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Reboot 09

Reboot 2009

If you have been following TiNB (ThereisNoBox.ca) from the beginning you will know that it has taken on many forms. Sometimes it was a personal journal. Sometimes it was a portfolio. Sometimes it was an experiment. Sometimes it was a clothing store. And often it has been a miscellaneous heap of randomness.

2009 will be more disciplined. Housecleaning is being done. As a consequence some of the links you enjoyed in the past may disappear or move to my personal blog JasonTheodor.com. The look-and-feel may shift and change until it settles into a comfortable position. My apologies to anyone who believes the internet should be chiseled onto stone tablets, but do you honestly need to read about my refrigerator repair woes in 2002? Just give me your number and I’ll fax it to you.

This year There is No Box will focus on living a creative life. The creative methods and systems I developed over the last decade-and-a-half will come closer to the surface and be exposed. I hope to create a space that is inspiring, engaging, practical, and entertaining (but not necessarily in that order).

Thanks for dropping by, feel free to poke around, and don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS (or email RSS) on your way out so you can stay up-to-date on the latest publications.


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In the meantime

While this site gets up and running, please enjoy the precursor to this site, hosted on Wordpress:


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Will It Blend? Will It Sell?

Will It Blend iPhoneA few years ago I presented a forward thinking proposal to a very large company. In this proposal we explained how, if the company created compelling enough content, our ‘advertising’ could actually generate revenue, or at least help pay for itself. We were called naive, and scoffed out of the room.

I’ll never forget that presentation. It was demoralizing to realize that one of the biggest companies in the world was so far behind in their thinking. They risked never catching up to their future customers— becoming extinct by their own hands.

I was reminded of this presentation when I read in the WSJ that Blendtec has been making a profit ($18,000 US to date) on their own home-grown marketing campaign. Will It Blend, a short viral series that blends and destroys everyday household objects, started with a mere 50 bucks and a great idea. How’s that for turning traditional marketing on its head? And did I mention they don’t have an ad agency?

The iPhone Will It Blend video has had well over 1 million views in its first 2 days!

Tom Dickson is my HomeboyCompanies (like Novell) are paying upwards of $5,000 for product placement or short infomercials in the Blendtec videos. Sometimes Tom Dickson (Chief Blender and CEO) sells the blended objects on ebay. At the time of this writing, the blended iPhone is going for $660 (more than the iPhone unblended!), but that also includes a blender, a DVD of their first 50 videos and an autographed “Tom Dickson is my Homeboy” T-Shirt (which are also for sale on their site).

Blendtec is about viral video revenue sharing, DVDs, T-Shirts, ebay, product placement, interviews on variety shows… and, oh yeah, blenders. The question that most marketing people ask is “Will it sell?” According to George Wright, the Marketing Director/Genius behind the Will It Blend idea, sales were up 43% in 2006 alone. He explains the phenomenon to the WSJ:

Start with your target customers. You want to have something that’s fun for the people who buy your products. You just need to find the communities you want to focus on and find something that will be appealing to the people in that community, and you will have success.

When things like Will It Blend come along, and kick everyone in the ass, including ad agencies, I can’t help but smile. I’ve been using Blendtec as an example of alternative marketing for almost a year, explaining in lectures how they created a viral video juggernaut by following a few simple steps echoed by Josh Bernoff’s article for Forrester:

  1. It’s funny. It’s visually arresting. It’s short. These are three qualities your videos must possess. Here’s another company that also succeeded with a visually arresting video: Ray-Ban.
  2. It’s authentic. These guys are geeks. Wright told me the CEO — Tom Dickson, who’s featured in the video — is an engineer. It comes across. This stuff ain’t slick, folks, and if it were it wouldn’t work. (I love the proud and cheesy smile while he watches his company’s blender reduce some object to dust.)
  3. It’s original. Figure out what your unique value is. Then film it and put it up there. Don’t copy Blendtec, or Ray-Ban, or Dove. This may be the hardest part.
  4. It actually connects to the value of the product. You see these videos and you can’t help saying “Can that blender really do that? Maybe I should get one.” And many people do. You could be a hit on YouTube with a video that doesn’t connect to the value of your product, but that will help your ego a lot more than your sales.

