Thursday, June 21, 2012

new age spider silk

Spider silk is turning out to be a remarkably versatile material. Aside from having ahigher heat conductivity than any other organic matter and proteins for inserting genes into cells, strings from a spider have also been found to have a very high tensile strength. One researcher in Japan has studied this property of spider silk for decades, and recently unveiled a new application for it by weaving together thousands of strands of spider filaments and using them as violin strings.
It's not very often that a spider researcher and violinist finds a way to combine the two passions - in fact Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan's Nara Medical University is most likely the first. Osaki has studied spider silk for 35 years and has spent the past ten developing a method to create violin strings from the unique material. Specifically, the violin strings were created using dragline silk, which spiders use to dangle from hanging objects (as opposed to the silk they use to construct webs). First, Osaki developed a method for harvesting long strands of dragline silk from theNephila maculata spider. He then took 3,000 to 5,000 of these strands and twisted them in one direction to create a bundle. Finally, he twisted three of these bundles together in the opposite direction to form each string.
Surprisingly, the strings turned out to have a higher tensile strength than common nylon strings, though are still not as strong as traditional gut strings. Looking at cross-sections under an electron microscope, Osaki discovered that the twisting the strings had altered the shape of the individual filaments, making them more polygonal than round. This allows the strands to pack more tightly together and increase their overall strength.
More importantly though, this property allows for a unique sound, as the spider strings produce a different timbre (or sound quality) than any other material available. The sounds seems to come from the strings' tendency to reverberate higher harmonics than the usual steel or nylon strings. The strength of the silk could also allow for thinner strings at the same pitch to be more responsive, allowing for quicker notes.
As interesting as the spider silk strings are though, they are only in the prototype stage and would be much too expensive to sell to the average violinist. Osaki is however still looking into ways to produce larger quantities of spider silk for more violin strings and has submitted his findings on the strings to an American physics journal.
Source: New Scientist via BBC

Pop-Up Books for Grown Ups

When we saw Portland-based designer and art director Mengyu Chen’s paper pop-up books on Booooooom, we instantly fell in love. The minimal design and simplicity of action recalled our childhood, when craftily constructed stories sprung to life. It was a magical first encounter with animation and one we can happily relive until we’re old and gray. Lucky for us, playful pop-ups are being marketed for adult readers more frequently, and we’ve chosen a few incredibly designed books to share with you past the break. Some can be purchased and others simply admired — the handiwork of artists who similarly view the 3D books with childlike wonder. See more amazing pop-ups below.
Designer Marion Bataille created a pop-up book for typography nuts. “Each of the 26 dimensional letters move and change before your eyes. C turns into D with a snap. M stands at attention. X becomes Y with a flick of the wrist. And then there’s U… ” Preview ABC3D (complete with lenticular cover) in the video above, then pick up your own copy.

Click this link to see more... Pop Up Books

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are you adapting or resisting?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin hit it right on the nose.  We see this all the time in business, nature, and during New York City’s Fashion Week!  Product life cycles, advertising campaigns, and achieving profitability all encompass the nature of adaptation.  The strategy of adaptation helps us understand how to utilize the changing elements of design, function, or packaging to acclimate to the conditions in particular markets.  Darwin’s views of evolution also encompassed adaptation and drew attention to the Galapagos Islands, and at the time, the best kept secret in the Pacific Ocean.
What is important to outline today is that these very diverse, colorful, and stimulating groups of islands have managed to become just like every other tropical getaway.  What can they do to differentiate themselves again and prove to be the ‘hidden gem’ of the pacific?  The design/retail industry operate in the same fashion (pardon the pun)  What brands will survive? And how will these brands stay ahead of the curve in a world that changes before you sent that last tweet?
Only time will tell.  But as Charles Darwin surmised, “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”


Monday, June 18, 2012

All Apple Laptops Shown at Exact Same Angle

The Screen of Each Laptop in the Apple Store Is Set to the Exact Same Angle

By Megan Garber Jun 17 2012

It takes a lot of work to be this relaxed.
In the sea of horror and despair that is the American shopping mall, the Apple Store is often a singular source of refuge. Check your email -- for as long as you want! Play a game of Angry Birds -- on the iPad of your choice! Ask a bearded blue-shirt named Jon anything at all about about the new MacBook Pro -- he'd be totally happy to talk about whatever!

