gapingvoid is interested in start-up culture, because changing business for the better is what we’re about; that’s what Social Object Factory is about. We live and breathe it; we help everyone from lone entrepreneurs, to mid-sizers, to Fortune 500’s do the same. Check out our work here.
We create art that helps companies kick ass, end of story.
[This is what we have so far. Jason (our CEO) wrote most of it. We feel we’re on the cusp of something, now we just need to make it more real for other people. Feedback welcome, thanks. Exciting!]
Business is language. Business is about communication.
Art is is the undiscovered UX of business.
We live in incredible times.
Every single person on this earth has the capacity to make a difference… the
ability to lead, and leave their mark.
Every business is driven by forces far more powerful and profound than money.
We help businesses discover and articulate their purpose,
We help people make a difference,
We help leaders inspire.
We help businesses kick ass.
We create social objects that transform organizations, start conversations,
and spread ideas at lightning speed.
We live in incredible times. And as long as there is one person on this earth who does not agree, there is still work to be done.
Any Company/Cause/Political Party/Religion that communicates more clearly and concisely stands a better chance at winning. Art bridges this communication gap.
It is perceived as more genuine, More honest, less varnished.
Well conceived art gets attention organically
Art allows you to have conversations that you couldn’t otherwise have.
Art is a lever for action.
Art creates connection.
Art is shorthand to communicate complex issues.
Art creates community.
Art connects with a different part of the brain.
Art is Visual. Visual communications are 10x more effective than written communication.
Give a gift basket and be remembered for a week, give a print and be remembered forever.
We want to transform the world of business by transforming the world of office art.
Most people believe that the act of decorating the walls of their office is seemingly one that is decided by taste: The colors of the art on the wall need not clash with the furniture, carpet or CEO’s aesthetic sensibilities.
In reality, act of decorating the walls of your office is a critical business and we believe, a moral decision. It can either set the stage for greatness and innovation, or set the stage for perpetuating the dreary, gloomy and monotonous world that is your business. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, and everything to do with purpose. The purpose and beliefs of your business.
If you could steer the course of your business by simply making a different decision about what hangs on the walls, why wouldn’t you?
Many business leaders do not realize that environment influences everything at work: Job satisfaction, problem solving, creativity, contentment and effectiveness.
You want positive outcomes? Then start with positive work spaces. Your office environment is the compass that guides how people view what they do and how they live their work life.
If you understand what your beliefs are, what your core values are, and how you want people to view why you do what you do, then you should shout those beliefs and values from every available space in your office.
Let the walls talk, guide and ground. Let inspiration hang in the air and have your people breathe and be surrounded by the bright glow of the goodness that your business represents.
The idea of deciding what wall coverings hang on your walls, isn’t about décor.
It is about purpose, culture, and values. Inform your culture, motivate your teams and send a message to the world that will have astounding impact every day of the year.
“Treat it like an adventure. An adventure worth sharing.” Like I’ve said often before, that’s my favorite line in my second book, Evil Plans.
It’s been my overall marketing philosophy for the last decade: Find an adventure worth having, share the adventure with people; the ones who really resonate with it will want to buy into or buy something, eventually.
And it’s working. Jason, the team and myself have a good life, a good business, and good products. Our stuff makes people happy. The more people we make happy, living this adventure, sharing the adventure, the more happiness and good fortune will come to us. It’s not rocket science.
Sure, there are vicissitudes, but I stay cheerful. I like the Dalai Lama thought that, “If your cause is just, whether it takes more than one lifetime to happen is irrelevant.”
Right now my main professional adventure is trying to get the world to think about office art differently. Sure, it’s a bit of a niche concern, a modest ambition compared to say, curing cancer, but I’m OK with that. I think office art matters. IN it’s own small way, I think it’s worth fighting for.
“Business needs more art.” Exactly.
Well, that’s my adventure I’m sharing with you. Feel free to share back. Rock on.
“Your Brain Is Not Your Friend” is a line that we got from our friend, the corporate strategist, Robert Cooper.
