Why a Tire Company Determines What We Eat

If you care about food – particularly gourmet food – it’s likely that you’ve at least heard of Michelin stars. If you haven’t, you are probably still familiar with Michelin as a company, which produces both a restaurant guide and tires.

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If you didn’t know that the tire manufacturer Michelin reviewed food, then it probably comes as a pretty big surprise that they visit select restaurants and award them zero, one, two, or three “Michelin stars” based on the cuisine. But they do, and their opinion matters a lot. Like, a lot. To many chefs, their opinion matters the most.

When you learn the history, it does make some kind of sense. The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900 as a hospitality guide for French motorists. Michelin is a French company, and cars were still a relatively new invention at that time, so encouraging road trips within the country served as a way to boost business. Eventually, the guide evolved into what it is today, which is a booklet that focuses exclusively on fine dining.  Anonymous reviewers that work for Michelin covertly visit restaurants around the world and judge the food based on a series of specific criteria. There is a first round of criteria that the restaurant must meet before the food can even be reviewed, namely:

  • The restaurant must be located in an area that is covered by Michelin. In America, that means that it has to be in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., East Bay and Wine Country, or Silicon Valley. Former “Michelin Inspector” Pascal Remy once alleged that the entirety of the United States is covered by just seven reviewers, making it all the more difficult to receive a star.
  • The restaurant must have received a sufficient amount of buzz that Michelin deems it worthy of the company’s time.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding how exactly the Inspectors evaluate the food. There are, however, several key traits that we do know are valued, including:

  • The quality of the ingredients used
  • The chef’s flavor and cooking techniques, and his or her ability to infuse the meal with their own personality
  • Consistency between visits, which Remy stated occur every three to four years

That last point is the most controversial among chefs, as many feel that rewarding consistency inhibits creativity and experimentation. There is a general feeling that once a restaurant receives a star, they can never change the menu, for fear of losing their star, never gaining another, or disappointing the now-skyrocketed expectations of customers.  Because of this, some chefs do not want any stars, and a very small number of restaurants have even “returned” them to Michelin.

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Even among chefs that do respect the star-rating system, the guide has been accused of fostering an unhealthy obsession. Gordon Ramsey reportedly cried when his New York City restaurant lost its two stars in 2013, comparing it to losing a girlfriend. When famed French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, many believed that he was overcome with anxiety regarding rumors that he was about to lose his three stars.

The 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicled Jiro Ono, considered to be the greatest sushi chef in the world, and his three-starred restaurant in Tokyo. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he noted that “you realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.” For chefs like Ono, perfection has become a measurable goal, and it can be difficult to find a path forward after it has been reached.

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Still, for the most part, Michelin stars tend to do a lot of good for the restaurants that earn them. It has been described as a “life-changing experience” for chefs, especially if the restaurant is lucky enough to get all three stars. Plates at a Michelin-reviewed establishment can go for hundreds of dollars, and chefs at two-star restaurants often bring home six-figure incomes in exchange for their mastery. Fine dining is an especially cutthroat field, and Michelin’s opinion can make or break a chef’s entire career.

Creative Titans: Bradbury Thompson, the Master of Typography

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Born in 1911, J. Bradbury Thompson was a renowned American graphic designer and art director. His impressive background in printing and design began at a young age, when he designed the yearbooks for his high school and college.

Thompson attended Washburn College, where he later designed the college’s mascot and the Washburn College Bible, which was the most significant development in Bible typography since it was first published by Gutenberg in 1455. During his notable career, he received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal in 1975 and the Type Director’s Club Medal in 1986. He was also a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame.

Popular Work

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As Thompson put it: “type can be a tool, a toy, and a teacher”. He perfectly illustrated this with his design of the monoalphabet, Alphabet 26, in 1958. The simplified alphabet system contains only 26 unique characters, with the case established by letter size only. Alphabet 26 consists of a transitional serif that mixes lowercase with uppercase in order to make the letters more logical and intuitive.

As the designer of more than 60 issues of Westvaco Inspirations, he was credited with combining photography, typography, and color to create one cohesive design. He also designed or redesigned more than 35 respected magazines, including Business Week, Harvard Business Review, and the Smithsonian magazine.

During his 15 years as art director of Mademoiselle Magazine, he hired many up-and-coming artists to illustrate the magazine’s strong fiction section, including Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Willem de Kooning, and Jasper Johns. He also served on Yale University’s faculty to further inspire emerging designers.

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Some of Thompson’s most popular work consists of his extensive contemporary postage stamp designs. Serving on the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee from 1969 to 1978, he created more than 90 stamps of his own and consulted with the U.S. Postal Service in guiding the design of future stamps.