Beneath all the chillness and chirpiness, though, is a consumer destination whose whimsy is the result of painstaking calibration. Think Disney World's underground tunnels, except with all the draconianism out on display and integral to the whole aesthetic. The products placed on blond-wood tables at precisely measured intervals.

 The reservations-only appointment system at the Genius Bar. The Five Steps of Service. The fact that Jon's beard is trimmed to a uniform three inches. It takes a lot of work to stay this relaxed.
Turns out, though, that there's one more bit of precision required to make the Apple Store so Apple-y. The notebook computers displayed on the store's tabletops and counters are set out, each day, to exactly the same angleThat angle being, precisely, 70 degrees: not as rigid as a table-perpendicular 90 degrees, but open enough -- and, also, closed enough -- for screens' content to remain visible and inviting to would-be typers and tinkerers.

The point, explains Carmine Gallo, who is writing a book on the inside workings of the Apple Store, is to get people to touch the devices. "The main reason notebook computers screens are slightly angled is to encourage customers to adjust the screen to their ideal viewing angle," he says -- "in other words, to touch the computer."

A tactile experience with an Apple product begets loyalty to Apple products, the thinking goes -- which means that the store exists to imprint a brand impression on visitors even more than it exists to extract money from them. "The ownership experience is more important than a sale," Gallo notes. Which means that the store -- and every single minute detail that comes together to create the experience of it -- are optimized for customers' personal indulgence. Apple wants you to touch stuff, to play with it, to make it your own. Its notebook computers are tilted at just the right angle to beckon you to their screens -- and, more importantly, to their keyboards. Come on in, they say. The trackpad's warm.

So how does Apple ensure that its products are precision-angled to send that message? Employees who open the store every day, Gallo writes, use a leveling device that allows them to tilt each computer screen to the correct 70-degree angle. The tool they employ for that task? An iPhone equipped with an incline-measuring app.

The Web Gets Smarter

The Web Gets Smarter

Last Wednesday, with relatively little fanfare, Google introduced a new technology called Google Knowledge Graph. Type in “Fran├žois Hollande,” and you are offered a capsule history (with links) to his children, partner, birthday, education, and so forth. In the short-term, Knowledge Graph will not make a big difference in your world—you might get much the same information by visiting Hollande’s Wikipedia page, and a lot of people might still prefer to ask their friends. But what’s under the hood represents a significant change in engineering for the world’s largest search-engine company. And more than that, in a decade or two, scientists and journalists may well look back at this moment as the dividing line between machines that dredged massive amounts of data—with no clue what that data meant—and machines that started to think, just a little bit, like people.

Since its beginning, Google has used brute force as its main strategy to organize the Internet’s knowledge, and not without reason. Google has one of the largest collections of computers in the world, wired up in parallel, housing some of the largest databases in the world. Your search queries can be answered so quickly because they are outsourced to immense data farms, which then draw upon enormous amounts of precompiled data, accumulated every second by millions of virtual Google “spiders” that crawl the Web. In many ways, Google’s operation has been reminiscent of I.B.M.’s Deep Blue chess-playing machine, which conquered all human challengers not by playing smarter but by computing faster. Deep Blue won through brute force and not by thinking like humans do. The computer was all power, no finesse.

