Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lens Crafter of the week, Nam Nguyens

I’ve missed my camera more and more over the past several months. In the midst of school, work, ongoing projects and making time to feel socially relieved, I tend to forget that it’s there for me, waiting to be utilized. To jumpstart this shutter bug I’ll post about some experimental photographers every so often. Maybe this occasional curation will catalyze my own. Maybe it’ll remind me that small moments, even those locked in a library, can unveil an unlikely point. Regardless of what happens, it’s still content worth recording– Enjoy the view.

“I felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and there are much more stories behind each photograph. Hopefully, these photographs will lead to a beginning of a story however funny, sad, long, short and challenging it will be.” – Nguyens

Nam Nguyens is a New York photographer with under 200 “likes” on Facebook. I ran into a few of his pieces on Designspiration, struck by his deep saturation and clever use of textures, from petals to bed sheets. A few clicks through his Flikr proved even more interesting, as each series displayed a different skill and style than the last.

Here’s a brilliant example of range if I’ve ever seen any:

© 2013 | NAM NGUYENS | All Rights Reserved

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 4.06.12 PM

Depth of field miniatures, text treatment, unique color minimalism


High resolution manipulation, respect for natural light, fearless saturation


Attention to natural texture, intense clarity of forms in motion, deconstruction of a typical oceanic persona

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 4.06.00 PM

Simple special effect, monochromatic drama, stark portraiture, stylized graphic


Hats off to Ed

“From the early 1960s on, Mr. Rondthaler was known publicly for his energetic campaign to respell English, a cause that over the centuries has been the quixotic mission of an impassioned few. To spell the language as it sounds, he argued, would vanquish orthographic hobgoblins, promote literacy and make accessible to foreign readers English classics like Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” — or, more properly, “Oed to a Nietingael” — whose opening lines appear on this page.

Long before that, Mr. Rondthaler had already established a national reputation by helping usher in the age of photographic typesetting. Phototypesetting was for decades a vital bridge between the hot-metal days of old and the digital typography of today.

A man of strong constitution and ardent enthusiasms, Mr. Rondthaler died on Aug. 19. He was 104 and attributed his longevity to having taken cold showers daily since 1918.

… Mr. Rondthaler first became known more than 70 years ago for his seminal work in photographic typesetting. In the mid-1930s, he and a colleague, Harold Horman, perfected a phototypesetting device that helped streamline the traditional art of setting type. Known as the Rutherford photo-lettering machine, it was one of the first such devices in wide commercial use.

Armed with their new machine, the two men founded Photo-Lettering Inc., a highly respected New York typographic house whose clients included many of the country’s best-known magazines and advertising agencies.”


Found this story a few days ago and felt like it was worth a revival. Read the whole thing here.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting a 102-year-old with such spunk.
Cold showers; noted.

All I want for Christmas

Light painting can be really, really fun but it doesn’t always come out like you’d wish. Someone who knows what they’re doing might make something brilliant, like this:


Most people end up with slightly illegible blur-fests, like this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.14.21 AM

Pixelstick has supercharged light painting with predetermined LED patterns. Design something neat, upload it to the stick, and watch magic unfold.




Think of the possibilities! We could paint the yellow brick road, Oz, and flying monkeys at once. We could turn a bedroom into an animated aquarium. We could sign our name every time we go out for drinks in huge IMPACT font. We could set things to music and make a stop motion, long exposure, a photorealistic masterpiece. We could take creepy group portraits around a neon thanksgiving feast, before diving into the normal peanut butter and/or pasta dinner.

Watch the whole Kickstarter project!

My greatest distraction, now in dots

This is modern art.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 12.11.41 AM

Actually, I lied. This is modern art.
Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 12.12.05 AM

Look a little closer, there’s more modern to be seen.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 12.12.38 AM

Confused yet?
You’re looking at Redditviz, an interactive map of the internet’s front page. Now your daily distraction is more accessible than ever, and conveniently tied to thousands of related distraction sub reddits!

My freshman year a professor had us construct “mind maps” to develop ideas for an upcoming project. Sometimes if i’m ever stuck, or am just beginning a campaign, I’ll sharpie out mind maps until my head hurts from the fumes. But guess what? The internet just provided us with an endless mindmap- offering connections of unwanted crudity for any and every everyday use. Let whacky commence.