Design Strategy

Thompson believed in simplifying things. He didn’t believe that a letter (or any graphic symbol) should have two different designs. This led to the creation of his 26-letter font system, which is easier to read, write, and memorize than the existing alphabet of over 40 different characters.

Commonly referred to as the “Master of Typography”, he was best known for his bold use of type. He paid homage to traditional design and modernism in his work by blending modernist typography with classic typefaces and historic illustrations.

The New York Times Book Review said that his artistic autobiography, “The Art of Graphic Design,” was a book in which “art and design are gloriously and daringly mixed”, which is a good representation of his design strategy in general. While Thompson passed away in 1995, his legacy remains strong in the design community through his teachings and iconic book, magazine, and postage stamp designs.

Words of Wisdom from Scott Cook

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Flavors of America

At the end of last month, Hershey’s began rolling out their “Flavors of America” campaign, which has the company including signature regional tastes and ingredients into varieties of some of their most beloved products. So far, options include:

 

1)   Reese’s Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups, for Georgia

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2)   Hershey’s Cherry Cheesecake Chocolate Bars, for New York

 

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3)   Strawberry KitKats, for California

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4)   Orange Cream Pop and Key Lime Pie Twizzlers, for Florida

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5)   PayDay BBQ, for Texas

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6)   Hershey’s Coconut Almond Kisses, for Hawaii

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This campaign is very much on trend, as food brands are becoming increasingly local. For example, last year ConAgra launched new Slim Jim flavors inspired by regional cuisine, including New York Buffalo Style, Philly Cheesesteak, and Cali Taco. Interestingly, Jill Dexter, brand director from Slim Jim, referred to this rollout as their “Flavors of America” platform. Not only is the concept growing in popularity, the name itself is being applied across different companies.

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2016 also saw granola producer Maple Nut Kitchen combining two major trends into one campaign with the release of four regional flavors for their Paleo line: Northern Berry Harvest, Eastern Apple Pecan, Southern Cherry Almond, and Western Cocoa Cayenne.

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Frito-Lay might actually be at the top of the regional flavor game, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. It was way back in 2011 that Lay’s introduced three localized varieties at once, with Honey Mustard for the Northeast, Creamy Garden Ranch for the Midwest, and Chipotle Ranch for the Southwest. Even prior to that, they released Balsamic Sweet Onion in the Northwest and Cajun Herb & Spice in the Southeast. As far back as the early 2000s, the company experimented with options such as Chicago Steakhouse Loaded Baked Potato, Santa Fe Ranch, and San Antonio Salsa. Similar to ConAgra and Hershey’s, Frito-Lay predictably named that campaign “Tastes of America”.

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Some of Lay’s regional flavors have been so popular that the company transitioned them into national rollouts, such as Garden Tomato & Basil. Unlike Hershey’s, which is rolling out their “Flavors of America” varieties across all regions, Frito-Lay tends to initially introduce a regional flavor into its appropriate local market.

Taking flavor inspiration from local tastes is huge in the snack category, and the trend is expected to continue gaining momentum. Not only does the practice help tailor products to markets based on preferences, it also gives big brands an opportunity to connect more personally with consumers across the nation (and beyond). By incorporating ingredients and styles of various areas of the country, national brands like Hershey’s are able to compete at the local level with smaller companies.

For example, one of Hawaii’s most popular candies, simply called Coconut Balls, comes from local company Hawaii Candy. It is easy to see the similarities between this coveted confection and Hershey’s Hawaiian treat, Coconut Almond Kisses.

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It is unclear right now whether or not Hershey’s intends to develop flavors for all fifty states, or how Californians, Hawaiians, Floridians, Georgians, Texans, and New Yorkers will react to Hershey’s attempt at capturing their distinct local tastes. The campaign definitely has an interesting concept behind it, and other brands that are considering localization will surely be watching to see how successful it is.

Top 5 Easter Designs

It can be difficult to create unique Easter packaging designs that can stand up to a sea of pastel treats. With so much competition around the holiday, it takes a lot to grab a consumer’s attention.

Fortunately, each of the designs highlighted below has found a way to create unique, out-of-the-box packaging designs that stand apart from the traditional Easter packaging. Most importantly, they illustrate that Easter designs can mean more than the traditional eggs, bunnies, and carrots.

1. Hotel Chocolat

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The Supermilk Facet Easter Egg by Hotel Chocolat needed to have a truly unique design to stand up to their new chocolate line. This Easter egg contains more cocoa and less sugar for a healthier, more guilt-free option. In order to attract consumers to this new gem of an egg, the design needed to take an unexpected angle on the classic Easter egg. It accomplished this by casting the egg itself with a jeweled facet design to represent a “chocolate diamond emerging from a smooth chocolate eggshell”. The outer packaging also illustrates this jeweled facet design.

