The Eyes ARE the Brain

I’m a lifelong fan of the power of the visual mind. An artist since I was a child, the power and richness of imagery has always captivated me.

Although we seem to value text and numerical data over mere ‘pictures,’ over 90% of all information processed by our brains is visual. Since we perceive the world in rich, colorful moving three-dimensions, a great deal of processing is required to sort all of that data into information we can make sense of. That’s why over half of our brain is dedicated to visual processing.  The retina and optic nerve are actually extensions of the brain itself, conducting massive amounts of image processing.

The near-instantaneous speed and broad bandwidth of our visual thinking is what gives advertising and movies their mesmerizing power.

Here’s a section from a cool infographic from NoeMam Studios that does a great job of telling that story:

imageprocessbrain

Click on this image to see the entire Infographic

 Why is this important?

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a great article on the miraculous visual nervous system and how it takes the raw data of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (what we call ‘light’), collects it, and assembles it into the coherent visual world we take for granted. It really gives one a profound appreciation for the sheer processing power at work in our very own grey matter.

Stop and See the Roses

Take time to appreciate what your visual cortex does for you today, when you notice the fall colors, enjoy your child’s smile, or find your attention captured by an advertisement or book cover.

And don’t neglect to harness this awesome power in your marketing.

==============

If you’d like to talk about custom infographics for your business, please get in touch.

Advertisements

Why You Need a Good Writer

typingYou know your business. You can probably construct a decent sentence, too, if you got this far. But there are times when you need a professional writer.

We aren’t always the best promotors of ourselves, or even our products. We hold back where we should crow the loudest, or we display proudly the details that aren’t all that meaningful to the audience. It’s hard to remember, but you are not your target market.

Also, it’s very likely that the value of your time has risen to great heights as your business has grown. The cost of a copywriter will pale in comparison to the value of you, creating product and/or business in the way that’s made you successful.

Here are five situations when you need to hire a writer:

1. You’re just no good at it. Not everyone is a great word slinger. If writing isn’t for you, hire or partner with a really good writer to make sure that part of your business is getting the attention it needs.

2. You don’t have the bandwidth Writing is a time-consuming endeavor. there’s a limit to how many words we can consistently get onto the page or screen every day.

3. You need particular expertise You might need a subject expert, or a persuasive sales writer

4.  You’re too close to the topic. The reason it’s so hard to move from features to benefits is that it can be really tough to be objective about your own business.

5. The stakes are high.  If you’ve got a big launch or an important marketing campaign, you need to make sure your copy is making a great impression.

from Copyblogger

A writer who’s focus is on engaging the customer can see from a perspective you do not have. And the copywriter’s skill as a story-teller can bring intrigue, mystery, drama: the right kind of lively interest-engaging energy by virtue of that detachment.

Would you benefit from a writing pro on your current project?

Have you used freelance writers in your business? Tell us about your experience.

 

 

Soapbox Time: the Midwest

I was born in Michigan and now live among highly educated East Coast types, who refer to my homeland as ‘flyover country.’  As if that weren’t bad enough, when something happens in Minnesota, they may gesture vaguely north and west and say “out there in Mich-zouri, right?”

Enough with this verbal and geographic ignorance! I can hardly imagine Michigan and Missouri in the same sentence, they are such different places. The American Midwest is an awesome slice of territory, upon which we all depend for food, fuel, industry, and even culture (seriously. click the link).
Most of us are a little vague about what the Midwest is. Fortunately this post from Vox goes into glorious detail about my home region. The current Census definition is based on the area’s evolution from ‘Northwest territories’ to ‘North Central Division,’ which now includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Those pale pink states, plus Oklahoma and Kentucky do not qualify.

freighter

we even have our own ships

That is a serious chunk of real estate, smaller than Australia, but larger than Mexico. It’s function as the breadbasket is due to the lucky confluence of climate and excellent soils plowed down by the glaciers which also carved the Great Lakes.

The population is slightly larger than France. And if it were a country, it would have the 6th largest economy in the world, sandwiched between Russia and Brazil.

So, think about that next time you enjoy your corn (in the form of soda, beef, packaged food, gasoline, and so much more.)

