Archive for the ‘Failure’ Category

Tue 24 Feb 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Failure, Typography

An appreication: Tropicana packaging, 2009-09

Item: The new Tropicana juice carton, designed by Arnell Group and introduced last month, is so loathed by customers that PepsiCo is switching back to the old design.

Let us raise a glass of juice and toast Tropicana for messing with the juice carton! The rejected design (which, by the way, took 30 people five months to develop) was just right for these times. It had simple graphics, bold san-serif type and a functional color scheme. The only illustration was a picture of the product in its purest form: juice in a glass. The horizontal bar on the top of each carton made it easy to spot the kind of juice you wanted in the supermarket. And best of all, the Tropicana carton included exactly one whimsical indulgence: A plastic cap shaped like an orange – easy to grip and twist, a surprise-and-delight feature.

Unfortunately, customers were unprepared for this bold leap toward modernism. And Tropicana caved once initial feedback proved negative. (Wasn’t at least one of those 30 design people in charge of customer research?) I enjoy orange juice at breakfast, and this carton was a nice thing to look at for a few seconds every morning. It will be missed. [Sound of “Danny Boy” being played on bagpipes.]

Mon 22 Dec 2008 1:19 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Media, Technology

Duh: Digital TV switch is confusing

As you may remember, back in April I upgraded my TVs to get digital reception. It was easy for me to figure out (as a technical person who pays attention to the news), but I wondered if the average TV viewer would go to the trouble of requesting the $40 government coupons and buying the converter boxes. People are busy. Who even bothers to think about how their TV works? (I get the feeling most people don’t understand that digital TV, HDTV and LCD television sets are not all the same thing.)

Today the Times reports what should have been obvious: The digital TV switch will be an epic mess. Millions of people will lose their TV signals in February and not understand why. And it’s a problem that will disproportionally affect the poor (who don’t have cable or satellite TV). From my observations, the problem will render useless the TVs in almost every laundromat, gas station, and corner store in my neighborhood. At my apartment (near the top of a hill that faces the Empire State Building, a mere eight miles away) I’ve totally lost channel 13, New York’s PBS station. I’m guessing that millions of households in New York City are about to be cut off from Sesame Street. Meanwhile, the couple of extra digital channels I’ve gained are mostly wasted on weather loops and traffic cameras.

Winners here are telecom companies, which are getting more spectrum, and the federal government, which is selling it to them.

Thu 6 Nov 2008 10:17 am   //   Posted in: Failure, In the news

Scapegoat found

When the going gets tough, accuse somebody of not knowing Africa is a continent!


Related: All previous posts about Sarah Palin.

Fri 31 Oct 2008 8:45 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Media

Violin players on the Titanic

I am scared. Amid all the media layoffs we’ve seen this quarter, the two most troubling ones happened in the last week: Radar magazine folded and sold its Web domain to AMI (to be re-branded as a celebrity site), and Portfolio scaled back and basically gutted its Web staff.

Why do I single out these two smallish, New York-centric publications? Because Radar and Portfolio had kick-ass Web sites. Good writers, smart design, lots of breaking exclusives, and a trustworthy reputation that led other sites to link to them and drive in quality traffic. They did everything right. And from what I understand, they drew big numbers from demographics that ought to have appealed to advertisers. The fact that neither Radar Online nor was sustainable totally crushes the idea that media companies can succeed by publishing content for free online.

But online journalism makes so much sense! It’s cheap and easy to do! There’s an obvious, and growing, demand for it! And even if it loses money now, online advertising will save us! It just needs a couple of years to catch up.

That was my die-hard belief until I read a very persuasive post by Henry Boldget on Silicon Alley Insider: Let’s Be Serious: Online Display Ads Will Fall Sharply In 2009.

I have been chewing on that idea over the last few days as I’ve watched one publisher after another slash their editorial staffs. While print staffs are getting hit hardest, online staffs are not protected by some halo of future projections. They’re getting axed, too.

What if everything we think we know about online advertising is wrong? What if we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that just because something is fun and useful, it also must be a good business? What if this is as good as it gets?

Happy Halloween!

Thu 16 Oct 2008 11:39 am   //   Posted in: Failure

FAIL is not going out of style

Christopher Beam writing in Slate:

“Most Internet memes have the lifespan of fruit flies. But there’s evidence to suggest fail is here to stay. For one thing, it’s easier to say than failure.”

See also: The Onion: Failure Now An Option.

Thu 2 Oct 2008 8:11 am   //   Posted in: Failure, In the news

“There would be others…”

Things would be swell, but for those liberal reporters and their “gotcha!” questions!

(Direct link)

As a reminder, Sarah Palin has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho. The more of these clips we see, the more I sense my degree in journalism depreciating.

Mon 29 Sep 2008 4:26 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times

Blame real estate

“I used to live next door to a Russian émigré. One day he asked me to explain something that puzzled him about his new country. ‘This place seems very rich,’ he said, ‘but I never see anyone making anything. How does the country earn its money?’ The answer, these days, is that we make a living by selling each other houses.”

Paul Krugman in The New York Times, August 12, 2005.

Fri 26 Sep 2008 6:39 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times, It's a trap!, TV commericals

Did this TV commercial sink the economy?

(Direct link.)

Sat 13 Sep 2008 9:08 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Transit

We deserve a better rail system

Regarding the Metrolink crash near Los Angeles….

A grisly accident like this is an unfortunate blow to public transportation. It cost at least 25 lives, according to news reports, and will scare some riders away from trains. It should be a wake-up call that the West Coast badly needs to upgrade its passenger rail infrastructure.

The crash in California is being blamed on human error: An engineer failed to stop for a red signal. But this kind of wreck could only have occurred because of California’s clunky, obsolete train system. On this route, two trains in opposite directions were routinely running on the same stretch of track. Why the singletracking? Because a tunnel, dating to the early 1900s, was never made wide enough for two trains. Obviously it is possible to operate a railroad safely with this limitation. But it means slower trains and a greater risk of catastrophe due to human error.

In a first-class rail system – like the electrified passenger trains in most of Europe, or the Northeast Corridor in the U.S. – trains in opposite directions can be segregated to separate tracks. These modern rail lines are also engineered to avoid grade crossings, passing above or below the cars on the street. Some also have technologies to stop a train even if an engineer fails to heed a signal. But in the rest of the U.S., passenger trains have been on life support since the 1950s. Most passenger lines (including the Metrolink commuter trains) have to share track with freight trains and to contend with grade crossings. California, despite its good environmental record, is still a state totally ruled by the automobile. It deserves a substantial investment in improving its trains.

Thu 11 Sep 2008 8:05 am   //   Posted in: Failure

Build this ugly building already

Freedom Tower

I am sure the terrorists didn’t realize they were attacking New York at a time when city and state bureaucracy was completely logjammed. In retrospect, The Port Authority should have immediately dug out the blueprints from the 1970s and started putting the towers back where they stood. They could be up by now, symbols of hope and defiance. But what really happened? A developer produced drawings of buildings even more boring than the World Trade Center, and sat on the land for seven years while a tangle of quasi-government authorities churned out delays and excuses.

If you haven’t seen Ground Zero and are curious about what the site looks like now, I recommend the photos shot by my friend Mark Lennihan, who has been covering the redevelopment for the AP. You can see some of his aerials this week on The Big Picture (check out photos 9-12, 16 and 17).