We have experienced dozens of brand and product launches. Much of the time, we are not impressed. Small baby-steps, same-old-same-old, reiterations of existing and stale ideas, broken brand promises, confusing off-brand presentations, mind-numbing marketing-speak, boring PR. Blah blah blah.
No matter how much we are lavished and pampered with free trips and swag, if we are not impressed, we are not impressed, and we will not write about it. If it’s not cool, it’s not cool. Simply, if it does not resonate with us, we will not write about it.
That is the integrity you our readers expect of us, and we expect it of ourselves, too. So, when we sometimes do publish a sponsored post, we always make it clear that it is a sponsored post. This is not one of them.
We’ve attended Mercedes launches before and not written about them. But this time, they got us excited! The last few days in L.A. have shown us that Mercedes is serious about creating cool concepts and producing cars that are more edgy, sporty, cool and engaging for a younger audience, a group whose language they have not spoken before.
Waiters in black t-shirts with tuxedo print which makes it look like a short sleeve jacket - cool idea
We love it that Mercedes is really trying to do something different. In cars, in events, in branching out, in their approach to reaching a new audience.
The “multidisciplinary festival” we attended last Thursday at The Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in L.A. is called Transmission L.A: AV CLUB - presented by The Avant/Garde Diaries and curated by Mike D of the Beastie Boys.
The festival runs from April 20 to May 6 and it is free and open to the public. It is a mixture of contemporary art, design, music, film and food.
The star vehicle of the event is the Mercedes-Benz Concept Style Coupé, the new midsize four-door luxury coupé scheduled for market launch next year.
With the release of the A class later this year, Mercedes started to approach the younger, savvy consumer market. They’ve had to rethink and redevelop their design strategy and marketing but, while the car drives beautifully, the look does not match the promises hinted at during the concept stage. We wanted more. Bolder, edgier, something that really does draw the eye.
We think this latest concept, the Mercedes-Benz Concept Style Coupé, has the potential to make a splash. This week in L.A. Mercedes certainly pulled out all the stops with the festival, celebrations and parties attended by the Who is Who in hipster L.A.
Mercedes launched this new car in a way they have not launched before. They understand that street art matters and they enlisted Mike D of the Beastie Boys to bring into this international meeting point of the avant garde his favorite artists and musicians, including Benjamin Jones, Mike Mills, Tom Sachs, Lauren Mackler from Public Fiction, Sage Vaughn, Isaac from Still House Group, Peter Coffin, Roy Choi and Will Fowler.
Mercedes had the new car as part of an installation with headphones you listen to while the lights above created a light show on the car, bathing the “new baby” in a cool artistic shower. Very impressive.
We have been to many, many car launches before and they are mostly boring. This one was different and interesting, with lots of talking points and lots of ways to engage the audience.
Here's a video of what the exhibition looks like. Go visit it while it’s still on! - Bill Tikos
We will never tire of the positive effects of nature. Its calming, soothing and inspiring influence will never go out of style.
The more we rush, the more time we spend indoors staring at our screens and devices, the more urban our lifestyles become, the more we crave and need time away from it all.
It has been amazing to follow the newest solutions to the old dilemmas: How to bring more green space to cities; how to reclaim underused urban land for recreational and other "green" uses; how to provide more and more people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature.
Lately, we have seen fantastic examples of how designers and architects, urban planners and citizens' organizations have accomplished both large and small-scale projects, from bringing a bit of greenery, and open space to otherwise bleak surroundings, to large-scale neighborhood-changing undertakings.
The most prominent of these large-scale projects in the past few years has probably been New York's Highline, the "park in the sky" that reclaimed a deemed-to-be-demolished industrial transportation structure for recreational and other uses.
It has been a massive project in all aspects of the word, and it has also become a poster-project whose publicity is helping other projects get off the ground. We hope it will continue to give citizens' organizations, city officials, designers and architects encouragement and inspiration as they tackle smaller projects, or even ones bigger than Highline.
We expect much more reclaiming of industrial and transportation lands, more green roofs, more natural features replacing concrete and asphalt, more walking and hiking paths, more waterways for recreational use, more spectacular viewing areas, more urban sanctuaries, more trees.
Getting back to nature is not a new phenomenon. For hundreds of years, wealthy city dwellers have travelled to summer residences and summer resorts, and withdrawn to their cottages and lakeside retreats. They've enjoyed fresh air in their gardens and hunting estates.
