[Todays post is going to stray a bit from the world of design, but it's a topic that is on my mind lately...so please stick with me...]
The Filter coffee shop in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago has sadly closed its doors. I was a big fan of this place and really enjoyed the atmosphere as well as the tasty tofu reuben sandwiches. They are working diligently to transform the former hipster hangout in to shiny new Bank of America location. A giant mural advertising a local art festival started appearing on the boarded up structure and I was curious if it was a clandestine effort or actually allowed by the bank. After speaking with a security guard out front I found out that the bank was allowing them to paint the mural. He didn’t know if they were charging them to use the space for advertising. Upon further inspection of the wall I noticed this sticker:
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “No Logo” idea, check out author Naomi Klein’s site or pick up a copy of her book. While my initial reaction to this sticker was actually to chuckle, it does carry some weight and some questions about its message. At what point does the message of No Logo become a brand itself? Isn’t that the point of Naomi Klein’s constant touring and speaking engagements? Isn’t she trying to build herself up as a brand to maximize her income potential? Perhaps she’ll be a bit more charitable with the proceeds than those corporations she despises. Speaking of which…Do corporations have any responsibilities to the neighborhoods they invade?
I personally am not a fan of the ’saming’ of America, i.e. the proliferation of chain restaurants and big box stores. While driving through suburban areas outside Chicago you only know that you’ve entered the next town when you see the next Home Depot. But what can be done to thwart this ‘progress’ and keep independent operations like Filter in business? How can little stores and local brands compete if bigger names can leverage deeper resources and bulk discounts to lure away once loyal customers? Is bigger always better? I’m not claiming to have the answers to these questions, I’m now chuckling at the amount of thoughts one little sticker triggered.