The Word of the Year 2015 is… not a Word

This is a first. Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is not a word, but rather an emoji – 😂 – ‘Face with Tears of Joy’.

Word of the Year 2015

Oxford Dictionaries said that the pictograph “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015” and provided a brief history of the word: “An emoji is ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’; the term emoji is a loanword from Japanese, and comes from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character’. The similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use, though the resemblance is actually entirely coincidental: emoticon (a facial expression composed of keyboard characters, such as ;), rather than a stylized image) comes from the English words emotion and icon.”

The use of emojis has seen an enormous growth, as usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year. While emojis have been adopted as a form of expression, even bridging language barriers, they are always open to interpretation. What the writer tries to articulate while using a certain emoji might not necessarily mean exactly what it stands for or the recipient reads into.

Take the quiz below to see what I mean:

For the shortlist of other contenders for Word-of-the-Year, check out the article on Oxford Dictionaries blog.

2017-05-22T13:16:58+00:00 November 17th, 2015|Humor, In The News|Comments Off on The Word of the Year 2015 is… not a Word

Starbucks Customers Are Seeing Red

Starbucks Red Cup

As a non-coffee drinker I am not one of the people anxiously awaiting the reveal of Starbucks’ red holiday cups. I noticed them in the past, but didn’t pay much attention. This year there is no avoiding it though. The controversy over the past few days was a bit surprising to say the least, as some people declared this years two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top fading into a darker cranberry, and lacking the typical seasonal decorations, wasn’t Christmassy enough. (Some even going so far as to declare there being a War on Christmas.)

Starbucks’ website states that “Taking a cue from customers who have been doodling designs on cups for years … this year’s design is another way Starbucks is inviting customers to create their own stories with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas.” and quotes vice president for design and content, Jeffrey Fields, saying that the company “wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

But there has been quite a stir on social media with people vowing to boycott the coffee giant, while others point out that the red cup, paired with the green colored logo is speaking to the prominence of Christmas this holiday season – not Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday for that matter.

Fortune stated in an article on it’s website, that “In recent years, the Starbucks brand has become closely associated with the holidays. In its January earnings report, the company said that one in seven American adults received a Starbucks gift card during the holiday season—up from one in eight the year prior. And in its release introducing its red cups this year, the company said that in the 48 hours following the release of its 2014 red cup, a photograph of one was shared on Instagram every 14 seconds.”

All this controversy over a cup that’s meant to celebrate the holiday season. In the end it all comes down to this: People are still getting their coffee at Starbucks (even many of those who vowed to boycott the chain) and the brand most likely won’t be hurt in the long run.

Image via Starbucks UK

2017-05-22T13:16:58+00:00 November 11th, 2015|In The News|Comments Off on Starbucks Customers Are Seeing Red

The Future is Here

When Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) went on their second adventure, traveling 30 years back in time to October 21, 2015, they most likely didn’t anticipate the excitement that would accompany the movie more than a quarter of a century later.

While everybody is talking about “Back to the Future II” and which predictions came true (video conferencing, big screen tv’s, virtual-reality goggles, the cubs (having a chance at) winning the world series) and which didn’t (flying cars, hover boards, “Jaws 19”) – two brands are emerging as true winners of product placement years after the fact.

Pepsi Perfect - Back to The Future II

Image via Click 2 Houston

PepsiCo released a limited edition Pepsi bottle today to pay tribute to Marty McFly’s arrival in the future and to celebrate one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.

“Pepsi fans asked and we heard them loud and clear,” said Lou Arbetter, PepsiCo’s senior director of marketing, in a statement. “The ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy was as big a moment in pop culture history then as it is now, 30 years later. We are excited to be part of this moment and to bring fans something only Pepsi could deliver – and there’s no need to wait – the future is now!”

PepsiCo even released a commercial for the product launch. Not that it was necessary to sell the product. Retailing at $20.15 – to commemorate the year – the bottle had a limited run of 6,500 and appeared to have sold out immediately.

Nike, whose shoes had also been featured in the 1989 film, released 1500 replica pairs in 2011, and although they were not of the self-lacing type as in the movie, the company raised $4.7 million dollars for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Having filed a patent back in 2009, Nike did confirm that an actual self-lacing shoe was in development, teasing fans yesterday with a tweet to Michael J. Fox stating “see you tomorrow.”

Maybe today is the future?

Update: Self-lacing are indeed here. Nike send a pair to Michael J. Fox along with a hand written letter from Tinker Hatfield, the shoe’s inventor. The self-lacing shoes will be produced in 2016 and once again auctioned off to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The actor showed them off, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

2018-03-21T15:21:49+00:00 October 21st, 2015|Big Thinking, Humor, In The News, Videos|Comments Off on The Future is Here

Upscale Thrift

Goodwill, which is funded by a massive network of retail thrift stores, is not usually associated with high end brands, but rather affordable prices. To set itself apart from increased competition in the thrift store market, Goodwill is taking a new approach by opening select boutique style stores, which are designed to feel more like Urban Outfitter or Anthropologie rather than a thrift store.

RARE Storefront (The Suitcase Studio)

Rare by Goodwill is the nonprofit’s latest retail experiment. (David Kawashima / The Suitcase Studio)

One of the OC Goodwill's boutique stores, located in Huntington Beach, CA. (David Kawashima / FastCompany)

One of the OC Goodwill’s boutique stores, located in Huntington Beach, CA. (David Kawashima / FastCompany)

Over the last four years Goodwill has opened approximately 60 such stores across the country, trying to take advantage of luxury donations and to appeal to a broader audience. Prices are slightly higher than regular Goodwill prices, but still beat the price tag high end name brands, such as Prada, Chanel, Burberry or Ralph Lauren would fetch at traditional retailers.

The O.C. Goodwill Boutique in Huntington Beach features wooden floors and artfully arranged clothing displays. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The O.C. Goodwill Boutique in Huntington Beach features wooden floors and artfully arranged clothing displays. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Frank Talarico Jr. of the Goodwill in Orange County, was quoted in the LA Times saying: “The boutiques set us apart. This is a really nice way to expand. We are definitely not going to stop.” Adding “The only reason retail is relevant is because we are using the money to serve.”

2017-05-22T13:16:58+00:00 September 21st, 2015|Big Thinking, Design, In The News|Comments Off on Upscale Thrift

The IKEA Catalog Got a Formal Review

IKEA has been known to come up with creative ways to promote it’s catalogs and store openings. And this year was no different. IKEAS Switzerland (Agency: Wirz Werbung Zürich) got Germany’s famous literary critic Hellmuth Karasek to review the catalog like any other piece of literature, since it is the most widely distributed “book” in the world.

“It is a furnished novel,” he says tongue-in-cheek. “The characters are forced to crowd themselves between the furniture, they seldom get their say, they barely speak coherently — and yet this work has become such a success.”

2017-05-22T13:16:58+00:00 September 8th, 2015|Big Thinking, Design, Humor, In The News, Videos|Comments Off on The IKEA Catalog Got a Formal Review

Google’s New Logo

Google's New Logo

Google’s homepage introduced a new sans-serif logo today – the biggest redesign since 1999. Small screens and readability on all devices have been a major consideration, with modern typography (a new Google specific font called Product Sans) that scales better to smaller sizes for easier reading.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve changed our look and it probably won’t be the last, but we think today’s update is a great reflection of all the ways Google works for you across Search, Maps, Gmail, Chrome and many others. We think we’ve taken the best of Google (simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly), and recast it not just for the Google of today, but for the Google of the future” the company stated on it’s blog.

Google also changed their icon – instead of the blue “g” – an uppercase “G” in Google’s four colors will be displayed, which many are saying will become “people’s primary association with Google going forward.”

The video below recaps the evolution of Google and it’s logo – the way people interact with Google today across many different platforms, apps and devices.

New logo animation & video via Google

2017-05-22T13:16:58+00:00 September 1st, 2015|Big Thinking, Design, In The News|Comments Off on Google’s New Logo

Fuzzy News – Brought to You by The Letter M

Jim Henson’s Muppet puppets have been in the limelight lately. First the Muppets announced their comeback with a new show on ABC, then the Sesame Workshop struck a deal with HBO.

The new comedy series ‘The Muppets’ starring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear et al, will see our fuzzy friends staring in a contemporary, documentary-style show that explores the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships.

However, ABC was not so easy to convince that the new show would be a hit without seeing the new format first, so the producers were given a month to put together a pilot presentation. The pilot received standing ovations at Comic-Con and after weeks of fans’ demands, ABC released the video online. Take a look for yourself.
UPDATE: The video is no longer available.

Muppets on ABC

In other puppet related news, The New York Times reported on a deal between HBO and Sesame Street last week, that for the next five seasons grants HBO the rights to air shows first, with episodes being released on PBS nine month later. Sesame Workshop had been struggling financially and through the new deal more episodes will be able to produced (35 a year instead of just 18).

Of course the move from public television to the subscription-only channel does not come without backlash, but the production company had to find a new way to gather financial support for their program, in order to continue educating children. And as Forbes Magazine put it, “… little ones without the distinct privilege of parents with HBO won’t be entirely bereft of felt-puppet fun, just a little behind the times. After all, it’s not as if three-year-olds gather around the apple juice on Monday morning to talk spoilers for that week’s Sesame Street.”

2018-03-21T15:44:57+00:00 August 19th, 2015|In The News, Videos|Comments Off on Fuzzy News – Brought to You by The Letter M

First Class Design

How cool would this have been? A small post office in Tieton, Washington was supposed to get a new facade consisting of 41,500 stamp-size glass mosaic tiles, commemorating the look of vintage postage stamps from the early 20th century.

Tieton Post Office Design

Image via Kickstarter | Tieton Stamp Mosaic: A Monument to Small-Town Post Offices

The Kickstarter campaign had initially raised enough money, but the USPS declined the offer, with Ernie Swanson, U.S.P.S. communications field contact, stating “It’s just inappropriate, basically, for us to do that, to accept such gifts; we operate and maintain our own facilities.”

Luckily the town will still produce six typographic mosaics that will be installed around Tieton landmarks, as part of the Tieton Mosaic Project, which was funded in part by the National Endowment of the Arts. Ed Marquand, co-founder of Mighty Tieton (an incubator for artisan and design-related light manufacturing businesses), is behind the Tieton Mosaic Project and helming the revitalization effort of the small, agricultural community in central Washington.

2017-05-22T13:16:59+00:00 July 29th, 2015|Big Thinking, Design, In The News|Comments Off on First Class Design

Bag Ban – A Beginning of the End?

Hawaii became the first US state this month to ban plastic bags, giving hope that one day advertisements like the ones below from Surfers Against Sewage are no longer necessary.

Killer Bags - Martin Brent - Surfers Against Sewage

Killer Bags - Martin Brent - Surfers Against Sewage - 2014 Campaign

Killer Bags - Martin Brent - Surfers Against Sewage

Killer Bags artwork by Martin Brent – Surfers Against Sewage – 2014 Campaign“This year the ocean’s biggest killer will be the rubbish you leave behind. Help us protect our precious coastlines, marine animals and seabirds and join a SAS beach clean near you.”

The ban, which prohibits businesses to offer single-use plastic bags to customers, but makes exception for compostable bags, those used within a store for bulk items (for fruits and vegetables), restaurant take out food, and others – was first instituted on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 2011, followed by Kauai the same year, Hawaii County in 2013 and the island of Oahu earlier this month.

With over 100 billion plastic bags handed out every year in the US alone, many end up polluting our waters. Scientists estimate that every square mile of ocean has approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

2017-05-22T13:16:59+00:00 July 15th, 2015|In The News|Comments Off on Bag Ban – A Beginning of the End?


A controversial advertisement by Protein World, which appeared in London Underground stations, promoting ‘The Weightloss Collection’ has caused quite a stir. The ads featured Australian model Renee Sommerfield in a yellow bikini asking “Are You Beach Body Ready?”

Protein World Beach Body Ready

Image via

According to Time, a petition with more than fifty thousand signatures was looking to get the billboards removed. The British Advertising Standards Authority has received over 200 complaints that the ad is “offensive, irresponsible and harmful because it promotes an unhealthy body image.”

Pictures of defaced posters have gone viral on Twitter under the hashtag #everybodysready, and while body image campaigners and feminists have been condemning the campaign, some companies have created their own ads in response.

Dove answered “Yes. We are beach body ready.” showing off curvy, bikini-clad women.

Dove Beach Body Ready

Image via Daily Mail

Carlsberg beer bought up billboard spots in close proximity, with a beer bottle sporting a yellow bikini bottom asking “Are You Beer Body Ready?” – adding the hashtag #probably.

Carlsberg Beer Body Ready

Image via Twitter

Others still are following suit, offering their take on beach perfection…

Beach Book Ready

Image via Twitter

2017-05-22T13:16:59+00:00 May 5th, 2015|In The News|Comments Off on #everybodysready