Of course, the need for recreational options has escalated since the industrial revolution. People, even ordinary citizens, now needed a place to catch their breath. They lived in more and more urban environments and also had the previously unknown luxury of a few days off per month.
Children went to summer camps, adults went hiking and camping, entire families went on long drives in recreational vehicles. Tourism boomed and being in nature became the vogue thing to do. And it has remained so ever since.
As we seek balance in our hectic lives today, we see solutions outdoors. "Green space" in the widest sense of the word in cities and surrounding areas is beneficial from recreational, ecological, economical, social and health purposes, but mostly we love it because it is just plain beautiful.
We love gardens and parks, ponds and water features, playgrounds and sports fields, open plazas, avenues and boulevards. We want more of it because even the smallest green feature lifts our spirits, while the wide open spaces can change our lives. - Tuija Seipell
First we fell in love with the city-ready look of Skora, a new “natural” sneaker brand from Portland, Oregon. Then we fell in love with the shoe itself.
Since we received a pair, it is pretty much all we’ve been wearing around town, on the beach or running, to the gym, to work, to yoga. They are super comfortable and light, and they make us feel like we’re floating or walking on clouds. They feel totally natural, almost like being barefoot, only better! And that is just what the designers intended.
Skora was founded by David Sypiewski, a well-funded entrepreneur and formerly injured runner.
His shoes, like so many of the new, minimalist running shoes crowding the market today, are based on the notion that humans were designed to run shoeless, and that most running shoes overcorrect the human foot’s natural ability to adjust and function. Rather than piling up more features, more support, more cushioning and more everything, the minimalist or natural shoe designers start from the bare foot and its inherent abilities.
Skora’s first two models are based on a last that is shaped like the natural arch, and they have no height drop from heel to toe. The mid-foot hits the ground first, not the heel as with most running shoes.
In addition to loving the look of the shoes and loving the amazing feeling of wearing them, we also love their branding. The website is easy to navigate and the entire brand works. We are definitely fans. - Bill Tikos
Not being big meat-eaters, we may never become regulars at Yakiniku Master Japanese barbecue, but we do love the design of the chain’s latest, its third, restaurant, opened late last year on Shanghai’s Tianyaoqiao road.
The 300 square-meter (3,230 square-foot) restaurant seats 130 people. It was designed by Beijing-based Golucci International Design, lead by the Taiwan-born, London-trained designer, Lee Hsuheng, with team members Zhao Shuang and Ji Weng.
The interior of Yakiniku Master Japanese barbecue is a harmonious combination of minimalist modern design and references to both Japanese and Southern Chinese architecture and traditions.
We love the use of the wood frame structures of traditional Japanese architecture, and in particular, the oak lattice work or screens that simultaneously divide and unite the restaurant’s various sections.
We love the half-moon shaped ceiling light fixtures designed by Golucci and referring to small, traditional Chinese boats.
The seemingly random, rectangular patches of meticulously arranged pebbles create cool interest on the floor and resemble a typical Zen-like feature in a Chinese garden.
We like the large, black-and-white mural behind the bar area that shows the beautifully curving silhouettes of typical Chinese roofs.
But most of all we love the stunning, ink-black wall of stacked traditional Japanese barbecue coal. It is absolutely beautiful.
All of these quietly elegant elements are not just beautiful to look at, but tactile and interesting, with texture and life and stories to tell.
Lee Hsuheng established Golucci International Design in 2004. Its portfolio includes a number of high-end restaurant and hospitality projects. - Tuija Seipell
At first glance we thought this was a campaign for sunglasses, but no. This campaign of massive vinyl stickers hit the bathrooms of Beirut’s trendy spots to draw attention to Riviera Privé. It is an exclusive beach, pool and bar and lounge area in one of Lebanon’s most famous hotels, the Riviera Hotel.
Riviera is located right in Beirut city, facing the Mediterranean. The hotel has been a favorite destination of jet-setters since 1956.
The Riviera Privé area has seen several reiterations of glamour and luxury, as has the hotel itself, but it is definitely the place for beach-loving locals who want to see and be seen. The sticker campaign created by République Beirut plays cleverly on this theme by implying reflective sunglasses and evoking the sense of being watched.
Our guess is that not so long from now, a sunglass company will use this same idea. Bill Tikos
Over the past seven years, at our creative agency, Access, we have worked with a number of residential and commercial property developers from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, helping them with development and strategy.