Lies People Tell — to Women

A new study  from University of California–Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania asked MBA students to participate in role-plays of face-to-face negotiations, and discovered that people were significantly more likely to blatantly lie to women.

The study also indicated that participants perceived women as less competent than a man or even a hypothetical person whose gender was not revealed.

Laura Kray, the study’s author noted:

 “When people perceive someone as low in competence and easily misled, they assume the person will not scrutinize lies, and that you can get away with [lying.]

Here’s more on the subject over at Slate.com

 

Creativity as Dialog

According to the New York Times, we are watching the end of the lone genius. I’ll be the first to agree that the isolated creative is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Too many depictions of a tormented Vincent Van Gogh, a drunken and depressed Hemingway, even Newton as the singular discoverer, who was building on the work of others.

An article by Joshua Wolf Shenk in today’s NYT, The End of Genius, deftly unwraps the modern construct of our mythical loner. (Shenk writes more about the brilliance of creative pairs in the Atlantic, HERE.) The word originally meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth” – a Muse as it were. In our modernity we have apparently absorbed this creative god and ascribed its qualities to our individual selves.

 

Now the creative network is emerging as a more useful model of the process.  Certainly  the internet and virtual communication has enhanced our ability to collaborate in teams and groups. We have crowd-sourced encyclopedias, music written and produced by partners who have never met, and ease of collaboration via the media that gives us instant contact.

Of course, this is nothing new.  All creative work builds on what came before. But we are  thinking about this differently. We’re evolving the way we inhabit our creative identity.

So let’s talk about it:

  • Do you work with a creative partner?
  • Do you use technology to collaborate?
  • Does the media influence your creative product?

 

The “Selfie” Phenomenon

While the self-portrait has a long and venerable place in the history of art, the democratization of media in our young century collided with our first-world self obsessions to create a robust trend.   Chosen by the OED in 2013 as Word of the Year, “selfie” has charged into the English language with remarkable vigor.

The first recorded use of the hashtag #selfie took place on Flick in 2004, but the word didn’t really catch on until 2012. Since then, the use of ‘selfie’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has exploded, growing by over 17,000 percent.

Consider these stats:

selfiestats

Click on the above to see the whole graphic, which is chock-full of amazing selfie info!

Now we have smart phones specifically designed for taking selfies, including this one from SONY, who created the info graphics in this blog.

And feel free to post your favorite selfie in the comments below.

Here’s my latest favorite:

I grow broccoli, therefore I am.

Great Advice from an 60’s Adman

George Lois “Great ideas can't be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

“Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

George Lois  is the guy who created the “I want my MTV” slogan and invented the concept of Lean Cuisine. Now  81, the  graphic designer/art director/copywriter may be best known for his 92 cover designs for Esquire magazine from 1962 to 1972, which have been exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art.

When asked about the hit TV series Mad Men, Lois dismisses it as a soap opera, and also notes that it missed the real story:

…ignoring the dynamics of the Creative Revolution that changed the world of communications forever…That dynamic period of counterculture in the 1960s found expression on Madison Avenue through a new creative generation—a rebellious coterie of art directors and copywriters who understood that visual and verbal expression were indivisible.

Lois is responsible for quite a few books over the years including The Art of Advertising and Sellebritythe most recent of which is  Damn Good Advice, which is nicely profiled in this article at Fast Company:

7 Pieces of “Damn Good” Creative Advice from ’60s Ad Man George Lois:

BREVITY ROCKS

“I want my MTV” became a generational battle cry after Lois, a pioneer in exploiting celebrity cachet, persuaded Mick Jagger to appear in a TV commercial delivering the line.

LISTEN

Lois says, “When people talk to you about their business and you listen hard, there’s a good chance they’ll say something and you go ‘Son of a bitch, that’s it!’ Then when you show your idea to the guy, he doesn’t even know he gave it to you.”

GO TO THE MUSEUM

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies, and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind.”

