“Social Objects are the future of marketing.”


1. note to social media mar­ke­ting dorks: the hard currency of the inter­net is “social objects”.

[One of my favo­rite recent “Social Objects”: a car­toon I did for Racks­pace.]

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the rea­son two peo­ple are tal­king to each other, as oppo­sed to tal­king to some­body else. Human beings are social ani­mals. We like to socia­lize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a rea­son for it to hap­pen in the first place. That rea­son, that “node” in the social net­work, is what we call the Social Object.

For as long as I’ve been invol­ved with the Inter­net, I’ve seen the SAME OLD DISCONNECT appear again and again AND AGAIN i.e. the dis­con­nect bet­ween how the Inter­net ACTUALLY works and how the social media mar­ke­ting dorks like to PRETEND how it works.

Case in point: From Steve Jones’ blog:

Today I recei­ved an e-mail that said “Like us on Face­book and win”. Later in the day I wal­ked into a store and on the door was a sign that said “Like us on Facebook”.That’s like Billy Joel asking me to buy his album. It is like wal­king into a party and having someone say “Be my friend and I’ll buy you a drink”. In a word, it is pathetic.

Damn right it’s pathetic.

Note to Social Media Mar­ke­ting Dorks: The hard currency of the Inter­net is not Face­book “Likes” or Twit­ter “Ret­weets”, as flavor-of-the-month as they might be. By them­sel­ves, they’re worthless.

The hard currency of the Inter­net is “Social Objects”.

i.e. Social Objects for peo­ple to SHARE MEANINGFULLY with other people.

You’re either crea­ting them or you’re not. And if you’re not, you will fail, end of story.

I’ll admit, it frus­tra­tes me some­ti­mes. Peo­ple often think gaping­void is selling car­toons. We’re not. We’re selling Social Objects. That’s what the Cube Gre­na­des are. That’s what our pitch is.

I guess I pro­bably need to work on it some more…

[The Social Object archive is here…]

2. social objects for beginners

Even though I’ve been blog­ging about it fore­ver, some peo­ple still get con­fu­sed by what a Social Object actually is. So I wrote the follo­wing to cla­rify some more:

Exam­ple A. You and your friend, Joe like to go bow­ling every Tues­day. The bow­ling is the Social Object.

Exam­ple B. You and your friend, Lee are huge Star Wars fans. You two inva­riably geek out about Darth Vader and X-Wing figh­ters every time you meet. Star Wars is the Social Object.

Exam­ple C. You’ve pop­ped into your local bar for a drink after work. At the bar there’s some ran­dom dude, sen­ding a text on this neat-looking cellphone. So you go up to him and ask him about the phone. The ran­dom dude just LOVES his new phone, so has no trou­ble with telling a stran­ger about his new phone for hours on end. Next thing you know, you two are hit­ting it off and you offer to buy him a beer. You spend the rest of the next hour gee­king out about the new phone, till it’s time for you to leave and go meet your wife for din­ner. The cellphone was the social object.

Exam­ple D. You’re a horny young guy at a party, in search of a mate. You see a hot young woman across the room. You go up and intro­duce your­self. You do not start the con­ver­sa­tion by saying, “Here’s a list of all the girls I’ve gone to bed with, and some recent bank sta­te­ments sho­wing you how much money I make. Would you like to go to bed with me?” No, something more subtle hap­pens. Basi­cally, like all sin­gle men with an agenda, you ram­ble on like a yutz for ten minu­tes, making small talk. Until she men­tions the name of her favo­rite author, Saul Bellow. Halle­luiah! As it turns out, Saul Bellow hap­pens to be YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR as well [No, seriously. He really is. You’re not making it up just to look good.]. Next thing you know, you two are totally enve­lo­ped in this deep and mea­ning­ful con­ver­sa­tion about Saul Bellow. “Seize The Day”, “Her­zog”, “Him With His Foot In His Mouth” and “Humbolt’s Gift”, eat your heart out. And as you two share a late-night cab back to her place, you’re thin­king about how Saul Bellow is the Social Object here.

