This image was captured from my office window last Friday, just before I left town for Miami to speak (again) at FUSE (I’ll be back here later with my FUSE thoughts, but in the meantime):


Looking back, I guess it must have been an April Fool’s Day prank, simply intentionally stalled work in progress, not evidence of any hesitation or re-thinking the full name: U.S. Bank Stadium.

FUSE 2015 is off to being yet another amazing, inspiring event for brand strategy and design professionals. The keynote speaker for day one was Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer of 3M, who delivered a very interesting presentation called: “Future Forward: Beyond Design Tourism.”

Little did Mr. Quint know that he set the table nicely for many of the points I ended up emphasizing during my presentation later in the day entitled “Back To (Trademark) School For Designers and Branding Professionals.” By the way, I was relieved the title of my presentation didn’t scare off too many attendees, it was a very engaged audience, with more questions than time to answer them all during the session, so a special thanks to all who attended.

After revealing that 85% of 3M’s business is B2B, Quint emphasized how important design is to the organization so well known and recognized for its innovation and science. But, instead of spending time and effort justifying or explaining the need for design within the organization, his preferred and recommended approach is: “Show, don’t tell . . . . the value of design.”

If that recommendation sounds familiar, you may recall that Bob Worrell, founder of Worrell Design uttered a similar message in a recent webinar that we collaborated on together:

“One of the important takeaways from our recent webinar entitled “Strategies for Owning Product Designs,” was spoken by legendary product design guru Bob Worrell of Worrell Design: “There is another adage in the design world. Advertising is the very expensive penalty you pay for poor design. I think if we listen to that adage, we’d talk less and let the product do its thing.” (quote at 1:22:31)”

Then, in that same webinar, Derek Mathers, Business Development Mananger of Worrell went on to describe how Apple is doing a masterful job of this in launching the Apple Watch, using advertising that shows the operation of the watch’s product benefits and features without uttering a single word. Apple is walking the walk, without the need for using any words.

Back to FUSE, Quint noted the majority of 3M’s value proposition for design promotes differentiation and branding; only a small amount (10-20%) focuses on optimization of products.

So, my articulated hope was that when marketing types are tempted to communicate in advertising about product optimization, little bells and whistles should alert them that the words they choose have significant legal implications that can undermine, if not destroy altogether, a brand owner’s ability to own the created design (at least as a non-traditional trademark).

My call to action for us all was to work together to Bring Down the Bauhaus Principle of Form Following Function when it comes to communicating about product design features, opting instead for the use of more brand-friendly language that strives to create emotional connections as opposed to merely touting the benefits of functional product features. Loyal DuetsBlog readers know full well where that kind of loose talk can lead. So, “show, don’t tell” became my mantra too, given the serious negative consequences resulting from ads touting function.

Quint also described how 3M created a set of visual standards around the highly recognized red 3M logo instead of tinkering with the logo itself, sharing this compelling Tom Fishburne cartoon:

brandguidelinescartoonI simply love this cartoon; it helped me make the point about how every set of brand guidelines I’ve ever seen forbids the use of brand names as verbs, yet we all know brandverbing has become commonplace, and the current generation of marketing types appear unwilling to blindly follow black and white rules without fully testing and probing the true risks of losing trademark rights through the worst case scenario of genericide.

To the extent your brand desires the emotional engagement of verbing, and you’d like to advocate for a hall pass to avoid wearing an orange jumpsuit behind the bars of your favorite legal department, here is some recommended reading from our archives to consider: Managing The Legal Risk of “Verbing Up” Brands and Trademarks.

Last year at FUSE 2014, I spoke about “The Intersection of Brands, Design, and the Law,” this year — and a short ten days from now — I’ll be sharing some valuable thoughts about how to gracefully navigate the many legal pitfalls of naming and re-branding projects.

FUSE — one of the premier brand and design conferences — has brought together another all-star cast of speakers for 2015.

We’re especially looking forward to hearing from Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer of 3M, Peter Borowski, Head of Design for Kraft, and Steven Overman, Kodak’s newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer.

One of my goals in presenting “Back to (Trademark) School for Designers and Branding Professionals,” will be to empower attendees to avoid shooting their clients in their metaphorical feet by unwittingly undermining the ability to own what they create for their clients.

I’ll also seek to help attendees understand the proper balance and the line to avoid crossing in trademark and brand protection and enforcement matters, to avoid the inevitable media shaming and loud allegations of “trademark bullying” when the line has been crossed.

