Marc Newson: Gun For Hire

Strange that we live in a world where rockstar designers can walk the landscape of commerce as design mercenaries looking to be engaged by big companies that just can’t figure it out. That’s how Newson views himself. I’ve posted previously about Marc Newson and his work. He’s prolific, really, and comments himself on his expansive approach to designing object experiences. There’s something fetishistic here. Some are suspicious. Others get it. But it’s the work of designers like Newson that provide indicators to possible futures, and that address challenges that greater society is not yet aware we actually face. It’s as if design has become the new science fiction. His work is also imbued with an optimism that I enjoy, and I feel embodies that childlike enthusiasm for the future, and for figuring it out.

The video above is a brief interview by with Newson for the recent exhibit of his work entitled Transport. There’s also this short exhibition video showing some detail on the various pieces installed in the exhibit:

I’m pretty sure I am supposed to have that jet.

A Treatise On The Future of Publishing

Gutenberg proofs the printed piece

To borrow from Douglas Adams, it’s time for the publishing industry to stop worrying, and learn to love the internet. As one thing winds down, so another winds up.

A Little Background,  A Little Context:

The publishing industry has had 500 years to focus on the production of the printed piece. How is it that 500 years of industry could be in such crisis?

About 570 years ago, Johannes Guttenberg invented movable type, and shortly after that the mechanical printing press. With these innovations he essentially created the printed medium that we still interact with today, though increasingly less and less. These were enormous innovations, but beyond printing books and pamphlets this was the inception of something bigger and much more revolutionary. Guttenberg really created what was a superior information distribution system over the laborious production of the hand written manuscript, previously the cutting-edge of information distribution in the 15th century, and a distribution system controlled by just a few powerful institutions. The ease of distributing valuable information to people provided by the printing press was the catalyst to both the Renaissance and to the scientific revolution that followed. It was also behind the Reformation. It stoked a raging fire of literacy in people who had previously had little need for the ability to read, mostly because there wasn’t anything around for them to read. Mechanically printed content fundamentally changed the ways in which we communicate, collaborate, and learn. It changed the ways in which we interact with information, and changed the course of human history as, for the first time in the collective human experience, great numbers of people had access to information and to enhanced knowledge. This tends to empower us. However:

Print as a distribution platform has had a good run, but, as it disrupted the status quo of the 15th century, so it also has been disrupted by change at the end of the 20th century.

The Situation At Hand:

The proliferation of the internet as an information distribution platform has displaced print as the most efficient platform for delivering information to people. Guttenberg would have it no other way, I believe. Yet, in the face of this disruption the modern publishing industry seems resistant to the opportunities that the internet presents. The simple reality is that the pressures and challenges facing publishing have been a slow moving train of change over the last decade, and yet the industry seems to have still been caught unawares. This presents an environment of opportunity for publishers savvy enough to exploit it. Quite simply, here’s why:

Print and publishing are two different things. Print is an information distribution platform. Publishing is an industry that creates and delivers information over platforms.

Today, and increasing at an exponential rate, the platform of choice is the internet. From the perspective of the audience, the end user, the individual, the internet is an ideal platform for finding the information they seek, or for bringing that information to them. It should be an ideal platform for publishers, too. However, unwinding old habits and tradition is a difficult proposition, and this has created the crisis state that many publishers now find themselves in. Instead of innovating, they’re forced to react under duress.

All of this has occurred in an incredibly short amount of time. Yes, the internet as we know it has evolved from a real inception point of about 10-15 years ago, though the ARPANET dates back forty years, but practical and meaningful applications of information and content distribution via the internet have only been occurring within the last five to ten  years or so with the advent of a range of supporting technologies like RSS. Over the last five years, especially, things have changed very quickly, and the internet has disrupted multiple industries at the same time. Think about the challenges to traditional broadcast television presented by online streaming and online video distribution, by the imminent convergence of your television with your computer driven by the internet as a content delivery platform. Think about financial services, and how it is not only possible to manage your finances without ever setting foot inside a bank, but also that we are now more connected to our finances and the surrounding ecosystem of information than we have ever been before, all because of the internet. Similar change and disruption has occurred very visibly in shopping and in the music business. All have been shaken to their core by this still relatively new distribution platform. The publishing business is not special, and it certainly is not immune. The reality is that the internet will eventually replace a great deal of print media. For some publishers, if they survive, it will replace ALL of their printed media. In an interesting example of going back to the future, we are living in an environment incredibly similar to that which inspired Johannes Guttenberg, and for us the internet presents an information distribution platform capable of delivering information qualitatively better to exponentially more people. Without question, it is a superior distribution platform, one that is at our disposal if we so choose, and it is important to remind ourselves that the goal of any information distribution platform is simple, to enable the largest number of people to have access to information when and how they need and want it. Should that not also be the goal of the publishing industry?

