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Words do this to us. They feed us even before we see. They build expectations. They are things too. And they lead us to see other things in a certain way. Words activated like and paired with the visual are the message.

Filtering by Tag: design

Go To Eleven

Andrea Chesney


This is the story of how the design on the capsules over the corks in bottles of Cliff Lede Vineyards wines came to be. It’s also the story of how some Napa wine reminded us that it’s good to strive to exceed goals, even if you only do so for yourself.

In the 1984 movie This is Spinal Tap, rock band character Nigel Tufnel is giving the director of the faux documentary (that the movie pretends to be) a look at his band’s equipment. He points with pride to their Marshall guitar amps. One has been customized just for them with a knob that has 11 as the highest setting, versus the usual 10. Nigel believes this new painted-on “11” setting really makes the amp  “one louder” than the former 1 to 10 dial. It’s a classic joke in the movie and one that jumped off the screen into popular use in real life. The phrase “up to eleven” still refers to anything that’s reaching its highest capabilities, or going beyond the known “best” possible example. Real musicians loved the idea of being somehow better than the best and reaching out for a magical state of more. They liked the movie’s hopeful whim so much that they actually created a real-life demand for equipment with knobs that went up to the fabled 11 mark.

The use of this “11” story at Cliff Lede Vineyards is a nod to insider wit. Okay. But it’s also a serious statement here at the winery: it’s a promise that this wine is going to be a note better, a tone better, a finish better than what you’ve decanted elsewhere. The place may welcome you with California casual warmth, and a smile, but the wine is as serious as it gets.

Looking at that “11” dial capsule design as we savor an elegant cab during a tasting, we are reminded that impossible standards can be reached. We’re standing in a charming country-style California winery while experts guide our experience precisely because someone knew that dreams matter, that constructing a goal of this size is a worthy task. We liked that the way the place says, in essence, that you can have some fun while retaining your belief in meeting the highest standards. Why not “11” from an old cult flick as a talisman for this very modern establishment? Why not a top-flight vineyard tasting room manned by guys with a distinct roadie vibe but who nimbly educate us about the vintage (score another level 11 for service: wise, and super charming). Why not a vineyard cat, a super-cool orange tom, ambling in from the sunny terrace to make sure things are going well with the guests? Why not? It all works, so let it blossom.

Thing is, on that Monday, we realized that sometimes a glass of wine is more than a goblet of happiness on a perfect California afternoon. Sometimes it’s also proof that choosing to go beyond one’s best is a tangible art form. It’s a reminder that the desire to try harder connects so many us over time, across industries and beyond rules or logic. It’s evidence of a next act, and deciding to go for a bigger game. We could see green hillsides and the roof of the vineyard-associated five-star Poetry Inn as we sipped our five-star (to us) Cliff Lede treasure. We looked again at the 11 topping the bottles, and raised our glasses to those who keep raising the bar, nudging the dial, trying a little harder than the rest.

Note: “Established in 2002, Cliff Lede Vineyards encompasses 60 acres in the famed Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. Owner Cliff Lede, viticulturist David Abreu, winemaker Kale Anderson and consulting winemaker Philippe Melka form an unrivalled team, making the most of this remarkable property. The winery produces Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, is crafted from the steep hillside portion of the estate.” Read more on the Cliff Lede Vineyards site.

A "We Hope We See You Again Soon" To Ann Demeulemeester

Andrea Chesney

It’s been announced that fashion original Ann Demeulemeester will be departing her label. As a young member of the Antwerp Six of the 1980s, she brought her viewpoint into play with her vision, once saying that she felt she must push herself to keep creating something new within her defining style. With this effort, she made her name in the world and brought her ideals before the eyes of millions. In an industry where some great talents understandably find it easier to work from their own established templates to keep rapidly serving the hungry mouth of the endless show season cycle within marketing formula edicts, the Belgian-born designer kept things fresh with a world eye. We look forward to seeing what she does next.

View her site here.

Tell us what you think.

That Android Logo? Irina Did It.

Andrea Chesney

While most of the world is clutching an iPhone, one of us also owns an Android (yes, we know, it’s incompatible with the rest of our totally Apple world. But it wasn’t dropping calls in some big, old fortress-like city buildings or their conference rooms, so we still pat it fondly). Anyway, we often wondered who was behind the little robot guy logo that’s the face of the android smartphone world. We found out: Irina Blok. Read more about her invention as well as Irina's thoughts on what makes a good logo, and why she says, “You give a life to this individual, and then they have a life of their own.”

Image from  Google Inc , courtesy of the New York Times.

Image from Google Inc, courtesy of the New York Times.

Handbag Fun: The New $100 Bill Is Out Today

Andrea Chesney

Image from

Image from

The newest Benjamin debuts today, October 7 (establishing the odd fact that they release CDs, DVDs.... and money on Tuesdays?). Okay, back to the bill: though it features the not-really-fit but-was-a-sexy-beast-in-the-1700s Ben Franklin, the fast-talking Founding Father, it’s a pretty bill (reminding us of the playfully cute collect-‘em-all Euro notes).  It was supposed to appear back in 2011 but there were printing issues, so we had to wait and walk around with fistfuls of old hundreds, didn’t we? See more about your pretty new best money friend here on CNN. And it's clearly a good week to treat yourself to a nice new Kate Spade wallet to hold your crisp new Uncle Bs:


What We Can't Smile Without: Johnnie Boden

Andrea Chesney

Johnnie Boden found a breakthrough formula and sticks to it. A witty identity is paired with appealing photography. Images are brilliantly styled and captured in a recognizably English, Boden-brand way. Bits of copy are uniformly Bodenized, whether online or in the fat little lovely catalogues; cheeky thoughts and UK word-play thrive saucily. The merchandise bubbles out energy. No big-box boredom here. We've read blogs describing this as clothing for “yummy Mummies” and rather outrageously comparing them to Talbots. But in cities, we see Boden pieces worn by high school and college girls, ad agency creatives, and lots of us out on dates. Even bits colorfully mixed with club gear, UO, Crew and Anthropologie. The higher-end range dresses us with a new Boden edge. Who says the British can’t be (teasingly) direct in their pitch and woo? Because, ooooh, our Johnnie can, mmm. This is one smooth, solidly iconic brand. Go, Boden House people, go. Keep making us smile the way you do. 

While we’re on the subject, our Fall looks from Boden:

Sweet Things May Save The World, Or At Least Us.

Andrea Chesney

You can’t try a new pair of shoes for a block in NYC without ending up in front of a cupcake shop. Like Buttercup Bake Shop, these places joined with stores like Dylan’s Candy Bar, a gloriously stylish ode to the magic of candy that that was created by Dylan Lauren, Ralph’s daughter, to offer what people needed. The message: sometimes sweets are really just what we need, health be damned for a minute. Other sweet things we love: earrings, rings, dog faces, kittens, this handbag, neighbors named Dottie, a bridge like this, the way you said that, and the way we found this shoe. Sweet de-stressers can be fun. That’s what you need sometime. 

We’d love to get our hands on these sweets. If we’re being completely honest, we’d lick the packaging clean and keep it cause it’s sweet long after the sugar is gone: