Thought You Should See This, June 15th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This update for my colleagues at Doblin and anyone interested in innovation and design.

Top marks this week to Larry Keeley, whose pearls of wisdom form the foreword to a new book on mobile interaction design. As Larry writes, “With mobile devices, we are today where automobiles were when the Model T was the hottest thing on wheels.” Be sure to check it out.

Brooklyn Castle is a documentary, the tale of a school in Brooklyn whose students generally hail from below the poverty line. However, this isn’t your usual hand-wringing, doom and gloom-style documentary. IS 318 boasts 26 national chess titles—more than any other junior high school in the country—and the documentary focuses on the hopes and dreams of some of the chess club’s young participants. It’s simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking.

Pixar artist Emma Coats put together a great list of advice on how to tell a good story. My favorite: “Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.”

American Pain: The Largest U.S. Pill Mill’s Rise and Fall tells the story of Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers who opened their first “pain clinic” in Fort Lauderdale in 2008 and both of whom are now in jail for racketeering conspiracy. It’s a fascinating, sobering tale of an industry whose denizens pushed the boundaries of the law as far as they’d possibly go, and then pushed them just a little bit further.

Sarah Caddick is the Neuroscience Advisor to David Sainsbury and a senior advisor to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation—a big funder of scientific research, based in London. I spoke with her about her thoughts around the brain, our impressions of it, and how we need to turn what we think we know on its heads.

For a little light relief, check out the stop-motion animation promo for Delta Heavy. Although what the director has against classic games like Hungry Hippos and Connect 4 is anyone’s guess.

Geo-strategist Parag Khanna outlines his idea of the “hybrid economy,” arguing that we all need to boost our TQ, our “technology quotient.” “Start saving as much for physical enhancement as for education and retirement, he writes. “Get familiar with virtual currencies. Invest in a persuasive avatar, even, to represent you online. And welcome to the Hybrid Age.” Quick read, worth the effort.

Jonah Lehrer’s new book on creativity takes a beating from The New Republic, which wonders why we all pursue story-telling as our preferred means of communicating difficult topics.

And finally, six international artists take on an interesting brief… redesigning the tequila bottle. The results (shown top) are punchy, funky, graphic and really quite beautiful.

Thought You Should See This, June 8th, 2012

Here’s this week’s update on Thought You Should See This, the innovation/design-related blog I write:

If you read one thing this week, make sure it’s Paul Ford’s gorgeous speech to the graduates of the MFA Interaction Design at SVA. A stunningly lyrical take on the impact these designers will have on the world, it’s thought-provoking, inspiring and beautifully, beautifully written.

GBN’s co-founder Peter Schwartz turned up in the New York Times’ innovation special, sharing his view that in 50 years we’ll be able to drive cars with our minds. The rest of the piece, 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow, is also worth checking out.

MBA Jargon Watch satirizes management and consulting jargon. It’s painfully funny. Read and beware.

British public artists Greyworld sounded off about being asked to come into a big company to “inspire” — without being compensated for their time or thinking. This has been an all-too common practice for years, determining a rethink of the phrase “quid pro quo.”

“We now spend twice as much on beer as the government spends on research.” How depressing is that?

Honda’s Fit EV is the most efficient new car in the United States, and has caused some environment writers to get giddy with excitement. Wrote one: “This could be the Model-T of the electric age.” Right then! *Image shown c/o Honda.

Thought You Should See This, April 13th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This blog update for my pals at Doblin:

Liked this interesting story on Unilever’s list of innovation “wants.” These range from super serious, world-challenging issues (“safe drinking water”) to rather less dramatic problems that are clearly important for Unilever (“amazing toothpaste”) but represent what will likely be a common use of open innovation tactics to solve problems.

Also loved the new, world-record-winning Rube Goldberg machine (video above.) Incredible design and nerdily adorable.

Facebook bought photo-sharing app, Instagram, for a billion dollars. Or, as NYT reporter Jenna Wortham put it: “Instagram, an Internet start-up in San Francisco, has no revenue and about a dozen employees. It has not yet celebrated its second birthday. But to Facebook, it is already worth a billion dollars.” 

Meanwhile, writer and technologist Paul Ford weighed in on Facebook’s approach to design: “In terms of user experience, Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever.”

Overlooking the fact that the Peter Thiel teaching at Stanford is the same Peter Thiel who paid 20 kids $100,000 to drop out of college and start a business, PayPal co-founder Thiel’s computer science course has started, and student Blake Masters took detailed notes. Some great quotes here, including a fun paraphrase of Tolstoy: “all successful companies are different; they figured out the 0 to 1 problem in different ways. But all failed companies are the same; they botched the 0 to 1 problem.”

Piers Fawkes at PSFK asked me to opine on what constitutes good service these days. Given that I loathe shopping, this was rather harder than it should have been, but an interesting exercise all the same.

And finally, a good video of Tal Golesworthy describing how he dealt with Marfan Syndrome, a heart condition affecting the ascending aorta. Disinterested in the traditional treatment, which requires long surgery, the installation of a plastic valve, and a lifetime of anti-coagulation therapy and antibiotics, Golesworthy decided to treat himself as a “planning problem” and set out to change the entire treatment. He did it, too.

Thought You Should See This, April 6th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This update, the innovation/design-themed blog I write:

The Wired UK profile of LinkedIn CEO, Reid Hoffman is a super interesting read, and strikes me as a classic case in which smart design could make a real difference and fast.

The Economist came out with a good story monitoring the ongoing trend of “reverse” innovation, with some new examples to freshen up those that have perhaps done the rounds a little too long.

When The Jobs Inspector Calls looks at supply chain issues for large multinational companies making the bulk of their products in developing markets such as China or south-east Asia. Focused mainly on, surprise surprise, Apple, the piece also looks at practices by the likes of Nike, and does a good job of illustrating the complexity of the issue.

In an excellent piece, Google Ventures partner, Braden Kowitz, outlines his process for managing the complexity inherent in interaction design projects, and describes how he has moved away from a screen-based approach to one that focuses on narrative and storytelling.

Why China Lags on Innovation and Creativity is an interesting take from Richard Florida on why, despite its tremendous advances as a global economic power, it will take China at least 20 years before it becomes an innovation powerhouse.

Google CEO, Larry Page sounds off about innovation and patent-trolling in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Doesn’t really share too much you didn’t already know, though I confess I enjoyed reading his barely veiled digs at competitors such Facebook, of which he says: “Our friends at Facebook have imported many, many, many Gmail addresses and exported zero addresses. And they claim that users don’t own that data, which is a totally specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable.” Our friends, my foot.

Apropos of really nothing, there’s a magical Q&A with Pedro Guerrero in Architect magazine. The 95 year old was the longtime photographer of the work and life of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Alexander Calder, and his stories are tender, wry and insightful.

Google launches its Project Glass concept, and everyone gets suitably frothy. I particularly liked this re-edited “Ad-mented” version of the video (top), which includes that oh-so crucial feature so many of these concept films seem to forget… the revenue stream.

Thought You Should See This, March 30th, 2012

This week on Thought You Should See This:

Erik Kiaer’s essay “It’s the Experience, Stupid!” is featured in a new book, Innopreneur. Don’t let the title put you off: the book includes essays from a host of deep thinkers, and is well worth a look.

Michael Kimmelman visits a housing project in Sevran, a Paris suburb, to see how architects have retrofitted the former eyesore into “an exemplary landmark.”

Google celebrated the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with a tribute on its home page featuring Crown Hall, a building he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Guardian writer, Steve Rose takes a spin through the history books to ask a simple question: what would Mies have had to say about today’s design landscape?