As this played out in the 15th century, so it plays out now. For the future, at least as far as most of us can predict, the internet wins. Given this, there is no reason to see declining print numbers and think that the world is ending, the current state of reaction within hundreds of publishing firms at the moment. Declining circulation and subscription rates do not mean the end of publishing and it most definitley does not mean the end of content creation. Actually, it means quite the contrary and is in reality just the winding down of the print platform. What needs to be addressed is the fundamental business model of publishing, and the overarching monetization strategy of the content that is already being created. The three critical elements in a successful publishing business model still exist:

1. Valued information
2. The audience for this information
3. An optimal distribution platform

For many publishers, these three critical elements just need to be connected, and I guess it is rather startling that for many they still are not. While this sounds simple, there’s some important work involved.  Here’s the deal, though, it’s not rocket science. It’s very straightforward, with a few savvy, smart publishers and media companies already executing informed multi-platform strategies that successfully leverage the internet as a central distribution platform. The challenge is in thinking about key aspects of the publishing business model in very different, seemingly radical, ways. It is also the complete embrace of digital while moving focus away from print. There is significant opportunity here if we take valued content and maximize, enhance, and refocus it. The immediate opportunity is in bringing a cohesive, immediately executable, and profitable digital strategy to print focused, and probably terrified, publishing companies, a strategy that is designed to deploy content across multiple devices and enables people to access the information they need and want when they need and want it. Importantly, it will appropriately monetize content based on its utility to a specific audience. This is not limited to your computer, ereader, or smart phone and provides the opportunity for publishers to think and plan beyond the next quarter for the first time in a very long while. It also affords publishers the opportunity to again have a future. This is because the internet is medium and device agnostic. It’s screen agnostic, really, and the valuable content already being created by publishers should exist on whatever device is available and preferred by the audience publishers seek to reach. This is the best, truest manifestation of “be where your customers are,” which seems to be the exact opposite of the publishing business model that has evolved over the last five centuries.

My advice to publishers is to stop trying to protect legacy platforms and legacy thinking. Stop focusing on site traffic and acquiring audience. Get back to the heart of what is of value, refocus yourself on the content that you are creating and ostensibly trying to provide. Understand that our behaviours in how we interact with information have fundamentally changed. This is not a fad, it is the new reality, and the normal you have experienced for the balance of your career will not be returning. The time to accomodate this new reality is right now.

Back At It: schneiderism Being Fired Up

After some time away from blogging I am restarting schneiderism. Expect writing and insight on the same eclectic blend of technology, marketing, and design, as well as some new focus and perspective on understanding the change that pervades our experience.

Interestingly, despite being inactive here for some months, the monthly site traffic and repeat traffic has continued to increase. I attribute this to solid SEO and the breadth of material I have covered. I am especially pleased with how my posts continue to perform in key searches related to innovation and user centered design. Try a search for “Honda innovation”. That is one of several searches that continues to bring a lot of traffic that engages more deeply with the content on the site.

Forty Years Ago.

Almost exactly 40 years ago in 1969 the world watched with excitement and anxiety as the Saturn V rocket of Apollo 11 shot skyward from Kennedy Space Center. The launch of this rocket was the first step in Apollo 11’s mission of putting NASA astronauts on the Moon, the commitment of a nation to deliver on President Kennedy’s call to do so not eight years previously in 1961. Obviously, this endeavor was incredibly risky, and the astronauts knew very well that there was a significant reality that they would never return. The entire world knew this, too. And yet, we sent them, and they went willingly.

I was born in January of that year, and was almost six months old when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong would conduct the first ever moonwalk. Obviously, I cannot remember the event, but this single human achievement has played an enormous role, and been of huge influence, on my entire life. It is exciting to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, and I am amazed at how absolutely relevant this achievement still is. I will spare you the history lesson, as there is an abundance of these seemingly everywhere. I will say, though, that it is interesting how things have developed since this historic moment.

Not Yet Four Days Ago.