Let us know if you plan to attend, we hope to see you there!

If you are unable to join us, then at least follow Capsule’s coverage of this fantastic event.

Aaron Keller, Managing Principal, Capsule

You may have plenty of excuses for missing FUSE this year. Perhaps budgets were cut in favor of quarterly earnings, learning is no longer important to your organization, or inspiration has been limited to watching TED videos between meetings. Whatever the reason, we’re not judging, just looking to help fill your knowledge gap on what you missed. So here it is: the slightly amusing and even more slightly inspiring version of the events at FUSE 2014.

Design Thinker as Economic Contributor: the economic value of design was pushed up from several fronts. The DMI economic value study was discussed in significant detail and other thinkers brought forth further evidence of the contribution design makes to the economic engine.

Wicked Speed of Retail: Design an Adaptive Behavior: Dave Moore spoke on the adaptive nature of running marketing, brand and design for Ethan Allen. Then, Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador, Barneys gave the audience a retrospective on his window designs for retail, showing us all how he has adapted to culture and retail.

Decades of Design Innovation: the legacy of Nike in the world of design, innovation and creative thought is already written. Tinker Hatfield, VP Creative Concepts faced the audience by video conference and gave us a peak inside the large shoes he filled in the history of Nike. And, in a speech Phil Duncan, Global Design Officer at P&G gave us a great view inside the “chief” suite along with lessons on how we can keep the C-seat warm.

If this wasn’t enough, the CEO and Chief Design Officer of Pepsi Co, Indra Nooyi and Mauro Porcini (and his red shoes) made a visit to the FUSE stage. And, the most authentic representation of the Chipotle brand in William Espy’s speech on how they are changing the economics of better food sourced from better origins. Add to this list, The Associated Press,, David Carson, Colgate, SC Johnson, and many others.

After going back over this list of memories, photos, tweets and blog posts it occurs to me that the FUSE conference packs more inspiration for the investment than any other design, innovation or brand conference. Bold? Yes. Rational argument for attending next year? We hope. If you don’t agree yet, read the blog, browse the tweets. If you’re still suspicious, call or email me: 612-702-6286, and I’ll talk you through this year and the previous three years of this inspired gathering of thinkers, leaders, academics and activists in design.

Aaron Keller, Principal, Capsule

We partook in the sharing and enjoyed the conversations.

The FUSE Conference, is not about splintering. It also isn’t about specialization or close-minded thinking. FUSE is about the disciplines of design, marketing, brand and research being brought together in a way that makes for a more engaged consumer, audience or customer. We partook in this fusion of ideas, conversations and felt right at home with the idea. Capsule was framed this way since our inception, hence we believe in Duets and the understanding around creativity and the law. This conference was like wading into a warm familiar body of water, something we know as well as Mr. Baird knows his hot tub. Our participation was both physical and digital, we wrote for their blog, tweeted and met with friends, colleagues and potential clients.

You can enjoy the topics discussed on their blog post or Twitter feed (#FuseDesign), even after the event. The posts are a great way to catch up on a world that took place while you had your nose deep into other work. You’ll find some interesting perspectives and perhaps some thoughts you’ve heard before. On a whole, you’ll get a feel for the energy around a conference like FUSE.

So what? Who doesn’t want a better designed world? This may be true, but we wonder how many people are changing behaviors in this direction. For instance, if you’re an IP lawyer, have you ever considered attending the FUSE Conference? We would suggest anyone in the practice of protecting original content (read Intellectual Property) spend some time with those who create it. The FUSE Conference is a high-level blend of people who design content for clients. We believe you’ll walk away inspired, at a minimum, and highly connected with people creating tomorrows design content on the maximum side.

We would like to reach out to those thinkers who believe in the idea behind FUSE and ask them to connect with Capsule. We enjoy connecting with like-minded individuals and find the digital mediums are great to start a conversation that will eventually result in a handshake and eye-to-eye conversation. Reach out to us and we’ll share more about FUSE and the effort we made to digitize a conference experience through the social tools available to us. If it takes you a few minutes to craft a sentence, this digitizing approach to a conference isn’t for you. But, the conference itself is.

Thank you to Mr. Baird and the firm of Winthrop & Weinstine for promoting the fusion of creativity and the law. We believe in it. We live it.