Number one I revise to say that it “evokes an emotional response.” Funny is good. But you can also be touching, provocative, or shocking to the same effect.

Number 2 and 3, Authenticity and Originality are crucial points. The video needs to be honest, and it needs to be something new. If it’s not something new, like a spoof, then it just needs to be done in a new way. That’s still originality.

Number four is the most important of them all, because without a connection to the value of your product, it will be just another silly video that people share and forget about. (Look at Bridezilla as the perfect example of this. Does anyone remember that this video was for Sunsilk?) This is where real brainstorming, or perhaps just a brainflash, comes in.

George Wright noticed sawdust on the floor of the Blendtec testing rooms because Tom Dickson was testing their industrial blenders in unconventional ways. George envisioned a niche audience that might appreciate these experiments, and he was absolutely right. It’s hard to believe, but Blendtec has made blenders cool for men. Every guy I’ve asked who has seen one of these videos claims to want one. Now whether that’s to help out in the kitchen or to reduce found objects to dust, that is the question.

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Darth Vader iPhone Upgrade

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Extreme Whiteboarding

Whiteboarding is a term often used in creative circles to describe a free-form brainstorming session where participants write their ideas on a… wait for it… white board. This animator uses the whiteboard to create a stream of consciousness style animation with perpetual innovation and refreshment of ideas. It is a brainstorm come to life. It is 10 ideas every 10 seconds. It is fabulous to watch, and I want to see more. I love it when the sun starts to set on his day and you can see the shadows and light come over the board.

UPDATE: For more information on this video, the artist and the music track, visit the ViralVideoHQ Wiki entry.

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New York City Columbus Circle Fake Miniature

New York Columbus Circle Fake Miniature

Inspired by all the fake miniatures on Flickr, I decided to make my own. This is a photo taken from the Time Warner building of Columbus Circle at the SW corner of Central Park, and then treated with a series of blurs to fake a narrow depth of field which tricks your brain into thinking it’s very, very small.

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Mary Rocks the Rubiks

The Virgin Mary™ can solve the Rubiks Cube™ in less than 60 seconds One-Handed!

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The First 10 Creative People Who Come to Mind (in no particular order of importance or stature)

1. Albrecht Dürer
Dürer's Rhinoceros, 1515

2.Douglas Coupland
Corporate Safety Blanket 1

3. Dave Eggers

4. Edward Tufte
Napoleon's March

5. Nicholson Baker
The Mezzanine was the first Baker book I read

6. Chris Ware
Jimmy Corregan Sample Page

7. Hergé
Tintin and Friends

8. Nick Bantock
Nick Bantock Artwork from Griffin and Sabine

9. Bruce Mau
Bruce Mau's Massive Change Napkin Sketch

10. Liam Lynch
Liam Lynch's Lynchland podcast

This list was created very quickly and reveals more about me than it does about creativity. After a quick review I realize how highly I view authors and designers. 9 out of 10 on this list are authors, designers, or a combination of both. And then there’s Liam. I still can’t decide whether I truly like his work or am just fascinated by his ability to create volumes of material, without seeming to worry if it’s good or bad.
These people create more than they consume. Albrecht and Herge are dead, but the rest are probably working on something right now instead of watching American Idol. I would love to make a list of the top 1000 creative people in the world. We’d all need to agree on the criterion together: would it have to do with volume over time? Or based on the average critical review (like RottenTomatoes.com)? Or judgement by peers? Would we want to segment by category? Can you compare Jimmy Hendrix to Woody Allen? Would you want to?

Who are the first ten creative people to pop into your head?

