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 1st, 2012

This week’s update from the innovation/design-themed blog I write. Pretty flimsy this week (short week and I’m just back from England and walloped by jetlag. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.)

Above is a great TED talk by Sebastian Deterding, who discusses the morality and ethical choices embedded in every design decision. Definitely worth taking the 12 minutes to watch.

Design collective Pentagram turned 40
, and created a geniusly clever video featuring much of their work to celebrate. 

Security technologist Bruce Schneier has a new book out. In Liars & Outliers, he takes on the all-important topic of trust, in all its many manifestations. I can safely say his is the most entertaining opening to a non-fiction book I’ve read in forever. 

Who says finance can’t be funny? This animation by political cartoonist Mark Fiore works perfectly as a parody of both the ongoing insanity of the financial industry—and the wincingly twee aphorisms of so much modern advertising. “Just because it’s your fault doesn’t mean others can’t suffer for you.” Ouch. 

File under hard to believe: The Nook version of War and Peace changed every instance of the words “kindle” and kindled” into “Nook” and “Nookd.” Both a funny story of the perils of the find-and-replace function–and an unnerving reminder of the silent power wielded by our digital overlords.

Thought You Should See This, February 10th, 2012

Mixed bag last week on Thought You Should See This, the innovation/design-flavored blog I write. It featured everything from cute ads to terrifying robots to the wonderful interactive piece, above, created by Greek multimedia artist, Petros Vrellis as an homage to Vincent van Gogh painting “Starry Night.”

Also last week on Thought You Should See This:

The Digital Trends headline summed up this video perfectly: Swarm of Little Flying Robots Is Amazing (Terrifying).

Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Amy Astley shared some management advice for dealing with creative types. I used this as an excuse to bemoan the continued lack of accepted metrics for design (as seen in the Catalyst Awards, which I just judged.)

The Superbowl happened, and along with it its ads. I loved the M&M’s ad, while I also loved some of the response to Clint Eastwood’s growly Chevy spot, summed up by one writer as: “The world is a frightening place, so do your duty, buy a car. Someone get me a lozenge.”

New York Times architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman wrote plainly, “It’s time to address the calamity that is Penn Station.” Anyone who has ever experienced Penn Station at any time of the day or night, ever, stood up and cheered.

Big week for crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, which saw two million dollar projects take place. I caught one, for an independent video game, when it was at the $650k mark, and mused about what this means for the “traditional” economy

Former I.D. magazine editor, Ralph Caplan had some pithy things to say about editing and filtering, the difference — and their respective importance.

In which I become a Badly Drawn Boy Chicken

Last week I went to Martha’s Vineyard, where my attempts to hang out with President Obama and his family were rudely thwarted by the terrible weather. Luckily, the first family wasn’t actually my reason for visiting. Instead, I went there to stay with an entirely different family, of musicians and artists, whose spare room is an old school bus (shown, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a(nother) storm) in their driveway in the middle of the forest in the middle of the island. At times, it was a bit like staying on a boat, as when the wind and the rain really got going I felt like I might simply float off, never to be seen again.

While I was there, I was co-opted into helping with an art project. And I should be clear, despite my many years writing about design, I myself can barely draw a stick man. So when I offered assistance to Sam, one of my hosts, who’s been commissioned to create an animation music video for the new single by British musician Badly Drawn Boy, I thought he’d realize I was just being polite.

Instead. he promptly said he “needed creatures”, and before I knew where I was I was being daubed in thick clown makeup and filmed against homemade green screen, blinking and trying to act like some kind of weird woodland being. (That’s me in the picture, trying to make sure we were filming correctly, as Sam wasn’t actually there to oversee proceedings, what with being too busy, you know, trying to create an actual animation video.) “Peck slowly! Like a slow chicken!” shouted my friend Mara, herself a fabulously accomplished singer and video artiste, who was fully immersing herself in the role of camerawoman (and who’d applied the make up that converted me into bizarre other world oddity). “Now… Teeth! Nothing! Teeth! Nothing!” The whole scene was completely surreal and ludicrous and hilarious… and try as I might, I couldn’t help but think that even as we’d tried our best and had a lovely time fooling around and laughing like maniacs, nothing would ever come of it.

Then I saw what Sam did with our amateur footage. And I really have become a chicken. A flapping, animated, completely weird chicken. And I couldn’t be more proud. It’s still entirely possible that I won’t make the Badly Drawn Boy cut, and I won’t be either sad or surprised if I don’t. (If I do, why, I’ll post here, of course.) But in my heart and for all eternity, I’ll now always be a Badly Drawn Boy Chicken. And I can’t lie; I think that’s pretty fantastic.

UPDATE: I made the cut! And, truthfully, I’m less BDB Chicken and more BDB-Blinky Bird. Still, see what Sam made below. I’m honestly less impressed with my own performance than I am with the beautiful, luminescent colors of the shots with singer Damon in them. Gorgeous.