The Life of Meaning

Fear not comrades, for this title needs no rearrangement. The Life of Meaning proposes an alternative to the ever-so-topical question of our existence. By flirting with the bottom of your screen, you’ll notice but a few paragraphs. Paragraphs that answer the supposed unanswerable. Easily. Simply. It’s all about sequence of events…

In life, things happen. Whether they happen by choice or not, they definitely happen. And only after they’ve happened, do we have the time and resources to add meaning. To think. Really f*cking think. Think the sh*t out of it. In fact, we think so much that we’ve come up with new words just to cover up just how much thinking we do. We analyse. Assess. Obsess. Compare and contrast. Pull apart, rearrange and piece back together. Stew. Ponder. Mull it over. Chew it over. Spit it out then sleep on it. Contextualise it. Draw graphs with it. Do-whatever-we-want with it. Reflect. Consider. Reconsider. Then consider re-considering. Brainstorm. Namestorm. Actually, that was lamestorm. It’s all the ruddy samestorm.

And then, because our thinking pockets are only yay deep, we all-too-suddenly conjure a thought collision. “Hey, hang on a sec, that reminds me of this other ‘thing’ that once ‘happened’”. And low and behold, a coincidence is born. Cue a considered re-considering of all thoughts previous. And the dog keeps chasing its tail… Woof.

To avoid this self-effacing cycle of migraines and sleepless nights, we must remember one thing: We add meaning after the event. Up until then, we can be wondrously ignorant. Take a car crash, for example. Prior to the crash, we don’t think about insurance claims, courtesy cars, or whether we got them as good as they got us. Not until that event actually happens. Not until the crash has been and gone. And guess what? Life is yet to come and go. It’s happening. Happening now. Happening right this second. This blog is a part of it. I’m a part of it. Alive. More alive than it’s ever been. Pristine and pulsating. It’s the car that’s yet to be hit. So until that day comes; turn up the stereo, and think about how good it feels to be moving. To have a purpose. A destination. A goal. A life. F*ck the meaning. We’ll deal with that later.

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What’s in a Name?

Golley Slater, an advertising agency in London, are undergoing a serious rebrand. To raise awareness, appear collaborative, etc… they decided to make renaming of the company a public competition. The ‘What’s in a Name’ campaign judges solely on the name itself, rather than artistic flair or logo expertise. To view the details of the competition, please click here.

Like most people who entered, I definitely had a 100% chance of winning. But seeing as I didn’t make the shortlist, I thought I might share my idea. Remember, it’s all about the name. So forget the purple, and endure the patriotism of my imagi-nation…

Mercutio. The jester and confidant of headline-grabbing Romeo. The unsung hero of arguably the most famous piece of literature ever written. But why name our agency after him? Let’s consider Mercutio’s role in Romeo and Juliet, and compare it to that of an Ad agency driving a campaign to market.

1) The middle man. Mercutio is the link between the Montague and Capulet families. Similarly, an agency bridges the gap between client and audience/publisher.

2) The dependant. It’s widely critiqued that Mercutio’s death triggers the point at which Romeo and Juliet descends from playful rom-com into harrowing tragedy. Without our agency, there’s no chance of a happy ending!

3) The loyal friend. As a kinsman of the Prince of Verona, Mercutio has a higher social standing than either of the wealthy Montague and Capulet families. Not restricted by class, his loyalty to Romeo is heightened further in death as he is fatally stabbed whilst trying to protect him. This symbolises (all-be-it exceedingly) the kind of loyalty any client would expect from their agency. No ego. No boundaries. A fierce, unrivalled and transparent friendship.

4) A balanced relationship. Although Romeo (the client) is the hero, Mercutio (the agency) is not fearful of standing up to him. He doesn’t shy away from faux-pas, as evidenced by him asking the difficult questions and tackling delicate issues head-on. He jests at Romeo’s love, with the kind of banter and wit you’d expect from any best friend relationship. He’s even comedic in death and puns about his own stab wound, “ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

Mercutio is a true English gent; a supremely aspirational character, whose status amongst audiences is heightened by an untimely and noble death. He’s modest, strong and extremely generous; going way beyond the call of duty in his friendship with Romeo. As a secondary character, he’s away from the spotlight, but yet so pivotal to the outcome of the story. There’s no fluff, no waffle. Every appearance Mercutio makes carries a significant punch. As a character, he’s ruthlessly efficient.

All this in mind, what do we actually know about Mercutio? Away from the bright lights of Capulets v Montagues, what does he do when he’s not trying to keep the peace? We don’t know. We’ll never know. It’s not relevant. The story is Romeo and Juliet, not Romeo and Juliet brought together by Mercutio. In this sense, he’s a faceless hero. In the eye of the client, he’s the ideal agency.

