BREAKFAST AT (THE OTHER) TIFFANY’S.
A SURPRISING STORY.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

The jewellery shop Tiffany & Co. has been founded by Carl Lewis Tiffany in 1837. We will talk about the famous Tiffany Glass Company that was founded by Carl’s son named Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) in 1885.

The elegant and colourful lamps that were manufactured in the ateliers of the Tiffany Glass Company should become famous and sought after all over the world shortly after their invention.

The design was a mixture of aestheticism of the 19th century and Art Nouveau. The lamp shades had a similar construction as the glass windows in churches. Coloured glass had to be cut accurately and put together to flowers, dragonflies or abstract designs. Finally, the pieces were soldered with copper strips.

Tiffany’s lamps required a special kind of glass for which the company held the patent.

Clara Driscoll. Surprise!

To the world it was clear that the designer of this lamps was Mr Tiffany himself.  After his death in 1933 the company’s files were destroyed and only in 2005 researchers discovered letters with detailed descriptions of how to manufacture the famous Tiffany models “Peony”, “Dragonfly” and “Wisteria”.

Surprisingly, the writer of these letters was not Louis Comfort Tiffany but someone hitherto unknown to the rest of the world. The author was a designer by the name of Clara Driscoll (1861-1944). She completed her studies at the Design school in Cleveland (Ohio) and at the Metropolitan Museum Art School. Around 1888 she started working at Tiffany’s and stayed in the company for more than 20 years.

Not only did she have a key role in the design and development of Tiffany’s finest lamps but also she managed an entire group of women working as glass cutters. Remember, these lamps have always been very precious since they were handmade.

As it seems Clara created light but she and the glass ladies were never in the spot light.

A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls

 

5 STEPS TO INGENIOUS DESIGN.

Probably to most people (me included) tend to make the following equation: Design = Brand/Label. Nevertheless, I believe that this is wrong since literally everything we see has a design. I tend to look at design as a plan or a concept. In other words: design is something beyond individual taste.

The Math of Nature

Living creatures such as plants, animals and humans have been designed by nature’s evolution. Already in 1202, the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci released a mathematical model describing the system nature builds leaves, flowers, shells and other things. This sequence is called “Fibonacci numbers”.

The Evolution of Cities

I agree that most cities and even many houses are products of an evolution. Wars and natural disasters destroyed them and people rebuild them “organically”. Modern architects have to plan around these structures. Still, they now have a design. After all it is a planned decision (whatever the reasons) which part of the city or buildings remain “old-style” and which ones have to be replaced by a newly planned addition.

Other cities like Brasilia, Chandigarh (India), Manhattan or Canberra have been planned from scratch by urban designers. The streets are numbered and mostly in a rectangular order.

Plans and Maps

If we think of maps – especially of European ones – “design” or “plan” are not the first notions jumping in our minds. Although the individual roads are planned the entire picture looks very organic. A mountain pass is never rectangular and roads typically run along the topography rather than a ruler.

Genius Is Simplifying Things

Did you ever look at a modern plan of the London Underground or the Métro in Paris or probably any other modern city? I assume you did. Did you notice that they are all designed according to the same system? I take the liberty to assume that subconsciously did but never thought about it.

So did I, until I read of Henry Beck (1902-1974). He worked as a technical designer for the London Transport. While the Tube grew larger and larger Mr Beck noticed that the plans grew more confusing with every station they added to the railway system.

5 Steps to Ingenious Simplicity

Mr Beck was obviously very committed to his job since he searched for remedy to this complication in his spare time.

In 1931 he presented to his bosses a schematic plan with the following changes and features

  1. Instead of drawing the distances between the stations in scale he choose the same distance between each of them
  2. The strokes that marked the lines where either drawn horizontally, vertically or in angles of 45 degrees
  3. He used an individual colour for each line so it was easy to see which line served with station to get the passengers to their destination
  4. Each station appeared as a short stroke on the map
  5. Only the stations with an interchange facility were marked with a diamond shape

The Result Turned Out to Be Contagious

Although a bit reluctant, the management of the London Underground decided to give the new schematic plan a try and printed a small amount to be handed out to passengers.