Yet we see so often the sad sight of yet another mediocre building going up. We see city councils approving mediocre design and we see cities looking uglier because of it. We see property developers rushing to get their building up, wanting to make a quick sale and profit, and not really caring or thinking about the aesthetics of the building.
Does the building enhance the surrounding area or make it worse? Will the building still look great 10, 15 or 20 years from now? Will it become an iconic landmark and a beloved site, or will it become a dated gimmick?
What will the resale value be down the track? Will anyone want to live in or buy property like it?
Property developers — and city councils — need to wake up and realize their influence on the cityscape and take that role seriously. This is the case not just for residential development — the same applies to office buildings, hotels and all public buildings in general.
As a developer and as a city council, do you want to be known as an organization that values and understands design and creates iconic developments? Or will you be known as the ones who created eyesores, or worse, caused a devaluation of an entire area or neighborhood?
The aesthetic of a building should be the Number One priority. There is not much point in creating and promoting beautiful interiors when the exterior tells a different story. The whole building should tell a cohesive story.
So many developers do not see the value, or even think about the aesthetics of the car park, for example. Would it hurt to splash some colour and graphic design on the concrete? Would it hurt to make the lifts and foyer more like those of a great hotel and less like a jail or a warehouse?
What amenities does the building provide? Is there a café, a library, a car wash? Engage us and wow us to the point that we cannot wait to sign on the bottom line! Excite us enough that when you go to market, so much buzz has been created that the units sell in 24 hours and at the price you asked for.
If a building is desirable and unique, and offers something truly beautiful, trust us, consumers WILL buy. It’s a no brainer, yet so many buildings keep going up that do the absolute minimum. They may tick off a few boxes and get the interior right, but not the rest. It’s not enough.
Every day, I am inundated with material from PR people and developers about new projects. Literally hundreds of submissions a day. So, over the past seven years, I have seen everything. And believe me, so have consumers.
Your potential buyers, the couples and the mums and dads and even grandparents are design conscious these days. The internet has opened everyone’s eyes to what is possible. People browse sites all over the globe, they learn, they engage in design. Design is no longer a closed shop. It is everyone’s.
Kids growing up now understand that design plays a crucial role in everything they consume, from the car they buy to the clothes they wear, to the headphones they listen to, to the cookware they cook, to the hotels they stay.
My advice to developers and city councils: Save yourself a lot of money, time and headache, and get it right the first time! Take design seriously now and you will be glad you did. - Bill Tikos
Intercontinental Hotel and Thalasso Spa - Bora Bora
Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik - Iceland
Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Dunes in Peru
Pongua Falls, Vietnam
Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Kaieteur Falls - World's Largest
5 Star Taj Exotica Resort - Maldives
Elafonisi Beach, Crete
Casa Kimball - Dominican Republic
These minimalist, slightly retro — and dare-we-say cute – lamps come from New Zealand. They are the result of cooperation between veteran craftsman Douglas Snelling and his artist daughter Rebecca Snelling.
They established their company, Workroom, in 2008 and its collection currently includes tables, stools and lamps. In 2010, Rebecca and her partner Paul Dowie opened a physical retail store Douglas + Bec on St. Mary’s Road in Ponsonby, Auckland. It sells not just Workroom pieces but also others that fit their sensibilities of natural raw materials, clean lines and craftsmanship. Douglas + Bec sells also online. - Tuija Seipell
If Paul Gauguin hadn't died four years before Frida Kahlo was born, one might suspect that Gavin Brown is their lovechild. Certainly his art carries the organic lushness and slight madness of Kahlo's many self-portraits and Gauguin's Polynesian-period art.
You cannot blame the Melbourne-born, 47-year-old Brown for subtlety or minimalism. His world is populated by richly coloured graffiti-like images of people and situations where fleshy faces and tattooed skin compete for attention with birds, fruit and flowers. The vivid richness and underlying drama contradict each other.
The colour palette is happy and lovely, but these people are not happy. There is something sinister, tormented, going on. Which of course brings us back to impressionists and the most tormented of them all, Vincent van Gogh, whose self-portraits, if combined with his sunflowers would look completely comfortable with Brown's gallery of people.
Brown has had an illustrious and multi-faceted career in fashion, film and many other forms of art and design, but his focus is on painting.
He has participated in more than 25 solo and group exhibitions. Several of his large commissions adorn the luxurious Marina Bay Sands Singapore hotel and casino. - Tuija Seipell