Posts Tagged ‘transforming the business place’
March 22, 2013 (3 weeks ago)
This is how I see it. And it isn’t rocket science:
1. If you want to change your business, you also have to change your culture. If you want to change your culture, you also have to change your art.
2. And that’s where gapingvoid comes in– creating art and ideas that express, reflect, articulate what the clients’ business needs to become.
3. You can call it “Internal Advertising” if you want; I prefer the term “Culture Hacking”- changing your company’s fortunes NOT by trying to directly change what the general public thinks of you, but by trying to change what YOU think of you.
SO WHAT COMES AFTER ADVERTISING?
The Golden Age of advertising– the “Mad Men” era– started about 50 years ago, with people like David Ogilvy, George Lois, Bill Bernbach leading the way, and shops like Weiden & Kennedy, BBH, Fallon, BMP, GGT, CDP and Goodby following in their wake.
This golden age came to an abrupt end, when our friend the Internet came along, with a lot of people on Madison Avenue suddenly starting to fear for their jobs.
So if traditional advertising is “dead”, what comes after it? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the last ten years, ever since I launched gapingvoid back in 2001.
Though I wasn’t paying too much attention at the time, the answer kinda-sorta came to me back in 2004, in a line I wrote in The Hughtrain:
: The hardest part of a CEO’s job is sharing his enthusiasm with his colleagues, especially when a lot of them are making one-fiftieth of what he is. Selling the company to the general public is a piece of cake compared to selling it to the actual people who work for it. The future of advertising is internal.
You can call it “Internal Advertising” if you want; I prefer the term “Culture Hacking”- changing your company’s fortunes NOT by trying to directly change what the general public thinks of you, but by trying to change what YOU think of you.
Improving the company by improving the culture, by subverting the culture via counterintuitive means. Exactly.
[Photo courtesy of Adbusters.]
And yes, Culture Hacking is also what drove the Occupy Wall Street movement and AdBusters. Same idea, different aims (And if you read Greil Marcus’ “Lipstick Traces”, you’ll learn that the same riff goes back to 1970s punk rock, 1950s French Situationism, early 20th-Century Dadaism, even back to the Middle Ages…].
The new business model will be the intersection of the three following things: Purpose, Company Culture and Media.
1. Purpose: It’s the “Why” of what you do, it is not the product, it is the Purpose-Idea, as expressed by Mark Earls, or “The Why” as expressed by Simon Sinek.
2. Company Culture is informed by “Purpose”, it is that actions that a business takes each and every day to remind people of their purpose. Purpose is a set of beliefs, and Culture is the expression of those beliefs in business (Action).
3. Media: Advertising, PR, earned media, paid media, call it what you will. Once you have a “Purpose” and a company “Culture”, those two things inform all of your advertising, PR, communication, social interaction and points of contact with the outside world. From your logo, to your ads, Social Media, How your planes and trucks are painted, etc. It all informs, reinforces and feeds each other.
Culture Hacking is why “Delivering Happiness” became an international best seller. Culture Hacking is why people flock to Nevada in droves to take the Zappos tour. Culture Hacking is why people will one day pay Jenn Lim and Tony Hsieh millions of dollars for the services of the “Delivering Happiness” company.
This is also why Rackspace and Babson College hired gapingvoid to draw cartoons for them. This is why we produce Cube Grenades. This is why big PR firms like Weber Shandwick or Edelman, if they get it right, will steal millions of dollars’ worth of business AWAY from traditional Madison Avenue agencies.
Culture Hacking is all about creating social objects. Exactly.
[One more time:] Stop wasting your life in the traditional advertising-era quicksand. There’s a new game in town. Culture Hacking is a multi-billion dollar industry, still in its infancy. Get in early if you can…
[Further Reading: The Cluetrain Manifesto, Delivering Happiness, Creative Age, Tribes, The Hughtrain and Lipstick Traces. All must-reads to better understand this brave new world of ours. Plus my friends at Laughing Squid and PSFK always seem to have their fingers on the pulse…]
January 10, 2013
“Everyone should write a blog because it makes it harder to be a hypocrite. You have to decide what you believe.” Seth Godin
Everybody should start a business for that very same reason…
November 7, 2012
[One of the pieces we did for Techcrunch etc.]
The gapingvoid Manifesto, Draft One.
[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.
June 27, 2012
May 29, 2012
Today’s newsletter cartoon, “Bacon”, is a about something I see A LOT in the business world:
Where people are soooooooo fixated on the desired RESULT, that they have lost all genuine, intellectual interest in the actual STEPS that will actually get them there.
Even if it’s precisely BECAUSE you’re interested in the steps, in the PROCESS, is what allows you to get any kind of result in the first place.
These people are hard to work with. Because they can’t see anything but the mythological result they’re chasing. Even if, yes, the result doesn’t actually exist yet.
[Some Examples:] The Wall Street ex-fratboy who moves West to Silicon Valley, not because he gives a damn about tech or innovation, but because he can smell the gravy. The painter who doesn’t have a single interesting idea in his pea-size brain, but just knows he wants a big show in a famous New York Gallery ASAP. The small-town knucklehead who moves to Los Angeles “to become famous”. The guy who signs his life away to a large company because he imagines it must be fun to have a big office in a tall building.
They say they are result-focused, when in reality, all they are is reward-focused.
They have no interest in tinkering with something, eight bours a day, day-in-day-out for decades, pursuing an idea, acheiving mastery. They just want the magic wand. They just want the “bacon”.
Most people like this fail, Thank Christ.
Which is why I’ve been saying for years, “Seek out exceptional minds.”
[Thus endeth the rant…]
April 29, 2012
[Buy the print]
Thought experiment: It’s easier to be successful when you think of your business as a dialogue, rather than property.
I’ve been saying this for years: That all evolutions in marketing are evolutions of language.
In Cluetrain parlance, “Markets Are Conversations”. People talking to each other, metaphorically or otherwise.
When markets change, the conversation changes. People who change the market, change the way the market speaks to people.
Ergo, language changes. Language evolves, and so does the market.
People who want to change the market they’re in (in their favor) should think about this… how does your product “talk” to the market, how is the “voice” different from your competition?
[Originally sent out in the newsletter etc.]
April 20, 2012
March 27, 2012
This made me so happy: Some of the cartoons I did for Babson College, now hanging proudly in their library [Thanks to John Capecelatro for sending in the photo!].
As I’ve said many times before, my work doesn’t belong in galleries, it belongs in offices. But hey, a campus library is similar enough. Rock on.
March 19, 2012
[This went out in the newsletter at the weekend, written by my business partner, gapingvoid CEO Jason Korman.]
To those who don’t know us well, gapingvoid just appears to be in the business of selling Hugh’s cool illustrations. Over the years, Hugh and I have gone through the often-tortuous self examination required in the journey of finding our true purpose. Nearly every day asking ourselves: “What can one do with a cartoon?”
Thanks to our friend, Mark Earls, we think a lot about the notion of Purpose Idea, and spend a lot of time helping clients wrestle with the beast as well.
So, we have come up with our purpose, and much of it is around the idea of inspiring others.
Here is an excerpt of what we consider our Purpose – note that it is a work in progress, and always subject to change as we grow, morph and reinvent ourselves.
*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 lead
*We help businesses kick butt.
*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.
February 28, 2012
[Sent out earlier today in the newsletter etc.]
I’ve always had an obsessive quality, especially about my work.
I guess you need that, if you’re going to draw as many drawings as I have.
Or if you’re going to build a great business or long-term project or whatever.
I like the idea of this print, hanging up in someone’s office, reminding him or her about why they work differently than everybody else.
Why they get to see and do the stuff everybody else does not.
And why, deep down inside, it’ll pay off one day.
February 27, 2012
[Originally sent out in the newsletter etc.]
We’ve all failed at some point or another in our lives, but the question is always; “what do you come away with?”
For me, it always inspired me to do better, somehow. I never gave up. So this kind of adversity-induced inspiration sorta became my “muse” after a while.
I’m getting to the age where the kids I grew up with who “Never made a mistake” are starting to plateau careerwise.
“Doing everything right” meant only dealing with known quantities, known outcomes, the opportunities of the unknown were never embraced.
None of them became cartoonists, that’s for damn sure…
February 10, 2012
[Originally sent out in today’s newsletter etc. Buy the print here etc etc.]
Like I said on Twitter earlier today, the people who REALLY taught me “How To” do anything worthwhile, didn’t write a big ol’ list of instructions, didn’t hold my hand, they just led by example.
The great British advertising man, Dave Trott once did that for me, back in the day…
THIS is what REAL leadership means. THIS is what REAL inspiration means.
And you’d better get used to it. Because in the world we now live in, there are no more jobs. There are no more bosses. There are only clients and customers from now on.
The employees who don’t get that, are dead in the water. And so are the “bosses” who still like to be treated as “bosses”. Good riddance to them all.
So… go read Dave Trott’s stuff. Find out who he is. Go learn from a MASTER. Do it. Rock on.
February 6, 2012
[Sent out recently in the gapingvoid newsletter. Sign up here etc..]
December 1, 2011
This cartoon is a reworking of a riff I have done before, on Virgil’s great and eternal aphorism, “Love Begets Love”.
Lots of little love hearts with little bits and pieces, connecting them in random clusters.
In this hyper-networked, post-psychedelic world of ours, expect allusions between “Love” and “Connectivity” to become more common.
Because they are, anyway…
[This cartoon went out originally in the daily newsletter. Subscribe here etc.]
August 28, 2011
[“Creativity With Purpose”: One of my recent canvases etc.]
I get asked all the time: “Why don’t you show in art galleries?”
And I always answer the same: “Because my work doesn’t belong in art galleries, it belongs in office cubicles.”
Even if you go back to the 1990’s, back when I was starting out, it was the same story. I always liked making art SPECIFICALLY for the workplace. I always liked making work that pushed that aspect of human existence further in the right direction.
After family, the time you spend in your place of work is the most important arena of your existence. That is where you go to find out, over time, who your true self really is.
And your true self needs art around it, your true self needs constant reminding that your true self ACTUALLY exists.
Your true self needs TOTEMS around that INSPIRE it on a daily basis.
That’s what I hope the cartoons help articulate, help bring to the surface. Unlike most of the knucklehead art you see around the gallery scene…
Besides, it’s a niche most other artists don’t really think about– they’re too busy trying to conquer other worlds. Which is fine, even if those other worlds are already too crowded; already SATURATED with the froth of other knuckleheads.
“My work doesn’t belong in art galleries, it belongs in office cubicles.”
It’s not a bad life, I suppose…
June 13, 2011
Here are some pictures Rob La Gesse sent me- people at Rackspace who downloaded my cartoons off the web, printed them out and hung them on their walls.
“Crap jobs are created by other people, dream jobs you make yourself” and “Life is short, Make it amazing”.