The echo was overwhelming, people loved the clarity of this plan and it soon took over. Other cities used Beck’s design for their public transport systems.

Harry Beck took care of the update of “his” plan until 1960. If you compare his version from 1931 and the modern London Tube you’ll find little difference concerning the design.

Also the plan for the streetcars and busses in the town of Zurich look the same.

Bottom Line

Not only Beck’s design is ingenious but also it fit the time. Remember, in 1919 the famous Bauhaus where function was “wrapped in design” opened its doors and was very influential until it had to close in 1933. Although Mr Beck says he did not understand much about modern art he had a liking for maps that were as clear as a technical plan.

I’d say he understand that sometimes less is more.

3 REASONS YOUR SURVEY MIGHT NOT RETURN THE RESULTS YOU NEED AND HOW TO CORRECT THIS.

We all get online-surveys from time to time. Depending on the subject they take from two minutes to almost an hour.

If I like a brand, a product or a company I am always willing to support them and to give honest and fair feedback. But sometimes the survey is so annoying that I cannot be bothered completing it. Probably I am not alone with this symptom.

I guess there is a large percentage of people that start the survey but abort it after a very short time. From my point of view there are three key elements that should be taken into account if companies want their surveys to be completed.

What Is the Purpose of this Survey?

Typically, companies give you a more or less believable reason why they need your answer. If it is missing I will delete the e-mail straight away.

Only Ask Relevant Questions

If you are – like me – almost constantly online you cannot avoid feeding Google with a lot of records about your activities and also develop a sense of how much you want to reveal about yourself and your life. So you are careful with your answers.

I expect the questions to be relevant for purpose stated on the invitation e-mail. Recently I received a request form an e-learning platform which wanted to make sure that their suggestions are accurate to their audience’s preference.

Of course they want to know if I knew their competitors, if I studied at a University etc.

But why did they ask about my income? Of course there are many reasons this information might be of interest but not for the indicated purpose. Moreover, I thought that this is none of their business and closed the browser window.

Respect Time

“Take 3 minutes for our survey”. That’s fine and I open it. Just formulate the questions as clearly that 3 minutes will suffice to answer them. I observe quite frequently that you open the survey and find yourself confronted with 20 questions, each with 10 possible answers plus an “other reasons” field. Clearly, it will take more than three minutes with tests the users’ tolerance.

No doubt there are studies that require 45 minutes from you. If you signed up for them because after some weeks the company will share the results with you your time might be a very good investment.

If you have other aspects to be taken into account I am curious to learn about them.

HOW TO REVOLUTIONISE CORPORATE DESIGN AND STILL BE RECOGNISABLE.

“Harper’s Bazaar” was founded in 1867 as “Harper’s Bazar” (with only one A) and was the first magazine of its kind. As you already can see on the cover the mission was clear: “A repository of fashion. Pleasure and Instruction.”

The layout changed throughout the decades and somewhere in the late 1920ies or the very early 1930ies the second A appeared in the magazine’s name.

A New Face

In 1934 a young Russian by the name of Alexey Brodovitch was appointed the new art director. When he joined the company the “Harper’s Bazaar” was already a household name.

When a product is already known it is always a big risk to change the appearance since people could not recognize it anymore or – even worse – you lose your regular customers. Let’s see how Brodovitch dealt with this challenge:

Decluttering the Layout

There are some remarkable measures that made the entire magazine layout less busy and more generous looking. This was so unusual that the layouts became iconic.

The Cover

  1. A new, very sharp font was created for cover. It is the same font Harper’s Bazaar uses to this day. For the sake of perfection it was amended for a certain edition but the style was still the same.
  2. Brodovitch hired some of the best photographers for his covers
  3. The title was put as closed to the edge as only possible. This way he gained more room for the cover photo
  4. He reduced the amount of colours drastically and only worked with highlighters or he cropped the motive and put it on a white background.

