shepard Fairey of "Obey" fame? That image alone represents Hope. Artist Charis Tsevis has taken on many famous personalities including President Obama in his pointillist-like works. They are part collage, part pixel art. He forms his images from abstract shapes or objects related to his subject. Though they may seem sparse in principle, Tsevis achieves amazing depth in his modern digital works.

We've Got His Back

Dancing with Circles

There are some characters who are admired for their ability to overcome any challenge: superheroes. This interesting animation experiment, the Good Man, explores the ideas of good and bad we think as a child. All done using modern web technologies, the style is minimalist and beautiful. Watch in Chrome for best results. While stunning, the hiccups in performance I experienced are representational of the current limitations of such technologies.

The Good Man

Life is a constant struggle, a whole series of challenges. This outstanding short, HEART, is a wonderful inspection of life through visual metaphor and symbolism. Though I'm still unsure what to take away from this animation, I can say it is undeniably a fantastic piece of work.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Published by: benchirlin in Government, The Internal Mechanism
Tags: , ,

November 7, 2012 - Comments Off on Hurricane Sandy Incident / Relief Map

Hurricane Sandy Incident / Relief Map

As you may know, the east coast was hit very hard last week by hurricane Sandy. Most of us here lost power at our homes for part of the storm, but were otherwise unharmed. Many people all throughout the tri-state region were less fortunate and suffered greatly. Now, a week after the storm, much of New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island are still reeling. Power has not been restored to many PSEG, ConEd and LIPA customers. Gas shortages in all areas persist, with people waiting hours in line to fill up. In an effort to help our neighbors and make the spread of information easier, we have set up a crowdsourced mapping site to share local knowledge about resources such as; shelters, emergency services, and fuel.

From the website:

This site was launched by The Mechanism, a digital agency in New York City for anyone who was affected by the recent hurricane that ravaged the Northeast. We hope that by using crowdsourcing, we'll be able give back to the city and surrounding areas that have helped us for the past 11 years.

WHAT ELSE TO THINK ABOUT
We'll be updating this list.

Remember that while giving is good, beware of those out there who are not good and are trying to trick you by taking your money. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene last year, the Federal Trade Commission's caution still holds true: "Scammers may try to take advantage of a disaster, and so consumers should be wary of urgent appeals for charitable donations, and watch out for fraudulent home repair schemes after a storm."

You can read more about avoiding home repair rip-offs and charity fraud from the FTC.

Also, the FBI has counselled on its Facebook page "to beware of fraudulent emails and websites claiming to conduct charitable relief efforts. Disasters prompt individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization or a good cause," and suggests reading "Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes" to learn more about avoiding online fraud.

As a crowdsourced map, the information comes directly from those on the ground and communication with those in the area. The information is curated as best as possible to ensure that the information is accurate and of use to those looking for information. If you would like to participate and share information about resources in your area the map can be found here: http://maps.themechanism.com

Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by the storm.

April 10, 2012 - Comments Off on The Mechanism and The James Beard Foundation Launch New Website With James Beard Awards’ Nominees Announcement

The Mechanism and The James Beard Foundation Launch New Website With James Beard Awards’ Nominees Announcement

NEW YORK, NY, April 10, 2012 — On Monday, March 19, 2012 the James Beard Foundation launched their new website at JamesBeard.org in conjunction with the announcement of their nominees for the 2012 James Beard Awards.

Developed by The Mechanism to coincide with the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary taking place this year, the new website focuses on the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and preserve America's diverse culinary heritage and future, in a one-stop online location.

Using innovative filtering mechanisms, the site provides food lovers easy access to a vast library of award-winning recipes and up-to-date listings of events at the historic James Beard House. James Beard Foundation members also receive additional benefits including the ability to curate their favorite recipes, Chefs and events.

“We are delighted with the exciting new website we were able to create with the technical support, creative input, and overall enthusiasm of the great team at The Mechanism.”

- Mitchell Davis, James Beard Foundation Executive Vice President

From information on their leadership awards and annual food conference, to their beloved blog and active social media presence, to supporting culinary scholarships, to showcasing great epicurean experiences with renowned chefs, to the highly-anticipated James Beard Awards, JamesBeard.org is now a robust gateway to the many initiatives the James Beard Foundation produces each year.

“It was exciting to work with the enthusiastic and highly creative team at The James Beard Foundation,” said Dave Fletcher, Founder & Director, The Mechanism, New York City. “We believe that the myriad functional and visual enhancements to the website will surprise and delight their diversified audience, and the new “member-only” features will keep them returning to the site and sharing their experiences with friends and family into the future.”

“We are delighted with the exciting new website we were able to create with the technical support, creative input, and overall enthusiasm of the great team at The Mechanism,” said James Beard Foundation Executive Vice President Mitchell Davis. “They took the time to understand the goals of our organization and our role in the ever-dynamic food world and weave them through our new site in unexpected, fun, and effective ways.”

Formed in New York City in 2001, The Mechanism is a collaborative technical and creative digital agency. They provide web, mobile, print, brand development, copy writing and search engine optimization services to clients ranging from SMEs and small-cap public companies to Fortune 500s.

Contact
The Mechanism, North America
Sharon Terry
+1 212 221 3444
Sharon.Terry@themechanism.com

Published by: sharonterry in Non-Profits, The Working Mechanism

March 2, 2012 - Comments Off on Peter Diamandis “Abundance is our future”: The Thinking Mechanism

Peter Diamandis “Abundance is our future”: The Thinking Mechanism

This week we've been under deadline and taking little breaks here and there to follow TED2012. We would like to finish the week with a TED Talk fresh from the TED2012 stage from our friend Peter Diamandis.  He makes a case for optimism -- that we'll invent, innovate and create ways to solve the challenges that loom over us. "I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems; we surely do. But ultimately, we knock them down.”

 

 

The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts written by Antonio Ortiz and published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients. 

Published by: antonioortiz in Non-Profits, The Thinking Mechanism, The Working Mechanism