Recently Gesture Theory launched the new Undercurrent website. This was a great project to work on both professionally and personally. I hold a lot of the people that currently work there and those that had been there at some point in time. Typically when we launch a product or site I’ll go through the process on the blog. This time instead I’m going to point to an interview I did with Matthew Carlin of Undercurrent where we discuss some of the finer points of the site titled Production Notes: Undercurrent.com. Below are some of the screen shots of the site in various devices.
Braille is one of those things that has always fascinated me. A lot of what I do is based on observation so taking that tool away yet still being able to communicate is something that I wish I knew more about. So when I come across a post about it once in a while I’ll pay attention to it. I also like paying attention to patterns. I came across this modified Rubik’s Cube that has eliminated the color and swapped it for braille. A day afterwards Engadget posted about a Braille writing program for the iPhone.
I don’t know much about this Rubik’s cube aside from seeing it posted on a blog. The idea of taking a visual tool such as the color blocks that need to be matched with both eyes and hand have been swapped with mind and hand. I’d be curious to see who could match things up faster. A first time person with sight or a first time blind person. My gut suggests the blind person would complete it first.
BrailleTouch Helps Visually Impaired Users
Everything that the BrailleTouch is why I love the iPad and for this example the iPhone. It’s bassically compressing expensive hardware into a touch software solution. The braille program negates the need for expensive hardware while increasing the efficiency of typing in braille. It was interesting to hear the disclaimer that this app isn’t a solution for texting while driving. You can read more about this at Engadget’s post Georgia Tech researchers turn an iPhone into a Braille writer with BrailleTouch app.
Last weekend I opened my inbox to an email from Jeffrey Zeldman asking me if I would be interested in having a conversation on the Big Web Show. I said yes immediately and had the conversation last Thursday. The interview was published the following day and is available to be heard at http://5by5.tv/bigwebshow/63
Here’s the description of the interview from the site: Jeffrey Zeldman interviews Michael Surtees, founding partner and creative director at Gesture Theory, co-creator of Deckpub (“the future of publishing on iPad”), and author of Design notes. The two designers discuss managing a small, nimble design practice; getting clients; balancing client services work with product development and blogging; Michael’s journey from employee to entrepreneur; avoiding static comps and wireframes; and much more.
I don’t typically write too much about fashion but I thought this was a worthy exception. Mei Liu has released her first collection under the name PRIORY OF TEN for Autumn/Winter 2012. Like I said I don’t know much about fashion but what I do know is a sense of proportion, attention to details and the art making something great. All of those elements are displayed in her look book. A couple months ago she walked me through her process. To see it all come together is really impressive. In terms of the look book, that was designed by another friend who’s a pretty good designer in his own right. Kevin Boothe put the look book together and identity. To see the full book with all the designs, just download the PDF.
I really enjoyed watching the two part film from Gourmet Films. They interview the founder and CEO of Icon, Jonathan Ward. It’s fascinating to listen what drives him to create. When you start listening to the decisions made it becomes clear pretty quickly that everything was done with a purpose and was thought out extensively. Things like color to the materials to the proportions all went through the same thought process. Inspirations came from jets to classic watches. Everything is simple, old school analog with strong shapes. He describes how they looked at things that sucked and made something entirely new. It’s also about discovery for him. There’s hidden functionality that isn’t apparent at first. Towards the end of the short film he mentions a desire for reflection of craft that has more of a story to it. The second film is worth watching for entirely different reasons. They do things to other vehicles that I find kind of amazing. I’m not going to ruin the surprise — you’ll have to watch it for yourself.
Last week I came across a poster advertising the premier date for this year’s season of Mad Men. I took a shot of it for my daily photo project and posted it to Flickr, Instagram and Twitter. My tweeted title was “I’m not too sure how appropriate is this Mad Men poster”. Thinking nothing more of it I continued with my day and shooting more images each morning. A couple days later I went back to the photo and noticed a spike in traffic to the photo. A couple blogs had used the image in posts talking about it. Looking at the comments from the posts it’s interesting to see the eclectic points of view. In some respects it shows how people view events differently depending on location, personal history and how they interact with pop culture and the news. Personally I wasn’t offended as much as I was questioning why Mad Men would want to associate a campaign with that image considering the city I’m in and past events. I completely understand that it’s from the opening credits. What triggered my question more than anything was that 2011 was the ten year anniversary of 9/11. I saw a lot of programs about it. More so than any other year. Soon as I saw the ad I thought of this video clip from 9/11 Attacks – 102 Minutes That Changed America from the History Channel. In the clip a couple NYU students film the towers just after the explosion. A couple minutes in they talk about seeing people jumping.
My biggest question would be to the agency that made the ads. First I’m curious to know if they’re even in NYC. The second question would be is if they felt that there could be any conotations of the jumpers and if they felt that it would bring possible negativity to the Mad Men brand? Ultimately the ads are out there, it’s not like I’m not going to watch the show because of them but I thought it was worth pointing out that the conversation about the appropriateness of them was worth talking about.
WIKIPEDIA: The Falling Man is a photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, of a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:41:15 a.m. during the September 11 attacks in New York City. The subject of the image—whose identity remains uncertain but is speculated as being that of Jonathan Briley, who worked in a top-floor restaurant—was one of the people trapped on the upper floors of the skyscraper who apparently either fell as they searched for safety or jumped to escape the fire and smoke. As many as 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths that day; there was no time to recover or identify those who were forced out of the buildings prior to the collapse of the towers. Officially, all deaths in the attacks except those of the hijackers were ruled to be homicides due to blunt trauma (as opposed to suicides), and the New York City medical examiner’s office stated that it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as “jumpers”: “A ‘jumper’ is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide… These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out.
