Apple’s fall rollout of new products isn’t welcome news for some of us still adjusting to the iPhone 5 and getting the feel of the iPad we got last Christmas. Many of us who grew up in the analog age view every electronic upgrade as stressful and disruptive. Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t always welcome. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Millennials, born thinking of their opposable thumbs as digital operating devices, don’t understand that “intuitive” is a relative and generational term. Which brings me to this classic comedy sketch created for Norwegian TV a few years back.
Newell Rubbermaid’s new Design Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, marks a monumental shift in the company’s design thinking and practices. This consolidation of design functions in a single location addresses how design in the 21st century has become a team activity that pulls in disciplines beyond design.
In 2012, after Newell Rubbermaid adopted its Growth Game Plan strategy focused on four winning capabilities, including design and R&D, it brought in acclaimed designer Chuck Jones as its first Chief Design and Research & Development Officer to make the company more agile and responsive to consumers through design. Jones’ reputation preceded him, having successfully built global design and development teams that boosted sales and won awards for innovation at companies including Whirlpool and Xerox. Here, Jones talks about how Newell Rubbermaid is creating a brand-and-innovation-led company that is famous for design and product performance.
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Less than a decade ago, a billboard was essentially a printed image blown up to a gargantuan size. The picture didn’t move, respond to what was happening in the environment around it, nor interact with passersby. How times have changed, and with it, the types of skills designers need to execute their ideas. Even printed pieces are not static anymore, what with the option of Augmented Reality movement and sound.
Stopp of Stockholm produced this subway billboard for a Swedish cosmetic line called Apolosophy by Apotek Hjärtat. Connecting ultra-sonic sensors to the billboard screen, Stopp made what appeared to be a “still photograph” of a young model come alive. Calibrated to react to arriving trains but not to passing passengers, the sensors made it look like the breeze from the passing trains were tousling the model’s hair. After the train went by, the model returned to her “still” repose. What a delightfully simple idea and brilliant use of technology.
Unbeknownst to most sports fans was a completely different Super Bowl competition being played out on the sidelines. Sponsored by Intuit, maker of QuickBooks, TurboTax, Intuit and Quicken software, the contest drew 15,000 small business contenders who vied for the chance to win a free 30-second spot during the big game last weekend.
And the Intuit winner was GoldieBlox, a startup that offers construction toys strictly for little girls. A Kickstarter-funded project, GoldieBlox was founded by Debbie Sterling, a Stanford-graduate engineer who was disturbed to learn that 89% of all engineers in America were men. Taking a walk through a toy store, Sterling noted that the “blue aisle” was lined with construction toys and chemistry sets, while the “pink aisle” had lots of princesses and dolls. Sterling vowed to redecorate the “pink aisle” with construction toys to send little girls the message that they could pursue a career in science, engineering, technology ad math too. San Francisco-based Sterling developed an interactive storybook series with a companion construction kit. The book’s heroine is a girl named Goldie who likes to invent mechanical things and seeks the assistance of the young reader to build them using pieces from the project kit.
Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
It is with sadness that we note the passing of our friend, OXO GoodGrips founder Sam Farber, who died Sunday at the age of 88. Farber, who received the “Design of the Decade” award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek magazine in 2001, proved that ground-breaking innovations don’t have to be based on cutting-edge technology nor even have mechanical parts.
This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.
There are many reasons why corporations update, revise or simply abandon their logos. The old mark may feature antiquated technology or not be politically correct by today’s standards. It may no longer reflect who they are, the size of their current business or what they sell. Or it may have been drawn by the founder or a promising art student when the firm was a cash-poor startup. Whatever. The result was a logo that looked amateurish and generic. This is a tough quiz, made harder because we had to remove the brand names on some logos so they didn’t give away the answer. When you pair the logo with the brand however, you’re likely to be surprised. Good luck!
