4 11 2009

My jaw is soar as I cram a third piece of Bubble Yum in my already over crammed mouth.  The sugar is slow fading away along with the taste oh… in the 10 seconds after I first start chewing.  The gum is now a pink gob of magnificent possibilities.  I stick out my tongue and begin to slowly build a little pink bubble and then I exhale at a calm pace.  The pink gum balloon begins to grow and my eyes get bigger.  I get in a defense stance ready to fend off possible attacks by others eager to pop my trophy.  Now the bubble is the size of my head, and then just then…the entire thing is all over my face deflated like my moment of temporary glory.  I continue picking every sticky bit off my face.  Ahh the days of blowing bubbles with bubble gum.  Wait what am I saying, I just did this last week. 

Not me but close.

Now for a bit of instruction.  Chewing gum and bubble gum are two different things.  All pros use Bubble Gum to blow bubbles.  The reason, quantity and elasticity.  The key to blowing an amazing bubble is two or three pieces of gum.  The hidden secret is to wash your gum.  Yes I said wash your gum.  I had a teacher in 5th grade, and her husband worked for Bazooka Gum.  She explained you had to chew out all the sugar or wash it in water with your hands.  Sugars are in tiny crystal form within bubble gum, and they burst your bubble, literally.  The other key is to make sure you use your tongue properly as shown below.

Now as for some of my favorites, I would have to say I miss Hubba Bubba.  Then there is my all time favorite Bubblicious Cherry Cola.  I really wish it would come back.  Bubble Yum came out with grape which became a close second to bubble gum original flavor and Cherry Cola.  Litte known fact about the why the pink one is called original flavor? Walter Diemer invented gum on accident and when he started to sell the gum he only had a pink color die and one flavor to work with.  The real “original” as we call it today was tootie-fruitie.

There are also other ways to package gum as we all know.  On warm summers I almost always had a pack of Big League Chew in my back pocket.  Any kid who played baseball remembers finishing a pack in one inning.   Or there was the excitement of opening a pack of baseball cards not only waiting to see if you got a rookie card, but that single moment as you peel back the waxy wrapper to reveal, stiff, stale, white powder dusted pink gum broken into bits.  

Anyone out there remember getting bubble gum cigars?  I sure do, and I loved them purely because of how much gum was in one wrapper.  It seemed as I grew up gum kept evolving into new ways for me to ingest sugar and blow out my jaw.  For blowing bubbles my personal choice is Bubble Tape, you know, its six feet of bubble gum for you not them.  The best part is you can control the exact mount, which I have down to a science, for the perfect bubble.

The next best thing to gum by itself was Bubble Gum ice cream at Baskin Robins.  I use to get a dixie cup and spit each piece out so that I could chew it later.  I think over time you came to realize you had ice cold hard bits of gum that amounted to only 1/10 a stick of gum, but its the journey not the destination right?  I also loved Bubble Play, I would say that was one of my favorite ice cream bars to get from the Ice Cream man.

No matter how old you are you are never too old to blow a big bubble.  Go out and grab your favorite flavor, have at it and send me some pictures at  I will post the best picture and you will receive a worth while prize.  Be on the look out for fun new gum, I mean who knew there was bologna gum or sculptures made of gum.  Oh yeah and be a Bubble Maker in life not a Bubble Popper.  Enjoyed this post? Please help to spread the word by clicking the orange plus below to share the post, and please click word “comments” below to leave your comment.


CRAYON BOX 5: Creative Lessons from Michael Jackson

2 11 2009

No one struck by lightning expects to be struck by lightning, unless maybe they stand in the middle of an open area during a brewing storm holding a golf club. I had an idea for the Crayon Box 5, however I was struck by the unassuming creative lightning bolt today. I went with a group of friends to see This Is It, the movie documentary giving a sneak peak to Michael Jackson’s rehearsals for his final concert or what he called his “The last curtain call.”

Growing up I was always a fan of Michael’s music and his music videos. I use to watch the Thriller video over and over and over again until I think I wore the tape out. I will admit I was mostly drawn into the movie magic and makeup for the zombie/werewolf behind the scenes done by Rick Baker, none the less it was a full entertainment package.  Below are some of the amazing behind the scenes makeup FX of Thriller.

