Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

color and brand identity

Creative Generalist linked over to an article in AdWeek, For many marketers, color has become a key to brand identity. It's a pretty basic article (perfect for an introductory-level college marketing class), but it has some good insights, as well as an overview of the use of color in branding and advertisements.


Einstein And Newton

A study came out yesterday that revealed that Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton possibly had a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. Symptoms of this type of autism include "deficiencies in social and communication skills and obsessive interests", but which has no effect on intellect, and in fact "many people with AS have exceptional talents or skills".

The scientist who conducted the study, Simon Baron-Cohen (he's Ali G's dad!) said: "Newton seems a classic case. He hardly spoke, was so engrossed in his work that he often forgot to eat, and was lukewarm or bad-tempered with the few friends he had". The phrase that jumps off of the page at me is "he often forgot to eat". At Play, and in life, I was taught that I am truly passionate about something when I forget to eat...Couldn't that be the case with Newton?

Obviously, Mr. Baron-Cohen has evidence and research that I don't, but "diagnosing" eminent people with syndromes, illnesses, orientations and afflictions seems to be a popular pastime these days. What if it was just passion and interest that motivated people like Newton and Einstein?


creativity training (plug)

Imagine what could happen when you unleash creativity in your business. In our extensive work with teams to create ideas, clients often ask to learn how to do what we do — how to use creativity as a tool for solutions. How to find opportunities in change and ideas in ordinary things. To look at more stuff and think about it harder. So we developed creativi ty trainings m, a two-day training model that teaches Play ’s process for creative thinking and idea development. Throughout the program you will:
• discover your individual approach to creative thinking
• learn Play’s creative process
• gain a variety of concrete tools and exercises for ideation
• apply your new skills to a real business objective
• develop a strategy for bringing creative thinking to your organization
• collaborate with people from a variety of industries and categories

Sound too good to be true? Our program is measurable and proven. Prior to training, you will complete a survey to measure your baseline creative approach.Changes in mindset and behaviors are measured in a follow-up assessment.

Ignite your passion to create new ideas and innovations.

Past participants have included Microsoft, Boeing, BMW, Lego, Dial, Sara Lee, and Krispy Kreme. The next Creativity Training will be on June 10th and 11th, at Play's global headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. For more information, call us, at 1.800.644.4990 (ask for Amanda) or e-mail charlie@lookatmorestuff.com, and we'll send you the full registration materials. You can also check out Play's main site: http://lookatmorestuff.com/.


urban design

Great piece from Jeffrey Veen, A Contrast in Urban Design. He talks about Boulder, CO, and how it is a remarkably livable urban area — very "human-scaled."

I was staying in the Old Town district of Boulder, and it's a case study in human scale, livable urban design. There are examples everywhere, and they ripple out from a pedestrian mall at the village-like center of town. At the core, benches, sculptures, and small public meeting spaces are arranged to encourage a pedestrian traffic flow that enables interaction. There are subtle design cues such as pathway intersections or semi-circles of benches that allow a comfortable mix of private space and random interaction. Moving out from this center, transportation is designed at a human-scale (rather than vehicle scale) moves people to the mall. For walking, curb extensions and raised crosswalks make crossing streets safer. Dedicated bike pathways are set off from both the street and sidewalk by landscaping. Neighborhoods are close in -- not zoned into suburbs -- to make walking or biking to the store or out to dinner easier than getting in the car.

He then contrasts this with San Antonio's plastic-y and manufactured Riverwalk and poor growth design. This is a good read, especially for those interested in urban development and the revitalization of the downtown. Creative Class types (and the developers who love them) ... I'm talking to you. If you really want to read the Bible of good urban design, check out A Pattern Language.


the fourth place

There's an interesting conversation at marginwalker about the "fourth place" (first place = home; second place = work; third place = socialization and community area). The thread's prime mover was a comment about "the fourth place" being "communal workspaces with shared resources, sort of a cohousing model for the work day." This "fourth place" concept is like what Play is trying to do with Red Chair (by the way, any meeting planners looking for alternative meeting spaces in the RIchmond area, call us ... 804.644.2200).

To see the conversation about "fourth spaces," check out the thread at marginwalker.

