Archive for November, 2008

Tell A Compelling Story

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

from on .

The visualization of ideas is a powerful tool for telling an effective and compelling story. Then there’s this. Architects have long relied on animated renderings and computer models to provide clients with indications of what the built project just might be like. Along the way, great storytellers like those at OMA began building on these animations to communicate more depth and context, to make the paper architecture more real. In my opinion, this video by of Herzog & de Meuron’s residential tower nails it (check out the site for 56 Leonard, it’s also nicely done).


Saul Bass and Clarity of Purpose

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Yesterday I read a post by that referenced three key questions to answer before initiating a new project or taking on new work, questions the answers for which can focus us on the work we should be doing. The questions are from Jim Coudal, and I had come across them myself just a few weeks ago via Jim Coudal’s interview on , and felt compelled to point them out. The three questions are:

  1. Will we make money from this.
  2. Will we be proud of our work.
  3. Will we learn something new along the way.

So, Paul’s post got me thinking about this again, about the importance of focusing ourselves on work that matters, work that creates value not just for our clients, but also for ourselves. I started digging around and came across a series of interviews with , whose work I hugely admire, from 1986. In these interviews Saul cuts right to the heart of the matter:

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.”

Saul Bass (1920-1996)

And that intent sometimes means that we have to invest in our work to create the opportunity we require, to create the value that we need to get out of it to make an endeavor “worthwhile”. As Saul points out, the client may never understand this, and that’s ok as this is the tax we must pay for working in creative enterprise. To not pay this tax is to limit yourself and your ability to create opportunity that extends beyond yourself to your team, and to your clients. Below is an excerpt from the interview where I pulled the quote above:

Titan’s Floating Surface

Friday, November 21st, 2008

This is not breaking news, as it dates back to March of this year, but I was excited to read about it earlier this morning. The Cassini team issued a report last March that demonstrated the evidence of a liquid ocean beneath the surface crust of Saturn’s moon Titan. The interesting revelation is that this ocean is thought to be “global” on the moon, and as such indicates that the entire surface crust of Titan is decoupled from the interior of the planet, floating on this ocean. The evidence for this is based on the measurements of how Titan’s crust slides as a result of forces exerted by its atmosphere, as much as a .36 degree shift measured over the course of a year. That is considered to be pretty significant movement.

There is a great article about this at , and it reports that the empirical evidence of the ocean on TItan, already long suspected by scientists, lends credence to the theory that several other icy bodies in our solar system also have hidden interior oceans. Jupiter’s moons Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede are the most probable candidates for this phenomenon. The image above illustrates the proportion of the internal make-up of several of these satellites, and the relationship between these proportions and the existence of an internal ocean. It is thought by scientists that the existence of oceans in icy satellites may be a common occurance in our solar system.

Ten Years. Leadership. Get it Done.

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The video above is a very effective summation of by oilman-gone-good . Using a whiteboard as a prop, he clearly communicates his rationale for investing so deeply into wind farms, and how his wind farms in Texas are prototypes for explanding wind energy collection throughout the wind corridor of the United States, one of the largest such wind resources in the world. Doing this may lessen our dependence on the importing of foreign oil by as much as 38% in the short term (potentially in under 10 years), and we can begin immediately to see results. Watch the video, he ties everything together as a formidable spoke in the nation’s energy strategy very, very well.

The Secret History of Silicon Valley

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

The video above is about an hour long, but if you have the time it is totally worth watching. has put together this history of Silicon Valley using open source resources and tells a great story about how this iconic region, a flagship of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, came into being and became what we revere today as the crucible for tech startups and standbys. Here’s an abstract of his presentation:

While Silicon Valley is responsible for the wealth of millions of people, not many are familiar with its long and complex history. Unbeknownst to even the most seasoned inhabitant or observer, Silicon Valley, Northern California’s peninsula, was shaped by many forces. Join renowned serial entrepreneur, Steve Blank, as he provides an overview on the secret history of Silicon Valley and how the Valley got its start. Much like the startups that have made Silicon Valley famous, the Valley began in a strikingly similar formula. Hear the story of how two major events – WWII and the Cold War – and one Stanford professor set the stage for the creation and explosive growth of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. In true startup form, the world was forever changed when the CIA and the National Security Agency acted as venture capitalists for this first wave of entrepreneurship. Learn about the key players and the series of events that contributed to this dramatic and important piece of the emergence of this world renowned technology mecca.

I found this video at Andrew Chen’s (a great resource).

Interaction as a Material

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

An interesting presentation by of given at the a few weeks ago. Dan’s presentation details the convergence in thinking that is occuring in design… that design is about interactions, and these interactions are about people. There is increasing focus on the contextual connections we create through design, connections that are between people and products, between people, and between people and environments. This is the reality, and realization, that design is not autonomous, it is contextual, and the better we understand the importance and details of context the better our designs meet the real needs of the people who will interact with them. This is as priority in product design and web sites, as it is in architecture and furniture design. This is interaction design.

Dan Saffer is also the author of .

Sadly, Mars Phoenix Has Signed Off

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

The Phoenix Lander on Mars has not been heard from in nearly two weeks. It was originally designed to last for about 90 days, but it lasted for over 5 months delivering to us a treasure trove of images and information from its landing spot on the surface of Mars. The loss of contact with the robotic explorer is due primarily to weather conditions at its location, which have been steadily worsening. At the same time the sunlight available to recharge its batteries has been lessening each day as the sun gets lower in the Martian sky. Officially, it is the position of the Phoenix team that the mission is now complete, though mission control will continue to listen for any signs that Phoenix is still operational.  However, it does not appear there is much hope this is the case. While the Phoenix Lander’s mission of collecting data from Mars appears to be finished, the mission of reviewing, interpreting, and applying the enormous volume of information from Phoenix continues apace, and will continue well into the future given the volume of data collected. Phoenix was an impressive step forward in deepening our knowledge and understanding of Mars, and it was a mission successful beyond everyone’s expectation.

Mars Phoenix will be especially memorable for me, as not only have I written about Mars several times, but I also followed the Mars Phoenix mission very closely. I followed Mars Phoenix on , getting daily insights into what the robotic explorer was up to. I learned of the mission’s discovery of water ice on Mars via Twitter, and subscribed to the NASA image feeds to be among the first to see what incredible images Phoenix was capturing for us. The Mars Phoenix mission was an excellent exercise by NASA in involving all of us in the great work and exploration that is being done. Mars Phoenix helped us to feel as though we were part of the mission.

Segway Engagement Protocol

Friday, November 14th, 2008

This video does an excellent job making clear what to do when encountering somebody on a Segway while driving. It’s a potentially confusing situation, so the technique demonstrated by Ken Block is much appreciated. The Segway lesson begins at about three minutes into the video, but it is worth watching the entire thing. If you have even the most basic understanding of vehicle dynamics you will find this video utterly amazing.


Brilliant Insanity and The Creative Process

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Frank Black. 1989. Rock and Roll. Making music might be like making sausages. Don’t go in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter as the music of the Pixies is seminal for all of us that benefitted from it in the late 1980’s, and all of the bands that built on it in the 20 years that followed. The video above is an interview with an artist, and is honest and innocent in its earnestness. In the end, we just want to make cool stuff that people love, and that people love because it just works. Frank Black gets that.

Found this video via

Less, But Better

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

from on .

I had posted about Dieter Rams previously, but just recently came across this video, and others, of an interview with Rams. They are part of a show at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on , the website for which is worth the visit. Suffice it to say that Rams is an enormous influence on design, whether it be industrial design or graphic design. He is a holistic designer whose work, despite being decades old, has a timeless, modern, and classic quality to it. People still covet and collect the pieces he designed for Braun, and many of them are now in the permanent collections of museums all over the world. From radios, hifi, and shavers to tea kettles and shelving systems. He is a prolific designer. He also takes it as an enormous compliment that Jonathan Ive of Apple has riffed his work with such tremendous success.