Clip from 9/11 Attacks – 102 Minutes That Changed America from the History Channel.
COPYRANTER: The “Mad Men” season 5 teaser poster is macabre.
From Copyranter: If you know the show, you smile at the inside joke. If you don’t know the show, you Google “March 25” and maybe you guess what it is or maybe you think March 25th is National Commit Suicide Day and you start the search for the perfect building to throw yourself off of. Or, if you see it in NYC, you think of the Fallen Man.
From Wetpaint: Here’s something we never thought we’d say: Mad Men’s new Season 5 promotional poster has upset people because it reminds them of 9/11. Really.
From Crushable: It seems as if AMC is going the ultra-subtle role in promoting season 5 of Mad Men, set to premiere on March 25: Michael Surtees uploaded this photo to his Flickr, the first official poster… and it doesn’t even mention the show’s title. The network is relying on true fans to recognize a) the typeface in the date and b) more importantly, the iconic image of a man tumbling through white space. After all, the much-applauded opening sequence concludes with the little black-and-white Don Draper falling alongside full-building ads, only to be OK and smoking a cigarette in his favorite armchair.
But so far, the response has been to assume that this poster is hinting at a depressing season 5. Ology makes the argument for someone’s suicide; the lack of any other visuals makes me want to agree.
PEREZ HILTON: Mad Men Teases Us With This Poster!!
From Perez Hilton: In the truest of fashion, Mad Men has once again teased us with this new mysterious poster!
2011 was a crazy year for me so over Christmas I rewarded the hard work I put in by buying a couple design books. I bought Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible by Sophie Lovell, Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw and Saul Bass by Jennifer Bass & Pat Kirkham. The first two books came right away but the Bass book was on back order and there was no defined delivery date. I ordered it anyways from Amazon. To my surprise it arrived a couple days after the first two books. This post isn’t as much a review (I haven’t read the whole thing yet), but an initial reaction to the book. I don’t know the whole story on Saul Bass and I don’t have anything to compare it with. What I do know is that I was instantly blown away at what I saw.
What I’m doing is capturing my initial reaction going through the book, pausing at work that makes me appreciate what is in front of me and trying to let that soak into my own sensibilities as a designer. Typically I’ll cheat when going through this book. I’ll start from the back, flipping from the end to the start. As the pages turn I’ll find myself stopping every couple pages to read an excerpt or study an image. When I continue flipping I may have spent upwards of thirty minutes on just a couple pages. At this pace it’s going to take me a year to go through the entire thing.
There’s the corporate identity work, the posters and movie titles. The first two are easily to display on paper. Stopping movie titles should be difficult because of all the motion and timing involved. Surprisingly or maybe not, the titles are pretty impactful on paper as I would imagine on screen. I have a lot of favorite images in the book. The one that stands out the most for me is the image of Saul standing in front a number of posters he’s designed. The difference from some of the other images of him in front of his work is that he’s outside putting them on a wall. They’re not framed. There is nothing better as a designer seeing people interact with the work that’s been designed. It’s even more powerful when a designer can staple or in this instance wheat paste work in the outside environment. There are very few better feelings for a designer than this and it shows in his expression.
I think all the work is great and wonder why I don’t feel the same way today with the stuff that I pass on the street or interact with today. I’m not looking back thing in a nostalgic way wondering if things were better for design in a different era, but questioning practical design principles that aren’t really seen these days. A couple points come to mind. 1. Motion without needing to use an animated gif (or flash) — the movement reflected in the shapes and proportions. 2. Impecable use of color. 3. Visual puzzles without being complicated for the sake of not being able to focus on one point. 4. Scale doesn’t seem to be an issue. Whether a graphic is small or almost fills the page — it still has the same beautiful impact.
It’s been almost a week since I was in Detroit for the North American International Autoshow that Ford invited me to. I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the days that I was there and wanted to start talking about what I saw inside Ford. I along with 149 other bloggers from across the world got access inside the company that they’ve never given the public access to. We checked out different labs for testing, rooms where designs are reviewed and some of the workspace that clay models are created. We also had the chance to talk to a lot of the people working in those spaces.
After getting a tour of the clay models and talking with some of the people that create them gave me a new appreciation of car design. How I look at the shapes of the cars has forever changed. One of the bigger takeaways was how light is reflected off the shapes. When I see a car go by now, one of the first things I look at is how the light flows across the car. In one of the main rooms that the designs can be reviewed I had the chance to drive a simulated car. Driving the computer generated car allowed me to see how the light takes on the shapes of the car. We also saw a quick demo of how sketches can be turned into 3D models. It was interesting to see some of the same principles of design that I do being used for cars. Sketches, wireframes and building through computer programs.
While we only got an overview of what a potential car design process might be, I really enjoyed what those were willing to share.
The Henry Ford Museum was the backdrop for the first dinner put on with Ford in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show. I had the opportunity to walk around the museum both before and after dinner. I was really was really impressed with the eclectic nature of the collection and vast size. There was everything from cars to trains to airplanes to different forms of machines that made energy. I really enjoyed seeing how a lot of those items have evolved over time. Going through the bus that Rosa Parks sat in was a really fascinating experience. People are invited to walk and sit inside the bus. It’s a very humbling experience. Below are a couple other things that I saw that caught my attention.
Over the next couple of days I’ll be taking a lot of photos, tweeting and writing the occasional post from Detroit. I was invited from Ford to take part in this year’s North American International Auto Show. The two day schedule put together from Ford looks pretty cool as it is busy. I suspect by the time I fly back to NYC I’ll know a lot more about vehicles than when I landed in Detroit.
A couple years ago after reading a post from someone that visited the Empire State Building once a year on New Years Day I decided to follow the same tradition. Just like last year and the year before that it gave me a focused opportunity to reflect on the past year and decide what I will do for the remainder of the new year.
