On Resonance, Brilliance and Being Adroyt

Hi everyone; Saxon here! I have a bit of news today: adroyt will soon be moving into a new era. I’ve been bringing a new team together during the past three months, and as I’ve been composing the puzzle, the word “resonance” keeps coming up for me. The dictionary defines the non-technical meanings of the word as the deep, full, and reverberating quality of a sound, and/or the ability to evoke or suggest images, memories and emotions. My aim as I have been reorganizing is to create resonance with the new talent I am bringing on board. You’ll be meeting the new team as they attend events and client meetings with me, and share their thoughts on this blog in the weeks to come. It’s going to feel great to have a mix of intelligent voices here after the pause adroyt has experienced as 2012 segued to 2013.

The lull is definitely over as trade-show madness ramps up during the next two months so I thought I’d put my tweeting muscles to the test in preparation for the melee by joining some of my favorite blogging stars, design writers and editors, and publicists for an elegantly orchestrated event hosted by the team at Miele USA last week. They tantalized our taste buds with savory flavors in the Miele Gallery, and in the Poggenpohl and Hastings Tile and Bath showrooms, and it was wonderful to see Tamara Matthews Stephenson because our paths had not crossed in a while. I was also very excited to finally get to meet Sarah Sarna, and felt fortunate to be sitting next to Architizer’s editor-in-chief Jenna McKnight during our first course of delectable fare. Author Linda O’Keeffe spoke to us about the lordly color white (yes, consensus says, it is indeed a color) during the occasion, dubbed “Simply Brilliant.”

The afternoon marked the launch of Miele’s Brilliant White Plus collection of appliances.

Linda O'Keeffe goes beyond the pale!

You can see our twitter stream by searching the hashtag #MieleBWP, and learn about Linda’s take on white by perusing her book Brilliant: White in Design. The former editor of Metropolitan Home gave us lots to think about as we convened in the gleaming monochromatic studio, the pale fixtures and cabinetry surrounding us luminous in spite of the gloomy day beyond the windows. “Design begins and ends with the color white,” she noted, deeming its chalky hues “radiant, pure, seductive, lucid, harmonious, neutral, thoughtful” and “natural” in her book. It was a resonant way to spend a few hours as Mother Nature tried to decide whether to upstage the white theme with her version of a crystalline event as the day wore on.

Segueing back to that word, and one of the definitions of it opening this post: as the new adroyt team moves into progressive efforts for our firm and for clients in the coming months, we’ll be talking about concepts like resonance. As a musical example of our take on the word, I leave you today with Beck’s Paper Tiger. Though it may seem to have little to do with design or new media, it’s a perfect example of our philosophy because the depth reverberating from the rock song is a result of the symphonic elements in the musical mix. How lacking the song would be without the sonorous quality of these classical elements, no? There are similar (and surprising) aspects to creating and maintaining preeminent online platforms for clients; that’s been our mantra since the beginning and it deepens even further as we move agilely into what is turning out to be a very interesting year so far.


Thanks to our friends at White Good for including adroyt in last week’s celebration of pale splendor, and I look forward to seeing many of our social media buddies as they hit New York City for the Architectural Digest Home Design Show  and #BlogTourNYC next week!


Your Fifteen Minutes: Warhol Would Be Proud!

Marilyn Monroe, by Warhol, snagged more than 15 minutes of fame.

Including video in your social media platform is one way to enhance your platform and your SEO. Because bounce rates and time spent on your site are weighing factors when your blog is being ranked, the longer you keep someone on a post or a page, the better you will fare. It was in 2007 when sites like ComputerWorld and InformationWeek began publicizing that online video popularity was escalating, with video sites doubling in popularity according to the latter.

In January 2010, the Nielsen Company reported that online video usage was up 13% in their year-by-year statistics; and by January of 2011, a significant increase of 45% was reported by NielsenWire. A company’s clips should set an appropriate tone for their social media platforms, of course. Sadly not everyone has as interesting a philosophical slant as Tony Hsieh, who put Zappos on the map and is featured in this Nightline interview, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find creative elements of your brand to feature in dynamic motion. The extra seconds spent on your platform just might be worth the nerves and the makeup!

Celebrities have an immediate advantage with their cache of video clips, which can be used to further their fame. Maybe that’s not always a good thing: videos posted online will live on whether the clips flatter, fluster or downright frighten the interviewee. We might have said the latter about this Patti Smith clip but we are guessing the spontenaiety with which she approaches life shows her that quirkiness can be appealing!

Check back in on Thursday, as we’ll bring you news of one of our favorite interior designers, Amanda Nisbet, who will be participating in Design on a Dime, one of NYC’s premier design events put on by Housing Works. One of the best things about the design visionaries who participate is it’s philanthropy, or might we say design for a cause?

Oh, and Amanda has a book coming out: yay!