A new exhibition of British postwar design on show at the V&A museum in London asks a provocative question: “How did we get from a broadly civic, welfare-minded postwar design culture to 21st century design industries whose essential purpose is to make as much money as possible?”

Google’s Big Data group co-lead, Martin Wattenberg, released a beautiful interactive visualization of the wind flow around the United States, based on wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database. (Screenshot shown, top.)

A clever interactive infographic created by Kiln for The Guardian allows readers to get a clear sense of global carbon emissions.

Great video on Fast Company Exist shows the inexorable, decades-long sprawl of Las Vegas via timelapse footage, compiled from NASA’s Landsat satellites.

Help Remedies has teamed up with the bone marrow donor center, DKMS, to provide donor registry kits inside of packs of band aids. It created a remarkably strange video as promotion. (Thanks to Jaci Pearse for the heads up!)

The Financial Times converted Grand Central Station into a branded interactive installation, and opened the “Graphic World” site to dig beneath the data.

Samsung created a promotional film in which they mapped projections onto a human face. Super slick.

In Gold We Trust: The Future of Money in an Age of Uncertainty is a new book from The Economist. This promo video poses the thought-provoking question: “Are we on the verge of a revolution in the technology we call money?”

And finally, I seem to have got into what can only be described as a heated debate. Last weekend, I gave a keynote speech at the Information Architecture Summit in New Orleans. Asked to put the field into some perspective, I caused a bit of a ruckus by suggesting that the linguistic disconnect between IA and the business world is a serious problem that benefits neither. This week, I got into a similar discussion online, with designer Jon Kolko, this time sparked by a Michael Bierut-penned piece arguing that cultural illiteracy among designers is profoundly troubling. Fun–and thought-provoking.

Thought You Should See This, March 16th, 2012

Main excitement of the week was the refresh of Doblin‘s own website. But Larry Keeley also stepped up with a lovely piece featuring his ideas for reinventing participative democracy.

Also this week on Thought You Should See This:

A good, short interview with Apple’s head design honcho, Sir Jonathan Ive, reveals his thoughtful analysis the design process.

Commentary on a video by Invisible Children that has earned critics and over 75 million views on YouTube. Other commentary on a wheeze at South by Southwest involving using homeless people as wifi hotspots. All in a piece entitled Good Intentions and Unintended Consequences.

Greg Smith set off a bomb as he quits Goldman Sachs: “It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.”

James Whittaker explains why he quit Google for Microsoft: “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

IBM announced the “Holey Optochip” (top), the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer one trillion bits–one terabit–of information per second.

Thought You Should See This, February 24th, 2012

This week’s updates on my innovation/design-themed blog, Thought You Should See This:

Google introduced the concept of “heads-up display glasses” and people, predictably, freaked out. I was most taken with the apparent wide admission that there’s no business model for any of this. Yes, being too rigid too early is no way to innovate, and yes, flexibility and iteration are important, but given Google’s previous poor track record of figuring out how to monetize its inventions, it seems both predictable and somewhat unwise.

An Observer reporter who should know better wrote an uninformed rant about how designers are ruining the web. I responded.

As interest in Pinterest reaches the mass media, my colleague Erik Van Crimmin flagged an interesting piece on Fancy, an upscale competitor.

Graphic loveliness and design nerdery, for those into that kind of thing: designer Mike Joyce mixes his two loves — of punk rock and Swiss type — to create Swissted, a series of amazing posters.

Timely reminder of a great Bertrand Russell quote: “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” The piece it was included in, a look at open innovation initiatives in government, is well worth a read too.

Another colleague, Peter Giorgio flagged this story about photographer Dennis Manarchy, who’s traveling around the U.S. with a 12 foot tall, 35 foot long, 8 foot wide camera. Craziness.

And finally, Doblin’s Audrey Clarke sent over this story about promoting space in which to think creatively. Apparently, *literally* thinking outside of a box can help. Bizarre, but also kind of great. (“Super Cool” cardboard box image, shown top, c/o Tuppus on Flickr.)