The short version: Our brains evolved in a world of scarcity; ergo our brains are hardwired to conserve precious biological resources, calories etc.
Which makes us inherently challenged at being the rockstar entrepreneurial, triathlon-running, Shakespeare-reading, world-traveling, culture-worshipping uber-geniuses we aspire to be. Because doing so uses up a TON of resources.
Given that biologically, our brains are hardwired to conserving resources, we are actually predisposed to take the path of least resistance, so left to their own devices, our brains would have us sitting around watching TV, eating junk food, sleeping late. All that slob stuff our mothers warned us about.
Most of us are always fighting a war with his own brain’s biology. But knowing this, makes you able to deal with it better. Thanks to Robert Cooper for giving me this A-ha! moment of clarity. Rock on.
One of the better things I ever wrote was The Sex And Cash Theory, something to explain how to realistically balance the need to pay the bills with the need to do something creative with your life. It ended up being a key idea in Ignore Everybody.
“The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the assignment covers both bases, but not often.”
“This tense duality (between these two extremes) will never be transcended.” Even if I know that to be true (Hell, I pretty much wrote an entire book on it), most days I still struggle with it.
But we all do, artist or non-artist, creative or non-creative. “This tense duality” is what one of mankind’s great books, The Bhagavad Gita is also really all about: Poor ol’ Arjuna would like nothing better than a quiet life of spiritual contemplation, but his duties as an up-and-coming warlord keep getting the way. So Heavenly Lord Krisna comes down from On High and tells Arjuna, well, get used to it, Kiddo. This tense duality is in the DNA of Creation. Hence the Dharma, hence Karma. By the end of the book, Arjuna “gets” it. Happy Ending.
My personal “tense duality” is a lot less tense than it used to be, Thank God. It used to be “silly advertising day job by day, drawing silly cartoons on the backs of business cards for fun by night”. Now the duality is more, my wee “business card doodles” on the personal side (See photo above), the external side is the “Transform Office Art” mission (See video above) that gapingvoid is on.
And I’ve grown to treasure the duality. Every time I’ve tried to permanently wear just one hat, the personal hat or the business hat, I get bored silly within a week. The work seems to need the constant dialogue between the inner and outer.
But like I said, I think we all have that. Finding that sweet spot where that never-ending dialogue can exist happily forever, is one of THE great tasks (and gifts) our brief life gives us.
It’s time for another episode of Gape Into The Void! Join us as Hugh, Jason and Jeff talk about gapingvoid’s evil plan to disrupt the “office art” industry. We also are reminded about some big events in Hugh’s world and we give you a peek behind the scenes of some of our current client projects.
Thanks again for listening. If you are enjoying Gape Into The Void, please tell your friends and leave us a review on iTunes. If you have any questions or topics you want us to cover on the show email us at podcast at gapingvoid.com.
[Techcrunch and gapingvoid have been friends for a while- since 2006 or so, actually. And here’s the art to prove it, hanging on a wall in the main Techcrunch offices in downtown San Francisco. Those smaller ones are 9“x12”, larger ones are ginormous. Jeff Sass took the picture while visiting there a couple of weeks ago…]
Keith Thomson, Managing Director up Stonegate Private Council (a wealth management firm up in Toronto) liked the “Dent” cartoon so much, he commissioned a special large one: 40x40 inches, printed on metal with a gloss surface.
It came out looking awesome. Very slick, very solid, very professional.
And then he graciously posed in front of the piece now proudly hanging in his office [with gapingvoid props scattered everywhere, tongue slightly in cheek etc etc.].
There are few better ways to let the people who walk into your office know, exactly where you and your company stands [Feel free to ping me if commissioning one would interest you: hugh at gapingvoid dot com].
Thanks to Keith for the great gig. I’m very, very excited about this new gapingvoid offering, there are no words. Rock on.
So what’s the gapingvoid MISSION? To bring art to the business world, basically.
Which is exactly what we’ve been doing these last few years. Compare our work to what you usually see when you google “Office Art”. All the latter seems to offer is REALLY bland stuff, with only massive discounts to differentiate themselves from the next guy.
I doubt the URL will end up as a big ol’ website, though it could feasibly make a nice little landing page for something… Watch this space.
The mission of gapingvoid, as far as I’m concerned, is to bring more Art into the world of business.
And as the cartoon above demonstrates, it’s not just about decorating offices, but hopefully igniting something, helping businesses finding, knowing and expressing their “Purpose” better. Which helps the bottom line in the end. Exactly.
Business needs more art. You’re either with us or against us. Rock on.
Just arrived: our July 4th American flag cartoon [“Lest we forget: A nation is only as good as its startup culture”] printed on canvas and framed on wooden stretchers, just like the paintings.
This is just a prototype for an idea we’re currently playing with: Something with a bit more “heft” than a print, but more affordable [and scaleable] than a painting. Designed to go in an office where real work is getting done, where stuff that matters gets done.
Umair makes a simple point: You may be great at making, distributing and selling sugar-water (he uses Pepsi as an example), but unless what you’re doing has some sort of ethical backbone i.e. a sense of moral good, then why bother? How much REAL value are you actually creating?
A culture of meaning. Discipline, hardwired into culture, is necessary to go from Good to Great. But being more disciplined than rivals at making sugar water only yields sugarier (and perhaps waterier) water. It cannot help you go from great to good. Going from great to good requires a culture of meaning. Production and consumption are meaningful when they actually yield durable, tangible benefits to people, communities, and society. When meaningful work — not just meaningless (yet disciplined) drudgery — is hardwired into a company’s culture, it becomes nearly unstoppable. That’s what’s special about Apple’s products — their focus on making the beige boxes of yesterday’s computerverse meaningful to people has upended industry after industry. Pepsi’s great failing with Refresh is this: merely investing marketing dollars in worthwhile causes can never make up for something as economically meaningless as merely selling sugar-water. A culture of meaning means that Pepsi needs to refresh the idea of Pepsi — not just how it’s marketed.
The cartoon is a play on the well-worn, aspiring artist cliche: “It’s not enough to be good, when you know you can be great.” And right next to the line, is one of my trademark existentialist characters, as usual, stewing in his own boiling vat of unrealized potential.
I made the drawing using a VERY thin line– to somehow express the fragility of the human condition, especially when it comes to confronting said unrealized potential etc.
I’m an optimist. I believe the majority of us actually do want to be “a good person”. But it’s a hard thing to pull off sometimes, for all of us. Doesn’t matter if we work for Pepsi or not…
“We are not in the advertising business, we are in the decommodification business” is a line of mine that Vinny has been borrowing for a while now. So it seemed appropriate to design something around that.
Advertising hacks losing their jobs is a subject very dear to my heart (I was one of them, more than once). Advertising hacks re-inventing their crash-and-burn careers and turning it into something more interesting, is also a subject dear to my heart (I’ve done that, too).
Which is why my latest “Cube Grenade” goes to Eric Proulx, founder of Please Feed The Animals, the blog and support group for out-of-work Adland. He’s also the grand ninja brainmeister behind the documentary about out-of work advertising executives re-inventing their post-advertising lives, “Lemonade”.
Besides that, I was also in the mood to draw something big, bright and yellow, so it all came together nicely.
What’s there to say about Tim that hasn’t been said already? He’s one one of our great Internet and technology visionaries. I was fortunate to meet him a few months ago at Supernova in San Francisco. A really charming, well-mannered guy in real life.
The cartoon above was DIRECTLY inspired by a personal mantra of Tim’s, “Work On Stuff That Matters”. And of course, it’s the fact that we’re mortal (and life is short) that gives Tim’s mantra its sense of urgency. If we lived forever, we’d be more inclined to just sit on our butts all day long. That was my thinking behind it, anyway. The cartoon was also the first one I sent out in my daily newsletter, back in January. You can also buy the print here etc.
Traffic spikes can be quite addictive. The type of blog post that might get you a lot of “bloggerly love” may not be (and probably isn’t) the kind of blog post that gets people to buy whatever it is you’re selling.
Traffic and influence are great. It’s lovely having all these people kissing your hiney at social media conferences.
But at the end of the day, it’s not the A-Listers or the pajama-clad, Web 2.0 basement-dwellers who are paying your mortgage. It’s the regular shmoes with a regular problem who are willing to pull out their credit cards to get it solved.
The bad news is, the better your EVIL PLAN, the more people are going to hate it.
The good news is, the better your EVIL PLAN, the more people are going to love it.
In Flaubert’s great literary masterpiece, “Madame Bovary”, the narrator describes Monsieur Bovary (the husband that the main heroine eventually cuckolds) with the most damning description I’ve ever read of a fictional character: “He offended no more than he pleased”.
In getting us to identify with Madame Bovary and dislike Monsieur Bovary, Flaubert was very clever. He made sure that Monsieur Flaubert wasn’t evil or a sociopath, he just made him a conventional, boring, inoffensive, COMPLETELY UNINSPIRING member of the middle classes, completely aligned and beholden to 19th-Century, respectable French society. And we couldn’t help but despise him for it. Because he wasn’t pure evil, because he was just as human as the rest of us, he had just made a conscious decision to emasculate his own humanity for the sake of social standing– something we’re all very capable of doing ourselves.
Walk into any supermarket and you’ll see again a similar phenomenon. Aisle after aisle full of products that most people, frankly, don’t really give two hoots about. Sure, they might be a perfectly good brand of paper towel or breakfast cereal, but at the end of the day, like Monsieur Bovary, they offend no more than they please. And so how much do people care? Answer: Diddly squat.
And go visit these products’ corporate headquarters and you’ll meet their human equivalent. Aisle after aisle of people in cubes. Sure, they’ll be perfectly nice, polite and all, they’ll be efficient and good at their jobs and all, but how many people would care if one of them lost their jobs tomorrow? Answer: Diddly squat.
But once your EVIL PLAN starts getting traction, you’ll start noticing a much more polarized world start to emerge. People who LOVE what you do, and people who UTTERLY DESPISE it.
Why such strong feelings? Why the emotions? You’re just doing your thing, they’re just doing their thing, so what’s the big deal?
Answer: Because A LOT of people AREN’T ACTUALLY doing their own own thing. They’re just trying to pay their bills, living paycheck-to-paycheck, payroll-to-payroll, promotion-to-promotion.
To some of these people, your example will give them hope. “I may just be shlepping now, but ONE DAY I’ll leave this cubicle farm AND THEN go do something amazing!” Those people will love you and buy into your EVIL PLAN. Hell, some of them will even give you money.
But some people will hate your EVIL PLAN too, for no real reason. Envy? Jealousy? Of course. Your example is not giving them hope, your example is just making them more aware of their own issues and inadequacies. And maybe it’s easier for them to attack you, than attack their own demons.
In Internet circles, we call these people “Trolls” or “Haters”. They’re easy to spot, mainly because they’re everywhere.
Sure, the haters are a pain, especially at first, when you’re not used to this kind of treatment.
But they do serve a purpose. If you were just shleppping along like they were, they wouldn’t bother going after you, their sights would be turned elsewhere.
Ergo, they’re a sign that you’re doing something right. So you probably want to get other people to hate you eventually i.e. the right kind of people. They might actually end up helping you define your brand to others, more than the people who actually love you.
I think spending all this time in the sunny West Texas desert has had an effect on me. I’m not sure all this dark, Northern doom & gloom I spent articulating rather well in my early London and New York days, is as interesting to me as it once was. Things change.
Expect to see a new direction happening over the next few months. I can already feel it growing inside me.
No going back…
[N.B. As of January, 2010, I am no longer publishing new cartoons on gapingvoid. From now on, “Hugh’s Daily Frickin’ Cartoon” is the place to see them, Thanks!]
[UPDATE: My email service, Mailchimp, was down last night for a couple of hours, Aaaargh. But it’s up and working now. So if you had any problem signing up last night, please try again etc.]
The first print I published via gapingvoid was The Bluetrain, pictured above. It debuted in early 2009 at around the $175 mark.
The last one we sold fetched $1095.00.
Meanwhile, two weeks ago we launched “Hugh’s Daily Cartoon”, where I email my subscribers a new cartoon every weekday.
So far it’s been a huge success, but now that it seems to have a bit of momentum behind it, I naturally want to keep it going.
So I’ve decided to experiment: I’m going to give away, for free, one copy of my most expensive (and now-very-rare print) i.e. one of the Bluetrains.
Who to? Some random person who signs up to “Hugh’s Daily Cartoon” any time between now and 12.01am, Saturday morning, the 30th of January. Just over 24 hours from now Monday morning, 1st February (We extended the deadline 48 hours, due to the fact that we had server issues with our email server).
I’ll be interested to see what happens. Like I said, this is just an experiment.
Feel free to tell your friends, Thanks.
P.S. For those of you who have already subscribed, no worries if you’re missing out. I’ll figure out something to do with y’all as well, sooner than later. One step at a time, Thanks Again.
[Rough banner ad ideas I wrote earlier today etc.]
Things here at gapingvoid Central have been busy. In order to spread the word on our fine art prints, we’re talking to a few people about some possible advertising and affiliate marketing deals.
It’s fairly virgin territory for gapingvoid, certainly, but I’m finding it an interesting experiment so far…
So the first thing on the list was to design some new banner ads. Earlier today I messed around with a few rough ideas, pictured above.
It’s not a bad start. I’ve written a couple of dozen already, and I can see running a lot of them in all sorts of websites out there. I’m so far having a lot of fun writing them, that’s for sure. The headlines above are kinda punchy, in-your-face, quite unlike most fine art advertising you see these days, which IMHO is a good thing. Art marketing is traditionally a pretty staid affair; I’d like to ratchet it up a bit… of course I would!
So naturally I’m thinking, what else could I do to make this more interesting, both for me and the Internet-munching public?
Suddenly I get the idea, hey, wouldn’t it be cool if other folk designed and wrote some of these ads as well? A “gapingvoid-community-open-source” kinda thing. How cool would that be?!!
So I’ll tell you what. Feel free to send in any ideas you may have via my usual email below. You can use words, graphics, whatever suits you. Or if you just have an idea off the top of your head, feel free to leave a comment below.
Don’t feel you have to imitate my format or shtick above– if you have another angle, I’d love to see it. If we end up using any of them, we’ll send you a free gapingvoid “cube grenade” print of your choice and also give you a mention & some linklove on this blog. Just remember they’ll be used in conventional sized banner ad format (at least for now), so please don’t stray to far from that for the time being.
This could be A LOT of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all will come up with. Thanks! Very cool…
[UPDATE:] The very first idea to be submitted came from Melle in the comments: “gapingvoid– Classier than a velvet Elvis.” HA! Thanks, Melle!
[UPDATE:] Within an hour or two of posting this, about 20 people have mailed in ideas, plus there’s all the comments below. Wow. Thanks, Guys! Now I’ve got to figure out how to sort through it all… Heh.
Some people like choosing their own frames, some people like hanging the print right out of the box. Which is why we’re now offering both options over on the gapingvoid Gallery. It’s all good. Rock on.
[Update:] Dan asked me in the comments if the framed prints are insured when they ship. Short Answer: Yes. And the unframed ones, as well.
Good! Homes are less likely to *need* brightening the way offices do. I can brighten my home just by making toast.
Whether we’re talking wee cube grenade laser copies or something much larger, like The Purple Cow Print, when I launched the gapingvoid gallery earlier this year, that was my intention– to make art for the workspace.
This desire goes back to my early years working as an advertising creative. There was always cool stuff– fine art, posters, graphic design, cartoons– hanging up everywhere. Stuff to amuse and inspire us, stuff to tweak our brains in the right direction. And though its effect on the agency’s bottom line would’ve been hard to measure, somehow it worked– or at least, helped.
Why can’t all offices be more like this? Is there some law that requires certain types of businesses to maintain a dull, gray, machine-like, life-sucking visual environment? You could ague that maybe for some companies, sure, but that’s not a world I’ve ever aspired to belong to. “Office Art” tends to come in two main categories: 1. REALLY expensive. 2. REALLY cheesy. I wanted to make office art that was neither…
[Afterthought:] Of course, a lot of my collectors work from home, therefore their offices are in the house, not in an office building. But the prints were made with the workspace in mind, not the “living” space, regardless.
[BACKSTORY: A year and a half ago, I created the Blue Monster cartoon, which with the help of Microsoft’s Steve Clayton, took on a life of its own inside the Microsoft Corp. It was fun, interesting, Steve and I were well pleased etc.]
A few weeks ago, I talked about “Blue Monster 2.0″. I alluded to a new direction I was taking; I thought I’d elaborate further:
Creating Blue Monsters, I believe, is a fine way for a marketing guy to spend his time. Especially as I’m fond of saying that Blue Monsters are “The Future of Marketing”.
[NB. In its simplest form, a Blue Monster is my pet name for a “Social Object” designed to bring about cultural change within an organization. It certainly worked well enough at Microsoft etc.]
Can another Blue Monster be created? Can lighting strike twice? Can lighting strike outside of Microsoft? I believe it can. Only, there has to be some ground rules. The client in question has to be ready for it, has to want it see it happen. Ideas within companies are like people within companies. It doesn’t matter how good thy are, there has to be a cultural fit or else it’s a complete waste of time; you’re just fighting a losing battle.
I have an evil plan. Weighing options…
This topic is so last century (as Steve points out). People always want to know ‘where’ Microsoft will move next. But, Microsoft has always been very transparent about its aspirations and vision: ‘A computer in every home and on every desk’. The key word is ‘computer’. Wherever the ‘computer’ goes, Microsoft will seek to go to provide commerical software to support them. Into the datacentre, on the road in phones, in cars and yes, in the living rooms with TVs and consoles.
TVs are interesting because (a) they are still underserved by software to enhance the experience (though DVRs have changed that a lot, there is still a lot of debate how much software which adds inter-ACTIVITY can enhance a largely passive, ie. inactive experience), and (b) they are a popular electronic device for the digital Late Majority (but if anything the GenX and GenY folks are watching less TV than ever).
Hugh had it right months ago. The interesting story is not about the ‘where’, it’s about the ‘how’, ie. Software+Services.
Sometimes I think that when TV 2.0 comes along, it actually won’t have any TV component in it. Just as “Horse 2.0″ [i.e. the car] has no actual horses.
Having given this some thought over the last couple of days, I feel myself shifting my thinking away from “The Box”.
I’ve been using computers for twenty years or so. And all along, I’ve tended to think of computer in terms of “boxes”. A box on my desk [PC]. A box in the cloud [My dedicated server]. A box of music in my pocket [My iPod]. Another wee box to phone people with [my Nokia]. And when it comes to living room entertainment, we have boxes all over the place [TVs, stereos, DVD players etc.]. With clever little wires to link all these boxes up. A personal network of boxes, as it were.
It wasn’t until I saw the Microsoft Surface console in Paris that I really started started thinking [PLEASE excuse the pun] “Outside The Box”. Do we really need all these boxes? Or at least, do we really need so many of them? Perhaps the barriers that separate everyday objects from software are woefully artificial?
Apple is a company I really like. I own both a Macbook and an iPod. They do indeed make lovely boxes. But ever since I saw the Microsoft Surface, it’s where “The Box” ISN’T that has become so interesting to me.
[AFTERTHOUGHT:] “Ubiquitous Software Equals Ubiquitous Media.” Advertisers, take note.