Sometimes, of course, power has its advantages. Google’s immense computing resources have allowed them to revolutionize how classical problems in artificial intelligence are solved. Take the process of spell-checking. One of the features that first made word processing really popular was the automatic spell-checker. Engineers at places like Microsoft catalogued the most common errors that people made, such as doubled letters and transpositions (“poeple”), and built upon these patterns to make educated guesses about users’ intentions. Google solves the spelling-correction problem entirely differently—and much more efficiently—by simply looking at a huge database of users correcting their own errors. What did users most often type next after failing to find what they wanted with the word “peopple”? Aha, “people.”
Google’s algorithm doesn’t know a thing about doubled letters, transpositions, or the psychology of how humans type or spell, only what people tend to type after they make an error. The lesson, it seemed, was that with a big enough database and fast enough computers, human problems could be solved without much insight into the particulars of the human mind.

For the last decade, most work in artificial intelligence has been dominated by approaches similar to Google’s: bigger and faster machines with larger and larger databases. Alas, no matter how capacious your database is, the world is complicated, and data dredging alone is not enough. Deep Blue may have conquered the chess world, but humans can still trounce computers in the ancient game of Go, which has a larger board and more possible moves. Even in a Web search, Google’s bread and butter, brute force is defeated often, and annoyingly, by the problem of homonyms. The word “Boston,” for instance, can refer to a city in Massachusetts or to a band; “Paris” can refer to the city or to an exhibitionist socialite.

To deal with the “Paris” problem, Google Knowledge Search revives an idea first developed in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, known as semantic networks, that was a first guess at how the human mind might encode information in the brain. In place of simple associations between words, these networks encode relationships between unique entities. Paris the place and Paris the person get different unique I.D.s—sort of like bar codes or Social Security numbers—and simple associations are replaced by (or supplemented by) annotated taxonomies that encode relationships between entities. So, “Paris1” (the city) is connected to the Eiffel tower by a “contains” relationship, while “Paris2” (the person) is connected to various reality shows by a “cancelled” relationship. As all the places, persons, and relationships get connected to each other, these networks start to resemble vast spiderwebs. In essence, Google is now attempting to reshape the Internet and provide its spiders with a smarter Web to crawl.

Although semantic networks were quite popular in the nineteen-seventies, by the mid-eighties, research into them had tapered off, supplanted by “neural networks” that model the brain as simple statistical accumulators. Neural nets apply a blanket learning rule that treats all associations as equal, differentiated only by how often they appear in the world. Instances of Paris the place get muddled together with instances of Paris the person. This battle between structured knowledge and huge databases of statistics echoes one of the longest debates in psychology and philosophy, the debate between “nativists” (like Plato, Kant, and, in recent times, Noam Chomsky and Steve Pinker) that believe the mind comes equipped with important basic knowledge, and “empiricists” (like John Locke and B. F. Skinner) who believed the mind starts as blank slate, with virtually all knowledge acquired through association and experience.

Google used to be essentially an empiricist machine, crafted with almost no intrinsic knowledge, but endowed with an enormous capacity to learn associations between individual bits of information. (This is what has led to Google's infinite appetite for information, which has in turn led to questions about its violations of privacy.) Now, Google is becoming something else, a rapprochement between nativism and empiricism, a machine that combines the great statistical power empiricists have always yearned for with an enormous built-in database of the structured categories of persons, places, and things, much as nativists might have liked. Google’s search engines still track all the trillions of occurrences of the word “Paris” and what it is associated with in user queries and documents, but now tries to relate those words not just to each other, but to categories, like people, places, and corporations.

There’s very good reason for Google to move in this direction. As the pioneering developmental psychologist Elizabeth Spelke (profiled recently in the New York Times) put it: “If children are endowed [innately] with abilities to perceive objects, persons, sets, and places, then they may use their perceptual experience to learn about the properties and behaviors of such entities… It is far from clear how children could learn anything about the entities in a domain, however, if they could not single out those entities in their surroundings.” The same goes for computers.

Machines have long since become faster and more reliable than us at everything from arithmetic to encoding and retrieving vast storehouses of information. And I personally have long envied the way in which Google and its main competitor, Microsoft's Bing, keep so much information at their virtual fingertips, but we humans have a few tricks left. It’s refreshing to see that computer engineers still occasionally need to steal a page from the human mind.

Illustration by Arnold Roth.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Doesn't Motivate Creativity Can Kill It

via Carlin Felder

What Doesn't Motivate Creativity Can Kill It
by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer  |   9:49 AM April 25, 2012
Management is widely viewed as a foe of innovation. The thinking goes that too much management strangles innovation (just let a thousand flowers bloom!). But we have found a much more nuanced picture. You really can manage for innovation, but it starts by knowing what drives creativity in the people who generate and develop the new ideas that, when implemented, will become tomorrow's innovations. Unfortunately, too many managers unintentionally kill innovation because they rely too heavily on carrots and sticks to motivate employees.
More than three decades of research have shown that people are most likely to be creative when they're intrinsically motivatedby the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself. But motivation inside organizations is a tricky business, because most everyone is driven by many extrinsic motivators, too — such as compensation, rewards, recognition, and fear of failure. Although many extrinsic motivators can kill intrinsic motivation and creativity, others — if handled delicately — can actually support them. It's all a matter of balance.
Savvy managers know how to balance four factors, to properly motivate creativity and, ultimately, innovation:
Creativity suffers when strategic goals are too loose, and when creators are too tightly constrained in how they accomplish those goals. People need to know what problem they're trying to solve, and why it matters; they can't be intrinsically motivated unless their work has meaning. That requires clear strategic direction toward a worthy purpose — whether it's curing a disease or providing a new form of entertainment that will enhance consumers' lives. But intrinsic motivation and creativity wither when people are told exactly what to do and how to do it; they need the autonomy to apply their own specific skills and talents. So: clear direction on the strategic goal, but lots of leeway in how to achieve it.
In our research inside organizations, we have often observed reduced creativity under conditions of strong evaluation pressure. In such situations, people are reluctant to contribute their ideas because they fear overly critical reactions. Curiously, we have also found reduced creativity in situations where evaluation and feedback are notably absent. In the latter situations, people charged with doing creative work have the sense that no one knows, or cares, what they are doing. The crucial balance involves a great deal of frequent, work-focused evaluation and feedback that is truly informative and constructive. Ideally, these evaluations involve peers (as well as supervisors) openly discussing the work. To perform at their creative peak, people need to know that every idea will be respected (if not accepted) — respected enough to merit thoughtful consideration. The best managers that we observed went a step further. Rather than being overly critical when ideas didn't pan out, they accepted the failures as a necessary part of doing creative work and helped employees search for lessons and opportunities in those failures.
We all need equitable, sufficiently generous compensation for our work, to avoid the distraction of financial worries, and to feel that we (and our work) are valued by our organizations. Recognition is another essential form of reward; it, too, signals that the person and the work are valued. Neither of these extrinsic motivators need damage intrinsic motivation or creativity.
But when people feel that material rewards are being dangled before them like carrots on a stick, they come to feel externally controlled — a primary damper of intrinsic motivation. Our research suggests that creativity flourishes when employees know that rewards and recognition will follow from good, creative efforts — without being told constantly about exactly which rewards will follow from which actions. Moreover, it is important that the rewards provide information about employees' competence and the value of their work, or enable them to do something that they really wanted to do — or both.
Some of the most positive rewards are not monetary. As one interviewee said in a study we conducted several years ago, "Part of the reward is having your managers listen to what you have done. Having access to your supervisors increases internal motivation, so managers should be available on an informal basis."