The Articles

Brodovitch was the first one to use both pages for the layouts which made each of them attractive and unique as you can see on the image below.

Why Did It Work?

Personally, I believe that two main ingredients made this idea such a hit:

  1. Brodovitch was aware of his responsibility and knew of the value of the magazine. On the cover of the edition of October 1947 the name “Harper’s” is in ancient looking lettes that remind of a glamourous past
  2. He was bold enough to do something really innovative of top quality

If ever I should have such a flash of inspiration I’ll share it with you. I wish you an inspiring week.

 

2 THINGS TO CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN CORPORATE DESIGN AND IDENTITY.

I elaborated on corporate design and on corporate identity before. This time I want to present you a real example that “happened” to me last week.

The Situation

By accident I discovered a job offer for a Head of E-Commerce of a marketing agency. Everything I could see about the corporate design was really amazing and very consistent. I was thrilled and of course highly interested. Since the job offer had been published some time ago I wanted to find out if the position was still available and called this agency. This company only has about 10 employees so I figured that people know what is going on.

Here is what happened:

  • The phone was answered by the person whose name was mentioned in the job ad. Before I could finish my phrase the gentlemen informed me that he was not in charge, did not know what was going on but I should call again since Mr X who knows about it was on the phone. Moreover, if I needed the information now I had to hurry up since Mr X was about to leave for his vacation.
  • Two hours later I called again and Mr X was somewhere else again. The first gentlemen suggested I called again but I decided to ask my two questions by e-mail.
  • I sent a structured e-mail and within two hours I received an information that did not answer my questions. As if you asked for the time and got the weather forecast.
  • I thanked him and informed him at the very same time that I decided not to apply.

Analysis

Corporate identity also includes behaviour.

  • If you are a professional you do not make someone call you again but ask the person if you can call back.
  • If your company only comprises 10 people you know when your name appears in a job offer or at least know about the job. Otherwise – and that is what the first gentleman’s tone suggested – you don’t give a damn.
  • If you receive an e-mail with two structured questions you answer accordingly. If not you either make it very clear that you are not interested in the questions at all or you make a fool of yourself. In the best case both.

Summary

Corporate design is a part – and only a part – of corporate identity. If you want your company to look professional – no matter how big or small your shop is – you need people that really engage in your business. Remember, after all we speak about YOUR brand.

So from my perspective they need two things:

  1. Training/information on rules, events and processes
  2. The feeling that they and their work matters to the company.

Do you have any other measures to close this gap? I am curious to hear about it.

HAPPY EASTER!

There are many religious holidays throughout the year most of which I do not really care. But Easter is my absolute favourite for at least three reasons

  1. Easter to me means spring, the beginning of summer.
  2. Even if the weather is not nice the TV programme is typically staffed with all those old epic movies that I would never watch at any other day
  3. Easter means Easter bunnies, made of chocolate

See what I mean? Oh, before I forget: for most of us it means four days off; from Good Friday to Easter Monday.

I’m off looking for Easter bunnies.

Enjoy your weekend. 🙂

7 INSIGHTS ON HEELS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED.

I love all shoes under one condition: They must have heels. In other words you won’t find ballerinas in my wardrobe and the only flats I own are sport and running shoes. High heels force one to walk tall and make more of one’s outfit.

Yes, yes, I know that high heels have all sorts of disadvantages but if one is obsessed… Before I dwell about them I will tell you something about the heels’ past.

The History of Heels

From what I read we know very little about the origin of heels but their history started more than 2000 years ago. What seems pretty clear though is that they first were invented for practical (yes, indeed!) reasons.

In ancient Egypt butchers wore shoes with heels to avoid walking in blood and the Mongolian horseman wore boots with heels since it was easier to keep the feet in the stirrups. I am not so sure about the latter since I also learned that the Mongolians did not use saddles at all so why should they need stirrups?

