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Why We Love Handmade Things.

We’re living in an era of bright, new and shiny. The technology we each carry around in our pockets and bags, whether it’s an iPad, iPhone or laptop, gives us the ability to create at a moment’s notice anywhere we like, and we do. We spend countless hours on these machines creating things. The tech in these machines gives us the ability to create flawlessly designed images and typography. Yet, also on these machines we find apps such as Instagram, Hipstagram and Camera Awesome that allow us to created images in the likeness of something we’d find in an attic. The app Lettrs allows you to use your phone to type or dictate a letter which will be converted into a “hand” written letter which can be delivered digitally, or as an actual letter in the post. So why in this golden age of technological precision do we still have that guilty, undying craving for old and grungy? What is it about the wonderful imperfection of handmade that make us so frigging giddy? Why, from letterpress to hand drawn typography, do we love to get our hands dirty?

For one, handmade is human. No matter what your ma tells you, not a single one of us came into this world perfect. You know from every time you’ve looked in the mirror, one eye might be a little bigger, or an ear may be slightly higher than the other. Something made by hand will always have a bit of what the makers, hand added to it. It’s in the character of the work. Handmade is inherently more authentic, and sometime it’s a little wonky, but it’s that little bit of wonk that makes handmade more approachable, friendlier, more real and likable.

Handmade needs hands, and usually, along with those hands, comes a maker. We like makers. We like makers because they’re passionate people that can get really geeky about what they’re doing. Makers pour time, energy, and sometimes their life savings into what they’re doing because they can’t imagine doing anything else. We like that kind of passion.

People are nostalgic. We like stuff that reminds us of where we’ve come from and where we’ve been. We like to be reminded of our past, and not just our personal past, but our cultural past as well. The accomplishments we can all be proud of, the folks who we may not see as often as we would like. A saved handbill, or a box of letters carefully preserved in a shoe box under your bed. The stuff of sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach.

It seems in this era of bright, new and shiny, handmade is an antidote to digital ephemera, texts, emails, and voicemails, which unlike ephemera of the past, are truly here in the now, gone in the next. As we continue forward into an increasingly digital world, the stuff you can actually hold onto is going to become increasingly valuable to us.

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Why your marketing department needs Steve Jobs (and that guy from Office Space with the red stapler)

Who are the people in your company that drive your decisions?

Who are your team’s neophiliacs – the ones that push things forward and say ‘let’s try something new’? These are the seekers, full of energy and continually pushing people and business processes into unknown territories for your marketing and business teams. Who are your team’s neophobes – the ones who like the safety of the current business model? They consider the marketing plan that you ran last year to be just fine for the year ahead.  If it worked, why change? They trust in the routine and the safe routes.
I’ve always been curious about these two distinct types of people that you see at almost any business meeting. How can they both co-exist in the world? A recent NPR podcast featured Winifred Gallagher and her book New-Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change. Gallagher delves into these two opposing approaches and concludes that our evolution has depended on both types.  So must your business and marketing plans.  She says you need Steve Jobs constantly pushing new ideas, but you also need that guy in the basement office with the red stapler.  He keeps the trains running on time and just might be the guy who carries out the visionary ideas of Steve Jobs.

For the record, we favor the neophiliacs. Of course vision needs to have grounding in a customer need. Do your homework. Learn what your customer really wants from you. Learn what you’re really selling. Then set a bold vision that even the neophobes can get excited about.

Just remember that your customers are the one surefire way to determine if what you’re doing is good for them or not. They cast their votes every time they purchase or don’t purchase your product.  Each of those customers is telling you something about the tools you’re using to reach them. Listen.

Find out what type of person you are by taking this quiz.

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On Cheerios, racism and the rewards of taking risks

On Cheerios, racism and the rewards of taking a risk

A lot has already been said about people’s reactions to that new television ad from Cheerios, the one featuring an interracial couple and their painfully cute little girl. Most of it can be summed up as follows:

One: Emboldened by the delicious anonymity of comment sections everywhere, the world’s racists and the web’s trolls seem determined to ruin the post-racial America we’ve all been finger-crossing for since Grey’s Anatomy first aired and that nice young couple moved into the White House. It’s annoying, disheartening, gross.

Two: Rather than tempt fate—a word which here means the fast-typing fingers of a vocal and (can we just say it?) vile minority—most advertisers, even the progressive and fair-minded ones, will continue to make ads that aren’t quite what you’d call culturally au courant. And in the age of the socially conscious consumer, where being nicely neutral isn’t good enough anymore and apps like Buycott make it easier than ever to ensure what what we buy lines up with what we believe, that’s not just a shame. It’s short-sighted.

And three: Seriously, that girl is dangerously cute.

So, since so much has already been said—on AdWeek and Slate, HuffPo, Jezebel, The Today Show and, heaven help me, The View—I’m just going to say this:

Last year, Pew Research Center calculated that 15% of all new marriages in the U.S. are between people of different ethnicities. That’s more than double the number in 1980. But in thirty-some years of flipping channels and watching ads, I’ve only ever seen two commercials featuring a family who looked anything like mine. Two.

The first one made me a unrepentant Comcast cable apologist, doggedly loyal despite the Facebook pages, yelps, posts and the considered opinion of almost everyone everywhere.

The second one had me buying a box of Cheerios.

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I can hardly wait for my Common Cup.

I use the same coffee cup every day, and have for six years. It’s a pyramid-shaped, ceramic mug designed to sit on the dash of a car, with a foam base that won’t slide or spill. It means the world to me. My mother gave me one that looked just like it fifteen years ago. I used that one every day until it broke. I found this cup at a yard sale the next day. It was like a sign or kismet, because it was green and brown, like my new reception desk, and the same shape as the cup from my mom. It was a perfect match. It soon became an extension of my hand.

When my old company closed and I learned of an opportunity at KW2, I was thrilled to read about the Common Cup. “The Secret Sauce,” as the website described. It was about creating community. It was about recognizing that togetherness, collaboration, and really great work were things that grew out of good relationships. And good relationships were based on things like eating meals together, celebrating milestones together, and drinking coffee together from our common cups. I knew about that stuff. I’d experienced that already, in my own way, with my own cup. Suddenly, I wanted a Common Cup of my own – real bad. After getting the job I found myself looking at co-workers cups, putting them away from the dishwasher, wishing and waiting for the chance to hold my own.

The process is long. There are steps involved that take time. The kiln itself at Cambridge Wood-Fired Pottery only fires up three or four times a year. It takes six days of 24-hour care of the flames to generate the heat it requires.

So, today the fires burn in Cambridge. And inside me burns excitement for my own Common Cup. My hopes and fears all spun up in a piece of art I allow to help define me, and define the company culture I am now a part of. That is the good stuff. I’ll let you know how it comes out!

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