Category Archives: Inspiration

At least 1,000 Words

It’s often said that eyes are the windows to the soul.

I know its cliche and probably thrown around more often than necessary but when I saw these photographs it was the first thing I thought of.

It’s amazing the stories that can be told by such a basic picture.  These are only a few of the photos that exist as part of a broader collection taken by Martin Schoeller.  These are my favorites, see the rest here.

Quite the mugs.

Perhaps the reason I like these so much is that they seem to strip away the Hollywood.  They seem like real people, as odd as that may sound.  They look worn.  Weathered.  Troubled.  Aged.  Real.  As different as each of these people may be their eyes all tell a story.  A story as different as themselves.  And while their faces may seem to be the focus of these images, I don’t think that’s the case.

As David Bowie once sang, “…the days float through my eyes.”  And while time may change us all, ultimately it’s our stories that remain untraced by time.

Every so often we are able to capture those stories beautifully without writing a word.  That’s exactly what has happened here.

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Very cool use of driftwood by artist Kiel Mead.  Love to see creative and purposeful use of seemingly wasted materials.

Collected from the shores of Lake Eerie in New York, Kiel hand bleaches and stains each piece to create a completely unique piece of functional art.  While the idea of a wall hook isn’t all that spectacular, Kiel admits that this project came as the result of an experiment in his studio where he likes to play with common objects.

Wood is one of those mediums that has a strange ability to evoke nostalgia.  Each piece so unique and worn in its own way, it all tells a story.  To bring that into someones home in a functional way is really cool.

The Civil Wars

Another great set from Laundromatinee.

This is the best cover I’ve heard in a while.

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Innovation meets old-world style

Growing up my mother always made sure my brothers and I were well dressed.  For more formal occasions this often meant elaborate outfits constructed from multiple layers.  I remember one particular Sunday sitting on a pew complaining to my mom and a friend of hers about how uncomfortable I felt in whatever fruit suit she had me wearing that particular day.  Not sure why it made such an impression on me but for some reason their response has stuck with me for 20-something years:

“It’s not about how you feel, it’s about how you look.”

For far too long people have considered comfort and style to be mutually exclusive.  This just baffles me.  I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century we are unable to create a good looking product that is also comfortable and easy to wear.  Well, wouldn’t you know as soon as I started getting flustered about this very topic I come across the latest from one of the biggest names in men’s footwear, Cole Haan.  They put a classically designed brogue dress shoe on top of an ergonomic outsole for pure podiatric bliss.  You can see a definite nod to CH’s parent company NIKE who brings serious innovation and tech to the table wherever they go.

I love the design and am happy to see more menswear brands pushing the boundaries of acceptable style with great color combos and a fine integration of classic and modern aesthetic.  Here are a few pics of the shoes that will be available only at the Cole Haan store in SoHo starting next week.

And my personal favorite…

The gray/yellow might be a bit much for some but I think they are incredibly cool.  I’d love to get my hands on a pair of these someday when I’m not a broke grad student.  Pipe dreams.

I knew Cole Haan was a NIKE brand but there’s something about seeing such a blatant integration of both brands’ style that really rubbed me the right way.  I couldn’t help but think of one of NIKE’s maxims:

“If we don’t lead it, we don’t need it.”

I love their commitment to greatness.

The LunarGrand Wingtip is a perfect example of NIKE & Cole Haan leading their category.

Now, some of you that read the blog may have heard that I just recently had an opportunity to interview with NIKE for a potential summer internship.  The timing of this post is unintentionally ironic!  What are the odds that I find these shoes the same day I interview?!  I know there is little I can do at this point to escape the heat I’m going to get for this but I just want to come out to my peers and say that this was in no way strategic.

If by some chance someone at NIKE finds this,

I hope it worked 😉

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Latest Brand Obsession – Baldwin Denim

The number of brands we interact with on a daily basis seems to be growing every day.  A professor at Brandcenter recently asked us to record all the brands we engaged with for just one day.  The highest number recorded was somewhere around 130 brands.  It’s no surprise that world-class organizations like Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Nike are out there doing great work and capturing our attention almost everywhere we go.  These types of organizations are the gold standard as far as branding goes.  With that said, one of the things I have truly enjoyed doing since I have been studying brands is finding those with a much softer voice but still connect with me in a very positive way.  Sometimes it’s the product that captures my attention, other times it may be the general aesthetic or story of the brand.

This time it happens to be all of the above.

I was recently introduced to a menswear shop in Kansas City called Baldwin Denim.  They offer a wide range of clothing for both men and women but specialize in high quality, raw selvedge denim.  I’ve seen all the expensive designer jeans that have been bedazzled, embroidered, and adorned with just about every other tacky decoration one could think of and these are not those jeans.  Baldwin represents quality premium denim sewn in the USA and designed in KC.  They are simple, masculine and I plan to wear them as long as my mid-section will allow.  I’m not worried about them wearing out and they embody that classic design that only looks better with age.

