Changing the World

It is interesting how little themes start to pop up everywhere you look when you start looking for it. It was really struck home for me when my 9 year old daughter who, while sitting in the back seat of our car, noticed the fact that she now notices dogs everywhere now that she really wants one. A simple example that demonstrates my point. I need to go and do a search through my archives, but I am quite sure I’ve mentioned that I have believed for a long time that I have a bigger role to play in “this life”. The idea of “changing the world” is a grandiose goal, but it is one that I believe I am capable of. More to that, I believe it is one that anyone is capable of if they have something they believe in strongly enough to do it.

The thing about “changing the world” is that it is a bit of a non sequitur. It is one of those sayings that is difficult for anyone to dispute. It is also nearly impossible  to measure.

I was recently involved in a conversation on the Core77 discussion forums where I first started noticing the recurring them of “changing the world” in my life. I have come to the belief that I have followed a meandering path through industrial design that has been leading me towards learning that I am capable of changing the world. As was stated in the above link to the Core77 discussion:

Then you hit 40-something and you realize that your skills truly can change the world and you’ve been wasting them on helping other assholes make a shit pile of money that want to nickel and dime you to the end.

It is a bit of a jaded approach to the issue at hand, but it is also a pretty liberating thought process. I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life learning skills that, if I apply them the way I know I can, I have the ability to change the world. I’m envious of those who learn this at a younger age. There are people all over the world that are learning…or more to the point, believing….they have the ability to change the world. I love that we seem to be entering an era that is dedicated to rising the tide for us all. It is well demonstrated in a discussion with Ken Banks and Desmond Tutu (shown below, or you can go to Vimeo here). They participated in a social entrepreneurship course that took place on a cruise ship that travelled the world visiting sites where there are problems to be solved for those living in poverty. A pretty amazing concept.  A boat full of people that may not yet know that they can change the world, but they want to learn. Simply Awesome.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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:

Design and Policy Management

I’ve been considering the thoughts around the curation of the design industry for a couple years now. It started about 2 years ago when I got involved in the International Council for the Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). I’ve been using the word “curator” because it seems that the design industry requires someone that can manage the discussion of the industry. It currently seems that the curator of the design industry is IDEO. They seem to have have the most voice and attract the most public attention when it comes to the discussion(s) surrounding the design industry.

The realization I am coming to is that the term I should be using is “Policy”. Who manages policy for the design industry…specifically the Industrial Design industry? I would think that organizations like IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America) or ACID (Association of Canadian Industrial Designers). I know that ACID does some policy management, but it is not particularly transparent. The same goes for IDSA. I don’t see any indication of policy management. Even more to the point, I don’t see the driving of design policy.

I will be the first to admit that just because I don’t “see it” doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I do know, however, that most government policy makers I speak with (still) don’t seem to understand the value of Industrial Design, and therefore are not gaining benefits of tax credits (e.g. SR&ED in Canada) that other R&D fields get.

This thought process comes from the AVC.com blog where Fred Wilson speaks about his Venture Capital company and their focus on managing policy for their portfolio of investments.

So, if you’re involved with any of these professional industries I’m referring to, I’d love to hear how you’re driving policy.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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:

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

 

Design is Sales

I’ve been rummaging this thought through my brain for several months now. It was reinforced to such a strong degree this morning that it has me needing to get it out there. Design is Sales in both a literal and figurative sense. Here’s what I mean:

Design is Sales in that if your product is poorly designed it won’t sell. Especially in the consumer realm, good design is simply table stakes for product development. So, design translates to sales.

Design is Sales is also figurative. As in, the role of a designer is similar to that of salesman. Selling your idea to someone is what design is all about. As a design contractor, your job starts by trying to sell the design process to a client before it quickly proceeds to designing a series of viable product design concepts that need to be sold to the client.

Think about the premise that the sales process is all about finding the emotional reasons someone might want to buy. Every sale is based on an emotional need. One person might have their ass in a sling because they bit off more than they can chew and now they have to bring in more bodies. Someone else might want to hire a “rockstar” designer because it pumps their ego. There are myriad reasons why people buy things. It is no different from a TV to Design Services.

So, if every sale is an emotional one, and every designer is trying to make an emotional connection to a product….Design is Sales.

I’d love to see more designers get sales training and the first place designers need to start focusing those sales training courses is on their own profession. Designers suck at selling design. I’ve never understood why a profession that is so good as a whole at creating emotional connections with products, can’t turn those skills on their own profession.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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?

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Are Metrics the Foundations for Success?

Quantifying progress. It’s a thought process that I’ve always been on board with, but I’ve always struggled with when it comes to the discipline required to log the data that tracks success over time. I meet the deadlines, or other targets, but at the end of the day, I don’t really have any way of gauging how efficient…or more important, how effective I was over the course of time.

If you don’t have a plan, you’re guaranteed to lose. If you have a plan, it is guaranteed to change.

For my brain, the idea of goal setting is nebulous because things change as the quote above so deftly states. So many things at any given time feel as though they are important. Planning is a great thing, don’t get me wrong. It is one of the things that my company puts a lot of stock in. It’s part of our mandate. The thing about planning is that it sets the road map and you can hit every milestone along the way and even have the project deemed successful at the end because you launched your project. Metrics like release dates, or product cost targets, or whatever are (typically) easy to hit. But success is different from effectiveness. You could easily be successful in your project  because you hit a deadline when in reality the project was a failure because your effectiveness on, I don’t know, manpower was way off.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know how to get there. If you don’t track how you got there, you won’t know where you’ve been.

My brain works in a way that rebels against looking to the past. Looking over the shoulder feels like stalling progress. I’ve always known this is something that in the long run probably hurts my effectiveness. As I get older, I am finding I need to hone these skills more. It was pointed out, yet again, by Bill Gates’ annual letter written for the Gates Foundation. Gates states that he read a book called “The Most Powerful Idea in the World” by William Rosen. The book, Gates says, posits that the success of the Industrial Revolution came as a direct result of measurement. The invention of tools like the micrometer allowed for engineers to measure how effective incremental changes were in the development of steam engines. When you’re someone like Gates who is investing hundreds of millions of dollars towards charitable causes, you have to believe he’s not going to let that money go willy nilly. Metrics must play to how he’s going to provide that money to someone.

All food for thought as I consider the future.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Research and Design as The New R&D

I’ve been contemplating the direction of product development. Traditional technology companies follow the idea of R&D meaning Research and Development. They follow the premise that both Research AND Development are quantitative offerings. Research that is based on quantifiable and actionable steps towards proving (or disproving) a hypothesis. The design industry is a very subjective industry. One that is based as much on historical accounting that informs product decisions moving forward as it is based in ethnographic studies of human behavior that inform product decisions.

The issue I run into when discussing R&D with colleagues and prospective clients is that Research is generally lumped into the quantitative model described above. It is engineering driven and follows a linear path to a solution. The reality of product development, especially when one is trying to crack a new market or product category, is that there is no way to quantitatively assess.

Let’s explore this just a smidge:

I was at a Deloitte Predictions presentation yesterday for the wireless and mobile industries. The one shocker piece of (quantitative) research that came out of it was that the majority of youth under 24 are NOT using tablets. They are predominately using PCs over tablets. In other words, tablets are not going to take over the world (yet?). So, how do we use that? If you go strictly by the numbers, you should be considering abandoning the long term development of tablets. But the reality of it is the quantitative research put out by Deloitte should be triggering a while pile of qualitative ethnographic research into user behavior in this realm to explore the WHY this demographic aren’t using the tablets. The WHY would then open the door to information that could lead to new product niches moving forward.

In short, one form of research is not a panacea. Neither types of research is better than the other, in reality, they compliment each other. Based on my qualitative assessment of the tech industry, especially in Vancouver, there is very little qualitative research being conducted BEFORE product development even commences.

This is a subject that is becoming very front and center for me. I’d love to chat with anyone who might be on either side of this discussion to help me better understand it.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta