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“It’s Close to Midnight, Something Evil’s Lurking in the Dark”

Born and raised in Indonesia, I’m from a culture where shadows have long been places in which mythical creatures and spirits lurk. You wouldn’t want to make these beasties your besties: on the whole, they don’t tend to be very pleasant.

I’ve gone global now and I can see my country’s fascination with creepy, ghoulish figures is not unique. The adoration of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and the obsession with an alleged monster in Scotland’s Loch Ness have turned shadowy figures into star attractions.

So, what makes shadows such intriguing shapes and why are they such an integral part of design? Read on to find out.

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Is It a Person? Is It an Animal? Is It a Tree?

TV’s “Got Talent France” introduced some of us to an extreme use of shadows as startling illusions. Contorted performers used their silhouettes to mimic anything from elephants to burnt-out trees. 

Their act told a familiar tale of humans choking the life out of those they share the planet with. It also took me back to my roots.

Wayang kulit is a traditional form of puppet-shadow play. This time, shadow artists rear-project puppet figures on a taut linen screen using a coconut-oil light. The stories often have a similar theme of good against evil with the shadows accentuating the mood.

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Bond Is Back!

Film buffs will be familiar with this use of shapes and outlines to set the scene and create a little tension in a similar way to those puppeteers on my home turf. 

Think of the titles of a 007 movie. Silhouetted gold-painted dancers moving through flames to the sound of a barn-storming belter would not look out of place. 

Alfred Hitchcock was a movie genius partly for the way he used light to garner suspense and grip the viewer. Take his masterpiece (and personal favorite, according to his daughter), “Shadow of a Doubt.” Hitchcock uses a lighting scheme with very little fill light. 

Gloomy, dim lighting creates the effect of contrasted light and darkness to reflect the duality of moral ambiguity. Powerful shadows blot out parts of the main characters. In one scene, Charlie (Teresa Wright) finds out that her uncle is trying to kill her. Hitchcock shows them in profile, facing each other. 

They are lit from behind and with a high-key light source. They, therefore, appear in the depths of darkness. This lighting technique successfully captures her uncle’s wickedness and Charlie’s discovery of his evil. 

The darkness of the scene is symbolic of Charlie becoming aware that the world is not always a happy place. It can be dark, cold and bleak. The movie “brought murder and violence back in the home, where it rightly belongs,” the director quipped.

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How to Give a 2D Medium an Extra Dimension

Stage and film are two genres that by their very nature have the luxury of 3 dimensions. They can quickly make clever use of the mood and shapes that shadows can create. When you’re working with a plain sheet of A4 things are arguably trickier. 

Trompe-l’oeil or trick of the eye is an extreme artistic technique that often calls on shadows to help out designers working on flat surfaces. It can take realistic imagery and create an optical illusion so that the depicted objects appear to exist in 3 dimensions. 

Mind-bending geometric shapes complete with shadows can leap out from the page. They make you want to reach forward and touch their sides to check if they’re real or an illusion. 

For less extreme purposes, drop shadows were a one-time favorite of graphic designers. They’re a visual effect consisting of an element drawn to look like something’s shadow. They give the impression that the object lies above what’s behind it. 

They’ve developed a reputation for being somewhat overused. That’s partly because digital technology makes it almost too easy to create them. But, made use of wisely, they can add depth and not distraction.

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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid at Nighttime

What we refer to as cast shadows appear because an object blocks out the light source. That makes them different from their core cousins. Not for nothing is the shower sequence in Hitchcock’s “Psycho” awash with them. 

On top of that, the killer is in silhouette. It all helps with the power of suggestion that this scene has become so famous for. We never, of course, see any actual stabbing, but through visual techniques, we could be mistaken for thinking that we had.

This duality of light and shadow lies at the core of some of the bigger questions of life. Dark sides best locked away, trick or treats, alter egos, good and evil, are all wrapped up in a world of brightness and obscurity.

With the notable exception of Father Christmas, the grim and ghastly tend to assemble at night. Vampires and ghosts simply can’t make a living at times when we’re better able to see them. 

As if this wasn’t bad enough, researchers have found that we’re more scared of frightening noises and images at night than during the day, even in a well-lit room. 

And that is all great news for Halloween aficionados (as well as for those mysterious things that go bump in the night and scare the living daylights out of us).

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This article was written by Donny Marjalis, Senior Designer, New York.

