Seen & Heard

2015: Favorites

For us, this was a year of doubling down on two of our favorite things, strategy and storytelling. From there, we journeyed into exciting marketplaces and expanding worlds with some of our favorite clients ever. Here are some of the things that enriched us along the way.

tools & sustenance

book: Between the World & Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
I spend a lot of time thinking about the American Experience. Thanks to this profound and eloquent essay, I’m now seeing it through a different lens.

book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
In an age of increasing clutter and self-replicating information, here is a refreshing and radically practical guide for getting to simple. Written with the home in mind, it applies no less to the office and hard drive.

film: The Salt of the Earth
Wim Wenders’ portrait of the photographer Sebastião Salgado travels to the ends of the earth and the extremes of the human condition. If you’re looking for a story that somehow can carry you from despair to redemption, look no further.

vid: Mayer Hawthorne—A Long Time
A few years old but well worth a return visit for its exuberant Detroitness and winking celebration of the community TV spirit.

retweet: @TheIndy People: The Bank of Canada is urging Star Trek fans to stop ‘spocking’ five dollar bills

app: Todoist
A productivity app that doesn’t collapse of its own weight. Personally endorsed by Graham Banks, account director par excellence.

dinner in the Bay Area: Torc
A refreshing note of classical refinement takes all the superbly sourced ingredients somewhere a little less expected in this worthy downtown Napa venue.

dinner in Detroit: Antietam
The food scene in the D is taking off, and this industrial-meets-deco fine dining experience is one of our faves. Plus, it’s just downstairs from the new office.

quote: “Story is a sublime practice that makes us recognizable to ourselves.” Stephen Jenkins as quoted in The Sun.

brand frontlines
A plain naming land grab? As we prepare to accept the manifold blessings of a whole new era of intelligent, connected products, look for the names that identify them to be simple and friendly—less about evoking technology than about making a strange new world feel reassuringly familiar. Nest has set a good precedent.

The commoditization of innovation. In some categories, innovation is now so expected that we’re hearing it talked about as an ingredient of products and services rather than an aspect of the process that leads to them.

Rise of the ankle biters. It’s getting harder to position around offering a comprehensive solution with its implied benefit of one-stop convenience. In many categories, it’s time to deliver something of higher value. Like, maybe, interoperability or more comprehensive data insight?

Storytelling as a forcing function. If you can’t agree on your strategy, see if you can get excited about your story and reverse engineer your business priorities from there. We swear we’re seeing it happen.

Brands on the battlefield. Increasingly, in the mainstream media we read about organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda thinking of themselves as brands, or about the need to craft counter-brands no less compelling to call prospective adherents away from those brands. If anything speaks to the power of a well-crafted brand in our world today, soberingly, this is it.

two smaller non-profits we stand behind

Food Craft Institute
Arming food entrepreneurs with resources, knowledge and inspiration. A catalyst for building local and sustainable economies.

Purple Rose Theatre Company
The home of world-class, original American theatre. Live from Chelsea, Michigan.
If you’d like to see a show, just let us know.

one consumer goods company we swear by

Criquet Shirts
Since working on their story, we’ve joined them on their quest for the perfect shirt. Our wardrobe reflects it.

in memoriam

Michael Copeland (1960-2015)
He knew how to tell a good story, and to live one. On what turned out be our list visit, in June, we swapped martini-infused tales about “the stuff that really matters” from the front lines of life and parted with a bear hug.

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