10/28/10: Design for Bad
I have a dirty, embarrassing confession. I did freelance graphic design for Glenn Beck. Um, yes, that one—the crazy, morally reprehensible man who basically signifies everything that I oppose.
It’s been a source of secret shame for me for the past couple of years and lately, I’ve felt the need to get it off my chest. Like the telltale heart beating under the floor in Poe’s story, these graphics burn a secret hole in my portfolio. On Judgment Day, I’m pretty sure this work will be my one-way ticket down.
But first, allow me to mount my defense…
It was 2006 and freelance work was pretty scarce for me. You may not remember, but in 2006 Glenn Beck was not yet famous for being a right-wing nutjob. I know it was only four years ago, but think back: George Bush was still president, the Republicans had a rubberstamp Congress, and Fox News was just a mouthpiece for the Bush Administration. Beck had a talking head blathering news show on HLN (the sad cousin to CNN and current home to smash hits like The Joy Behar show). When Team Beck called me, I had to DVR his show because I’d never heard of him. They wanted me to design still slides advertising his new magazine, Fusion.
I won’t lie, I was excited. My work was going to be on TV! I love TV! Plus, they told me to be edgy and creative. I had fun and made some cool ads, which ran after his show. I didn’t know then just how loco he was. His website was not the jam-packed, self aggrandizing bizarre ad-fest it is now. (Anyone need a safe or some gold?) Check it out if you dare put that cookie in your browser!
My successful designs led to new assignments from Fusion. The first was to do a banner for an article about celebrity “rehabs” for sex addictions and saying inappropriate things (remember that guy from Gray’s Anatomy going to rehab after calling TR Knight a not very nice word?). Again, no real right-wing craziness. (Click image at right for my most shameful work.)
Then I got the sample issue with my work, and well, I learned a lot more about Glenn Beck. He was pretty far to the right, but the Tea Party didn’t exist yet and his stint on Fox News was 2 years away. It all seemed pretty harmless so I did a few more designs:
—A 2-page spread layout in tabloid theme with fun photo manipulations
—For an editorial, an illustration of Beck’s head exploding, shown at the top of this article.
My final piece for the GB empire was probably the one that I am least proud of, ok most ashamed about. It’s an illustration called “How Liberals View the US.” That really was the beginning of the end… (Click image at right to view this atrocity I created.)
Whew, it’s out. Am I absolved of my sins? Perhaps I need to do some penance first. Any Lefties need some good design?
10/04/10: The Science of Product Innovation
or Seriously, Your Teeth Can’t Get Any Damn Whiter…
A few years ago, my friend and I were complaining about the recent deluge in cookie “innovations”. I still really don’t understand the point of oblong Oreos or bags of Chips Ahoy Bites. What’s wrong with round cookies? Were people complaining that these cookies weren’t cool or modern? Is there really a need for Oreos to turn the milk different colors? Do kids not like white milk anymore?
As a person who dabbles in the world of branding, I know it’s a little more sinister than this. Fearing audience boredom with current products, Nabisco needs to make sure that we do not buy something else and ensure its audience stays “on brand.” So the reasoning goes, what people really need is a new cookie. Or a new old cookie. “It’s so not your Mom’s cookie!” It’s oblong! It turns the milk a different color! And there you have the “science of product innovation,” as it’s called in corporate speak. (I’m sure this term must offend real scientists.) As far as I can see, product innovation is nothing more than a sad, fairly obvious attempt by companies to make you keep buying the same product with a slightly new meaningless twist.
In this vein, we have the mindboggling wall of toothpaste at the drugstore. Strangely, my normally rational husband is obsessed with buying the latest toothpaste product. When I was in grad school, my professors always trotted out toothpaste as the prime example of brand loyalty. Your parents were either Colgate or Crest and thus when you went out on your own, you just followed along. While my family flirted with AquaFresh at my beseeching, ok begging, (I mean, talk about product innovation! It has three different colors and comes out of a pump!), we were for the most part, loyal to Crest.
When Erik and I moved in together, he brought his tube of Colgate to the relationship. Out of love, I acquiesced and tossed my Crest.
So I should have known something was awry when a few years ago he purchased Arm and Hammer Advanced White. When I looked askance at it, he pointed out excitedly that it had BAKING SODA in it! It was “Advanced.” It said so on the box. This one would really make our teeth whiter! (I was reminded of the bogus claims of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound – don’t know about it? Here’s a link.)
And so began Erik’s endless quest for whiteness (my professors would be horrified): Crest, Colgate, Tom’s of Main, Arm & Hammer, Gleem (Ok, he never bought Gleem). Erik was not bound by brand loyalty, but actually persuaded by spurious whitening “ product innovation.” Here are just a few of the products he purchased over the past couple of years (click image to enlarge). (Note this does not even include the many packs of whitening strips that have passed through our medicine cabinet.)
All of this reminds me of an article I read a few years ago in The Onion, U.S. Dentists Can’t Make Nation’s Teeth Any Damn Whiter.
So I thought perhaps Erik had finally believed his teeth were damned white enough when he purchased the same toothpaste three times in a row. Our loyalty was established. Colgate. Total Whitening. My professors could breathe a sigh of relief. We were back on brand.
Until last week. Erik brought home yet another new kind of toothpaste. It was Colgate so I guess technically we’re still brand loyal… but this one is Max White. He opened it up and said, “Look, It’s got little whitening strips in it! Actual white strips! And the tube is clear.” As if that has anything to do with cleaning your teeth! Weird clear trends—anyone remember Crystal Pepsi?
Ah, the power of persuasion, I mean, innovation. Colgate should be proud of winning the toothpaste war in the Diehn household … at least until Crest ups the ante. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens when we run out of toothpaste.