“We are currently losing $25 million per day,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned earlier this month. Somebody save the poor Postman please! Take it private if necessary.
The bad management of USPS has trickled down to the end user level. Customers are more annoyed beyond rate increases and long lines. USPS has worsened the quality of their products and customer service as a response to their own failing/winning product and marketing strategy.
I had a fun chat with a staff yesterday on Flat Rate Priority Mail. Besides raising the intl priority flat rate by ~20%, they also degraded the envelope with flimsier, easier to torn recycle stock; and you are NOT allowed to reinforced the edge with tape, or it'll be treated as “package”, when they are obliges to charge you much, much more.
It was USPS' innovative idea to offer flat rate priority mail to customers: all you can put inside the envelope for up to 4 pounds for a flat rate. It seemed to work well for the postmaster and customers, for a while until recently... About a year ago my mom started dreading going to the post office to forward me my posts via intl flat rate priority mails. Every time she went the postal staffs started harassing her about the envelope being too heavy (usually around 2 pounds); until I nudged her to remind them about the 4-pound rule (their own rule), then they stopped. I was told that the employees were pressured to discourage customers from taking advantage of the offer to improve revenue.(???)
Internet eliminated most of our needs on sending letters but increased our reliance on them (and other carriers) thanks to online shopping. E-commerce sales during the holidays increases by 16 -18% per year, 4 years in a row. Was USPS able to capture any of its spill-over benefit? There is something obviously not working with its management and business strategy. Let alone customer service (I haven't even touched on their pickup-note-instead-of-package delivery strategy). if they continue this route we might one day see this great American brand turns into another bygones. Please, somebody save this USPS.
Article on Facebook Envy:
The name “Facebook” finally makes sense to me, because it's really all about the “surface”, the superficial stuffs.
Most of us in our shared networks came from a generation of never to display our closet' skeletons nor our laundry in the open; and share only the happy events in life. Only those who are really closed to us have seen our worst... very few of our failures would be recorded on our timelines. No wonder we see only hot chick and rods, extravagant vaca and sappy family photos on FB. I never posted about my dad having a stroke last summer (more a blog material). I'm aware not to be a party pooper on FB, cause it's a happy place for us to flaunt and bond. Ranting about others, politicians, celebs is however acceptable and very appropriate cause we bond even easier when we share our hate against common nemesis.
Those born in the 90's and after have a very different way of using FB. I love glancing their posts! They openly broadcast their success and failures, loves and hates... yet the consequence of doing that has relatively less impact since most of them are still dependents with very little to no life obligations.
Personally I don't take FB too seriously. I like to entertain and be entertained by images or words. It's a GREAT way to connect with new and old friends currently living in different time zones. However I rely mostly on personal visits to connect/reconnect whenever possible. Fb after all is really just a surfacebook, but I did make a few great friends such as Jeffrey Jones and Kerrin Howard whom I met first on FB.
Notice the new DC logo at theatre when watching Dark Knight Rises? It's one of many variations in a brand identity system that invoked lots of online passionate debates about whether it is better and working. Remember Gap?. The difference is, Gap had almost zero likes. DC's new logo got lots of good reviews among designers, comic fans, and “normal” folks.
For a love brand such as DC Comics, you know for sure any change will draw tons of resistances whether they are justified or not. People are just so attached to their own projections of what the brand is, guaranteed there would be no sure win (“sure lost” , again, like “Gap” is much easier to “achieve”:P).
I personally like this design (creator being a client has nothing to do with it) a lot. Like most geeks, I grew up reading comic books. When I saw a few of the variations upon this system's release, I got all the super hero narratives right away. The visuals invokes deep story telling, unlike the previous flat, line art rendition. The new system is dimensional, dynamic, and works very well onscreen (from Iphone to Imax... (not part of Apple's ecosystem ;)). Some said the logo is corporate, I disagree. Not the versions with the illustrative treatment. The flat version can be, which is appropriate, it's owner by Warner Bros after all.
Downers out there, do give it some time... it'll grow on you. I recall how negative some of our cohorts felt when they first learned about the change of our B-School's name from Chicago GSB to Chicago Booth. Some even created an online group to boycott against the evolution. Few years after none of us refer ourselves as GSB alumni anymore.
Leveraging the indigenous resources (raw materials, human capital...) at the bottom of the pyramid, yet by the time it gets distributed to the specialty stores in Manhattan and SF...etc, it's priced like a premium brand. $9/350g for loose leaf tea, that's almost as much as you'd pay at Mariages Freres!
let's hope that the foundation do benefit from such a high margin (the only high cost expected in the operation will be marketing). Distribution is still limited since they aren't even in Wholefoods. Winning a package design award may get them the needed exposure. Keep up the good work and congrats on winning the design award!
Recently several clients requested me to create brand assets with a specific yet similar visual style. I started asking myself when was the last time that happened? Was that coincidence or a reflection of a bigger trend? In fact I can recall several significant visual fads in the past couple decades. They were indeed the results of certain technological or market disruptions (or bubbles). I do have a few subjective observations, they are of course by no mean the outcome of any empirical research.