Heres a shot of their flagship store in Kansas City

I know everyone has their own style and this may not appeal to everyone but I’m a huge fan of Baldwin.  Even if you were to take the clothes out of the picture, the vibe of the store is spot on with me.  Love all the wood and matte metals.  Somewhat industrial but still so refined.  I love to see the emergence of high quality men’s boutiques that not only cater to men but are built and run by them.

The denim looks almost as good on as it does on the shelf 🙂

One of the things that I really love about raw selvedge denim is how they wear in.  When you pick these up in the store they are going to be dark, stiff and you should buy them very tight.  As you wear them they will loosen up and form to your body.  They will also create a completely unique color wash depending on how you wear them, so no two people will have the same wash.

New vs. 6 months wear (still without wash)

Tell me these don’t look fantastic worn in!

These don’t come cheap but as far as I’m concerned a pair of Baldwin denim is worth the investment.

Each wrinkle and spot rubbed of dye tells a story.  Each stain a memory.

After time has passed these are no longer pants, but an heirloom that can be cherished.

Baldwin denim is another great small brand that has their identity pegged and is doing a bang up job.



I’m a sucker for great product packaging.  Probably because I spent the better part of 2 years working on the packaging team at General Mills and attended more packaging related conferences and forums than I care to admit.  I was even asked to speak as a panel member at one conference alongside such industry giants as Starbucks and Smurfit-Stone.  I digress.  As a result of the countless hours I spent researching and critiquing boxes and other product vessels, I have become what we in the biz lovingly refer to as a packaging nerd.  I pay far too much attention to packaging and when I see something I like I can’t help but sing its praises.

Too often packaging is written off as nothing more than a container for the real product.  This type of thinking is shallow and fails to capitalize on a great opportunity to reinforce brand essence and offer the consumer an unexpected delight.  Believe it or not, brand loyalty isn’t built by offering a good product alone.  It is earned through a series of personal connections that articulate not only product excellence but confidence in brand identity and willingness to go the extra mile.  The devil is in the details and consumers can always tell those that are making the effort and those that are faking it.

One of my favorite kinds of packaging is the unexpected kind.  This leads me to the recent find that really sparked my interest.  How often have we all received our monthly magazine subscription with name sticker slapped on haphazardly and thoroughly beat up by the postal gauntlet it has just run?  I know I have.  Well enter Creative Future.  A new publication and art project that features some of the industry’s most innovative designers.  The goal was to create a finely crafted publication that not only featured art and design but was a work of art in itself.

Mission accomplished.

I am sure the magazine is amazing although I have to say I’ve never read it.  What I do know is that instead of just dropping this thing in the mail, the brilliant designers at Creative Future found a way to both protect the publication and add another element of design that reinforces the pedigree of the brand.  Plus, who doesn’t like to open a package?!

Check it out:

So perfect.  I love the brown paper and twine tied up in a bow.  Its the perfect blend of simplicity, utility, and rugged elegance.  I also love how the white wrap adds an additional aesthetic layer that also serves the purpose providing a quick glimpse of the contents.

I would almost hate to open it.

If I ever have a business peddling products of some sort you better believe the packaging will look a lot like this.

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Don’t Give Up The Ship

I’ve been trying to improve my skills using Adobe Creative Suite lately and spent some time playing around.  I read the quote a few weeks prior and really liked it and thought it went well with this photo from surf photographer Trent Mitchell.  Aside from the photo all other design was my own.

During the War of 1812 Captain James Lawrence led a crew aboard the Chesapeake into battle with a more seasoned ship more experienced by nearly 7 years.  It was a bloody defeat for the US Navy that lasted only 15 minutes.  Before reaching their ultimate demise, Lawrence ‘s shouted out his final command to the crew:

“Don’t give up the ship!”

This last spoken command became a battle cry among the American fleet throughout the remained of the war.

I hope this will be the first of many more projects like this in the future.

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Rocky Top Soap Shop

Since I’ve been studying brands I find myself noticing not only the big names in the industry but also the very small brands that I think are doing a stellar job in their positioning.  I recently came across a brand of natural, hand-made soaps called the Rocky Top Soap Shop out of midcoast Maine.  I can thank General Mills and my time there in packaging for my affinity to package design but I have to say that was what initially caught my eye. Simple, understated, but equally rugged as the product itself.  It all lines up quite well.  Its nice to see soaps using materials like rosehip, charcoal, and pine tar.  Very manly, which I appreciate.

How could you not find comfort in knowing this is the guy handcrafting your soap.

Dig that beard.

Again, its all so on brand – The guy, the rugged soap, the Maine coast, the great packaging…that beard!

So if you are into hand-made, sustainable products or are just a dirty man that needs a gritty charcoal scrub rocky Top Soap Shop is definitely worth a try.

Either way, I love to support guys like this out there in some small coastal town just doing what he loves.

Perfecting his craft.

You’ve gotta respect that kind of dedication.

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I came across this little beauty the other day (here) and for some reason I really took to it.

I’ve heard the quote from Tolkien before but perhaps it feels more relevant to me now than the last time I read it.

Combine that with the perfectly worn, rich looking leather – I’m sold.

Word to wise: I do have a birthday coming up next week.  Enough said.

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