I’m not a Shakespeare freak, far from it. Since my ‘special measures’ education, I’ve learnt far more about Romeo and Juliet through researching for this competition. The point is that I knew enough in the first place. I knew enough to recognise Mercutio, and to know he was a pretty cool guy, with a cool name! From the outset he’s a selfless bloke who gave up his life for a ‘greater cause’; I also think most of the public will recognise this. After all, can you think of a more famous story?

The choice of Mercutio as a company name evokes creativity and passion. The logo is purple; combining the red and blue of the Capulet and Montague families. He’s the middle branch of the ‘m’ in the logo, nestled between the client and the audience. It’s a connection that demonstrates collaboration and a focus on relationships, as does the logo’s tessellating letters. Soft curves are juxtaposed by hard edges, mirroring Mercutio’s loyalty and empathy with his unique, impulsive character and no-nonsense approach. Indeed, psychologists have found that above all, what people like in others is kindness and assertiveness — the sense that someone will be available to help in a time of need and has the ability to stand up for oneself. This is the ethos of Golley Slater; let’s announce it to the world through Mercutio.

And did the Beckhams’ name any of their children after him? It’s time someone did…

The Finalists

Bitterness aside, above are the 5 finalists; as chosen by members of the Young Creative Council (YCC). To vote for your favourite, please click here. Or alternatively [**bitterness reinstated**], feel free to send them a strongly worded email saying how much better Mercutio is, and that they’ve made a horrendous, life-threatening mistake.

Ideas really are like farts. Everyone thinks theirs is best. Market testing rules.

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U.S. Healthscare

Put down your teeth whitening kits, California… this sh*t is real. Take a minute to study this healthcare ad above… It’s a real ad, from a real Los Angeles magazine, read by real people.

I’m still trying to figure out why I was so shocked by this. Perhaps the notion of selling a health service isn’t something we Brits are used to, but still – just look at it! It appears Best Price Evaluations Medical Services (catchy name, by the way) are offering an October Special, awesome. And what’s more, you’ll get seen by this super sexy doctor who definitely topped the charts at Harvard. She’s got ‘experienced and trustworthy’ smeared all over her, albeit with foundation and lip gloss. Non-prescript glasses are a nice touch though, if only my GP was cast in the role of a 1950’s secretary.

Sarcastic onslaught aside, what started as an entertaining discovery at a coffee house in Hermosa Beach, has since descended into a self-actualising critique of  US health history. Namely, the forced sterilisation program of the 20th Century.

Compulsory sterilisation was first proposed by Gordon Lincecum in 1849, a Texan biologist who believed that genes of the mentally disabled and undesirable sectors of society should be made impassable. In a movement that spanned dozens of countries, including Nazi Germany; the following 100+ years saw the mentally ill pooled with the black; the poor; the deaf; the blind; the physically deformed and even criminals. They all faced sterilisation at some point or another, many against their will, many without even knowing…

In 1968, Elaine Riddick was raped by a neighbour who threatened to kill her if she told what happened. She was 13, the daughter of violent and abusive parents in the desperately poor country town of Winfall, North Carolina. Whilst she was giving birth in hospital, a social worker deemed her “feeble-minded” and petitioned the state Eugenics Board to have her sterilised. Officials coerced her illiterate grandmother into signing an “x” on an authorisation form. After performing a Caesarean section, doctors sterilised her “just like cutting a hog”, she says.

In total, over 60,000 Americans were sterilised under eugenics laws; laws that were eventually abolished in 1981 – a mere 30 years ago. Suddenly, a tasteless magazine ad doesn’t seem quite so barbaric.

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Byroglyphics: Art or Design?

Byroglyphics. Where surgical Sin City-esque freehand meets ‘Shit! I’ve just spilt coffee on my work!’

I love the risk/reward notion behind Byroglyphics’ work; the man has some serious balls! I mean… imagine the time spent drawing this woman. The pressure of capturing an emotion that – at the stroke of a biro, can be wrecked so easily. And then when you finally think you’ve nailed it, you go throw a sh*t load of acrylics all over her face! Now that takes some stones…

It’s little wonder then that, at times, I think his experimental approach can be his undoing. I look through his gallery and think – ‘Ooohhh, you shouldn’t have added that… If only that was over here, and there was a little less of this…’ But isn’t that what art is all about? Opinion?