If I'm not doing it a disservice, I imagine it works like this:

first place
home. where the essential and fundamental elements of life are lived out on a day-to-day basis.
second place
work. a transactional environment where goods or services are exchanged for compensation (usually just $ + perks).
third place
an informal gathering space. nourishes community and enhances relationships.
fourth place
an environment where productive work is the end, and community and socializing is one means towards that end. different and non-traditional.

I'm still trying to figure out how I would label the axis on a 2-by-2 graph building off the above table. For the right column, the end is "productive work" for both, but the fourth place includes an emphasis on community building. Both of the bottom "places" feature community as a prime element. The top two seem to be lower on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, so they could perhaps be considered "more primal" (perhaps?). Finally, the left column seems to emphasize avocation, and less transactional engagements.

So I guess we have a basic theory outlined, according to the following (revised) table:

primaryfirst place
home. where the essential and fundamental elements of life are lived out on a day-to-day basis.
second place
work. a transactional environment where goods or services are exchanged for compensation (usually just $ + perks).
secondarythird place
an informal gathering space. nourishes community and enhances relationships.
fourth place
an environment where productive work is the end, and community and socializing is one means towards that end. different and non-traditional.

If you have any thoughts on this, please comment below. And thanks for going through this exercise with me.

update: Adam Greenfield, who started the initial thread, commented on the above table:
I might suggest an alternate take, though, to your Maslovian schema. This would replace your "primary" and "secondary" with a gradient reflecting intimacy or sense of connection - resulting in a chart with "home" and "third place" in the top and bottom left positions, as you have them, but flipping "work" and "fourth place." (This presumably would apply to the ideal situation, in which one shares a fourth-place work environment with those one feels a particular affinity for.)

I think it's an interesting tweak to the graph. I like the idea of relabeling the axis with a gradient of "more intimate" to "less intimate," and I would agree that the fourth place is a more intimate setting than the second place. At the same time, though, I would be wary of equating the intimacy of the third and fourth places. Perhaps I'm applying the jaded lens of the professional world, where I like to consider my social gathering areas as more engaging and intimate than my working areas (even if the working areas are non-traditional). Then again, that's a big part of Adam's theory — that the fourth place is not the second place. Okay, Adam. I'm game.

Here is a hastily thrown-together interpretation of what Adam was talking about. The first is a blank, just to set up the premise of the two-by-two graph.

At the top is the extreme of the intimacy gradient, with "more intimate" consisting of home (1st place) and this as-yet-unnamed zone (4th place). At the bottom is the less-intimate area, consisting of the community-nurturing area (3rd place) and the office (2nd place). The horizontal scale observes the personal and professional aspects of the four places.

I also threw some dots onto the graph (somewhat arbitrarily) to examine what different places could mean.

In the very upper left, you have a very intimate space that is focused on personal growth — core growth. In the very upper right, you have an almost-as-intimate space that is for professional growth. Drop down, and you have a zone of practically no intimacy, but high professional development and productivity. I didn't happen to put a dot on for the third place in a spot that is not as intimate and very personal-growth-focused. But it could be there. It just isn't. Part of that could be that I have a hard time seeing the third place being "not intimate." "Less intimate"? Sure. I'll give you that. But I still think of the third place as an intimate space. For example, I think of my third place as the Barnes & Noble near my house, where my wife and I meet our friends, to read, chat, drink coffee, and hang out. It's certainly less intimate than my house (first place), but it's still a relatively intimate area.

I find this whole conversation fascinating. If your curiosity is piqued, and you're too lazy to find the link to the original thread, here's a link for you: the thread at marginwalker.

update: Chris Brown created his take on the graph:

So I was looking at the quadrant graph and it seemed to show the correlation of intimacy to the different environments. However there seemed to be something not quite right to me so I started to think of how to prove the existence of a fourth place.

Speaking in generalities the First place's primacy is personal or intimate relationships. Second place's is professional and third is social relationships. Someone may use a First place for intimate social activities or intimate business/professional activities. And so on.
So I thought that what would arise would be a final Fourth place whose primacy is to touch all 3 aspects.

I replied ...
A) your design skills are impressive.