I’m excited to announce that the next Design Series article will be written and illustrated by CBA Design Director, Chris Martin!

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Space is the final frontier according to Captain James Tiberius Kirk. It’s also where countless artists have boldly gone where no artist had dared go before.

Take Edward Hopper. The American’s paintings took spatial awareness to stark, new heights. Some evoke feelings of loneliness and longing that could break the hardest of hearts. 

Musicians have long made use of pauses that hang in the air like soaring butterflies. These silent spaces are there to incite a sense of anticipation giving us a moment or two to gather our thoughts and emotions. 

Listen to Barber’s Adagio for one of the most crushing, perfectly placed silences in the history of classical music. (Start at 5’30 to quickly take in its beauty). 

Designers continue to seize this artistic technique that leaves time for consideration and emphasis. Read on to find out how less can indeed be more.

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It’s the Empty Can That Makes the Most Noise

Imagine brimming with so many ideas that they won’t fit the space of a brief. The temptation is to cut out a few, make a tight fit and be good to go: the fewer grand plans ending up on the cutting room floor, the better for everyone.

That’s one way to see it, but spare a thought for the consumers looking at your creation for the first time. You spent hours crafting your design. They might only have a split second to digest it. 

There’s a strong argument for being brave enough to abandon valuable communication real estate by knowing what and how much to leave out. It can be the tipping point that turns a good designer into a great one.

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Why White Is Not Always the New Black

White space, also referred to as negative space, is essentially any area of design that is not taken up by content. This could be anything from vast expanses between different elements to the tiniest bits of space between some letters. 

Despite the hint in its name, white space is not restricted to being white or any other color for that matter. It could be a textured surface or even a photo.

Used effectively you can establish a hierarchy in your composition, set a mood and improve readability. With care, you can achieve a harmonious balance that could take a consumer on a visual journey or draw their attention towards a specific element. 

It might feel counterintuitive, but harnessing a whole lot of nothing is not wasting space. It can make or break your creation. It’s a fundamental design principle that will either keep the viewer on your page or leave them looking elsewhere, possibly with eye strain.

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Let’s Get Super-Geeky!

Negatives tend to be balanced with positives. Positive space refers to your subject matter, meaning all the elements that aren’t in the background. 

For example, every letter in a block of text is a positive space. To avoid a messy jumble, we call on negative space to bring us much-needed breathing room and to restore balance. Get it right and you’ve achieved a bit of yin and yang. 

Just to make things a tad confusing, white space can also be used in an active way to draw attention to a specific element. This could be something like a logo or headline. Taken to a new extreme when used in this way, it began an advertising revolution about 60 years ago.

So, fasten your seatbelts! Let’s take a trip back in time to revisit a piece of design work that put white space firmly on the map and changed the future of advertising and design forever.

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Herbie Rides Again (and Again)

Set your flux capacitors to 1959 because that is when Bill Bernbach of DDB presented Volkswagen with his Think Small campaign idea. It’s regarded as one of the most effective and successful uses of space in design. 

He bravely, some might have said foolishly, embraced space to such a degree that he used an ocean of it to surround a minuscule photo of a VW Beetle. This challenged the status quo at the time, ushering in a minimalist design revolution. 

The ads caught the coolness of the product so well that people tore them from magazines and stuck them on their walls. It was the start of a new design movement that’s still going on today.

There have been countless negative space success stories ever since. 

Take the FedEx logo with its clever arrow between the ‘E’ and ‘x.’ The negative space between these last two letters tricks the eye in a flash. The result is that we are drawn to a symbol conveying the company’s message that it’s super-speedy.

Over the years, IKEA’s ‘less is more’ approach to home furnishings has seen bright colors leap out from the page when set against sparse, Scandi-style wooden flooring. And, Apple’s use of clean, white space on its packaging reinforces a logo now synonymous with luxury, coveted tech. 

Vive la révolution!

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A Musical Piece with No Sound

Staying with the revolutionary ‘50s theme, I was reminded of a controversial three-movement piece composed in 1952 by the American experimental musician, John Cage.

Written for any instrument or combination of instruments, the score, called 4’33”, instructs performers not to play during the entire piece. The work is then made up of the sounds from the environment that listeners hear while it’s performed.

A useful example of what parts of mindfulness are all about, it also reminds us that there will always be a smattering of sound to sprinkle on the aural equivalent of white space. 

Apply the same concept to a minimally filled blank page and the light that shines on it. Deciphering its meaning can often lie in the eyes of the beholder. For a designer, the knack is to know what stays in and what stays out to provoke the desired reaction.

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The Future for White Space

Why design trends come and go does, to an extent, depend on how we choose to make use of white space. White space will always be there and so will ever be a fundamental part of any design. 

How far we choose to push its boundaries will play a part in keeping us looking fresh and shiny. So, what can we expect to see this year and beyond?

Minimalism continues to dominate, bridging the gap between art expression and lifestyle choices. It cuts through the noise and provides much-needed breathing space so that we don’t drown from an information overload. 

Watch out for colorless and muted color designs, optical illusions and the use of geometric shapes trending everywhere. They all showcase the versatility and power of space that is called white.

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This article was written by Arturas Janusas, Design Director, New York.

I’m excited to announce that the next Design Series article will be written and illustrated by CBA Senior Designer, Donny Marjalis, on the topic of shadows!

Empathy 01

In the day-to-day life of big corporations, agencies or consulting companies it’s easy to forget the target consumer’s reality. Although consumers are on the core of everything that is done, thought and designed, oftentimes stakeholders know them through figures and reports, but rarely see them in flesh. It is a challenging task to make consumer insights known outside the CMI (Consumer & Market Insights) department and engage more of the company’s staff in the process of understanding the target consumer.

Today there is an increasing tendency to value big data and artificial intelligence – which we, at CBA B+G, totally support. However, we can’t forget the great value of building emotional and human ties throughout the research and innovation process, by using tools that promote an empathetic immersion in the lives of consumers.

 

Empathy boosts transformation

But what exactly does empathy mean? According to the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric, it’s about finding shared humanity. He believes that we are urgently in need of empathy to create the ‘social glue’ to hold our society together. From a business point of view, empathizing with consumers is not only ‘cool’; we believe it also leads to transforming, effective and positive results, in three different ways:

  • Empathy benefits companies, promoting internal engagement: stepping into other people’s shoes makes us appreciate them more, they grow in importance before our eyes. Therefore, it is fundamental to have the different teams of a company look at the final consumer with more empathy. This approach will promote a higher level of engagement with the product or service that is being developed.
  • Empathy drives purpose: more than ever, we are aware that brands must build a positive impact territory. An empathic attitude is a great way to get there, as it implies in considering consumer’s needs and wishes beyond the offer, trying to understand how to foster well-being in a broader sense.
  • Empathy leads to more assertive innovation: In the light of empathy, consumers are viewed as people, and not just consumers. All of a sudden, ‘target AB 18-25’ gets a name, a history, a life. Thus, we can experience their needs, priorities, creating purpose-driven products and services.
 

How can we be more empathetic towards consumers?

Storytelling is at the heart of any empathic process, and there are countless tools, non-digital, hybrid or completely virtual which engage the spectator in the story in a simple, touching and impactful way. Here are some tools and examples that can be applied to society and by brands.

A. Step into someone else’s shoes … literally
If empathy means to step into other people’s shoes, then why not literally do that? That is the proposal of the initiative called “A mile in my shoes” from the Australian National Maritime Museum, which invites visitors to wear shoes that belong to other (real!) people and listen to them telling parts of their stories. In São Paulo, the exhibition “Diálogo com o Tempo” (Dialogue with Time), hosted by Unibes Cultural, has created an immersion environment in the universe of old age, inspired by the same principle.

At CBA B+G, we have applied the same idea during an Innovation workshop held for Plenitude – a brand of disposable underwear, designed for people who suffer from incontinency. We have asked the participants to wear the underwear for three days, to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes and better understand their needs.

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“Using the product myself was revealing. We have always focused on absorption, however I noticed opportunities to go beyond. These insights led to new innovative attributes for the product, which are currently being developed by our Engineering team. Today we are close to offering one more benefit to better meet our consumers’ needs”

Mônica Fernandes, CSI Adult Care Leader, Kimberly-Clark

 

B. Capture moments of life through films, audios and photographs
Films and photographs are powerful empathy devices. This thought led the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei to create the film “Human Flow” to raise global awareness about the refugees crisis. Brands also make use of empathetic films to create impactful campaigns. “Thank you, Mom”, the most successful campaign in the history of P&G is really touching because it effectively puts spectators in the place of mothers, creating a strong sense of identification.

