Pink Bat Video

September 11, 2010

The idea for this video struck me one evening after seeing a UPS commercial. Uncertain of the best way to turn my concept into reality, I called my friend Ryan Schiewe to see if he had any ideas. As expected, he had several. Most involved green screens, projectors, special digital effects, large studios… and big budgets.

“What if I stood at a real whiteboard and you actually filmed me drawing?” I suggested. Ryan agreed to give it a try but stressed, “We won’t be able to refine or manipulate your drawings to look perfect… like those in the UPS commercials.” After purchasing a 4’ x 8’ sheet of whiteboard material, we set up a makeshift studio in Ryan’s living room and did a few quick tests. Before long, we concluded while this approach was somewhat problematic—and not real plausible—it was possible. That was all it took. Read more

“Think Outside the Box”… but Look Behind the Curtain

February 17, 2010

The first time I heard the phrase “Think Outside the Box” was shortly after I had graduated from college. I was working at a small but thriving visual communications firm. Concerned about growing too fast and losing control, the president invited a few business consultants in to see if they could help us manage our growth. Being a rookie designer, I was honored when the president asked me to attend the presentations.

Perhaps the stars were aligned just so that week, but of the three consultancies invited to present, the first two started their presentations the exact same way… by challenging us with a nine-dot puzzle. Solving it required connecting each dot using four straight, continuous lines—without lifting the pen from the paper.

The first consultant seemed taken aback by our questions and passion toward solving it. Apparently he had come in expecting to present the puzzle, answer a few predictable questions, watch us make some failed attempts, and then give us the answer. Until that day, he had only presented to business executives who had little interest in solving visual puzzles—not graphic designers.

By using a very wide marker, all nine dots could be connected with only one line.

When I asked him if we could use one line rather than four, he just smiled. “If you can solve the puzzle using only one line, by all means, be my guest. Just make certain it’s a straight line… and don’t lift your pen.” Before I could respond, he added, “If you solve it with four lines, lunch is on me… solve it with one line and I’ll make certain you get a raise… and bonus, too,” then winked at the president of our firm.

When I explained that my solution required a very wide pen, he began shaking his head and then with a dismissive laugh said, “No… I’m afraid that would be cheating… you have to use a standard size pen.” Then he held his marker up for everyone to see before asking again, “Okay, are you ready for the answer?” Read more

Categories Don’t Define Reality—We Do

October 16, 2009

When European scientists first saw a stuffed duck-billed platypus in the late 1700s, they thought it was an elaborate hoax created by Chinese taxidermists and sold to some naive sailors. One very respected scientist even pulled on its bill to see how they managed to stitch it on so neatly. But when more of these critters showed up, scientists reconsidered their position, took a closer look, and accepted the platypus was, in fact, real.

Why didn’t they accept it at first? Simple. With a duck-like bill, an otter-like body, a tail like a beaver, and webbed feet, the platypus didn’t fit an established category. So it couldn’t possibly be real! While this may seem funny, the idea of rejecting ideas (new realities) that don’t fit neatly into accepted categories, still happens on a regular basis.

*MJ-RareAirI learned this firsthand while working with Michael Jordan on his book, Rare Air. It was my first retail book experience so I was naive to the process. After working hard and putting a presentation together, I flew to NYC to meet with several prominent publishers. (By the way, when Michael writes a letter on your behalf, asking someone (anyone) to meet with you… they will.) By the end of my first meeting, I learned that since Rare Air didn’t fit an existing category, it couldn’t be “real.”

Like the scientists and the platypus, every publisher who initially saw Rare Air rejected it. By reinforcing each other’s beliefs… they shook ours. When Michael asked whom we had selected to publish his book, we were speechless. Read more

Relax, Breathe… Create.

October 13, 2009

It seems when I least expect it, my best ideas appear. Can you relate? Often while on a walk, taking a shower or relaxing in some way… bang! A great idea seems to magically appear. On the flip side, when I’m really stressed out and in need of a breakthrough solution, rarely does anything truly creative surface. If you’re like me, that’s when you return to the old idea well and crank up a predictable solution. It might be an interesting solution, but rarely original. It’s typically a modification of one of those good ideas that “worked” once (or twice…) before.

According to Nuno Sousa at the University of Minho in Portugal, there’s a good reason for why this happens. Sousa found when lab rats are stressed out; their responses to familiar routines become very repetitive. For example, rather than trying new maze paths that lead to food, chronically stressed rats repeatedly ran down the same dead-end paths. Read more