Thursday, November 13, 2008

Metaphors and boundaries and class

Late this summer, when Luker and I were splitting to do new things, I planned on making something to celebrate the couple of fantastic years we spent working together, but he beat me to it. He gave me a dozen layouts made from pages of the journal he kept while we worked together.

I had been writing something about what I learned working with him. I printed what I had, colorcopied some of my own journal pages, glued the pieces on top of the layouts he gave me, and gave them back to Luker.

Here is one of the pages.

Along with a lesson from Luker, this page contains a list of the essential qualities of an idea as written by the class of 12.3, and an upside-down drawing I made of a house, inspired by a friend's metaphor about boundaries.

Don't let people trample through your house, the friend told me. Close the door. Some people can come onto your porch. Some you let into your living room. A few people can come upstairs. And a very, very few are allowed into your bedroom.

Boundaries can be tricky in real life, and even more mysterious online. I speak into a dark, unknown, infinite auditorium. Yet being personal and open, it is expected in this space. How to do that without letting too many people - mostly unknown - into the house? What is the real-life corollary? To whom am I speaking? What do I talk about?

I was pondering these things the other night as I was falling asleep and kapow it hit me. Class. Of course that's what this is. Advertising class. I've been doing it since 1997. Bringing in anything and everything I find interesting, having a conversation about it, looking at it together through the lens of advertising, or branding, or storytelling, or whatever you want to call what we do for a living.

With that in mind, here's a photo I took today.

This has gotta be impractical, right? But from a brand perspective, from a story perspective, it's interesting to think about what seeing a cop wandering around downtown on a horse tells you about Portland's story, and why that is valuable.

If this were class, I'd ask you to take out your journal and write down some words that describe what Portland's story is to you.

Then we'd have discussion, and we'd probably hear that the Portland story has something to do with being green, young, creative, brainy, progressive, independent, unwashed, experimental, positive.

Then we'd talk about how we personally experience the story, what really happens in Portland to reinforce the story, to make it true for us. We'd probably talk about the rain, the number of coffee shops, Powell's, the mass transit system, PICA, the city zoning, the number of used clothes stores, Gus Van Zant. Cops on horses.

Then if we still had time, I'd ask you to gather in groups of three or four and talk about your own hometown and its brand/story and how you experienced it.

For homework, I would ask you to think of a large city with a strong, clear brand/story, or a city with a weak brand/story - indistinct, contradictory, or ill-defined - and bring in 3 images of experiences from that city that support your point of view. The more specific, the better.

Class has been interesting, I enjoyed it, thank you. You are welcome to stay on the front porch if you talk quietly. It's late. I am going inside. See you next week.


Peter Yue said...

we're still facebook friends... does that mean i'm on the lawn... ?

I'm Jelly said...

2/11/10 update: Things are picking up, Peter. I just started following you on Twitter. I think things are really developing. Come up on the porch. Can I get you a glass of iced tea?