We Are Adroyt and We Have a Secret!

We have disappointing news for those of you who are combing the halls of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan today. The long-awaited guidebook Secret Milan is not being released until next month. We have had the pleasure of using other JonGlez Publishing guides when traveling—Secret Venice shed light on aspects of the drenched city we would never have noticed, like the tidbit below this image of columns flanking the Pescheria Nuova.

Here’s the publisher’s copy they’ve released to tantalize travelers looking to discover the lesser-known aspects of Milan: “Discover a canal lock designed by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the secrets of his Last Supper, find out where Mussolini’s hidden bunker lies, marry beneath frescoes by Tiepolo, visit artists’ houses usually closed to the public, see exceptional private collections, admire the sculpture of a young girl shaving her pudenda, look for the boxers carved on the roof terraces of the cathedral…

“Far from the crowds and the usual clichés, Milan goes unrecognized as one of the Italian cities with the greatest cultural heritage. Yet it only reveals its hidden treasures to residents and visitors who venture off the beaten track. An indispensable guide for those who thought they knew Milan well or for those wishing to discover another facet of the city.”

JonGlez (find them here on Facebook) is also releasing Secret New York: An Unusual Guide and Secret London: Unusual Bars & Restaurants, a follow-up to their Secret London: An Unusual Guide in May. Something to anticipate, intrepid travelers!

On Thursday, we’ll be bringing you news of an award Michael Bruno will be receiving from the Soane Foundation. The founder of 1stdibs will be honored during the Innovators Gala at the Sir John Soane Museum in London. Architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro will also be lauded for their design of the High Line in NYC.


Adroyt Labs: The Age of Anxiety

While thumbing through my writer’s notebook as I prepared for a series of new posts for my blog “The Road to Promise,” I came across a reference to an article I’d read in the November 1989 issue of Harper’s magazine. Written by Tom Wolfe, the essay was titled “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast.” The piece is billed as “a literary manifesto for the new social novel,” and presents an exploration of the nonfiction novel as he saw it nearly twenty-three years ago. I subscribe to Harper’s, which means I have access to their archives, so I printed the piece and read it while sitting in Doma, my favorite coffee shop in the West Village, yesterday.

Two things surprised me: how much has changed (publishing houses could still afford Madison Avenue then) and how much has stayed the same (“We now live in an age…in which the imagination of the novelist lies helpless before what he knows he will read in tomorrow morning’s newspaper”—the quote Philip Roth’s from 1961). Wolfe used several of his own experiences as examples of life beating him to the punch when he was writing The Bonfire of the Vanities serially for Rolling Stone, producing a chapter every two weeks during the mid 80s.

As I watch the updating lozenge of my tweetdeck pop onto my computer screen with the latest iteration of someone’s idea of “news,” it occurs to me that writers of fiction and creative nonfiction are even more helpless in the 21st century because any possible imaginative scenario can be unearthed simply by typing a few keywords into a Google search bar. What hasn’t already been written about or reported? I ask as I think about how Wolfe nostalgically celebrates one of my literary heroes Emile Zola when he treks into the coalmines with pen and paper to gather information for his novel Germinal. Sinclair Lewis is another of Wolfe’s examples of reporter-cum-novelist, the author scooping the Jim Bakker story by sixty years with his novel Elmer Gantry in Wolfe’s estimation.

I’ve noticed how my own attempts to make note of unfolding life have dwindled of late with so much information coming at me. I feel as if I’m living in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I Am Waiting,” in which the Beat Poet wrote “I am waiting/ for the Age of Anxiety/ to drop dead…” The level of retreat I desire is exactly what Wolfe is railing against, and I am happy to have come across his admonishment as I struggle to find a better balance between research and productive writing time. But the effort feels a bit like trying to go back to an age of innocence that can never be recaptured. Case in point is one of Zola’s excursions into the mines at Anzin in 1884, an episode Wolfe holds in high esteem that I feel is worth repeating. We now watch mine disasters, such as the one in Peru, unfold minute by minute on Twitter, on television and in every other electronic realm imaginable.

But is notebook and pen, and boots on the ground still a worthy effort? Consider the poignancy of the information Zola gathered this way and the fact that it could only have been gathered in person. Wolfe recounts: “One day Zola and the miners who were serving as his guides were 150 feet below the ground when Zola noticed an enormous work horse, a Percheron, pulling a sled piled with coal through a tunnel. Zola asked, ‘How do you get that animal in and out of the mine every day?’ At first the miners thought he was joking. Then they realized he was serious, and one of them said, ‘Mr. Zola, don’t you understand? That horse comes down here once, when he’s a colt, barely more than a foal, and still able to fit into the buckets that bring us down here. That horse grows up down here. He grows blind down here after a year or two, from the lack of light. He hauls coal down here until he can’t haul it anymore, and then he dies down here, and his bones are buried down here.’”

