Design and Innovation Daily

Inspiration from a stonemason

Posted in philosophy by Dan on November 30, 2009

To start off the week, I’ll send you to a recent Design Observer feature on Jon Piasecki, a stonemason and landscape architect. He provides a truly different perspective on the possible relationship between design/craft and nature that will give you the opportunity to stand back and appreciate both. Here’s an article, a slideshow, and a video.

The U.S. National Design Policy Initiative is trying to decide on its top priority for 2010, and they want your help. A number of proposals are listed on their website, and you can vote on one (voting ends midnight, tonight):


Special update: new deadline, rule changes for IxDA competition

Posted in information by Dan on November 26, 2009

I don’t think this blog’s current readership overlaps with the interaction design audience (yet). But since I did post about the IxDA (Interaction Design Association) student competition several weeks ago, and because this piece of information is urgent, you should know:

Yesterday, IxDA announced that the deadline for the competition was extended an entire month, to December 31, and that the competition is now open to group submissions, with some restrictions.

The original iteration of the rules set a deadline for November 30 and only allowed submissions from individuals. So, for anyone already planning to enter, this is a sudden change; for everyone else, you have more time to change your mind and enter, and you can submit a project that you started with a group.

There are still some important details and limitations. So, read the announcement and then look at the official rules for the competition.

For those who don’t care about the above: just so this post isn’t a waste, here’s something cool. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ze Frank on creativity

Posted in creativity, interviews by Dan on November 24, 2009

I was going to post this last week along with the video about brain crack, but I didn’t want to detract from the primary topic of the day. So, here’s a written interview with Ze Frank about creativity.

Design and Innovation Daily will take a break for the holiday and return on Monday, November 30.

Eighteen and a half minutes off the lizard brain

Posted in creativity by Dan on November 23, 2009

It’s Monday. By now you’ve made some progress in executing the idea I told you to execute last week.

A few days ago I linked to this in passing, but given the current theme, I’ll post it again. To keep you going on this thing you started, watch Quieting the Lizard Brain by Seth Godin.

If you already watched it, then spend the next eighteen and a half minutes—the length of the talk—on your project.

Great day for a project

Posted in creativity, methodology by Dan on November 20, 2009

If you’re reading this, you either didn’t read yesterday’s post or didn’t follow the instructions.

So, listen to this talk by Merlin Mann.

Now, actually start something. It’s Friday—the best day to begin.

Brain crack

Posted in creativity, methodology by Dan on November 19, 2009

It’s Thursday. Watch this short video by Ze Frank about brain crack.

Now, don’t read this blog for the rest of the week. Close your laptop and go execute your idea.

Six secrets: design lessons and shoelace knots

Posted in designers, graphic design, methodology, user research by Dan on November 18, 2009

Picking up from yesterday’s topic, Jeffrey Kalmikoff, director of design and user experience at Digg, recently wrote about getting useful feedback. “If someone uses the product, they have a valid point of view – period.” In counterpoint to “When Not To Listen To Users,” you need to prompt feedback in the right way and interpret the right parts of the feedback. Here’s the post: The Anatomy of Useful Feedback

I only learned about 99% yesterday, but it looks like a great resource, with lots of interesting articles and many videos to come from its conferences, which seem to share the TED approach and would probably appeal to TED fans. Anyway, in 5 Secrets from 86 Notebooks

Renowned graphic designer Michael Bierut claims that he’s not creative. Instead, he likens his job to that of a doctor who tends to patients – “the sicker, the better.” Digging into the 86 notebooks he’s kept over the course of his career, Bierut walks us through 5 projects – from original conception to final execution – extracting a handful of simple lessons (e.g. the problem contains the solution; don’t avoid the obvious) at the foundation of brilliant design solutions.

Other 99% videos feature Scott Thomas, the design director of the 2008 Obama campaign, and Seth Godin (one of my favorites).

Finally, this is too cool not to post it. This is a shoelace knot that won’t loosen throughout the day: Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot

hostage negotiation and user research

Posted in methodology, user research by Dan on November 17, 2009

Boxes and Arrows published a fantastic article last week on What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators. Bryan McClain and Demetrius Madrigal make an insightful comparison and outline a few interviewing strategies for designers.

We know that users generally don’t make very good design recommendations—so when exactly can we and can’t we listen to users? Laura Klein pieces apart the answer to this question on Bread Board: A Faster Horse: When Not To Listen To Users

Can bankruptcy and vulnerability be good things?

Posted in entrepreneurship, theory by Dan on November 16, 2009

Morten Lund is an entrepreneur who, despite having founded 88 startups in the past, is (as of last month) bankrupt due to his latest investment–but doesn’t seem to be unhappy about it. He discussed this at a conference last year, shown in this 13-minute video. (Found via Pamela Slim, who wrote a little more about this last month: “The beauty of dirty laundry”)

A recent BusinessWeek article discusses why “a sense of vulnerability” is important to an innovator: The Innovator’s Vulnerability


Posted in art by Dan on November 13, 2009

For Friday, I’ll take a break from design. This is a clever and beautiful animation called “Procrastination” (found via Ze Frank).

“Procrastination” by John Kelly

The 12-story theatre machine, and other incredible architecture

Posted in architecture, designers by Dan on November 12, 2009

The construction of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas was recently completed. Among its impressive, beautiful venues is the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre—literally a theatre machine. Components of the theatre, including stages, floors, scenery, and seating, are stored above and below the auditorium; they can be moved and rearranged for each performance, effectively switching between different types of theatres.