This video is not an ad for Nike+ FuelBand, but it is an offshoot project that fuses technology, human movement and music. The “Field” video is based on HTML technology and requires Google Chrome to let viewers control the experience through the use of a keyboard and mouse to change colors and dot patterns. Nike created it in collaboration with Dazed Digital Magazine and Nosaj Thing, the Los Angeles-based music producer, and FAIR, LA, the design/technology collective led by Julia Tsao. It was produced with Swedish interactive studio, DinahMoe.
Engaging users is also key to the Nike+FuelBand, a matte black rubber-coated wristband that tracks the wearer’s activity through a sport-tested accelerometer that translates every move into NikeFuel – a point system to measure progress against a pre-set goal. The wristband notes every movement – walking, running, jumping – and the amount of calories consumed. Each day users set the goal they wish to attain, and the LED display indicates how well they are doing by changing color from red to yellow to green. Users can upload the data onto their computer or send it via Bluetooth to their smartphone. The FuelBand changes users from passive to active participants in setting and meeting their fitness goals. It becomes a one-person sport challenging users to exceed their personal best.
IKEA is redefining retail catalogs by making theirs come alive. On July 31, the Swedish ready-to-assemble home furnishings giant will begin sending their 2013 edition, so keep your smartphone handy. Interspersed throughout the catalog are augmented reality codes that you can access by downloading a free IKEA catalog app onto your Android or iPhone. Look for the smartphone icons on the page and hold your phone about eight inches above the image to activate the digital layer.
Created by McCann agency with Metaio technology, the app-friendly catalog takes you beyond the printed page and launches interactive content – three-dimensional products, video stories about the product designers, an x-ray look behind a cabinet door, etc. It’s a digital magazine and shopping advisor that piggybacks on paper. For IKEA, the largest portion of their marketing budget goes toward the catalog, of which they print 211 million copies translated into some 20 languages. Enabling access to digital content is like expanding the number of pages without adding pages. Unlike websites where you have to find a way to make consumers visit your site first, the printed catalog puts the marketing piece in the consumers’ hands and then encourages them to linger longer, read deeper and return to the catalog repeatedly to discover what else is there.
“Why Asian advertising is strong and mystic” was the theme of AdFest 2011, an exhibition of the best ad work in Asia. Commissioned by the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation/ Advertising Museum Tokyo to promote this pan-Asian event, Dentsu Inc. in Osaka developed a poster series with lavish illustrations that reminds one of a reflexology foot chart or, in the case of the open palm, like a spiritual mudra (a hand gesture that symbolizes divine manifestation).
For more than a century, the QWERTY typewriter was the most important business tool in any office. Millions were made and sold. Then in the 1980s, along came the desktop computer and within a decade, typewriters were destined for the trash heap. Where most people saw outmoded technology, illustrator/sculptor Jeremy Mayer in Oakland, California, looked beyond the typewriter’s original function and saw an intriguing array of metal shapes and forms that could be reassembled into full-scale anatomically correct human and animal figures.
For decades MIT Media Lab didn’t have a logo; now it has the potential for 40,000 of them. Brooklyn-based designers E. Roon Kang and Richard The came up with a fitting symbol to represent the preeminent research center dedicated to the convergence of design, multimedia and technology. Using three colors plus black, the algorithmic design features three intersecting spotlights that can be arranged into 40,000 unique shapes and 12 colors. Researchers can individualize the logo for their business stationery yet still link themselves to the Media Lab. The concept is geeky, serendipitous, and a melding of math and design to arrive at a different way of looking at things.
In a town known for its over-the-top decor, the new $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan Hotel, which opened on the Las Vegas Strip in December 2010, is a show-stopper from the moment you walk into the main lobby. Designed by Digital Kitchen, the interior of the resort greets guests with a dazzling electronic art installation. Digital images dance up and down towering illuminated columns, dreamlike and surreal. Technology is integrated seamlessly into the design, offering the flexibility to change and refresh the texture, character and mood of the interior from a central control. It’s entertainment. It’s art. It’s a respite from the slots and roulette table.