When it comes to creativity, there's good pressure and there's bad pressure. The bad stuff is extreme time pressure arising from multiple demands unrelated to the most important creative work. Competitive pressure with coworkers can also be a killer. But having the positive pressure of an optimally challenging assignment — being given an important problem to solve that no one else has been able to crack — can supercharge intrinsic motivation and creativity. ("Optimally challenging" means that it's tough, but your skills are up to the task.) Feeling like you're on a mission to create something that's urgently needed can be a real high. But pressure that does not contribute to the mission can only distract from getting problems solved.
In the end, it's levelform, and meaning of the motivator that makes for that perfect balance. Being told to do a tough job in a particular way, with no tolerance of failure, little expectation of recognition for success, and extreme, arbitrary time pressure, can kill anyone's creativity motivation. But being given the same job, in a positive atmosphere where false starts are examined constructively and success is recognized, can drive creativity — and innovation — forward.
Does your organization's management apply these motivational balance factors appropriately? Which are the most difficult to maintain?

Alternatives to green design
via Tatiana Garcia our sustainably thinking Nautica luggage designer.

In celebration of Earth Day, Nautica, Kipling, Timberland and The North Face employees gathered in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn to convert a vacant lot and an area of the schoolyard at Abraham Lincoln Primary School into neighborhood gardens. We also pitched in at Gregory’s Garden and Floral Vineyard Community Garden. Over 100 volunteers built planter boxes and benches, weeded, shoveled, raked mulch and soil, cleaned up garden beds, moved rocks, planted flowers and more. Multiple members of the community passed by during the day, commenting on our impressive progress and thanking us for our work. Due to our efforts in the various gardens, members of this community will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and the kids will be able to learn about science and nutrition by experiencing it firsthand. Thank you to GrowNYC, Paragon Sports, the Cypress Hills Development Corporation, The People’s Food Project, Cypress Hills Verde and all of our volunteers for making our Earth Day event a success.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Power of the Interface
A unique crowd-sourced music video project honoring the legacy of Johnny Cash

Cheeky Fun (pun intended)

Fashion Week Street Scenes - Accessories F/W 12

Non-Tie Neckwear - Bandana

With non-tie neckwear exploding for Men and Young Men, we can’t help but love ASOS new line of neckerchiefs. ASOS’ in-house design team does a masterful job of updating this classic multi-use item, with prints that stay true to the bandanas rugged roots, while updating it with au courant favorites like florals and Mod polka dots.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Steve Jobs - "Great Meetings"

Meetings Are A Skill You Can Master, And Steve Jobs Taught Me How
Written by: Ken Segall

More brains don’t necessarily lead to better ideas. When it came to leading meetings, Jobs had no qualms about tossing the least necessary person out of the room.

Apple encourages big thinking but small everything else. That is, if you feel the urge to speak or act in a manner reminiscent of anything you learned in a big company, it’s best that you do that in the privacy of your own home. Meeting size is a good example. Once Chiat/Day was installed as Apple’s agency of record and we’d settled into our work, we would meet with Steve Jobs every other Monday.

Typically there would be no formal agenda. We’d share our work in progress with Steve and he’d share whatever news he had. This was how we all stayed up to date. The invitee list for these meetings was small. On the agency side were the creative people, account director, and media director. On the Apple side there were Steve, Phil Schiller (product marketing), Jony Ive (design), Allen Olivo (marketing communications), and Hiroki Asai (Apple’s in-house creative). Special guest stars were invited as required.

Poor Lorrie had to pack up her belongings, rise from her chair, and take the long walk.

One particular day, there appeared in our midst a woman from Apple with whom I was unfamiliar. I don’t recall her name, as she never appeared in our world again, so for the purposes of this tale, I’ll call her Lorrie. She took her seat with the rest of us as Steve breezed into the boardroom, right on time. Steve was in a sociable mood, so we chatted it up for a few minutes, and then the meeting began. “Before we start, let me just update you on a few things,” said Steve, his eyes surveying the room. “First off, let’s talk about iMac--" He stopped cold. His eyes locked on to the one thing in the room that didn’t look right. Pointing to Lorrie, he said, “Who are you?”

Lorrie was a bit stunned to be called out like that, but she calmly explained that she’d been asked to attend because she was involved with some of the marketing projects we’d be discussing. Steve heard it. Processed it. Then he hit her with the Simple Stick. “I don’t think we need you in this meeting, Lorrie. Thanks,” he said. Then, as if that diversion had never occurred--and as if Lorrie never existed--he continued with his update. So, just as the meeting started, in front of eight or so people whom Steve did want to see at the table, poor Lorrie had to pack up her belongings, rise from her chair, and take the long walk across the room toward the door. Her crime: She had nothing to add.

Simplicity’s Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

What Lorrie experienced was the strict enforcement of one of Simplicity’s most important rules: Start with small groups of smart people--and keep them small. Every time the body count goes higher, you’re simply inviting complexity to take a seat at the table. The small-group principle is deeply woven into the religion of Simplicity. It’s key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. There’s no such thing as a “mercy invitation.” Either you’re critical to the meeting or you’re not. It’s nothing personal, just business.
Steve Jobs actively resisted any behavior he believed representative of the way big companies think--even though Apple had been a big company for many years. He knew that small groups composed of the smartest and most creative people had propelled Apple to its amazing success, and he had no intention of ever changing that. When he called a meeting or reported to a meeting, his expectation was that everyone in the room would be an essential participant. Spectators were not welcome.

Many businesses follow a misguided principle: The more critical the project, the more people must be thrown at it.

This was based on the somewhat obvious idea that a smaller group would be more focused and motivated than a large group, and smarter people will do higher quality work. For a principle that would seem to be common sense, it’s surprising how many organizations fail to observe it. How many overpopulated meetings do you sit through during the course of a year? How many of those meetings get sidetracked or lose focus in a way that would never occur if the group were half the size? The small-group rule requires enforcement, but it’s worth the cost.

Remember, complexity normally offers the easy way out. It’s easier to remain silent and let the Lorries of the world take their seats at the table, and most of us are too mannerly to perform a public ejection. But if you don’t act to keep the group small, you’re creating an exception to the rule--and Simplicity is never achieved through exceptions. Truthfully, you can do the brutal thing without being brutal. Just explain your reasons.

Keep the group small.

Prior to working with Steve Jobs, I worked with a number of more traditional big companies. So it was a shock to my system (in a good way) when I entered Steve’s world of Simplicity. In Apple’s culture, progress was much easier to attain. It was also a shock to my system (in a bad way) when I left Steve’s world and found myself suffering through the same old issues with more traditional organizations again.
Back in the early days of NeXT, when all of its promise lay ahead, I heard Steve address the troops one day, telling them to savor this moment in time. He told them that when NeXT got bigger and more successful, they’d fondly look back at this time as “the good old days.” Things would surely get crazier. (Not the most accurate of his predictions, given NeXT’s constant struggles, but you get the point.) In later years, when I found myself attending larger, less productive meetings at multilayered companies, those words would echo in my head. I did miss the good old days--not just because they were quieter but because they were smarter.

Only occasionally do more brains mean better ideas.

Out in the real world, when I talk about small groups of smart people, I rarely get any pushback. That’s because common sense tells us it’s the right way to go. Most people know from experience that the fastest way to lose focus, squander valuable time, and water down great ideas is to entrust them to a larger group. Just as we know that there is equal danger in putting ideas at the mercy of a large group of approvers.
One reason why large, unwieldy groups tend to be created in many companies is that the culture of a company is bigger than any one person. It’s hard to change “the way we do things here.” This is where the zealots of Simplicity need to step in and overcome the inertia. One must be judicious and realistic about applying the small-group principle. Simply making groups smaller will obviously not solve all problems, and “small” is a relative term. Only you know your business and the nature of your projects, so only you can draw the line between too few people and too many. You need to be the enforcer and be prepared to hit the process with the Simple Stick when the group is threatened with unnecessary expansion.