Looking back it was like no other. The biggie was Gesture Theory. We worked with more people, released better products and ultimately we we’re in control of our direction based on our experience. It wasn’t always easy but it was with all the other experiences that lead to the confidence that when things weren’t working out as they should be, things would still would work out.
I’ve always maintained that no two days in NYC are ever the same. That still holds true but I also am starting to focus on a couple things each day that can move the needle each day. Small tweaks to the unordered routine will make this post next year interesting to read.
I’m in the process of starting to reorganize some of my sources of info that I deal with on my browser. As I started to shuffle links around I noticed a nice set of tech video sources. Now that the holidays are almost here I figured I might be able to catchup on some of the interviews I’ve missed. Below are some of the sites that I think are worth visiting to learn a bit more about technology and some of my favourite interviews that I’ve seen.
I pretty much watch Bloomberg West every night once I get home. The hour long program reports on all the relevant tech news of the day. I really like how they make the financial information accessible to people that aren’t completely familiar with those details and the people they interview. I also like the vibe that each of the reporters gives as they share information. I would def. make an effort to start recording this on your DVR.
I’m slowly making my way through this set of presentations from Paris’ LeWeb conference. It seemed liked the roster of speakers included everybody that is anybody in tech these days. A couple videos that I would recommend start with include Dave Morin, Co-Founder & CEO, Path and Loic Le Meur, Mike McCue, CEO, Flipboard and Loic Le Meur and George Colony, Forrester Research “Three Social Thunderstorms”
I’m not that familiar with Press:Here as it’s shown locally on the West Coast. A quick glance of the people they’ve interviewed looks like a lot of people that I’d want to hear more about. I’d probably start with Author Eric Ries discovers a better way to launch companies.
Ok, Charlie Rose isn’t always about tech but needs to be on any list of video sites to catchup with. I try to catch a couple of his interviews during the week. Some of my favourites this year include Moneyball: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Bennett Miller, A Conversation about the NYC High Line, A Tribute to Steve Jobs, Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Martin, Robert Duvall, Charlie Rose: Social Media, Marc Benioff, Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com, Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter, Tim Wu, Valery Gergiev, Simon Rattle & Antonio Pappano and Michael Lewis
There’s essentially two ways for people to publish online theses days. Using a print solution like a pdf or a web based CMS. The problem is that both ways were created before tablets and smart phones. I don’t think they really take advantage of what screens have the capabilities of doing today. PDFs also need a lot of time to make and CMSs assume people know how to code. It’s also a lengthy process. Over the past couple of months Gesture Theory has been working on a better way to publish to the iPad and iPhone. Our first alpha release allowed people the ability to create a deck based on four templates. It was limited in what it could do but it gave us the ability to see how people were trying to use the decks. Based on those observations our next alpha release was pretty ambitious. That release happened last night. People can now add and delete panels, change the order of panels, select more types of panels for each template, change the typography based on font, color and size. We also added the capability to publish to an iPhone and change the format in terms of landscape or portrait depending on the template. We also looked at the editing tools. The library, panels and settings have been moved to the right rail. This release is pretty significant for us.
The biggest question I’ve been asked is who is DeckPub for? Tablets are visual in nature and allow for a type of interaction that doesn’t need to rely on a mouse click. Apps if designed correctly can work just as well offline as online. So one group of people that will love DeckPub are people that need to display their portfolio. That could be a photographer, a designer, or even a marketer. The second group that have found the work flow really easy are people that sell products. DeckPub is really helpful for people to create catalogs of their products for presentations or showing off property they are selling. The third exciting group are educators and those that create original content. All of a sudden people can now digitize their content in a private way that can be distributed online.
We’re already getting ready for the public beta release. We’re pretty close. All that is left is a bit of testing and sprinting. If you’re curious about DeckPub, just signing up for an invite at http://deckpub.com/
Here’s the workflow
I try to take some time each weekend to walk down the Hudson River. It’s a great way for me to reflect on the past week and let my mind wander a bit with new ideas. This weekend I decided to shoot each old pier that I walked by to see what patterns might emerge after looking at them in a set. First thing I noticed was that I didn’t realize that there was that many piers clustered together within a short distance of each other. The second thing was the placement of each pillar. Each pier had a unique spacing and placement of piers. Whether this was because each was designed by a different person or served a different purpose is something to ponder. I also wondered how each ended up being destroyed. Was it from a fire, decay or technology that made it obsolete? All those elements made the Saturday stroll a bit more interesting to consider.
Looking back at November, the first thing I saw was the quantity of photos I shot. This was the first full month with my iPhone 4S and the weather in NYC this November was amazing. I can’t recall seeing a better fall month since I was in NYC. This was also the first month that a majority of my images were published first on Instagram and passed to Flickr second. The catch is that almost all my images for this post are being pulled from Flickr because it’s an easier way to host the images. With the talk of Yahoo being acquired, broken apart or something in between, it will be interesting to see where Flickr is this time next year.
I got really excited about Up by Jawbone as the first posts were published. My interests was because of it’s ability to ambiently track my walking habits without getting in my way. I was curious to see what that experience would be like and how that data would transfer to my iPhone. I wanted to test that interaction out. I also want to see how my behavior would change. I also wanted to experience it to see what new questions about fitness, measurement and interaction would pop into my head as the days passed. In the end I ended up returning the device.
The learning curve to figure out Up isn’t that difficult. What was difficult for me was to decide to track an activity or let things get tracked ambiently. I basically wanted to use the device to track how far I walked in a day. I walk my dog in the morning and walk to work from Midtown to Soho most days. I was kind of curious to see how far I walked and the number of calories I burned. The first failure was not having the ability to sort or filter my days to see when I lost time or made up time walking. To get the data off the bracelet I plugged it into my iPhone through the headphone jack. It seemed like there was almost a problem every time I tried syncing the device. I would have to unplug and replug and try to delete the cache over and over to get it to grab the data. Once the info was able to be displayed I really couldn’t do anything with it. Sharing and social functionality was pretty non existent.
The sleep functionality was really interesting. After setting my alarm via the app it would wake me up slightly early if I was in a light sleep by vibrating. I really liked that function. I would have liked to have the ability to set multiple alarms. Not necessairly to wake me up but alert me to alerts that I found necessary to get my attention. That was probably one of the more interesting experiences discovered. But unfortunately there was no way to alter the one time alarm.
I have an average wrist size. Using their measurement system suggested that I get the large version. The large felt a bit snug on my wrist but wasn’t too uncomfortable. What ultimately made me return my device was that the button to change modes didn’t work all the time. It wasn’t because the battery was dead but because it had a decent charge when I pugged it in to my iPhone. There were times when it missed my walk and I couldn’t set the sleep mode. The combination of not being able to do anything with the data, the buggy syncing and the ability to consistently collect data made it easy to return it.
Ultimately I really liked the concept of collecting information without having to do much at the time of it being on. Up hasn’t gone far enough with creating options for the person using the device to start slicing the data in ways to make it meaningful information. As a first release Up provides a glimpse into the potential of collecting ambient data. The next step is to work on the filtering of that information which is not going to be difficult to do with future app releases. The difficult thing will be to trust a device that doesn’t always collect the data in the first place.
This morning started like almost every other morning. Waking up early, walking my weim Madison, checking what’s going on with the interwebs via my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. I showered, drank some coffee and played some music while doing all that stuff. I also glanced out my window from time to time during the rituals. Something different arose on one of my glances. Smoke coming from what I guessed was 34th street. In a matter of seconds a lot of it arose. What surprised me a great deal was how quiet it was from my apartment. I hear sirens all the time, but for some strange reason I really didn’t hear much sound which lead me to wonder if I was imagining what I was seeing. Fresh in my mind was the latest terrorist arrest and the fact that Thanksgiving was only a couple days away so my imagination was heightened. I had no idea what was happening so I shot a photo from my apartment and sent it to Instagram, Flickr and ultimately Twitter that would carry the message from my iPhone.
I started scanning Twitter to see if I could catch a line about what was happening. It was seconds after the smoke started to rise so nothing was coming through. I didn’t bother turning my tv on and radio doesn’t really exist anymore as we used to know it. So I did what any other New Yorker does when they have no idea what’s going on and heads to work. The only difference from my walk to work this morning was I went through the back door towards Penn Station to see for myself what was going on in the street. It turned out that there was a lot of fire trucks and police cars blocking off 34th st and 7th av. The reaction to that was that there wasn’t any traffic. No traffic, no sounds — hence why it was so quiet when I saw the smoke rise.
I still had no idea what had happened at that point but I started in my proper route to Soho. A couple minutes later I did end up seeing a tweet mentioning what had happened. Thankfully it was only a school bus on fire (which is kind of bad but no one was hurt) so that made things ok.
Later on my walk to work I caught this tweet from someone I don’t follow catching the aftermath. A couple points that I got from this exercise was that there are tools out there to report minutes after something happens, but not as it happens. I couldn’t confirm with anyone else what was going on as the smoke started. Mainstream channels like radio, tv and even internet news are not alert systems, and silence during an emergency is a bad sign.
The biggest take away is to create a list of sources that can give information in real time. I do have a Twitter news list that I keep an eye on at https://twitter.com/#!/list/MichaelSurtees/news. The catch is that it is international as much as it’s local. Because of that I follow a great list put together by @newyorkology for New York headlines at https://twitter.com/#!/NewYorkology/nyc-headlines. If you live in NYC I think it’s a must for days like this when there’s moments when a person has no idea what’s going on. The other big point that’s kind of obvious yet worth keeping in mind is that I used a mobile smart phone to publish what I saw and used it to find out for myself about what was going on.
I spent some time this afternoon hanging out at Nooka’s office with good friend Matthew Waldman. Anyone that knows Matthew knows that he loves showing off his new products. This time around he showed me the Nooka Zizm. I had seen some images on his site but was surprised to see how differently it looks in person. I wasn’t so sure about the angled glass from the images on his site, but in person I really liked it. The face was completely legible from all angles. I also like how the watch looked like on an angle on my wrist. You can take a closer look at the specs at http://www.nooka.com/zizm-ti-p-383.html
I really liked the idea of customizing my new white iPhone 4S with something a bit different from the iPhone cases out there. It took a while to figure out what I wanted to do but realized what better image to use than the Obey stencil. I found a pdf of the stencil online, opened it up in illustrator and made the pattern. The most difficult aspect was trying to align the camera within the eye…
Over at Gesture Theory we reached a pretty significant milestone Friday evening. We published our first live deck from DeckPub to the iPad using our own product. We used Link Drop to test because it gave us an opportunity to see how the images loaded with text with online content that people would want to read on an iPad. The screen shots above show the Dashboard where people create their decks, the Editor which allows people to add content, the content’s and leaf pages using Link Drop used on the iPad. We did a major sprint to build this product. Next week we will be rolling it out to those that have signed up to be on our private alpha list. If you’re curious to see how the future of publishing to an iPad is here, I’d recommend signing up at http://deckpub.com You can also see Link Drop by pasting this on Safari in an iPad http://deckpub.com/8/link-drop-001
I’ve been loving the new iPhone 4S’ camera. I’m using it as much as I can with Instagram and Flickr. Typically when I shoot it’s pretty static in format. Usually the format is either a square or 16:9 proportion. Yesterday Mike Arauz mentioned a new photo app to me that you should download immediately after reading this post. It’s called Photosynth. It makes panoramic images amazingly easy to take. All I had to do was tap the screen once and started to pan. Above is what I shot this morning rotating almost 180 degrees in Washington Square Park.
