Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sparks

A quasi-random sampling of interesting tidbits…

Seth Godin’s inspiring piece on blowing up constraints – Getting Unstuck: Solving the Perfect Problem [via Seth’s Blog]

The way to solve the perfect problem is to make it imperfect. Don’t just bend one of the constraints, eliminate it. Shut down the factory. Walk away from the job. Change your product completely. Ignore the board.

San Francisco architects blow up a constraint by mathematically rethinking the bay windowRandom Acts of Architecture [via Metropolis]

The San Francisco planning code encourages Victorian bay windows, but when you look at it closely, there’s nothing that actually states that you have to create a bay window…It just describes this little chamfered envelope. In the zeitgeist that architects live in, where we’re always constrained by planning codes, we found ourselves emboldened by the realization that it could be crazy! So we deliberately misread it as a mathematical description, which allowed for infinite possibilities.

The ever-increasing hegemony of the smartphoneBank of America & Visa test smartphone as credit card system [via Fast Company]

Amazing cylindrical dioramas from artist Anastassia EliasSee the world inside a toilet paper roll [via Likecool]

Continuum shares their creative processOpen for Branding: Design Museum Boston project [via Core77]

Shyness kills?Research study links shyness to heart problems [via BBC News]

And finally, my favorite of the week – All Ducks are Wearing Dog Masks! – Be forewarned: you’ll never look at a duck the same way after you look at this. Ducks’ Bills: You Never Even Noticed [via i am bored]

At close range

We passed our local fire department doing drills the other day when we were out walking our dog.

They had their hoses laid out on the ground, and were practicing reacting to the intense pressure that shoots through the system when the water gets turned on. I’d never really thought before about how much energy runs through a fire hose; how easy it is for an incomplete coupling to separate, how if the hose isn’t held down, it becomes a wild uncontrolled force.

There are so many aspects like this to every job – every task and activity people do – things you wouldn’t think to think about until you see it in context.

So get out there – do research. No matter how good your imagination is, you’ll never match the detail you get from actually being there.

The landscape and the technoscape

We’ve been renting our Airstream trailer on airbnb, and had some unusual guests last week. Alex and Luke, two Canadian travelers also known as alexandluke.com, stayed with us on the 151st night of an extended journey around North America.

What’s unusual about Alex’ and Luke’s trip is that they are using social networking platforms to determine their whole itinerary.

Without a route or any preconceived idea of what we will see and do, we are calling on the communities behind the most popular social media websites to act as our compass (pointing us where to go) and our guidebook (telling us what to see).

Luke says that, for him, the technoscape rather than the landscape was the real inducement to hit the road, and their trip is as much an exploration of the borders between online and offline worlds as the geography of North America. An ecotone is the transition area between two adjacent ecological communities, and by pairing the intensive use of social media with the highly physical and interpersonal nature of travel, Luke and Alex are really probing the unique possibilities of the space where digital and physical meet.

We sat down underneath the redwoods and recorded a 30-minute conversation about what it feels like to have your destination determined by the Twittersphere, how they decide what to share and what to keep private, what social networking tools they wish they had but don’t (Twitter analytics and more fluid map sharing via IM, etc.), and how this unusual experience is changing them.

You can listen to some audio excerpts from the interview here.

Sparks (formerly “Tidbits”)

Beautiful mistakesGlitch art [via REfeeded]

A preview of coming attractions – We hosted alexandluke.com in our Airstream this week via airbnb, and they were kind enough to sit down with me for an interview. Next week, I’ll be posting a more in-depth piece on their unique exploration of traveling, social media, and the borders between online and offline worlds.

A novel product solution for a basic needThe Keyport [via engadget]

Rapid development 72-hour urban action architecture contest [via pruned]

A really fun step programming musical instrument for the iPhone (you will instantly be making music with this!) – The Beatwave app [via Theresa]

An incredible graffiti animationBig Bang Boom

Come as you are

We have a fan in the back room that’s breaking. Sometimes when I turn it on, it makes a horrible squealing noise, then settles in and works, and sometimes it spins up slowly and quietly. I turn it off when no one’s going to be home, in case it bursts into flames.

Today, it was barely moving, and as I was watching that thing try to eke out a revolution, I could feel myself willing it to spin faster. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it, but I realized, as I caught myself trying to apply the mental voodoo, that I’d be much more likely to figure out what the problem was if I just watched closely what was actually happening.

So often we fail to take the mental deep breath necessary to suspend our ideas of what could/should be and let ourselves see what really is, but both perspectives are crucial. The dream – the vision of possibility (the fan works, organic food is ubiquitous, etc.) and the existing reality it will have to be built on.

That’s one of the things I love most about design & research – we work with both the dream and the reality.

Yes We Candle

Barack gets a makeover….


Barack Obama Jar Candle, Curio Shop Window, San Francisco, CA

Imaginary pleasures

Psychologist Paul Bloom considers the importance of perception and imagination to our experience of pleasure in his forthcoming book, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like.

What matters most is not the world as it [actually physiologically impacts] our senses. Rather, the enjoyment we get from something derives from what we think that thing is.

Our main leisure activity is, by a long shot, participating in experiences that we know are not real. When we are free to do whatever we want, we retreat to the imagination—to worlds created by others, as with books, movies, video games, and television (over four hours a day for the average American), or to worlds we ourselves create, as when daydreaming and fantasizing.

This bias towards experiences of the mind over sensory perception points to branding as a crucial component of consumer experience.  Branding shapes the narrative behind product and service offerings. If Bloom is right about what drives us,  that’s as important an aspect of the experience as the thing itself. A successful offering provides an experience on the functional and sensory levels that supports and is enhanced by the brand narrative. When these elements are incongruent, it creates a broken experience, a sort of brand dissonance.

In a recent interview, Bloom also tackled the question of whether animals have imagination. He says that although their play might seem related to imagination, they lack the ability to construct alternate futures – something crucial to our ability to innovate solutions.

Which means that my dog, although she seems highly imaginative to me when she’s trying to do something sneaky, is not likely to dream up the next iPod.