No “Reason Why” to buy the Rackspace product. No top-down mission statement.
Nope. Instead I tried to talk about stuff that ACTUALLY MATTER to people inside and outside the company.
Like I said in my last post, ALIGNMENT is where the action is.
“A brand’s first job is to be interesting”. Aligned brands are far more interesting than brands that just want somebody else’s money.
Just because you work for a big company doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about REAL human values. In fact, it’s more important than ever.
Think about it.
[More Rackspace cartoons here.] [More corporate cartoon commissions here.]
May 4, 2011
My @gapingvoid print now takes pride of place above the desk in my office… a daily reminder!
A daily reminder. Exactly. That’s the whole point of the “cube grenades” etc.
[PS You can buy that same print here…]
April 26, 2011
Mike Natalizio, CEO of HNI Insurance sent me this photo. A framed cartoon I did a year or two ago for his company. Thanks, Mike!
He’s got a few of these gapingvoid cartoons in his office. “Social Objects” designed to start conversations when people come to visit etc etc.
This is what I meant when Paul Barron asked me, what’s next for gapingvoid, in that terrific video interview he did earlier this year [Towards the end, about 19’15″ into it].
Art, not as pretty decoration, nor as an existential howl from Tortured Artist Genius Dude, nor the smart-ass, sychophantic, postmodern shit from New York and London.
But Art to articulate real meaning. Art that helps move businesses forward. And hopefully helps move REAL people forward along with it. Right here. Right now.
Not advertising. Not telling people to buy.
That’s what the Cube Grenade idea is all about. Creating work that articulates the stuff that ACTUALLY MATTERS to people. Work that articulates Purpose-Idea. Right here. Right now.
But hey, most people reading this are also trying to do the exact same thing with their stuff, so at least I’m good company. Heh.
April 23, 2011
We had a lovely time at our second gapingvoid salon the other day. Thanks to Everybody for coming.
Thanks to the Internet, you can quite easily talk to thousands of people a day.
But as anyone who has spent far too much time on the Internet will know, there’s no substitution for face-to-face.
So I sent word out on the newsletter, Hey, there’s a party at gapingvoid Central on Friday. Downtown Miami, near the Miami Heat Arena. Why don’t y’all come along?
And so people came along. Some I knew well, some I hadn’t met before. We had wine, we had food, it was good times all round.
And people just talked and hung out. I gave a little two-minute speech (the photo is people watching me give it), but mostly is was just abut people meeting up.
All looking for the same things as me. Ideas. Purpose. Conversation. That kinda thing.
Thanks to blogging, I know a lot of people. A TON. So why not get them to meet each other? Why not hang out all together?
And so that is what we did. Exactly.
We’ll be having another one soon. I hope y’all can make it this time…
April 5, 2011
[Download the printable version here etc.]
There ya go. On behalf of my client, Rackspace, a free “Cube Grenade” for y’all to download and print out and hang on your wall etc.
A Social Object. Exactly.
It’s not rocket science. It’s common sense. Less theory, more action. Less talk, more doing. That’s what it means to have a startup. Part of the Rackspace “We Love Startups” riff. Exactly.
[More Rackspace cartoons here…]
December 28, 2010
Another new cartoon for the Rackspace series.…
Basically, I took the old “George” idea and re-jigged it, adding the trademark Rackspace red & black.
And hey, it worked.
I see this cartoon going in the slide deck of Rackspace’s recruiters.
We’re not a ‘normal’ company etc. It’s OK not to be ‘normal’ etc. ‘Normal’ is boring etc.
It’s easy for a small company to have a distinct personality. Much harder when the company has grown a lot, like Rackspace has done in the last few years.
Much harder to NOT be normal…
[Commission your own cartoon from gapingvoid etc.]
November 25, 2010
[One of the cube grenades I did for Rackspace etc.]
Here’s something to think about this Thanksgiving:
A year and a half ago I coined the term, “Cube Grenade”, and since then, we’ve tried to build a business around it.
Art that you hang in your cubicle, in order to affect change, in order to start a conversation. Art that you “toss” into the work/corporate environment, that hopefully causes a small “explosion”. Hence the term, Cube Grenade.
“Art with purpose. Work with purpose”.
Thanks to the Internet, the nature of work is changing in so many amazing ways, and we’re all so damn lucky to be caught right in the middle of it.
As a cartoonist, my work is totally inspired and informed by this– this is exactly why the work took the direction it did.
And your work, whatever it may be, should also be affected in the same way. I can’t think of a better time to be alive; I really can’t.
So besides friends and family, what better reason is there to celebrate Thanksgiving? Seriously…
October 18, 2010
[Download the printable version here.]
A couple of days ago my buddy, Robert Scoble (himself a Rackspace employee) twittered the question, “How do do you amplify a start-up culture inside a big company?”
A damn good question, Robert. I thought it would make a good piece of art, hence the cartoon above. More specifically, I thought it would make a good image to go on the back of a Rackspace business card.
Rackspace is a big company (3,000 employees), but not big enough where they can no longer remember when they were a small company. So maybe it’s better to start a conversation (which is what handing out a business card does, ideally) with a pertinent question, rather than the usual “Here’s why you should buy our stuff” shpeel…
September 29, 2010
I just designed this cube grenade for one of my clients, the insurance broker HNI.
As always, it’s basically something to be downloaded [from here], printed out and hung up round the office. A “conversation starter” etc.
Most insurance companies want to sell you a lot of insurance, the more the merrier. One part of HNI’s shtick is, well, “More” is not always the most helpful thing for the client etc.
The guy in the cartoon looks so unhappy simply because the very thought of actually “Doing” something actually frightens a lot of people. Which is why the world is filled with so many clock-watchers.
Though this was designed for HNI, if the message has any value to your business, feel free to print it out as well, thanks.
June 9, 2010
From this morning’s “Daily Cartoon Newsletter”:
Every Wednesday from now on, we’ll be sending you a high-res, work-related image for you to download, send to your boss and/or colleagues, to print out, hang up on the office wall, the bulletin board, around the watercooler etc [The usual CC licensing terms apply]. Y’know, a social object to start a conversation with.
All we ask in return is that you share the following link with as many people as you see fit, Thanks!: “Hello From Hugh”.
This week’s high-res download is called “Snake Oil”. Enjoy!
People have been asking me for a while, when am I going to start offering free high-res downloads again, like I did in the old days.
Well, as you can see from the note above, I just did. But you’ll need to subscribe to the list first. Easy.
June 3, 2010
In this morning’s daily newsletter, I sent out the cartoon above with the following commentary:
WE KNOW our future is tied into our creativity, that without it, we’re dead. Yet we resist it, anyway, with every fiber of our being.
To survive in the future, we’re ALL going to have to get more creative– not just the boys in the black polo sweaters, but every last one of us, regardless of job title.
Ergo, businesses are going to have to get more creative.
Which means businesses are going to have to get more personal.
Creativity, as you know, is a very personal matter. So for sake of argument, let’s assume that, like I implied, there’s a direct link here between “Creative” and “Personal”.
Ergo: Long term survival = More creative = More personal.
I don’t care who you are, social media makes business more personal… at least, it does if you know what you’re doing.
Ergo, “More personal” leads to “More creative” leads to “Long term survival”.
So what more justification to apply social media to your business do you ACTUALLY need? What MORE do you need to tell your boss? We’re talking long term survival here, folks.
Something to think about…
June 1, 2010
My old advertising buddy, Vinny Warren, commissioned me to draw him a ‘Cube Grenade’ for his Chicago-based ad agency, The Escape Pod.
“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.
[The Cube Grenade archive is here.]
[Commission your own Cube Grenade.]
February 28, 2010
[The “I’m Not Delusional” print, for sale on the gallery…]
Random thoughts on being an entrepreneur. [Originally posted January, 2007]
I wouldn’t say I was an authority on entrepreneurship, certainly not in the same league as people like Fred Wilson or Jason Calacanis. That being said, the last couple of years haven’t been too shabby, either. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts I have on the subject, in no particular order. The list, by the way, is far from complete– I’ll probably be adding to it sooner than later etc.
1. Everything takes three times longer than it should. Especially the money part.
2. The best way to get approval is not to need it.
3. People want what they can’t have. In fact, that’s pretty much all they do want.
4. Once you become an entrepreneur, you find the company of non-entrepreneurs a lot harder to be around. You’ve seen things they haven’t; the wavelengths alter, it’s that simple.
5. In a world of over-supply and commodification, you are no longer paid to supply. You’re being paid to deliver something else. What that is exactly, is not always obvious.
6. Word of mouth is the best advertising medium of all. The best word of mouth comes from disrupting markets.
7. People buy your product because it helps fill in the narrative gaps in their lives.
8. You can either be cheapest or the best. I know which one I prefer.
9. Some people think that once they secure venture funding, their problems will be over. Wrong. That’s when your problems REALLY begin.
10. It’s better to be underfunded than overfunded.
11. If an average guy in a bar can understand what you do for a living, chances are you’re halfway to becoming a commodity.
12. It’s easier to turn an ally into a customer than vice versa.
13. If you’re happy in your career before the age of thirty, you’re probably doing something wrong. Heck, if you’re happy in your career before the age of seventy, you’re probably doing something wrong.
14. Smart, young, artistic people are always asking me which is a better career path, “Creativity” or “Money”. I always answer that it doesn’t matter. What matters is “Effective” and/or “Ineffective”.
15. Write the following on a piece of paper, have it framed, and stick it on your office wall: “Have you hugged your customer today?”
16. People will always, always be in the market for a story that resonates with them. Your product will either have this quality or it won’t. If your product fails this test, quit your job and go find something else. Just making the product incrementally cheaper or better won’t help you.
17. Products are idea amplifiers. The molecules and/or bytes are secondary.
18. People remember the quality long after they’ve forgotten the price. Unless you try to rip them off.
19. Markets serve entrepreneurs better if the latter can keep the former undersupplied. Oversupply is the kiss of death.
20. I personally know a former CEO who, once he attained control of the company, ran an EXTREMELY profitable business into the ground in less than two years. From a market cap of $100 million to ZERO, just like that. Why? Short answer: He loved being “The” CEO, but he didn’t much care for being “a” CEO.
21. In terms of becoming an entrepreneur, probably the most useful thing I learned in the last twenty years was how to enjoy my own company for long stretches of time.
22. One successful entrepreneur I know well has a wonderful quality, namely that he never, ever compares himself to other people. He just does his own thing, which actually serves him rather well. Just because his competitor has bought himself a bigger motor boat, doesn’t mean he feels the need have a bigger motor boat. This quality helps him to build his business the way he sees fit, not the way the motor boat people see fit.
23. Running a startup is full of extreme ups and downs. Which is why so many successful and happy entrepreneurs I know lead such normal, stable, unglamorous, “boring”, family-centered lives. Somehow they need the latter in order to balance out the former. Extra-curricular drama looks great in the tabloids, but that’s all it’s ultimately good for.
24. MBAs are conditioned to use their brains in much the same way as sex workers are conditioned to use their genitals. Nice work if you can get it.
25. Bill Gates may have a million times more money than me, but he isn’t going to live a million times longer than me, watch a million times more sunsets than me, make love to a million times more women than me, drink a million times more fine wines than me, listen to a million times more Beethoven String Quartets than me, nor sire a million times more children than me. Human beings don’t scale.
26. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” F. Scott was a drunkard and a fool.
February 8, 2010
[The “Linchpin” Series– available over on the gapingvoid Gallery etc.]
Last month my friend and mentor, Seth Godin released his longest and probably most important book, “Linchpin”. I interviewed him about it here.
To celebrate the book, Seth let me design a portfolio of four fine art prints, inspired by the book, entitled “The Linchpin Series”. You can go check out over on the gapingvoid Gallery here.
What else is there to say? Seth wrote a great book. Like I said in my review on Amazon,
“And Seth then challenges us, the readers, to become linchpins ourselves. To make the leap. To become artists. To do emotional work, whatever the sacrifice may be. It’s our choice, and it’s our burden. Seth won’t be there to catch us if we fall, but to become the people we need to be eventually, well, we probably wouldn’t want him to, anyway.
Congratulations, Seth. You have penned a real gem of a book here. Rock on.”
I basically wanted to create a set of prints– “Cube Grenades” — to go on the office wall, as Linchpin “Idea-Souvenirs” to kick the viewer in the pants. “Remember Who You Are” and all that.
I hope you’ll pay the gallery a visit. Meanwhile, you can check them out below as well.
Thanks, Seth! I had a lot of fun drawing these. Rock on.
LIFE IS TOO SHORT (Linchpin 1)
Life is too short not to do something that matters, not to become a “Linchpin”. I know it, you know it, we all know it, so let’s stop futzin’ around at get on with it. Like Seth says, “Decide”.
INSANE ASYLUM (Linchpin 2)
Why do people become what Seth Godin calls “Linchpins”? Becasue to not do so would drive us crazy. Eventually we have no choice. And we’ve all been in worse places– when you know you’re capable of doing great things, being in “The Zone”, but every external marker out there indicates otherwise– that you’ll never get to do the “life’s best work” that you’re capable of. That your career will be nothing but drudgery and abuse, in exchange for what seems an increasingly meager paycheck.
And after being there long enough, the decision to become a Linchpin eventually becomes an easy one. But it can take time.
ALL ARTISTS ARE ENTREPRENEURS (Linchpin 3)
By Seth’s definition, an artist is not just some person who messes around with paint and brushes, an artist is somebody who does (and I LOVE this term) “emotional work.”
Work that you put your heart and soul into. Work that matters. Work that you gladly sacrifice all other alternatives for. As a working artist and cartoonist myself, I know exactly what he means. It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
THIS IS IT (Linchpin 4)
It’s easy to tell somebody to get into The “Linchpin” Zone. Much harder to live it. But fight like hell to get there, regardless, every friggin’ day, or else you’ll never make it.
You know you’re capable of doing great things, being in “The Zone”, but every external marker out there indicates otherwise– that you’ll never get to do the “life’s best work” that you’re capable of. That your career will be nothing but drudgery and abuse, in exchange for what seems an increasingly meager paycheck.
Yeah, it’s a painful place to be. But it doesn’t last forever, not if you don’t give up. Not if you don’t succumb to all the overpriced, “treadmill-enabling”, external markers of success– fancy houses, cars, schools, vacations and “stuff” that you can’t really afford, that you don’t really need nearly as much as the guy in the next cubicle says that you do.
THE LINCHPIN PORTFOLIO: ALL FOUR FOR $200.
What a deal, what a steal etc.All four, 11“x14” each, proper archival paper, inks and printing tech, all hand-signed by me, for the price of a moderately-OK-but-not-great meal for two in Manhattan. And of course, for hardcore Seth fanboys, there’s the “Purple Cow” print from early 2009.
December 28, 2009
[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.
[About Hugh. Cartoon Archive. “Daily Cartoon” Newsletter.]
September 1, 2009
[This could make a nice print, one day…]
Recently on Twitter, I wrote:
Art that brightens up the office vs Art that brightens up the home. Two different vibes altogether. I prefer making the former.
To which my friend, Kathy Sierra replied:
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: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
June 11, 2009
[The printer’s proofs. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Last week I blogged about a series of small prints I was working on, based on the cartoons in the new book, “IGNORE EVERYBODY”, which as y’all know, launched today.
These cartoons above are some of the most viewed, and have collectively been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I know they adorn lots of cube walls, been made into stickers and of course, blogcards.
These four reflect a lot about what I was feeling at the time I drew them, three or four years ago. How we all have a need to find “purpose”, and the stuff we do and the people we interact with each day, in order to find “it”.
So today, being a day that for me is a lot about finding my own purpose, I’ve decided that it would be a poignant moment to make these available for people to own. You can throw away your yellow’d download and own the real thing instead, signed and numbered by me. An edition of 100, sold as a set in a portfolio, for $300 [Plus Shipping & Handling]. In a few days we’ll be offering the individual prints for about $100 each.
These are smaller versions of what we have been doing up until now. They measure 11“x14”, and can be framed and hung, or kept in a portfolio to view or use for meetings and then put away etc.
They are all hand-pulled serigraphs, and printed on Rives-Arches paper. For those of you thinking about collecting the work long-term, this is a good, affordable, and fun place to start. I hope to be making lots more of these portfolio editions in the future. Thanks.
June 3, 2009
A week ago I wrote that we’d be producing some new prints based on some of the cartoons appearing in my book, IGNORE EVERYBODY.
After receiving a lot of feedback from y’all, we decided on the four designs above. Here are some notes:
1. They’ll be smaller. Approx 9.5“x14”, roughly the same dimensions as my Mac laptop.
2. They’ll be more affordable. Circa $125.00 US, $400.00 for the complete set of four.
3. They’ll be of the same high-quality. They’ll be silk-screened by hand. Old School. They’ll be signed and numbered by me. Because they are more affordable, they’ll be larger editions, say, 800 or so. We could have saved money if we used digital printing, but we decided against it — hand pulled serigraphs, still.
4. Finding Space: We realized that about 35% of each edition done so far is being purchased by the same group of people. Many of them are saying, we want to collect, but we are running out of wall space. So these images are of a size that can be framed and hung on a small wall, several at a time. Or maybe people will do what I do i.e. keep the images in a small portfolio, for taking out when they have meetings, or entertaining. In any case, it seems to me that making lower cost, true high-quality, limited editions, lots more people will be able to enjoy them. No worries for those with big walls, I am going to continue to do the larger images as well.
Over the next week, I’ll be working out all the details with this new size. Watch this space.
[More: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
May 13, 2009
[Update: Essential Reading– “Work With Hugh: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About “Cube Grenades’ But Were Afraid To Ask.”]
Above is a photo that one of my friends on Twitter sent me. He basically downloaded one of my cartoons off my blog, printed it out, and stuck it outside his cube at work, for other people to see, hopefully to comment on, and hopefully, to start a conversation.
This, I believe, is where my cartoons work the best– “Cube Grenades”- small objects that you “throw” in there in order to cause some damage– to start a conversation, to spread an idea etc.
[The Blue Monster]
The Microsoft Blue Monster is probably my best-known Cube Grenade, which is why I made it into a limited edition print eventually.
Seth Godin first put his Purple Cow book into a purple milk carton for the same reason– he guessed [quite rightly, as it turned out] that people would see the carton on somebody’s desk, inquire about it, and a conversation about the marketing ideas contained in the book would be started.
[The Purple Cow print]
And the Purple Cow print was designed the same way. OK, it might be a bit big to display in a cube– you need a lot of wall space for this one– but the idea is the same– Conversations that happen around the object are more interesting than the actual object itself.
“Cube Grenades”. Exactly. Cartoons designed to affect change as “Social Objects”. Exactly.
[Check out some of my limited edition prints over at gapingvoidgallery.com.]
Since I posted this “Cube Grenades” idea yesterday, I’ve been giving it A LOT of thought. Here are some notes:
[More “Cube Grenades” in action. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
1. Like I said, my cartoons work best when they’re used as “Cube Grenades” i.e. small objects that you “throw” in there in order to cause some damage– to start a conversation, to spread an idea etc. But other social objects can be used as well– purple milk cartons, homemade cookies, funky mousepads, rubber toys, newspaper clippings etc. It’s the people that matter, not the object they socialize around. I don’t claim to have a monopoly.
2. Repeat After Me: Cube Grenades are Social Objects. Cube Grenades are Social Objects. Cube Grenades are Social Objects…
3. All big change in companies come from the people in the trenches, who do the actual day-to-day work. To change their behavior, you have to change the way they interact. People interact around social objects. Change the social objects, and you change the company.
4. My friend, Mark Earls once told me a story about a friend of his. The friend played a key role in the massively successful corporate turnaround recently undertaken by McDonald’s.
His friend told him, “We knew we were screwed, NOT when the nutrition and green issues started hitting the newspapers, but by the simple fact that our staff on the floor just weren’t cleaning the tables and the bathrooms like they used to. We knew THEN that our people had lost faith in our company.“
What social objects were people using, both during the company’s decline and during its turnaround? What cube grenades were being thrown about, both before and after? I bet you they weren’t the same.
5. Yes, I am fully aware that your customers are paying for the quality of the products and services your business provides, not for the quality of the cube grenades flying around your corporate headquarters. But they are all related. Everything of value that your business creates is the product of a already-existing social dynamic. Businesses are people, not machines. And people socialize around objects.
6. An Open Letter to Ad Agencies: Guys, you are NOT selling messages anymore. You are selling social objects. The work that you create will affect the cube grenades and social objects, that your clients and their customers use to interact with each other.
[More Cube Grenades. “I use them as covers for my binders strewn about my desk, to start conversations”, says the person who e-mailed me the photo. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
7. You see a guy walking out of an Apple store, looking all excited about his new Apple computer he’s carrying under his arm? Why is he so excited? Sure, he just got himself a nice-looking piece of kit, but what REALLY excites him is all of the COOL, DISRUPTIVE STUFF he’s going to MAKE with his new machine. Videos, music mixes, whatever. For his FRIENDS and his PEERS. Again, it’s the SOCIAL that makes it interesting. Apple makes cube grenades, just like the ad agencies. Just like you do.
8. People download my cartoons and stuck them on their walls by the THOUSANDS. A much smaller number spend money to buy the more expensive versions i.e. my prints. But the idea is the same i.e. a way for people to interact. As I’m fond of saying: The conversations AROUND the object are FAR more interesting than the object itself. And what is true for me is true of your product, as well. “People Matter. Objects don’t.” Exactly.
