Dark Matter favorite Martin Weigel published a rather wonderful piece this week on the need to retire the ‘brand as human’ metaphor — our tendency to ascribe human traits and characteristics to brands in order to drive distinctions which, he argues, have lost their distinctive meaning.

This much we know. Brands are memory structures in the mind.  They are the sum total of all our memories, encounters, impressions and associations connected with a brand.  And consciously or unconsciously accessed, they work to make a brand thought of in purchase and consumption occasions. In this way, they operate as heuristics, rules of thumb that by-pass the necessity to conduct an elaborate cost-benefit analysis of all the options available every time we are faced with choice. Viewed through this lens, brands are decision-making software.

This idea — brands as software — as a terrifically interesting lens through which to view a world that, as Russell Davies has been suggesting, is moving from ‘an age of persuasion to a world of usability’.

Piling on: Neil Perkin notes that the idea of brand as software aligns well with Clay Christensen’s notion of ‘jobs to be done’. This is worth reading, as well.

It’s about a month old, so we’re a bit late to the party, but Luca Benazzi’s piece on the tyrrany of testing over design is particularly smart stuff, well worth reading if you participate in much A/B testing and/or find yourself engaged in perpetual interface design iterations. This x1000:

the outcome of the split test can get invalidated by the fact that the design solution does not meet the design heuristics in the first place

On the other end of the making spectrum, Dusty Johnson published a list of 14 things to remember next time, for people who make ads (applies also to other creative endeavors, we think). This one, in particular:

Going into a project if you rise up early and everyone feels your passion, commitment and knowledge you will be in the final meeting.

Take a few minutes and read this interview with (fashion) designer Rick Owens on his working process, and why he doesn’t sketch. Those of you allergic to coarse language will want keep moving and find something else to click on.

We didn’t see two fashion design links in one email coming, either — though we aim to defy expectations: this meandering Bloomberg profile of Comme des Garcons CEO Adrian Joffe is full of thought-provoking ideas — most critically, how do innovate when you’re five years from the end of your run?

danah boyd is back at it, with five tremendous papers on the future of work, written jointly with Alex Rosenblatt and Tamara Kneese. Collectively, they cover some remarkable ground: the design of intelligent systems, technological artisans, networked employment discrimination, workplace surveillance and fair labor practices for a networked age. These are each worth bookmarking, friends.

If you’ve not read the brilliant Paul Graham’s latest on starting a startup, you’re missing out. This made it into our Evernote files:

starting a startup is where gaming the system stops working. Gaming the system may continue to work if you go to work for a big company. Depending on how broken the company is, you can succeed by sucking up to the right people, giving the impression of productivity, and so on. But that doesn’t work with startups. There is no boss to trick, only users, and all users care about is whether your product does what they want.

Esri’s zip code-powered community insights are worth taking a look at, if only because they provide what CityLab calls ‘a fascinating glimpse into how marketers see the world’. Here’s some of what the database has to say about Almighty’s home in Allston:

Believing that “you’re only young once”, we’re living life to the fullest, unfettered by home and vehicle ownership, and not ready to settle down. We’re young, educated singles with good jobs who spend our disposable income on upscale city living and entertainment…


A fascinating question legal and ethical question for an age of connected devices: who owns a connected object — the person who physically possesses it, the entity that legally owns it, or the entity that has the power to control it? It seems that it’s a very complicated question to answer.

Very interesting: it seems we can mathematically calculate stable measures of the health value added by individual physicians, in much the same way that we can calculate a baseball player’s win shares.

Welcome to the age of advanced vocational sabermetrics, kids:

Patients of physicians in the 75th versus 25th percentile of value added had, on average, shorter length of stay (4.76 vs 5.08 days), lower total costs ($17,811 vs $19,822) and higher discharge health status (8% of a standard deviation). Our findings provide evidence to support a new method of determining physician value added in the context of inpatient care that could have wide applicability across health care setting and in estimating value added of other health care providers (nurses, staff, etc).

Ben Edelman suggests significant hurdles for the adoption of Apple’s mobile payments rollout, namely human beings:

Apple Pay has the same problems as Bitcoin: There’s no reason for the regular consumer to use it,” he says. “Why would a consumer want to make a $100 purchase with Bitcoin when the consumer can pay with a credit card and get 2 percent cash back?”

We’re rather in love with I Quant NY — a Tumblr mining the massive public data troves of New York City. If that’s not really your thing, we get it — but please don’t swim in Coney Island Creek.

Our readers — and we adore you — tend to shy away in large numbers from our occasional forays into hard sociology, but this piece from Museum 2.0 on multi-cultural, cross-cultural and intercultural communities is really quite interesting — and likely germane to the work of most of you/us

Because we heart the Internet:  Insider joke alert: A List, A Fart — a brilliant parody of the usually-whip-smart A List Apart site had us smiling over the last few weeks, particularly with the promise of a <carousel> tag for HTML5:

One thing that doesn’t seem controversial is that business clients will be extremely pleased with the new tag. Louisville-area businessman William Coleman has loved the long-standing carousel on his site, but he hasn’t loved the cost.

You’re welcome.