Marc-eting 101: I Want To Be Scared

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This week marked the 12th annual Advertising Week New York conference– a week-long celebration and exploration of topics relevant to the advertising, branding, and marketing industries. After attending events throughout the week, we asked our President, Marc Sampogna, what his best experience was at this year’s AdWeek NY.

As Halloween approaches, discussing something “scary” is never more appropriate. At this years AdWeek NY, I experienced some interesting topics and conversations. All of which uncovered insights that I’m sure I’ll use at some point in my day-to-day. But one in particular really resonated with me, and that was with Seth Godin (sethgodin.com). Now, I’ve seen him speak a number of times, and have read some of his books, e.g., Purple Cow, All Marketers Tell (Lies) Stories, etc., but something about this talk hit me in a different way… a good way — in a way that gets lost in the world of marketing and creativity these days. He spoke about “fear”, and that if you, the agency/creative/strategist/etc. aren’t afraid, then you’re not doing your job (Insert resounding agreement and praise here).


Why is it that we filter down our ideas, and dilute the creativity out of them just so they’ll do something average? Well, it’s, as Seth stated, because “average is what reaches 100 million people”. Average is mainstream. Average is a sure thing. Look, from a business perspective, I get it, we gotta sell tickets, put asses in the seats, move shit off shelves, etc. But for f#@ks sake who the hell wants to be “average”??!! I sure as hell don’t. I want to be scared. I want to be afraid. I want to take risks. I want to hold nothing back. Put myself out there and do things that make me uncomfortable. Because if it means that the ideas I put forth are genuine, and inspired from within, then whether it fails or not, I can move ahead knowing that I stayed true to what matters to me — not being average.

Eatwell, Live Well

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Sha Yao, an industrial designer, was volunteering in a local senior care facility, and noticed that patients with dementia had difficulty eating independently, due to the mental and physical restrictions of the disease. Normal silverware and flatware was too challenging to use, and so inspired by the problem and her grandmother’s developing Alzheimer’s disease, Yao designed Eatwell. Eatwell is an easy-to-use line of plates, bowls, and eating utensils specifically crafted to make eating cleaner and hassle-free.

The project also won first prize at the Stanford Center of Longevity design contest for its clever product design: dementia patients are often confused by food that is the the same color as their dishes, hence the blue color of the insides, and the cups have low centers of gravity to prevent tipping.

Yao has since launched an Indiegogo campaign for the product, raising over $92,000 to date.

Although manufacturing issues have pushed delivery dates back, order should be back on schedule in a couple of months. Pre-orders are available on the Indiegogo campaign page.

What Sparks Our Fire: Inventions that help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with simple, everyday tasks

Louis Braille, Meet the 21st Century

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The creators of the Blitab, a new “haptic tablet,” are bringing new meaning to the word “touchscreen.” Designed to be a Kindle for the visually impaired, their device allows users to actually feel their electronic devices.

The device works like an e-reader with a few major changes. Instead of using an LCD display that users can read off of, the “haptic tablet” uses “smart liquid” that forms bubbles on the surface. Blind and visually impaired users can than read the bubbles as Braille letters. “We call the materials ‘tixels’ from ‘tactile pixels’ because we do not use any mechanical elements to trigger the dots,” says Bitlab’s founder, Kristina Tsvetanova. The software converts text from webpages and USB drives.

Tsvetanova has a working prototype and is still looking to get seed-funding to bring her product to market. And while similar products already exist with astronomical price tags of over $15,000, Tsvetanova’s goal is to make the “haptic tablet” more affordable, so that more people can use it.

What Sparks Our Fire: Creative design improving internet accessibility for the blind and visually impaired in the tablet-era.

The Unbreakable Smartphone

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Despite the rapid progress made to smartphones in the past few years, these devices are still some of the most fragile pieces of technology we own. Small amounts of water and one tiny slip out of the hand can wreck them permanently. But wouldn’t these smart devices be even smarter if we could use them in almost any situation? With the invention of the Cicret wristband, we might just be one step closer.

Cicret, designed by a group of French entrepreneurs, is a smart wristband created to allow smartphone users more convenience. In it’s first prototype form, Cicret works by projecting a screen onto your arm, and using sensors to detect where you are tapping. The designers also aim to incorporate a waterproof design before the product goes to market. This means that it might be a lot more convenient to text in the bathtub or check the weather without fishing through your purse, in the future.

The Cicret team is still looking for investors, but aims to have the product ready for market by early 2016. Their ambitious concept video has virally spread across the internet, and even prompted questions of it’s viability from some tech bloggers. After releasing a video showing the prototype’s capabilities, many have started to believe that this technology is possible.

Take a look for yourself and learn more on the Cicret website.

What Sparks Our Fire: Wildly ambitious technology that makes life more convenient

Opensourcing The Future of Travel

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A train is leaving from Los Angeles to San Francisco traveling at 56 mph and takes 8 hours to arrive. This isn’t an algebra problem, this is an efficiency problem. In 2012, Elon Musk proposed an alternative to the slow and inefficient Amtrak “Coast Starlight” train line, called the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system that would propel passengers between the two cities in “pods” at up to 800 mph, approximately 200 miles faster than the average cruising speed of a 747. While the Hyperloop has remained a pipe-dream for many who frequently travel between the two cities, today, Musk announced a competition that might just get the ball rolling on its development.

Open to university students and independent engineering teams, Musk has asked participants to design the pods that will carry passengers between the two cities. By opening the pod design contest to only independent engineering teams and students, Musk is clearly leaning on innovative new thinking, but also making a statement that he’s looking for the best design, not just the design that gets funded first.

While there has not been mention of a prize for winning the competition, Musk promised to elaborate more on the contest in August. Until then, applicants can learn more about the guidelines and sign up to compete on the SpaceX website.

What Sparks Our Fire: Creatively shaping the future of transportation and design through an exciting open-source competition.