Over the years, Apple’s marketing group has fine-tuned a process that’s been successfully repeated, revolution by revolution. Project teams are kept small, with talented people being given real responsibility--which is what drives them to work some crazy hours and deliver quality thinking. Because quality is stressed over quantity, meetings are informal and visible progress is made on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
Every company wants to maximize productivity and cut down on unnecessary meetings. How they go about it, though, can vary widely. At Apple, forming small groups of smart people comes naturally, because in its culture, that’s “the way we do things here.” Sometimes companies try to “legislate” productivity by offering up corporate guidelines.

In one iconic technology company with which I worked framed sign in every conference room designed to nudge the employees toward greater productivity. The headline on the sign was how to have a successful meeting. The content read like it came right out of a corporate manual, which it likely did. It featured a bullet-pointed list of things like “State the agenda at the start of your meeting,” “Encourage participation by all attendees,” and “Conclude your meeting with agreement on next steps.”

What these signs really said, though, was “Welcome to a very big company! Just follow these signs and you’ll fit in well.” It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs, who actively fought big-company behavior, gleefully ripping these signs off the wall and replacing them with Ansel Adams prints that might provide a moment of reflection or inspiration—like those he put up in the halls of NeXT.

If you have any thought of working at Apple, I’m sorry to say there will be no signs on the wall telling you how to run a meeting. Likewise, there will be no signs telling you how to tie your shoes or fill a glass of water. The assumption made at your hiring is that you are well equipped with brains and common sense and that you’re a fully functioning adult. If you’re not already a disciple of Simplicity, you’ll become one soon. Either that or you’ll decide you’d rather not be part of such a thing, which is okay too. Simplicity prefers not having to train a bucking bronco.

If big companies really feel compelled to put something on their walls, a better sign might read:

How to Have a Great Meeting

1. Throw out the least necessary person at the table.

2. Walk out of the meeting if it lasts more than 30 minutes.

3. Do something productive today to make up for the time you spent here.

I’m exaggerating, of course. Meetings are a necessary and important way to make collaborative progress. But we all know that too many unnecessary or overpopulated meetings can rob even the most brilliant people of their creative energy. More than being a guideline for meetings, however, the small-group principle is mandatory for project groups. Many businesses follow an instinctive but misguided principle: The more critical the project, the more people must be thrown at it.

The operative theory is that more brains equal more ideas. That’s hard to argue with--except that only occasionally do more brains mean better ideas. The more people involved in the effort, the more complicated briefings become, the more hand-holding is required to get people up to speed, and the more time must be spent reviewing participants’ work and offering useful feedback. A smaller group offers the most efficient way to succeed--assuming that it also has the smarts. (Promise you’ll never forget that part.)

Oftentimes Steve was only doing what many of us wish we could do.

To say that putting more people on a project will improve the results is basically saying that you don’t have a ton of confidence in the group you started with. Either that or you’re just looking for an insurance policy--which also means you don’t have a lot of confidence in the group you started with. Whatever your motivation, what you’re really saying is that you don’t have the right people on the job. So fix that. When populated by the smartest people, small groups will give management more confidence, not less. When you push for small groups of smart people, everybody wins. The company gets better thinking. The group feels better appreciated and is eager to take on more work. This type of organization actually fuels productivity, project to project.

Apple’s agency, originally known as Chiat/Day, succeeded by the same philosophy. Led by the Hall of Fame creative director Lee Clow, our small group matched up well with Apple’s small group. Limiting the size of our group helped us produce work quickly, get information fast, and have the agility to react to unexpected events.

The agency’s founder, the late Jay Chiat, had set a similar tone decades earlier. Jay and Steve had a unique relationship in the days of the original

Macintosh and in certain ways were cut from the same cloth. I had the pleasure of being personally ejected from a meeting by Jay during one of my several stints at Chiat/Day. It happened much like Steve’s ejection of Lorrie, except that I was only half of a dual ejection. Surveying the room before the start of a meeting, Jay took one look at my art director partner and me and said, “What are you guys doing here?”
“Beats me,” I said. “We’re just responding to the invitation.”

“You shouldn’t be sitting around a table talking about this bullshit,” said Jay. “Go create something.” At least we got to walk out of the room with smiles on our faces. Lorrie didn’t have that option.
The working styles of both Jay and Steve have stuck with me over the years. I can think of no better examples of leaders with a talent for keeping their teams focused on the mission and focused on producing great results. And both built spectacularly successful businesses. It’s not a coincidence.

To this day I have a recurring fantasy when I find myself trapped in a big meeting going nowhere. I imagine what Steve Jobs would say and do if he were sitting in that room, enduring what I’m enduring. In my fantasy, it’s like having a really good seat for a matinee at the Roman Colosseum. Who would Steve verbally dismantle or eject from the meeting? When would he cut the presenter off midsentence and say it’s all bullshit? With all the talk about how rough Steve could be, it should be acknowledged that oftentimes he was only doing what many of us wish we could do. Steve saw no reason to be delicate when his time, and the time of everyone in the room, was being wasted.

This is part of the challenge that we non-Steves must face. Most of us aren’t comfortable with the idea of turning into coldhearted control freaks, but we also know that we sometimes need to be tough to keep projects on track. The good news is, being brutal and being respected are not mutually exclusive. In fact, showing a little of that brutal honesty at the right time is a pretty good way to earn respect--and keep those smart groups small.

Ken Segall

Ken Segall worked closely with Steve Jobs for over 12 years, serving as his ad agency creative director for both NeXT and Apple. Ken and his team were ... Continued

Wallet of the Future?

Wallet of the Future - Click for Article from Co.Design

The Wallet Of The Future Is The Wallet Of The Past


Dig through any man’s pockets, and you’re sure to find a wallet--a trifold chunk of leather that’s gone mostly unchanged since the rise of credit cards in the 1950s. Yet as NFC invades our phones to take over the payment industry, we’ll have less and less scraps of plastic to carry around. Will the wallet die? Not quickly. But it will certainly transform.
Astro Studios spent a year rethinking the next generation of wallet--one that’s beyond the credit card, but still holds an ID, cash, business card, and, sure, any last looming credit cards in your pocket, too. What they came up with is , a multi-tiered wallet hand-stitched from a single piece of leather. It’s thin in the pocket but heirloom-quality in the hand; the vegetable tanned leather options invoke a grandfather-approved design that certainly brings to mind the mantra, “what’s old is new again,” and Astro Studios is the first to admit it.
“We feel that this project, and lifestyle design in general, is about understanding relevance rather than pure ‘innovation,’” Astro’s John Moreira tells Co.Design. “We looked at innovations but found the best choice was to make a simple, functional product that provides a home for all your necessities but is less about frequent access (phones take that burden) and more about secure storage. The details in execution are where the time goes: hidden stitches that control card depth. Overall dimensions that work in balance with material properties for the right amount of grip on cards. … You just have to feel it.”
In other words, to distinguish an analog wallet in a digital marketplace, Astro played to the medium’s strengths and designed the most tactilely satisfying experience they could. It’s a smart approach, even if, when the focus is “security,” deploying an NFC-blocking material would have been more prudent.
“What is interesting to us is that many objects outlive their traditional ‘function’ because they have a value that is outside of features that can be listed on a box,” Moreira writes. “Cell phones are arguably the most practical way to tell time, always present, automatically adjusted for time zone and daylight savings time … yet the wrist watch industry is alive and well, and this is because choosing to wear a watch … says something about the wearer.”
And in the case of wallets, that “something” will likely be “my freaking government still makes me carry around an easily-forgeable state ID in an era when I can pay my mortgage with my mind.”