Vancouver Maker Faire

I took the kids to the Vancouver Maker Faire this past weekend. It was pretty much what I expected. My summary of the event would be “overpriced, under good, but worth going to”.

Maker Faire

There are so many things I want to love about Maker culture but I can’t get past the fact that the majority of the stuff there is kitschy at best. Now, what The Faire has in spades is fun. It also has clever. The fun and clever mashed together is what makes The Faire worth going to. I also have to take into consideration that other cities have a much richer Maker community based on reviews I’ve read.

The core of the problem that I find with most things like Maker Faire and other tech cultures is that the focus is always on the tech. The why behind the tech is typically non-existent. I am a firm believer that the why behind a product is far more important than the tech. Good tech alone, if it doesn’t tap into why people will love it is…well…kitschy.

So, I walked away from the Maker Faire knowing that my job as a design and innovation consultant is not in jeopardy from the Maker world in the near future. But what does the future hold for the Maker Culture? There is no doubt that technologies like 3D printing will change our world. The irony in all the hubbub surrounding 3D printing is that it is the perfect case study for my comments about meaning. The 3D printing world has been a bustling industry for close to 20 years. The technology has finally reached a point, similar to Desktop Publishing in the 90s, where it is now accessible by the masses. Anyone, literally, can have a 3D printer on their desk.

But why?

As a designer, I know exactly why I need one. I know exactly what value it brings. 3D printing is going to be a geek tech until someone figures out why Mom and Dad need a 3D printer. The other thing that comes to mind as I wander down this thought hole, is that maybe the tech has already found its “why”. It is to enable more garage geeks to invent some cool gadget. There is going to be a lot of crap to sort through, but accessibility to tech like 3D printing in conjunction with things like Arduino can create some great ideas. Making those ideas businesses, that’s a whole other can of worms. I didn’t see that problem being solved by the Maker Faire. But then again, I don’t think it should.

 

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I’m Underrated

underratedLast week I was declared underrated….again. I was declared underrated and I loved it….again. I’ve gone through my life considered underrated and I have always revelled in the designation. The reason I revel in it is because for whatever reason people don’t think I’m capable of doing what I am capable of and yet I still do it. This time, the title came from my friends I play floor hockey with. The title was given to me at our end-of-season awards ceremony. The awards are given out in good fun and my award was no different. But the it reminded me that I have always considered myself more capable than what people seem to think of me. It’s done me well so far.

A long, long time ago I walked on to the Purdue Track and Field Team. I am pretty confident that none of my teammates at the time thought that I was going to make the team. My underrated moment came at a time trial late in the fall not long before the winter indoor season began. The look on the faces of my teammates after that time trial is indelibly inked into the back of my brain. The underrated walk-on dude just beat out two or three full scholarship athletes to make the travelling team.

Between that moment twenty four-odd years ago and last week’s declaration of underratedness by my friends I’ve had many other moments of being considered underrated. I don’t know where it comes from. Part of me thinks I should explore that more. Maybe if I change my behavior in some manner I will stop being considered underrated and will begin being considered a leader. But I don’t believe in the idea that one can write their own story. I am pretty satisfied with seeing the look of surprise on people’s faces when I end up proving them wrong.

Now, let’s not ignore the fact that there have been plenty of moments along the way that have proven the doubters correct. I’ve had my share of screw-ups and let downs. When I look back at those moments, there are very few of them that I haven’t recovered from. I’ve corrected the problem or bounced back and learned from the screw up.

Hurdler Studios

Which leaves me where I am now. As of last week, I am no longer a partner in a company I helped found. It was completely my choice. I made the decision because I started believing I was not capable of doing what I thought I was capable within the constraints of my current career path. I needed to regain that swagger I’ve always had that I believe, to the core, that I am capable of doing things I never imagined I was capable of – let alone surprising everyone else around me. The only way for me to do that again is to start taking risks. To put myself out there without a safety net and just run my ass onto the team just like I did twenty four years ago.

