The Shortest Word.

9 Nov


That’s it for now. I am resigning this blog to make time for a couple of projects that are very important to me. One of them is the Thanksgiving conversation I recently began under the pseudonym I have traditionally reserved for my solo music, Quail State. The other is a novel entitled Volcanic Hazards of Auckland, which will be released early next year to accompany the upcoming Quail State album of the same name.

This coincides with my move to Melbourne, Australia – and my new job at Leo Burnett Melbourne.

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to The Shortest Word over the years, and especially to those who were keen enough to comment. Even you, Spam Bots. Goodbye for now. I hope we can work together again some time in the future.



The one thing artists need to learn from marketers.

13 Oct

Evan Roberston’s literary posters.

8 Oct

Here is one mighty fine collection of literary quotes cum Etsy wares by New York graphic designer Evan Roberton. See the rest at the aforementioned store.




Ain’t nothin’ like a catch phrase.

3 Oct




Which is what’s great about this piece of election advertising from Canada. Swearing may be cool with the kids. But simplicity is cool with everyone.

Money is… debt.

30 Sep

The trouble with a tease is that it leaves everyone feeling weird and dissatisfied.

They can try all they like to put a positive spin on the way this campaign played out, but the moment other institutions perfectly preempted the punchline BNZ was waiting to deliver, the campaign lost any sense of excitement or wonder.

The only company that will benefit from this campaign is whoever clipped the ticket on all the media.

The last five years have been difficult for everyday New Zealanders. All BNZ has proven with this effort is that they’re charging enough in fees to afford a multimillion dollar TV commercial. Between the dehumanising scale of production and the intentionally American setting, I wouldn’t be surprised if most New Zealanders find the message here to be quite intangible.

Who in New Zealand finds themselves in philosophical turmoil over having money?

It’s unfortunate for BNZ that their campaign drops at a time when Campbell Live has been generating a great deal of awareness around local child poverty. New Zealand is a financial treadmill. Even for those that work hard, this is a difficult country to get ahead

For most New Zealanders, money isn’t good or bad. There’s simply not enough money in circulation for it to even be a factor. Our wages are comparatively low. We have no natural resources. And New Zealanders are notoriously late-adopters, which makes this country a toxic place to start a business.

Simply put, having money is not a problem we’re familiar with.

What we are familiar with is having debt. And the banks are the ones loading us up with it.

The frustrating outtake for most customers will be – ‘why is a bank telling me what to do with my money?’

And for the savvier customers – ‘why is a bank that needed bailing out just a few years ago telling me what to do with my money?’

Meanwhile, the savviest customers will be armed with information like this:

The corportate gentrification of Britomart and the working man’s beer.

28 Sep

New Zealand is experiencing a rebirth. So far it has been concentrated here in Auckland, where the Britomart development seems to be spreading like the Early Roman Empire. It’s a distinctive style – a look and feel born of design agency, Shine. A look and feel that has been emulated by everybody since.

For the most part, it’s good. Auckland is looking better than ever. You’re never far from a half-decent cafe with a funky fit-out. The new retail spaces are quirky, but slick. Pop-up spaces are popping up, and interesting things are popping into them.

I remember the first time I visited Shaky Isles in Kingsland – the first of Shine’s interior projects. It felt great, special, like nowhere else in town. I remember wishing that more spaces in Auckland looked like that cafe. And now they do. All of them. Even the High Street fashion designers – Karen Walker, World, Kate Sylvester – have upped and moved, adopting the Britomart style in the process. The ubiquitous ‘slick and quirky’. The look and feel of New Auckland.

Premium design? I call it corporate gentrification.

And recently it’s reached the threshold where instead of making Auckland a nicer place to be, it’s making it feel conformist, devoid of spirit, actively shittier.

I feel the same way about New Zealand beer. As the craft community has risen from obscurity, mainstream brands have been attempting to take on the small guys by positioning their faux-craft beer in the premium space. The packaging? Slick and quirky premium design. All the while, the very same brands have been driving their generic lagers into the premium space to compete with Heinekin. The premium space is occupied. It’s full. There is no more room here for new entrants.

After a decade of breweries harping on about ‘premium mass-produced lager’ (as if that even exists), they’ve succeeded only in creating for themselves a competitive gridlock. A Mexican standoff. And no one is willing to back down.

My incredibly stylish cool-hunting brand genius pal Laura Ford and I have been discussing this conundrum, and what New Zealand beer brands ought to do about it. The solution is part comms, part design restoration job. It involves bringing heritage brands back to life – harking back to simpler days, when beer was cheap but hard-earned.

The working man’s beer. A lost cultural artifact in the over-gentrified Auckland City.

Here’s an American brand that is doing it well.

And as far as Auckland cafes go – I’ll stick to the usual, thanks. Mmm. Dank.

Whose job is it to name things anyway?

4 Sep
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