Visiting Wes Anderson’s Desert Dream

Review: Wes Anderson's Asteroid City | Time

Don’t be surprised if you walk into my house one day and find that it feels a little like Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. (I’m halfway there already with my color palette.) It’s a film worthy of many rewatches, not for the story but to live in that creamy, dreamy, surreal desert diorama for another hour and forty-five minutes.

Wes Anderson's New Film Takes Inspiration from This Quaint Madrid Town -  Softonic
Martini With A Twist In Asteroid City (2023)

The desert is my soul home, so I’m a sucker for the landscape and motifs as it is. But from the gorgeous suite of colors to the Looney Tunes backdrop, the creative direction of Asteroid City is truly stunning. It’s a work of art. Every frame is a beautiful, dynamic composition. The costuming signals character and builds an immersive world. There’s whimsy in every vending machine, auto shop prop, and road to nowhere.

I was especially taken by the lighting, which is overwhelmingly bright yet lush — not surprising as they used the sun as a primary light source. There’s a picnic scene staged under a lattice pergola, casting dappled light on the conversations. It’s not only visually interesting, but there’s something about the grid of shadow and light…half hidden, half exposed…checkered. Can’t quite put my finger on why this feels so important. Maybe I don’t have to explain it, it’s okay to simply enjoy it.

Off to rewatch!

Branding Higher Education

At an event at UC Berkeley, I lucked into a keynote by Rich Lyons, Dean of the Haas School of Business. He shared the new strategic plan for Haas, and it was great to see brand strategy tools applied to higher education — and applied very well.

In a time when business school thinking is being blamed for the economic meltdown and there are countless schools and graduates fighting for market share, what does it mean to have an education from Haas? Why would you choose Haas over other schools? Why should you hire a Haas grad instead of a Stanford grad? This type of inquiry is exactly the basis for brand strategy.

From their research, they identified four “defining principles” of Haas:

  1. Question the status quo: We lead by championing bold ideas, taking intelligent risks and accepting sensible failures. This means speaking our minds even when it challenges convention. We thrive at the world’s epicenter of innovation.
  2.  Confidence without attitude: We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arrogance. We lead through trust and collaboration.
  3. Students always: We are a community designed for curiosity and lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn.
  4. Beyond yourself: We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting larger interests above our own.

They’ve done a great job. Reading these really conveys a story about who a Haas student is — you can imagine this person and how she thinks, and this image feels exactly right for a business program at UC Berkeley. Kudos!

What’s also smart are the plans for communicating this identity. In the best example, Lyons talked about writing an applicant recommendation form that would ask questions about the characteristics, e.g., does this candidate have confidence without attitude? Not only does this filter out many candidates, but each recommender — many of whom are top thinkers and executives around the world — comes away with a distinctly positive impression about the qualities of a Haas graduate. That’s an amazing brand reputation tool, in the shape of an admission form.

This level of work shouldn’t be a surprise when one of Haas’s marquee names is Professor Emeritus David Aaker, a founder of Prophet and one of the biggest names in marketing and brand strategy.