I use to lip sink into an MJ toy Microphone to his vinyl records. Yes for the young ones out there, real LP’s with the soft scratches and the wonderful pops!

My sister and I both had MJ figurines, and even the iconic sparkling glove. As I grew up I was never a die hard fan, but I did buy his music here and there and sing at the top of my lungs to his music wile driving in the magic car bubble where anyones vocals sound amazing.

Now we all know there has been harsh criticism of his personal life and many allegations, none of which have been proven. You might choose to believe or not believe in the allegations, but for a moment let us put all of that aside. As I sat in the theatre watching This Is It I was witness to something very special. Getting the chance to see behind the scenes into MJs creative process, leadership, innovation, storytelling, and humanity left me in awe.

We all know MJ was an amazing talent. What grabbed me however was watching him tweak, test and re-polish everything from lighting, to vocals, instrumentals, dance moves, staging and more. Michael had that ability to feel the moment then realize the vision both before and after trial runs. If the lighting or guitar came up too quick after a pause in his dance choreography, he would pause and calmly say something like, “No…no wait a bit, let it simmer, bam then bam, let the note simmer longer, get all of it then we BAM with the lights and second note” When they ran through it again, you could see how he was able to squeeze every drop out of a perfectly choreographed moment. That new refined moment brought me to chills even though I just saw the same sequence 1 minute earlier with little to no effect.

MJ had the Midas touch with his dancers as he polished off moves. He would push his guitarists to new levels by refining notes and beats. He would fix the temp simply by humming or beat boxing with his lips to the music director or musician. When they filmed special backdrop scenes he was there to plan out every step of the way. When something didn’t feel right, he would stop, and find away to do it better. Seeing a test run, and then what his tweaks did to improve every detail was again inspiring.

I started to realize he was more than a singer and dancer known as the King of Pop. Michael Jackson was a creative genius, innovator, and leader. Every time he had to stop his rehearsal, he would know exactly what was wrong, and push his team to do better. The amazing part, was he had no attitude about it. Michael would thank them for trying and teach them how to do it better. He would explain, apologize for miscommunication and thank them for their patience, a graciousness Im sure came with age. MJ often finished his corrections with, “…it’s all for love.” 

The preview of the movie below is the only one that shows enough to truly catch the essence of what I am trying to explain and I recommend watching it.  Pay attention to how he interacts with his cast, his voice overs as he speaks to his team, as well as the part where he is beat boxing to explain how he was the bass to sound.

We can learn a great deal from Michael Jackson and his creative process. As a creative we should always be pushing the boundaries and innovating. We should care about what we do, the message we are sending and make our teams a part of a creative family. We should teach and show people what we want instead of only demanding what we want. We should try our vision many times and refine it along the way, and when we are done do it all over again. Last but surely not the least, we should look to others for inspiration. Michael said it best “The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.” Thanks Michael.

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CRAYON 6: Play with Your Food

28 10 2009

I use to play with my food and if I remember correctly it was not frowned upon. As long as I ate it I was free to build forts out of mashed potatoes and make faces out of breakfast bacon and eggs. Now I never really got into full face dives with piggy oinks, like that of the Randy in Christmas Story.

I did however, use to take flower and water and mix it in bowls pretending I was a chef and loved it.  I used food coloring, fake spices, and even dog treats for color.  I didn’t eat it I just had fun with it.  Play-doh was originally homemade flour,water and salt with food coloring right?  Why not get creative again with food for both play, eating, and presentation?   Playing with your food can be more than a way to delay eating food that you would rather not taste.  I urge you to play with your food. You can have a Souper hero spoon, a face to decorate, make sculptures, turn a boring hotdog into redneck octo-sushi.

You can play tic-tactoe on toast and more.  

Sometimes the food you play with might not even be edible…Bacon band-aides anyone?  

Next time you sit at the table or want to make dinner a bit more interesting, drop the salt and pepper and play with your food.  If you get to sling gooey rainbows of culinary slop at everyone at the table, like in the movie hook, Bangeranggg to you!

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CRAYON BOX 4: Stefan Bucher

27 10 2009

In one my my earlier posts I mentioned when I was at a design conference I found four scratch off winners on my inspirational lotto ticket. I was on the way to cashing in the jack pot winning ticket to my mental bank. My right side being a mental Swiss bank account of freedom, and my left brain a 401k of responsible brain investing and spending.

I am now ready to reveal the second scratch off to my inspiration lotto ticket.  That person would be Stefan Bucher.  For those that need some star power to make them want to read on more, he designed for Madonas label.  Now that little fact aside, I had heard of Stefan Bucher first through his work with his daily monsters. (His Book)

I had enjoyed Stefan’s work after snooping on the web but after his talk, a workshop, and a sit down with him I was inspired and motivated. I will get to his monsters in a bit, for now I want to share something with you.Stefan G. Bucher first walked on stage in Memphis and after a few short words he started a video.

Music slowly flooded the theatre with anticipating notes. I leaned forward out of my slouch to absorb what was playing in front of me. It felt like a teaser to a great movie that I was going to have to wait for. However, the best part is that I didn’t have to wait as Stefan delivered immediately. Watch the intro below and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after watching as you might be left light headed with a fogging high level of bliss

After watching this intro Stephan had more to share.  One thing that stood out was that he had gotten rid of all his personal debt.  In doing so he was now able to choose the clients he wanted instead of grabbing any client in defense of paying off any debt.  I thought to myself, “How refreshing.”  This then in return allowed him to do his own private projects and things he loves. 

I myself could relate as a designer that had stopped creating my own projects outside of my nine to five.  At one point he was offered an opportunity to design one of the NFL Super Bowl Logos.  He was going up against other designers and being a self proclaimed geek who doesnt care for American Football, he chose to design a Super Bowl Logo for nerds.  

The logo speaks for itself. but one of my favorite aspects was Prof. Fin, from the Simpsons, harnessing the testosterone molecule. (see annotated large logo) Needless to stay Stefan Bucher lit a fire under my design seat and my own personal projects. I have become deeply curious and interested again with personal projects in ways that I was in design school. One of his personal side projects you may have heard of is his wildly creative Daily Monsters.

Stefan Bucher started Daily Monsters through his 344Design. Once a day he captures on film himself laying down some black ink, a quick spray or three of compressed air to push the ink around, a few turns of the paper and himself drawing up a monster from his imagination. My favorite thing about this is that he is doing it for himself and not a client, its playful, and that he is discovering creatures from happy accidents. To me seeing opportunity in accidents is what defines the creative process.

He continues to push the envelope, which is the sign of an innovator. He chooses to evolve his monsters on his own and learn along the way about himself, his process and even new softwares. He started to ad colors, backgrounds, and even animate the monsters. I was pleased to find out he had chosen to learn how to do motion graphics on his own through Great people, artists, designers, leaders, etc are always looking to learn more.

I had to privilege of sitting in his workshop and creating my first monster named Control-Alt-Delete. Who is the size of a mosquitto, eats your hang nails in the middle of the night, and then creates a nest of blue felt fuzz in your belly button at 3am. (Stefan asked us to come up with stories for them)

It was a pleasure seeing him take time to give back to others in this format.  Myself along with twelve others  sat in a round table where we talked art, design, and more.  Stefan was refreshingly honest about himself and his work.  At one point even admitting working with him isn’t easy.  When is the last time we were that honest with our selves let alone strangers?  We can all take a page out of his book of life and work.  You can visit his web page and even contribute with a monster of your own at (Daily Monster).  Enjoy an example below. 

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CRAYON 5: Lick Batter off the Whisk

23 10 2009

Still to this day if I watch someone set up to bake, I get excited. I begin to watch and wait as impatiently as a dog waiting for dinner. I might pace, or find a reason to pass the baking area as many times as possible with out giving my master mind plan away.

