Monday, December 10, 2007

Design is the Cause of and Solution to all the world's problems

Recently there was a small news piece in the Financial Times that mentioned how Netflix has earned the ire of the USPS's auditor because the return envelopes' closing/sticky edge is too soft. So it means that the USPS has to hand-sort all of those Netflix envelopes that are used to return the discs to Netflix. The original envelope that gets the disc to the customer has a stiff enough "leading edge" but not the return envelope. Apparently the "leading edge" is not using a good design. Plus it'll cost Netflix an additional 17 cents per envelope to get DVDs back from customers. This increase would negate 2/3rds of Netflix's profit.

Netflix designers, hopefully, are working on a way to stiffen the edges. So with better-informed parameters and good design strategy, Netflix is going to remedy the problem that bad design created.

Gooooooooooooo Design!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

California to sue US Government over emissions

Another interesting article from the FT, "California vows to sue over emissions" from a story in April 2007 that outlined how Gov. Schwarzenegger was going to proceed, and then a new statement by California's governor -- reported on 22nd of October "California set to sue over emissions".

Apparently back in April 2007, Gov. Schwarzenegger told the US government that he was going to sue them if they didn't let the EPA grant a waiver over greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially the state of California wants to take more strident action against greenhouse gas emissions and do it faster than the US federal government is ready to set standards up to California's. Apparently the request for this EPA waiver was originally sent to the US government two years ago, so in 2005.

During 2006, California passed legislation that commits the state to a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

I'm usually against lawsuits. By and large, so many of them that make it to the press seem to be frivolous or at the very least selfish. This is something I can get behind.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recycling is not THE answer if you look at the problem holistically

"Recycling is not the answer" by Martin Gibson from Envirowise. If there was ever someone who was talking about the virtues of Design Management and just didn't call it by its name, is Mr. Gibson here. I spent the time reading this article, and feeling very inspired that someone outside of the circles I know about really gets DM and doesn't even (maybe) know what it's called!

Here are some of my favorite parts:

" 'triple bottom line' -- profit, planet and people -- is needed for businesses to survive and thrive in the longer term."

"...addressing the 'planet' or environmental side of sustainability is good for the profit line -- the economics are obvious: reducing resource use, water consumption or energy use will reduce expenditure..."

"Envirowise found that 52 per cent of SMEs surveyed reported evidence of growing environmental awareness amongst their clients over the past year...Some ten per cent are anticipating an increased demand for information... while 11 per cent have altered their business strategy as a result."

"The greenwash backlash is almost upon us. The gap between rhetoric and action on climate change..."

"Prevention is after all better than cure...looking at the processes and inputs rather than fixing the output."

"Looking at the design of a product: looking at the supply chain that provides the components of that product; looking at the packaging of a product' these all may seem obvious areas to investigate, but are often overlooked, or explored in isolation and not holistically."

"Key to this whole life cycle approach is changing behaviour and the way people approach problems. People in business should ask themselves" 'How can I use the least material and energy to give the customer what they want?'"

Effective Communication is a key to Design Management

In fact it was two of our classes at Pratt: Communication.

How many people do you work with who write emails that are frustrating for their lack of clarity, especially when that person is in a senior position to you and is giving you direction on delivering something to him/her? Or a subordinate who you've asked a yes/no question to and gives you a 5 minute reply doesn't answer you at all, and in fact only confuses you as to what she/he is on about? How often do you read or hear someone say something that misses the point or is just an onslaught of words, and makes you wonder if there is a point at all?

It's bad design. What you say, how you say it and what you mean is part of a larger 'design'. Mostly I think that if you express yourself poorly you either don't have the verbal or written skills to execute on your idea or your ideas don' t have clarity. Either way, it's trouble -- even for sustainability reports.

"Climate change must feature in trading statements" by Sarah Murray (FT) makes some salient points about communication and how it's key to not only sustainability reports but communicating a vision and a mission -- especially when it comes to change.

" SustainAbility, a consultancy whose work includes brokering relations between internal corporate groups as well as between investors and companies."

" of the reasons companies have trouble convincing investors of the merits of their sustainability strategies is that their sustainability staff are not communicating effectively with the investor relations department... sustainability professionals often come into the corporate world from the non-profit sector... but no grasp of finance."

So it doesn't matter if you're talking about a sustainability mission, vision, change, report, or how your weekend was... "'Most people... say they don't understand each other -- and that's part of the reason why internally that hasn't been progressed quicker."