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The Splat Easter Egg is another masterfully crafted Easter egg design from Hotel Chocolat. It features eye-catching pastel packaging with a colorful chocolate splat to emphasize that this is a grown-up kids’ treat.

2. Van Leeuwen

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After redesigning its packaging to traditional Easter colors, the high-end Brooklyn ice cream brand, Van Leeuwen, enjoyed a 50% increase in sales. For the redesign, they focused on making something that “looks good on social media”. The company worked with design firm Pentagram to design the ice cream trucks and pints to look “very Instagrammable”.

3. Lulu Guinness Birdcage Egg

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Designer Lulu Guinness specially crafted only 100 of these limited-edition birdcage eggs for Fortnum & Mason. The packaging is meant to mix old-school glamour with modern design in order to reflect the designer’s love of all things English. Each label was signed by the designer and the box was decorated by hand for that special touch, making it an extra special gift.

4. Tesco Finest

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Tesco Finest worked with branding and packaging design specialist, Parker Williams, to create unique designs that combine modern style and vintage designs. The custom-made egg coop is successful at “catching the consumer eye whilst placing an emphasis on the eggs”. The design comes complete with a netted metal front and wooden box.

5. Toblerone

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Toblerone focused on creating Easter packaging that would appeal to adults just as much as it would to kids. This successful packaging concept was designed to create high visibility on a crowded shelf. The colorful pattern was inspired by the brand’s elements, as well as the chocolate treats hidden inside.

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Toblerone also worked with Bultmann Design Works to create the seasonal packaging displaying an open-the-flap element and rabbit characters to entice younger consumers. It also fits well in any Easter basket.

 

Brand Stories: Magic Leap

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Founded in 2010 by Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap is a fast-growing startup that has been shrouded in mystery since its inception. In fact, it has earned the reputation as one of the most secretive firms in the tech industry, and its headquarters are located in Southern Florida to maintain its discretion (which would be nearly impossible if it were located in Silicon Valley).

The startup evolved from a small company called “Magic Leap Studios”, which was focused on creating a graphic novel series and feature film franchise. Abovitz had hired visual effects studio Weta Workshop to develop the imagery, following their work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

However, Abovitz became frustrated that the augmented and virtual reality world he’d read about in sci-fi novels wasn’t available in real life. He aimed to make it so. In 2011, Magic Leap Studios became a corporation, releasing an augmented reality app at Comic-Con that year called Hour Blue.

How They’re Trying to Change the World

Magic Leap is working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display that has been compared to the Microsoft HoloLens. It superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects by tricking the brain into thinking that digital light signals created in the headset are in fact reality. Gizmodo said they are trying to build “a Google Glass on steroids that can seamlessly blend computer-generated graphics with the real world”.

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Forbes perfectly described the experience in relation to Pokemon Go: “VR takes you to another place. AR can make a Pikachu appear in your living room. Mixed reality keeps you where you are-and makes that Pikachu come to life.”

While this technology has outstanding potential for gaming and entertainment, Magic Leap aims to use it to revolutionize the way we work, communicate, and play.

Quick Success Led to a $4.5 Billion Valuation

Forbes estimated that Magic Leap was worth $4.5 billion, even though they have not released a product to market yet. It raised $1.4 billion from a list of impressive investors, including Google and China’s Alibaba Group.

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It earned highly publicized early contributions thanks to its overwhelming claims that the technology would “forever change the way we interact with images and information”. The prominent investors were convinced with early prototype demonstrations and technology that was still in development.

Standing Up to Big Competition

Magic Leap is not the first (or only) company to pursue mixed reality. Apple is working on an AR device, startups Meta and Atheer are working on their own headsets, and the MIT Media Lab has also constructed a 3D display using “compressed light fields”. The Microsoft HoloLens is the largest competitor and already has developer kits available. The difference, according to Magic Leap, is that Magic Leap’s breakthrough technology provides better resolution than the HoloLens, making it far superior.

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Misleading Claims Revealed

Most people who have tried Magic Leap have positive things to say. However, not all of the attention surrounding the startup has been good.

Magic Leap may have exaggerated what it was able to provide. In a recent interview, it was revealed that Magic Leap posted a misleading video demonstration of its tech. Magic Leap didn’t help things when it used YouTube videos to prove what its tech can do, using a video that was later revealed to be created by Weta Workshop.

As it stands now, the Magic Leap tech won’t outshine the Microsoft HoloLens’ tech. During a recent rare demo with The Information, the images produced by the headset were often blurrier and more jittery than Microsoft’s prototype.