At CBA B+G, we have been running ethnographic surveys and online diaries about consumers’ journey, asking them to film moments of their lives using their mobile cameras. For one of the partners we work with, from a hitchhiking app, we used the methodology ‘fear accounts’, through which we kept in touch with the app users via WhatsApp during a week, asking them to send us an audio each time they got scared when using the service, telling us what happened and how they felt. This method allowed us to capture real and touching stories, spontaneously.

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C. Immerse in someone else’s world with Virtual Reality (VR)
The VR technology uses a headset to place the spectator in a virtual environment with a 360 view, providing a more intimate and active immersion. For some people, technology is undoubtedly the best way to step into other people’s shoes. Technology has been used in games, science and arts, to recreate the way autistic people perceive the world, and as an invitation to reflect upon the effects of global warming.

At CBA B+G, we have devised for Nestlé a VR Project – Consumer Connections – to immerse in the lives of the target-consumers of three major brands of the company. One of the project’s expectations was to give everyone in the company – regardless of work department or position – the possibility to get to know the daily lives of people from different realities. The tool made it possible, for example, to follow a typical day in the life of Luiza, a teenager who lives in São Paulo and loves KitKat and skating. To Cibele Rodrigues, Research Manager, at CBA B+G, “the project was enriching and powerfully delightful. It refreshed the target, putting everyone on the same page. Moreover, we escaped the traditional reports, showing more humane journeys. At the end of the day, the figures made more sense, allowing executives to take more assertive decisions, closer to the consumer”.

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“The immersion project using VR was one of the most incredible we have ever experienced, which made us think ‘why haven’t we done that before?’ The possibility to follow parts of consumers’ life is the icing on the cake for any insight or marketing professional. The approach was fundamental to make us understand the best moments and ways to connect with them”.

Demer Santos, Consumer & Marketplace Insight Manager, Nestlé

 

D. Blend consumers with clients, breaking barriers
Who says we cannot mix consumers and clients, spectators and artists, experts and laypeople? Breaking these barriers is also a powerful way to connect people and develop empathy.

We introduce this concept during our processes, joining clients and consumers to work face-to-face, without one-way mirrors and with no condescension. Today, we do the same remotely. Alex Espinosa, CBA B+G’s managing partner and Head of Innovation, explains that the objective is to “create ecosystems where clients, consumers, mentors and experts co-create together with a common purpose, enabling a multi perspective view of the challenge and incorporating experiences that boost the developed solution”.

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E. Join virtual with real, using Augmented Reality (AR)
AR has also been gaining space in our lives. This technology make it possible to mix elements from the virtual and real worlds with the advantage of being much more accessible, since it doesn’t require a headset and can be easily developed in an app. It has been largely used, both by entertainment games (who remembers the Pokémon Go fever?) as by brands that provide a product trial without the need to leave home. That’s the case of Ikea, that simulates how your sofa would look in your sitting room; or L’Oréal, that offers the possibility to virtually try on different lipstick colors before choosing one.

But how is augmented reality used in research and Innovation? We have recently developed, together with one of our business partners, an app that used AR in a disruptive way, to make a survey about absorbent pads products. Consumers were able to try different shapes and sizes of new products, simulating real use by projecting them in their panties or bikinis. To Alex Espinosa, “technology allows prototypes and products to reach millions of homes without the need of physically producing any of them, in real-time tests that result in products that better fit the target-consumer. It is the fastest and most effective way to validate your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with consumers and find the added value and possible improvements within minutes”.

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What does the future hold?

We may safely assume that extended reality will continue to evolve and improve to achieve astounding results. We bet on the use of Augmented Reality and other hybrid formats that explore the best of technology to project reality as perceived by others without disregarding human contact. Definitely, digital and analog realities are complementary in capturing insights more sensitively.

To delve into this issue of empathy and its tools more deeply, we recommend watching the TED talk by the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric about how to start an empathy revolution, as well as the New Yorker’s beautiful immersive animated short-documentary film about detention camps in China. If you don’t have a VR headset or cardboard yet, it’s worth buying one and start playing with these new possibilities.

And of course, don’t hesitate to contact us to understand better how we can help your brand use these tools on your behalf. And if this topic inspires you and if you are or know someone who is a business professional, strategist or designer interested in joining our team, write to newtalents@cba-bmaisg.com telling us about your expectations, objectives and history. We are always looking for talent!