The first record of heels of being a fashionable accessory is is 1553 when Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans. She wanted to look taller and therefore brought high heels from her hometown Florence to France where they quickly found a lot of fans. During the following century women wore 12-centimetre-heels. Unfortunately they were so uncomfortably “shaky” that these ladies depended on a walking stick to keep the balance. Along with the doom of the French monarchy these heels also vanished. I am not surprised. This takes me to the next chapter

7 Rules to Wear High Heels Right

If it comes to heels I have quite something to tell. In order to avoid bad buy I recommend the following:

  1. Stilettos with 12 centimetre (or more) heels are for special occasions.
    Period.
  2. Watch the anatomy of your foot.
    The French ladies could not walk in their shoes because as I suspect the streets were not what they are today and the shoes were anatomically wrong. All shoes should be comfortable but with high heels it is even more important. Make sure you feel the inner sole of the shoe on your entire foot. Often I observe “hollow space” between heel and toes. This puts far too much pressure on your toes, causes pain and looks awful because you cannot really walk in such shoes.
  3. High Heels are a matter of cost. Do not try to buy cheap.
    I once spoke to a shoe maker about this. She explained to me that heels are pre-fabricated in specific factories. The good ones are expensive; even for shoe makers. Moreover, the heel must be in the correct angle to the shoe itself. I (my feet, to be precise) found out that this is only the case with expensive shoes. Plus they are made of soft leather which makes them comfortable
  4. You want to wear the same pair of shoes all day, right?
    At least I do. Therefore it is important to know that high heels are not necessarily very thin ones. If you walk over cobblestone in heels you need stronger ones with a diameter of about 1.5 to 2 centimetres.
  5. Only buy the height you feel comfortable with.
    If you are already tall you might be happy with a tiny heel. Whatever your height do not buy any thing you already feel in the shop that you cannot make it more than an hour.
  6. Find a good shoe maker.
    Heels are very easy to damage since the possibilities to get stuck somewhere, rip of the rubber of the heel are endless. Only well-tended heels are elegant heels.
  7. If you climb the Mount Everest forget about heels.
    I hate to admit it but there are situations where high heels are – quite literally – a no go. If you go hiking “off the beaten tracks” wear shoes that allow you to do so. You don’t want your feet killing you since this will also be the end of your high heel career.

I am quite sure that many of you already shop according to these maxim. After all they come from common sense not from rocket science.

SHOES NOT MADE FOR WALKING.

Last week we spoke about sandals which is probably the oldest shoe model. This time it is about slippers. As the name suggest we are talking about shoes that are easy to put on. The downside is that they are not tough enough for real life but only made to be beautiful (according to the taste of the time).

Some History

Typically made of embroidered silk or brocade and decorated with precious jewels they clearly were a status symbol. The soles of slippers were often also made of textile or thin leader which means the feet would get wet from a single raindrop.

Red slippers made of silk-brocade have been the traditional footwear for bishops during a long time. When Elisabeth I was enthroned in 1559 silk slippers with heels were the latest fashion for women and men.

Only the working class had “real” shoes and it is says that Marie Antoinette had a servant whose only job it was to look after her 700 pairs of slippers. I don’t know if she also had other types of shoes and if they were tended by another person…

Modern Slippers

Slippers are still manufactured by many designers. However, they have become real shoes for real people.

Brands like Manolo Blahnik, Bally or Baldinini create exclusive models. And they are made for walking. In style!

INSIGHTS ON CINDERALLA, HER GLASS SHOE AND ME.

I am the living proof that Cinderella only exists in fairytales. Probably you remember that her glass shoe proved too small for all the would-be princesses in the kingdom. Or I must have been in the wrong realm. Given my shoe size (34 in Europe, 3.5 in the US) I promise it would have fit me.