Exam­ple E. You’re an attrac­tive young woman, married to a very suc­cess­ful Hedge Fund Mana­ger in New York’s Upper East Side. Because your hus­band does so well, you don’t actually have to hold down a job for a living. But you still ear­ned a Cum Laude from Dart­mouth, so you need to keep your brain occu­pied. So you and your other Hedge Fund Wife friends get together and orga­nise this very swish Cha­rity Ball at the Ritz Car­le­ton. You’ve gues­sed it; the Cha­rity Ball is the Social Object.

Exam­ple F. After a year of per­so­nal trauma, you decide that yes, indeed, Jesus Christ is your Per­so­nal Saviour. You’ve already joi­ned a Bible rea­ding class and star­ted atten­ding church every Sun­day. Next thing you know, you’ve made a lot of new friends in your new con­gre­ga­tion. Sud­denly you are awash with a whole new pile of Social Objects. Jesus, Church, The Bible, the Church Pic­nics, the choir rehear­sals, the Christ­mas fund drive, the coo­kies and cof­fee after the 11 o’clock ser­vice, yes, all of them are Social Objects for you and new friends to share.

Exam­ple G. You’ve been married for less than a year, and already your first child is born. In the last year, you and your spouse have acqui­red three beau­ti­ful new Social Objects: The marriage, the first­born, and your own new family. It’s what life’s all about.

There. I’ve given you seven exam­ples. But I could give THOUSANDS more. But there’s no need to. The thing to remem­ber is, Human beings do not socia­lize in a com­ple­tely ran­dom way. There’s a tan­gi­ble rea­son for us being together, that ties us together. Again, that rea­son is called the Social Object. Social Net­works form around Social Objects, not the other way around.

Another thing to remem­ber is the world of Social Objects can have many layers. As with any com­plex crea­ture, there can be more than one rea­son for us to be together. So any­body currently dating a cute girl who’s into not just Saul Bellow, but also into bow­ling and cellpho­nes and Star Wars and swish Cha­rity Balls as well, will know what I mean.

The final thing to remem­ber is that, Social Objects by them­sel­ves don’t mat­ter in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it’s nice han­ging out with Lee tal­king about Star Wars. But if Star Wars had never exis­ted, you’d pro­bably still enjoy each other’s com­pany for other rea­sons, if they hap­pe­ned to pre­sent them­sel­ves. Human beings mat­ter. Being with other human beings mat­ter. And since the dawn of time until the end of time, we use wha­te­ver tools we have at hand to make it happen.

As I’m fond of saying, nothing about Social Objects is roc­ket science. Then again, there’s nothing about “Love” that is roc­ket science, either. That doesn’t mean it can’t mess with your head. Rock on.

[Link:] Mark Earls has some nice thoughts on this, as well. “Things change because of peo­ple inte­rac­ting with other peo­ple, rather than tech­no­logy or design really doing things to people.”

[N.B. “Social Objects” is a term I did not coin myself, but was tur­ned onto by the anth­ro­pol­gist and Jaiku foun­der, Jyri Enges­trom.]

3. more thoughts on social objects


Here’s some more thoughts on the sub­ject, in no par­ti­cu­lar order.

1. The term, “Social Object” can be a bit heady for some peo­ple. So often I’ll use the term, “Sha­ring Device” instead.

2. Social Net­works are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The lat­ter act as “nodes”. The nodes appear before the net­work does.

3. Gran­ted, the net­work is more power­ful than the node. But the net­work needs the node, like flo­wers need sunlight.

4. My ove­rall mar­ke­ting the­sis inva­riably asks the ques­tion, “If your pro­duct is not a Social Object, why are you in business?”

5. At the Dar­den talk in 2007, I explai­ned why geeks have become so impor­tant to mar­ke­ting. My defi­ni­tion of a geek is, “Some­body who socia­li­zes via objects.” When you think about it, we’re all geeks. Because we’re all enthu­sias­tic about something outside our­sel­ves. For me, it’s mar­ke­ting and car­too­ning. for others, it could be cellpho­nes or Scotch Whisky or Apple com­pu­ters or NASCAR or the Bos­ton Red Sox or Bhud­dism. All these act as Social Objects within a social net­work of peo­ple who care pas­sio­na­tely about the stuff. Wha­te­ver industry you are in, there’s some­body who is gee­ked out about your pro­duct cate­gory. They are using your pro­duct [or a competitor’s pro­duct] as a Social Object. If you don’t unders­tand how the geeks are socia­li­zing– con­nec­ting to other peo­ple– via your pro­duct, then you don’t actually have a mar­ke­ting plan. Heck, you pro­bably don’t have a via­ble busi­ness plan.