FIGHT ADVERSITY WITH CREATIVITY

Lois shot a TV commercial showing a toddler making photocopies. When the FCC objected that the ad misrepresented the machine’s ease of use, Lois shot a new commercial showing a chimpanzee making photocopies. He invited FCC staffers to attend the shoot.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE ZEITGEIST

When it comes to pulling concepts out of thin air, “It’s about understanding what the hell’s going on around you,” says Lois, who spends an hour each morning poring through the New York Times.

TRUST YOUR GUT

“Ad agencies do all kinds of market research that ask people what they think they want, and instead you should be creating things that you want.  Trust your own instincts, your own intellect, and your own sense of humor.”

WORD FIRST, VISUAL LATER

Lois believes in “writing the idea” rather than trawling randomly for visual inspiration.  “A big campaign can only be expressed in words that lend themselves to visual excitement.”

read entire article

The Current Media Conversation on Misogyny

News-Fueled Media Conversation

(warning: many of the links in this post go to articles that contain disturbing content about violence and murder.) 

The mediaverse always reverberates with opinion after a major news cycle, and certainly in the wake of that peculiarly American spectacle, the mass-shooting. We of course have have the predictable “It’s not about guns!” verses “It’s all about guns!” debate, and I won’t get into that one, for now. But the media conversation around men, women and misogyny since the May 23rd shooting in Santa Barbara is notable for it’s intensity and momentum.

Social and online media played a role in the life of the shooter, Elliot Rodger, whose YouTube video (now taken down) claims that it’s

“an injustice, a crime” that women have never been attracted to me and that I am going to “punish you all for it” and “slaughter every single blonde slut I see.”

Rodger’s online hangout space reveals chilling conversations by men bitterly describing themselves as  “involuntarily celibate” and aiming violent hate speech and threatening statements directed at females. There are hundreds of similar sites in the ‘manosphere’, “a cyber-universe fueled by distorted views of women and sex, in which lonely, isolated and disaffected young men, unable to live up to equally distorted notions of manhood, end up turning lack of self-worth into an anger directed at women.”

Not surprisingly a loud, clear feminist response developed to the Santa Barbara shooter’s evident violent misogyny. This surge of powerful communication is still mobilizing hashtags, tumblrs and blogs, all of which keep driving the press to keep the story moving.

Twitter: #Yes, ALL Women.

This Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen sprang from the inevitable debate about sexual violence  that followed the recent shooting. A male protests: “All men don’t harass or threaten women!”  to which a feminist Twitter user replied: “Fine, but ALL women have experienced sexual violence or the threat of sexual violence.”

This woman created the hashtag #YesAllWomen and asked women to respond and share stories. Within a week, she had to remove her name from the project and close her account, due to the volume of death and rape threats that she received.

Tumblr: When Women Refuse

Media pro Deanna Zandt created a Tumblr page called When Women Refuse and invited everyone to post their stories of women threatened, injured or killed by sexual violence.  Post after post describes real life stories of women subjected to violence after they rejected the sexual advances of men — when they refused to flirt with them, dance with them, go on a date with them, or have sex with them. Reading it is a stomach-churning experience. A woman attacked with acid. A pregnant teenager stabbed to death. A woman raped and beaten. Women smashed in the head with bowling balls and glass bottles.

World Media Coverage of Misogyny

India is in the news once again this week after the brutal gang rape and murder of two young girls. Women protesting the lack of official action against rape and violence against women were dispersed by hundreds of officers and water canons.

Although a highly publicized case in 2012 energized support for tougher laws, outside of major cities police often refuse to investigates complaints of crimes against women. Records show a rape is committed every 22 minutes in India, though it’s considered drastically underreported, but more people are speaking up against violent crimes targeting women, and public protests against police inaction are increasingly common.

In Pakistan the recent stoning death of 25-year old Farzana Parveen launched a worldwide  wave of conversation about so-called ‘honor killings.’ Hashtag #Faranza made public “a crime that not long ago would barely have elicited a headline was now a source of conversation and consternation among those on social media both within and outside Pakistan. And discussion about the slaying turned up another grim fact: Iqbal told CNN he killed his first wife so he could be free to propose to Farzana.”

