Restoration Hardware’s Mail-Order Extravagance

Amy Merrick, writing in The New Yorker, explores why Restoration Hardware mailed a 17-pound catalog: 

Why do we still have catalogues? Web and mobile browsers have improved dramatically in the past decade. It’s hard to argue that catalogues, like books, are objects worth preserving for their aesthetic value; they will be obsolete within months. Yet Americans received nearly twelve billion catalogs last year.
Marketers say that people who browse catalogues buy more than those who shop only online. The U.S. Postal Service works hard to promote catalogues, which have become an increasingly important segment of U.S.P.S. business as people mail fewer first-class letters. The online retailer Bonobos, which began shipping catalogues last year, told the Wall Street Journal that twenty per cent of its new Web customers placed orders after receiving their first mailings, and spent more than other new shoppers.
Those incremental sales are accompanied by enormous waste. Industry surveys from groups like the Direct Marketing Association estimate that catalogues get average response rates of four to five per cent. In the case of Restoration Hardware, that means that for every sixty thousand pages mailed, approximately three thousand pay off.

The Week’s Links: August 8, 2014

All the links posted on social networks this week:

  • Poetry? There's an app for that. owl.li/zUJ2U
  • Dancing and Hoping to Win Fans for Life -NYTimes.com owl.li/zUIdS
  • Peeking Under The Hood Of NPR's New Mobile Appowl.li/zU21d
  • Spike Jonze Reveals His Favorite Ad and How to Stay Creative With Clients Around owl.li/zTZFx
  • How to Tell a Great Story owl.li/zTRYz
  • Can Benefit Corporations Work? owl.li/zTT99
  • Creativity Top 5: The Best Brand Ideas of the Weekowl.li/A57lt
  • 4 Things You Didn't Know About Chuck Jones, Brilliant Creator Of Road Runner And Wile E. Coyoteowl.li/zTRID
  • ◉ Recommended: Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose owl.li/zSTbG
  • ◉ Picasso in his studio, 1956 owl.li/zSTp7
  • TED Playlist: Fascinating psych experimentsowl.li/zTRwd
  • 10 Dark, Creepy Children's Books Every Kid Should Read owl.li/zTSdz
  • Beautiful: Ogilvy & Mather Induction Box owl.li/zTRu5
  • MIT Rethinks How You Consume News owl.li/zTDl1
  • ▶ How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?owl.li/zTDcX
  • Kern Your Enthusiasm (2)- analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite (and least favorite) typefacesowl.li/zTnSU
  • Digital Weddings 2.0: Hashtags and Retweets -NYTimes.com owl.li/zTnZC
  • A Night of Dinosaurs and Stargazing (No Children Allowed). At Museum of Natural History in New Yorkowl.li/zTgq3
  • ◉ Recommended: Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style owl.li/zSTaq
  • ◉ Adam Savage: Ground Rules for Successowl.li/zSTnl
  • Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum owl.li/zTfRw
  • HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, bums 1st rideowl.li/zTnWK
  • 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life owl.li/zTfQN
  • The history of the word “scientist” owl.li/zSSDh
  • Can Reddit Grow Up? - NYTimes.com owl.li/zTfO1
  • NASA unveils plans for a new rover: Mars 2020owl.li/zSSAq
  • ◉ Recommended: All In a Word: 100 Delightful Excursions into the Uses and Abuses of Wordsowl.li/zST9C
  • ◉ The Adobe Illustrator Story -smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/8/5/…
  • ◉ New Beginnings: NYC Ballet's 9/11 Tributeowl.li/zSTlN
  • How Yahoo Research Labs Studies Culture as a Formal Computational Concept- MIT Technology Review owl.li/zSSyn
