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Designers Share Creative Lessons & Insights From Eating Burgers
By Jillian Wong, 03 Mar 2014
Designers Christopher Simmons and Nathan Sharp of San Francisco-based design firm MINE have embarked on an unusual and fun project called ‘The Message is Medium Rare’, where they investigate the idea that inspiration and creativity can be found everywhere by eating a burger a week for 52 weeks.
The duo will visit specialty burger places, bars, fast food chains, food trucks and fine dining establishments, order their “signature” burger and analyze it as they eat it.
In an interview with Fast Company, Simmons said “The Message is Medium Rare is a reflection of how we think about creativity. My hope is that the project will inspire others to make their own oblique observations and apply them in their work.” He added that while other people may derive insight from infomercials or novels, eating burgers is his and Sharp’s way of slowing down and taking notice of all the information out there.
Some of the lessons the designers have gleaned so far include:
1. Manage first impressions.
Super Duper’s strategy of handing out free handmade pickles may seem insignificant but in reality it sends a powerful brand message that establishes goodwill and rapport with their customers. Priding themselves on keeping quality high and consistent demonstrates their values, which is more effective than sticking on empty taglines or boasting that they are “artisan” or “hand-crafted”.
2. Name the frame.
After Sharp remarked that a mushroom-filled burger from the Doc’s of the Bay food truck tasted “musty”, Simmons was inclined to agree and realized too late that by believing it, all other naming options were closed to him–hence the “musty” label stuck. The lesson learnt was: “When presenting creative options give each a name–this one is contemporary, this one is traditional, etc. If you don’t someone else will and you’ll be at the mercy of their label, not yours.”
3. You must be present to win.
Dining on overwhelmingly pungent bleu cheese burgers in an empty It’s Tops Coffee Shop was unpleasant enough, but it was the mystery of their disappearing waitress that led the duo to state that 90% of life is showing up, but the other 10% boils down to being committed. That means you can’t check out of a project–whether physically, mentally or temporarily–and still expect it to succeed.
4. Things happen.
Both designers were wowed by the burger at Pig & Pie; a simple but well-done made-from-scratch American wagyu beef patty accompanied by lettuce, onion and bacon jam. However their waitress admitted she had forgotten their order for an additional burger they were taking back to the studio to photograph. She apologized, placed the order and returned with two slices of lemon shaker pie on the house, avoiding a potentially bad dining experience. The takeaway was that you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive one by owning up to a mistake and fixing it.
5. Design is a balancing act.
The Classic Burger at Roam’s had so much lettuce that it overpowered the rest of its flavors; each bite contained copious amounts of bright green leaves that relegated the other ingredients to the background. The lesson here was it takes sensible editing and careful attention to proportion and scale to ensure a well-balanced design. Each aspect has its own place and part to play; assigning too much importance to a single feature, no matter how outstanding, distracts from the overall product and results in an imbalanced design.
Judging from the enthusiastic and thoughtfully-written reviews, it’s evident Simmons and Sharp are greatly passionate about burgers, but it’s the design lessons and observations they took away from each experience that provide an interesting and fresh perspective of looking at things.
They plan to turn their project into a book, and if you live in San Francisco, you’re welcome to join them on their burger expeditions.
To find out more about ‘The Message is Medium Rare’, follow the project at its website or on Facebook.
[via Fast Company, images via The Message is Medium Rare]
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