Issue No. 31
— May 2017






Digital trend publication
blending a mix of culture,
insights and data.

A trend product by





You and your brand both suffer from the paradox of choice. 


Who do you want to be in a world where you can be anyone? Being able to clearly define your identity is branding 101, but in the digital age it isn't that simple. Online you can reach anyone: so how do you define your customer? With a wealth of creators available you can shoot images in any style: so how do you define your brand visually? Then once you define this you go after influencers who are going to twist your brand a different way.... you get the point.


In this issue you will find examples from our team, clients, and influencers of ours that help answer all of these questions. All of the solutions they offer and conclusions they come to work for them - but look at the mindset behind how they got there. No one can define your brand like you can. 



Micah Heykoop

Contributing Editor




Editor's Letter


"The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself."

Rita Mae Brown




Dig into the issue by clicking on the links below!



1. Exploring the third culture

Pepsi majorly missed the mark in their ad featuring Kendall Jenner stopping a protest to share a soda with police. We all saw it, we all cringed. This narrative, as well as many others, is a prime example of how modern advertising and pop-culture rarely consider "third culture kids" - people who have been immersed in different societies and cultures from a young age. Lisa Roolant, a TCK herself, describes the importance of shared narratives of global interconnectedness when it comes to identity and marketing.


— Lisa Roolant



2. Keep it 100: The Pros and Cons of Instagram for Brand Identity

Instagram is obviously a great tool when it comes to sharing your brand identity with the world, but does it always work in the brand's favor? 


— Katie Henry, VP of Marketing at Chinese Laundry


Matte black STUDIO


If you're an LA local, you've most certainly seen it: throngs of bloggers, Instagrammers, and tourists having their photos taken in front of the now infamous pink Paul Smith wall. 


— Nolan Goff, Content Director at Matte Black



4. Brad & Jenna Holdgrafer, founders of Formerly Yes

Brad & Jenna are the husband and wife power duo behind Formerly Yes,  a store for people who want to buy less but better. This Downtown LA retail store carries products that are not only functional, but designed thoughtfully with the user in mind. 





5. Culture

6. art

7. Marketing

8. Technology



11. PODCAST: the homogenization of social media

On this episode, we chat about social media channels - how they're all starting to have similar functions and how we should adjust our social media content strategies as they evolve..





"Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly, until you see yourself through the eyes of others."

Ellen degeneres






Dazed 100

We keep hearing about it. The youth culture. We know what it is. But how do we tap into it? Especially, as a brand? In collaboration with Calvin Klein's new fragrance, CK 1, Dazed created the Dazed100 list; i.e. the youth shaping the next generation. 


For brands, tapping into these trends is difficult. Mostly because, by the time they are shaped, said trend is on its way out. This list precludes these trends and is home to the innovators; the inspired. From musicians, to publications to artists, you'll not only find the influencers shaping youth culture, but you'll see the ways in which they are doing it.


- Nikki Best. Social + Influence Manager at Matte Black




Self Portraits: Externally Depicting Identity

The idea of creating a self portrait is something that has always been interesting. However, for me it's not so much the physical production of the piece, but more so the exploration of identity we get to see from the artist.


Artists have been depicting their own faces for centuries. Whether it be for self-promotion, self-discovery or perhaps simply a practice in portraiture, there are a number of reasons one could choose to portray themselves. 


These portrayals can appear in extreme detail, with a photo realistic quality or, on the opposite end of the spectrum a self portrait could be much more abstract without any recognizable human features at all. 


One of my favorite examples of this is the most recent addition to the New York Times Magazine's Illustrated Interview series. Each of these 1 minute videos display a brief set of questions posed to notable people in the worlds of fashion, art, design and entertainment. Though the questions change interview to interview, the first prompt is always to 'draw what you look like'. The results are always varied, but this week's interview was with designer Thom Browne was one of my favorites to date. His use of geometric forms to represent figures and actions is a fun and unexpected approach to this process . Take a peek at his and others in the series here.


- Jesse Ligo, Art Director at Matte Black




AdWeek Speculates the Future of Influencer Marketing


If you had a stable internet connection and at least a modicum of interest in pop-culture, you definitely have already heard about the dumpster fire that was the Fyre Festival. If for some reason you didn't, just Google it and catch up. 


As with all things the internet becomes obsessed with, the hot takes started rolling in. Between questions like "why would anyone think Ja Rule could put on a festival?" and "did anyone really eat that cheese sandwich?", AdWeek questioned if this level of screw up hurt the effectiveness of celebrity influencers. Check out the full article below to see what they say, but here we will tack on a thought of our own.