Bubbly 90's: During the dot com bubble when the optimism was high, businesses competed to demonstrate their creative capacity as assets. All fundamental financial ratios were irrelevant as long as your business has something to do with web. The bubble has furnished us with numerous projects requesting us to create assets that are gestural, creative, whitty and whimsical. Everyone was in a good mood. We all know what happened when the bubble was burst.
Photoshopper: When Adobe Photoshop became such a hot app that threatened the livelihood of many professional photographs, designers and illustrators were also pressured to create assets that shamelessly revealed off the different special and layer effects of the software. In my opinion, the design field has entered a dark age that resembled the naissance of desktop publishing. When visual communication served a better purpose promoting the tools than communicating a message, regardless how brilliant the tools are.
Recession realist: Recession hit US right after W took over the white house. Layoffs, budget cuts, for sure less experimentations on marketing communication. The consumers were spending mostly on the essentials. Big companies were playing it safe, even with brand building. We were assigned many projects using more realistic visual styles, depicting products instead of concepts.
Technical line art: I had no idea where this came from, The line drawing used mainly in instructional inserts or back panels (which we also do a lot) became mainstream. They took on a more heroic role in communication in packaging, collaterals, and info-graphical materials. Interestingly, this style seems straight forward at first glance, but indeed requires a quite strategic mind. Designers who create artworks has to make smart decision on what to show and what not. Importance of elements represented only by differentiating line weight or some minimal uses of colors.
Revival of fun (or bubble?): They called it the second coming of tech bubble in the silicon valley.Companies such as Groupon, Facebook...etc, with unjustifiable earning ratios and valuation do well in their IPOs. With VCs hedging their bets investing in multiple startups ran by young leaders who were born shortly before the first bubble, we see a lot of parallels between the two markets. We are getting requests for doing fun concepts again. More metaphorical story telling, more gestural and fun visual styles, simplistic, humorous, gestural...and less direct depiction of products and services.
The increasing demand for creative execution reminds me the best time in 90's, yet it also reminds me the lost of paper wealth that many of my peers suffered. Stock options that once worth millions became liability if realized. Some of us didn't get hit as badly due to a high percentage of assets invested in Real Estate, which did quite well for the following decade. Equity grew at double digits for years... until of course the recent crash of market in 2007.
Worst of it all, is that we've not yet seen the bottom of the real estate bubble yet. After recent Facebook's IPO, many newly minted millionaires have entered the housing market looking for homes. Maybe this second coming of tech bubble will help lift the market, and bail out some of those Real Estate investors who are still drowning under water now. Wishful thinking, I know.
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Village writer Tim Smyth is still in coma after injury.
A very, very unfortunate thing has happened to our dear colleague and friend Tim Smyth.
No one knows what caused that serious brain injury that keeps him in coma ever since.
Tim has been the perfect copywriter for our team for DW since last fall. I still remembered the first time I reached out to him when staffing. He has a very impressive portfolio and specialized expertise in the media. We audited our clients' operations and conducted some surveys together. We've brainstormed about other opportunities on the side. No one will argue that he's one of the gentlest men you will ever meet. He's intelligent, knowledgeable (such a great asset for our project because of his knowledge and passion in Dance), down to earth and responsible. I still recalled our lunch meeting at the falafel place in Brooklyn. That feels like yesterday.
There's not much we can do for him now but to pray for the best outcomes. It reminds and humbles me always how little we can actually control about life.
Of course this opinion is based on salient, subjective experience and not to be concluded as empirical.
Back from an extensive, exhausting two weeks of research and supply chain management work in South East Asia. Still fighting a cold that I caught at the end of the trip.
I was in a couple meetings with some branding professionals who work for local blue chip companies. Their works seem OK, quality comparable to those done by second, third tier agencies in the US. Unfortunately the rate was not competitive at all to be considered a possible outsource partner. One might have bluffed me with the $ currency; the other designer was just not flexible with the creative methodology we are used to in the Western world. Since we can spend similar amount of money to hire talents in the US or Europe, why would we want to risk getting expressions lost in translation or to deal with harsh time difference? The nuance of culture can never be substituted.
Outsourcing other parts of the creative supply chain is still possible. While the master design should still be procured locally pertain to client's target market, logical design implementation and all pre / post media work can easily be implemented with a decent outhouse model.
This is temporary good news for us who make a living by creating brand assets at the high level, who balk at cutting price to compete with foreign counterparts with much lower living cost. and bad news for shareholders who seek profit maximization at any possible opportunity.
Just finished our presentation on discovery findings last night. We are happy to discover what great impact DW has made to the community and students. Those who have participated in their programs are always passionate about this organization. They should brag more about it in their communication materials, as aide to solicit more sponsorship to benefit even more individuals in the community. One more scholarship provided to a kid who can't afford to go to college to pursue her/his dream in dancing, is one less kid ending up wandering on the street.