Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 22, 2015 7:11 AM

If You're Really Interested In Podcasting...

One of the highlights of the TED conference this year was...

...Watching Roman Mars record an episode of his audio podcast, 99% Invisible, live in front of an audience. The topic of his TED Talk/podcast recording session was all about the design of flags. I want you to to stop and think about that. With all of the celebrities and amazing stories that are told on the TED stage, one of the most engaging and fascinating presentations was a guy, sitting behind a desk, recording an audio podcast (with a script) about the design of flags. While it does sound dry, it was anything but dry. Roman Mars is a master storyteller. And, the stories he's most interested in are about design. Not the design of objects that have captivated our attention, but the design of things that we see everyday that are - to riff on the name of his podcast - mostly invisible to us. Many brands and marketers are tinkering with podcasting (audio and video) more and more. The growth in podcasting continues to impress. More and more people are discovering this format, and are becoming engrossed by the depth of niche content that is available. Figuring out how to produce something worthwhile (with frequency and consistency) is a challenge. Storytellers like Roman Mars have mastered it.

What you have here.

There is no doubt that the content of this podcast is great, entertaining and informational. As a professional marketer, what makes this TED Talk that much more interesting is in watching how he builds his stories, edits them, pulls it together and turns it into a real show.

Watch this: TED - Roman Mars - Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed

By Mitch Joel


May 21, 2015 7:39 AM

The Art Of LEGO

"What do you want to do for a living?"

All of us grapple with who we have become. The work that we do defines us. As a parent, this is the question that we most fantasize about. As an adult, this is the question that we often reflect on when work gets tedious or we're simply ready for a change. On a recent flight, I was watching the science fiction movie, Interstellar. There's a part in the movie (don't worry, this is not a spoiler alert) when one of the characters says that once we become parents, our role changes, and all that we are is the memory of our children. All of us grapple with who we have become. The work that we do defines us. We attend events put on by The Art of Productions, because we continually want to do, think and be more in our lives. Over the years, work has become much more than the place that we go to earn living. Work has become the place that we go to, because we're hoping to be contributing to the world... and not wasting our time or clock-watching.

Imagine, if your recently-graduated-from-University child said to you that they wanted to build things with LEGO for a living. 

I can't remember when I first heard of Nathan Sawaya, but I knew his work long before I knew the artist's name. It was a large sculpture. It was all yellow. It was a human torso that was tearing its chest apart, spilling the insides out on to the table that the sculpture was sitting on. It was all made of traditional yellow LEGO bricks. That sculpture stopped me dead in my tracks. It was very evocative... almost disturbing. Still, it was made of LEGO. Those clickable bricks that little kids play with. Those little bricks that get jammed into our feet at two in the morning when we're trying to get a glass of water from the kitchen. Was someone making a joke? Was this serious art? A great piece of art does this. It moves you. Emotionally. Physically. It gets you thinking. After you experience it, you can't stop thinking about it. Delving online to discover who had created this piece - and if there was any more where that one had come from - you discover Nathan Sawaya. Sawaya was a corporate attorney in New York City, until he decided to leave that life to become a full-time artist working with LEGO bricks as his medium.

"It has been over ten years since I left the law firm to become a full-time artist," said Sawaya during a recent conversation from his studio in New York City (he has a second studio in Los Angeles). "LEGO is extremely popular and an important part of culture these days. When I first started doing this, LEGO was not as popular as it is now. Back then, I would get emails from people who were very interested in doing what I do. Now, the idea of becoming a LEGO artist is not that far-fetched. A lot of people are out there, using their bricks and supporting themselves professionally with a business that is LEGO-based in some way. Don't kid yourself, it has taken a while for the art world to really accept the idea of LEGO as an art medium, but now those same skeptical galleries are knocking on my door."

Sawaya had LEGO as a child (like most of us did).

It was something that was always with him. He would tinker with the connecting bricks in an attempt to mold their square shapes into the images that he had in his mind's eye. This child-like sense of wonder and discovery is something that never left him. He would hide bricks under his bed in college. At one point, he wondered if he could do a large scale object out of LEGO. If he could build a pencil out of LEGO, he began to wonder if he could  make one that is eight feet tall. With that, his art began to change towards themes, emotions and, eventually, the human form.

While Sawaya has a relationship with the LEGO company, he is not employed by them.

Like you and I, he purchases all of his bricks. The difference, of course, is that he purchases pieces by the hundreds of thousands, and he stocks his studios with millions of pieces so that his work can get done. All of the pieces in all of his works are regular pieces of LEGO that anyone can buy in any LEGO store. Sawaya is officially recognized by LEGO, and is the only person ever to be certified as a LEGO Master Builder and LEGO Certified Professional (yes, those are both real designations and serious designations that bring with it lots of employment opportunities). Over the years, he has created a lot of highly recognizable pieces including a seven-foot long replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, a life-size t-rex dinosaur, a six-foot-tall Han Solo frozen in carbonite (for the Star Wars nerds) and, most recently, those cute little Oscar awards that were made out of LEGO for the annual event. His exhibition, The Art of the Brick, continues to tour the world and he has published two bestselling books. In short, he takes this toy very seriously.

A great piece of art does this. It moves you. Emotionally. Physically. It gets you thinking.