Wolfe rightly calls Zola’s scene chilling, all the more powerful because the episode was practically written before he transferred it from his writer’s notebook to the pages of Germinal: “You realize without the need of amplification, that the horse is the miners themselves, who descend below the face of the earth as children and dig coal down in the pit until they can dig no more and then are buried, often literally, down there.” Wolfe’s point in 1989 is that America needed a battalion of Zolas to head out into the “wild, bizarre, unpredictable” country to reclaim it as literary property.

There have been glimpses of it in the intervening 23 years but far fewer than what would be considered a battalion. We’re living through another political season, and this brings to mind a writer, David Foster Wallace, who did take up the cause as late as 2000 but who, sadly, committed suicide in 2008. His article “Up, Simba!” commissioned by Rolling Stone found Wallace on the campaign trail with John McCain as the Arizona senator attempted to thwart the massive moneyed machine of George W. Bush in his bid to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2000. The full essay, three times longer than the piece in Rolling Stone, is available on Kindle, and was reprinted in Wallace’s book Consider the Lobster. It is definitely worth a read, as Wallace takes no prisoners in his descriptive powers of life on the “Straight Talk Express,” McCain’s campaign bus: “You should be appraised up front that national reporters spend an enormous amount of time either on their cell phones or waiting for their cell phones to ring. It is not an exaggeration to say that when somebody’s cell phone breaks they almost have to be sedated.”

I’m trying to imagine for myself how to answer Wolfe’s call: what is worth exploring in the madcap world we live in now, not being one to trot to the front lines of a military skirmish or to the slums in Calcutta, against both of which our overly bombarded psyches have become inured at any rate? I am continually documenting what I see around me but I question whether the material will ever be worthy of literature. Are other writers out there having a similar struggle? If so, how are you answering the question for yourself?

Today is the latest Let’s Blog Off, the subject being “that song stuck in your head.” In 1989 when Wolfe’s piece was published, it could have been the B-52’s “Love Shack” or Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” on any given day. I’ll spare you Midler’s deadly earworm and treat you to the frisky B-52’s. I know; you hate me now, don’t you?


Hemingway in Cuba: Thinking (Living) Globally

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One of my favorite moments in “A Movable Feast” is Ernest Hemingway’s reflection as to how a place can impact a creative being: “…in one place you could write about it better than in another. That was called transplanting oneself, I thought, and it could be as necessary with people as with other sorts of growing things.” He was writing this while spending time in Paris but the renowned author also loved Cuba. His former residence there is still intact, as this video proves. What a “home tour” that would be!

We’re going to mash-up social media platform advice with a bit of music in our next post: Bills James will share his philosophy; the Cranberries with give you an ear worm. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!


Not All Great Architecture Exists in Built Form: A Book is Born!

I’m heading to The National Arts Club tonight to hear Hicks Stone read from his newly released book about his father’s life and work. He’s the youngest son of Edward Durell Stone and a practicing architect in New York City. I asked him, as a prerequisite to hearing him speak tonight, how it felt to put this book together. He responded, “I loved the process of conducting the research and writing the book. That said, given the half-century of vituperative and inaccurate commentary on father, I felt an enormous burden to produce a book that redefined his life and his work. My goal was to provide a solid foundation and encouragement for future scholarship and to dispel the prevailing mythology that colors perceptions about him.” I’ve interviewed Hicks about his own work, and admire his knowledge and depth about architecture and his father’s passion for excellence so I can’t wait to hear him speak tonight!

Paul Makovsky, editorial director of Metropolis magazine, named Hicks’ book one of his ten notable books of 2011 on Designers and Books. Now there’s a trust mark!


Clodagh: Home as an Expression of Grace

In her first book Total Design: Contemplate, Cleanse, Clarify and Create Your Personal Spaces, Clodagh introduced her sensually rich take on aesthetics to a broader audience than she had previously had. Chapters in the book include “The Senses and Physical Space,” “The Power of Nostalgia,” The Music of Solitude: Creativity, Privacy and Retreat,” and “Fantasy Spaces: Shaping the Wish”; and it begins, “If we were merely simple creatures, requiring nothing more from our homes than a shelter from the elements and a place to eat and sleep, we would be comfortable with very little: perhaps a room with a fire in one corner, a faucet in the other, and a mound of leaves to curl up on at night. As sentient, social, spiritual beings, however, we need rooms that allow us to think and to play, to reflect and to entertain friends, to bathe and to prepare meals. To truly support us, a home has to stretch beyond its material properties and sustain our complex human needs.”