What I am doing with my new company (aptly named Hurdler Studios) is helping people get past the barriers that are preventing them from getting their new product idea to market. I feel that after twenty plus years of doing that with my own life, it is time to start realizing the value of what I’ve been doing and start helping others figure out how to surprise the world around them.

Bring The Woo!

The Woo is the moment during a sporting event when the fingertip grab is made or the big open ice hit is laid on someone and the crowd goes “Wooooooo”. It is a moment every athlete strives for. Those moments are very easy to come by in the day to day. They’re usually more subtle and far more difficult to define because The Woo moment is a very subjective one and will change from person to person. The one thing that I’m realizing for me is that The Woo isn’t brought by playing it safe.

The Woo, in the context of business, is the product that creates a moment of magic for the user. There are examples all over the place. I remember the first time I put on a pair of headphones and listened to a Walkman. That was a Woo moment. So much so, that I can remember where I was and what I was listening to. The opening of Queen’s “The Game” poured out of those odd foam covered discs that I pressed against my ears. Sounds hopped from one ear to the other and Freddy Mercury sounded like he was singing right there on the street with me. I could still hear the birds and cars in the background. It was magic.

Too much time in corporate world is spent playing the equivalent of a prevent defence. Some might argue that The Woo is brought because you saved the win. But in reality, nobody brings The Woo trying to save the win. Nolan Richardson, ex-Coach of the Arkansas Basketball Team, summed up Woo with the analogy of “Forty Minutes of Hell”. He coached his teams to bring The Woo every single game, for a full forty minutes.

I’m seeking The Woo. I’m trying to remember the last time I brought The Woo and I’m struggling…which is a bad sign.

When was the last time you either experienced The Woo, or brought it yourself?

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Design Thinking: How it Applies to Business

Design Thinking…..it is cropping up everywhere. I have accounting firms asking me about it. The Standford d.school and IDEO have harnessed the term into something of a cliche. I had an experience recently as to what it is that has always rubbed me the wrong way about the hubbub over Design Thinking. If you’re not familiar with Design Thinking, trust me when I say that there’s a hubbub. It is a topic that creates a division within design circles. What has always made me bristle about it is the fact that every time anyone uses the term, it is an advertisement for another design firm (IDEO). I know that IDEO doesn’t claim it to be only theirs to use. But they also don’t make any bones about the fact that the term/methodology started with them.

I’ve always been a believer in the basic thought process behind Design Thinking (DT). The fundamental premise behind DT is that the user is the focus of the design process not the technology. Human centric design is what designers have been circling around for a long time. The truly successful designers are the ones that have figured out how to find the clients that are ready to let go of the sales driven methodology of features and benefits which seems to drive very quickly to a focus on the product and/or technology. Addressing how the product is created based on asking what the users want from the product as opposed to basing the development on research that dives into how the device fits into a user’s life.

On the surface, the difference is quite subtle. You can, and many do, argue that there is no difference. Both are looking at the end user’s needs. Where the difference lies is that Design Thinking is based on observational research of how people interact with a product or service and use that research to inform how improvements can be made that, ideally, will surprise the user. This approach eschews the belief that it is the technology that creates the desired “surprise”. It is about the experience of the product and how it fits into a person’s life that brings meaning to the product. Not how many items it has on a features and benefits list or because it uses some “cool” technology.

What makes this methodology powerful is that it is now possible to design more than just a product. You can now design services and processes on top of the products that may fit within those services and process. As soon as you wrap your head around this subtle difference, you will start to see where the value lies in the having design on your side.

 

 

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Phil Collins

Face ValueI had a bunch of stuff I should have done tonight but instead of doing it, I turned on Netflix. It was the first time in quite a while that I sat in front of the TV and just aimlessly sought something to distract my mind. I bumbled my way through the Netflix documentary list and I came very close to hitting play on a Nirvana documentary. Something made me keep looking, because while it looked good, it didn’t feel right. At least not for my mood tonight.

What is good?

Does it reach you? Does it touch you?

That’s the most important part.

Instead, I ended up choosing a retrospective on the making of “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. Phil Collins has always been my favorite musician. Between Genesis an his solo albums, he’s been a part of my life ever since a junior high school field trip introduced me to him when a classmate played “Abacab” on an old school boom box. It is strange how moments in your life are so clear. I remember hearing the music and everything else went away. I was instantly a fan for life.

I just get bored. I don’t like working on things for a long time.

What I found watching Phil for an hour, I never realized how much of a kindred spirit we seem to be. The way he described his creation of “Face Value” was eerily close to how I feel I go about anything creative I do. The main thing seems to be that “Face Value” was born out of angst. He states early in the documentary that the album was a glimpse into his mind after his divorce. “In the Air Tonight” was complete improve based on a mood.

Some of the best work I’ve ever created came from moments of complete uncertainty in my life. Moments when my mind was lingering on the edge of depression or burning with some kind of anger. There was definitely that undercurrent throughout that album and was confirmed while watching the documentary.

My attention span is kind of…limited in terms of “let’s do this and move on”. As opposed to…”let’s do this until we’re sick of it. But it’s perfect.

That last quote is the one that left me gobsmacked. It sums my creative process up. I’m not a perfectionist. I’m one that can find a moment of perfection in the imperfect. For me, that’s what “Face Value” has always brought to my life.

Chain Sketch Video

I put in another quick entry to the Core77 Discussion Forum’s chain sketching thread (found here). I drew an “Alligator eating ice creaM

core77 chain drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also did up a quick video of me drawing it:

Plant Some Shit

Ron Finley provides, hands down, the most inspiring presentation I’ve seen that speaks to how we can contribute to “unfucking the world”. This topic of “unfucking the world” is huge in my mind right now. I’ve said to many people lately that I’m a doer. I am the kind of personality that needs a mission. I’m looking for people that want to help me to do my part in “unfucking the world”.

Not once did Mr. Finley use the words “unfuck the world”. He wore it on a tee shirt that was displayed in one of his slides. I love it and it will likely be rattling around in my head for quite some time. Because I need something that will allow me to move out of this place where I feel as though I’m just wading through the mire of crap around me. Mr. Finley’s purpose isn’t mine. But it is similarly motivated. It is motivated by wanting to act on something bigger than  ourselves. It is motivated by wanting to do something more than sit back and watch what feels like the world crumbling around us.

I’ve tried the garden thing. It isn’t “me”. So, while I applaud Ron Finley and his actions to try and help reimagine South Central Los Angeles…I don’t see me planting some shit. I see me building some shit and I need help doing so. I need a donor funder.

If you have some cash that is burning a hole in your pocket and you want to put it towards something that could, conceivably, help change the world. Please get in touch with me. You will be hearing more about Kijani Technology in the near future. But until then, watch Ron Finley’s video and see if it inspires you to plant some shit:

 

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Design & Thinking

I’m down in Seattle for a screening of the documentary “Design & Thinking“. It is a Kickstarter-funded movie that gets into the discussion of “what is design” and how it applies to the world around us. My company (OneOak Design) in conjunction with Analytic Design Group organized the event. I am moderating a discussion panel after the movie that has Alysha Naples (TEAGUE), Carl Ledbetter (Microsoft XBox), and Karyn Zuidinga (Analytic Design Group).

It is completely sold out which is very exciting. 300 people coming to the Seattle Art Museum to discuss design, have a few appies, a few drinks, and some good conversations.

 

HackThings Presentation at Madrona VC in Seattle

I’m presenting on Thursday for a HackThings Meetup in Seattle at the offices of Madrona (a Seattle-based venture capital firm). I’ve been putting together the presentation for the past couple of days and I’m starting to get pretty excited about it.

