sometimes services / products require context to understand.

So I’m in San Diego for the summer working on an internship. As I tend to be an observer of things, I’m taking lots of notes on things that are different (than Indiana/the midwest) out here. One thing that I’ve noted is that the Fandango iPhone app is much more useful here than it is back home. I’ve used the app for many years, just to look up show times. Admittedly when I’m at home, I fall back on looking up times on the theaters website. When I’m not already out and about, there’s no reason. All of the theaters in my town are owned by the same company and the show times are all on the same website.

Fandango also offers a “buy your tickets from app” option, which seems to be the real reason that the app was created. Theaters in Indiana have signs about this service, and some of the bigger ones, say, in Indianapolis even have fandango ticket redeeming stations.. that are never used. I never understood the point. it was just an extra step in a process that wasn’t terribly painful.

In San Diego, things are different. When I get to the theater at 12:45p to see a movie that starts at 1:00p, I am finding that not only is the showing I want sold out, but so are the next two. (at home you can go 5 minutes late and still get a ticket, without exception) Additionally, the lines for the ticket booth are usually really long. I used the Fandango app last week and was able to skip the line. The ticket taker scanned my phone and I was in.

I still like the Indiana way better, but this solves the mystery I had as to why people would want to do use this service.

“Art and advertising (and skateboards and design)” OR “some cool documentaries”

This post will be a little tangential, but bear with me.

So today, I’m sitting in Design History class watching Art & Copy for probably the 6th time. [If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s a documentary about advertising. It’s really much more interesting than it sounds. You can watch it free on youtube. If you care about art or design at all you’ll probably enjoy it.] I think I had an “A-HA” moment. Not “take on me” but an idea about my career in design. Lately I’ve been looking down the throat of an internship hunt, and in the process realizing that I don’t fit the mold of any of the internship positions that my educational track mandates. It’s been a great source of stress and driven me to do a lot of soul searching on the topic of “what am I good at”. After hearing David Kennedy [of Wieden+Kennedy, the design firm that hosts the “basket” as seen in portlandia] say that he hated advertising and the love/hate situation he and Dan Wieden had with the advertising were what drew them together forming the firm, a light bulb went off for me.

I’ve traditionally hated the idea of advertising. It seems manipulative and dirty. It causes people to do things that aren’t good for them. ..and lets not get started on child targeting advertising. I’ve always felt, rather unfortunately, that I am built for such work. I’m fascinated by social science. I have a good working knowledge of human cognition and how it relates to design and persuasion. I’m also a pretty good communicator and have an ability to distill ideas down to easily manageable nuggets. These strengths aren’t yet doing a lot for me in Industrial Design and Interaction design. Well.. they are, but not enough to give me leverage over my competition. I’m currently going through an entrepreneurship certificate program, another area that I have some negative opinions on, and seeing my skills working in that arena as well. Seeing these guys with the same concerns I have, and managing to move forward in spite of them was kind of inspiring. Rich Silverstien and Jeff Goodby had some good things to say as well. To paraphrase, it’s not crappy when it’s done right.

Ok. Time to jump the tracks.

Bones Brigade documentary

Bones Brigade documentary

All this thinking about advertising reminded me of the excellent Bones Brigade documentary that Lauren and I watched on Netflix a while ago. Aside from being a really cool story about a team that really defined the sport of skateboarding, this film covered some of the art behind the brand. At the time, skateboard ads were this bland, pseudo-sporting goods style that showed average kids in full on, ugly colored safety gear. Bones Brigade brought in this artist called Craig Stecyk, who started doing all this off the wall (sic) design for the print ads. Most didn’t feature skateboards at all. They had fire, taxidermied animals, etc. To paraphrase the explanation given in the film, they were selling ideas, not skateboards. Such a great commentary. It was so amazing to me to learn the genesis of this style of art in advertising. I was not a skater growing up, but I rode BMX, which experienced a similar, but not as pronounced change in advertising. This kind of art was ubiquitous to me in my semi-suburban, 90’s highschool years. I remember seeing art from skateboard magazines early on. It seemed so acceptable even though it was kind of out there. I remember one particular Toy Machine ad that had little claymation figures that I tore out and saved. The disruptive format that Bones Brigade put out there is still in use today.

So, anyway.. where I’m going with this is that this film is great, especially if you grew up in the 90’s and had exposure to skateboard culture. I really love being able to trace ideas back to specific points. This is the most solid example of that that I’ve encountered.

Before Bones Brigade

Before Bones Brigade

After Bones Brigade

After Bones Brigade


QR codes

I was at a movie theater in Indianapolis over the weekend to see Coraline, and the movie poster for Miss March caught my eye because the two guys on it were from The Whitest Kids U Know. Then I noticed that there was a QR code (kind of like a barcode, you may have seen similar datagrams on UPS tracking stickers) on the magazine they were looking at. I have an app for my iPhone called Barcode that added QR decoding recently, so I clicked a picture and decoded. Unfortunately, it was just a URL pointing to the site with the movie trailer. Belinda was quick to make the observation that it was a lot like the Ovaltine decoder ring in A Christmas Story – bit of a letdown. Very true. I hadn’t encountered QR codes in this context, so I expected something “cool”.

A bit of googling shows that QR codes have been used on movie posters in Japan (where the QR code was created) regularly for some time now. Initially I didn’t really understand the reason for doing this. I understand that movie promo URLs are pretty obfuscated, but I think I could remember one if I really wanted to look at it. Also, the capture and decode process is cumbersome. At least on iPhone with the Barcode app. But at the end of the day, I think this is probably the easiest, completely opt-in method of getting a piece of text into a passerby’s mobile device.

My big speculation is that eventually mobile devices will have as a component a standardized ad hoc network element that could be user set to accept or receive marketing messages in situations just like this. To step out a bit further, the sending device could even poll the user device for demographic info before sending a custom tailored message. It’s certainly very questionable as to if people would ever want marketing this pervasive, but it’s already progressed that direction quite a bit.

Movie review – Zack and Miri make a porno

I don’t review movies very often, but maybe I should.

I saw Zach and Miri make a porno last weekend. It’s worth noting that we were preached to by a concession cashier.. He asked what we were seeing and then proceeded to tell us about several “good christian movies” we should watch. It was weird. Perhaps the biggest take-away from the movie for me was the preview of the film Fanboys – a story of some nerds who set out to steal Star Wars memorabilia from George Lucas’ home. Bill Shatner, Jason Mewes and Kevin smith are all in it as well as some other cameos.. Looks pretty funny.

Zach and Miri was pretty good. I didn’t know it was a Kevin Smith film prior to the movie starting, but once it did, it was pretty obvious. The imaginative insults and dialog were in the classic, awkwardly paced Smith style, although Belinda suggests that this style is pretty common with Seth Rogen as well. If you enjoy Smith’s other works, you will probably like this one. I liked it, but the Kevin Smith movie style is kind of wearing on me, probably due to independent/student films I’ve acted in all ripping off his shtick.

Regardless, if you’re cool with foul language, nudity, and simulated sex acts, this is an entertaining movie with a touch of a love story. Definitely worth watching.

Zack and Miri make a porno – 8/10 stars