Life at Cheskin

18 Mar 2004|Christoper Ireland

I’m often asked to describe what life at Cheskin is like. It’s a tough question because the experience depends on which office you’re in, what you’re doing, and what type of work you like. But one constant for most of us is a continual flow of fascinating perspectives. Here’s a thread of emails from a request Davis tossed out to “Everyone” this morning (best read from bottom to top):

From: Carlos Ordonez
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 1:45 PM
To: Christopher Ireland; Carolina Echeverria; Davis Masten; Everyone
Subject: RE: Good Morning – a request

Here are few:

E=mc² = origins / genius / big bang
Scythe = death
Star = birth
Laurel leaf and/or dove = peace
Snake = sin
Light bulb = ideas
Flying pigs = possibility
Panda = endangered wildlife
Red Cross = red cross
Wash Monument = phallus
Tower of Pisa = phallus needing viagra

OK, I’ll get back to work.

From: Carolina Echeverria
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 10:24 AM
To: Davis Masten; Everyone
Subject: RE: Good Morning – a request

There is also a great book for this called “The Secret Language of Symbols” by David Fontana

He talks about Cultural Perspectives, The Power of Symbols (Ritual, Magic, and Prayer; Male and Female; Opposition and Unity; Cross-currents), The Uses of Symbols, The World of Symbols (Shapes and Colors; Sacred Geometry; Mandalas and Yantras; Mazes and Labyrinths; Numbers and Sounds; Colors; Objects; War and Peace; Musical Instruments; Knots, Cords, and rings; Buildings; Animals; The Natural World; and Human/Spiritual Symbols), then he has a chapter on Symbol Systems.

I can provide more detail if interested.

In my world: The Virgin Mary that means protection, trust, safety; Evita Peron: represents how poor have access to power/empowerment; Cantinflas: Represents innocence and street wisdom; Red Roses represent love; Soccer represents team work, success, triumph, pride……


—–Original Message—–
From: Tim Plowman
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 8:17 AM
To: Steve Diller; Davis Masten; Everyone
Subject: RE: Good Morning – a request

Steve makes a good point. Archetypes are frequently linked to deities or are deified and back again. In many afro-caribbean and afro-brazilian groups, Elvis or Marilyn Monroe make up part of the pantheon of spirits. In this case they become specifically identifiable in a sort of dualistic way–part of this world yet not part. In thinking about your email, Davis, I was planning on making suggestions that are not culturally specifc but manifest in different forms in different cultures. For example Lampiao was a real outlaw in Brazil in the 1930s but transformed/merged into an icon called cangaceiro which taken out of its specific cultrual context simply equates with outlaw. So, my question is what level of cultural specfifty are you looking for here? Lampiao or outlaw, Mother Theresa or the nurturing mother, Eshu or the trickster? It seems to me that without the necesary cultural framework that many archetypes will be insensible across groups. So, I am thinking you wnat the general level of description. Right?


From: Steve Diller
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 7:59 AM
To: Davis Masten; Everyone
Subject: RE: Good Morning – a request

One thing I noticed when I lived in India, back in 1979, was the way gods and goddesses played these roles- Krishna, Ganesh, etc., are constantly seen as incarnated in real life. The major gods represent the kinds of qualities you’re talking about. Interestingly, film stars and politicians can often end up embodying these qualities, which link them to the idea (archetype) as well as the gods who represent them.

The visual archetypes and icons of them are everywhere and take multiple forms. Western icons are easily incorporated. So, you could see western brands, or images of Kennedy, and, while they represent the company or the politician as company or politician, they also can represent varieties of the god. Also, icons of the gods show up in packaging and other communications.

My sense is that this is still what you find.

From: Lisa Leckie
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 7:40 AM
To: Davis Masten; Everyone
Subject: RE: Good Morning – a request

There is a wonderful book that Tibor Kalman and his wife created called “[un]fashion” à

On each page, there is a powerful photography of a different visual (not attitudinal) archetype. There are no words needed to describe these people. Each picture is an incredible representation of someone you’ve seen before in the world – from cheerleaders to tribal leaders.

Here is a review from Amazon’s site…

In an effort to capture great exuberance for life, authors Maira and the late Tibor Kalman put together a chaotic blend of current images from all over the world. (un)Fashion is a personal and loosely anthropological photo essay full of costumes, clothes, faces, and cultures. It is an incredibly colorful and vibrant collection of pictures that capture the expressive qualities of human dressing.

The images are organized by theme. A section on headgear ranges from men in bowler hats to hats fashioned out of newspapers and even a watermelon. The uniform chapter groups together such unlikely companions as matadors, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and Australian lifeguards. While cross-cultural similarities are drawn, there does not seem to be a strict attempt to force meaning out of likeness. Rather, the book is a meandering and barely organized journey teeming with surprising sights–a Russian military dog in full gas-mask regalia, a whole-body costume made of flowers, a tin can worn through an ear as jewelry. If you’re at all interested in travel and the wacky things we put on our bodies, this book is for you. –J.P. Cohen


—-Original Message—–
From: Davis Masten
Sent: Thursday, March 18, 2004 4:53 AM
To: Everyone
Subject: Good Morning – a request

Hi Everyone,

I have a request due by Friday morning. I am helping Jennifer Gray and others on a study of global visual archetypes and icons. In other words, what visuals might work all around the world. I’ll leave the study description and plan to Jennifer for a later date. Right now, what I am looking for are archetypes of cultures around the world. By archetypes, I mean those icons that exemplify human behavior: heroes, outlaws, rugged individuals, nurturing mother, etc. I am not doing this justice but if someone wants to provide a better archetype description please do.

My request is for you think about your academic or personal lives and think about what archetypes operate in your world. I am particularly interested in archetypes from outside the US. We will be testing these symbols in as many as 20 countries so, please help stretch my experience of life and help this study be wonderful.

In my experience, this has the potential to be one of those Cheskin email interchanges that we can all learn from and with which we can have a bit of fun!



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