6. The Apple iPhone is the best exam­ple of Social Object I can think of. At least, it is when I’m trying to explain it to some­body unfa­mi­liar with the concept.

7. The Social Object idea is not roc­ket science.

8. How do you turn a pro­duct into a Social Object? Ans­wer: Social Ges­tu­res. And lots of them.

9. Pro­ducts, and the ideas that spawn them, go viral when peo­ple can share them like gifts. Exam­ple: gmail invi­tes in the early days.

10. Social Object can be abs­tract, digi­tal, mole­cu­lar etc.

11. The inte­res­ting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the con­ver­sa­tions that hap­pen around them. The Blue Mons­ter is a good exam­ple of this. It’s not the car­toon that’s inte­res­ting, it’s the con­ver­sa­tuons that hap­pen around it that’s interesting.

12. Ditto with a bottle of wine.

13. Once I get tal­king about mar­ke­ting, it’s hard for me to go more than 3 minu­tes without saying the words, “Social Object”.

14. The most impor­tant word on the inter­net is not “Search”. The most impor­tant word on the inter­net is “Share”. Sha­ring is the dri­ver. Sha­ring is the DNA. We use Social Objects to share our­sel­ves with other peo­ple. We’re pri­ma­tes. we like to groom each other. It’s in our nature.

15. I believe Social Objects are the future of marketing.

4. social objects and home­less people.

So I’ve been thin­king some more about Jyri’s Five Prin­ci­ples of Social Objects, espe­cially how they apply to gapingvoid:

1. You should be able to define the social object your ser­vice is built around. In gapingvoid’s case, that would be the car­toons for the most part. The straight wri­ting part I’m less con­cer­ned about.

2. Define your verbs that your users per­form on the objects. For ins­tance, eBay has buy and sell but­tons. It’s clear what the site is for. The verb that springs to mind is “share”. The Inter­net is awash with peo­ple, using my car­toons.  My CC licen­sing terms are pretty open.

3. How can peo­ple share the objects? The key word here is “re-publish”. In 2007, Microsoft’s Steve Clay­ton was pro­bably the most well-known of my “re-publishers”, as he was always using the Blue Mons­ter car­toon for dif­fe­rent things. Nowa­days, peo­ple at Racks­pace are doing the same with my cartoons

4. Turn invi­ta­tions into gifts. Again, the Blue Mons­ter car­toon would serve as a good exam­ple. Mic­ro­soft emplo­yees hand out Blue Mons­ter sch­wag as an invi­ta­tion to start a con­ver­sa­tion about Mic­ro­soft. The Blue Monster’s main func­tion is not about the mes­sage, the Blue Mons­ter is about the social gesture.

5. Charge the publishers, not the spec­ta­tors. D’accord. The peo­ple who putthe car­toons on their busi­ness cards are doing the paying, not the peo­ple recei­ving them.

Somewhere along the line I figu­red out the easiest pro­ducts to mar­ket are objects with “Socia­bi­lity” baked-in. Pro­ducts that allow peo­ple to have “con­ver­sa­tions” with other folk.Seth Godin calls this qua­lity “remarkablilty”.

For exam­ple: A street beg­gar hol­ding out an ordi­nary paper cup cup won’t start a con­ver­sa­tion. A street beg­gar hol­ding out a Star­bucks cup will. I know this to be true, because it hap­pe­ned to me and a friend the other day, as we were wal­king down the street and a guy asked us for some spare change. After­wards, as we were com­men­ting about the rather sad para­dox of a home­less guy plying his trade with a “luxury” cof­fee cup, my friend said, “Star­bucks should be paying that guy.”

Actually, my friend is wrong. Starbuck’s doesn’t need to be paying the home­less guy. Because Star­bucks crea­ted a social object out of a paper cup, the home­less guy does their mar­ke­ting for free, whether he knows it or not.