I often wonder about the difference between art and design; and good old Byroglyphics has come up with the answer. Consistency. If artists were consistent, they would be boring – predictable. But consistent design is strong and cohesive. Consistency breeds trust. I trust Nike that if I buy these trainers, they will make me run faster… I trust Levi’s that these jeans won’t fall apart in the first wash… I trust Lynx that their new scent will help me with the ladies… All these brands are saying the same thing now as they did when they first arrived in our fickle commercial lives. Belief is contagious. Just ask Jesus…

To become a success, an artist only has to convince one squillionaire. A designer has to convince the rest of the world…

Good luck!

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Undress to Impress

Meet Mike (left) and Andy (right). Two beer-swelling inked-up cricket lovers from Wolverhampton, who I met at the SCG during England’s sumptuous Ashes victory this winter. We bonded over a shared love of Mitchell Johnson (see badge on Mike’s bandana); an Australian fast bowler who had such a shocker of a series that he might as well have been donning the 3 lions. England’s 12th man… love you Mitch. “He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right. That Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is sh— you get the picture. Who’d be a sportsman, eh?

So from what you know so far about Mike and Andy, what do you think these life-loving Wolves FC diehards do for a living? Well… Mike is a dentist who owns his own practice, and Andy has a PHD – but works in London as a banker. Surprised? I was. Which leads me to my point… first impressions.

‘Don’t judge a book by its’ cover.’ We’ve heard it all before. One of many moralistic bullshit sayings that get drilled into us as a child. The reality is, books do have covers. And if they didn’t, we’d only make our judgements based on the first page instead. People judge. It’s what we do, it’s what we’ll always do – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Did I feel bad about my misjudgement? Not really. We judge quickly because we’re pre-occupied with other thoughts – more important thoughts:

“We could really do with getting Ponting out.”

“Whose round is it next?”

“I could do with a wee, but don’t want to miss anything.”

“Wow, she’s good looking.”

It’s this lack of importance we place on a first impression that means, if we are wrong, then f*ck it. We recognise we’re wrong and draw a line under it.

Mike and Andy weren’t bothered at my surprise, and why should they have been? I was just another face in the crowd. The fact is, we all loved Mitchell Johnson; and THAT’S the reason we got on so well…

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Podium Jewel

Amateur footage aside… this is really quite impressive. “It’s like watching two wizards fighting”, remarks a goon-fuelled festival junkie at the Big Day Out, Sydney. For those fascinated with how ‘Lightning Dance’ actually works, I stumbled across it on Derren Brown’s blog.

As for the rest of us who are quite satisfied with ignorant entertainment… Forget Gandalf vs Saruman, it’s all about Vulcan and Wolf having it large on the Saturday night supergiant of yesteryear, Gladiators. Keep an eye out for some Horatio Caine-esque one-liners from our man in the commentary box. Let the 90’s nostalgia begin… Over to John Anderson :)

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Ken on the Course

Following Darren Clarke’s momentous win at the Open last week, I’ve been thinking about my sporadic and highly-handicapped golfing career. Amidst a plethora of shanks, snap-hooks and the odd pin-seeker here and there, I can’t help but be reminded of one of the most hilarious moments of my life so far… and it’s all thanks to my Dad.

We had just begun our pursuit of the back 9 on what was a boiling hot day. Dad had offered to pay for a buggy as he didn’t fancy slugging around in 25+ degree heat all afternoon. I managed to find the 11th green, with the old chap tugging his approach shot just left. On exiting the buggy with my putter I left him to park up, chip and meet me on the green. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to happened next…

My excitement of a rare birdie opportunity was harrowingly cut short by the noise of dear father careering off into the greenside bushes. Not to be saved by 40 years of driving experience, the combination of a tight turning circle and occasional senility of the man saw him take a nosedive into the Moors Valley river.

After initial thoughts of ‘Shit, is he dead?!’, I then took to dragging my shock-ridden father out of waist deep water – much to the amusement of passing dog-walkers and cyclists. To be fair to Dad, his precise 9.5-esque entry into the water had kept the buggy perfectly upright and balanced on the river bed, keeping the clubs dry! We rescued the bags and called the clubhouse to explain the situation.

“Hi there. Our buggy is-errr… sort of in the river. Mind sending someone down to help?” Brilliant.

The cavalry arrived armed with tractor and rope. The excavation began, though not before a delightful lady from the group behind had asked us to keep the noise down. Really?! Should have chucked her in as well, get her to fish out my 9 iron instead of one of the rangers. A successful recovery operation and buggy bear was back on dry land, having miraculously escaped with only a bruised nose.

A soaking wet Dad and I made our sheepish way back to the clubhouse where, after exchanging insurance details, I decided to drive us home.

Never did attempt that birdie putt…

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Design Portfolio of Steve Dunn

For PDF of full Design Portfolio, please Click Here
For Trend Magazine (seen on page 20), please Click Here

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