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10 Questions About Cathedral Balloons

GUM ceiling by jeffinmoscow

The next time you’re in a public place with high ceilings, look up. Look for the dead balloons, the ones that didn’t make it outside, the ones that got stuck in the rafters. The ones that strived to touch heaven but were held back by their heavy coloured casings. Look for the shrunken and shriveled rubber, the withered plastic that has stuck to the metal or glass between itself and the sky. Or got it’s string tangled in a beam or a lightbulb. They are in varying states of deflation, as the stale, moist helium eventually becomes one with its maker. Once you see one, you will see them everywhere you go.

These kinds of objects hold a special fascination for me.

  1. I wonder how long they are allowed to stay there.
  2. Who has to clean them up, and how do they do it?
  3. How many balloons get stuck in a ceiling per year?
  4. How many abandoned balloons are “too many” and the manager sends someone up to get rid of them?
  5. Why do they melt and stick to things as they lose air?
  6. How long does it take, on average, for the fully deflated and stuck balloons, to eventually peel away and fall?
  7. How many actually hit people below and scare the shit out of them?
  8. What is the most popular colour of discarded balloons, if any?
  9. Are there any buildings where balloons are banned from entry?
  10. Are there people who collect or document these popped objects?

If you have any answers or observations, please leave a comment.

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Hitting The Creative Snooze Button

Every day we have our routines. We wake up a certain way, we get dressed a certain way, we eat or don’t eat a certain way, and we worry and fret about our days a certain way. Everyone is busy, especially creative people. We live a delicate balance of working to live and living to create. Some of us have the luxury of jobs where we get to be creative, but this can also be a double-edged sword. Sometimes the creative job saps you of the energy to envision or complete your own personal work. But lets face it: work is work, and it tires us out.So we like to unwind. But there’s always a bit of guilt attached to the unwinding, because if you unwind for too long, you’re wasting valiable creating time. Every hour of television is an hour you could have worked on your novel, or painted, or sculpted, or drawn, or danced. Every moment out is a moment you could have been in. That might be pushing it a bit, because we all need a life, but I think it’s at least partially true. We also tend to procrastinate against the things we should be doing. I’ll often do the dishes instead of sitting down to write, because it puts it off for a few more minutes. So why do we put off what we want to do the most?

I call this hitting the Creative Snooze Button. (Don’t you love how I can go from slamming the Think Outside The Box cliché to trying desperately to create my own in a few short blog postings? Luckily people have very short memories. See the U.S. Elections as a prime example.)
Have you ever stayed up too late, but wanted to get up the next day to exercise? I bet when the morning came, and the birds started chirping, and the alarm clock went off you decided to hit the snooze button. Why? Because you could put it off. You could squeeze in another 10 minutes of rest. And then another. And another. A serial snoozer.

We do that with creating too. It’s so much easier to sleep than it is to motivate yourself to get up and get fit, just like it’s so much easier to consume instead of create. I could surf the internet for days, catching interesting little tid-bits here and there to talk about, jumping down endless rabbit holes. I could watch another movie. Or a podcast. Or listen to music. Or play video-games. Or **gasp** channel surf on the tel-e-vision (remember that old machine?).

But it’s hard to create. Consumption is passive. Creation is active. Sleeping is passive, Exercise is active. Which is better for you? Well, we need to do both. If you stop sleeping, you will actually go mad. If you stop consuming, you will have nothing to think about or react to. It’s about balance.

And it’s not about will-power. Will might help you, but it’s not going to get you there. Resolve helps. Passion helps. But the best way to stop hitting the Creative Snooze Button is to work on developing a routine. Once you have a routine in place, you will look forward to your creative time. You will get addicted to it.

In the coming days, I’ll write about ways you can integrate a powerful creative routine into your life. Some of this is still in beta, so if you’re in the mood to be a creative lab rat for a few months, I’ll tell you when to start looking for the cheese.

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