The gist of the discussion is around my belief that hardware development is about to take off again. I see many signs in the tea leaves that make me believe that we’re on the verge of a huge uptick in hardware product development. My belief is that the majority of this uptick is going to happen behind the scenes. Non-consumer products will dominate the trend. Some call it Machine-to-Machine (M2M) others call it the Internet of Things. My belief is that the two terms are complimentary. M2M is the development of the back-end platform(s) that enable the front-end hardware (the Things of the Internet). One can’t happen without the other.

Companies like Deloitte are touting the boom of M2M as well. I’ve seen wildly varying projections when it comes to the connections of “Things” to the Internet. All of the numbers are in the Billions. Example:

By the year 2020 we will see 50,000,000,000 devices with connections to the Internet. – Wavefront AC

To put that number in perspective, there are 100,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s a pretty unfathomable number. Considering we’re poised to pass (if we haven’t already) the equivalent of one connected device per person on the planet in 2013 (7.067 as per Wikipedia), there is a lot of work to be done by 2020 to hit 50 Billion connected devices.

If my invitation to present down at Madrona is any indication, they’re paying attention to these numbers and are looking at hardware investments. If you’re a Designer, you should be seeing the same opportunities I am here. With the tight integration needed between hardware and software that will be needed there is a LOT of work to be done on the User Experience and Industrial Design fronts. Which is part of what I’m going to be espousing on Thursday.

If you’re a Designer, what opportunities do you see in the numbers being presented above? What concerns?

 

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RIM/Blackberry Just Jumped the Shark

If you’re standing, please sit down before you read this. If you’re part of the tech world, you know that RIM has officially changed their name to Blackberry. You also know that they have just released their latest smartphone on the Blackberry 10 OS. They have two immediate releases they are calling the Z10 and the B10. The Z10 is a touchscreen only iPhone-type phone. It is to be the first released. The B10 is a smartphone that uses the QWERTY keypad that made RI.err…Blackberry famous in the first place.

Now, this is where it starts to get stupid and you need to sit down. Seriously.

Okay, there are two more items that are showing that RI…er…Blackberry are going the way of Henry Winkler and first thing isn’t THAT bad. It was simply the canary in the coal mine for the moronocity that is coming out of Ontario right now. I was drinking my morning coffee the other day and was reading about the launch of RI…er…Blackberry’s new phones and this single sentence from the article stood out:

A QWERTY keyboard version is coming and RIM is promising at least six different BB10 devices by the end of the year.

It’s the last part of the quote that kills me. RI…er….Blackberry is promising not two, not three….but SIX new devices by the end of the year! Not only are they wading back into the big-boy pool after getting their assess handed to them upon the release of their Playbook tablet, but their wading back into the pool trying to get SIX variations of phones right. Six? Really RI…er….Blackberry? How about you kibosh the other four models you are trying to flood the market with and focus on making your two products you’ve already announced really, really damn good? Because, something tells me they’re not.

Now, here’s where I want to hop on a plane to Ontario so I can kick RI…er….Blackberry’s Chief Marketing Officer, Frank Boulben, in the nuts.

Alicia Keys as RI..er...Blackberry's Global Creative Director

 

Tada! Alicia Keys is RI…er…Blackberry’s new Global Creative Director!!! How’s that for a crapping in your design team’s Corn Flakes? I can just imagine the discussions that are going on in RI…er….BlackBerry headquarters right now.

On behalf of the executive team at RI…er…BlackBerry, I officially apologize to each and every designer, engineer, and other working grunt that has busted their ass to bring out these, presumably, six new phones in the next year. I was hoping RI…err…BlackBerry was going to pull this off. I was cheering for them. I wanted them to come back. But, this is simply too offensive. It is Marketing run amok pulling out acts of desperation. They haven’t learned a thing from the past 5 or 6 years of getting their butts kicked.

It’s time to move on.

 

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