Cold Takes

Beer Weekend

(First published on 2/11/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more)

Hopefully everyone isn’t checking email and is instead out doing something else — anything else. Like perhaps enjoying Beer Week if you happen to be in San Francisco — as I’m about to myself. But just in case you wanted a few things to read this weekend…

5ish Links

The LaCroix Label’s Secret History

Ashlea Halpern spoke to some design folks to get their takes on the garish LaCroix label and branding:

Douglas Riccardi, owner and creative director at Memo NY, a graphic design studio specializing in restaurant branding, is both fascinated and dumbfounded by LaCroix’s success. “It goes against everything I stand for as a branding expert and designer,” says Riccardi, who counts Mario Batali’s restaurants among his clients. “The logotype is not especially well-crafted. The pattern on the cans looks like the love child of Monet and Grandma Moses.”


But some designers still talk about LaCroix with open disdain. “The only compliment I can make to [LaCroix’s] packaging is that it defies all the rules of design, given that the logo is barely legible over that swirling hangover puke,” says Matteo Bologna, president/creative director of Mucca Design, whose clients include Whole Foods, Gray Goose, and Sephora. “Compliments to them for playing all the wrong cards and still beating the house.”

The branding really is amazingly awful. So much so that it’s immediately recognizable and comforting, in a weird way.

The Cup Pattern You See Everywhere…

Along those same lines, Josh Williams shared this one with me, looking into the backstory of the above design we all have seen many times over the years on our generic cups and plates. Thomas Gounley was able to track down Gina Ekiss, who designed the “jazz” pattern in the early 1990s:

“They came back and said that was the one they wanted to go with, and what did I call it,” she said. “I had no idea. So I had to come up with a name for it, so we just called it jazz.”

The design was similar to something she had designed in college, Ekiss said, rejecting the idea that she ripped off another cup company’s design. Teal and purple were her two favorite colors.

How much did she make for the now-ubiquitous design? Around $35,000 — her salary she was paid at Sweetheart, not a penny more.

Channeling Steve Jobs, Apple seeks design perfection at ‘spaceship’

Julia Love on Apple’s nearly-complete “spaceship” campus:

When construction wraps, the only fingerprints on the site will be Jobs’. Workers often had to wear gloves to avoid marring the delicate materials, said Brett Davis, regional director of the District Council 16 union for painters and related crafts.

“It’s like a painting that you don’t want to touch,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be something to see, if they let you in.”

Which is a joke, but also a serious point. For all the work and craftsmanship that went into this thing, how many people are really ever going to see it? Just Apple employees? Will they do tours? That certainly doesn’t seem like a very Apple-like thing to do…

Apple Hires Amazon’s Fire TV Head to Run Apple TV Business

Mark Gurman:

Apple Inc. has hired Timothy D. Twerdahl, the former head of Inc.’s Fire TV unit, as a vice president in charge of Apple TV product marketing and shifted the executive who previously held the job to a spot negotiating media content deals.

Does this finally mean Apple is going to take the device more seriously? Each year there seem to be indications in that direction, but then the device falls back into neglect. Presumably this is because they simply have not been able to strike the content deals they want. But at this point, it just doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

This isn’t the music industry pre-iTunes, this is an industry that is changing fast. Netflix and Amazon are at least as important going forward as the traditional TV guys. And Apple seems to at least somewhat recognize this with their new “TV” unified interface on the Apple TV (as well as iOS devices).

Of course, that area doesn’t include Netflix content. And in general, it seems to be a hodgepodge of content with an overbearing interface. It’s pretty bad. Not quite iTunes-bad. But bad.

NFL ratings were down all season, and there’s no reason to think they’ll get better next year

Peter Kafka:

But even with all of that improvement, NFL games still lagged. Pre-election, ratings were down 12 percent over the previous year. And after the election — and including the playoffs — they were down 5 percent, MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson notes.

Add it all up, and overall ratings were down 9 percent through the regular season and down 6 percent for the playoffs, Nathanson calculates.

We kept hearing how the NFL ratings declines were simply tied to the election. They would go back up after the hoopla died down. Nope.

The Super Bowl did very well, as expected, but not record-breaking. Despite all the Patriots intrigue — and the fact that it ended up being an amazing game — it was only the fifth most-watched game.

Quick Hits

The woes of Windows 10

The Economist:

Despite its having been available for 18 months, three out of four PC owners have not bothered to upgrade their computers to the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 10. More than 700m of the world’s 1.5bn or so computers continue to run on Windows 7, a piece of software three generations old. A further 300m users have stuck with other versions — half of them stubbornly (and rashly) clinging to 16-year-old Windows XP that Microsoft pensioned off three years ago. The business world has been even more recalcitrant. In a recent study by Softchoice, an info-tech consultancy, corporate computers were found to be running a whole gamut of legacy versions of Windows. Fewer than 1% of them had been upgraded to Windows 10.

Microsoft literally could not give the software away for free.

How to Succeed in Business

Michael Bloomberg:

At Salomon, I was “demoted” as head of equity trading and sales to head the emerging computer systems area. If I hadn’t gotten fired from Salomon, which became part of Citigroup, I wouldn’t have gotten a $10 million severance, used my electrical engineering degree to begin my own information technology company and program a computer terminal for bond traders. I’d be working for my girlfriend now, who’s on the board of Citibank!

Time can turn failure into success.

Searching for Shrunken Dimensions

The Economist:

One putative explanation, known as ADD after the initials of the surnames of three of its inventors, invokes extra dimensions to account for the difference. Gravity, this theory suggests, “spreads out” through these dimensions, dissipating its strength. The other forces, by contrast, are confined to the familiar three spatial ones, plus time. ADD conceives of the extra dimensions as being shrunken, compared with the familiar ones. But it suggests they should be detectable in the gravitational interactions of objects less than 100 microns apart. Measuring that is tricky, but Dr Geraci’s apparatus is one way of doing so.


500ish Words

Twitter, Still Exploring…

On Twitter’s new “Explore” tab… Which is useless.

(First published on 2/11/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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