Thought You Should See This, June 22nd, 2012

Here’s what happened this week on the innovation/design-themed blog I write:

Designer Armin Vit went on a rant against the use of Helvetica. “The main argument of using Helvetica is that it’s “neutral,” he sneered. “That is absolute bullshit. There is nothing neutral about Helvetica.” Well, he’s got a point.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present has opened at cinemas. The documentary is arguably more hagiography than critical analysis, but I loved to see the playful and charming side of the legendary performance artist.

Fascinating and thought-provoking video looks at all that goes into creating food advertising imagery, in this case photographing a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Now that Microsoft is building and selling its own tablet, the Surface (top), most people think it’s copying Apple,” writes Jay Yarow over at Business Insider. He then goes on to explain why this is absolutely not what’s happening.

Martha Stewart CraftStudio represents no less than a profound change in thinking at the company. As Chief Integration and Creative Director, Gael Towey noted to me, the app helps to put power in the hands of the consumers. A great example of a company noting a shift in the economy and customer needs–and looking to do something about it.

Finally, watch out for an upcoming book from John Edson, president of Lunar. Design Like Apple contains seven principles for implementing sensible, thoughtful design. The book’s available for pre-order now.

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Thought You Should See This, May 25th, 2012

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

Check out my colleague Jeff Wordham’s presentation from Brandworks, in which he picks apart the launch process and has some sensible tips for executing launches more effectively.

Sir James Dyson outlines his approach to innovation, design and risk management.

The International Douglas Adams Animation Competition challenges creative types to produce an animation to accompany a 1993 audio recording of sci-fi writer and Hitchhiker’s Guide creator, the late Douglas Adams, talking about the evolution of the book.

A Life Worth Ending is a harrowing piece by Michael Wolff on the care of his elderly mother. As the intro puts it, “The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying,” while the American healthcare system has become so systematically dysfunctional that “emergency rooms, the last stop for gangbangers and the rootless, at least in the television version, are really the land of the elderly.” A devastating must-read.

I recently attended the 99% Conference in New York, and wrote a few posts on some of the highlights. In particular, former Apple designer Tony Faddell (shown top, photograph c/o Julian Mackler), recently lauded for his success with the Nest “learning thermostat” was energetic, inspiring and utterly committed to the concept that it’s the team that makes the difference between a launch’s failure or success, not simply the value of the idea itself.

The founder of the experimental radio show, Radiolab, Jad Abumrad was simultaneously self-effacing and steely, eloquently describing the “radical uncertainty you feel when you work without a template.”

“No one gives a damn about graphic design and color. That doesn’t change anyone’s life; that doesn’t mean anything.” A somewhat surprising assertion from well-known graphic designer, James Victore.

Also at 99%, Jonah Lehrer flagged some fascinating research from Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute, comparing cities and companies. The question to emerge: how can companies better imitate cities?

And finally, the post-Facebook IPO post-rationalization is in full swing. Marketplace’s Heidi Moore pointed out some stark figures: “Facebook’s market value at its highest: $112 billion. Today: $93 billion. So Facebook lost $19 billion of value in one trading day.” And Michael Wolff turned up again with a piece that picks apart the problems with the social media darling’s business model.

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 23rd, 2012

This week I moderated a webinar about Embracing Complexity, filmed in Cambridge and starring our own Geoff Tuff, Brian Quinn and Amelia Dunlop. You have to sign up to see the whole thing, which I realize is a bore, but it’s here if you’re so inclined.

Also this week on my innovation/design-themed blog, Thought You Should See This:

The world was set on fire by the revelation that raconteur Mike Daisey had, well, fabricated some of the facts in his Apple/Foxconn piece that caused such a stir. This American Life devoted a program to a retraction of its hour-long show featuring Daisey’s allegations; the resulting chaos sparked much analysis of the very definition of truth. Which in itself seems like a pretty sorry state of affairs.

65% of all revenue generated in the App Store–roughly $2 billion–has come from free games that charge for extra goods. The Times has an analysis of “freemium.”

Microsoft Research analyst, Danah Boyd writes thoughtfully of the conviction of Dharun Ravi for hate crimes.

Props to GBN’s Andrew Blau for flagging this sweet video filmed from a dog’s-eye-view.

Erik Van Crimmin flagged this excellent post by Bryce Roberts: The Problem With Innovation. A must-read.

Amelia Dunlop flagged this story highlighting how General Motors is trying to get hip to young drivers — by hiring MTV’s in-house brand consultancy.

And finally, this short presentation by Rachel Botsman shows off some interesting examples of companies adhering to the philosophy of “collaborative consumption.”

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.