In short: Please keep in touch!

TL;DR version: I’ve left Marker, but I hope you’ll keep in touch, and consider following my Art of Noticing newsletter. (It’s free.)

As many of you may know, Medium recently announced a change in its editorial strategy that included a buyout offer to editorial employees, and I am among those who took it. My last day was Wednesday, and I will dearly miss the wonderful Marker team in particular. Some are staying, others going; more on that here and here.

But the point of this post is to acknowledge that I will also miss this readership, and wanted to say…


Everyday Design Icons

Why the symbol of corporate creativity will survive the remote-work era

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Chances are if you’ve spent time in offices, you’ve spent time around whiteboards — and, perhaps, you’ve spent time dreading them. But where did these things come from, and how did they become a physical symbol of the mandatory brainstorming session?

Fittingly, the precise history of the whiteboard is somewhat tentative and subject to revision and correction. Many accounts give inventor credit to a Korean War veteran named Martin Heit, who discovered he could write on film negatives with a Sharpie, then wipe the markings away; in the mid-1950s, he designed the first whiteboard, essentially coated with a similar laminate…


Object of the Week

Bucatini is so 2020

Enlarged view of a new type of pasta called “cascatelli.” The pasta has a U-shape with a ribbed outer edge.
Enlarged view of a new type of pasta called “cascatelli.” The pasta has a U-shape with a ribbed outer edge.
Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Scott Gordon Bleicher/Dan Pashman

Object of the Week is a column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.

The 21st century has been a time of constant technical innovation — and a time for ridiculously overthinking food. These seemingly unrelated meta-trends have now coalesced in cascatelli, a brand new and meticulously engineered pasta devised over a period of three years by the host of the popular food podcast, The Sporkful.

Naturally, it’s a hit. In the first week of its formal unveiling to the public, the novel noodle has been hyped everywhere from Today to Eater to NPR


Off Brand

Brands rush in to help end the pandemic with vaccine doughnuts and other marketing stunts

A promotional graphic with a partially eaten Krispy Kreme doughnut above a Covid-19 vaccination card, next to the text “Show your Vaccination Card, get a FREE Original Glaze Doughnut”
A promotional graphic with a partially eaten Krispy Kreme doughnut above a Covid-19 vaccination card, next to the text “Show your Vaccination Card, get a FREE Original Glaze Doughnut”
Photo: Krispy Kreme/Business Wire

Skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine? Or too lazy to get jabbed even though you’re eligible? Well perhaps you can be persuaded by… free doughnuts. This is apparently the thinking behind a new promotion from Krispy Kreme: Present your vaccination card at its U.S. locations, the Wall Street Journal reports, and you’ll get a glazed doughnut on the house.

The Journal suggests this may mark a new phase in brands’ attempts to find the right pandemic-era tone. The time for caution and concern is fading into a mixture of optimism and cajolery — get your shots, consumers, so we can all…


7 Objects that mattered this week

Thingdown is a weekly roundup of things — objects, products, stuff — that are lately in the news or otherwise of interest right now.

Lego microtonal guitar
  1. The crisp and shiny optimism of the Breeze Airways A220 jet — and why this might be the perfect time to launch a new airline. (My latest Object of the Week for Marker.)
  2. School desk made of “ballistic material” to project students during potential shooting incident. Via.
  3. Lego microtonal guitar.

4. The functionality of the black stripes on school buses, explained.

5. Ode to “himbo icon” Ken. (The doll.)

6. New developments in understanding the…


Staggeringly low ratings from the Grammys and Golden Globes prove the traditional mass-audience awards spectacle is over

Trevor Noah at the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If an organization started handing out trophies for the most astonishing collapse in cultural relevance, this year’s top prize would have to go to — awards shows. The ratings plunges for recent awards shows are staggering, suggesting a major turning point for a ritual that has been vital to the business of entertainment for decades. At long last, it appears the traditional mass-audience awards spectacle is over.

This week’s CBS broadcast of the Grammys is the freshest example. The ratings fell a stomach-churning 51% from last year to a record low 9.2 million viewers who tuned in or streamed the…


Object of the Week

After more than a year of travel being ground to a halt, timing is everything

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Breeze Airways

Object of the Week is a column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.

A year deep into a deadly pandemic that crippled the travel industry — U.S. passenger traffic is down by half — does not sound like the best time for a startup airline to take delivery of 60 brand-new planes.

But maybe that assumption is wrong. Maybe, in fact, a few dozen crisp new jets, painted in snazzy metallic blues, are a perfect physical symbol for a category that seems, surprisingly, poised to take off again.

The soon-to-launch airline is called…


11 Objects That Mattered This Week

Thingdown is a weekly roundup of things — objects, products, stuff — that are lately in the news or otherwise of interest right now.

(I’m not actually linking to or embedding this ad; that’s just a screenshot.)
  1. The pathetic absurdity of the limited-edition HerSHEy’s bar. (My latest Object of the Week for Marker.)
  2. “5G Conspiracy Theories Are Fueling an Entire Economy of Scammy Gadgets.”
  3. Is “a dirtbag” an actual object? An investigation.
  4. People reports you can get chairs similar to the ones Oprah provided Harry and Meghan, at Wal-Mart. Now you know. (H/T Gloria Oh)
  5. The history of clear electronic devices in prisons.
  6. The fossil fuel industry convinced you to prefer gas stoves


Off Brand

An angsty public is turning the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines into a dangerous brand battleground

A photo illustration featuring a shopping basket filled with vials of Covid-19 vaccines and shots.
A photo illustration featuring a shopping basket filled with vials of Covid-19 vaccines and shots.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Worldwide, there are 11 vaccines available to combat Covid-19. And according to some observers, this has led to a problem: “People are doing what they do with cars and peanut butter and Tinder profiles — comparison shopping,” an On the Media segment this weekend declared. Host Bob Garfield noted that among his friends and family in Serbia, where people apparently have access to options from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca as well as Chinese and Russian vaccines, some choices have more “status” than others. “It’s conspicuous vaccine consumption,” he said.

Similar thoughts have been burbling around social media, suggesting “people are…


Object of the Week

At a time when women have been hit hardest by the recession, brands are making International Women’s Day about themselves

A Hershey’s chocolate bar with packaging designed specifically for International Women’s Day, with the letters “SHE” highlighted. Above the Hershey’s logo, there is the addition of the word “Celebrate,” so that in its whole it reads: “CELEBRATE HerSHEy’s.”
A Hershey’s chocolate bar with packaging designed specifically for International Women’s Day, with the letters “SHE” highlighted. Above the Hershey’s logo, there is the addition of the word “Celebrate,” so that in its whole it reads: “CELEBRATE HerSHEy’s.”
Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: PRNewsWire: The Hershey Company

“There is no Hershey’s without ‘SHE,’” the candy behemoth announced recently.

The occasion for this, uh, insight was International Women’s Day, this past Monday. To mark the day — and March as Women’s History Month — the company “developed a small batch” of its flagship chocolate bars, with the package design tweaked to highlight the “her” and particularly the “she” elements of the name, and adding the word “celebrate.” The gesture was meant “to honor all the women and girls out there,” the Hershey Company’s press release stated.

Sure. Of course, it was also meant to perform brand awareness and…

Rob Walker

Author The Art of Noticing. Related newsletter at https://robwalker.substack.com

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