You see, if everything had gone right I would not bother you with my literary creations but walk about the castle. And no; children’s shoes are no option; I am only wearing heels. Or would you suggest sneakers to Cinderella?

However, this does not impact my passion for shoes. Moreover, I share the belief that shoes tell something about the person wearing them. I’ll come to this in a minute.

Shoes have a very long history. At times, the fact of possessing shoes (or not) made the difference between poor and wealthy visible.

SANDALS FOR EVERYONE

The most ancient shoes found so far are sandals. In pharaonic Egypt simple workers had sandals with soles made of papyrus. In the grave of King Tutankhamun on the other hand archeologists found sandals that bore soldiers of Egypt’s rival army engraved in their sole. This literally enabled Tutankhamun to kick his enemies with every step. The young king also possessed a pair with golden ponds on the top in which ducks made of lapis lazuli “swim”. I have seen these shoes in the Egyptian National Museum and found the idea pretty amazing.

Roman soldiers wore sandals that were made of a single piece of leather while their empresses could only be satisfied with soles made of solid gold and straps decorated with jewels.

In Europe poor people wore wooden sandals until about 1200 AC. Later sandals more or less disappeared and only came back in a VERY different look and meaning in the roaring twenties. Nowadays they are available in all colours, heights (heel or no heel?) and shapes.

WHAT DO SANDALS TELL US?

I said before that shoes tell something about their wearer. They do, just with sandals the meanings are very different.

For monks of certain religions sandals were (or maybe still are) a symbol of modesty, after the French revolution the so called empire style that reminded to the glorious Roman Empire appeared and rich ladies wore flat sandals along with their pseudo-roman dresses. In the twenties, sandals were looked at as sexy and coquettish while the brand “Birkenstock” sells sandals under the flag of health.

WE WILL WALK ON

This is the first part of a shoe series. Next time we’ll speak about slippers. Originally, the most unpractical shoes ever made.

INSIGHTS ON THE TIGHT BONDS BETWEEN ONLINE AND OFFLINE SHOPPING

E-Commerce has conquered and revolutionized the shopping world for businesses and consumers. Hardly a newsflash, I know.

But will e-commerce eventually make physical stores obsolete? No, never! Au contraire!

I already admitted that I was possibly born to shop. So of course and in spite of my preference for digitalisation I would not want to give up the “physical shopping feeling”. Not for all the e-shops on the planet.

But after reading and pondering quite a bit on this topic I can tell that there are more reasons than my egoism to stick with physical shops.

The pleasure of physical shopping

Let’s say you intend to buy a new car, exclusive jewellery, fashion or art.

Would you buy a car without at least one test drive? If you are not buying the driver as well I guess the answer will rather be no. Before you spend money on a ten thousand dollar diamond ring or on an artwork you must have seen this piece “life”. Right?

I think we have an accord that this cannot be done in an online-shop. But what if you liked the item you just tried but you cannot make the bold decision of buying it immediately? Of course you can take your time to think again before making such an investment and go back to the shop on another day. Still, we all have a life to get on with, a job that would not allow us to shop any time we want and we have to cut out time for shopping.

The comfort of e-commerce

This is where an online-shop comes in handy. You made up your mind that you want to buy the diamond ring that you tried. You know the size you need, are confident that it suits you and just want to have it as soon as possible. If so you open your browser and buy this item online during a coffee break.

How on- and offline shopping influence each other

Now we are getting to the reasons why e-commerce can be highly beneficial for a brand’s offline-store.

If you are shopping online you can compare offers and order the best one literally from your sofa which is very comfortable. The sellers on the other hand can easily gather data to what places which products are shipped.

Apparently, some online-shop owners set up an actual physical stores at places where they receive a lot of orders from. To me this sounds very logical since in this case these front stores are also a marketing instrument and brands know where there already existing offline stores can make more business. Not to forget that a physical store is a dangerous place for consumers since they could buy more than they actually needed or would have purchased online.