Vesuvius gets a soft side

HD TV’s are HD TV’s, I don’t care about them. But this ad starts make me think I should? What’s neat about this brand new piece for Sony is that nothing was animated. Hundreds of helpers actually found a way to shoot thousands and thousands of petals “exploding” from a volcano by using high powered fans, plastic tarps shifted to make them appear bubbly, and lot of brooms for cleanup. Impressive, right? Intense craft is always inspiring, like illustration and sculpture, but if it’s not in your face or over-done craft can be taken to an incredible scale. I’d say this is an example of crafty gone awesome.

making of:

Delta: Keep Climbing

The title is Delta’s current tagline, not my own. It fits with their initiative so well that it deserves the bold font. Before I dive into Delta’s recent app, I have to share this. I stumbled upon it while researching, it’s stamped September 30, 2000.*

Airlines are racing to sell more tickets on the Web. Why? Simple. It’s much, much cheaper than any of the alternatives.

Today, Delta Air Lines, like most major carriers, distributes about 70% of its tickets through travel agents. Each one of those round-trips costs the airline $10 in fees. Delta’s annual tab: $330 million.
The cost of accepting an online reservation and of processing an e-ticket via, however, is close to zero. Delta has sold nearly 5% of its tickets, representing $400 million this year, on its site — second among airlines only to Southwest Airlines… By 2003, Delta expects that will account for up to 20% of the company’s sales.

Fast forward thirteen years, Delta is competing solely online, through several points of entry, with every airline today. Hilarious.

ANYWAY- Delta was in need of a brand revamp to compete with many other flight plans and they decided to focus on costumer service. Even though every company ever says that, these guys seemed to truly mean it. They’ve fashioned customer service around re-innovating everything about their customers’ experience, not just how flawless your boarding is, and it’s payed off.  “Keep Climbing”, that lovely tagline I mentioned above, launched things with a series of well-written spots and print ads.


But that fluff isn’t fraudulent, it’s reflecting actionable change. Starting with a digital revamp, or “hub” as they put it, Delta altered their site’s UI. That interface then seamlessly flowed into an app, which carried most of the weight/attention.

It improves ticket checkins, baggage security, wifi/movie access while flying, and uses a fancy-shmancy map to illustrate things passengers are flying over. Someone flying Delta might not ‘quit’ their app until the transit is all said and done- and that’s the goal, right? From the journalist’s 2000 perspective, this app is practically magic.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.41.38 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.39.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.39.11 PM

Overall, this app is a solid addition that’s wisely paralleled with the “Keep Climbing” direction.

I also like seeing the soft-sell for an airline like this, especially when its coupled with utilitarian digital. As a kid who didn’t fly often, with parents who can still rarely afford tickets, getting up into the sky feels futuristic– however silly that sounds. Seeing this company disseminate their much needed business change with a consistent style and diction is inspirational.

Ha, obviously I’m sold.


Hang on Snapchat, I’m in the middle of something.

Y&R Melbourne just sent me on a whirlwind of Australian travel research. They’re an awesome agency! So awesome that I might pack my bags and fly (way) west if they had any creative opportunities I could fill.

One of their many interesting projects was a medical recruiting challenge for Defense University. The client needed a way to give scholarships to the most suitable pre-med students through advertising, so Y&R created the Mobile Medic. Check out this explanation:

“It’s extremely accurate… and an interesting step forward to what’s currently taught in medical school,” reported Dr. Charles Bush in a longer case study of the campaign.

I find this project fascinating for many reasons but innovating diagnosis taught in schools today isn’t one of them. Many medical institutions have extended access to top-notch technology for research that spurs true global change. For an advertising shop to say they’ve innovated medical diagnosis is ridiculous. I’m definitely not suggesting that’s what Y&R is claiming, just saying that overdramatized “innovation” claims in advertising are way too common. Anyway, that’s another discussion. It IS safe for Y&R to say that they’ve innovated the way agencies interact with targets using print ads and mobile, all for a really unique client.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 5.54.25 PM

From a messaging perspective, I like this campaign for how it communicates the fast-paced nature of military medicine to students who have might only considered conventional practice. From a tech perspective, I really like that Y&R created multiple ways to augment the user’s reality. During the interaction, a student could see any combination of 3D organ models, mammograms and audio commands, all prompting unique responses that prove or disprove medical knowledge. Within a few minutes a student could be intrigued, led to interact, and shown results as to whether they had performed at qualifying standards. As the video said, the ad serves as an application for  scholarship and Y&R inserted real purpose to what would’ve been a simple OOH placement.

KUT Maps the Past

The University of Texas sponsored radio station, KUTX, prides itself on unpredictable  playlists and critically acclaimed sound waves. Few ads, sound perspectives, heh.

Recently, KUT launched the Austin Music Map. The digital interaction piece is no doubt to advertise their brand of community funded radio station, and it does so very well, but the project is interesting to me because it provides a unique, real use to any listeners in the city.

The Map’s main function is something like Google Maps meets Yelp, a well designed guide to every music venue in Austin with stories and media included. The map also updates for newbie venues, including the over-done dive that opened last week and will likely close in the next quarter.

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 9.31.27 PM

What’s more brilliant, and on-brand for KUTX, is the collection of “flashback” soundbites you can dig through. These include interviews and performance clips from classic blues shows, and mid-90’s parties. Even better, the memories are coupled with endless photos that remind many of the original Austin, a look that forced screen prints and ads will never quite capture.

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 9.32.56 PM

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 9.32.41 PM

Users can also input their own stories, adding to their effort to mystify the many layers of Austin’s scene.

Lead us to corners of the city we never would have known about before. Take a picture of your favorite band, record sound in a beloved haunt, let us in on the city’s best kept musical secrets.

A representation of Austin’s “music evolution” has never been so accessible. It definitely speaks to KUT’s varied market, including the older crowd who’s been listening for decades and UT kids who are open to more appreciation. Overall, I’d say that’s the strategy: appreciate the music around you. It’s as if this idea sparked after KUT said, “This time, let’s show them how to appreciate the audio through the visual.”

VW Crashes the Party

In an ad world of blogging “cooperation” and forced social placements out the wazoo, here’s a cleverly placement for a message that matters. Oh- and for a mock-tutorial the tone seems strangely on brand. Then again, it’s VW. Did you expect any less?

The twist definitely has an initial impactful (pardon the pun) for anyone watching, and I wonder if it had any real statistical change. Nonetheless, this work from DDB Berlin gained a shitload of online attention, as far as makeup videos go, and won a CLIO for innovative placement.

Buuuut since no one really likes an interruption, I believe it might be improved by at least a button at the end to rewind or show the intended tutorial ending. I mean, car crashes suck but bedazzled eyes still matter.

Granola To the Rescue

You know Nature Valley, they’re the granola bar too awesome for old people and babies. At least my grandpa can’t eat them, he has shitty dentures.

Recently, Nature Valley has partnered with the National Parks Foundation for some promotion/preservation marketing tactics, as evidenced by their website:

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 3.06.06 PM

Then McCann Erickson NY took this partnership to another tech-fueled level. Using the same moves as Google Street View, the agency created five step-by-step looks into America’s most popular national parks. Inside Nature Valley Trail View, users simply choose a park, then on of several trails, tracked from the path’s head to base. For the health-conscious, mid 20’s-mid 40’s Nature Valley target, this project is spot on without feeling forced. This target have at least considered visiting a national park, and now they can.


Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 3.03.30 PM

Although the site’s view is pretty pathetic compared to the real deal, it’s the first time someone took our habitual perspective of Google Maps far from the streets. So that’s neat. And besides, I’m all for conservation in the name of noms. And besides besides, you could say that’s why Google Street turns wonder into action already: “Yo, here’s this rubbery, fish-eye view of the place you’re looking for. That’s the right corner? Ok cool, go check it out IRL.” McCann knew this view would likely translate to visits.

I found a small shot from the set of their case study, sporting the campaign tag:

30_390_234_nature_valley_trail_view_feature_1 (1)

After watching their “making of” nicely illustrate this concept, seeing how much content framed the interaction, and considering the awards McCann received in the end– I’d say the project was successful. “”Preserve & Inspire” indeed.

I’d like to see how Nature Valley might take that strategy line even farther, maybe by speaking to urbanites who might not give a rats ass about National Parks. Yeah, it’s probably out of their target… but city hipsters still like granola? It’d be funny to see how they could transport the natural praise somewhere really unexpected. Just an idea.