In Nigeria the campaign to return the girls kidnapped April 14 from Chibok school to their families has reached wide audiences with the help of the twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls. Protestors rallying under that name in Abuja, Nigeria apparently rattled the Police High Command, who attempted to outlaw the protests June 2, but public pressure, no doubt including world-wide media attention, caused a quick turn-about and  as of June 3 an official statement denying any protest ban was issued.

Making a Difference?

Clearly, blatant violence against women is more likely to be reported, shared via social media and gain the attention of activists and citizens who might take action.  The conversation is disturbing, but is instigating awareness and motivating people, people who can change laws and prevent violence.

Depicting THE GLOBAL FLOW OF PEOPLE

Having worked with demographic data for years (as a writer and artist) I have acquired some ability to manipulate and read spreadsheets in order to derive meaning from them. Full time demographers and other researchers have honed the same skills, but for most of us, nothing can compare to the near-instantaneous glance that visual display can provide.

To provide a beautiful example check out The Global Flow of People,  an intereactive infographic that depicts the migration of humans to and from world regions,developed at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.   Researchers Nikola SanderGuy J. Abel & Ramon Bauer  working with designer Elvira Stein used color and shape to create a powerful display of complex data.

Origins and destinations are represented by the circle’s segments. Each region/country is assigned a colour. Flows have the same colour as their origin and the width indicates their size.

So many stories can be told from this one elegant piece of work, representing volumes of data presented it for our minds to readily digest. Here’s just one: the changing patterns in emigration in South Asia by 5-year increments.

SouthAsia

This timeframe spans the ‘War on Terror’ as well as the rise of India as a competitive economy. There are dozens of insightful relationships to inquire about, just from this one slice of the data. Why is there an uptick in emmigration to Iran from Europe in 1995-2000 and from the US in 2000-2005?  Who are the South-east Asians who are moving into Bangladesh?

Visit the interactive master post to experiment with  the original interactive graphic where you can which will examine a single region, break out by country, and show data from four different 5-year time frames.

 

Home, Home On the Line

(source unknown)

You can make a home on the Internet and be seen there, but you cannot arrive there. Home on the Internet can only be a point of departure.

I found this quote in a meandering essay on yearning at ribbonfarm.com, a blog by Venkat dedicated to ‘refactored perception.’ (Read more than you ever wanted to know about that here.) Venkat is a voracious reader, thinker and polymath, cross-pollinating the worlds of business, information science, literature and history.

What I found fascinating was his validation of the online world. He doesn’t dismiss it as a flickering, twittering distraction but sees it as a genuine realm of existence:

When you first explore the online world, with your feet firmly planted offline, it can seem ephemeral and insubstantial. But once you tentatively and gingerly plant your feet online, it is the offline world that starts to seem ephemeral and insubstantial. The world of offline-first people (or worse, offline-only) seems like a world of people living lives without real views.

Where there was once was a simpler form of media-blindness – folks who didn’t read the news, or visit the library, for instance, now there is a vast ocean of evolving media conversations to parse. AND participate in.

Because home is not the locus where you live your life, but the locus from which you make sense of it. Home is a place that supplies a stable perspective on the world and your place within itHome is a place from which you can properly experience a life with a view, without censorship, without having to make up narratives about the superiority of your little local world.

So amid this pulsing, flickering universe of conversations, we can behold the universe and find our threads within it. The universe of the imagination has become more of a shared realm. What we once accomplished through books, we can now pursue in tweets, posts, images, articles, ebooks, videos, comments, message boards, and the many clever means of sharing the internet offers us.

This may all sound a bit over the top, but fly with me for a moment here. We have the Library of Alexandria at our fingertips. A Facebook image I saw the other day put it this way:

If someone from the 1950s appeared today, what would be the hardest thing to explain?

“I possess, in my pocket, a device capable of accessing the entirety of man’s knowledge. I use it to take pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.”

If we value the life of the mind that we have built from our education, from our reading life, from the culture of readers, writers and thinkers who have come before us, why wouldn’t we want to explore, share, and contribute in these fields of knowledge?

We can all do some amazing work with the tools we have in hand, while we create the next wave of even more miraculous ones.