Clodagh followed this 2001 publication with a sumptuous book titled Your Home, Your Sanctuary, which is filled with beautiful photography by her husband Daniel Aubry. The pages hold a visual feast of elemental materials intermingled in sophisticated ways and a depth of emotion that matches the lushness of the photography perfectly. Again, the talented designer brings humanity into the mix with chapter and page headlines that speak of talking, playing, lounging, eating, crying, laughing and kissing. “The key to planning a common room is flexibility,” she points out, adding, “The room should contain a harmonious balance of all the five elements: earth (stone or concrete), water (if you don’t have a water view, artwork representing water will do), fire (a fireplace), wood (furniture or flooring), and metal (a lamp).”

The images of the rooms she has created are breathless and moody, but never in an emotionally dark way. She speaks of indulgences and the photography speaks of her innate ability to forge satisfying layers of beauty and meaning. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you likely saw my mentions of an event Clodagh held at her Manhattan studio last week, which brought two indulgences to life: chocolate and flowers. Lisa Reinhardt and Katie Hess brought their products to Clodagh’s headquarters for “Sustainable Happiness and How to Save the World with Chocolate and Flowers.” It was a luscious evening of savoring cocoa and being lavished with plumes of floral spray. If you don’t know Lotus Wei or Wei of Chocolate, you’re missing out on the opportunity to experience deliciousness.

I came away from the evening realizing that Clodagh is one of the few people I’ve met in quite a while who puts her beliefs where her reputation is! Since no one knows quite as well as she does how to create such wonderfully peaceful environments in which to live, I felt featuring her and the event would be the perfect post for today’s #LetsBlogOff, the subject of which is “What is home?” To see our LBO compatriots chiming in on this theme, the full roster is here.

To see my other Let’s Blog Off post of the day, visit The Road to Promise, where the journey continues…


The Zen of Shama Kabani

Author and social media guru Shama Hyder Kabani

For awhile now, one of the hottest topics in business publishing has been social media how-to’s; Amazon glibly recommends over 164,000 titles—a little overwhelming, even with free shipping. Some are “dummy”-style, others are densely analytical, and most are just plain duplicitous. But a few worthies rise above the clamor with a truly fresh perspective, and are surprisingly readable.

One such gem is Shama Hyder Kabani’s The Zen of Social Media Marketing, released in 2010 by BenBella Books. Under 200 pages, this slim volume approaches the rigors of successful social outreach with a fundamental explanation of “attitude,” critical to winning results. All too often, the question of “why” is left unanswered, as the rush to jump on the inbound marketing train leaves the luggage on the platform and the destination uncertain. With clarity and insight, Kabani demonstrates, by her own and other’s examples, how state of mind is a precursor to a rewarding social media campaign or journey.

This is not an esoteric or abstract set of disciplines; rather, it’s so basic that it’s a little startling. It is one of those “can’t see the forest for the trees” realizations—a lightbulb moment, so to speak. Shama reduces the chatter of tools, technology, and trivial talk to the assurance of a calming voice, centering the mission and anchoring it in reality. True, there are simple, hands-on guidelines for working with essential platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as case studies of small business applications, but the greatest appeal is her advice surrounding one’s approach.

Shama Kabani is no dilettante or textbook expert in social media marketing. She was chosen as one of BusinessWeek’s “25 Under 25” Entrepreneurs for 2009 for her inspiring success with her own firm The Marketing Zen Group in Dallas, Texas. She’s been dubbed “an online marketing shaman” by FastCompany.com and the affirming foreword to her book was written by Chris Brogan, whose book we reviewed in this post. We add our own “Like” and “+1” to the long list of positive nods and recommend it confidently to you!


Between the Musketeer & Toreador: the Adroyt Salon

L–R: Ezra Pound, John Quinn, Ford Madox Ford, and James Joyce. In Pound’s rooms in Paris, 1923. Photograph from Cornell University.

In It Was the Nightingale, Ford Madox Ford wrote, “I went for a walk down through the dim Luxembourg Gardens of the end of January…I continued down the rue Férou which, it is said, Dante used to descend on his way from the Montagne Ste. Geneviève to the Sorbonne—and in which Aramis lived on the ground, and Ernest Hemingway on the top, floors. And how many between the musketeer and the toreador!”

Anyone who has followed me for a while knows that I love Paris, and I soak in the descriptions and knowledge of the writers who have come before me, especially the Americans who fell in love with the City of Light and chose to write about it. Has someone’s writing ever made you want to visit or to revisit a city? If so, what was it about the writing, who was the author and what was the piece of literature that attracted your attention?



The Adroyt Salon: Take 7

“Danger Hollow Sidewalk” from streetscape in New York City. Photograph © adroyt original.

We’re keeping it short and sweet today with our adroyt salon question this week. We’d like to know your answer to this inquiry inspired by Voltaire, who said, “I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.” On this #ThoughtThursday, do you believe you can be on your way (figuratively speaking) even if you don’t “know” where you are going?