9. So when do I start charging? You can download my stuff for free, so why should you buy a print? Who says you should? I’m guessing that if one of my cartoons is meaningful enough to you, you’ll get tired of seeing it printed on the office laserprinter paper in low-resolution, getting all worn and torn, with the Scotch tape getting all yellow and crinkly. If you like the drawing enough, eventually you’ll want to upgrade. The same way, back in college, that I would upgrade to vinyl or CDs, once the cheap and nasty cassette tape of my favorite band started getting all fuzzy and worn out. The same way I gladly paid $20 to hear the band play live, rather than hear the same songs on the cassette. “Meaning Scales”. The more cube grenades I throw out there, the more meaningful interaction I create for other people, the more people will want to pay for it eventually. If I locked it all down as a cash-only transaction, it would all die a horrible death overnight.
[Privately-commissioned “Cube Grenades” i.e. limited edition, fine art prints that I did for my Brazilian client, agenciaclick. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
10. Probably the job I’m most proud of recently, is when I was hired by a Brazilian ad agency, agenciaclick to create a privately commissioned edition of cube grenades i.e. fine art prints. See photo above.
They didn’t want these prints for themselves; they wanted to give these out to their clients, as conversation starters.
“All brands are open brands? Huh? What does that mean? Do you agree with it? Why? What does “open” actually mean? What does “brand” actually mean…?” You get the picture. The same idea that made The Blue Monster so successful. Again, it wasn’t about the message, the object. It was all about the social.
11. My long-term goal is to make more privately-commissioned “Cube Grenades” for more clients like agenciaclick. It was a wonderful working experience for me, and I want to spend more time in that business. If you find this idea interesting, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
April 13, 2009
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Though this cartoon, “Create or Die” is less than a week old, it seemed to really resonate with people, and by the time the end of last week rolled around, the number of people emailing me about this image almost equaled those who voted for Wolf v. Sheep. So, being the kind of person that hates to disappoint, I decided to damn the torpedoes and go ahead and publish it, as it seems to make lots of people happy.
The cartoon was inspired by a dialog I had going with one of my clients, Dell Computers, just before Christmas. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this “creativity” thing isn’t just a Dell issue, it applies to all of us.
Like I said in my previous blog post:
In this globalized, hyper-linked, internet-enabled world, “Boring” has suddenly become a very expensive luxury.
I want to make limited-edition prints that somehow, even in a small, indirect way, helps make companies and individuals less afraid, and more willing to be CREATIVE, more willing to embrace the CREATIVITY that they already have. Because economically and spiritually, that is ultimately where our future lies, even if that idea sometimes terrifies us.
I can’t tell you what to make. I can’t tell you what your customers will find interesting or useful. I can’t tell you what’s going to knock their socks off. I can’t tell you what “Create” means to you or somebody else.
But I will tell you, I AM RIGHT about this one. Create or Die. That’s why I wanted to make this into a print. Something on the wall to serve as a steady reminder.
[The Small Print:]
1. It’ll be printed around the end of April, and will retail at $450.00. Not yet sure on the edition size, we’ll decide when it is going to print, all hand-signed and numbered by me. Using the Paypal button below to make a $100 deposit, you can own at the pre-publication price of $265.00. The pre-pub price will expire by Thursday. Any orders after that, but before the publication date can buy it for $350.00. The minute the image is printed, the price reverts back to $450.00.
[UPDATE: The PayPal Deposit has been removed.]
2. To secure your pre-order, please use the PayPal button above to make a $100 deposit. The PayPal form will ask you for all your details [including your preferred shipping address], which of course we’ll have for our records. Why are we asking for a deposit? To weed out the spammers, flakes and trolls out there [This is the Internet, after all], leaving only committed buyers in the mix. No other reason.
3. When asked for your details, please include your real name, not just your business name. The shipper won’t deliver it otherwise.
4. The print will be ready to ship in 4 – 6 weeks from today. We’ll email you another PayPal for the outstanding invoice once the artwork is printed and packed.
5. We’ll be printing these to the same high standards as last time i.e. top-of-the-line inks and paper, approx 24″ x 35″ in dimension. If for some reason, I don’t like the way the colors lay down when I am proofing it, I reserve the right to change the colors and if you don’t like the final image, you can have your deposit back, no questions asked.
6. Shipping & handling [approx $45 USA, $65 abroad] is not included in the price. The buyer is also responsible for any Customs & Excise outside the USA. We ship them flat, not rolled.
7. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com, and either Laura or me will answer them.
Thanks, as always, for your love and support!
April 10, 2009
[“Hamster Wheel”. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
I’ve sold or given away a lot of cartoons to my peer group over the years.
And given the choice between the two, I have generally preferred it when they hung it in their office, as opposed to in their homes.
Not that I have the slightest objection to people hanging it in their homes, of course. But ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted my place of work to be a creative environment, not an environment of slow, lingering, death-by-endless-drudgery. And when I think of my peer group, they always FELT STRONGLY the same way as well, regardless of what they actually did for a living.
Idealistic? Sure. Unrealistic? Often. But we never had a problem with that. We knew it was the price we paid for trying to be true to our guts.
And yes, I always liked making cartoons that reflected this “creative” streak we all aspired to professionally. And my peer group liked it, too. And this is basically where my office-centric cartoon shtick came from.
One of the buzzwords you hear a lot in the business world these days, is “Innovation”. Yes, it’s a genuinely worthy thing to aspire to. Genuine innovation creates lots of genuine value, every young intern knows this. Which is why people like to throw it around like confetti. It’s one of those words that sound good in meetings, regardless of how serious one is about ACTUALLY innovating ANYTHING.
Here’s some friendly advice for all you Innovation-buzzword fanboys: You don’t get to be more innovative, until you make yourself more creative FIRST.
“Innovative” is an “external” word. It can be measured. It generally talks about things that have been tested properly and found to have worked in the real world.
“Creative”, however, is more of an “internal” word. It’s subjective, it’s murkier. It’s far harder to measure, it’s far harder to define. It’s an inward journey, not outward. Which is why a lot of people in business try to keep the word out of their official lexicon, preferring instead more neutral, more externally-focused language like “Value”, “Excellence”, “Quality” and yes, “Innovation”.
The trouble is, of course, that approach doesn’t work as well any more. In this globalized, hyper-linked, internet-enabled world, “Boring” has suddenly become a very expensive luxury.
Do you REALLY think Apple is afraid to use the word, “Creative”? Do you REALLY think Steve Jobs goes around his office yakking on endlessly about “Value, Excellence, Quality and Innovation”? No, of course he doesn’t. Apple’s UTTERLY AMAZING design, business and marketing prowess comes from the UTTERLY AMAZING creative fire in their collective belly, not the other way around.
I want to make limited-edition prints that somehow, even in a small, indirect way, helps make companies and individuals less afraid, and more willing to be CREATIVE, more willing to embrace the CREATIVITY that they already have. Because economically and spiritually, that is ultimately where our future lies, even if that idea sometimes terrifies us.
There. So now you know my secret, evil plan. You have been warned.
April 7, 2009
[UPDATE: “Wolf vs Sheep” will be the next gapingvoid print. Details here.]
In case you haven’t been following, I have been updating a few images from my back catalogue [which numbers over 5,000 drawings, the last time I counted] and turning them into limited-edition silkscreens.
It has been a great experience. It’s allowed me to reacquaint myself with the images, that in some cases, I haven’t really thought about for years. It brings back some old memories, and puts my mind to work in a new medium: How to translate 2″ x 3 1/2″ business card-sized doodle into large, 2-or –3-foot images.
As I spend time with this, I can’t help thinking about that age-old, never-quite-answered question, “What is Art?” How is it different, how has our relationship changed with it from even say, a couple of decades ago? Especially with the Internet evolving our sense of “Media” at such a lightning pace?
I don’t have a definitive answer to this, but I do have a few thoughts on the subject:
The artist whose work best summed up for me the Modern, post-World War Two, 20th-Century world that most of us were born into, is the late, great Andy Warhol. A fantastic magazine illustrator in the 1950s, who got into the imagery of televised, mass media in the 1960s. VERY mass-media. Who appropriated the visual language of a mass-produced, top-down, broadcast, CORPORATE world. The visual language of Madison Avenue, the visual language of Kellog’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Ketchup and of course, Campbell’s Soup. And we look at his work with the same sort of detachment as a TV commercial, or a can of beans in the supermarket. And we NEED to remain detached, or else this rather loud, glamorous, oppressive, consumerist worldview would bury us, would turn our brains to corn syrup.
Then along comes the Internet. A place that doesn’t do shotgun-media,“Broadcast” well. A place where if what you’re saying isn’t engaging, isn’t hitting people on a intimate, human level, it doesn’t get seen, it doesn’t get shared, it doesn’t exist.
Which explains why, as a relatively dedicated citizen of the Internet, I am far more interested in what a piece of “Art” can do for you, once it is on your wall, than what I got out of creating it. What it can do as piece of communication between you and the people close to you, not as a piece of academic Art Theory. I like the “Social-bility” of the work. I like creating “Social Objects”. And this to me, of course, is what the Internet also runs on. This, to me, is also what the new internet-enabled, post-TV world is all about. Instant, Human Connection.
And where does this “Human Connection” come from? Easy– from talking about the world you and I actually live in, not the world the “Theory Police” live in. Yes, that one. The messy one. You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about…
And yes, that’s what cartoons have ALWAYS been about to me, long before the Internet was invented, long before I even knew what Art Theory was. As I’m fond of saying, “It isn’t rocket science”. Real, Human Connection never was.
So, with this brave new world in mind, we’re thinking of publishing one of the three following cartoons:
1. “Wolf vs Sheep”. This is a re-working is one of my historical favorites. I first drew it when I had just to moved to New York, in 1998. It was about what I saw as the choices that people are confronted with in the rat race. They were fascinating times and elicited other favorites of mine, like “Company Hierarchy”.
2. “Love Begets Love”. Virgil’s famous quote. I drew the cartoon as a contender for the Stormhoek Valentine’s wine in 2007. It never made it onto the bottle as a label in the end, but a lot of people loved the drawing.
3. “Create Or Die”. Though I only posted this cartoon for the first time a few hours ago, I’ve so far received about 20 emails from people expressing serious interest in it as a print. I never saw that coming, but what the heck, up it goes…
We’ll publish one of the three, depending on the feedback we get. If you have an opinion either way, please feel free to leave a comment below, ping me on Twitter, or if you think you’re in the actual market for buying one, send me an email. Thanks.
The silkscreen print will be roughly the same size [approx 24″ x 35″] and of the same high quality as “Corinthians” and “We Need To Talk”. The price and number of the edition will also be in the same ballpark.
Please let me know your thoughts. All very exciting. Thanks Again.
April 16, 2008
[This cartoon was commissioned by my client, Microsoft.]
[This cartoon was commissioned by my client, Microsoft.]