Although I sus­pect he does. I sus­pect somewhere along the line the poor chap figu­red out that hol­ding out a Star­bucks cup gets him more atten­tion [and spare change] than an ordi­nary cup. And sud­denly we’re seeing social reci­pro­city bet­ween a home­less per­son and a large cor­po­ra­tion, without money ever chan­ging hands.Wha­te­ver your views are on the plight of home­less peo­ple, this is “Indi­rect Mar­ke­ting” at its finest.

And of course, the way I mar­ket my car­toons and my other various enter­pri­ses is not all that dissimilar…

[The Social Object archive is here…]

5. “social mar­ker”: the social object on steroids.

Inc­rea­singly I’ve been using a term, “Social Mar­ker” to desc­ribe a cer­tain type of Social Object. I’ve found it espe­cially use­ful for explai­ning cer­tain ideas to mar­ke­ting folk.

When two peo­ple meet, the first thing they try to do is place each other in con­text. A social con­text. So they insert some hints into the conversation:

“I used to know your Uncle Bob.”

“I work at Saatchi & Saatchi’s.

“I’ve been rea­ding Mal­colm Glad­well for years.”

“I’m a mem­ber of Soho House.”

“I was rea­ding Doc Searls’ blog the other day.”

“I was college room­ma­tes with your ex-girlfriend.”

“I was sam­pling some fine Islay sin­gle malts the other evening.”

“I bought some Ver­sace shirts from Barney’s last week.”

“You’re a Green Bay Pac­kers fan too?”

“I think Andy Warhol is overrated.”

“I think Led Zep­pe­lin is underrated.”

“I was having din­ner with some guys from Gold­man Sachs.”

“My wife thinks the Upper West Side is really good for schools.”

“San Tro­pez is too expen­sive in February.”

Every ecosys­tem has its own, uni­que set of social mar­kers– nouns that serve as social shorthand, stuff you use to let other peo­ple know ASAP that you know what you’re tal­king about, that you are a fellow “citi­zen” in a given space.

When I visit San Fran­cisco I am always sur­pri­sed how often the name of my friend, Robert Sco­ble comes up in ran­dom con­ver­sa­tion, unpromp­ted by myself. Why is that? Why is he so well known? Is his blog REALLY that good? Is he REALLY that smart and interesting?

Well, I could give a whole stack of rea­sons to explain why I think Robert’s suc­cess is well-deserved. But one major rea­son that his blog’s traf­fic is so high, and his name so well-known, is that his per­so­nal brand has somehow mana­ged to become a Social Mar­ker inside the Sili­con Valley ecosys­tem. The same could also be said for Mike Arring­ton, Paul Graham or Mark Zuc­ker­berg. Drop­ping their names into ran­dom con­ver­sa­tions allows peo­ple to quickly and effi­ciently con­tex­tua­lize themselves.

Something simi­lar hap­pe­ned to me a cou­ple of years ago. A artist friend of mine was hit­ting on a girl, another artist, in a bar in New York’s Lower East Side. For wha­te­ver rea­son, the sub­ject of “Art and the Inter­net” came up. So my friend star­ted telling the girl about this other friend of his, who used to live in New York, who drew these weird little car­toons on the back of busi­ness cards and publishing them online…

“That is SO uno­ri­gi­nal,” the girl inte­rrupts, rolling her eye­balls. “Who does he think he is, Hugh MacLeod?”

Heh. Small world. Yes. She was using me as a Social Marker.

Social Mar­kers are a prime form of social shorthand, that peo­ple use to STAKE OUT the ecosys­tem they’re occup­ying. So why do I find this such a use­ful term for mar­ke­ters? Because obviously, if your pro­duct is a Social Mar­ker in your industry ecosys­tem [the way the iPhone is in the mobile world, or Star­bucks is in the cof­fee world, or Ama­zon is the book world, or Goo­gle is in the search world, or Whole Foods is in the super­mar­ket world, or Vir­gin is in the air­line world, or English Cut in the bes­poke world etc etc] you will have an AMAZING com­pe­ti­tive advan­tage to call your own.

And if the pro­duct your com­pany makes is not a Social Mar­ker, I guess the first ques­tion would be, “Why the hell not?” Quit your job and start over.

[NB: Everything above so far was ori­gi­nally writ­ten and pos­ted elsewhere on this blog, back in the day. Goo­gle it if it mat­ters to you etc.]

[The Social Object archive is here…]

6. “hire gapingvoid”:

we’re currently accep­ting new pri­vate and cor­po­rate com­mis­sions a.k.a. “social objects”. please read on for some selec­ted case stu­dies, or for more back­ground theory, read the com­mis­sion archi­ves.  thanks!gapingvoid@gmail.com

Tra­di­tio­nal adver­ti­sing doesn’t work very well.

Sure, it tries, and tries hard, but most of the time, it fails.

It fails far worse now than it ever did during the gol­den era of TV or print. Those days are gone. We live in The Inter­net Era now.

Old, tra­di­tio­nal adver­ti­sing was all about crea­ting mes­sa­ges for the media, not about crea­ting social objects for the peo­ple using the media.

“Social Objects” is what makes the Inter­net work, what makes the Inter­net possible.

Without the social objects, there would simply be no World Wide Web.

Social objects are part of the Web’s very DNA.

In The Inter­net Era, an ad that isn’t first and fore­most a social object, is use­less waste of money. Even if we’re not tal­king about the Inter­net, per se.

Which is why I inven­ted “Cube Gre­na­des”social objects in car­toon form, desig­ned to star real con­ver­sa­tions bet­ween people.

To me, Cube Gre­na­des aren’t just about car­toons. Cube Gre­na­des are  about something far more impor­tant– they’re about doing something that crea­tes real change bet­ween peo­ple, that crea­tes something that actually mat­ters to people.

Social Objects: I use car­toons. What do you use? Serious question.



The groovy cats over at Shit Creek Con­sul­ting com­mis­sio­ned me to design them their busi­ness card.  After loo­king at the half-dozen or so ideas I pre­sen­ted to them, they chose the one above.

Shit Creek are a Mic­ro­soft Gold Part­ner. It seems a big part of their busi­ness is coming in and clea­ning up the mess left behind by the large tech con­sul­tan­cies [I’m not naming any names]. So that’s the idea I ran with.

The name of their com­pany implies they have a lot of atti­tude. They wan­ted a car­toon that con­ve­yed this. Easy. It was a fan­tas­tic com­mis­sion and I’m very happy with the car­toon they chose.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


For the last five years I’ve desig­ned the pos­ter for the annual Techc­runch Party. This is the one I did for July, 2010.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


A “cube gre­nade” com­mis­sion I just com­ple­ted for Thought­works, the glo­bal IT con­sul­ting company.

Thought­works has this term, “Water­me­lon”, to desc­ribe a pro­ject that goes terribly wrong, that looks all well and good on the outside (green), but as the pro­ject comes to an end, turns out to be a huge ol’ expen­sive mess on the inside (red). I just took the idea and ran with it.

We’re going to turn this design into a 100 large fra­med prints, as Christ­mas pre­sents for their clients. A fun little “con­ver­sa­tion star­ter” to hang on their walls… which of course, is what the the whole cube gre­nade idea is all about. “Art With Pur­pose” etc.



“The pro­ces­sor is an expres­sion of human poten­tial”. Exactly.

“Sili­con chip as metaphor for blank can­vas.” Exactly.

So this was my idea for my client, Intel. You know, the big mic­ro­pro­ces­sor com­pany. “Sili­con Chips” etc.

First I drew a wee doodle of a mic­ro­pro­ces­sor, like the one above.

Then I added a tagline to the image. “The pro­ces­sor is an expres­sion of human potential”.

This was my “blank can­vas” to start with, as it were.

And then I star­ted to fill said blank can­vas with ima­ges. As demons­tra­ted below:

The ima­ges them­sel­ves don’t mat­ter per se. The fact they were drawn by me doesn’t mat­ter, either. That’s not the point.

The point is, as always, human poten­tial. And what Intel can do to help said human poten­tial reveal itself.

“The pro­ces­sor is an expres­sion of human poten­tial”. Exactly.

“Sili­con chip as metaphor for blank can­vas.” Exactly.

Then I added the Intel logo and their tagline, “Visibly Smart”.

We prin­ted these up as fine art prints. Then I hand-signed them at the Intel stand at the 2001 CES (Con­su­mer Elec­tro­nics Show) in Las Vegas. You can seethe pho­tos here on Flickr.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


[“Sac­red Zom­bie Cow”. Click here to down­load free high-rez down­load etc.]

Thanks to David Gam­mel of Orgpreneur.com for the great com­mis­sion. Backs­tory here.

A “Sac­red Zom­bie Cow” is David’s term for an idea that still lives within an orga­ni­za­tion, that has long out­li­ved its usefulness.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


Recently I com­ple­ted one of my most ambi­tious pie­ces in a while– a pri­vate com­mis­sion from Tara, for her boy­friend, Remi’s birthday.

Go here to check out all the pho­tos and the com­plete backstory.

[Though I haven’t tal­ked about it too much on the blog, yes, I do pri­vate com­mis­sions. Feel free to con­tact me at gapingvoid@gmail.com if you want to dis­cuss further, Thanks.]

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


February, 2010 I flew to St. Louis, to give a talk at Purina, the giant pet food com­pany that’s owned by Nestle. It was their big, annual digi­tal sum­mit. All their top digi­tal mar­ke­ting folk (and their top ad agency digi­tal folk) were there.

I tal­ked about “Social Objects”, and how I believe they are the future of mar­ke­ting.

Above is the print they com­mis­sio­ned me to draw for them. I like how it tur­ned out. “All pro­ducts are infor­ma­tion” refers back to something I wrote a few years ago, “The Kine­tic Quality”.

How often do large, well-known com­pa­nies call you up and ask you to draw a car­toon for them? Exactly. I’ve wor­ked in the tech world for big clients before– Sun, Dell, Mic­ro­soft etc– but this is my first­com­mis­sion with a large, FMCG brand (Fast-Moving Con­su­mer Goods). Not to men­tion, I’ve always held Nestle and Purina in very high regard. So natu­rally, I was pretty exci­ted. Rock on.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]

viii. FIZZ

I did this cube gre­nade for Fizz, the well-known Word-Of-Mouth mar­ke­ting agency [They did all that ground-breaking stuff for Pabst Blue Rib­bon etc.].

This idea is so sim­ple… do I really have to explain it? Exactly.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


These are three from an ongoing series of cube gre­na­des I was com­mis­sio­ned to do for Racks­pace, the large hos­ting com­pany in San Anto­nio. I was hired by Rob La Gesse [he’s the same guy who hired uber-blogger, Robert Sco­ble], to create new ideas/messages in order to shake things up inter­nally. So far it’s working.

[You can see the Racks­pace car­toon archive here.]

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


Jerry Colonna used to be a Ven­ture Capi­ta­list. He was EXTREMELY suc­cess­ful as a part­ner with Fred Wil­son at Fla­ti­ron Part­ners. Before that, he was an invest­ment ban­ker on Wall Street.

Then he deci­ded he wan­ted out of the busi­ness. He had made his money, he now wan­ted to give back.  He wan­ted to teach.

After teaching busi­ness clas­ses at CUNY in New York for a little while, he set him­self up as a busi­ness coach. A damn good one.

“A bit like being a shrink,” he told me, “but more business-focused.”

A big part of his modus ope­randi is not telling peo­ple what to do with their busi­nes­ses, but trying to get them over their fears of achie­ving that which they MUST do, if they want to become the peo­ple they one day hope to be.

“The issues my clients fear the most tend not to be the actual stuff out there– com­pe­ti­tion, cash­flow, mar­ke­ting,” he says, “but the worst-case ima­gi­nary sce­na­rios. ‘The Mons­ter Inside Their Heads’, as it were. So a cen­tral tenet to what I do is hel­ping them to get over The Monster.”

So he com­mis­sio­ned me to draw a Monster-themed sig­ned, fine-art print to give away as pre­sents to his best cus­to­mers and allies. Something to keep on the office wall as a cons­tant reminder.