This article had the contribution of: Carmen Beer, Ana Cerqueira, Giuliana Sanchez, Thaísa Miyahara, Ana Paula Moreno, Alex Espinosa, Cibele Rodrigues, Demer Santos, Mônica Fernandes, Josy Lamenza, Daniela Irrazabal, Rosario Maglione, Renato Storni and Luis Bartolomei.

Why Triangles are Proof That Three is Not a Crowd

They say things come in threes- definitely true in the case of triangles. In fact, that’s just about all we can say about them, isn’t it? 

Don’t be too quick to write them off as a three-trick pony. Think about it. When you turn a square on its side, it’s still a square. No matter how many times you roll a circle around, it’s still a circle. Yawn. 

Triangles are different. Triangles can spell danger. Barry Manilow loved them so much, he even had a hit with one. Decide your number one from our top fifteen favorite, fun factoids about triangles.

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One of the World’s Most Iconic Album Covers

When Pink Floyd released ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ they didn’t choose a circular or crescent moon shape for their iconic album jacket. Instead, they went for a design showing light refracting through a triangular prism. Why?

The concept was threefold- to flag up the band’s stage lighting and the album’s lyrics as well as to create a design which was simple and bold. Given it almost always features in lists of iconic album covers, the unorthodox design proved a huge success.

Playing the Triangle

Triangles can be metal, musical instruments used for percussion. Often derided as overly simple, Mozart and Beethoven still chose to include them in their works. 

Liszt even gave them a solo in one of his concertos. They’ve become an integral part of Cajun and Forró, a Brazilian music style.

Not the BBC’s Finest Hour

British TV aficionados might well remember, or perhaps choose to forget, an ‘80s soap opera called ‘Triangle.’ The action happened on board a sea ferry which connected three European ports- hence the rather unimaginative title.

Anyway, the stilted scripts and corny relationships became the butt of many a joke. The BBC took it all on the chin and even chose to rebroadcast the first episode a decade later during an evening of programming entitled, ‘TV Hell.’ 

It wasn’t all bad though. Americans might also be familiar with the show’s star- the late, great Kate O’Mara. 

‘Triangle’ didn’t harm her career too badly. She went on to play Caress Morell, the scheming sister of Alexis Colby in Dynasty and Jackie Stone, Joanna Lumley’s onscreen sister in Ab Fab.

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Bermuda Triangle

This is the region in the western North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. 

It’s also the title of one of Barry Manilow’s lesser-known hits. The lyric picks up the vanishing theme with the story of a guy who takes a girl to Bermuda only to find that she disappears with someone else. Clichéd? We still love you, Barry.

Triangular Foods We Love

Let’s start with pizzas. If you want to eat them with your hands, then cutting them into triangles is the only way.

When it comes to iconic candy bars nothing beats the mighty Swiss Toblerone. Its distinctive series of joined, triangular prisms has been satisfying our chocolate cravings since 1908.

Ever wonder why tortilla chips are triangular? 

An American couple who owned a Mexican deli in LA during the 1940s used up misshapen tortillas by cutting them up into triangles and frying them. 

They became one of their shop’s best sellers. Little did they know that they’d just given birth to what’s become a 22 billion dollar global market.

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‘Torn Between Two Lovers'

This 1970s hit for Mary MacGregor was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. It became a global sensation, so much so that the song was translated into a string of different languages. 

Those in polyamorous relationships might rightly feel perplexed by this part of the lyric, ‘Lovin’ both of you is breaking all the rules.’ Nonetheless, the love triangle is a regular theme in popular music, particularly country and western: cue Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene.’

Triangles Mean Danger

In many parts of the world, triangular road signs warn drivers about potential dangers. These can range from wandering giraffes in Namibia to hippos in South Africa. ‘Humps ahead, Camels may be crossing!’ cries another sign in Egypt. 

Triangles aren’t of course inherently dangerous to humans. They’re just the shape of choice to draw attention to danger by association. It could be that squares or circles are softer to the eye than their triangular counterparts.

Triangles and Cubism

Triangles feature heavily in Cubist art. The concept of reducing an image to a limited number of geometric shapes such as triangles grew out of the Cubists’ quest for simplification. 

Check out ‘Still Life with Flowers’ by Juan Gris. This 1912 painting is famous for the stylistic use of triangles and overlapping planes that come together to form a scene of serene and humble beauty.

The Pink Triangle

Now a symbol for lots of LGBTQ identities, it was once a badge of shame. The Nazis used it to identify gay people in their death camps. Activists reclaimed the symbol in the 1970s in their protest against homophobia.

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The Pyramids

Civilizations across the world have long built these structures which feature a series of triangles. The largest by volume is the Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico. 

You’ll find the most famous pyramids in Egypt. Legend has it that the sun god Ra, father of all pharaohs, sat on a pyramid-shaped mass of earth which had appeared from the sea. The pyramid’s shape is thought to have symbolized the sun’s rays.

Modern architects love the triangle too. For many, it is the strongest symbol, capable of holding its shape, with a firm base and providing immense support.

The Golden Triangle

This is the region where the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar come together. It all happens at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. 

The Golden Triangle covers an area bigger than Texas and has become one of the world’s most famous tourist hotspots. There are plenty of golden Buddhas to see and luxury river trips to be taken. 

The popular Old Opium Museum, located in the centre of Chiang Saen, is well worth stopping off at. It offers visitors an insight into the opium trade which was once rife in the region.

The Star of David

This is the symbol of modern Jewish identity. Its shape is that of a hexagram made up of two equilateral triangles which also appears on Israel’s flag.

It all goes back to the Biblical king and his legendary ‘shield,’ although there are more complex interpretations of the symbol based on the beliefs of Jewish mystics.

The symbol had many former lives as a motif for various organizations throughout history which were not exclusively religious. It was also used in Christian churches for many centuries long before its first known use in a Jewish synagogue.

A Few Jokes About Triangles

To a triangle, all other shapes are pointless. 

The obtuse triangle is never right.

What kind of triangle is a tortilla chip? An i-salsa-les triangle.

Why is a Toblerone shaped like a triangle? So that it’ll fit inside the box.

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Pythagoras’s Theorem

It’s right up there in the top ten most famous mathematical theorems. Pythagoras was an ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher born around 570 BC. 

He’s probably best known for his theorem: in a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of squares of the other two sides. 

Although he had a clear penchant for triangles, it didn’t color his better judgment that the world was in fact round.

Famous Trinities

In the Christian faith the triangular shape is associated with the Holy Trinity. That’s the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The triangle is used as a symbol for lots of other trinities too. These include heaven, hell and Earth as well as mind, body and spirit. 

In sacred geometry, it can mean balance, harmony and completion. Rising upwards, it elevates us to higher consciousness.

Hats off to the Mighty Triangle

So there you have it. One thing you can say about triangles with conviction is that they’re very useful.

They can take us to a higher place, alert us to danger, and we can even play them as a musical instrument. My personal preference is to eat them!

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This article was written by Katie Dorrian, Senior Designer, New York.

I’m excited to announce that next month’s article will be written and illustrated by CBA designer Isabelle Narciso on the topic of emojis!

He’s Coming to Take You Away, Ha-Haaa!

There’s nothing like a semi-colon or comma in the wrong place to make some people’s blood boil. Never more true than in the case of a man in the English city of Bristol who became known as the Apostrophiser.

He’s the self-styled grammar vigilante who spent almost a decade tidying up the punctuation on store fronts and street signs.

His identity’s never been revealed, but he was known to creep around in the dead of night on the lookout for offending apostrophes. Armed with a long-handled homemade device and stepladder, he reached the highest signs to add in, or erase, any offending punctuation marks.

One of the signs which really rankled him was above a nail shop which bore the name, “Amys Nail’s.” In a secret interview, the Apostrophiser explained, “It was so loud and in your face. I just couldn’t abide it. It grates.”

He also managed to sort out “Cambridge Motor’s,” even receiving a ‘thank you’ from the owners for his efforts.

You might well be right in thinking that the actions of our Hyphen Hero were illegal. Perish the thought. His defense was unapologetic, “I’m sticking on a bit of sticky-back plastic. It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong.”

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It's About the Genes

The antics in Bristol are extreme, but there may be more going on than we think in the brains of those who go round correcting other people’s grammar. Researchers are calling it Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, or GPS.

We know there’s a FOXP2 gene which could be behind lots of grammatical issues people grapple with. These include difficulties making complex sentences or constantly deploying the passive voice.