Always #1: Know your audience

PS How many of you wonder if I'm being paid by the Financial Times to quote and refer to their articles? It's just they're a brilliant paper. One day, and probably not too far in the future, I'm going to get a subscription to every paper I can, read them, and make my own selections. Until then I'm going to subscribe to "The Week".

Packaging material clogs up landfills

There isn't anything new here, it's just another reminder that package designers have a lot of responsibility and ultimately a lot of sway in the world's health.

"The greenest of plastic bottles grow in fields" by Ross Tieman, Financial Times.

Some quotes to give you an idea of the article:

" Wal-Mart, has broadcast a goal of reducing packaging by five per cent."
"A British government study concluded that used packaging accounted for 18 per cent of the contents of a typical household bin, by weight and volume. In 2004, Britons threw away 171kg of packaging per person..."

"'Packaging enables a lot of resource conservation in the supply chain.' That is why, he [Anders Linde] says, 'strategically, we need to look at the whole supply chain. To look at packaging in isolation makes no sense." (Lucky for me this is a huge part of Design Management. Looking at the entire life cycle. Because, when you really look at it all, Recycling is not the answer.)

"But PLA [a proprietary plastic produced in Nebraska by Natureworks] is no miracle solution. Naturally Iowa says it takes 60-100 days to break down its milk bottles in a heated commercial composting facility. Put one in your home compost bin, says Sainsbury's Mr Lendram, and 'it will still be there when you move.'"

"Plastics are the biggest challenge. Rejecting PLA, it [Sainsbury's] is working with suppliers to re-package own-brand goods in materials that break down naturally. One is NatureFlex, a transparent cellulose film made by...Innovia Films"

"Another supplier is Italy's Novamont, which offers a more opaque bioplastic, Materi Bi, derived from maize, which can form bags, foam trays, or even drinking cups. Plantic Technologies, of Australia... offers a maize-based resin that can be injection-moulded and used for film."

My question then becomes, what is the triple-bottomline cost of raising maize to produce packaging. What is it when we look to essentially a food to make packaging. Is it better or worse than plastic? I'm guessing that it's better. I just worry about the cost of food rising for the sake of things like biodiesel (which actually I love) and bottled water (which I have a guilty pleasure of and buy for convenience while traveling).

However, I'm more in favor of making any packaging biodegradable over toxic, even if it means using plant/food-based materials. The push, I imagine, is to get people to buy locally and fresh so that packaging isn't as much of a problem. So that you buy what you need. I think I'm treading on Slow Food Movement water now...

The greenhouse gases your food produces

Ok, so it's not that your food per se produces greenhouse gases, it's more that within food production (the entire life cycle) greenhouse gases are produced. "Food footprints coming soon to a label near you" by Fiona Harvey, Financial Times.

I think it's really great and still frustrating that once again the UK and/or EU is so far ahead of the US. I guess it's true that if you come from a place with limited natural resources like the EU vs. US you (aka Europeans) are more aware of the end of those resources and more protective of making them last longer. One of my grad school groups came up with this idea of eco-aware labels for food and non-food products. We argued our way out of it as something to present to class because of the lack of a central, respected body that would come up with the baseline that all products, companies, methods would be measured against. To keep track of what was produced in terms of CO2 from each farmer, chemist, company, factory, printer, packer, shipper, store, rubbish/garbage removal. Not to mention any of the byproducts, waste, energy, etc to make each phase of the lifecycle happen... It all seemed too daunting a challenge for us to think through and still have a solution at the end that came up with a reputable and meaningful label to inform consumers. And then, after all of that, would it make a meaningful difference to a consumer's decision to buy one product vs. another -- or just another way for a company to create a marketable advantage and yet something else that can be manipulated for profit sans principle.

It seemed to us too difficult and unsupported back in 2004, maybe the world really is changing...

Segments I liked in the article:
"Companies have to scrutinise factors such as their electricity usage, their transport, heating, their use of materials, and any greenhouse gases produced by chemical processes in their manufacturing."

"...BSI British Standards to develop a single standard to measure the 'embodied' greenhouse gas emissions from products and services, which should make it easier for other companies to apply the same methods."

Furthering my point, in the article "Food chain is complex" by Sarah Murray, Financial Times (of course) explains that, "'Establishing one standard, credible way of measuring a product's carbon content will empower consumers to make informed decisions as well as driving businesses to invest in lowering the carbon content of their products,' said Tom Delay, the Carbon Trust's chief executive."

This is true, and then the article touches on another point we came across in 2004, "At the same time, agriculture is responsible for pollution in the form of run-off of chemical fertilisers. Since less than half the nitrogen applies to crops in fertiliser is actually use, the rest leaches into soil and rivers... But there are tough trade-offs for farmers..."

Developing and implementing (and then keeping to) sustainable practices in agriculture is a far bigger deal than what may amount to cursory involvement in food packaging labels. It's a start which I can support. I support the change in opinions based on what's really happening, the whole way through, and getting back to what our ancestors knew. They knew the food they consumed because they made it, they knew all about it and where it all came from and experienced. We should to. What's difficult, and nearly impossible without some international, standardized system (and who wants that?), is being able to keep track. Knowing all the direct and indirect details is probably futile, and it's not what's important to a consumer. What's important now is changing buying behaviors so that what is supported is "good" on as many levels as possible.

The common man/woman may only care insofar as it is affecting him/her directly. Make it personal and someone will care. Adam Werbach is totally right, and I don't care if he is working directly, indirectly or not at all with Wal-Mart. He's right, he's right, he's right!

(I love it when someone in a significant position says something I've thought for years. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. )

Shop 'green' with local advice from Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Center for Urban Environment (BCUE) has an online 'hub' that gives you listings for eco-friendly companies and/or products, plus the reason(s) why you should shop or buy from each.

I think the site has a long way to go, and it's a great start.

Monday, October 15, 2007

China as leader for alternative fuel-based vehicles?

It hadn't occurred to me until I read a book review the book Zoom in The Financial Times about China and its burgeoning relationship to cars, and therefore fuel, would be a driver for what that future means.

"Because China has no invested heavily in petrol stations or other infrastructure for conventional cars, it could become a leader in plug-in or hydrogen fuel cell cars. China is a big enough market to sway future global technology." And an interesting take-away for Americans here is, whatever the US wants may or may not matter. China is such an economic force that their country may set the international standards. So what China deems as important, significant, innovative, worthwhile -- that may be the way forward. No matter what Wall Street wants from the potential for a corn ethanol commodity on the stock market or Brazil and sugar ethanol.

"Another new element is the influence of first movers, such as Toyota, on new technology. Thanks to market clout and early investments in hybrid cars, it has captured most of that small but growing market, and forced competitors, such as GM, to license the technology or scramble to develop their own." Toyota made that move primarily becuase they thought the entire US auto industry and buying habits were going to drastically change, starting with California. passed (and then rolled-back) it's Electric Car/Clean Air Act requirements in the early 90s.

Here's to watching an interesting future in personal vehicles and their fuels.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

identifying bad design: cutting time vs. knowledge

"There is, of course, a difference between cutting corners and efficiency. I’m all for efficiency-promoting tools like TextExpander, Skitch, and even Peel. But these are time-saving tools rather than knowledge-cutting tools. There’s a big difference. If we keep looking for ways to cut corners in the things should be learning and practicing, what will we be left with?"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Design Management: The Cox Report (UK)

Creativity needs to be skilfully managed, not simply embraced. What is required isn’t just a readiness to consider new ideas but the ability to recognise and assess their potential, to decide which to back and to put them into effect.

From the Cox Report's section called Raising Awareness and Changing Behaviour

I appreciate and agree that creativity needs to be skillfully managed (as well as embraced). And in the report it gets to the point that it's about design management style 'management' to move that forward. He refers to DM as "managing creativity" throughout the report. It's not the term I'd choose but it'll do, it makes the point well enough.

A useful travel tool from NWA

Northwest Airline's destination map is actually really helpful. I was surprised that it was more than just a JPG, PDF or Flash version of their flights with the little semi-circle lines from one hub to another. If you click on one, it becomes your starting airport (and you can set it for the session as where all flight plans begin) and then the 2nd click is where you want to go. You can then see how many connections (if any) it would take and where the connection(s) would be (which airport, that is.)

I'm surprised, and pleasantly so, therefore I'm impressed. Nice job NWA!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is this the right path to alternate fuel? Ethanol, food prices, fuel, energy, commodities trading... I think not

My personal view on ethanol is that it's a handy way to add something to the commodities markets so that first-world nations can trade on corn and it's backed by the US government with money. Have we as a planet screwed ourselves out of food sources in order to cut our CO2 emissions and run our cars? Perhaps.

Everyone has an opinion about this. I've selected 4 sources that I think make a good argument or at least have a point-of-view that is fairly balanced in its representation. You be the judge of what you think.
Big Oil's Stall on Ethanol from BusinessWeek 1-Oct-07 (apparently, written in the future but published in the past ;) )

" A more moderate conclusion comes from a recent study by the University of California at Davis, which last year received a $25 million grant from Chevron to study biofuels. It said the energy used to produce ethanol is about even with what it generates and that cleaner emissions would be offset by the loss of pasture and rainforest to corn-growing. Only a small part of the research backed by the grant will involve ethanol, says Billy Sanders, UC Davis' research director. The primary focus will be developing alternative processes and feedstocks for biofuel that is not ethanol.

Infrastructure problems are behind much of the oil companies' resistance to E85. It adds "too much complexity and cost," says Shell spokesperson Anne Bryan Peebles, since it requires separate pumps, trucks, and storage tanks. Any mix with more than 10% ethanol may cause corrosion and other problems in existing pipelines."

One Molecule Could Cure Our Addition to Oil from Wired magazine 24-Sep-07

There's just one catch: No one has yet figured out how to generate energy from plant matter at a competitive price. The result is that no car on the road today uses a drop of cellulosic ethanol.

Today's cellulases are the enzyme equivalent of vacuum tubes: clunky, slow, and expensive. Now, flush with cash, scientists and companies are racing to develop the cellulosic transistor. Some researchers are trying to build the ultimate microbe in the lab, one that could combine the two key steps of the process. Others are using "directed evolution" and genetic engineering to improve the enzyme-producing microorganisms currently in use. Still others are combing the globe in search of new and better bugs. It's bio-construction versus bio-tinkering versus bio-prospecting, all with the single goal of creating the perfect enzyme cocktail.
Go Back to Basics Before you Buy Commodities from the Financial Times 29-Sep-07

Take the drastic shifts in the grain market wrought first by the demand for corn to make ethanol and then by the drought in Australia. Farmers switched from wheat to corn, contracting the supply of the former. Then the drought further constricted wheat supply.

The result: wheat futures have doubled over the past six months, while corn futures have declined. But you would have needed to do a lot of homework to see this coming.
As Prices Soar, US Food Aid Buys Less from the New York Times 29-Sep-07

Corn prices have fallen in recent months, but are still far higher than they were a year ago. Demand for ethanol has also indirectly driven the rising price of soybeans, as land that had been planted with soybeans shifted to corn. And wheat prices have skyrocketed, in large part because drought hurt production in Australia, a major producer, economists say.

The higher food prices have not only reduced the amount of American food aid for the hungry, but are also making it harder for the poorest people to buy food for themselves, economists and advocates for the hungry say.

Biodiesel vs. Ethanol, why biodiesel is the way to go
Biodiesel Boom Heading Towards Wall Street from Business 2.0 magazine 26-sep-07

These days biodiesel isn't just good for the environment - it's good for the bottom line. The U.S. market for the combustible stuff has more than doubled every year since 2004 and will hit $1 billion this year. The number of retail pumps nationwide has grown from 350 in 2005 to more than 1,000 today. A couple of biodiesel IPOs are in the offing - and opportunities abound...

Biodiesel is 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline, which in turn is 30 percent more efficient than ethanol. And while most ethanol produced in the United States comes from a single feedstock - corn - biodiesel has many sources: the oil of seed plants, such as soy and canola, french-fry grease and animal fat. That means the market can weather a price increase in any one raw material. Solazyme, a South San Francisco biotech firm, has even started making biodiesel from genetically modified algae.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For those of you also trying to figure out what to do next with your professional life

There's a good article from Harvard Business Review (of course): How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career from their December 2002 issue

A good quote:
"You’re ready to chuck it all and start afresh. Just make sure you don’t listen to the usual advice about changing careers...

Everyone knows a story about a smart and talented businessperson who has lost his or her passion for work, who no longer looks forward to going to the office yet remains stuck without a visible way out. Most everyone knows a story, too, about a person who ditched a 20-year career to pursue something completely different—the lawyer who gave it all up to become a writer or the auditor who quit her accounting firm to start her own toy company—and is the happier for it."

And this is the part that really spoke to me:

When I consider the experiences of these people and dozens of others I have studied over the past few years, there can be no doubt: Despite the rhetoric, a true change of direction is very hard to swing. This isn’t because managers or professionals are typically unwilling to change; on the contrary, many make serious attempts to reinvent themselves, devoting large amounts of time and energy to the process at great professional and personal risk. But despite heroic efforts, they remain stuck in the wrong careers, not living up to their potential and sacrificing professional fulfillment.

Many academics and career counselors observe this inertia and conclude that the problem lies in basic human motives: We fear change, lack readiness, are unwilling to make sacrifices, sabotage ourselves. My in-depth research (see the sidebar “Studying Career Change” for an explanation of my methods) leads me to a different conclusion: People most often fail because they go about it all wrong. Indeed, the conventional wisdom on how to change careers is in fact a prescription for how to stay put. The problem lies in our methods, not our motives."

Monday, September 24, 2007

non-stick gum: good design for the planet and your body or gimmick?

It's a non-sticky gum. Helps to keep our cities' sidewalks from the black circles known as 'gum on the sidewalk'. Dissolves in a few months (rain water does it) after it ends up on the ground, apparently tastes pretty good, and won't kill you!

And for those of you playing at home, you won't be the least surprised that it's from a bunch of researchers in the UK. Another reason to be an anglophile. This time we're talking Wales!

If you live on a coastline of the US

This is really something: Research and a visual representation of how high the water will come in to various coast areas of the US. I'm not sure if this is what Al Gore shows in the movie An Inconvenient Truth or based on similar data. As a current Manhattanite, I'm really sad that my apartment would be underwater if sea levels rise 5m. Most of my neighborhood would be gone, and I can't help but think that it is unnecessary. I'm sure Hawaiians will be more distressed about Honolulu mostly going under, although maybe they won't. "Real" Hawaii isn't in Honolulu anymore, although there are a ton of historic sites.

Then there's my other favorite continental US city, San Francisco, which will also be affected with less than 2 meters rise, while only 1meter sea rise, we lose most of New Orleans, which would be more than a shame -- it would redefine so much of what is an American city. The midwest, which coastal residents mock with pride, could be the centers of what defines American city life.

I guess this gives new (or reinforced) meaning to "head for the hills!"

I begin to wonder cultural, social, economic and political impacts such a dramatic shift in environment and political boundaries means for the US and other countries. Particularly when a country's major cities are the worst hit; cities that are the center of a country's commerce and cultural identity.

Like with so many other future-predicting environmental work, this could be hysterical. I'm going to guess that it's not entirely. It's the way I feel about religion. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's all a human-ego farce, but if I'm wrong I don't want to end up in hell so I'll at least listen to what is going on.

I think it's time to add The World Without Us by Alan Weisman to my reading list

LEED buildings, all hype and no substance?

I recently read this article about LEED Certification in Fast Company in issue #119

Bank of America's One Bryant Park is made an example of here. I don't think the quote's facts are accurate with regard to energy consumption and glass for the building. The building has the ability to heat and cool itself using run-off and gray water. Let's see how much it pulls from the local ConEd grids before we start throwing stones, eh?

What I do agree with in the article is that the LEED point system is a bit flawed and that points don't' consider the building's geographic and environmental location, among other things.

LEED is not perfect, but it's not broken from Environmental Design + Construction is a good piece to put LEED into perspective. I have respect for Rob Watson, and think that his awareness of LEED's current limitations as a 'good' certification can be improved, as well as requiring increased resource reuse/savings for each building to hit baseline. And yet, having something as comprehensive and achievable (and publicly recognizable) as LEED is a great starting point and better than nothing. After speaking with an architect or two I understand better that designing smart buildings could do more to save on resource use and improve indoor health than relying strictly on LEED.

All in all, Americans love to win awards -- especially when they are silver, gold or platinum named (or colored). We're competitive, so this is a great segue to a next stage in environmental health and rewarding excellence in architecture and construction.

In the next 5 years, we'll have to do better than nothing. In the meantime, keep moving forward!

P.S. here's another publication I enjoy as a layman (er, laywoman) who is a fan of architecture and interior design and have no formal background in either: Green Source magazine from McGraw-Hill Construction

P.P.S. check out information about the Architecture 2030 initiative for where the future of sustainable architecture is hopefully going:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nerds will rescue the earth...