Now many people are waiting for something warm, soft or gooey and most likely chocolaty to come out of the oven. Not me, no sir & no mam, I am waiting for that magic moment when all ingredients have come together, the mixer tilts back and there is my moment of culinary bliss. Waiting on cold hard duel whisks in all its sugary glory is the batter.

 Now if there are others around, you might have to barter to get one of the whisks. When I was a kid my sister and I would have a NATO like conference to decide who got which whisk, a very important task. But once they are pulled from the mixer and handed over to you they become a batter lolli pop. Now that you have one in your hands you will have to exercise your tongue, in ways worthy of an Olympic category, to extract the nectar of batter.

 Oh wow is it worth it though, because between chocolate cake batter or cookie dough I am not sure if any baked cookie or cake can match that moment of zen. Go ahead make an excuse to bake and if you have the whisks enjoy and better yet share or fight over them with others. If you don’t have a whisk I highly recommend a spatula, easy to lick and just as fun. Note to others:  Do not try to eat the spatula even though it has a nice texture under the batter. If you get a chance check out the BatterFinger from WorldWideFred (I take no responsibility for tongues harmed or caught in mixers.) Enjoy.   

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CRAYON BOX 2: AIGA Time Off from Work for Inspiration & Innovation?

14 10 2009

What does Make/Think mean to you? I was asked that while at the AIGA MAKE/THINK convention in Memphis Tennessee. For those who do not know AIGA is a graphic artist associciaton. Now those two words, MAKE/THINK toiled in my mind.  I pondered how those two words together are apart of my design life. As my mind boiled and toiled over the thought, a thin bushy haired Austrian man walked out on stage and began to speak with his delightful German accent. The designer was one of my favorite minds, Stefan Sagmeister. That man would be one of four scratch off winners on my inspirational lotto ticket. I was on the way to cashing in the jack pot winning ticket to my mental bank. My right side being a mental Swiss bank account of freedom, and my left brain a 401k of responsible brain investing and spending.

As Sagmeisters spoke he focused in on how he gained inspiration. Most of his inspiration for innovation comes from a genius idea that we need to spend time on a sabbatical in order to live a better life and to become a better worker in any field. He noticed he was becoming predictable so, every 7 years he shuts down his design group and they take a full year off. That’s right, no calls, only away messages stating they are out of office for a full year. He understands greatly the power of a sabbatical.

He spoke on how 3m, and Google give their employees up to 20% time off, paid to research and invent on their own. 3m has had a few ideas born in this off time. Those ideas are called Scotch Tape and Sticky Notes…you might have heard of them. As I sat an listened to Stephan I made the direct connection to his process and Pixar.

Pixar Animation Studios allows employees to stay on the payroll and use facilities at Pixar, while they are in between films, to explore and develop their own projects. This is how they find new talents, ideas, and innovation from within. Other studios hire you for a movie and then lay you off when “run of show” has completed. At Pixar, an animator that makes a great short story during their paid time off, might get a chance to become a director for a short film and then get to direct a feature film. Pixar and these amazing companies have found success in downtime, allowing their employees the freedom to explore in their own way, which in return increases their success.  Watch Stefans Talk below.

This kind of exploration leads to work place morale. Morale is one of the single most overlooked aspects in most companies. Often you will find the low moral slows productivity, lowers retention, and creates frustration, among other things. Anyone who has seen Office Space, knows that the movie illustrates this point perfectly.

Brad Bird one of the Directors at Pixar Animation Studios and said this about morale, “In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.” (

If only more companies, agencies, groups, and world leaders could see this value.  I truly believe we could innovate, and motivate ourselves in ways yet to be seen. Could you imagine if we had some kind of business plan to show business people, clients, and bosses. They could look at hard facts and results. They could see this plan puts their finances back in the black and creates fresh new ideas that lead to change which for the business people leads to profits! I wish we had crystal ball that showed all of this process already working in the real world. Oh wait there is Pixar, Stefan Sagmeister, 3m, Google and many more.

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CRAYON BOX 1: Smelling Crayons Leads to Better Creativity?

