Sep 30, 2008

Greenpeace Took Over the Obelisk

Today, if you were in Buenos Aires around the obelisk very early in the morning, you would have noticed something strange over the most traditional and recognized monument of this city.

It was a message delivered by Greenpeace with their usual way of communicating: guerilla action! This time the issue was contamination: the message was in fact a fake "prize" awarded to the city for dumping (burying really) the city's garbage in the surrounding areas, contaminating those areas and for doing nothing to enforce a law approved in 2005 aimed to reduce the quantity of garbage sent to those areas.

As per their own story, eight activists entered the obelisk at 5:30 am and with climbing equipment they displayed the message, giving the city the "1st prize" in contamination.

This is how the whole thing looked at the end:

Of course, two hours later the police and the firefighters were there to arrest the activists. According to several sources the traffic was more disrupted for the police action than by the Greenpeace move, but I guess that the traffic jam that the police caused just helped to draw more attention to the message.

If you do understand Spanish, here is the video of the group in action.


Sep 26, 2008

It's Friday, Time for a Debate!

Today is the first debate between the candidates. It seems like the perfect time to share this video from TED where psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center.

In this talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most, trying to explain "The real difference between liberals and conservatives".

The ending is a little dissapointing, as by his own theory it seems that what he proposes is something that liberals may and can do but conservatives can not, but overall it is a great approach to understand the connection between "moral values" and political views. Enjoy and feel free to discuss, right here or at the TED site!


Sep 25, 2008

Can Your Idea Change the World?

If you believe that you have an idea that can help many many lives, Google invites you to submit the idea to them..., and who knows?, it may become a real project!

How is that? Simple. As part of the celebration of Google's 10th birthday, yesterday was launched the "Project 10 to the 100th". There are few rules involved and Google have committed $10 million to fund up to five finalists.

Aimed to individuals not organizations, you will also be able to vote from a list of 100 selected ideas to help choose a short list and from that list an advisory board will then choose the 5 finalists. A nice thing is you don't need to submit your idea in English... the form is in more than 10 languages.

According to their FAQs, the following five criteria will be considered by the advisory panel in evaluating and selecting the winning ideas...

Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
Longevity: How long will the idea's impact last?

Sadly, the timeframe to submit ideas is short: the submission deadline is October 20th, 2008. So if you have an idea that you believe can change the lives of others, don't waste your time. Visit the 'Project 10 to the 100th' mainpage, select your language and go ahead. Literally, there is nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

Let's hope that, as the say, "May the those who help the most win"


Sep 22, 2008

Montevideo Street Art

During our really short visit to Uruguay I came across some stencils in the streets of Montevideo (Uruguay's capital) that caught my eye. They were relatively small and most of them were located in the same wall (the exception is the "Glasgow" graffiti that you can see here).

We were just three days in Montevideo, so of course I wasn't able to see all the city in such short time. We stayed around downtown and the old city mostly, spending our Sunday at the Tristan Narvaja fair, a street fair I love that reminds me of "El Rastro" in Spain. And we have lunch at the market near the port as any tourist should do.

But during all our walks up and down the city I noticed that the walls were more covered by posters and flyers than by paintings. Again, maybe we just were in the wrong part of the town and maybe there were tons of graffitis somewhere else.

Nevertheless, it was at a very small street in the old part of the city, were I came across these stencils that -as you can see- were kind of funny, mostly due to the text added to the images...


"Alf in Music"
(that in Spanish can also be read as "Finally Music")

"Welcome to the future"

"No One is Safe"
(this building is an Uruguayan landmark)

I loved the first one for obvious reasons, that "wanted" makes all the difference in the world, but the two last ones are pretty good too.

If you by any chance know any neighborhood in UY with more street art, please let me know. I may not go back soon but I am sure some readers will appreciate the info!


Sep 21, 2008

Warning with Design

When visiting Uruguay, I was gladly surprised by the "cancer warning" displayed by the Marlboro brand in their tobacco packs. It seems that finally someone decided that the warning should be really visible -but more important so-, that it can be done applying some nice design to it!

Ok, I have to confess that some of my friends find the whole thing a bit creepy..., so maybe not everyone will appreciate the design as I do. But thanks to my extensive traveling (and my many, many years as a smoker) I have seen the warning in several languages, shapes and forms, but not once I have seen the message so "designed".

