POINTED Post No.7 - Kupu

I love that you can upload images you took previously while offline

On my recent trip to my home country I came across Kupu, a brilliant (and somewhat addictive) app that combines image recognition and machine learning with furthering the use of Te Reo Māori, the native language of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Although on the surface this isn’t something that addresses a big and urgent issue like climate change or biodiversity loss, it’s definitely a piece of creative that has a hell of a lot of heart, innovation, and gorgeous typography and design.

The image recognition is impressive even on complex scenes and open to user suggestions (although sometimes it misses the obvious like in the photo of my great-niece below)

Check out the kupu microsite for the full story behind this app.

In my lifetime I’ve seen the māori language – and the culture itself – go from appropriated and awkward use to being normalised, embedded and celebrated in the everyday life of many New Zealanders. Not every walk of life or every generation of course, and having grown up with very little honest exposure it’s taken a bit of conscious effort and shift to pronounce words more correctly and use what I know more (being part of the NZ Green Party has given me a great incentive too).

When I was 20, having someone greet me with ‘kia ora’ in a business setting would have seemed preposterous, but now it’s something that feels great. So I have a lot of aroha (love) for this app both as a piece of creative, and a symbol of a country embracing a multicultural voice.

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Unfortunately you need a New Zealand-based App Store account to download Kupu (I did a cheat and started a new empty google account just to get it) but check out maori dictionary online to have a play with Te Reo.

POINTED Post No.6 - REI #OptOutside

I first came across REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) in 2015 in San Francisco while getting geared up for Burning Man. Although I’d joined and experienced the joys of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in Canada, walking in to REI was still astounding, in a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ sort of moment.

The next year, I came across REI’s #OptOutside, aka ‘We’re closing on Black Friday’ campaign. It’s a piece of marketing and creative that continues to impress me with its elegant mix of strong single-minded message, (deceptively) simple insight, and nuances that straddle the issues of over-consumption and crass capitalism, employee health, and fostering an appreciation of nature.

Of course I’m sure that under the surface there is more cunning strategic thinking than the press releases reveal, and a stack of budget and talent involved from the agency Venables Bell & Partners and all the other creative professionals involved (check out this article for a great list of credits) But from all I’ve read it still feels like a campaign idea with genuine heart.

When I was in Washington DC last year (a little freelance gig supervising a shoot for McCann Health), I went to the local REI store, and as well as going ga-ga at the gear again, chatted to some staff about the campaign. From that conversation it certainly seems that not only is the campaign still alive and well, but the ethos of this idea runs deeper within the company than just a marketing ploy, which, after the shambles of the Iceland Palm-Oil ad, is really refreshing.

Now all I need to do is get out into the wilds more!


POINTED Post No.5 - Women's Refuge

Here is another piece from my homeland of Aotearoa New Zealand with a dark, raw edge, and a personal connection.

If you’re familiar with the movie Once Were Warriors then it will need no introduction, please scroll down to the final video clip. Or carry on reading below for the context to this powerful bit of filmmaking.

When developed into a movie in 1994, this book became an infamous cultural cornerstone for New Zealanders. It’s a brutal depiction of domestic violence culture and life for many urban māori in Auckland’s poorest suburbs. Even today when I meet new people in the UK , this movie sometimes surfaces in conversation, their vision of New Zealand’s innocence having been rudely burst.

Actor Temuera Morrison and his character ‘Jake the Muss’ became an ironic sort of household name (and certainly made his Star Wars appearance a bit of a joke for NZ audiences). So even two decades later, this superb piece of film by Auckland filmmaking duo FarmerClark would have needed no introduction to kiwis. It’s a raw, behind-the-scenes glimpse into his role as Jake, to help promote the charity Women’s Refuge.

To me, this simple film is incredibly compelling, from the anecdotes to the editing. But maybe it’s part of being a kiwi with that cultural cornerstone of a movie baked in to me – so if you’ve never heard of Once Were Warriors, do watch these clips first for context – though be warned the scene at home is pretty challenging viewing.

Domestic violence scene from Once Were Warriors - watch with caution. Property of NZ On Screen.

There are plenty of connections for me; like growing up one suburb away from where the movie takes place, and memories of trips with my mum to the supermarket which later became the set for the bar. And although the characters and settings are familiar, I was lucky, white, and privileged enough to never encounter that sort of violence myself.

But my older sister, moving in different circles, wasn’t so lucky.

