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Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Marc Newson: Gun For Hire

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

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.

Disrupting Urban Development

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

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.

Data: Seduction and Sculpture

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

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.

Design Strategy Diagrammed

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

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

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

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.

Marc Newson Shows Geek Pride

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

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

Monday, March 9th, 2009

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.

Workspring & The Workplace of The Future

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Workspring meeting, innovation, and collaboration space

I was in Chicago last week and took advantage of this to investigate , a recent offering from Steelcase that gets to the heart of the collaborative meeting and events space. I had heard about Workspring during my visit to Steelcase headquarters last September, and was looking forward to checking it out after it launched in November. As a company relentlessly focused on innovation, and imbued with a passion for creating valuable user experience, Steelcase has become a highly valued strategic partner for my team and I, and I had high expectations for my visit.

The team at Workspring (Frank, Courtney, and Faith) were waiting for us when we arrived, and welcomed us with typical Steelcase hospitality, which is to say… excellent. Courtney gave us a tour, providing much detail on the different meeting and collaboration environments that they had created. Workspring is a perfect showcase for an entire spectrum of innovations that Steelcase has developed for the workplace, and that provide insights into the valuable “workplace of the future” for which we share a mutual and passionate interest. The meeting studios integrate technology in ways that support idea and information sharing and capture, and utilize systems that make this technology seamless, intuitive, and non-intrusive. This was technology that was presented to me last September, but at Workspring I was able to really get hands-on with it and benefit from actual use. As an example, in the image below of Studio 3, you can see the meeting surface oriented towards two large flat panel displays, which are themselves very easily connected to each meeting participant’s laptop via a Steelcase technology (developed in partnership with IDEO) called the “Puck”. This Puck enables very quick and efficient switching between desktops empowering each participant to share information. The orientation of the meeting surface also democratizes the seating by replacing a person at the end of the table with the content on which the meeting is focused:

Workspring Studio 3 collaboration space

As impressive and well designed as it is, and it really is a beautifully designed space, I wasn’t there to see the furniture and the technology, or even to appreciate the excellent design. I was there to understand how Steelcase had gotten to Workspring as a physical reflection of their research into the workplace and into meeting dynamics and interactions. There were several reasons why I wanted to see and experience this for myself, from its relationship to co-working environments to opportunities with new hospitality models, and much of this was covered during our discussion, but there were three main reasons I wanted to make this visit:

  1. Workspring is a manifestation of workplace research and innovations from a human factors, technology, and systems standpoint, and the integration of these three is the future.
  2. As such, it offers the opportunity to experience the cutting edge in meeting and collaboration design, and how this supports the goals of the individual, the team, and the organization.
  3. To be positioned for the future, organizations must improve on the limitations presented by the traditional office environment, and Workspring provides a living lab of what this could be like, and how they can benefit from a similarly executed workplace strategy.

As great as it was to tour this space, it was much more valuable for me to sit with Courtney and Frank for an hour and discuss how Workspring had become what I experienced that afternoon. Frank provided a very detailed timeline and history, dating back to the mid-90’s, to demonstrate how Steelcase had been thinking about a number of innovations in the workplace that intersected to yield Workspring as it exists today. Steelcase was actively working with clients over a decade ago in how the design of the workplace, and the systems that support this design, could elevate the workplace to the level of a strategic asset in how it supports the individual, and as a result productivity, innovation, and collaboration. There were a number of events that seemed to connect iteratively and point Steelcase to creating Workspring, which is very clearly a beta for many other analogous opportunities. We also discussed the relationship between Workspring and an approach to workplace strategy that might enable companies to potentially reduce their real estate footprint, and subsequently the associated costs of maintaining traditional office environments, something that is definitely pervasive now as organizations critically assess all aspects of their operations and overhead. In addition to saving money, this is also driven by the belief that the ways in which we work and interact on behalf of business can be more effective, efficient, and healthy for the employees, and ultimately very successful for the organization, thus also enabling it to MAKE more money. This stands to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and when executed well this is a transformative experience for organizations.

I was impressed with how very consistent this visit was with my interactions throughout the Steelcase organzation. There seems to be a unified focus at Steelcase on user centered design and the development of holistic systems informed by thorough observation and research. This informs the ways in which Steelcase engages its customers and partners to result in greater value creation, and relevance in an industry that works hard to rise above a commodity mindset. This motivates me, and is directly aligned with my own thoughts about workplace design and strategy. For Steelcase, there is tremendous value in how they can work with architects, designers, end users, and human and business factors researchers to create an ecosystem of knowledge around their offerings in order to challenge and change legacy thinking as it relates to workplace design, to contribute to the creation of environments that support us in our needs, tasks, and desire to have better quality experiences, and to help companies benefit from their workplace in ways that are probably unexpected, and probably quite invaluable. In this way, Workspring makes concrete a dense array of thinking and research, and provides all of us with a window into what a truly effective work and meeting environment can be like, and the chance to experience the value this provides in a way that eliminates abstraction, and gets us closer to understanding how we might actually be able to love how we work.

Chris Bangle Moves On.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Chris Bangle

Wow! Chris Bangle has left BMW. This is surprising news, in many ways, but perhaps most of all because I think many of us were beginning to think that Chris Bangle WAS BMW. So, yes, I was very surprised early this morning when the automobile sites that I follow were buzzing with news that after 17 years leading design for BMW, Chris Bangle had resigned. Being a loyal customer of BMW’s for almost exactly as long as Bangle has been directing design there, I have to say that this news made me a little sad. Yes, Bangle has had a controversial tenure at BMW. Yes, some of the designs that came from his leadership were not well received. But many, many others were, and it was under Bangle that BMW saw both its brand awareness and its sales rise to fairly incredible levels. Bangle was not only responsible for numerous designs for new vehicles, but also for incredibly visionary and forward thinking vehicle concepts (like the GINA Light Visionary Model). All of these, the good and the bad, found their DNA in the cohesive design language that Bangle developed in the 1990’s for BMW (anybody remember “flame surfacing”?) This language, and its evolution, is still in place. While controversial, Bangle’s influence on BMW is unmistakable, and is best summed up by Klaus Draeger, BMW’s Board Member for Development:

“Christopher Bangle has had a lasting impact on the identity of BMW Group’s brands. His contribution to the company’s success has been decisive, and together with his teams he has mapped out a clear and aesthetic route into the future.”

Another impressive accomplishment by Bangle was the successful creation and direction of BMW’s design consultancy Designworks USA. Designworks is now a formidable design agency in its own right, working with international brands and companies in a wide variety of industries and doing work that is innovative, cutting edge, and very impressive.

Apparently, Bangle is leaving BMW but he is not leaving design. How could he? His stated plans are to continue designing in a non-automotive related industry. I wish him the best, and am excited to see where he goes next.

Strangely coincidentally, just two days ago I decided to watch, again, Chris Bangles’ presentation at TED from back in 2002. It’s excellent, has some great back story on the design of models that seriously influenced cars that are now on the road, and benefits from his passionate use of profanity:

David Armano On Thinking Visually

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

An excellent presentation put together by David Armano , whom I have really enjoyed following both via his blog and on Twitter. Armano has tremendous insight into a whole range of subject matter, but is especially adept at offering valuable thinking at the intersection of design, technology, and marketing.

Armano’s advocacy for thinking visually, and his seemingly tireless work in putting new ideas around this out to his community, is a great thing. As he puts it:

“Effective communication is everyone’s job—whether you are trying to sell in a concept or convince a client. Visual Thinking can help us take in complex information and synthesize it into something meaningful. In an increasingly fragmented and cluttered world, simple imagery, metaphors and mindmaps can get people to understand the abstract and make your ideas tangible. Find out why why thinking visually may be one of the most sought after abilities of the 21st century.”

David Armano

It is also very interesting to have come across this presentation about an hour after reading the wonderful article in fast company about .

Flag As Lost Opportunity

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Koolhas' proposed European flag 2002

Flags are important visual symbols of nation, culture, history, and identity. And yet, flag design does not seem to evolve much outside of the odd revolution, break up, or nation building exercise, and even those results tend to be somewhat derivative. Apparently, I missed this story of innovation in flag design the first time around and having just thought it worth capturing here. Above is the design for a new flag for the European Union created by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and his design firm OMA. This design was a response to a commission by the European Union in 2002 to design a new flag for the EU to rebrand the Union representing Europe’s “diversity and unity”. The design from OMA came to be known as the “barcode” for incredibly obvious reasons, but was especially unique in how it represents the colors of each member nation. An interesting feature of this design is that it would change to incorporate the addition of future nations to the EU, thus being a visual representation of how the EU would change and grow, in that way perhaps not so unlike the flag of the United States and how it evolved by adding a star to represent the incorporation of new states into the union. Supporters of this design felt it strongly and appropriately reflected both the individuality and collectiveness of the nations comprising the European Union.

Despite being a beautiful, meaningfull and dynamic design, decidely more so than the as yet unchanged EU flag with the twelve stars of the original founding nations over a blue field, the design from OMA provoked an outcry of critisism. Sadly, it was never adopted beyond being used by the Austrian presidency of the EU in 2006.

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:

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 .

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.

Honda and The DNA of Innovation

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

That is (1906-1991), the founder of Honda, above in an image from 1963 when Honda was still somewhat of a fledgling company, though already a powerful innovator. He is sitting on one of the many racing cars, this one for Formula 1, that Honda was developing at the time, and not because racing for Honda was a marketing exercise. At the time most of Honda’s attention had been focused on motorcycles, and it was in 1963 that Honda became the best selling motorcycle in the United States. Moving into automobiles was the next priority for the company, and only as an innovator. As Honda began building cars, so it also started racing them, just as it had been doing successfully with motorcycles (in 1966 Honda won the Constructors Championship and all five motorcycle Grand Prix classes). For Soichiro Honda, racing IS Honda, the ideal environment for Honda’s engineers, designers, and leaders to be challenged, to innovate and address situations, problems, and opportunities in a way that ultimately benefits the entire culture of the organization. This approach is not an ancillary element of Honda culture as Mr. Honda succeeded in making racing synonymous with the culture of Honda. He had been a successful racer himself, winning and setting longstanding speed records in the 1930’s, and understood intimately that the passion for winning in motorsports can translate into product innovation and market success. Previously, I had written about innovation at Honda and touched on the racing culture of the company. Just recently, though, I had cause to dig deeper into how Honda’s passion for racing has informed the entire company, and lead to innovations across the comprehensive product range that Honda offers.

Several automobile manufacturers benefit from comprehensive racing programs. Think about BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, and Toyota. For each of these companies, as with Honda, R&D happens on the racetrack, and the successes from the track quickly make their way to the road, to the customer. For Honda, though, there is something deeper with regards to racing and innovation, and this is due to the place that Soichiro Honda ensured that racing held in corporate culture. More than the engineering benefits of a successful racing effort, Honda has imbued its entire culture with a passion for innovation that found its inception on the racetrack, but now touches and informs the development of robotics, aircraft, marine engines, and a long list of other products. Honda doesn’t just race cars and motorcycles, they race everything. Or, perhaps, it is accurate to say that for Honda everything is a race. For people like me, who share similar passions (and I have never owned a Honda product), it is windows into the Honda culture of racing and innovation, like below, that continue to earn my admiration and respect:

Video found at .

Design Thinking, Divergent Thinking

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I have been wanting to post about the recent piece in the New York Times. It’s a brief article, but quickly gets to the heart of something seemingly being discussed everywhere for the last couple of years, the concept of design thinking. Reading the article made me recall the image above, which is a quick sketch done by Charles Eames to visually help him to explain design, and that was shown in the 1969 Louvre Show, “What is Design.” I like that we are still investigating what this means nearly thirty forty years later (1969 is my birth year, I was in denial…).

In the article I was excited to see Tim Brown of IDEO bring up the relationship between design thinking and divergence. He goes into more detail on design thinking as one of many approaches to problem solving, to business, on his own blog, which is aptly titled . This is what we are talking about, after all, and this is from where the value for business in design thinking emanates, this idea of divergence or divergent thinking. I was discussing this with a friend of mine who is an architect, and he proclaimed that this is how architects have been talking for awhile. Oh, really? Talking, probably, but acting on… not so much. In the article Brown goes on to say:

“Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

This, however, is not what you are seeing in the business of architecture. Nor have you seen this for a very, very long time. Sure, there are architects who embody this approach to their business and some of them are very, very successful. But as an industry, as a group, this hardly applies to the way that architects think. We have hardly seen the business model of architecture, or its approach to design, change in any significant way for decades, other than to see its influence in building culture be consistently reduced by other, smarter, more aggresive industries. The truth hurts, but this is where the opportunity for architecture clearly lies, on putting action to his words and actually applying divergent thinking to the architecture business model and making a determined effort to focus on innovation.

This post is a milestone for schneiderism, it being the 300th post since launch in July of 2007.

Iraq War Estimates: Getting it Wrong

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

An excellent graphic visualization of information from that depicts how the war in Iraq has reached the cost level of about $3 trillion. Yes, that’s right, $3 trillion. I’ll let the piece above speak for itself, so watch it, but suffice it to say that when you think back to all of the bad, false, and misleading information that pointed our nation in this direction the complete and total misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this war’s cost to the American taxpayer is right up there.

Anyway, frustration with the cost of this war aside, this is an excellent information visualization.

Found this visualization via .

Life in Perpetual Beta

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

The video above is an interview with Jim Coudal of that I found at a newish and excellent blog named . I found this blog via David Armano’s , a blog I have followed for some time and greatly enjoy. There are several great videos with individuals like Jim and David on Life in Perptetual Beta that seek perspective on things like creativity, design thinking, and authenticity. In the interview Jim talks about some of the consistent qualities he has experienced with creative people, including himself. Things like short attention spans, starting strong and finishing weak, and the all-consuming enthusiasm for discovery and inspiration. These qualities, to his point, are to be embraced as it is this make-up that sets creativity in motion. This would be absolutely consistent with my own experience not only working with exceptionally creative personalities and designers that I absolutely respect, but also with myself. It takes a different mindset to forage for inspiration and ideas than it does to methodically and consistently move something along. Process is not the mother of invention, after all.

Another great point revealed in the interview is that within any creative enterprise there is always a tension between the work that we are doing and the work that we want or need to be doing. Often, as an enterprise has success and grows there is a implied need to take on work that does not necessarily move the organization forward, but that helps to pay the bills, so to speak. Coudal gets this, and probably has learned a great deal from surfing this tension. In his interview he presents three questions to ask yourself about an opportunity:

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

Three simple, sharp questions that get to the root of value creation and that can focus you on those opportunities for creativity, innovation, and invention. Three simple questions that can focus you on what you should be doing.

A fantastic line from the interview:

“I have a short attention span, but I pay really good attention in those short periods.”

Jim Coudal