In a case of either appropriate or ironic timing, depending on your perspective, NASA launched Space Shuttle mission STS-127 on July 15th after several delays. The Space Shuttle has been an important program for NASA, and for all of us, really, but in the shadow of the achievements reached by the thousands of people who were part of the effort to put humans on the moon you cannot help but feel that, for NASA, time has gone backwards. Regardless, the video below of the launch of STS-127 is incredible, and I am pleased that we are still sending brave people into space to help us learn, dream, and explore, even if they never actually leave Earth’s orbit.

Disrupting Urban Development

from on .

I have enormous respect for architect/developer . He’s a living, breathing case study for sticking to your guns and pursuing what you believe in, even at great risk if required. Segal has chosen a rebel path for his life’s work, eschewing the safe route, the established process, for a professionally trained architect by instead choosing to design and build what he wants, for himself. He’s certainly nothing if not incredibly confident. Very early on Segal was determined to not waiver, compromise, or work under the direction of another. He’s been profoundly successful as a result. Personally, I love his design and the environments that he creates. I love the disruption of his properties in areas that seem to have been overlooked, are in transition, or perhaps may be close to tipping to a more “suburban” style of development. Segal’s buildings stand out not because they are loud, sharp, or trendy. They shine because they are design and experience uncompromised. His work is the slamming of a fist on the table, the pounding of the podium with a shoe. Jonathan Segal knows that urban development does not have to suck, and he’s going to make sure that know this, too.

The video above is about 12 minutes of interview with Segal about his work. It’s excellent, and illuminating of the power of disruption. Rock on. That Segal is also rumored to ride a Ducati and pilot a … well, those that know me well can easily guess what level on the badass scale, from my perspective, Segal comfortably occupies.

Transmedia & Convergence Culture

from on .

Last week I spent some quality time researching and learning more about the concepts of transmedia storytelling and convergence as it relates to marketing, advertising, and content authenticity. I came across this video of , the director of MIT’s Comparative Media program and author of , and in it he succinctly explains the impact of transmedia on our culture, and ultimately on how we engage/create/distribute information. Essentially, the convergence of technologies and cultures is creating a new media landscape. Jenkins not so subtly relates that we are at a paradigmatic moment, one where an old form of media is dying at the hands of the new. To his point, the old media is one where storytelling has been held and controlled by big corporations who leverage arcane revenue models for distribution, and the challenge from new media is by contrast diffuse, networked, and empowering of the individual and democratizing of the story. This is happening in news, advertising, movies… it is happening everywhere. I love this stuff, this change happening right before our eyes. The video is brief, but dense with ideas and articulation. Jenkins is also great at putting some memorable statements out there. Like this one:

“George Orwell imagined a world where Big Brother is watching us. We, instead, with little cellphone cameras are watching Big Brother every moment of the day.”

Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT

Many Layers of Simplicity

from on .

Found this video of artist Shepard Fairey via Twitter this morning. I value the opportunity to see artists in the process of making, to watch them as they’re in the creative groove. Often, I don’t actually care about the final product as much as I enjoy detail on their process, especially as each artist’s approach is so proprietary, so unique. Fairey layers really simple elements that are individually interesting, but in aggregate make complex images that appear deceivingly simple. Watching this video of Fairey in action reminded me of other favorite hooligan artists, like Jackson Pollock:

…and Jean Michel Basquiat:

I’m Counting on Being Surprised.

That headline is a quote from the video above. It’s only one of the many great lines from one of the many smart people interviewed in this thought-provoking video from Honda. They were asked the simple question of what they thought transportation might be like in 80 years. It’s crazy, fun, and absolutely vital that we speculate on the possible answers to questions such as this. Projecting out a few decades unbinds us from the constraints of now, of the current state, and empowers us to not only stretch our imaginations, but to tap into the collective desire to unwind the status quo and envision something that is truly better for all of us.

Via .

Because It’s Beautiful

And additionally because I love tilt-shift. Tokyo would seem to be the perfect city to be filmed in this way.

Via via .

Data: Seduction and Sculpture

View more from .

Above is an incredibly interesting presentation from Matt Jones of . In it, Matt digs into the opportunities presented by the growing river of data presented to us by the abundance of devices now ubiquitous in our world that do nothing but monitor, collect, and regurgitate endless streams of data. Making use of this data, and making it useful, is an increasingly necessary skill. This reality would coincide with the gathering momentum around data visualization, and the incredibly creative ways in which designers are beginning to represent the seemingly mundane with graphics that both engage and elucidate. Some are referring to this as “data sculpting”:

“Can we explore Data as a seductive material in the same way as stone, wood, metal can be used for beautty as well as structure and commodity?

What happens if we look at Data through lenses comprised of the sorts of properties we find in precious, seductive physical materials?”

Matt Johnson of Dopplr

Originally came across this series of slides at , the killer blog of Neil Perkin.

Stunning Lunar Flyover

On September 14, 2007 the (JAXA) launched the Kaguya mission to the moon to obtain scientific data relating to both the lunar origin and evolution. Kaguya is also helping JAXA develop technology for future lunar exploration. The video above is from a recent overflight from earlier this year of the lunar surface by one of the three lunar satellites that make up the Kaguya mission. Incredible detail. You are looking at the actual lunar surface.

Thanks to for sharing this video.

What is The Future of Business Development?

radar as BDRadar

I have spent much time over the last few months digging deep into the business processes that support business development management. I was surprised to learn just how prime this space is for innovation as so many of the “accepted practices” utilized by people focused on business development for their organizations are arcane, inefficient, and lacking the advantage of effective supporting technology. There seems to be limited discussion and effort focused on “next practices” in this area, which is itself a tremendous opportunity. Glaringly, one commonality I have observed is the struggle by the business development community to force CRM tools to work in support of their efforts. Universally, I have heard of much pain around this effort. Another commonality is a belief in the power of social media and open networking, but limited knowledge or experience in how to do this effectively.

This all compels me to  propose the development of “business development radar” (BDRadar) as a tool that truly supports business development management (or BDM), and that integrates a priority set of functionality in support of open networking/marketing/business development goals. A tool that is accessible via the web, and is perfectly designed for easy use on mobile devices, that is cost effective for the soloist, independent, or smaller organization that realize the value of collaborative networking,  and that seeks an alternative to the limitations of a closed enterprise tool. Essentially, a tool that can surface business intelligence, visual network maps, and patterns whenever and wherever we need it, and that is seamlessly integrated into the networking and business development workflow. From one unified interface, a tool that provides:

- Open, collaborative network mapping
- Custom profile building with selective sharing
- Intuitive filtering and sorting
- Concise management of next actions with automated minding
- Unified contact management integrated with tools already in use
- Support of open networking/social CRM/CRM 2.0

No, LinkedIn does not do this.

The key differentiator from closed network CRM tools is that BDRadar would be designed at its core to support the open networker, and enables the creation of massive, mapped, searchable collaborative networks. It would support co-marketing and collaborative networking opportunities in support of business goals outside of the organizational firewall. I strongly believe that this is the future of business development, and to my knowledge the tool to support this does not yet exist. Driving the need for this BDRadar are critical key obsessions, and competitive necessities for business development professionals and marketers:

- Effectively determining context of opportunity
- Freshness of information
- Speed to intelligence

I have explored an endless array of tools to support and automate the addressing of these obsessions. What is required is an open tool that not only manages information, but that can recognize the patterns that identify opportunity, and supports the sometimes collaborative liberation of that opportunity into real business with individuals and teams outside of your organization. I’ve cobbled together a series of mostly freemium tools that I maintain. Tools that automate contact management, opportunity profiling, social media search, and network mapping. These work, but the inefficiency of moving between different interfaces, difficulty in easily sharing information, and the lack of integration compels us to create a better solution, to design something that REALLY works, and that we can easily share with others.

Stay tuned.

More Talk on The Demise of Advertising…


It’s fun to talk about the death of advertising (or anything perceived to be old, unchanging and stodgy), and everybody seems to be doing it. It’s true that advertising faces serious challenges. And yet, advertising’s not going away any time soon, if at all, though it is going through pretty interesting changes. Some of these are driven by technology, and others driven by the changed habits of consumers… which may also be driven by technology. But isn’t everything right now? It would seem that creative destruction has been unleashed on a broad range of industries for a dizzying diverse number of reasons. A common and consistent reason for this, though, is forgetting who your customer is and what they want. This would be despite the array of incredible tools now at our disposal to make this an incredibly easy thing to do, to stay connected to our customers. This is doubly true for advertising, and the cartoon above from Hugh McLeod (a favorite of mine), sums this up rather nicely. Add to this the very interesting presentation below from :

View more from .

From the slides above, a prescient quote from Jim Stengal, Global Marketing Officer at P&G, from last year:

“Today’s marketing model is broken. We’re applying antiquated thinking and work systems to a new world of possibilities.”

Actually, , CEO of , just wrote a nice article for AdWeek, , that gets to the heart of this. In it, Tim says:

“There will, of course, continue to be times and places where iconic, one-way messaging make sense — like bringing out the fine china for a special meal. But these instances (e.g., the Super Bowl), are increasingly rare and increasingly expensive. The real challenge facing one-way, brand-centric, non-conversational advertising is its focus on making the perfect presentation. The perfection model benefitted from very limited media outlets. Advertisers essentially spent money to guarantee craft, which theoretically helped a message stand out amidst the clutter. That formula had limits. Until now, marketing tools have existed in just two dimensions — words and images — sometimes in motion, sometimes with audio, always focused in a singular direction at the consumer.

Then someone invented the Internet. And Search. Quite suddenly, brands were no longer solely in power. The audience is in control. Media fragments. Most important, words and images are joined by a third dimension — technology — and now the marketplace flows in two directions instead of one.”

I happen to know of more than a few marketing/advertising firms that understand the terrain on which they navigate. As a result they happen to be doing quite well.

Design Strategy Diagrammed

diagram of design strategy by ralf beuker

An appropriate follow to my previous post. The diagram above does an excellent job visualizing not only the elements that comprise design strategy, but also gives some detail on how this strategy could be applied to ideas as actionable steps. You can learn more about this diagram from , and also download a larger file that makes the detail easy to read.

Connecting The Dots of Design Strategy

from on .

An excellent overview of one firm’s perspective on effective design strategy, and the value of design to the challenges facing business as we work to identify valuable ideas and pursue opportunity. Coincidentally, I first found this video last week while I was in Palo Alto visiting with IDEO and Steelcase on essentially the same subject, to learn more about their methodologies for user centered research and how that research is realized through smart, informed design strategy.

Important, But Not Necessary…

That headline is a quote from a 14 year old girl asked her perspective on television from this really interesting video clip of interviews with a group of 14 year old girls. They provide us a brutally direct take on the future of television, and it’s not pretty. They are absolutely right, though, as broadcast television is going through incredible challenges, and what comes out the other end of navigating these challenges will be something completely different, and perhaps a business model that these 14 year old girls can get behind. Personally, I’m with them.

Found this clip at Fred Wilson’s blog .

We’ve Lost The Tiny One. Long Live Flash.

Flash 1994-2009

This week we had to say goodbye to a member of our family. Her name was Flash, she was a dachshund, and we had been together for 15 years. I’ve been pretty open about this loss, and felt it necessary to also share it here. Flash was a great companion, and a loving friend. She had a terrific life.

Regular posting will commence again shortly.

Marc Newson Shows Geek Pride

Sometimes it seems as though and are trying to occupy the same space in the world of super-star designers, having notched successes in “designing” just about everything that they can, from bottle openers and wallpaper to luxury mixed-use developments in Asia. Newson has an edge though, he’s a total geek. Starck is just a bit crazy, which he uses to his advantage, but Marc Newson displays that special geeky enthusiasm that we often see in people who are absolutely obsessed with something. I especially enjoyed seeing his studio and how he prototypes many of his designs. Newson trained as a jewelry maker, not a designer, and this is definitely evident to me as you tour his studio in the video.

The video above is the first part in a five-part BBC feature on Marc Newson, called , which I came across the series a while ago at . It’s a great window into Newson’s thinking and approach, and showcases some pretty incredible, and incredibly beautiful, work. If you cannot sit still long enough to watch the entire series, definitely watch part 5, which is where Newson gets into his work in aerospace. Beyond designing aircraft interiors that I would kill to fly in, he is essentially pioneering the user experience of space tourism, which is utterly fascinating.

A Graphical Report on the State of the World

A graphical report on the state of the world

Via the very cool comes a comprehensive graphic representation of the latest data from of The United Nations. There’s a ton of information to represent, but FlowingData does a clear, concise, and incredibly well-designed  job with its , from which the image above is excerpted.

The World’s Innovation Hubs

map of world's innovation hubs

The graphic above is from a report by management consultancy (click to see entire report and larger image of the innovation hubs map) in partnership with the World Economic Forum. For the report, researchers investigated 700 variables (including infrastructure, demand, regulation, human capital and business environment) in order to assemble a clearer picture of innovation activity around the world, and this activity is visualized in the “map” above. This shed light on some interesting revelations, and emphasized other points that are very probably common sense… things like the importance of political stability and the quality of transport and technical infrastructure being in place in order for innovation to thrive.

It is interesting to see confirmed that “innovation hubs” typically develop an area of focus (think Silicon Valley), and over time begin building credibility and awareness as the specific, central, geographic area for that area of focus. This is usually driven by a core, small group of companies (again, think Silicon Valley), and in this way innovation success begets future success by consolidating talent, resources, and ambition.

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