Challenges to Ideas And Innovation

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

I was pointed to a pretty incredible survey, . It was conducted last March by the , a business intelligence and research group within the Economist, and it engaged 261 executives around the world with questions regarding their challenges in the adoption and execution of new ideas, and how they drive innovation in their organizations. You can get the full report . Here’s a few interesting insights from the survey:

  • 60% of respondents report a shortfall of ideas, but only 14% report that this is a challenging part of the innovation process.
  • There is much agreement on the need for a “culture of innovation” for innovation to succeed, but there was little agreement on what constitutes this culture.
  • North American executives were twice as likely to find employees resisting newly introduced tools and technology as those in Asia, where employees are generally considered more tech savvy.
  • 80% of executives surveyed believe their firms will be adversely affected by the economic crisis in the U.S., but 60% believe that increasing top-line growth and sales is more important than cutting costs.
  • The companies that innovate most successfully have made it a top corporate priority.
  • Successful companies use innovation to respond to trends that affect consumer behavior and buying patterns.
  • 52% report the biggest obstacle to innovation being the cultural resistance to change, while 36% see the biggest obstacle being shifting strategic priorities. 29% say that it is a lack of project ownership.
  • 64% said that leadership commitment is the most important element in creating a culture of innovation.
  • Those surveyed said they plan on significantly increasing their collaboration with research institutes and universities and reducing their teaming with consultants in the near future.


A Perspective On How We Got Here, And Where We Might Be Going

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

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, an internet analyst at Morgan Stanley, gave her annual view of the world and the technology industry at the in San Francisco last week. Flipping through the slides I found them enlightening, and the indicators she highlights paint a somewhat ominous reality for the coming year. She points out the connection between technology and advertising spending and GDP growth, and growth is obviously trending down. No surprises there, though.

You can view the slides from Mary’s presentation above or download them .


My Vote For Change

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I will be voting for Barack Obama tomorrow. That’s because I believe he is the best choice for putting this nation back together. The best choice for ending the divisive partisan politics that have dominated the last eight years. The best choice for creating a future that is positive, inclusive, and in line with how this country really thinks about itself. The best choice for the change we need right now, in the face of real challenges and hardship, and the change that I believe my daughter’s generation requires of us for their future. I am optimistic that this change will make a difference, and that with Barack Obama’s leadership we can all feel good about being Americans. Again. Finally.

I am enormously encouraged by the number of historically republican voters that I know, both publicly and privately, who have voiced support for Barack Obama. This is because they understand what is at stake, and they are willing to set aside party allegiance for what we collectively believe is in the best interest of the entire nation. For all of us. This is a choice that they are making for the long term good of the nation, and I applaud the thoughtfulness and maturity that a decision of this nature requires.

This really is a pivotal moment for the United States. I am excited to be a part of it.

Industrial Design at NASA

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I was pretty excited to read at Core77 earlier this week, space exploration and NASA’s latest moon program being large on my personal interest radar. In this piece, Core77 looks at the addition of an industrial design team to the group developing the prototype for the pressurized lunar rover pictured above, a group that appear to exude that “I’ve landed my dream job, I work for NASA” vibe.  NASA has not previously employed an industrial design focus in its efforts, so this is a recent change that appears to already be benefiting the program in a multitude of ways. At NASA, industrial design has previously been relegated to addressing small ergonomic challenges with NASA not having a formal design group at all, the engineers being considered the “designers.” In fact, this industrial design team falls under a larger human factors group. Whatever works to improve the human/machine interface, performance, and user experience.

Part of the Core77 piece is the interview below with team member Evan Twyford (who graduated from RISD in 2005) where he explains their approach to designing the view area of the lunar rover’s cockpit: