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Sarmistha Tarafder's Articles

Brand Design--How So I Stand Out?

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The 'SHOCK AND AWE" does work sometimes. However, you do have to work hard at it — each time, every time. And, often you have to resort to manipulation, which is not always a good idea.

By all traditional definition, modern art was not a very pretty sight. It was actually rather ugly. It was devoid of definition, fluidity and the perfect perspective proportions that the Renaissance was all about.

Amidst, this vast scene of ugliness two man stands out; Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Their dynamic relationship — sometimes friends, sometimes rivals — changed the meaning of ‘ART’ in the 2oth century. "It was Matisse who took the first step into the undiscovered land of the ugly,” an American critic wrote, describing the 1910 Salon des Indépendents in Paris. “The drawing was crude past all belief, the color was as atrocious as the subject." He cried out in shock, "Had a new era of art begun?” 


Picasso was loud, obnoxious and unpredictable. He was this hot, high-strung Spaniard, set to make a dent in the field of painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics.

Matisse, was calm, composed French painter. His paintings were a reflection of harmony, luxury and elegance. He did not want to "rock the boat'.
An atheist at heart, Picasso found Matisse’s temporary allegiance with the church unacceptable – he said to Matisse: ‘You’re crazy to make a chapel for those people. Do you believe in that stuff or not? If not, do you think you ought to do something for an idea that you don’t believe in?’

Picasso was a man who refused to accept the 'same old stuff' of classical painting and believed that art is more than form, beauty and perfect proportion. Often, he would skip class at the Royal Academy of San Fernando and walk the streets of Barcelona and painted what he observed: gypsies, beggars and prostitutes, among other things.

As it turns out, Matisse continued to delight and surprise his viewers with his signature elements of saturated colors, "flattened pictorial space, limited detail and strong outlines". Picasso, on the other hand, changed the direction of art for generations to come. 


“As different as the north pole is from the south pole” is how Henri Matisse described Picasso and himself to Gertrude Stein, the pioneer of modernist literature. No doubt, that both masters slept with the same muse, but they stood out from each other because, their styles were so drastically different.

Picasso, was this raw, flesh and blood feeling man. He painted what he felt. He was always exploring with style, culture, medium and mask. Matisse, on the other hand, was this wholesome colorist, who was inspired by breaking down complex elements into a delicate expression of form and movement.

 You are one more name in an overcrowded 'sound alike' industry.

How do you stand out in an industry fair that is dotted with 'do alikes'. Stand out by telling out loud and clear what you do not do that is a common practice for your competition.

DuckDuckGo stand out by telling you what it doesn't do — it doesn't track or share your personal information. In the era of Bigdata and big search engines, DuckDuckGo makes privacy a top priority as its brand differentiator; it lets you know as soon as you arrive on their site. 


Picasso could draw “like Raphael” when he was young. Yet, he claimed, “it has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child.”
Flat, splintered planes, faces inspired by Iberian sculpture and African masks, jagged shards — these are the makings of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon — Picasso’s first masterpiece. Indeed a radical departure from his previous works of art — abandonment of perspective in favor of a flat, embracing child like Primitivism on a two-dimensional picture plane.

"...Perhaps due to the general reception amongst those who had first seen it, Picasso hid the painting from public view for nine years, it was not until 1916 that it was shown in an exhibition at the Salon d’Antin. It shows five naked female prostitutes, whose bodies & faces have been reduced to angular shapes which stare out at the viewer, two radically so..." 


Backpacks, very commonly associated with school and kids. Yet, Tortuga Backpacks made a major departure from this common association when they designed their backpacks for 'International Urban Travel.' This brand stands out by taking an everyday, much needed commodity and designing it for on the go, hardcore travelers who abhor the idea of checking bags but, inspired by the idea of backpacking. Their imagery and messaging resonates perfectly with this audience. 'Bring Everything You Need Without Checking a Bag' paints a visual picture of ease and invites us to explore with a child-like curiosity. Same old backpack, designed not for school, not for outdoor play or hike but for serious city travelers. 


Henri Matisse, "The DanceII" (1910) 



Agostino Carracci, Reciprico Amore, 1589-1595


The ring dance is known in almost every culture, every people, and every religion of this world. Matisse take this age old concept and helps us to focus only on the dancers, their rhythm and the silence of their curves. This playful abstraction of form intensifies a sense of joy and transcends previous depictions of this theme. Gone all the renaissance details of repoussoir elements — elements which lead the eye towards the center.

Now you know, why the critics roared in disgust when they first encountered modernism in it's simplest form of fluid minimalism.

repoussoir elements - elements which lead the eye towards the center. - See more at:
repoussoir elements - elements which lead the eye towards the center. - See more at:


Matisse called Picasso "capricious and unpredictable." Picasso described Matisse's paintings as "beautiful and elegant." Matisse and Picasso didn’t particularly like each other’s paintings at first, but there was this mutual understanding that each had the power to challenge and stimulate the other. Both masters drew from the same source — Paul Cézanne. Yet, critics claim that, "in Matisse we see the decorative, in Picasso the destructive." Yet, containing them within the limits of these definitions only obscures what modernism is about.


One of his strangest and most original paintings of Henri Matisse, Bathers with Turtle, was done 1908. A noteworthy study in 'contrast' in a1908. A noteworthy study in 'contrast' in a effort to STAND OUT from the  tradition-shattering Demoiselles d'Avignon of Pablo Picasso

Nike addresses the same social issue from 2 different perspectives.

Competitiveness has been an essential brand proposition for Nike. This is nothing new. However, in its’ effort to reach it’s woman audience, it resorts to humor and understanding. Nike paints a narrative about 2 adopted sisters, one, fired over inappropriate tweets and the other obsessively insane about YouTube Subscriber count. The competitiveness is not about sports, but about their relative social status. Beautiful exploration of same core value {competitiveness} but illustrated in the complex setting of emotions, culture and values. Almost, like Picasso's layering of collage by oilcloth, newspaper clippings and other materials to the surface of his paintings — thus creating a new form, from the destruction of other forms.

FreshBooks takes the complex undertaking of finance and accounting and addresses it for the non-accountants, who also happens to be small business owners, but focused in the service sector. Do you draw the connection that is happening here? You can derive a very differential message in your effort to STAND OUT, if you start thinking about your audience as a part of the larger eco-system.

Often times, we are so stuck in the rut of our daily affairs, we fail to realize, that, if we rephrase our selling proposition or our value proposition we are bound to garner greater traction. Nike sees that. Thus, it delivers its' message of diversity, humor and understanding as more successful tool when talking to it's female audience, as opposed to the more traditional motivational advertising

An unique insight spurred the growth of art in the 2oth century. Because, the artists of the times, were passionate about looking deeper, including deeper within oneself. They did not want to duplicate what they saw in their paintings. They painted a complex and hesitant perception of what they thought they saw. They redefined, their canvas of opportunity by drenching it with the color of their mood and analysis of their perception.


The story goes, when the Toyota workforce was asked to find “ways to increase their productivity” they failed to come up with any. In contrast, when they were asked to evaluate different “ways to make their jobs easier”, there were no scarcity of ideas or suggestions. You see, words have profound implications in the way you construct your offering. 'Increase productivity' may mean 'do more for less.'. On the other hand, when you address it with a personal beneficial anecdote, the canvas of opportunity changes.

Try this: If the goal for your next trade show is to 'increase' qualified leads, then do this. Replace increase with words like, grow, get bigger, get larger, enlarge, expand, swell; rise, climb, escalate, soar, surge, rocket, shoot up, spiral; intensify, strengthen, extend, heighten, stretch, spread, widen; multiply, snowball, mushroom, proliferate, balloon, build up, mount up, pile up, accrue, accumulate. Now each word will give you a certain visual. Use that visual to formulate your offer, design your booth and animate your exhibiting space. Simply by using the word 'increase' from a certain slant, provides you with the magic potion to establish your brand in a SINGULAR WAY TO STAND OUT.

You will find yourself on a path of discovery that will electrify your audience, perhaps shock your critics, the way modern art did nearly a century ago.

© 2016 by Sarmistha Tarafder