Between this and the recent Pepsi ad, I wonder what responsibility we should put on someone accepting money from a brand to vet what type of end result will be produced. While I can't speak to the time they have on hand or the advice that they are getting, I will point out that diet tea and teeth whitening are other big sponsors so I'm not holding out hope that this won't always be a problem.


Tweet at us @shapeshiftrpt and let us know your thoughts. 


Read what AdWeek wrote here.


- Micah Heykoop, Contributing Editor




Google Classroom

I'm a big fan of Google's web-based business tools. Google Drive, Google Photos, Gmail, Hangouts, Google Pl-(okay maybe not that one), but I think it's amazing that they've been able to provide all these free tools that solve a lot of inter-company organization and communication problems. 


Most recently, Google launched Google Classroom, another web-based tool that essentially allows anyone to teach anything to and from anywhere around the world. From SAT prep to business trainings to tutorials normally found on YouTube, there's a ton that can be done with Google Classroom - if only they had this around when I was a student!


I can see this becoming a super interesting content marketing tactic for brands too. Imagine you run a travel company and want to get more potential customers engaged in what you do - why not host language courses of some of your most popular destinations? Similarly, a brand of wine could teach you everything you need to know about becoming an expert wino. The possibilities are endless. Read more about it here


- Delanie Billman, Managing Editor


  Exploring the Third Culture

By Lisa Roolant


“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.”

We all heard the internet roar against the global conglomerate’s attempt to capitalize on social movements, political protest and youth culture to sell sugary drinks. Before publicly apologizing and pulling the ad, Pepsi defended the advert, stating that it “reflects people from different walks of life coming together in the spirit of harmony”. Instead, they succeeded in unifying people from all walks of life to hate on them.


Let’s for a moment ignore the ad’s tone-deafness and cringeworthy product placement to dissect what it was intended to achieve: to send a message of a unified generation during a time when the world is politically splitting at the seams; to capture a quintessentially “Millennial” spirit where identity transcends nationality, ethnicity, gender and politics– powered by social media and clad in double denim.*


Pepsi’s attempt to “join the conversation” of a cross-cultural generation backfired, badly. But I’ll argue that the time is ripe for more brands to celebrate the coming together of different walks of life in ways that fight stereotypical identities.


As a TCK, or “third culture kid”, I’ve always felt this narrative is lacking in popular culture. The term “TCK” refers to people who have been immersed in different cultures and societies during our formative years. Not fully adopting our parents’ birth cultures or the local culture, we assimilate a shared “third culture”, a concept first coined by social scientists Pollock and Useem during the 1950’s:


“The Third Culture Kid frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”


Somewhere in between “immigrant” and “expat”, TCKs are global citizens by birth. We live between cultures. We likely speak several languages and hold several passports. We probably attended international schools, sometimes moving between continents. All of us grew up amongst other TCKs in environments that harmoniously accepted multiculturalism in the hues of a United Colors of Benetton ad. We grow up forever struggling to answer the question “where are your from?”, often gravitating toward global hubs that let us blend in like cultural chameleons.


Obama is the posterchild for TCKs worldwide. Yet, during his presidency, he was both praised and criticized for his unplaceable cultural background and expanded worldview. Any TCK will tell you they recognize a bit of themselves in his heightened sense of cultural empathy; his ability to observe and relate to people from different backgrounds before casting judgement. These are, in fact, among the characteristics used to personify the third culture individual.


Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t as niche as it seems. Our global tribe is ever-growing and ever-normalizing. Those of us who identify as a TCK are just the early adopters or our future globalized existence.


The communities and identities of yesteryear were defined by physical location. Today, we live in a different world. As modern humans, we develop our digital identities alongside our physical, and cultivate our online networks alongside our offline relationships. We live online as we strive to travel abundantly. Needing to have semi-affluent parents who make international life or career choices in order to expose ourselves to other cultures and vantage points is a notion that has dissipated. From YouTubers to the digital nomad movement, young people posses the tools to develop their identities “trans-culturally” themselves. There is a bit of TCK in all of us.


“The role of the physical border is shifting and due for an upgrade,” preaches TV host and internet philosopher Jason Silva (also a TCK) in one of his recent viral online videos. “We need to scale up to release a truly global citizenship”. To desire to become a global citizen, he points out, is only human. In order to do so, we need a new story, a new lens, with which to address the inconsistencies between previous definitions of identity and our modern existence.


As brands mature into their roles as storytellers, they are catching on. In a time where activism sells more than sex does, modern brands understand they must strive to relate to their audiences in ways that are authentic and purposeful. “The world is more beautiful the more you accept”, Airbnb’s Super Bowl ad remarked, an implied criticism of Trump’s travel ban. Budweiser, Coca Cola and 84 Lumber were others to troll Trump with their messages celebrating diversity and acceptance during the famous advertising slot. From Silicon Valley to Hollywood, our generation's cultural tastemakers and innovators have come forward to state that the these creative communities can only exist through being multicultural global villages.


So, it is time to shake off limited perspectives and narrowed viewpoints, and instead explore new shared narratives of global interconnectedness beyond divisions, borders and stereotypes.


To me, at least, this is common sense. Here’s to hoping Kendall Jenner gets the memo.


*Fun fact: the Pepsi ad was filmed on Wireless Road in Bangkok, Thailand, something I would not have clocked had this not been the city where I was born and raised.








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Chelsea Matthews


Managing Editor
Delanie Billman


Contributing Editor
Micah Heykoop


Creative Director
Nolan Goff


Art Direction
Kourtney Jackson-Smith




Jace Lumley



Research Coordinator
Jacob Marrero


Aria Davis



Lisa Roolant
Lisa Roolant is a content strategist, writer and marketer with one foot in emerging technology, and the other in lifestyle brands. She’s passionate about crafting content to build experiences that focus on forward-thinking ideas and human-centric design. Well-versed in tech startups, she is good at helping brands find their voice, develop their audiences, launch products and expand to new markets. Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand to Belgian parents, Lisa is currently based in East London, with intermittent periods of being nomadic. When not strategising or writing, find her on a yoga mat, on a dance floor, at sea or eating roadside noodles.


Drink of choice: If it's a drink to stick to, then whiskey with soda water or red wine.

Pet peeve: Rude tourists.

City to escape to: Bangkok, when I've been away from Asia for too long and need my fix. Amsterdam for quick visits to take bike/boat rides with friends. 

Go-to karaoke song: Bohemian Rhapsody or Juicy by Biggie. 

Sweet or salty: Spicy! 


Katie Henry

Katie Henry is the VP of Marketing at Chinese Laundry. She oversees the Chinese Laundry brand as well as Dirty Laundry, CL by Laundry and Kristin Cavallari by Chinese Laundry. Previously, Katie held editorial and brand manager roles at POPSUGAR and ShopStyle. And before the internet she spent a few years in San Francisco as a merchant for Gap Inc. and Williams-Sonoma. In her spare time Katie eats carbs and snaps pics of her highly photogenic cats — follow them @MushieLovesSookie. 


Bingeing on Netflix: Friends and The Great British Baking Show. 

Celebrity crush:  Chris Pratt. What’s not to love? 

Someone to follow on Instagram: @Arielle – she’s my #1 girl crush. Funny, entertaining & her hair is amazing. 

Hidden talent: Whistling. The kind of whistling that can get someone’s attention 100 yards away. I’m loud. 

Something to check off your bucket list: Greece. Hint, hint. (Hopefully my boyfriend is reading this…) 



Brad & Jenna Holdgrafer

Brad & Jenna are the husband and wife power duo behind Formerly Yes,  a store for people who want to buy less but better. This Downtown LA retail store carries products that are not only functional, but designed thoughtfully with the user in mind. 


Last movie watched: Spirited Away actually. It was recirculating in theaters in Los Angeles again. 

Author to read: Currently reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ "Between the World and Me”

City to escape to: Los Angeles, perfectly happy escaping at home. 

Pet peeve: I’m guilty of it too, but entitlement certainly rubs me the wrong way.

Childhood hero: These are starting to sound like banking “secret question” answers. You guys going to steal my identity?! Oh well, I always did love Underdog. 

Nolan Goff
By day, Nolan Goff is the Guy Fieri of #firecontent at Matte Black. By night, he's a writer of screenplays and enjoys napping in theaters. 

Pet peeve: When people are sitting in the back of the plane, but stand up and get their bags down from the overhead bin as soon as we pull into the gate. It's going to be a minute, y'all.
Last song played: You're Still the One by Shania Twain
Streaming on Netflix (Hulu): You're the Worst
Life goal: Watching my film play at the Eccles Theatre in Park City, Utah. 
Most inspiring city: Denton, TX



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