With different images (a tombstone, a small bottle of poison, a prison made of cigarettes, etc.) and a layout that makes the text look like as if it was glued to the pack it is impossible not to read it.

Another nice touch is the fact that the messages in the front and the back are slightly different but complementary. Take a look:

Warning message in the front
Translation: "Tobacco smoke poisons the air with more than 50 substances that can cause cancer."

Warning message in the back
Translation: "From any point of view, it is poison."

Warning message in the front
Translation: "In our country, 15 people are killed daily by tobacco smoke."

Warning message in the back

Translation: "From any point of view, it kills you."

I was going to buy a pack of "Oxibitue" (a local brand) to see if they were also doing something like this but I couldn't find any, so I am not sure if the brand went out of business or what happened to them. And silly me, I completely forget about "Nevada" (another local brand) so I have no clue if this "design" is something popular there or if it just a Marlboro move.

I don't know about you..., but I liked the idea. It really makes the warning impossible to miss!

PS: Chile also has some big warning messages, but those have poor design and are really, really creepy!


Sep 19, 2008

Microsoft "Connects"?

Apparently, the ads portraying Seinfeld and Gates trying to "connect" with real people will not be aired anymore. There is a lot of discussion out there about the reasons, if the ads performed poorly or if it was the idea from the beginning to get the attention with these ads to switch to a complete different direction later. Now, from a strategy standpoint the ads are at least... really weird.

I mean -don't get me wrong-, I love to see Seinfeld and Gates making clowns of themselves showing that maybe they are not really prepared to live with "common people" after years of living in a different way. The duo is kind of funny (maybe not terrible funny but funny enough) and the dialogues do have some of the "Seinfeld style".

Just in case you have not seen any of the ads I am talking about, here is the sample I like the best, that is avilable online at Microsft's website:

Now, my problem with the ads is not the humor or the "acting" of Gates...

My main problem, the reason I find these ads very weird is the message they are delivering. Vista has been a headache for Microsoft and it seems like one of the worst products they have launched so far, something that Mac has been using to its advantage.

Vista has not really "connect" with users or if it has, it has been in some odd way. Almost like the girl in the ad, users that do have switch to Vista (at least most of them)are not really happy to "live" with the new operating system.

I am still scratchig my head trying to understand the strategy behind these ads. They seem to me like something a trainee would propose: a simple joke with a word game, without thinking twice how the joke could be perceived.

I mean..., the odd couple didn't really connect with an ordinary family the same way Vista has not really connect with ordinary users. Nevertheless, at the end of the commercial, they think they have connected "in a way". The problem is... in which way?


Sep 16, 2008

Antiques, Ads & Art, the AAA Combo

Many years ago, visiting some friends in Nigeria (they were working at the Argentine Embassy there) I was impressed by the simplicity and beauty of a wooden "piece of art" that my friends had at their house. But when I asked what it was representing exactly, I find out that it was in fact an outdoor ad... (kind of).

It was a relatively old sign for a hair salon, that my friends bought at a local market. At the time, I took a picture of it and as it tends to happen -at least to me- I lost the picture somewhere among my things.

But I am now in Buenos Aires, my friends are here too and lucky me, the sign followed them to their home here...

I took a new picture of it. It is now framed against a darker piece of wood and it is an exquisite decorative piece that I think could be called art, even if it was conceived as a very simple ad. Check it out:

Click to enlarge

Seeing it again, right after two days of browsing antiques shops, made me think about the relationship between advertisign and art. Not every ad is a piece of art, nor it should be (IMHO, but I know that is a pretty controversial topic among art designers in the industry).

On the other hand, once time has passed even the simplest ad becomes in some way a
piece of art, or at least a testimony of the design and trends of an era... what reinforces my position that you can say a lot about a society by just taking a look to the ads of a specific time and place.

Advertising reflects a way of thinking and a way of perceiving the world. So, while ads may not be art in its pure form, they are an invaluable piece of culture not just for the message in them but for what that message can tell us about a moment in time. Or how can you explain the Flintstones smoking and recommending Winston or nurses taking a beer at the hospital?

Keep tuned, there is more to come about "antique advertising"... I have been poking around my dad's office where I found magazines from 40 and 50 years ago, and some ads in those magazines are gems!


Sep 10, 2008

The Art of Recycling

click to enlargeWhile visiting the street fair in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, a must go for anyone (tourist or not) interested in seeing local and very unusual arts and crafts, we both fall in love with the work of a young guy that builds "darky" characters by recycling mostly electronics.

Somewhere in the middle between the aesthetics of Tim Burton, Mad Max and Waterworld, his small and not so small creatures can be at the same time cute and creepy (but way more cool than anything else).

With names like Pr. Dirk, Dr. Zil, HIB or Mr. Lag, each character has a clear "personality" so when you see the whole bunch is almost like observing a tribe from a near future... they are all related in some way but still separate entities.

The artist himself looks a bit like Edward Scissorhands and with a similar nice attitude he explained to us that most of his creatures are made with electronic parts. His intention is to recycle as much as possible, so parts of computers, cellphones and other small electronic devices is his basic raw material.

We bought a couple of small figurines for us, but we also took a lot of pictures to share his art. First, the artist himself with one of his biggest creatures, followed by some close ups of his creatures, from menacing doctors to "fly type" little men...

click to enlargeclick to enlargeclick to enlarge

He wasn't the only craft artist using recycled materials and there was a noticeable shift among artists to transform "waste" into useful or decorative objects.

It may be related to some growing "green conscious" among the craft artists or simply because with more and more discarded parts out there those parts allow them to work with a smaller budget and create things that -at the end-, do have a bigger value considering the time and (in most cases) the nice designs they come up with.

One reason or the other, it is great to see that someone is actually recycling electronics, in a city that -I have to admit it-, is not very proactive when it comes to waste management.


Sep 5, 2008

It's Friday, Take Risks!

I am in Uruguay now, specifically in Colonia del Sacramento, where we spent the day and will spent the night. Tomorrow, we will continue our trip, this time by bus to Montevideo. So, between friends, family and business in Argentina and this little trip to Uruguay I have had little time left for blogging.

Nevertheless, I have tons of pics of very cool shows, museums and expos we have attended in Buenos Aires, and I will post those as soon as I have time enough to write.

Meanwhile, I have to share this picture... OBVIOUSLY is pure Photoshop, but when we saw it, we couldn't stop laughing.

It may seem unrelated to the topics of this blog, but it is not. When we have a clear goal in sight -a challenging one-, we are more open to take risks and creative thinking has always a "risk component"...

With a clear goal in mind, there is no "Mission Impossible"!

Source: Slideshow- Things to do before the end of the year (thanks, Mom!)


Sep 2, 2008

Creative Messages for Your Yard

You may have heard something about "My Yard, Our Message" or about "The Unconvention", but in case you didn't, here is the story...

A non-partisan collective of citizens and cultural institutions, The UnConvention provides a forum for promoting the democratic and free exchange of ideas during and after the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota from September 1-4, 2008.

"My Yard our Message" is part of "The Unconvention" initiative, and with the sponsorship of the Walker Art Center and, they started a user-created yard sign project, launched in conjunction with the United States presidential election.

The project was divided into three phases: in June 2008, artists and designers were invited to submit political yard sign designs exploring ideas about what it means to actively participate in a democracy. Beginning July 1, with designs submitted, a month-long public voting process began, where browsers could cast votes for their favorite yard signs. The citizenry has spoken already and the 50 designs that have received more votes were chosen as the winners.

There are signs for any taste and any ideology. With almost 300 submissions -as it tends to happen with any open contest-, if you browse all of them you will see some very creative signs and some very quirky ones.

If you don't have the time to go through all of them, here is my personal selection:

Your Right, Your Privilege

Just do it!

Make the Majority Count

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The Geeky One (if you don't know HTML it means "Stop War")

Apathy Gets You Nowhere

Brother in Law

Sister in Law

Good People Can Do Harm

No Joke

Want to Complain?

Last but not least, my two favorites. As a comic fan, I found these two just great:

Your Superpower

Simply Vendetta

The 50 winners are available for individual purchase for just 20 bucks and if you have the time and want to see all submissions, you can find them at "My Yard Your Message"website.