I was glad to do it. I’ve always got my fair share of Mons­ters, myself. Rock on.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


A wee com­mis­sion I did for crashcourse.ca, an edu­ca­tion resource. Yes, I wrote the head­line. Go see.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


My old adver­ti­sing buddy, Vinny Warren, com­mis­sio­ned me to draw him a Cube Gre­nade for his Chicago-based ad agency, The Escape Pod.

“We are not in the adver­ti­sing busi­ness, we are in the decom­mo­di­fi­ca­tion busi­ness” is a line of mine that Vinny has been borro­wing from me for a while now. So it see­med appro­priate to design something around that.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


Tim Porthouse over at Zealeap.com com­mis­sio­ned this design for his com­pany. The copy at the bot­tom (which I wrote) reads:

“when a busi­ness stops crea­ting, it dies. when a busi­ness stops crea­ting cul­ture, it dies. busi­ness cul­tu­res are not crea­ted, they are re-created. busi­ness cul­tu­res are not crea­ted, they are co-created. without colla­bo­ra­tion, there is no crea­tion. a busi­ness that does not unders­tand its own cul­ture. does not unders­tand its own busi­ness. cul­ture mat­ters. the world has got­ten too inte­res­ting and too com­pe­ti­tive to think other­wise. rea­lity is scary. rea­lity is wonderful.”

Cul­tu­ral Trans­for­ma­tion, Baby. That’s where it’s at these days. Exactly.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]

xiv. HNI

A cube gre­nade I did for HNI Insu­rance.

A lot of HNI’s truc­king clients ope­rate with pro­fit mar­gins of around 2%. Ouch.

I like the car­toon just because it’s bru­tally in-your-face and to the point. No mes­sing around.

Of course, the easiest way for their clients to inc­rease their mar­gin, is to lower their risk. Which is where HNI comes in. Ker-chiing.

[More HNI car­toons here etc.]

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]



In early 2009 I was hired by a Bra­zi­lian ad agency, agen­ciac­lick to create a pri­va­tely com­mis­sio­ned edi­tion of the Cube Gre­nade above.

As with my other clients, they didn’t want these prints just for them­sel­ves; they wan­ted to give these out to their clients, as con­ver­sa­tion starters.

“All brands are open brands? Huh? What does that mean? Do you agree with it? Why? What does “open” actually mean? What does “brand” actually mean…?” You get the pic­ture. The same idea that made The Blue Mons­ter so suc­cess­ful. Again, it wasn’t about the mes­sage, the object. It was all about the social.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


The Blue Mons­ter was a cartoon-based “Social Object” that me and my Mic­ro­soft buddy,Steve Clay­ton, unleashed on the good but unsus­pec­ting folk at Mic­ro­soft back in 2007. For those unfa­mi­liar with it, you can find the backs­tory here on Goo­gle. It’s pro­bably my best-know idea to date.

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]

xvii. LINE2

One of car­toons I did for the  hackthephonecompany.com cam­paign for the client,Line2, the SF-based VoIP com­pany.

Yeah, we went after AT&T. Naughty us.

[The Line2 car­toon archive is here.]

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]

xviii. RACKSPACE 2

There seems to be a con­ver­sa­tion hap­pe­ning inter­nally at my client, Racks­pace. Spearhea­ded by peo­ple like Robert Sco­ble and the guy who hired him (and who also hired me), Rob La Gesse.

“Don’t be normal”.

Who wants a “nor­mal” job, anyway?

Who wants a “nor­mal” emplo­yer, anyway?

Who wants a “nor­mal” life, anyway?


So why not say it, loud and proud?

So I drew some car­toons on the subject.

I’m thin­king they’d make great rec­rui­ting posters…

[P.S. At the time of pos­ting these on the blog, Rob hadn’t seen these car­toons yet. He lets me post my ideas “live”, without having to go through him first. THAT IS WHY I’m psyched to be wor­king with Rob and Racks­pace. Just so you know.]

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]


Jeff Sand­quistRobert Scoble’s old boss at Microsoft’s Chan­nel Nine, com­mis­sio­ned me to design this busi­ness card for him.

He wan­ted a design that wor­ked for both techies and non-techies alike. Something that made him appear both good at his job, but still a human being etc.

Fun! Thanks, Jeff!

[The com­mis­sion archive is here…]