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While the startup wasn’t ever planning on rushing to market, it seems as if the technology is in reality years away from completion. The fiber scanning display that was set to be Magic Leap’s breakthrough tech has also been demoted to a long-term research project. They have also promised to provide a small headset resembling glasses, but have not yet trimmed down from the bulky helmet prototype.

However, this hasn’t slowed Magic Leap, which just acquired the 3D division of Swiss computer vision company Dacuda and formed a partnership with Disney’s Lucasfilm and its ILMxLAB R&D unit to create a joint research lab at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus. Abovitz believes that one day, Magic Leap’s technology will replace phones, tablets, computers, and televisions.

Words of Wisdom from Homaru Cantu

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Words of Wisdom from Scott Bedbury

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Creative Titans: John Maeda and the Art of Simplicity

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Born in 1966, John Maeda is a world-renowned graphic designer, visual artist, and computer scientist. Throughout his successful career as a programmer and as an artist, he has found a way to seamlessly interconnect the two.

During his time studying at MIT, famed designer Muriel Cooper persuaded Maeda to pursue his passions for fine art and design. He did so by teaching typographers and page designers to explore the freedom of the web through computer-aided design. Many designers credit him with laying the groundwork for interactive motion graphics.

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Maeda wrote the book on simplicity – literally – in 2006. His book, titled “The Laws of Simplicity”, covers the 10 laws and three key principles of simplicity, which range from thoughtful reduction to organization and time-saving.

In his early work, he redefined the use of electronic media by combining artistic techniques with advanced computer programs to create truly unique pieces. He is also a proponent of the “STEAM” movement: He strives to have an “A” for Art added to the STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Maeda focuses on creating simplicity in the digital age by intersecting complicated technology with art and design. As a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group, he is constantly faced with the challenge of creating something that is simple, yet still meets our complex needs.

Design Strategy

Maeda aims to balance simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design. To achieve this, he said: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” He believes that we can learn to simplify without sacrificing quality, both in our professional and personal lives.

He has taken influence from Paul Rand and his love of creating pieces that are less structured. He also frequently praises Apple’s designs and how they simplify our complicated needs. Maeda found that “while great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.”

His work has been exhibited in Tokyo, New York, London, and Paris. It is also a part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the NYC Museum of Modern Art. Along with his museum contributions, he has also worked with companies like Absolute Vodka, Reebok, and Shiseido to create limited edition designs that showcase his appreciation for art and technology. He is also the founder of the SIMPLICITY Consortium at the MIT Media Lab.

He is the recipient of many awards, including the Smithsonian Institution National Design Award, the Raymond Loewy Foundation Prize in Germany, and the Mainichi Design Prize in Japan. He was also named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire and deemed the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes.

Four Branding Trends from Expo West 2017

Chris Burton, our Art Director, travelled all the way to Anaheim last week for Expo West 2017. The four-day event is the country’s largest natural foods show, and it gives industry professionals the opportunity to see what’s in store for the future of organic foods. Shifts in consumer tastes usually lead to major design shakeups, and here are four of the biggest packaging trends that we noticed.

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With consumers becoming increasingly interested in buying local small-batch products, branding is taking on a distinctly “handmade” look. Handwritten logos, drawings, and rough edges are all major trends, as brands are moving away from the overly polished “hipster” look of the last few years in favor of appearing wholesome and healthy.

ProteinFotoJet Collage2 Protein is in everything right now, from plant milk to pancakes (FlapJacked wins best name). As a result, we’re seeing categories looking a lot more diverse than they have in the past. For example, protein-packed cookie brand Bite Fuel is using a very heavy black font in all of its branding, which is unrecognizable from the bright colors and gentle script of more familiar players like Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos.

With this sudden interest in protein, we’re also seeing more artisanal varieties of meaty products like beef jerky. Duke’s came to Expo West with dried brisket and Cajun-style dried sausages, with elegant packaging that highlights the seasonings and flavor additives over the meat.

This protein phenomenon is manifesting itself in two ways – products that traditionally would not contain much protein are being set apart with strong, commanding designs, and products that have always been known to be great sources of protein are trying to appeal to new consumers.

 

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Consumers want to feel closer to the food that they eat, which means becoming more comfortable with the animals at the source. Meats, cheeses, and flavored snacks are all beginning to feature realistic depictions of livestock, sometimes using straight-up photographs.

Meat-and-dairy-free products are using images of animals as well. Los Angeles’s Kombucha Dog, for instance, puts photos of homeless dogs from local shelters on their labels, using store shelf space to help them find homes.

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Mascots were all over the place this year, which is interesting for a natural foods show – mascots are most commonly associated with sugary cereals and fast food. Brands are now recognizing that mascots can help build relationships with consumers, who can feel personal and emotional connections to them. They can also considerably boost a brand’s recognition potential, which is especially attractive for new products in crowded categories.