A case that will run and run: Duracell and Energizer’s court fight over rabbit mascots


The Duracell and Energizer bunnies are set to fight it out in court, after a judge ruled that a legal tussle over the right to use a rabbit mascot can proceed. Duracell failed in a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by Energizer, which claims that its rights to use a pink bunny to advertise batteries in the US have been violated. While Duracell’s bunny is 16 years older than Energizer’s, having been born in 1973, the latter firm has the sole right to sell rabbit-emblazoned batteries in the US.

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Everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us at school


Whenever I hear the phrase “creative industries” I’m always surprised. I ask myself, are there any uncreative industries? If so, how do they survive? Why aren’t they in a museum, next to the dodo? The world is changing at such a blistering pace that businesses without creativity at their core are doomed. Innovate or die is not just a slogan, it’s a vital truth. Creativity is the most powerful competitive advantage a business can have. Companies need to fizz with new ideas and fresh thinking. But there’s a problem – there just aren’t enough fizzy people around

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How the first world war liberated women’s wardrobes

Design by Sadie Williams. Photograph: Jez Tozer

News of an interesting new exhibition, Fashion & Freedom, at the Manchester Art Gallery from 13 May – 27 November 2016. It’s then touring – see this page for details.

As well as what Helen Pidd writing for The Guardian calls the obvious ‘upsides’ (you know, peace and all that):

the war liberated women from their corsets and full skirts when they were drafted in to run the country while the men were dying in muddy ditches across northern France. After finding that you can’t conduct a bus or forge steel in a floor-length silk day dress very well with a full bustle, these emancipating women started to experiment with far more practical clothes and hairstyles as they carried out their new roles in society.

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How big tobacco lost its final fight for hearts, lungs and minds


Tobacco companies lost an appeal against government plans to force them all to use generic packaging with health warnings on the side. They said it was effectively theft of intellectual property so if nothing else, they should be compensated (their barrister even used the argument that slave owners were compensated when slavery was abolished – idiotic).

One of their key arguments, trotted out 15 years or so ago when cigarette advertising was banned, was that these things don’t have any effect on consumption. But as Jamie Doward notes in The Observer (my italics):

As a cigarette packet designer, John Digianni, explains in an interview on the tobacco industry website Tobacco Today: “A cigarette package is part of a smoker’s clothing, and when he saunters into a bar and plunks it down, he makes a statement about himself. When a user displays a badge product, this is witnessed by others, providing a living testimonial endorsement of the user on behalf of that brand and product.”

Boring old packaging, it transpires, is not so boring after all.

The court was shown what seemed to be a normal pack of Benson & Hedges cigarettes that went on sale in 2006. To open the pack, the consumer needed to slide a tray containing the cigarettes out of its side. Printed on the tray was an aphorism attributed to GK Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” Japan Tobacco International, owner of the Benson & Hedges brand in the UK, credited the packaging innovation with a near 47% year-on-year rise in sales.

Cigarette manufacturers acknowledge that such innovations boost sales among adults. However, they vigorously deny their products are targeted at young people. Yet the court was shown clear evidence of how even very young children can be drawn to cigarette packaging. A video made by Cancer UK, in which young children discussed the look of various packs, brought home the point forcefully. One girl, around six or seven years of age, was delighted with the pink packaging of a particular brand. “It’s actually quite pretty,” she said excitedly. A young boy described a yellow pack as “fun” and declared: “It makes you feel almost happy by looking at it.”

It is hard to see children of a similar age enthusing about the new-look packets – drab cartons adorned with gruesome images of people with smoking-related diseases.

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Lena Groeger: How Typography Can Save Your Life

An argument I’ve made a lot in the past (as have others) is that as important as we think typography might be, no one ever died because of a bit of bad kerning.

It’s a deliberately flippant and incendiary comment, designed to focus people’s attention on what really matters in design rather than navel gazing and obsessing about serifs and ligatures. But it turns out that typography has more impact on health and safety than you might think, as Lena Groeger points out in this fascinating article:

Even NASA clearly understands the importance of typography — they have a whole report about it. It’s called “On the Typography of Flight-Deck Documentation.” In it, NASA scientist Asaf Degani notes, “Although flight-deck documentation are an important (and sometimes critical) form of display in the modern cockpit, there is a dearth of information on how to effectively design these displays.” Effectively designing those displays can indeed be critical. The report describes an incident on May 26, 1987, when Air New Orleans Flight 962 took off for Florida. Before the plane could reach even a few hundred feet, the captain had to make an emergency landing — and in the process managed to roll onto into a nearby highway and crash into several vehicles. It turned out that the aircrew had forgotten to advance the engine levers, which the National Transportation Safety Board said indicated “a lack of checklist discipline.” But also possibly to blame? The bad design of that checklist.

Read the rest of the story here. I’ll need to be a bit more careful when I dismiss type in the future.

Biodegradable six-pack rings double as fish food

Florida’s Saltwater Brewery has a pretty clever idea for replacing those environment-destroying plastic rings holding your Tecate cans together: animal food. Technically, the rings are a combination of wheat and barley, leftover from the brewing process. The brewery hopes the biodegradable (and fully digestable!) packaging will help stop marine life and birds from choking on plastic.

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Procrastination: arranging McCartney’s ‘Warm and Beautiful’ for women’s choir

‘Warm and Beautiful’ is a classic – but not that well known – song by Paul McCartney that can be found on the 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound.

I like it so much I (sort of) taught myself to play it on piano, so that’s doubled my repertoire, Silent Night being the other half.

Anyway, I was supposed to be doing something important recently – a PhD submission – and naturally I decided to do literally anything else instead so tried to arrange the song for choir. As you do.

This is the result – it’s not perfect by any means and I think there are some rookie harmony mistakes in there. But it is what it is. I’m rather proud of the third verse, after the chorus (1 minute 30 seconds in). You can download the score here.

They can sing it at my funeral, which will probably be the result of an accident involving a rather large pile of books I’ve been collecting for the aforementioned PhD.

Review of Design Sprint: A Practical Guidebook for Building Great Digital Products

Design Sprint: A Practical Guidebook for Building Great Digital Products by Richard Banfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the book wasn’t even proofed before it was published. There are spelling mistakes all over it and even an entire paragraph repeated on pages 158 and 162. 

It’s a short book padded out with irrelevant or uselessly vague anecdotes and photos that don’t relate to the topic under discussion. 
For example page 168 discusses how to use a 2×2 matrix. The text says ‘draw a Cartesian coordinate “+” on a board. A what? How big? Frustratingly there’s a large image on the opposite page… But it’s not a 2×2 matrix. I don’t know what it is, it seems to be random scribbling. It has nothing to do with the text and anyone who has never seen a 2×2 matrix or knows what a Cartesian coordinate + is, will not be enlightened. Opportunity missed. 

It could have been much better – ‘show don’t tell’ is one of the key lessons we get drummed into us at school and if the authors had followed that advice this would have been a fantastic book. As it is it’s frustrating. The ideas are good. The suggested agendas are useful. The execution is poor. 

A particular issue is that the book is clearly focused on digital design. But that clarity is only apparent when you start reading it. This makes it even more frustrating for anyone designing communications, services or other things – there’s a lot of translation needed to make it useful. 
I want to recommend this book as it’s potentially beneficial. But it’s a good example of what’s missing in the literature on design sprints rather than a long-lasting contribution to it. 

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