  • The Early Jobs of 24 Famous Writers owl.li/zTdXV
  • Playing an Instrument Is a Great Workout For Your Brain: New Animation Explains Why owl.li/zSNdY
  • A market for emotions: With emotion-tracking software, Affectiva attracts big-name clients, aims for “mood-aware” Internet....
  • AIGA: What Creative Directors are Really Looking For in an Online Portfolio owl.li/zSSKr
  • In 1858, People Said the Telegraph Was 'Too Fast for the Truth' owl.li/zSJUD
  • 4 Kinds of Bad Advertising Millennials Have Killed Offowl.li/zSH6C
  • This American Lear, or Is Ira Glass crazy? owl.li/zSJfQ
  • SciShow Explains How Different Species of Animals Are Able to Change Color owl.li/zSsye
  • ◉ Recommended: The Invention of Air owl.li/zST8M
  • For WWI Anniversary, the Tower of London Has Become Surrounded by a Sea of Poppiesowl.li/zSHfW
  • ◉ Nuance: A Dance Battle owl.li/zSTkf
  • :Fantastic: The Talking Walls of Buenos Aires  - Google Cultural Institute owl.li/zSrNV
  • ◉ Can you relate? -smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/8/3/…
  • The Economics of Your Face owl.li/zSHeP
  • Advertising's New Frontier: Talk to the Bot - WSJowl.li/zShxB
  • What would big cities look like in complete darknessowl.li/zSHd0
  • Today's Google Doodle is great: John Venn's 180th Birthday owl.li/zUQWL
  • Handwritten Typographers: THe handwriting of great typographers. owl.li/zSHbJ
  • Stanford Team Achieves 'Holy Grail' of Battery Design: A Stable Lithium Anode owl.li/zO055
  • Solving The Scourge That Is Slow Hotel Wi-Fiowl.li/zIPQU
  • Injectable foam could keep wounded soldiers aliveowl.li/zLDE9
  • 6 ways to banish guilt from your life owl.li/zHeQa
  • Shakira's 'La La La' is Now the Most-Shared Ad of All Time owl.li/zLBfm
  • How 60 Seconds And One Word A Day Can Reduce Your Stress owl.li/zGeAj
  • NYT considering shorter print edition with unlimited digital access owl.li/zLAVg
  • Why TED Has Given All Of Its Employees A Mandatory Two-Week Summer Vacation owl.li/zGelJ
  • Full-Page Marijuana Ad to Appear in Sunday New York Times owl.li/zTenp
  • How the Internet of Things Changes Business Modelsowl.li/zLzuu
  • Ideo Rebrands Disaster Preparedness owl.li/zIPV0
  • When It Comes To Creativity, Are Two Heads Better Than One? owl.li/zFUY6
  • World's coolest bookstores owl.li/zDrvo
  • US military studied how to influence Twitter users in Darpa-funded research owl.li/zFQ5n
  • Hip-hop producer J Dilla's beat-making gear headed to Smithsonian owl.li/zDq7w
  • The Evidence Is In: Patent Trolls Do Hurt Innovationowl.li/zFPHX
  • Kickstarting a doc about making a living in the artsowl.li/zD6ao
  • The Science Behind TED's 18-Minute Rule owl.li/zDtlT
  • 30 for 30 Shorts: ‘The High Five’ - a documentary short on the history of the high five. owl.li/zCVV8
  • How Marvel Became the Envy (and Scourge) of Hollywood owl.li/zDtec
  • The Fasinatng … Frustrating … Fascinating History of Autocorrect owl.li/zDsWn
  • Where Restaurant Reservations Come Fromowl.li/zCVPY
  • The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ owl.li/zCCKK
  • Smart Things in a Not-Smart World - Technologyowl.li/zCVK2
  • ◉ What's the Point of Creativity? owl.li/zCuZt
  • ◉ Recommended: What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame owl.li/zCvjq
  • Art by algorithm: Computer evolves new artworksowl.li/zCCEk
  • PBS Digital Studios to Premiere First Scripted Series, "Frankenstein, M.D." on Tuesday, August 19owl.li/zCVyT
  • The secret of Minecraft owl.li/zCCoe
  • 20 New Yorker Design Stories To Read Nowowl.li/zCD2v
  • McDonald's Will Spend the Next 18 Months Rebranding owl.li/zCCVo

Can you relate?

Rebecca Mead, writing in The New Yorker, uses Ira Glass' tweet declaring "Shakespeare sucks" as the starting point to explore whether relatability is relevant to works of art: 

What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.
But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.

The Week's Links: August 1, 2014

All the links posted on social networks this week:

  • PBS Digital Studios to Premiere First Scripted Series, "Frankenstein, M.D." on Tuesday, August 19owl.li/zCVyT
  • The secret of Minecraft owl.li/zCCoe
  • 20 New Yorker Design Stories To Read Nowowl.li/zCD2v
  • McDonald's Will Spend the Next 18 Months Rebranding owl.li/zCCVo
  • The 99U Podcast: Graphic Design Advice with Craig Ward owl.li/zCz1L
  • How to Manage Idea Overflow owl.li/zCzyy
  • ◉ The magic of a clear specification owl.li/zCuWF
  • The Enemies of Invention: Psychology Todayowl.li/zCzxa
  • ◉ Recommended: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much owl.li/zCvhz
  • Permission to Sin: How Moral Licensing Sabotages Your Long-Term Goals owl.li/zCyUe
  • ◉ Vint Cerf Explains The Internet's Address Book -smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/7/27…
  • Hand-Sketching: Things You Didn't Know Your Doodles Could Accomplish owl.li/zCzm6
  • Five Things Rich People Know That You Don't, General Strict Financial Discipline - WSJ.comowl.li/zCyRM
  • Why Your Life Needs A Mission Statement owl.li/zCzfv
  • Introducing the Password as Reminder owl.li/zCz8R
  • World’s Second Richest Man Thinks You Should Only Be Working Three Days a Week owl.li/zCyrB
  • Get More from Your Day by Using 90 Minute Blocksowl.li/zCyIp
  • ◉ Worthwhile Stories owl.li/zCuIN
  • Pixar: How to Create a Creative Culture owl.li/zCyEL
  • ◉ Recommended: The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession owl.li/zCvc3
  • From the unlocked New Yorker archive: A Pickpocket’s Tale- The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins. owl.li/zCy2K
  • ◉ Barcelona: Beautiful Timelapse Short Film -smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/7/26…
  • Maria Popova: Staying Present and Grounded in the Age of Information Overload owl.li/zCyzo
  • Fascinating: The Mark of a Masterpiece- The man who keeps finding famous fingerprints on uncelebrated works of art. owl.li/zCxQl
  • How Creative Hobbies Make Us Better At Basically Everything owl.li/zCywX
  • 8 Hilarious Writers Who Landed Their Hollywood Dream Jobs on Twitter owl.li/zCyvx
  • Louie Schwartzberg: Hidden miracles of the natural world owl.li/zCp8H
  • 7 Questions For Logo Design Legend Ivan Chermayeff owl.li/zCm0i
  • ◉ Creative Destruction owl.li/zCuGk
  • From the unlocked New Yorker archive: How David Beats Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell owl.li/zCxNl
  • The intro to NPR One, NPR's new app, is fantastic. All apps should be introduced by @guyrazowl.li/zIsfA
  • ◉ Recommended: Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! owl.li/zCv9P
  • UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer's Guide To The Tech Industry owl.li/zClYa
  • ◉ The Creative Influence: Michael Bierut -smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/7/26…
  • From The New Yorker's unlocked archive: Pixel Perfect, on photographer and retoucher Pascal Dangin. owl.li/zCxIn
  • What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming? owl.li/zClmz
  • Great article- Ambient Genius: The working life of Brian Eno. owl.li/zCxCu
  • Didn't Read Facebook's Fine Print? Here's Exactly What It Says owl.li/zCtEF
  • The Beginner's Guide to Getting Better Sleepowl.li/zClfq
  • Uncovering Algorithms: Looking Inside the Facebook News Feed | MIT owl.li/zvu1U
  • The Necessary Art of Persuasion - Harvard Business Review owl.li/zCiHh
  • Did the invention of the notebook make us more creative? owl.li/zvhee
  • ◉ In praise of laziness owl.li/zCuDN
  • Creativity Top 5: Week of July 25, 2014 owl.li/zFRNm
  • A Quick Animated Tour of Iconic Modernist Housesowl.li/zC3f2
  • ◉ Recommended: The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era owl.li/zCv5p
  • 4 Things You Thought Were True About Time Management owl.li/zvh7Q
  • ◉ Tony Schwartz: To Solve Big Problems, Change Your Process - smartercreativity.com/blog/2014/7/26…
  • Great podcast episode of Digital Human about selling.owl.li/zAHIP
  • Unpacking the Science: How Playing Music Changes the Learning Brain owl.li/zu7AP
  • A History of the Future in 100 Objects owl.li/zAvFo
  • Re-Creating The Magic Of Harry Potter In The Real World owl.li/zAqYQ
  • Browse 'The New Yorker' archives free of charge for the rest of the summer owl.li/zqxbI
  • 7 things good communicators must not doowl.li/znnbE
  • Ingenious Signs Ensure You Always Get A Seat On The Train owl.li/zpF8W
  • Can Creativity Be Learned? owl.li/znas1
  • These Futuristic Perfumes Smell Like Things That Will Be Destroyed By Climate Change owl.li/zpuas
  • What Creative People Need To Do To Protect Their Work owl.li/zn9U4
  • 9 Science-Backed Methods For More Productive Meetings owl.li/zptJL
  • Behind the Traveler Photo Contest – Intelligent Travelowl.li/zn8jG
  • Act Like an Entrepreneur Inside Your Organizationowl.li/zppPM
  • New wrist-mounted device augments the human hand with two robotic fingers. | MIT News owl.li/zo23Z
  • Not Sleeping Well? Blame the Moon owl.li/zmVT2
  • How The Average American Work Week Compares To The Rest Of The World owl.li/zm63i
  • What price is right for great theatre? owl.li/zm8BR
  • 10 Tips For Leading Through Changes owl.li/zm62D
  • The Future of Opera. Is It Dead? - WSJ owl.li/zm8zc
  • War Of Words At Met Opera May Signal Shutdownowl.li/zC3k8
  • Infographic: Every Trip To The Moon, Everowl.li/zm60o
  • Are Multiplayer Games the Future of Education?owl.li/zm8wR
  • How amusement parks hijack your brain owl.li/zm5XC
  • The Moral Hazards and Legal Conundrums of Our Robot-Filled Future owl.li/zm8wd
  • The Creativity Pill? owl.li/zm6vj
  • Nonfiction Books About America’s 50 Statesowl.li/zm4ol
  • In The Information Age, You Can’t Google Good Ideasowl.li/zm1TW
  • What A Bonsai Tree Looks Like Suspended In Spaceowl.li/zm46f
  • ◉ In praise of laziness owl.li/zm8nR
  • 100 Great Sci-Fi Stories by Women Writers (Read 20 for Free Online) owl.li/zm1Sq
  • MIT Will Teach You Photojournalism For Freeowl.li/zm45w
  • MIT photography course materials freely available online owl.li/zm1RL
  • ◉ Recommended: The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era owl.li/zm840
  • Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Whole New Way of Thinking owl.li/zm20t
  • DRM-free indie ebooks outsell DRM-locked ones 2:1owl.li/zm0Z3