7 10 2009

There I was watching some creative guru on stage spewing out a wealth of knowledge on creativity, when I heard him repeat a statement I had heard twice before. With squinted eyes and a lean forward, as if to share a secret he said, “Studies show the simple smell of crayon increases creativity in the human brain.” With out much more explanation he moved on with his brilliant talk, however he just invited my mind to a cerebral dinner with no address or e-vite Google map. So what happens when you smell of box of Crayolas?

I mean, should I be grounding this stuff up and snorting my favorite color green? For most people when you smell crayons, as an adult, there will be a cerebral flash back to child hood. Most can relate to this as many of us have used crayons through out childhood. I started to tinker, in my apparently crayon needy brain, how does this smell supposedly make us more creative as adults? Through out my life and design career I have studied thought process, creative problem solving, and our brain. 

“There is no doubt that smell is a powerful sense. The olfactory system, the apparatus responsible for our sense of smell, has a pathway in the brain closely associated with the limbic system. The limbic system contains the amygdala and the hippocampus parts of the brain, which are closely associated with emotion and memory respectively.” (BBC)

Think of smells that might remind you of the holidays, or a favorite meal, and it takes you there. The smell of fresh cut grass is my flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts later I have been transported to my childhood summers in Chicago. These summers are filled with lazy evenings, no school, baseball, cooking out, and fireflies. As nostalgic memories wash over me in warm waves, my very mind set changed. I came to realize crayons might bring us back by way of nostalgia to a childlike thought process. So I went and bought a box, opened it for a smell. Without many specific memories, it did still take me back and made me smile. I felt free, I felt happy, and I felt a change in my mind set. Now how does this mind set apply to my creative process?

If you give a child a problem to solve they tend to find interesting and unique solutions to the problem because they have no statue of limitations. A friend of mine told me that her daughter said she wanted to create a sculpture. She supported it and let her daughter use any supplies from the family art bin. When her daughter was done, she took her by the hand and had her mother close her eyes. As the mother got ready and opened her eyes, she expected some kind of play-doh or popsicle stick man. She opened her eyes to find an open closet with clear scotch tape hanging from the clothing rack, in balled up interesting shapes.

Here was a little girl that had no clear definition or limitations of what a sculpture is and she defined it in a unique and brilliant way. Picaso said it best, “It took be 4 years to paint as Raphael, but it took me a life time to paint as a child.” When I have brainstorms I bring in people from outside the category so there is less expertise. These non-experts tend to have fresh and new ways of approaching the same problems we are trying to solve, or innovate, because they do not know about the statute of limitations.

Part of the creative process is dreaming up a solution to a problem, with hurdles such as cost, lawyers, limitations, or rules. Recently Scientists have talked about how Star Trek sci-fi gadgets have influenced them in the experimentation and creation of everything from the invention of digital thermometers to cell phones. The TV show creatives came up with the gadgets on the show with no limitations and the real scientist of the world used those dreams of fiction as a creative spark for innovation. Creatives, dreamers, and artists inspire the technology, engineering, legislation, business, and builders of tomorrow. This process is no different than allowing a child like mind set with no limitations, to come up with creative solutions then guiding that idea with a unwavering optimism.

When I lead brainstorm, I have boxes of crayons everywhere. I have everyone pick up a box and take a smell. Watching the light bulbs and nostalgia set in is amazing. Along with the nostalgia smells, one process I actually use is a kid-storm. In a kid-storm I have everyone in the group approach the problem like a 1st grader. I assign the problem like a teacher would. The group can only use crayons and paper, and doodle with their non-dominant hand, a drawing of an idea from the depths of their inner child bases on what we are brainstorming. The ideas have a budget of 10 bazillion dollars to work with, zero limits, and can even use magic. We then review the ideas and find a way to make them a reality. The ideas end up being unique, amazing, fresh, and innovative.

So next time you find your self in the isles of Target or Walgreens, be sure to buy a 79 cent pack of crayons and have a smell. Hold on tight and tell me where you end up. Just be sure if do, to remember to bring some high grade plutonium to get you back to the future. I forgot the plutonium and I am stuck with my child like brain waves of 1982 and to be honest, I am OK with that.

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