I started experimenting from my apartment this evening with Photosynth. What I didn’t realize until I started moving my iPhone around is that the app will stich both horizontally and vertically. It really opens up the ability to capture a huge image.
After taking the unedited image I cropped it in app before saving it. This was what I ended up with. I really like this app, I’m sure I’ll over use it a bit but it’s really worth exploring.
I received an email earlier from Mads Soegaard who is the Editor-in-Chief of Interaction-Design.org. He wanted to let me know that they’ve released an authoritative overview of Social Computing and its relation to social media by Thomas Erickson. He mentions that Thomas Erickson is a veteran researcher in social computing at IBM Watson Research Lab. Apparently the materials have took 10 months to produce and involved 3 editors, 2 peer-reviewers, and a camera crew of 4 people.
I’m just starting to go through the material now. It looks like a great resource. You can read and view the material at http://interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/social_computing.html?p=e210
In Debbie Millman’s latest book Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, she interviews 22 well known designers and other people with opinions about brands. The conversation about brands varied quite a bit from topic to topic. When the topic about the future of branding and implementation of new social technology came up, people recognized it’s importance but they didn’t really talk about how they’re taking advantage of it. The people being interviewed tended to feel the most comfortable talking about their past branding experiences. I would have liked to have read a couple interviews with digital natives to round out the book. For me, the context of the digital native is someone that is changing and creating behavior through interactions without the traditional use of print and packaging materials. Aside from that point the book is worth reading for those interested in branding. Below are some points from each of the interviews that I took note of.
ROB WALKER: My view is that branding is the process of attaching an idea to some object, or to a service or organization. That idea can be fairly straightforward: This brand of oats (or car or hammer) is of dependable quality. Or the idea can be extremely ambitious: This brand of mobile phone (or denim or yogurt) possesses and reflects a maverick and creative worldview.
DEBBIE MILLMAN: Branding is a history in flux, and my hope is that this collection of conversations can provide a time capsule of the second decade of the 21st century. Coca-Cola is seeking to create new experiences through redesigned vending machines; nations and niche products are striving to brand their own individuality. Where we’ll be in twenty years is uncertain.
WALLY OLINS: Of course they will. Television didn’t kill radio; film didn’t kill theater. There will certainly be huge changes. But one medium doesn’t kill another. Each new medium actually makes the previous one better. Radio no longer resembles what it was before television. Television no longer resembles what it was before the Internet. All these things will change, but they give us a multiplicity of choice.
GRANT McCRACKEN: Sometimes I hear designers speaking in generalities such as, “We had to freshen the brand,” or, “We had to make it more dynamic,” and so forth. What I don’t hear designers say is, “We chose this brand, this particular meaning and that particular meaning, and we got rid of that meaning.” We can be much more particular—we must be much more particular—about the meanings that we think matter. What I’d rather hear from designers is, “These are the twelve cultural meanings at issue here, and this is where the world is—this is what the world wants. This is how we’ve crafted the brand out of these twelve meanings. This is how we’ve combined them, and this is how we’ll manage them over the next six or twelve months.”
PHIL DUNCAN: A design firm needs to bring some interesting, innovative ideas on how to validate the work, so the client is convinced the proposal is the right approach. One strategy is to show the work in the context of an unusual competitive setting. If the designers show their work in the context of brands that have done breakthrough work in other categories, they can demonstrate how their design is picking up that same feeling and will be able to break through in its own category.
DORI TUNSTALL: The fact that you’re connecting with other people who think the same way you do actually makes you feel more optimistic—because you’re not alone. You can then build a coalition and get things accomplished.
BRIAN COLLINS: We say we want information, but we don’t experience the world through information—we experience the world through story.
VIRGINIA POSTREL: Brands like nike or apple associate themselves with a lot of cultural benefits in addition to promising consumers certain brand attributes. And that’s where conscious branding comes in: how do you make these cultural benefits cool at a given moment?
BRUCE DUCKWORTH: I think it’s because about 98 percent of all the work we do is rejected. It’s a very wasteful process. If you think about all the concepts that don’t get through, you think we would be used to rejection. Also, as a designer, the first thing you tend to look for is the problem.
DAVID BUTLER: There was actually a design brief—and it included two objectives: One, they wanted a package that was so unique and so differentiated that you could find it in the dark. The second was even more surprising. they wanted glass that was so distinctive that even when it was shattered on the ground, you could still tell that it was once a Coke bottle.
STANLEY HAINSWORTH: Being a part of nike or Starbucks is like being part of a religion. You learn all the tenets of the religion. Our job, as brand evangelists, is to gain converts to the religion. But as much as I believe in this, I also realize that no one has to have those products. You can live without them—they’re not essential to life. I’ve probed deep in my soul to see if I felt bad doing this work, but I never have. I have never felt guilty.
CHERYL SWANSON: The functional pillar, the sensorial experiential pillar, and the emotional pillar. It’s the emotional pillar that actually transforms a product into a true brand with a compelling story. This then creates the bond that convinces consumers there is no substitute for it.
JOE DUFFY: I think an awful lot of people working with bad clients start out believing that during the project, they can convince the clients to understand great design. They think great design will convince them. Bullshit. Ask the right questions before designing and listen to the answers, and nine times out of ten, you’ll know whether or not you’ll be able to do great work that you’ll be proud of.