B) I think you have an interesting tweak on the diagram ... a Venn of sorts. But isn't the first place essentially a social interaction (just more intense)? Alternately, isn't the third place a "personal" zone (just less intimate that the first place)?

You're probably right, that a lot of people will take one physical location and will use it for a number of different purposes (lending credence to the idea of the "first, second, third place" as a mindset more than an actual place). But I think that there can be value in considering the fourth place as an independent area ... not simply as a zone that overlaps or impacts the other three.

Just to note the continued discussion ...


innovation watch

Although I can't find a clearly-stated mission statement, Innovation Watch seems to be a site about "new developments in science, technology, business, society, and the environment, and their implications for the future." It has a pretty comprehensive list of blogs, from topics like innovation, science, technology, business and economy, society, environment, and the future. With "innovation" as the first category on the page, and with Pure Content as the second blog listed, it's hard for us to not like these folks.

update: As I've poked through the list of blogs, I've noticed a number of really interesting ones that I've never seen before. I'd encourage you to go investigate the list of blogs.



This is ... wow ... this is cool. http://mirror.wolffelaar.nl/zardalu.sytes.net/. It's a site that features images of real buildings, airplanes, starships, statues, and Godzilla — all to scale. In Internet Explorer, you can move the individual "pieces" of the site around, to compare, say, teh size of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with the Space Slug from Star Wars or the Stealth fighter or the Eiffel Tower. It skews geek, but is interesting nonetheless, and is a neat application of JavaScript.


Little known fact: Alex Osborn, the originator of the Brainstorming technique, also founded the world's largest and longest running creativity conference in the world. The Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI -pronounced sip-see) is something I want everyone to know about. Osborn founded this conference 49 years ago as a summer institute to promote better thinking. It's not your typical business conference, and yet, it might be the most strategic thing you do for your business. It's not a "transformational" conference, and yet, that seems to occur for many people too.This conference has been a sort of "secret weapon" of the Fortune 100 for years. Xerox, IBM, Kimberley-Clark, Johnson and Johnson, thefounder of Yahoo, individuals and groups seeking social change through deliberate creativity not to mention authors, dancers, entrepreneurs,
inventors, market researchers - these are the kinds of people who go to CPSI. At CPSI they teach the Osborn-Parnes model of creative problem solving. That is the central aspect of the conference, but it is so much more than that ...
This is a community of people from all walks of life who hold a profound interest in applied and experienced creativity. Tools, techniques, better decision-making, re-inventing yourself, case studies and hands on presentations from the corporate world, cutting edge research presentations, ideas for product/service development...WHAT'S YOUR PASSION?
CPSI is a community of brains, warmth, and support. An environment filled with art, music, and incredible energy plays host to about 750 creative people from over 20 countries. It's about serious fun and worldwide imaginative change. I dare you to experience a once a year gathering of some of the most creative people in the world. It's a community to bounce ideas around with, sing, drum, dance, have beers with, learn from etc.
It's organized by the non-profit Creative Education Foundation and is entirely led by volunteers. Go...you'll love it and you'll go back with friends.


Discover Magazine recently reported a process for converting agricultural and human waste into crude oil, minerals, and water:
Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.
"The potential is unbelievable," says Michael Roberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. "You're not only cleaning up waste; you're talking about distributed generation of oil all over the world."
"This is not an incremental change. This is a big, new step," agrees Alf Andreassen, a venture capitalist with the Paladin Capital Group and a former Bell Laboratories director.
The offal-derived oil, is chemically almost identical to a number two fuel oil used to heat homes.

A commercial plant may already be in operation. The point that "This is not an incremental change. This is a big, new step" is wonderful. The company is Changing World Technologies . This new approach to the TDP process is a great example of the potential value of "reversal". Earlier attempts at this fell short due to the inefficiency of forcing out the water. Someone simply referred to as a microbiologist named "Baskis" hit on the idea of forcing the water in and another eureka moment was born. Further searching reveals the full name to be Paul Baskis...perhaps a name to remember.

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)


go go gadget google:

stuck in an airport

A Pattern Language

Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

The Little Prince

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

The Tipping Point

new to you

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see our neighbors
Comments by: YACCS