Well, wait for it. There’s now evidence that a gene variant, the FOXP2.1, could cause us to become obsessed with correcting other people’s grammar. (Or, should that be correcting the grammar of other people?) And, btw, I’m right to put the question mark before the bracket in this instance, although I did have to check.

It’s not a far cry from the types of episodes caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Those most affected can take some comfort from the researchers involved. They concluded the compulsion to fixate on grammatical complexities is “more socially acceptable than repetitive hand washing, the incessant touching of doorknobs or refusing to step on sidewalk cracks.”

Phew!

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Hyphen and Comma Wars

So let’s dig a little deeper into our punctuation pals. Officially there are fourteen of these little suckers in English, from commas to colons. Some have caused huge controversy with the humble hyphen almost sparking a war in Europe.

Czech and Slovak politicians had long been embroiled in what became known as the Hyphen War. In the final years of Czechoslovakia back in the early ‘90s, things came to a head.

To cut a long story short, the Slovaks wanted the same star billing in the country’s name. Nothing less than Czecho-Slovakia was going to do. In the end, the issue was resolved when the two equals peacefully went their separate ways and two republics were created.

There are few punctuation issues that ruffle more feathers than that surrounding the Oxford comma. To be or not to be, that really is the question.

It’s been a controversial, divisive, and painful saga. Or, should that be, “It’s been a controversial, divisive and painful saga?” You tell me, or, on second thoughts, please don’t.

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New Kids on the Block

There may be only fourteen official punctuation marks, but punctuation imposters are creeping in. Be alarmed, be very alarmed because one of them, the interrobang, looks to be here to stay.

For the purists out there, this exclamation/question mark hybrid is nothing short of sacrilege. Its very presence has cheapened punctuation stock value.

For others, the interrobang is a refreshing, clever combo. If you’re even at all dramatic, you’re likely to crave using it at least once a day. One student at Newcastle University in the UK agrees.

Along with others, she was recently asked to give her thoughts about her punctuation favorite. Here’s a sample of what she and a few of her peers had to say:

Isn’t the Interrobang the Ultimate Punctuation Mark‽
It’s bold. Observe as the supple curve of a ‘?’ juxtaposes the jutting confidence of a ‘!’. An elegant combination of two splendid punctuation marks, the interrobang helps you through written situations where you want to express excitement!! but also maybe hesitation??
Maud Webster

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Favorite Traditional Punctuation Marks

The Best Punctuation Mark Has to Be the Semi-colon.
I dare not think of any better way to separate my flamboyant shopping list. Not only does the semi-colon hold such a necessary purpose when writing, it is a beauty to hand-write itself. It’s like two-in-one; a full stop and a comma. The satisfaction I get after using a semi-colon is next to none!
Meg Howe

Ellipsis: the Sexiest of the Punctuation Marks
Flirtatious and alluring, the ellipsis leaves you wanting… These three dots say so much by saying nothing at all. A very […] omission. A charged silence. A pensive… pause. Leave it to the imagination, says the ellipsis. There’s nothing pretentious here, no finality or !!! drama — brevity or ??? interrogation. Just a little moment to sit and wonder what could have been. Or what will be…
Ella Williams

The humble comma is an unlikely candidate for the greatest punctuation mark, or so you may think.
Which other, however, can render the subtle rhythms of speech with such elegance, such grace? That little flick can make the clumsiest list flow smoothly, or break up overlong sentences with a mysterious pause, like so. Always charged with the promise of another clause, the comma brings hope where other, inferior punctuation marks (., !, ?, etc.) bring misery.
Peter Bath

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What these students have done is bring to life a bunch of innocent dots and dashes. They’ve used humor to remind us that being pedantic can sometimes mean we overlook the artistic impact punctuation can have.

Go forth, I say, free yourselves up by scattering these marks far and wide. And, take a tip from the Spanish. ¡If a punctuation mark’s worth using once, it‘s worth using twice!

 

This article was written by Rutger Thiellier, Executive Creative Director, New York

I’m excited to announce that our Senior Designer, Katie Dorrian, is going to put together next month’s article. She’ll be revealing the secrets behind the magical shape of the triangle.

Simply Red

Picture it. An excited crowd awaits the diva. She puts down a glass of Champagne on her dressing room table and takes one last look at herself.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest attention seeker of them all?” She pouts her shiny red lips, smiles and then whispers, “Why you are, of course.” Her fans roar in eager anticipation.

