Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.


Ringing in 2005

A toast Posted by Hello


We wish you all a very safe and happy New Year and many amazing things for 2005.

Rick and Aleah


The Asian Tsunami is NOT a World Away

OK people.

There can be no excuses. If you can't figure out where to send your donation, send it to UNICEF. These people had virtually nothing before their lives washed away.

Take care this New Year.


Welcome Back

I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday. I know some who did not, and our hearts go out to them.

In the spirit of giving, some of us found gifts that truly inspire...

and some of us found, well, yet another carefully marketed piece of landfill.

and here
and here
and here
and here

Here's hoping the spirit of giving had inspiration and meaning.


Measuring Success

It seems to me there are a lot of people trying to find spiritual meaning in business.

One of the results of the direct hit on the concept of the corporation, its players or its behind-the-scene criminals, is a shift in the purpose of one's professional life and how it relates to the Self.

Why do we defend marketing and adverting - shrug our shoulders and demonize it - then come back 180° by finding the love again?

If a cigar can just be a cigar, can't a profession just be a profession?

Some would argue that since a career takes up so much of our life, it should be rewarding. True. But it can be pleasurable in the sense that a warm glass of brandy or a day on the beach is pleasurable. Need it be prodigious? Should it define us to the point of complexity?

I view most jobs as less than meaningful in the "grand scheme," in that death bed - last breath kind of way. Unlike developing a lifesaving vaccine, or leading a revolution, or teaching children - our real link to the future - most careers are meaningful only in the economic moment and to ourselves for the joy it brings us.

I think that little bit of meaning is enough, how about you?


Über Cool and the Ugly Aesthetic

As designers we are no less susceptible to the general pattering and trends as the rest of pop culture. In fact we are often harbingers of these trends. And yet, often, the most interesting trends, have less impact on our work than you would think.

Few would argue that a logo or signage should be very trendy. Most clients would like their company to last beyond the latest fad, or at least to be seen as somewhat stable themselves (ridiculous number of orbit logos to the contrary). This doesn’t mean a logo can’t be fresh and modern, just that ultra trendy designs are usually avoided. (despite this, identities still date themselves and should be updated every ten years, with a more major overhaul at the twenty or thirty year mark) but what about the ephemera we produce? Don’t they lend themselves to being trendy? After all, most brochures only last as long as a trend.

This is true, however it doesn’t mean the latest trend is appropriate to a client. My favorite design trend is one that has been around for five years or so and is completely inappropriate for anything but maybe in advertising dirty looking jeans. Many of my peers would love a chance to do a piece in the ugly aesthetic. But even if you found a client for whom it was appropriate, getting the idea past them, then past their board, is a daunting task. There is nothing harder than trying to get a client (especially one attached to a board) to try something cutting edge.

More on this later.

Also, if anyone knows of examples of extremely mismatched trends and content, let me know. I collect them.


Mixed Tape Revisited

Thanks to Lauren for subconsciously calling my bluff and resurrecting the "mix tape" culture.

Not long after my post on the Death of Mixed Tapes, I came across her call to action. Rather than a gift swap, the assignment was to compile a list of music that tells your story, so to speak, burn the compilation to cd, and send to the person whose name you've "drawn."

This has been great fun and a wonderful way of stirring up loyal readers and building community.

Here's what I came up with:

Mix of a Lifetime

• Good About Me - Joseph Arthur
• You Do - Aimee Mann
• Blackbird - The Beatles
• Wild Flowers - Tom Petty
• Where Will I Be - Emmylou Harris
• Bellyfish - Veda Hille
• No Poetry - Gary Jules
• Cello Song - Nick Drake
• Red - Daniel Lanois
• Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off - Hawksley Workman
• Wild Horse - Deb Talan
• Limp - Fiona Apple
• Some Guys - Tuxedomoon
• Perfect Day to Chase Tornados - Jim White
• Meathook - Hannah Fury
• Suitcase - Over the Rhine
• In Spite of Me - Morphine
• All My Tears - Julie Miller
• Back to the Earth - Rusted Root
• Another Train - The Poozies

[If you must know the reasons behind the songs, go here. ]

Has anyone thought of ways to connect with your readers in an interesting and meaningful way? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Happy Holidays!


