Slogans and logos

Paul Raven @ 04-08-2011

Via MindHacks, here’s Language Log dissecting some recent research into the persuasive power of logos and slogans.

A recent paper by Juliano Laran et al. (2011) suggests that resistance to persuasion can be triggered in a highly automatic and unconscious manner. The work builds on some interesting results involving commercial brands and implicit priming effects. For example, previous work has shown that subliminally flashing the Apple logo can spur study participants to think more creatively, and that presenting a Walmart logo can encourage frugal behavior whereas presenting a Nordstrom logo leads to greater indulgence. In other words, the brands activate a set of associations that in turn trigger certain cognitive or behavioral goals. Nifty results.

But brand names and logos, argue Laran and colleagues, are different from other commercial messages in that they’re not necessarily perceived as inherently persuasive—despite the fact that they’re often designed with great care, we may normally take them to be primarilyreferential, much as any proper name might be. Slogans (or, as they say in the industry, taglines) are transparently persuasive according to the authors. Perhaps people react to these latter messages in knee-jerk reverse-psychology manner by blocking and even countering the typical brand associations.

Laran et al. found that when they had people look at cost-conscious brand names like Walmart in an alleged memory study and then later take part in an imaginary shopping task, they were able to replicate the implicit priming effect: people were willing to spend quite a bit less than if they’d seen luxury-brand logos. But when subjects saw slogans (e.g. Save money. Live better.) instead of the brand names, there was a reverse priming effect: now, the luxury-brand slogans triggered more penny-pinching behavior than the economy-brand slogans.

Interesting; we’re more resistant to suggestion using language directly than we are to implicit suggestion encoded by association with images and/or designs.

Someone should do a spoof of They Live with this research rolled into it…


Architectural fabrication: printing buildings

Paul Raven @ 08-04-2011

Via Alex “Robot Overlords” Knapp, here’s a Technology Review piece about architect and MIT Media Lab boffin Neri Oxman, who’s picking up the architectural-scale 3D printing ball – still currently in its crude early phases, but eminently plausible – and running with it. The possibilities offered by bespoke design speak seductively to these geologically troubled times:

The work is at an early stage, but the new approach to construction and design suggests many new possibilities. A load-bearing wall could be printed in elaborate patterns that correspond to the stresses it will experience from the load it supports from wind or earthquakes, for instance.

The pattern could also account for the need to allow light into a building. Some areas would have strong, dense concrete, but in areas of low stress, the concrete could be extremely porous and light, serving only as a barrier to the elements while saving material and reducing the weight of the structure. In these non-load bearing areas, it could also be possible to print concrete that’s so porous that light can penetrate, or to mix the concrete gradually with transparent materials. Such designs could save energy by increasing the amount of daylight inside a building and reducing the need for artificial lighting. Eventually, it may be possible to print efficient insulation and ventilation at the same time. The structure can be complex, since it costs no more to print elaborate patterns than simple ones.

Just a proof-of-concept at this point, admittedly, but given how quickly 3D printing at a smaller scale has moved from theoretical future-thing to affordable DIY technohobby, the way we design and build our buildings – at least in the affluent parts of the world which can afford to consider aesthetics and disaster-proofing, rather than focussing on the simple need to construct a shelter quickly and cheaply – could change pretty rapidly. Which means that the Walkabout 3D Mobile augmented reality app is the precursor of a tool that will be essential to privileged NIMBYistas everywhere… after all, everyone loves progress, right up until the point that it interferes with their line of sight or property values. (NIMBYism is inherently a legacy of Gothic Hi-Tech; Favela Chic accepts intrusions and makes the best it can of them.)


Design for the Soul

Brenda Cooper @ 23-02-2011

Bangkok Airport, exteriorLast month, I talked about what the future needs from us. One of the things I mentioned was better governance. I suspect there’s no actual link, but people seem to be arguing for better governance, not only in Tahrir square but other places as well. This month I decided to focus on one frontier of the brave innovation theme I also think we need: sense-of-wonder design. I’m a science fiction reader, and a lot of the stories I remember best have excellent and fascinating design ideas. Rama. Ringworld. Stillsuits. Continue reading “Design for the Soul”


Tell Your Own Damn Stories! Games, Overreading and Emergent Narrative

Jonathan McCalmont @ 10-11-2010

In a move that is somewhat unusual for a videogame column, I would like to ask you to consider not a game or a development in the gaming industry but a film… and not just any film, but an obscure art house film.

Poster for Las Horas del DiaJaime Rosales’ The Hours of the Day (2003) (a.k.a. Las Horas Del Dia) tells the story of Abel.  Abel lives with his mother and operates a decidedly unglamorous clothing shop in a run-down part of town.  He has a low-intensity relationship with his girlfriend who wants them to move in together, he has a passive-aggressive relationship with his shop assistant who wants more severance pay than Abel can afford and he has a rather tense friendship with another man who wants him to invest in a marketing project.

Though these relationships dominate Abel’s life, he is distant from all of them; he bickers with his mother, he sabotages his girlfriend’s attempts to find them a flat and he ruins his best friend’s wedding day by casually revealing that the bride once made a pass at him.  In all of his dealings, Abel comes across as weirdly detached and disconnected, as though the human world is somehow beyond his comprehension.  This disconnection from every-day social reality makes Abel almost impossible to understand.  We do not understand why he sabotages his relationships and we certainly do not understand the savage murders that Abel carries out seemingly at random throughout the film.  Because Abel’s motivations are so completely impenetrable, it is remarkably difficult to extract anything resembling a human drama from the events depicted in The Hours of the Day.  The film does not appear to be a comment upon unhealthy relationships or the absurdity of existence or even a portrait of one man’s descent into madness.  It is simply a series of events presented in chronological order.  Stuff happens. Continue reading “Tell Your Own Damn Stories! Games, Overreading and Emergent Narrative”


Dangerous ideas: controlling design files for illegal objects

Paul Raven @ 14-05-2010

Here’s an interesting question for a future full of fabrication devices: if it’s illegal to own a certain object, is it also illegal to own the design files that would enable you to print out that object?

Fabbaloo asks the question after noticing some enterprising member of the counterculture thought of a great market for customisable designs in 3d-printed plastics – namely bong-lovin’ weed smokers.

We know that possession of “drug paraphernalia” is considered illegal in some jurisdictions. But would possession of The Design be considered illegal?

When we’re in a world where we can (relatively) instantly produce any object ourselves, is it the actual object that counts or the design? We like to think that’s the case for run-of-the-mill objects, since it’s not the printing goop that’s important; goop becomes commodity and the design rules.

Will our repositories be searched for the presence of “illegal objects”? Will repository operators ask submitters to delete suspected items for fear of the authorities? Will questionable content migrate from public repositories into private libraries run by secret cabals?

The simple answer, I’d suggest, is “yes”: nation-states will almost certainly try to outlaw or control ownership and/or access to design files for objects with potentially criminal uses. (The bong is a rather mundane example, as it facilitates a victimless crime; however, that’s not so clearly the case with a hundgun made almost entirely from plastics.)

Of course, az eny fule no, controlling the distribution of entirely digital data (especially files of small size) is something that nation-states and corporations alike are struggling to do even now. Which suggests that 3D printing itself will become the target of legislation; if you can’t control the draft, your best bet is to close the door tight.


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