7.18.2010

Just an image to celebrate passing my 300th blog post!!!!!!!

Renae sitting for yet another portrait.  My favorite kind of lighting, extant.

As I'm sure you've figured out, if you've read the blog for any amount of time, that I change my mind from time to time, switch gear with what seems to be reckless abandon,  have used the phrase, "reckless abandon" more than once in these writings, and generally get bored doing one thing over and over again.  So I was amazed when I looked at the blog stats yesterday and noticed that I had surpassed the 300 mark on entries.  Amazing to me.  We have an average of 1800 people a day (or original clicks) reading the stuff I've written and 396 people count themselves as "followers" of the VisualScienceLab.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain the "Visual Science Lab".  It started, as all great ideas seem to, at a Happy Hour in some forgotten watering hole.  If I remember correctly, my drink of choice at the time was the venerable "Cuba Libre" and I'm sure I had several at the end of some productive week back in the late nineties when clients had an excess of courage and an excess of cash.

I'd watched the virus-like intrusion of entirely unnecessary "consultants" into every fabric of the advertising and marketing industry.  From cost consultants on the agency side to content and metrics consultants on the client side.  The whole mysterious charade of "branding".   Even down to the clothing consultants who counseled CEO's and CEO wannabe's about what to wear and how to wear it.  We were at the ground zero of consultants here in Austin.  Even the city would blithely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on such pressing consultation needs as, "what color to paint the trash cans?" (five different "solutions" were offered and then the city was passed on to a "color consultant".  "Where should the busses go?" (On the streets!  There's another 1/2 million dollar consulting fee.....)

During the course of an unusually spirited happy hour discussion I proposed that I open a consulting company called, the Visual Science Lab.  I created a framework:  (tongue in cheek) that would describe as "scientifically based" our proprietary process and  tell our clients (big corporations, all) exactly what the visual content of their advertising should be.  The colors, the sizes and shapes, the type styles.....anything visual.  And we'd get our two cents in before the ad agencies even got involved.  It was all a lark.  

My elevator speech went something like this:  "Bob.  Every corporate marcom director since the dawn of time has heard the hoary old joke that one half of all their advertising spend is wasted.  And you know the punchline.  It's "if only we knew which half."  Am I right?  Well, we looked at the problem seriously, scientifically and analytically and decided to do something about it.  We've hooked up with the data mining sector at MIT,  and some really smart folks at Stanford, and we entered millions of consumer assessments and visceral measured reactions to colors, shapes and various measurable attributes of advertising: measured scientifically:  and devised a matrix that allows us to predict with a plus or minus four percent accuracy, just what a particular demographic wants to see, and will react to, in advertising."

"And Bob.  We can offer these custom assessments to your corporation for only a meager retainer of 1% of your total media buy a year.  If we're "on the money" you'll save 49% of your media spend, annually.  Dear God, you'll be a hero!"

And the sad thing is that I threw out that elevator speech for fun in front of some friends who actually were on the client's side and they wanted to know how soon we could get started.  There were, of course, no programmers mining this information.  No matrix.  No metrics.  Oh sure, we could have signed a contract and faked it for a while but our corporate ethics officer (Belinda) would have shut the whole thing down the minute she got wind of it.  It was a total fraud.  A silly story.  Like one or two modern religions created by old ad hacks.  But it did have its own legs.  

I've always liked the name and when I decided to blog it seemed perfect.  We are talking about a visual science.  And an art.  And wherever there's an intersection.............

If you work for a large company I'm sure you have plenty of tales you could tell of consultants.  My next cushy gig?  I think I'd like to be an expert witness.

In celebration of hitting (and surpassing) the 300 blog mark would it be too much to ask you to bring in a friend or two so we can keep growing?  It would certain keep me moving in the right direction......

25 comments:

John Krumm said...

Perhaps you could become the Anthony Bourdain of commercial photography, write the "Kitchen Confidential" of the photo world... Of course you'd probably never work again for your clients, but after the cable show gets going it might not matter... : )

Pete Appleby said...

Hi, Kirk. I like the funny side of this, it is funny in an ironic way. It's funny simply because there is a lot of truth in the situation.

I was a director in IT at a large electric utility for a short while. On my first day, I found that I was responsible for managing 20 employees and about 30 consultants. Over the first month, the number of consultants kept growing as new ones were found, not hired! At the end of the first month, I was up to 24 employees and 50 consultants, even thought not one new employee was hired or consultant retained. I couldn't stand it, did not stay there long. But I still remember this when I pay my electric bill every month...

Keep up the great blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this one anonymously because I'm still with the large computer company I'm writing about. Our chairman is in hot water, our company is in hot water with the SEC, our products suck like bottom feeders and it's all because we kept relying on consultants to "show us the way". Hell, we even hired one who eventually became CEO and almost ruined the company. Consultants suck. All of them. If you can't figure out how to run a company you shouldn't be running a company. Our CEO even has a psychological consultant. Doesn't make him any smarter.

kirk tuck said...

Okay, guys. Consultants suck. But can't we also just throw in a few celebratory words about my 300th post?

John Taylor said...

very entertaining historical note, and a glorious portrait

Alex Solla said...

Three hundred posts and I STILL haven't gone all the way through them all! Damn that's a lot of information so freely given. Even after buying two of your books I feel like I owe you far more than a round of drinks. You also get kudos for having over 1800 visitors to your blog every day. That says it all. You have definitely made something I look forward to reading every day. Thanks for taking the time and energy to make it so worthwhile.

cheers.

Anonymous said...

Love the blog. Congrats on 300! Looking forward to the next 300.

Saad said...

Congrats on 300 mate! This is Sparta!

Anonymous said...

I need to do this one anonymously but, congratulations!

Also I'm a consultant, for a small IT type firm. We do consulting mostly for government departments, and I must say, the amount of money they (the Australian Government) wastes is amazing. There is a culture of non-accountability, so no one wants to be held responsible for anything which is why they hire consultants to do all the projects and offer advice.

Some of the stuff we do is genuinely useful, but a lot of the time I question the motives of the Govt for hiring us!

Dave Elfering Photography said...

300 posts. Here's to seeing at least 300 more because these have been golden. Thank you for taking the time to pass on both your knowledge and passion for the art of photography.

With regard to consultants, hopefully people aren't too hard on them. There's an old saying, who's worse an idiot or the one who follows them. Consultants need to be given very specific parameters. If you simply give them an open question then its a sign you have way too much money you don't care about :)

Sonshine Square Photography said...

Kirk,
Congratulations on your 300th post! I like this big round 300 number a lot and I'm sure you do too. I always look forward to your blog. Makes me think, smile and approach the visual science with much enthusiasm! Celebrate well, celebrate wisely. I'm sure you know how cause I don't. Reuel

Sonshine Square Photography said...

Kirk,
Congratulations on your 300th post! I like this big round 300 number a lot and I'm sure you do too. I always look forward to your blog. Makes me think, smile and approach the visual science with much enthusiasm! Celebrate well, celebrate wisely. I'm sure you know how cause I don't. Reuel

zijon said...

Congratulations with significant milestone reached! Keep your interesting thoughts exposed!

Mandáš said...

Cheery-ho Kirk!! Keep writing, i love your insights and the irony with which you offer your thoughts. I would be a poorer man without these daily readings :)

All the best!
Marino

Radu said...

Congratulations for making it to 300 posts! Considering how interesting most of them are for me, I must thank you for taking the time, energy and determination to keep this blog going and posting so useful ideas and stories!
I learned a lot about what it is to be a professional photographer and what it is necessary to survive and prosper in this business. Very interesting so thank you again!

Tyler Rogers said...

Congrats, Kirk.
I get my feeds thru google reader, and looking at the feed details there, it says that there are 1070 subscribers to your feed, so you may have even more fans than you thought!

I started reading your blog because I'm an Olympus shooter, and pros shooting with an E-3 are hard to find. But the true value of your blog is in the simple things, finding the essence of your photo and getting it right.

I'm a huge fan of your portraits, they're just simple and stunning with huge impact. They say that most people view an image for 2 or 3 seconds on average, but I find myself studying and really appreciating yours, because there's just that special something that you can't put words to.

Keep doing what you do, because as your fans prove, it's awesome.

Rick Dickinson said...

In a previous life, a long, long time ago, I worked for a Commodore Amiga dealer in Southern California. If you're familiar with the machines, you'll recall that they were highly prized for video production work, titling, and that sort of thing, as their video outputs could be synchronized to the frame rate of an external video source, allowing for a relatively simple "genlock" device to do computer overlays over live video.

While I worked at that store, I heard a (possibly apocryphal) story about the origin of the name of one of the most popular video editing tools for the Amiga.

At one point, a hotel chain (I forget which one) had gotten a fair bit of press for the rather silly "branding exercise" of having custom-built toasters made. These toasters had their heating elements arranged in such a way as to toast the hotel's logo onto the surface of the bread. Resolution was, of course, poor, and limited to a brown-on-light-brown palette, but for a simple logo, it worked quite well.

This silliness was discussed at length over drinks, and a number of "improvements" were suggested. It was proposed that the next step was clearly obvious: a competitor would, of course, have to escalate the current toast-branding war by coming out with a full-color "jelly jet" printer, that would allow the full-color replication of any text or logo desired. The dream of self-published customized toast documents would finally become a reality.

The inevitable followup was, of course, the idea that someone would then have to make a device to "slice feed" entire loaves of bread sequentially through a combination toaster/jelly jet printer, at a sufficient "slice rate" to allow for animation.

Thus, the NewTek "Video Toaster" was born.

Anonymous said...

You are amazingly prolific. In your spare time would you consider writing a video guide for still photographers? I think the market would be enormous and I can't think of anyone I'd rather read about the subject than you. Pretty please?

Stephen said...

wow-amazing number of posts--congrats on a milestone. a one comment pointed out, haven't through them all and you're still putting them out. Have enjoyed the books too. agree with the first comment-write a "confidential" book too!! never have commented before but had too today--as someone who just posted his first blog cannot imagine 299 more.

Anonymous said...

We're ready for the "tell all" book. Let it rip and we'll swarm Amazon.com

Ron said...

Kirk,

Happy 300th! I've been reading your blog since Day One and I was enjoying your random posts on strobist before that. (I don't hang out at DPReview, so I guess I missed all the fun and games there...)

Keep at it - looking forward to the next 300.

- Ron

Ezequiel Mesquita said...

Here`s looking at you Kirk! Congratulations and looking forward to the next 300...not for statistics sake, just because your blog rules!
Warm regards and best wishes!

Curt Schimmels said...

Here I was, saving my congratulations for your 317th post!

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Congrats from me as well Kirk, and thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos here. First thing I read through completely after returning from our trip to Malaysia.

Dave Jenkins said...

Congratulations on 300 posts, Kirk. I see you're off to an great start on the next 300 with your excellent piece on the Olympus Pens.

You can't blame consultants for taking the money if people want to hire them. But you know the old definition: A consultant is a person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is, then keeps the watch.