"When I discovered that creating art out of LEGO bricks was going to be my career, I decided that I wanted to take on sculptures that would really inspire people... and move me in creating them," said Sawaya who is known to think about art elements in his work like spatial perfection and complex concepts. "I have to tip my hat to those folks in Denmark. They have made this product that the world loves. Not just kids. It is very multi-functional. The possibilities are endless. My art studio has over four million bricks in it. It allows me to explore when I have an idea, but I do want to push the envelope and come up with something different. The goal of any artist is to captivate your viewer for as long as you can. You want people to sit and view your piece - or even think about it - for longer than it took you, as the artist, to create it. In my case, this means weeks and months, so I'll see what I can do to make that happen. Even with that pressure, I am so profoundly thankful that this is the work that I get to do."

Now that you know Nathan Sawaya's story, let's ask the question again: what do you want do for a living?

The above posting is an article that I wrote for the magazine, The Art Of.... I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here: The Art of The Brick. If you happen to be in Toronto on Monday, May 25th, make sure to attend The Art of Marketing. I will be there as well.

Also, if you would like to listen to my entire conversation with Nathan Sawaya, it is right here: The Art Of LEGO With Nathan Sawaya - Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast.

By Mitch Joel


May 19, 2015 7:17 AM

The CEO Series

How are things going?

It's a question that I get asked a lot these days. Twist Image became a part of the WPP family about a year ago, we changed our creative direction, we rebranded and became a founding member of a new, global marketing agency called, Mirum, and now we're tweaking the work that we do to be more forward-focused and more representative of our clients needs (and where they need to be), when it comes to marketing and technology. It's an evolution. And, with that change comes both opportunities and challenges. Several months back, I was asked to be a part of The CEO Series. It's an in-depth radio show hosted by Karl Moore the distinguished associate professor of Strategy and Organization at McGill University's famed Desautels Faculty of Management. Moore's current area of interest is in postmodern leadership and globalization. He's also a contributor to the Globe and Mail, Forbes and beyond. Our conversation was broadcasted into select radio markets this past week. It was just posted online for anyone who wants to dive a little deeper into the agency business, how to market a business and where brands are headed.  

Here is our conversation: The CEO Series - Mitch Joel - President of Mirum

By Mitch Joel


May 17, 2015 9:21 AM

Storytelling For Startups

Episode #462 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

I first met Mark Evans close to fifteen years ago. We were both speaking during a three-day conference dedicated to corporate blogging. Yes, it was a long time ago. Long before social media was a channel. Back then, Mark was the technology reporter for a national newspaper and was open (but still, somewhat, skeptical) about just how far blogging could go. Since then, he's become the founder of a well known event called, mesh, and has become a full-time consultant that helps startups to tell better stories. With that, he most recently published a book called, Storytelling For Startups. But don't worry, if you're not a startup, this is all about story-driven marketing. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast #462.

By Mitch Joel


May 16, 2015 8:39 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #256

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another:

  • The Crazy Connection Between Color And The Existence of Life - Mitch Kirby. "The colors we see were driven by natural selection. Which happened because of the dangers we were looking out for, and the food we sought. Which has to be certain colors to turn sun into sugars. Turns out the colors we see are pretty specific to the way life occurs. But of course, this begs the question -- who's looking?" (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Beyond Clueless - Art of the Title. "What if all those teen movies happened in one big, hormonal, angsty universe? The long, slow hallway walk is a common trope in high school films. Here's what happens when you put them all together." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Tomorrow's Advance Man - The New Yorker. "Another profile of a brilliant techno mind, this time Marc Andreessen, creator of the first graphic web browser (Mosaic, which became Netscape, which morphed into Firefox), and now venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Why every executive team should have a Devil's Advocate - Financial Post. "Fascinating bit of study about major corporate decision-making. Dan Lovallo Olivier Sibony did an analysis of 1,000 business decisions made over 5 years, and rated the decisions as positive or negative, based on outcomes of revenue, profitability, market share and productivity. They were trying to understand what creates quality decisions. The answer is not analysis, but rather: process. That is, good analysis is a distant second to good process for making good decisions." (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Report on self-driving car accidents is in violation of good sense - Mashable. "I was lucky enough to have a test drive in one of Google's self-driving cars. It was a wild experience that completely changed my thinking about this technology. In short: the technology can 'see' a whole lot better than humans and it removes things like distractions and emotions. Once the drive was over, I was convinced. This happened several years back. I asked one of the Googlers about accidents, and they told me that the only accidents they knew about were caused by humans either trying to taunt the car or because of human error. Turns out that the technology is a lot safer than most people would have assumed." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • The Rise of Fast TV: Why Empire Is the Preferred Script Model - Vulture."Are things getting faster than they used to be? You start feeling like an old man when those kind of thoughts race between your earholes. TV feels a lot faster than it was before. I remember reading somewhere that the scripts for the famed TV drama ER were much longer than most other TV shows of the same length. The writer was trying to push the pace. Well, it turns out that TV shows are, in fact, getting faster. The pace is picking up for all shows... which means much more writing!" (Mitch for Hugh).

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


May 12, 2015 7:23 AM

You Have To Commit To Marketing

It's easy to say that something isn't working. We hear it all of the time (or, at least I do). I can be in a boardroom or just off to the side of the stage at an event, and someone... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 11, 2015 8:01 AM

Are You Living In A (Filter) Bubble?

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 10, 2015 9:00 AM

Jeremy Gutsche Wants You To Be Better And Faster

Episode #461 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Inspiration is everywhere. And, as they say, the future is here... it's just not evenly distributed. So, where do... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 9, 2015 8:04 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #255

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


May 8, 2015 7:25 PM

Maybe You're Not Really An Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is not the same as being self-employed. How would you define an entrepreneur? I have always broken it down like this: An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for a specific industry that does not yet... Read more

By Mitch Joel