For San Francisco Design Week Open Studios, my team at Cogs & Marvel decided to create a few interactions that demonstrate how we approach experience design. This one, Senseploration, plays with crossmodalism, the interaction of two or more senses. Inspired by the ‘gastrophysics’ work of Dr. Charles Spence at Oxford, we created a controlled experiment to determine whether color and sound can affect perceived taste.
Working with local chocolatier, Kiki’s Cocoa, we commissioned custom chocolates with four flavor notes and then asked guests to sample them in two different environments, answering a digital survey about which ones tasted more sweet, bitter, grassy and spicy. As predicted, the audience detected different flavor notes in the different spaces with different visual and aural cues.
Multi-sensory play makes experiences more dimensional and interesting, as well as more accessible to those whose primary sense might not include sight, sound, or touch. Having more ways to engage a narrative means more guests can participate.
Working as the Brand Experience Director for Mod, I collaborated with a world-class team of thinkers, artists and makers to build a brand reflecting the scope of the Mod concept. Designed to be a future workplace experience, the Mod concept included a network of retail spaces defined by hospitality, built for wellness, and powered by custom technology. Looking at language, the built environment, menus, workday rhythm and future trends in the growing mobile workforce, I designed the user experience across the customer journey, from discovery to engagement through long-term loyalty.
Together with some of the most inspired minds I’ve encountered, I imagined a new way to work on the go. We built spaces, products, tech, menus and experiences around a single idea: Loving the way you work. PSFK spotlighted us as an emerging retail trend. The SF Chronicle said our space “looks like a spread in Monocle.” Bloomberg noted that “When WeWork won’t work, there’s Mod.” And lifestyle maven, SF Girl by Bay understood that “it’s all about hospitality and wellness.”
Mod is an immense source of pride for myself, lead designers Jeremy Stewart and Lisa Mishima, and all of the experience design team.
That Lady Thing is a digital and experiential activation born on International Women’s Day at the agency Eleven. My team of seven women (and one enthusiastic male ally), conceived a fictitious place—at the time called The Lady Factory—that borrowed from the trend of pop-up selfie museums, but instead of candy and confetti, we embedded our backdrops and installations with messages about the wage gap, gender bias, women in leadership, and objectification. Styling itself as “part speakeasy, part speak out”, ours is pop-up with purpose.
After a one-night activation, the outreach from women, press, and brands inspired us to make the thing real so we designed more wallpapers, built better exhibits, recruited sponsors, and aligned with the National Women’s Law Center to raise money for work that serves women in the workplace and the world.
In August 2018, we popped up in San Francisco and hosted 1500 women and attracted press attention—both traditional and influencer—that reached over 116,000,000 viewers. Check out the stories in Artnet, The Guardian, Eventbrite, The SF Chronicle, 7x7, Brit+Co, Rue Magazine, and OMG, even The Beeb.
Windy Chien is an artist and an entrepreneur, whose rich career story includes working at Apple to build the iTunes experience we know today, and owning/operating the legendary Aquarius Records. Now, she’s a widely celebrated working artist whose knot pieces and rope installations grace homes, galleries, museums, and public spaces around the globe.
Naturally, I was honored when she asked me to collaborate on her book project (Abrams 2019) The Year of Knots. Together, we mapped elements of her process and experience to organize, integrate, and articulate the many layered textures of her life and work.
It’s a gorgeous book, generous with wisdom, insights, and practical advice for how to leave your corporate life behind and pursue your preferred practice. Obviously, you should order a copy or three.
Local wellness outfit Urban Remedy sought to stand apart from other popular juice cleanses, which felt, in turns, too clinical, too hippie or too homespun. With a desire to emphasize fresh, organic ingredients and fantastic taste, I created a brand voice and a naming architecture to match the inviting, flavorful product line. I guess you could say I wrote the book on Urban Remedy—because I did that, too.
While competitors occupied the realms of science or new-age spirituality, we planted this brand firmly in two other spots: the soil and the kitchen. The Urban Remedy brand was so successful, it caught the attention of LA powerhouse venture firm Science, Inc. and received its first million in funding. And another juicy tidbit: Cindy Crawford declared it her favorite raw food line and signed on as a brand ambassador. So, you know, supermodel approved.
On International Women’s Day 2019, my team at Cogs & Marvel staged the second edition of That Lady Thing at the iconic Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco. When we learned the hotel is owned and managed by a mostly female team, we knew it was the perfect place for the next iteration of our gender equality themed pop-up activation. This edition added new exhibits and layers of live performative content, as well. We partnered with DesignSake Studio to present a game show about The Pink Tax. We featured contortionist Dwoira Galilea trapped in a patriarchal bubble. We commissioned hand-lettered calligraphy from artist Hope Meng for a projection installation called “Getting Medieval on the Patriarchy” and hand drawn artwork for our lifesize tarot cards from Raisa Yavneh. We also teamed with the ass-kicking organizers for social justice at Malikah to stage self-defense demos. And just for good measure, we created scratch & sniff wallpaper called “Smells Like Toxic Masculinity.” And yes, it actually stinks. Just like misogyny.
You can follow the project on Instagram @thatladything_official to learn about upcoming pop-ups and partnerships.
I worked with genius director Ian Colon to co-write and produce this little noir number for the band, An Intimate Evening With Michael Shaw. Inspired by The Maltese Falcon and Lolita, we crafted a story and shot it in three iconic locations around San Francisco and Marin over two days. And despite setbacks—like pesky hotel fire alarms and hideous flu bugs—we prevailed in making something truly beautiful.
Every day, I hear another person talking about the cresting wave of the cannabis industry. It is truly The Green Rush, attracting investors, farmers, entrepreneurs, microdosing tech bros, and good old fashioned stoners, like moths to a flameless vape.
Its been fascinating to watch the pot trade evolve from head shops and High Times to a modern, curated luxury industry. And from what I can see, nobody’s doing cannabis branding better than Kiva, an artisanal line of CBD confections. Of course that’s because they partnered with the fantastically talented design team at Stout, who brought me on to shape the brand narrative, craft the company story, and write the product packaging.
The takeaway: I found this project to be mellow and relaxing, good for socializing, with just the right amount of giggles, zero paranoia, and only occasional munchies.
Working with a hyper talented team of comrades and crew, I produced, cast and styled this video for the band, An Intimate Evening with Michael Shaw. Directed by Ashley Rodholm and shot by Tyler McPherron, it tells the story of a boy whose escapist journey leads inward. The piece was shot at Nick's Cove in Marshall, CA and stars Max Rumer, a little dude I discovered at my nephew's birthday party. While all the other maniacs were playing shoot-em-up video games—pew! pew!—he was at the piano playing Beethoven.
I made this Google spot with the brilliant creative minds at Autofuss in San Francisco. Art Director Yalda Zakeri and I concepted, storyboarded, and styled this piece, which required a robotic camera to operate in a single shot over the multi-plane surface of our set. And yes, that record player is spinning vinyl while mounted on a vertical wall surface.
Some notes from Director, Quba Michalski:
Utilizing Bot&Dolly's IRIS motion control system, we were able to not only guide the camera through the set over and over with sub-millimetric precision, but also to modify the move and iterate in the matter of just minutes.
Early on, we decided that we want to use really cool camera motion, but didn't want it to overcome the story. It is, instead, a reward for paying close attention -- the first impossible move happens much sooner than the easy-to spot flip from top to the side.
The entire spot has been shot practically in 3K, in two takes joined by a basic cross-fade. The only CG elements are the screen content, 3D text and color treatment.
...and the removal of cracks on the pie that happened after too much time underneath hot lights.
...and turning one of the tablets to correct orientation, because we placed it upside-down on the set.
But that's it. Promise.
OLLY is a brand new line of vitamins from the smarties who brought you Method. Sold exclusively at Target, OLLY products reimagine the act of taking your vitamins as a delightful, flavorful part of your day. I worked with the OLLY team to develop an enthusiastic, positive brand voice that reflects their fresh take on a tired industry. What a yummy project this was.
La Pitchoune is a family owned winery that blends old-world style with new-world innovation. To stand out in an industry fraught with clichés–both visual and verbal–it was essential that the La Pitchoune brand reflect a modern take on an age-old art. The sophistication and simplicity of the voice and design mirror the qualities of the wine itself.
People always seem surprised to learn that, in addition to my work in advertising and branding, I'm a professional ghostwriter with five books under my belt. Most people have never met a ghostwriter so they imagine it to be A Very Glamorous Thing To Do. I can assure you, it's not. The first question I'm usually asked is, "Do you write for celebrities?" and the answer is generally no, though I did pen a book foreword for a supermodel. And working with a supermodel goes just the way you might expect. While my ghosting contracts mostly stipulate that I must uphold confidentiality, I can share that I specialize in food-based topics and work closely with agent Sally Ekus. Ghostwriting has taken me places I never imagined, from a spot on the top 5 nutrition books on Amazon to the actual Amazon.
And to that other FAQ: Yes, I've thought about writing my own book.
The founders of superstar startup Tile wanted a simple website and video script to announce the crowdfunding campaign for their flagship product, a digital device that tracks lost things.
In one of the most astounding self-starter efforts in recent years, Tile beat their goal of $20K by 5000%, raising over $1MM (and growing) in pledged support. When there’s a great idea to work with, writing about it is easy and fun. I am so proud to have worked with such a brilliant team on such a cool new product.