MARGARET YOUNGBLOOD: I think there are different reasons why consumers revolt. A key reason consumers are so opinionated now is that they want to be able to trust what they’re being told. If the visual language of a company is not trustworthy, consumers now push back and say, “You’re lying.” Initially, I think the intent of BP’s repositioning was very noble. It was authentic and honest. After chief executive John Browne left, the vision became something else, and that was a problem. Now the logo has become a metaphor, or an emblem for people’s lack of trust.
SETH GODIN: I’d like to answer a different question, which is, “What’s the designer’s role in helping brands leverage memories or create experiences that people are seeking out?” If I were to ask, “What kind of brand does the Catholic Church have?” there would be all sorts of design answers to that, but, in fact, for someone who has never encountered the Catholic Church, there is very little brand awareness of it. For someone who has been involved in it since they were a week old, it fundamentally has a very different meaning.
DAN FORMOSA: The way to think about “everybody” is not to think about the average person in the middle, but to think about the extremes. Think about people at the edges of your potential buying public and think about people who are most challenged. Also, you have to look at people who are experts. In the case of OXO, we looked at chefs and cooks. We wanted to understand both ends of the spectrum—those who are challenged and those who are experts.
BILL MOGGRIDGE: As designers, we can create solutions and synthesize results to improve people’s lives and make things better. I think the context of design is changing and expanding. And you can think of that in three concentric circles. Think of the inside circle as the individual. The second circle is the built environment, and the one around that is the overall, holistic environment. Each concentric circle is changing and moving in a design context that is itself expanding. In the past, we thought about designing things for the circle at the center. So your PDA, for example, is something that you use as an individual. The slightly more expansive context is to think about the health and well-being of the individual, rather than the specific things the individual uses. This more comprehensive view requires broader thinking about people. Rather than thinking about the things in isolation, we’re thinking about the whole person. Similarly, when you think about the built environment, we historically have thought about architecture. But as we move towards an expanding context for design, we find that we’re thinking more about social interactions and innovations as well as buildings. It’s not that one is replacing the other— it’s that the context is simply expanding. Now we’re thinking about social connections as well as the built environment we’re living in. And then when we think about the larger circle, sustainability is the big issue. In the past, we thought of sustainability as being about materials: choosing the best material and designing for disassembly. But now it’s absolutely clear that a sustainable planet is one that’s completely connected. Globalization has shown us that the effect of industrialization on the world is of planetary concern. We can’t just think about designing materials, we have to include a consideration of the entire planet. And that, again, is an expansion of context.
SEAN ADAMS: Collectively, we make something work, we make something look better, we make something more attractive or seductive, and someone wants to acquire it. Or there’s a political party or movement that someone wants you to believe in or join. The part that bothered me about all this was the idea that it was all negative. I wanted to start talking about the fact that consumerism is not necessarily a bad thing.
DANIEL PINK: I do think that transactions between companies and individuals—or between brands and individuals— are in their own ways conversations. A promise can be one element of a conversation. It’s what draws people in. I think that’s why the dynamic is different when you look at this conversation after someone has bought the product or the service.
DEE DEE GORDON: It isn’t, but you don’t really have to see an Apple logo on an iPod to know that it’s an iPod. You can put it next to four different MP3 players and instantly recognize the iPod. The brand provides such a strong visual language that you don’t ever need to see an Apple logo on any of the products. I can identify an Apple monitor from across the room. This is a testament to the brand’s design and visual language, and I think most of the brands that I’m interested in have a similar sensibility. You’re able to identify them without ever having to see a badge, logo, color combination, or any type of sign.
KARIM RASHID: (designocracy) It’s my term for the democratization of design. Honestly, this is the only real way to work in the design world. If you really want to make an impact, if you really want to make people’s lives better, if you really want to make change, and if you are concerned about this planet on every level—you have to make democratic things. Because, frankly, if you open up a magazine, or go to a museum, or buy a book, you can see some chair that everybody knows represents a certain image. But no one ever gets to sit on it. This doesn’t make sense to me anymore. It’s bullshit.
ALEX BOGUSKY: In advertising and design, there are usually two things going on. One is the effort to propel the discipline forward. The other is the effort to refine the craft as we know it. Both camps are important. I think you can look at people’s work and identify which camp they’re in. There are those who refine the craft as it exists, and they create, in many ways, the most beautiful work. They make the work that is the easiest to like. Those who are trying to undo the craft or destroy a piece of it—or push the discipline into a new place—that’s important too. And as soon as this type of work is successful, then the craft gets applied to what they’ve done.
TOM PETERS: In today’s environment, you’ve got to stand for something. You might not have to do this if you’re a nineteen-year-old shift manager at McDonald’s, and we certainly aren’t talking about those folks who are working at Google. But the guy who was the faceless person in the faceless purchasing department is either going to be outsourced to India or outsourced to software. The great race is between the two. To stay employable today, you’ve got to have some sort of signature.
MALCOLM GLADWELL: Right now, we’re focused on scale when it comes to the realm of sharing information with people. In previous generations, the focus was on intimacy. So, there’s been a trade. The kind of information sharing that we have now is really, really great for innovation, for the adoption of new ideas, and for forming new coalitions.
Title: Graphic: Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits
Author: Debbie Millman
Publisher: Allworth Press
Taking a look back at some of the photos that I took in October, a couple influencers became apparent. First there was the technical. I started shuffling between a couple different mobile devices while continuing to use my GF1. It also made sense for me to take a closer look at where I place and store those photos because of my drastically changing camera habits. Typically a clean image will live on Flickr and another version on Instagram. This becomes noticeable as you scroll down the timeline. The second influencer was the weather. As fall arrived it rained and even snowed. It was pretty unusual to go through a nor’easter in October but it made for some great opportunities to see the environment in action. I’m looking forward to seeing how my images and narratives keep evolving once a product that I’m working on at Gesture Theory called DeckPub goes into private beta.
October was a busy month for me shuffling between mobile devices and network carriers. I switched from an iPhone 3GS to a Droid Bionic to a white iPhone 4S. I also left ATT for Verizon. Below are some of my notes comparing the Droid Bionic to the iPhone 4S. There was a couple reasons why I left the iPhone family briefly. Basically I was unimpressed at the time of iPhone 4S launch. Yes, I was one of those people that wanted to see an iPhone 5 after waiting so long for a new iPhone after having to put up with poor network speed from ATT in NYC. I felt like I deserved something better for that pain. So I switched carriers and bought a Droid Bionic. I figured it would be helpful for me as a designer to experience other mobile operating systems too. That experience lasted thirteen days.
This thing had a huge screen which I actually liked. I didn’t have any trouble with the size. I did however fear that I was going to walk into someone or get hit by a car while looking down at it. It felt like it took a bit longer to do simple things with it. More focus on the screen and less awareness of what was going on around me. Setting things up from scratch wasn’t too bad.There was a decent amount of apps to download and most of the basic one’s that I had used on my old iPhone 3GS were available like Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare etc. Notably Instagram or Camaera+ weren’t available. Actually there are no good Droid camera apps out there which kind of surprised me. Comparing the basic apps from my iPhone to the Bionic, I thought the bigger screen relestate made them better to use. The elements didn’t feel as cramped. Interacting with the apps took a bit of time to get used to, but it wasn’t a huge hurtle. As a power user I liked that I could work within the settings to customize things with one press as opposed to having to go outside the app to fix the settings. I’ve always felt that the iPhone could do more with the background screen. On this device I could use an active Google map to show me my location which I thought was cool. I was surprised that I didn’t use other Google products more because of the Droid integration. Battery life wasn’t great so I bout a spare battery. It was small enough to keep in my wallet which I didn’t mind.
So using this device wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but most of those experiences dealt with receiving info. Creating content to push out was very difficult and ultimately why I had to return the device. The camera was awful. Just because it has a lot of megapixels does not equal a good image. The images looked dreadful because the sensor had no sense of white balance or the ability to show a range of colors. It got so bad that I bought a eyefi sd card for my GF1. Basically I was going to use my real camera to take photos and connect them to the Bionic. The other huge issue was the keyboard. The visual design of it was ugly, but worse was the sensitivity of it. Every other word was getting misspelled. I tried to force my self to liking the Droid Bionic, but there would never be love for it. On day thirteen of using the device I had to stop. I couldn’t take it anymore that my photos sucked and it was impossible to type anything.
I’m pretty sure every feature of the new iPhone has been blogged a thousand times already but here’s my impression of a couple experiences. I like Siri for reminders, it works very nicely as a to do list. It feels weird to talk to it and my weim Madison doesn’t like me talking to Siri. For the most part it is easier for me to do task with my thumbs as opposed to making requests to Siri. How my behavior over time evolves as I get comfortable talking to Siri will be interesting to watch. I like notifications, I use it for email, tweets, ESPN alerts, Instagram among others. I could see myself designing an app based around the notification UI. I’m starting to use iCloud more than I thought I would. Photos are still being pushed to a couple sites but other things like email, calendar and alerts between my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air feels tighter now. With that said, when I have all three devices in front of me and something goes off like a reminder in my calendar, it goes off three times right in front of me. The Camera is great, I’m starting to shoot even more photographs. My photo strategy between Flickr, Instagram and Twitter is already starting to evolve (more on that in an upcoming post). I’ve noticed an amazing increase in sending and receiving information online by switching from ATT to Verizon. I noticed this with the Bionic too, but comparing 3G to 3G with different networks is a farer comparison. The connectivity difference is amazing and has made my life better. Battery life isn’t great. I’ve ordered an external batter charger. It hasn’t arrived yet so it’s hard to compare that experience with the extra battery I was using for the Droid Bionic.
It’s like using my iPhone 3GS but better, much better. I hadn’t even had the iPhone for a full day when someone asked me about it. Without even thinking I said to them that I loved it. There’s a lot to be said about things just working. That goes without saying for this device. If I wanted to be really nitpicky I could complain that this device isn’t that much newer than their iPhone 4, a device I could have bought a year ago. If the iPhone 5 does come out in the next couple of months I will be slightly disappointed that I’ll have to wait quite a while before I can upgrade again. I suppose that won’t be a huge deal after going through the experience of buying a newer device from a different platform only to return it and being ok with using an older Apple product before getting their newest device.
I remember the time when the iPad was just a rumor, something that was being discussed on blogs and other sites. There were guesses on what Apple would release with unlimited potential. When I finally got my hands on one the day the 3G version became available I started dreaming about what I wanted to design on it. Photos & videos seemed like a great start. The iPhone showed us the potential of gestures: swiping, tapping and pinching. The only issue with the iPhone was that the screen was kind of small for the purpose watching videos. Photos seemed decent on a smaller screen but still something felt lacking. So when I started to consider the design potential of a much larger screen that the iPad offered with gestural possibilities, I really wanted to consider the opportunity of photos and video. At Behavior I got that chance to design the first Live TV app. Last week at Gesture Theory, we released the Forbes Photos & Videos iPad app.
The Forbes website has a lot of great video and photo content associated with their posts. We saw a huge potential to take that content that is updated daily on the website and create an app specifically to display it an appropriately larger format. A person could filter content in a number of different ways like what is popular or the type of stuff they wanted to see. Maybe they wanted to see just videos, or vice versa. We also knew that the speed could make it easier to go through a number of galleries faster than on a website. I noticed that when I started using the app, I was sharing more through Twitter and Facebook than on the website. We also wanted to make it a resource that people would come back to, so we designed the ui to make it easy for a person to save content for future use. Forbes organizes their posts into a number of different channels like Business, Investing, Technology and so on. We designed a page that gives an overview of all the content while allowing a person to dive deeper into each channel.
There’s a couple small tweaks we will be making for the next release but overall we’re really excited about this app. We really enjoyed working with Forbes on this and appreciated them listening and beleving in our proposal. We’re also thinking about the potential of creating a platform that will make it even easier to publish on to the iPad and other tablets as they pick up steam.
In the meantime, the Forbes Photos & Videos iPad app is available in the iTunes store.
What seems like an internity now that I’ve been here for a while, before moving to NYC I’d come across stories of people finding cool design furniture on the streets. Stuff that no designer would probably throw out if they knew what it was. On the flip side near the end of any month there’s tons of furniture on the streets from people moving that can’t keep because their new apartment shrunk in space from what they used to live in. Almost a 100% of the time it’s not worth slowing down for. Now that I’ve been walking my weim Madison and walking to work for five years around Manhattan I can now report that the myth of cool designer furniture does indeed come true with an open eye and some patience.
I was on the home stretch of my walk with Madison on Friday morning (having celebrated my birthday the previous evening) when I came across something that I thought was too good to be true. A clear plastic chair that looked pretty familiar. In between Lex and Park on 31st street was a Louis Ghost Armchair by Philippe Starck. I spent a couple brief seconds inspecting the chair for some sort of obvious defect that would explain why it was on the street. I didn’t notice anything so I spent the next couple blocks with a Starck chair under one arm and a weimaraner under the other.
The great thing about the chair was the material. Because it was clear plastic there was no chance of bedbugs or anything else that crazy. After giving the chair a couple good cleanings it’s found a new home.
At the beginning of each new month I take a look back at the last month of what I shot with my camera. Usually it’s from my iPhone though once in a while a shot from my GF1 slips in. Spending some time looking back at September, the first thing that I realized was that I shot a lot more images than usual. Comparing that to the summer there’s typically not a lot going on so it makes sense that fall would bring more opportunities to capture things out of the ordinary. But there’s something else about September in NYC. It’s the only month that really can display a lot of seasons within days. Some days it’s insanely muggy, other days it reminds you that fall with cold early morning air. The light changes drastically too. A couple weeks ago was intensely bright, the same time now is pitch black. Adding all those elements together made the last month worth capturing.
The repetitive nature of the unknown.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It’s very easy to get distracted these days because of easy access to the internet anywhere, people sharing links at all hours and the ability to like, heart and comment all the time. This info share is hard to keep up with. To counter this, one way for me to continue to be inspired at my own pace is to shoot a specific photo everyday. The ritual of taking a photo while walking to work allows me to keep my eyes open to my surrounding environment, experiment with subject matter, and create a narrative of what inspires me.
Because I’m shooting everyday it opens up the opportunity to capture some great images that I might not have been able to if I hadn’t practiced. It’s like a muscle reflex, when something slightly out of the ordinary jumps out at me or when I notice that I start thinking about a piece of the city I know I should try to capture it with my camera. On the other hand, if I had woken up in the morning and decided that I’m going to shoot the perfect image, it’s probably not going to happen because I’ve already predefined what “perfect” is. Being inspired is having the ability to recognize things that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.
Walking from Midtown to Soho every morning (almost every morning, if it’s raining I might take the train…), I get to experience the city that I chose to live in. There’s literally something worth observing on every street corner, sidewalk and building. Years from now I’ll be able to see how the city evolved in front of my eyes because I shot it everyday.
At the beginning of each month I’ll make a blog post of all the images from the previous month in chronological order. All of a sudden a new story becomes apparent because of all the images being placed beside each other. Patterns typically appear that I wouldn’t have otherwise recognized which helps me learn about what interests me and in turn keeps me inspired to shoot tomorrow.
I spend a lot of time on the weekends walking south by the Hudson river. I consider it time when I can press the reset button from the previous week. Over the past couple of months I’ve been capturing the growth of Ground Zero as it has risen. While the buildings are not completed yet, above are some of the angles that I’ve captured.
This morning felt quite a bit different as I walked by people in an assortment of uniforms, families and others contemplating the day. The sounds will be hard to forget. The silence because of the lack of cars driving around, people listening to radios of the names called out, a small procession with a bag piper playing, and kids on their scooters. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it felt right in light of the circumstances of the day.
Most mornings I’ll walk down 5th av to Washington Square Park on my way to Gesture Theory. Taking that familiar route this morning, red cups lined for a couple blocks appeared out of no where. It became apparent quite quickly that it was an observance of 9/11.
In observance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Illegal Art has marked each of the 110 floors on the sidewalk with chalk, starting at 5th Avenue and 14th street and heading north for 1,368 feet (417 meters), the height of the taller of the two towers.
Passerby, like yourself, are encouraged to walk the height of the once standing building along 5th Avenue and write any words that express your feelings or experience related to 9/11.
The silence was defining as I walked down that street observing those cups. While they were there to serve a function they felt like candles in remembrance. It was a really moving experience taking each of those steps for a couple blocks. I wasn’t fully ready for it, but as an experience it was one of those moving moments that will be hard not to remember for quite some time.
Streaming TV online isn’t exactly new. I’ve talked about Live TV on the iPad before, and Sunday Night Football streaming last year previously. But something kind of cool is going on. Whether it’s that important or not remains to be seen, but I could watch 4 different US Open tennis on ESPN matches and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2012 at the same time which happened to be in NYC. It’s kind of crazy. There’s so many interesting opportunities to add information while the events are going on. In terms of sporting events a lot of the raw data measuring events could help predict the outcome as it’s going on live.