Cold Day in Hell

Who in their right mind would willingly go on holiday here?! I woke up to a -25° c morning and I am glad I love TO, because I am not kidding you - the weather bites my frozen, tundra-cold, long-john-wearin' a@#!!


"A Little Bit Ironic...

Don't cha think?"

Sort of disappointed about the merchandise.

Tough Love

Hands down, the winner for 2004's most interesting PR campaign goes to the Hells Angels, Central Canadian Branch...

Hells Angels lobby for halo
Billboard on the DVP presents a positive messageBiker gang trying to avoid label of criminal group


It's the most in-your-face public-relations blitz yet by the world's most notorious biker gang.

The Hells Angels have taken out a billboard alongside the northbound Don Valley Parkway with the words "Still Fighting for Democracy & Freedom."

And there's an online push by the Angels for the public "to remember those less fortunate, and give generously to your local food bank, and United Way, and other organizations that are hard pressed to meet the needs of some very needy people at this time of year."


Violence for Sale

At the risk of sounding like Tipper Gore or family values propaganda, I have to say that I am very concerned with the video game themes that are so popular among youth.

Over the past decade, Toronto has seen a sharp increase in the number of youth violence incidents where death or serious injury was the result. Since guns are more difficult to get in Canada, knives have been the primary weapon of choice.

Is it me, or are kids getting more violent? What happened to a simple punch or verbal exchange?

There are a lot of studies floating around about youth being desensitized to violence via voyeuristic activities (movies, games, tv programs) in which violence is touted. Video games, in my opinion, are the worst offender as they invite interaction with the user and simulate the experience of committing a violent or illegal act.

Some groups are attempting to press for stricter legislation enforcing the age limit, but lets face it, kids will get the games regardless. Those warning labels on cassette tapes didn't stop my brothers from getting their heavy metal favorites, and I doubt they will have much of an impact in dissuading youth from getting their hands on Grand Theft Auto 3.

I'm wondering if anyone out there in the marketing, advertsing or design community has had to promote these types of games, and what were your feelings about the project?

Again, I don't give blame to these videos as the lone cause of violent acts. There are myriad reasons of which are too socially or politically rooted to get in to in a marketing and design blog.

However, I see no value in violent video games. None. If you differ in opinion, I invite you to present your case. What would you do if you were asked to help market a violent product?


Psychiatric Effects of Media Violence
Children and Violent Video Games: Are There "High Risk" Players?
Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions


Big, Bad Bovine

For that vegetarian niece on your holiday shopping list, welcome "Steer Madness."


Vancouver, BC, Canada - Veggie Games Inc. ( announced today the release of the first ever activism based animal-rights themed video game, "Steer Madness."

Featuring a cow who's got more than a few things to be mad about, players of the game find themselves breaking into cosmetics labs to rescue rabbits, hijacking chicken transport trucks to save chickens from slaughter, and overall converting an entire city to vegetarian at a rate that even the Meat Marketing Board can't keep up with.

This rocks. Of course, I'm a little worried about what sort of terror alert colour you'd get for purchasing this game. Pay with cash. That's all I'm saying...

For a sneak peek: SteerMadness320.mpg Go angry bovine!

Monkeys in the news

Monkeys use tools to forage

Teach him data entry and he has a job.

Panic as live monkeys are dumped at Dar suburb

Did you ever see 28 Days Later? Enough said.

Bush monkey portrait sparks protests

Best thing that ever happened to this artist. And has the Bush Administration been completely out to lunch over the past few years - I have seen countless Bush as a monkey references.

Monkey hits stride after near-death experience

Now to just figure out how to unlatch the gate...


Anti-Consumption Nation?

Another good example of the reverse marketing approach, briefly mentioned in one of my previous posts, is Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard's manifesto, Don't Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It.

I am liking this trend - the disillusionment with "stuff" as we once knew it, and the almost implied criticism of brands that are ignoring this message.

I also really like what Hugh's been saying about advertising being dead. Could it be true?

Maybe ideas are going to count for something? The return of France's Age of Enlightenment? Artists and thinkers get on your mark... Creativity and idea-commodity will surpass material items - material items other than those used to generate, communicate, and harness ideas, anyway.

My inner cynic says, "Come on, this is just another business angle," just a different product. I wonder if that's all together bad?

I had some thoughts on the issue of materialism and disconnection over at my personal blog. Since Wayne was good enough to stumble upon my other blog, there's no hiding now. And identifying with things is exactly what I'm talking about...

...There is loneliness in this, a loss of truth that creates a need in us to fill that void.

And boy do we try.We fill it with lots of stuff, addictions, religious zealotry, sexual partners, children, etc. Still, the loneliness remains... but not connection, which is the very thing we need.

Richard followed up my post by saying that we all like the love-in that happens 'round this time of about an extension?

In his words, "It's not enough to be compassionate once a year, and only then since "everyone else is doing it."

I'm not so sure. I think we all need a little peer pressure sometimes. That's how paradigms are shifted, I say. If there's a trend to consume less and appreciate ideas, compassion, and creativity more, I'm in.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. ~Edward Abbey

The discussion of the disillusioned consumer-based society is an interesting one. People speculate on the US as another modern day Roman Empire, ready to implode. I expect that's what is happening with big brands and the rah-rah consumer culture.

At least, we're already feeling the move to cheaper.

Of course there's always the earth plundering, big marketing, big development cheerleaders still rubbing their coins together. There will always be that... But how long will they be successful?

I better get my Donald Trump voodoo doll out now.

If you fall in love with an idea, you won't see the merits of alternative approaches—and will probably miss an opportunity or two. One of life's great pleasures is letting go of a previously cherished idea. Then you're free to look for new ones. What part of your idea are you in love with? What would happen if you kissed it goodbye?
Roger von Oech


Caret, anyone?

Circulating our office has been an old complaint about one of our most familiar allies: The keyboard. As I look down, I see I have three types of parenthesis, a caret (^ used to indicate text to be inserted in previous line) a tilde (~ A diacritical mark) and two types of footnotes (those symbols many use for quotations and apostrophe, and some software is programmed to automatically fix this common mistake) Yet, unless I use a special keystroke, I have no bullet point and no proper quotations.

The Qwerty keyboard itself was designed to be inefficient. Typists in the 1800's would jam the keys by typing too fast, so it was created to slow the typists down. Yet the Dvorak keyboard, a more efficient system and common suggestion for replacing the Qwerty, retains these outdated symbols like the caret.

As a designer who lives on her computer, the design of this all important periphery irks me. Much like the proliferation of the Windows OS, however, the most common solution, while not being the best, will remain the most prominent, if only because of it's prominence. Maybe I can program the email button on my keyboard to type a quotation for me.


Death of the Mixed Tape

We've been having a bit of a thoughtful debate on the topic of "mixes" and whether or not they have any relevance now that mp3s and downloads and file sharing make it possible to have more music at our disposal than ever before.

Jon always has some great things to say about the state of music today, and in particular, the reconstruction of radio as we once knew it.

I was one of those mixed tape making girls in school. Some of my mixes were legendary ... okay, well they were legendary to me, anyway.

In fact, to defy the notion that the meaningful mix is no longer relevant, I have decided to post some of my favorite musical mixes for every mood and season. Music has such a wonderful way of crossing cultures, generations, and socioeconomic lines. I love the fact that music can, in its basic form, be a vehicle of expression for even the poorest among us.

Today's Theme: Music to Motivate, also called the Monday Morning Mix

  • Stand Back - Stevie Nicks
  • Wild One - Jerry Lee Lewis
  • You're so Bad - Tom Petty
  • Pink Glove - Pulp
  • Fast as You Can - Fiona Apple
  • Go Walking Down There - Chris Isaak (meow)
  • Burning Down the House - Talking Heads
  • Sheila-Na-Gig - PJ Harvey
  • Skeleton Town - Mary Gauthier
  • Sometimes - James

What musical mixes do you have kicking around? What role does music play in your life? How has music changed in your lifetime?


I'm Your Pusher

Starbucks, that common denominator that links us all together. That abominable java brand we all admit has done a great job creating a culture and experience uniquely their own. With profits ridiculously soaring this year, it's no argument they have an effective marketing program going for them.

I've never personally fallen victim to Starbucks. Always one for the underdog, I prefer to get my fix and do my literary brooding at local cafes, like Timothy's. Seeing Starbucks as a bully, yes, but also because - um, it's COFFEE, people. Get a life.