A quick google search and you’ll see that Taylor Swift’s apparently taken top prize in the international show-off category. It should come as no surprise then that her favorite color is red. It’s a smart choice.

Why? Sit back, and find out how this hot, fiery temptress of a color has become a number one attention grabber.

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It All Starts At Birth

When we’re babies, red is the first color that any of us ever see. We’ll go on to recognize the full color spectrum aged 5 months.

It may not have always been this way. Scientists believe there was a time in early human history when we could only distinguish red in a world of black and white. This could have helped our ancestors do things like spot ripe, red fruit or potential dangers.

It might also partly explain why the color red has so many cultural associations and why it provokes the strongest of our emotions.

Nature, Nurture or Both?

Chromology, or the psychology of color, is used when designing anything, from hotel bedrooms to cookie packages. So, can colors really affect a person’s mood?

‘Absolutely they can,’ psychologists have long argued. Understanding why this is the case is more complex.

Although color perception may be influenced by cultural conditioning, there are some broadly agreed connections between colors and emotions whatever their cause.

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The Artistry of Red

Early cave dwellers adorned their walls with scenes painted using red ochre. It was far cry from the luxurious, saturated shades of red such as Vermillion, Crimson and brilliant Cadmium used by renaissance painters.

Some of their most expensive red paints, made from the crushed scales of insects like the kermes beetle, were used to attract the attention of art admirers.

Over time, a myriad of reds have become symbols of power and influence for royals and church leaders alike. There’s even a correlation between more dominant male mandrill monkeys and the brightness of red colors which cover parts of their body.

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The Symbolism of Red

“Bright reds, scarlet, pillar-box red, crimson or cherry, are very cheerful and youthful. There is certainly a red for everyone.” Christian Dior was right about that.

Wearing red is a head turner- think of Scarlett O’Hara’s red party gown in ‘Gone with the Wind or the glamorous red dress Julia Roberts wore in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Would Dorothy’s iconic slippers in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ be so memorable if they hadn’t been red?

Psychologists have found that women are perceived as more attractive and sexually desirable when wearing red, sentiments echoed by Chris de Burgh in his ‘The Lady in Red.’

Somehow red causes a voyeur to prefer one potential candidate over another in the love stakes.

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Behaviors Induced by the Color Red

Red increases our heart rate and can also raise our blood pressure. Drivers who get blocked in traffic by a red vehicle react more quickly and aggressively than those obstructed by cars of other colors, for example.

Red also heightens our metabolism and can make us feel more hungry. You’ll find that most global fast-food giants use red to market their products. But, there’s another reason why they do this which lies at the heart of why red is such an attention grabber.

Here’s the scientific lowdown. Objects don’t have color, they emit light which appears as color in our brains. That color is determined by the frequency of the light, red’s being lower than the others. This affects our perception of red and makes it stand out more.

It’s not hard to see then why red would be a good choice for a department store’s ‘Sale’ signs, a fire extinguisher, a London bus or indeed anything we want noticed.

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Physiological Effects

Red might also give us a competitive edge. Scientists at Durham University found that men who wear red clothes send out a signal that they are angry and aggressive, in much the same way as if their face had reddened.

“We know that the colour red has an effect on the human brain,” one of the researchers explained. “This is embedded in our culture, for example the idea of wearing a red tie, known as a ‘power tie,’ for business, or issuing a red alert.

“The implications are that people may wish to think carefully about wearing red in social situations and important meetings, such as job interviews. Being perceived as aggressive or dominant may be an advantage in some circumstances but a disadvantage in others, for example where teamwork or trustworthiness is important.”

If you’re a risk taker, you’re likely to prefer using red poker chips, perhaps because the color’s become synonomous with dominance and winning.

Final Thoughts

The color red is an archetypal color; it is the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced and broke down into different shades. The color red itself is a social phenomenon more than a physical material or a component of light alone.

Rich in its chromatic shades and cultural context, red will forever impact us as humans and alter the way we see things in the world around us – continually evolving our socio-cultural perceptions and the meaning of our lives.

Whether red’s properties have become embedded in our psyche because of our genes or experiences, they’re associated with survival, power and influence; all things that run as deep as the red in our veins.

We hope you enjoyed this insight into our love affair with the color red. Stand by for next month’s edition of CBA’s design series when we’ll be bringing some glamour to the ins and outs of punctuations.

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