As the third anniversary of her death looms, both the movie and the creative becomes more poignant. Although it was cancer that took her at only 52 years old, I’m convinced the physical, verbal and psychological abuse she suffered over her life had an impact not just in those moments, but on her long term well-being and physiology, giving the cancer an ‘open goal’.

New Zealand continues to have the highest rate of domestic violence in the world. So every bit of creativity and filmmaking skill that can be put to use towards this issue is invaluable.

POINTED Post No.4 - Elephant Arrival

Here’s a quick-fire and more whimsical post; one of my old favourites that I spotted a few years ago from International Fund for Animal Welfare.

I love this both as a piece of quirky conceptual thinking, and as a piece of meticulous filmmaking and art direction. From the ‘random plane-spotter’s camcorder’ vibe in the way it’s shot, edited and sound- designed, to touches like the elephant having a bit of yaw to offset a crosswind, just as an airliner would.

 As much as the creativity makes me smile, I think it’s not that great on getting a point across. ‘If they wanted to come they would’ is forced and clunky, and ‘animals are not souvenirs’ feels too far of a step from the visual idea, so the takeaway at the end is really weak.

 On the plus side though, digging this up has me now exploring the IFAW website and films. Wildlife conservation is an issue that really fires me up and for all it’s letdowns, if I’d made this little film I would’ve been a very happy creative.

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POINTED Post No.3 - Fearless Girl

In this era where everything (including creativity) seems to be measured by clicks and channels, I love the singular simplicity of this as an advertising idea and execution, with a message as strong as the bronze it’s sculpted from.

But there’s more to this than just artistry.

Fearless Girl was devised by McCann for State Street Global Advisors. Crafted by sculptor Kristen Visbal for International Women’s Day 2017, Fearless Girl stands opposite Manhattan’s bronze bull, a symbol of aggressive financial success on New York City’s infamous Wall Street.

Her defiant pose against the fierce bulk of the bull was designed to symbolise and encourage companies to put women into leadership positions. And according to a press release by State Street a year after her arrival, Fearless Girl and the surrounding media impact, has made a tangible difference for gender equality.

There has been no lack of controversy, but to me the pure symbolism of Fearless Girl still stands above any of that, with a life of her own. The swathes of selfies showed how inspiring she could be, but also provided, in a cunning bit of strategy, a PR storm and a viral campaign without the agency ever switching on a camera themselves.

Some years ago I was really struck when reading in book The World Without Us that bronze is one of humankind’s longest lasting creations. So even if Manhattan ends up under water within our lifetimes, some great creative thinking and aspiration for a fairer society could still be around in centuries to come. What art director couldn’t be happy about that!

POINTED Post No.2 - Ryman Eco

I love sustainability. And I love fonts! So I felt a little spark of joy back in 2014 when I first came across Ryman Eco – a sustainable typeface.  Designed to use 33% less ink on standard documents (aka in body copy and small point sizes), the idea is that the thin lines merge together, visually and/or with ink fill and bleed; making it just as legible as a regular serif.

Ryman is a fairly typical UK chain of stationery stores, and who knows how deep this sustainability drive really runs through the company, but I think this is a really solid and original initiative – a pro bono project by Grey London.

Then last year I came across The Alphabet Poster Project, which had 26 typographers, designers, illustrators and art directors create an artwork featuring a single character from the Ryman Eco font alphabet.

Then, even better, it all came together in a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

Check out the site at rymaneco.co.uk – and for a deep-dive, watch the extra video content delving into the nitty-gritty with the typographers.

POINTED Post No.1 - Give Nothing to Racism

I thought I’d start Pointed with an incredibly simply executed yet deeply thought through campaign from my homeland of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Taika Waititi is most certainly an actor and director with comedic brilliance (take a look at an exceptional road safety TVC by him) and production company Curious Film did a brilliant, minimalist job, but to me there’s no mistaking a lot of the genius in the Give Racism Nothing campaign has also come from a classically thorough creative process from agency Clemenger BBDO – deceptively simple, twist-driven concept, and finely crafted scriptwriting.

The interactive mechanism on the website picked up a Silver AWARD for ‘best use of unpaid influencers’, and there are some beautifully crafted other elements to the campaign. But for me even if you only watched this single piece of video, the wit, originality and depth is still going to make an impact.

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This is Pointed.

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Pointed is a blog to celebrate and share creative work that’s designed to make a difference in the world. Creativity that stands for something – and does it with a sharp wit, a bitter truth, or a smart insight. It’s work to admire, inspire, and aspire to.