branding

Les copains d'abord

It's almost as if Georges Brassens had anticipated the social networking craze of today where everybody relies on his friends for recommendations and buying decisions. As if this were something new and never heard before. In the years before the Internet Era, social structures such as refer-a-friend and recommendations of products and services were even more important as the tools for research of common information were much more limited. People had to rely on each other in a much more substantial way than a Facebook connection can offer. People had to rely on friends of friends and there was no way to call a friend to tell him that someone will be in town soon and would they please support your friend in a certain cause. So people resorted to a friend-of-friend network that would guarantee that someone traveling to a town where he know nobody would be well received, supported and helped in his needs. One of the core tenets of the Freemasons was an is the open reception of their Brethren at any affiliated lodge. Les amitiés - Friendship is a very human quality - I'm not sure if animals make friends - kids have their own thoughts about friends; M., who is 5 and 3/4 clearly differentiates between boys who are friends and boyfriends, friends, best friends and really best friends. All her friends are in real life. She does not have a parallel Facebook life - yet. One of my recollections in my school around 10 is the barber/hairdresser who held a shop inside the school and did an abysmal job in cutting hair but it was cheap - he told me anyone has only one friend in life - I would say not one but very few.

So when people want to be "just" friends - meaning no relationship, no involvement that may break and take down with it the friendship, the question arises if it shouldn't be the other way around - when you marry, you can get a divorce - but friendship? So when you meet someone who becomes a real friend, then this changes your life. Not only on Facebook but in your soul.You can "friend" (verb) people online - not IRL (in real life) - whatever that is - more about that later. I recently met a friend.... how do I know? We seem to know each other forever.

Les copins d'abord

Art & Tech

If form follows function, does art follow technology or is technology following art? Nobody follows. Kids always want to finish first and nobody wants to be a follower – everyone is a leader. Even though we know that time, especially directional time is just a convention, we are tempted to see the form running, trying to catch up with function, maybe never reaching it.

"...That form ever follows function. This is the law." Louis Sullivan: "rule that shall permit of no exception".

The law is rooted in the domain of technology and as technology finds its own roots as  techne (craftmanship, craft, art) the whole discussion will be come irrelevant as the work itself will define its look and feel and functionality.

Take an ubiquitous personal technology object such as the mobile phone. With a pretty well-defined functionality it is amazing to see how ugly and how hard to use many of these devices are. And it is not a lack of form, function or the two following each other but the missing awareness to the demands of the object, it's materials and it's users.

There is a risk involved for the designer, the engineer: when asking the device "How would you like to be?" a very expensive solution may come out and most likely a solution that does not fit the personal taste of the product person.

(to be continued - comments welcome)

How is Bigger than What

Cobranding is obviously a great way to grow business, especially when combined with word-of-mouth and a clearly understandable differentiator. Blue Bottle Cafe hast fast reached cult status in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond as an artisan small batch coffee roaster and a new place offering Blue Bottle coffee moves itself to the top of the line must-visit locations. Five years ago, motels and airlines proudly serving Mermaid-brand coffee had something to offer - since then the connoisseurs have moved on. Having grown up in Viennese Coffeehouses [engl link]: Das Kaffeehaus [dt. link] - "nicht zu Hause und doch nicht an der frischen Luft" (Peter Altenberg, Viennese author) [not at home yet not in fresh air], it always amazes me how coffee is prepared, served and consumed.

I agreed to join as friend for a coffee at a new place that serves Blue Bottle cafe - Fraiche the new organic La Marzocco Lineafrozen yogurt must visit place in Palo Alto - for a nice shot and ended up with a cheap paper cup with ice cubes, cold milk and a brew that could be from any half-way decent office break room. And I'm pretty shure they actually use Blue Bottle Coffee. An espresso machine like the La Marzocco at this places needs to be driven like a sports car - you need to know what to do. And it's not the fault of the team behind the counter (it's not a bar) - no is it the fault of the young guy cranking the handle at the cash register and managing crowds fast-food-palce style and being rude - that's what his boss tells him to do: no photos, stand there, do this do that.

Forget this place but do remember to maximize the benefits of cobranding - especially in a start-up situation when you desperately need it. And get a bag of Blue Bottle cafe (the roast is never more than 48 hrs!) and make great cafe at home - even without a digitally controlled $4000 espresso machine - which is admittedly a nice boy toy (every boy deserves a steam engine at some point in his life). Get an ice cream maker, it's $49 and the stuff you can produce is amazing. [Yelp]