To see a short animation that explains this, go to this page and choose video 5 from the list (I can’t link directly to the video).

Several years ago, Joshua Prince-Ramus, one of the architects of this building, presented at TED about this project along with two other incredible architecture projects. All three buildings are novel not just because they look novel, but because of the way the design goals, the needs, and the cultural challenges that defined each project became part of the building’s physical form.

Joshua Prince-Ramus on Seattle’s Library

While I’m on the topic of architecture, here is a short video about MVRDV, a Dutch architecture firm that has produced many unusual-looking buildings with the goal of maximizing the use of space: MVRDV on Dutch Design Profiles

Barcodes redesigned; wristwatches reinvented

Posted in product design, theory by Dan on November 11, 2009

The company D-Barcode takes a creative approach to barcodes:
In Japan, Even the Barcodes Are Well Designed

Michael Surtees (whose blog, Design Notes, I recommend in general), reviews a watch made by Nooka, who has continually reinvented the way time can be displayed:
Looking at the Nooka Zem Zenv Mr S and some of the other Nooka brand shapes
See also his Flickr gallery of Nooka products.

Third, a thoughtful article by Don Norman: “A product is actually a service.”
Systems Thinking: A Product Is More Than the Product

“Designing Interactions” and “What vs. How”

Posted in interaction design, interviews, sustainability by Dan on November 10, 2009

Each week, a selected chapter from Designing Interactions—a fairly recent book by the father of interaction design, Bill Moggridge—will be posted online, along with videos of interviews with other designers and innovators, to download for free. I don’t know if this is a one-time thing or if they repeatedly cycle through the chapters (this week is Chapter 4). Either way, the book and the interviews are both fascinating resources.

Designing Interactions:

For shorter reading, here are two instances where plants are ingeniously used to clean air in place of machines.
Toyota Creates Its Own Flower Species to Gobble Harmful Gases
Air Filter Uses Plants to Filter Toxins

And from the Brain Traffic blog, “It’s not what you do that sets you apart, but how you do it:”
“What vs. How”

Three videos: UX, sound, and “designer slash model”

Posted in interviews, psychology, user experience by Dan on November 9, 2009

If you’re at all interested in user-centered design or user experience (UX) design, watch this interview with Don Norman, a pioneer in the field of usability and UX, from the UX Week 2008 conference. Mentioned during the interview is his book The Design of Everyday Things, a book highly recommended for just about anyone: Don Norman at UX Week 2008

A fascinating and somewhat comical 6-minute TED video on “The 4 ways sound affects us.”

“Desgn can change the wolrd.”

“Thirty Conversations on Design” and a few cool products

Posted in designers, interviews, product design by Dan on November 6, 2009

Good morning. This is the first of many daily emails (or posts) to come, each with a delicious serving of content on design and innovation, prepared just for you. Does that sound corny? Or does it sound like breakfast?

“Thirty Conversations on Design” is a collection of bite-size videos from famous designers and creative professionals. Ten of them have been posted so far, and the remaining twenty will be delivered later this month.

We asked them two questions: “What single example of design inspires you most?” and “What problem should design solve next?” Their answers might surprise you. But hopefully, they’ll all inspire you.

My favorites are those by Ric Grefe from AIGA, Jason Severs from frog design, Erik Spiekermann, and Linda Tischler from Fast Company. One reason I think these are interesting is that many of the designers, regardless of their profession, describe design challenges and solutions that span multiple discliplines and fields. And they’re all truly serious about their missions as designers, even if their job is only to design sports equipment.

Now, for the products:

A reusable water bottle that folds up:

Sketchbooks made with 5.25″ floppy disks:

An infographic-turned-bracelet:

Sled Coffee Table and Rug:


Posted in hello, information by Dan on November 4, 2009

Roughly five times a week, I’ll post a small collection of links to web pages, articles, blog posts, and miscellany related to design, innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing, and that kind of thing.

I (try to) keep up with a large number of blogs and online magazines–I find this field simply fascinating–and I constantly find things I want to share with like-minded people. In a way, this is a continuation of my “PDI Links” lens on Squidoo, but I wanted to go a bit further with this. For one thing, this is a chance for me to get into the habit of producing and posting something every day. Second, I want to see if I can get more of a conversation going. I hope that what I post here will spark and fuel your curiosity, but I also hope you’ll add in your own stuff. Comments are open for each post. If something really interesting is going on in the comments on any given day, I’ll add it do the following day’s post.

I won’t flood you with content; I’ll filter out the best, most interesting, most valuable stuff and, again, post about five times a week.

To receive updates by email every morning, subscribe here. No spam, I promise.

You can also subscribe by XML/RSS/Atom/other news reader.

Two Competitions

Posted in competitions, interaction design by Dan on November 4, 2009

The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) is running a student competition for Excellence in Interaction Design. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 30. Five finalists will get a free trip to the Interaction10 conference next February, where they’ll get to see Bill Moggridge, Paola Antonelli, and a bunch of other supercool designers.

By the way, since this is the first time I’m mentioning IxDA: if you’re interested in IxD, you can join IxDA and get onto the discussion list for free.

I’ll let The Fun Theory explain itself. The prize is €2,500. I don’t see any reason we can’t enter from the U.S., though.

Here’s Dan Lockton’s thoughts/analysis of The Fun Theory.