Seriously, I remember a college friend of mine who was finishing up his doctorate at UDub (University of Washington) and was rudely refused a job at Starbucks. Apparently, according to the manager, he just wasn't enthusiastic enough or experienced enough in the art of coffee making. Okkkaaaay.

Corporate culture or no, sometimes you have to take a good hard look at the product your convincing people they need and wonder about the quality of your life. At least the people who work for Starbucks have an excuse... ?

And Smart people love to talk about them, too.

I can't think of any other group of consumers so in love with a brand - outside of Mac users. You?

We can marvel over their success or bash them at every chance. Regardless, coffee remains the drug of choice, and they are the #1 beloved pusher.

Never mind me, I'm Canadian

Coming across this article via The People's Republic of Seabrook, I'm not sure whether to be pleased that all our maple leaf merchandise will be selling fast, or offended that you Yanks are stealing our Identity...

Traveling abroad? Disguise yourself as Canadian

For $24.95, offers the "Go Canadian" package, full of just the kind of things an American traveler can use to keep a vacation free of U.S. politics.

There's a Canadian flag T-shirt, a Canadian flag lapel pin and a Canadian patch for luggage or a backpack. There's also a quick reference guide -- "How to Speak Canadian, Eh?" -- on answering questions about Canada.


Wicked Self Promotion

Off topic (a bit), but the new issue of Wicked Alice is now live and features one of my poems from No Peaceful Sleep, Poppies ... For those who like poetry, check it out. Praise and cash accepted.


Aesthetics of Work Space

While I would love to get in to the argument on the virtues and vices of dating a younger man, I will let Halley pontificate and fight off all the other women out there who see nothing wrong with a little fair play.

On to other aesthetics, which is not altogether off topic, mind you.

As the lone non-creative in a design firm, I am often reminded of how important office aesthetics are to creative staff (when I could write in a cardboard box and not care). Lots of thought is put in to our surroundings, albeit in the planning stages. We are even considering a change in scenery over the next couple of years - perhaps transitioning to a studio in the downtown core.

Why? It's the character of the downtown core - something northern TO lacks.

In any event, I've come across a few posts from designers out there thinking about the merits of a "funky" space and how it impacts creative levels, and articles from non-designers on how to attract and retain creative staff...

"Fresh, creative talent looks not only for job security and financial rewards, but also for the lifestyle support an innovative workspace provides. Companies planning to build or renovate office space must take into account the critical impact their facility design choices make on efforts to recruit and retain quality employees."

However, I seldom see other types of professionals blog about their surroundings, or assess the impact it has on their productivity. Is it just the creatives who want pin ball and punchy wallpaper, or do the rest of us think about what our work day would hold if we only had that leopard print chaise?

And for a little bit of inspiration ... COWS WITH GUNS ... via fishbucket


Aflac ... et ... Affleck

What I don't want and what I certainly don't want for Xmas ...


Getting in the Game

Looks like Microsoft is joining the rest of us with the launch of their blog service, MSN Spaces... A new (free) space for blog junkies.


Big brands are dead. Long live the anti-brand brand!

I've been thinking about all the conversations happening around the blogosphere (gawd, do I hate that word) and all the relevant books out there regarding the demise of the brand as we once knew it - in association with the monoliths.

It seems to me that organizations and businesses who use this knowledge to sell from an anti-selling perspective are wise. I wonder how much money Naomi Klein made and is making from her touted 'No Logo' - how much she generates via speaking engagements? In other words, I am curious how effective Naomi's 'No Logo' brand is in selling the concept of non-branding.

The smart companies out there will be looking for ways to prey upon the almost clinical cynicism of today's buyer and rolling out their new "streetwise" products/services. Organic style is all the rage. Think clean. Think clear. Think nothingness.

The NGOs that have been fighting rampant consumerism have been saying all this for a long time anyway. In this, perhaps they are the real winners.

If only there was a way to package nothing and sell it ...Ah! Maybe that goes back to spiritual capital and other intangible forms of capital once discussed over at Hugh's.


Rest in Peace, Pierre

Amid yesterday's political hub-bub and talk of Bush's visit to Canada, a well respected Canadian passed quietly on...

Beloved Canadian author Pierre Berton dies

Farewell fellow Canadian, writer, and self-proclaimed cat lover...