Reilly Brennan lives in San Francisco but will always be a Detroiter at heart. He is the Executive Director of the Revs Automotive Research Program at Stanford and teaches a class on heroes and Dale Earnhardt at the Stanford d.school. He created a car photo thingy called Carmagnum.
Next month one of my favorite designers in the world is speaking in New York and I’m making the trip to sit in the audience. American designer Will Calcutt will be speaking as a part of “Of Art and Artifice,” a three-day romp of Ghostly International’s most innovative art and music, put on by the Art Directors Club. When the whole thing was announced and I saw Will’s name, it seemed irrational to make the trip for such an event. But the last time he displayed his work in public was about a decade ago and I figure every once and while you’ve got to get on an airplane to go see something you love.
Will shaped so much of what made Ghostly International great in terms of design and feel and his design signature — whether in the form of graphic design, photography, copy or just plain ethos — influenced an entire generation of kids coming out of Detroit and Ann Arbor at the turn of millenium, yr humble narrator included. I have been blessed to be able to work with him on a handful of projects, the redesign of this blog being the most recent example.
Tickets are here. Opening night is Thursday, September 13 and it runs through the entire weekend.
I few months ago I learned about pattern breaking, the act of disrupting people’s expectations as a way to insert a new idea. The mundane things we expect to happen every day in every situation we’ve experienced before create a mental sludge; when we encounter a familiar setting but with unfamiliar outcomes, we are more likely to wake from our slumber. This opportunity creates something akin to a fresh sheet of paper for—right there, in that very moment—you to harness. It’s powerful stuff if you do it well; it’s something captivating speakers do to jolt a drooling, disconnected audience to engage on an idea.
Appreciating pattern breaking helped me appreciate one of the coolest little things I’ve seen in a while: Ghostly International’s use of the UPS reference line for messaging. On one line you see your order number (basic pattern stuff) but the next line is a pattern break, even if it’s a small one.
It’s a simple thing but it’s the sort of pattern breaking that all companies should think about when designing experiences for their customers. Is there a common experience (some boring codes and lines on a UPS envelope) that you can “steal” for your own purposes? Ghostly could even go one further and sneak a secret link on this line which leads the user to a free download of a song.