Our first cohort of 2022 has come to an end. We’re delighted by the number of students who opted to extend their access to our course and community. As we often say, Aesthetic Intelligence is built on lifelong learning. We look forward to continuing the journey with them as well as inducting new students into the next cohort, which kicks off on June 1.
At the end of each cohort session, we host a special event — The Aesthetic Awards — in which we recognize our top students as well as best-in class aesthetic brands. Essentially, it’s our version of The Oscars! Thought we’d share a few highlights from last month’s ceremony and our top aesthetic picks for winter 2022. Cheers!
AESTHETIC BRAND AWARDS
As part of the nomination process, we turned to a panel of experts from fashion, beauty, architecture, hospitality and other design-driven fields. Based on their input and assessment, we selected 8 of the world’s best brands in four different categories of aesthetic excellence.
Here are our top 2 picks in each of the 4 categories.
1 | Branding & Communications
How better to counter the threat of counterfeiters than to knock them off with your own line of knockoffs? As part of this brilliant initiative, Diesel (one of the world’s most copycatted brands) used humor and surprise to make, market and sell a line of fake Diesel products to unsuspecting customers. The company even went so far as to misspell Deisel on all its ‘fake’ products. Even so, the products ended up selling for 5-times more than the brand’s ‘real’ products. Check out #GoWithTheFlaw!
b) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY
This former actor/comedian has transformed before our eyes into one of the most impressive leaders of our time. He’s not just a politician; he’s a brand. What defines his brand? (a) Courage (“To all the countries of the former Soviet Union, look at us, everything is possible.”) (b) Humor (“I need ammunition, not a ride!”) (c) Compassion (He’s been known to move his own translator to tears.) And, (d) Relatability (Note the surge in demand for olive-green t-shirts.) President Putin may have more military power, but we believe Zelensky ultimately will win the war with his storytelling power.
2 | Product & Packaging
This company has concocted a wide range of kooky collaborations that not only have succeeded in generating lots of buzz for the brand, but also in drawing younger, hipper consumers. (Definitely NOT your mother’s Crocs!) Examples include Croc’s partnership with red-hot fashion brand Balenciaga (pictured here in green) as well as collaborations with Kentucky Fried Chicken, makeup brand Benefit and even a cereal themed collection with General Mills. This $2 billion company knows how to take ugly rubber clogs and make them pretty-ugly fabulous.
b) D&G’s KITCHEN RANGE
This collaboration — between Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana and Italian home appliance maker Smeg — brings a taste of Sicily into the kitchen. We love how these seemingly disparate companies came together to showcase their shared passion for groovy designs and dolce vita living.
3 | Spatial Design
a) DUJIANGYAN ZHONGSUHGE BOOKSTORE in SICHUAN, CHINA
This bookstore in Chengdu province shows how original space design can create a truly breathtaking experience, even while selling nothing more original than standard books. The store’s c-shaped shelves, spiraling staircases and towering arches create the illusion of an Escher sketch. The store is a book lovers fantasy and non-fiction, to boot!
b) TEMPL STORE, JAKARTA
This Indonesian retail store marries two opposing concepts: the sanctity of a religious temple with the materialism of consumer culture. The store creates an environment for “contemplative shopping,” requiring visitors to remain silent and respect the personal space of others. A welcome contrast to the hubbub of Western-style malls and crassness of most fashion stores.
4 | Digital Experience
Miquela is one of the world’s biggest social media influencers, with more than 3 million followers. But, unlike other influencers, she is not a real person. She’s a robot.
She was introduced in 2016 as an Instagram profile, and, over the years, has been pictured with real-world celebrities and interviewed in a host of fashion magazines.
Her influence has generated lots of controversy regarding the ethics of the metaverse. However, her popularity and appeal continue to grow, and we at A.I. Labs believe she still steers clear of the “uncanny valley” typically felt in watching A.I. characters.
b) GUCCI BEAUTY
Gucci’s innovative online makeup tutorial takes inanimate objects (such as playing cards), shows them in motion, and makes them feel life-like and sensorial. The site’s use of subtle color shades and spatial dimensions create a powerful cinematic effect and offer visitors an unusually aesthetic digital experience.
A.I. LABS’ STUDENT AWARDS
In addition to announcing the brand awards (above), we also honored three of our students with Aesthetic Awards for the quality and ingenuity of their final projects. The projects were designed to transform a real-world company using strategies and techniques taught in our course. Here are descriptions of the top submissions.
Maiko Yagi – Grand Winner
A highly talented fashion consultant based in Tokyo, Maiko presented a strategy for the Finnish cookware brand Iittala. She used one of A.I. Labs key exercises (“Tree of Life”) to define Iittala’s core values, specifically timelessness, essentialism, functionality, natural elements and Nordic style, and, from there, came up with a series of brilliant ideas to forge a deeper and more compelling connection between the products, their store experience and their storytelling. Brava, Maiko!
Sarah Mundo – Finalist
Sarah leveraged her expertise as a yoga instructor and nutritionist to come up with a strategy for Delta Airlines that would enhance its passengers’ health and wellness. She devised a comprehensive in-flight wellness program to aid passengers (not to mention flight crews) with their digestion, hydration, and stress-relief. Components of the program included serving alkaline water, hot towels, ginger shots, and smoothies. We hope the airlines take note!
Sydney Isaacs – Finalist
Sydney is a civil engineer in North Carolina. But her real passion (and future aspiration) is wine & spirits. Her final project focused on re-branding the Australian brand Yellowtail. Through a series of low-cost, easily executed strategies, she came up with opportunities to improve the brand’s aesthetic appeal and differentiation, while maintaining its affordable pricing and accessible positioning. Among other ideas, Sydney suggested a new color palate for the brand inspired by its Australian heritage, and she proposed adding texture to the label to set it apart from other bottles on the shelf. Cheers to that!