I'm a huge fan of Clive Thompson's articles in Wired. As you can tell from these 3 most recent postings to this blog, I was enjoying the previous issue of Wired magazine a lot.

Clive Thompson Explains Why We Can Count on Geeks to Rescue the Earth

The article is for the most part, centered around the fact that nerds can handle imagining and dealing with large numbers. Something most non-nerds don't quite fathom or at least don't on a regular basis.

My comment on this topic (not Mr. Thompson's) is that I've known less than a handful of people with Aspergers in my life. I can assure you in addition to being good at a bunch of things like having a memory of facts that doesn't deteriorate with age, they are good with numbers. Depending on the individual and the severity of aspergers, don't expect them to be particularly social or emotional. And I think if one is going to deal with human catastrophe, and needs to focus on large numbers to do it well, then not being overly emotional can only be a boon.

Hence, my favorite (for many reasons) quote from the piece is thus: "What we need are more Bill Gateses — people with Aspergian focus, with a direct sensual ability to understand what a million means. They've got to be able to envision every angel on the head of a pin. Because when it comes to stopping the mass tragedies of today's world, we're going to need every one of them." (Wired, issue 15.09)

UK terrorism trial judge making it hard to keep a straight face

UK Terrorism-Trial Judge Gets Lesson on Internet

Another article from
Wired magazine, again issue 15.09

For those of you who don't know, the British court system is often thought of as stodgy and out-of-touch with the modern world. Judges and barristers wear wigs as part of required attire in court. Well, this comment from the trial judge makes me wonder just how out of touch parts they are.

"...Openshaw [trial judge] cut in, asking the prosecutor whether al-Ansar [online forum] was 'itself a Web site.' Not quite, Ellison [prosecutor] responded... 'The trouble is, I don't understand the language,' the judge said. 'Can I help?' Ellison offered. answered Openshaw, 'I do not really understand what a Web site is.'"

Good god, man. was he so ignorant as to have never used the internet in the past 10 years or just never bothered to understand it. This type of question leads many, including me, to wonder if he was genuine or just being obstructionist. I'm going with the former. What was even more hilarious was the before in British legal history there were judges who said "What are the Beatles?" and "What is a McDonald's?"

What's more, I wonder if Yunis Tsouli (the accused) got a fair trial after all.

I wonder if they are paid, perhaps, too much money or work too many hours or, better yet, live in opulence or too-posh digs whereby they miss, entirely, the rest of the world. As I understand it, the US legal system is based on English Common Law. Dear god, I hope we have judges who say less laughable things. And, yes, I know, we aren't immune to that embarrassment either.

Interesting reads on the mind

A book I'm going to read (after the two that I'm reading now) is going to be The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker.

Wired magazine has an interesting review on Pinker's book which came out this September. The book covers more than this, and what I'm interested in is the fact that cursing may be something from a primordial part of our brains. It comes out of my mouth so naturally at times, and when frustrated or angry are the words of choice. They are satisfying. So that Pinker proposes that swearing was the first form of language. "He points to the fact that brain-damaged patients who lose the power of articulate speech often retain the ability to curse like a sailor. 'Since swearing involves clearly more ancient parts of the brain," Pinker says, "it could be a missing link between animal vocalization and human language.'" (Wired, Issue 15.09)

A completely different style of book review by The Financial Times newspaper on The Stuff of Thought (review by David Crystal). This review pulls out the overarching purpose of the book that is nuances in semantics and therefore the corresponding nuances in meaning. (I wonder if finally, there will be time when people realize one can not be objective, even a newspaper reporter, when one is forced to use language. More often than not, one's choice of words exposes one's opinion. Perhaps that is a different book and day: the choices with the written word and the objective press.)

Either way, I'm interested in the design of the human mind especially when related to language so it's going on my wishlist for when I'm ready for a new book.

Another book, again reviewed by Wired (same issue, 15.09) Is a British authored one entitled "The Book of General Ignorance". Revaling the world's biggeset misconceptions, which according to the review includes that Centipedes dno't have 100 legs and Alexander Graham Bell didn't invent the telephone. I knew both of these things, and want to know more. (I personally think that Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Alva Edison were opportunistic bastards (see why I'd like The Stuff of Thought?) who didn't invent anything but had a keen business mind for taking advantage of a time and someone else's clever developments. Neither have my respect, both seem to be given adulation in history classes as men more important than they are.) Again this book is going on my wishlist, too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

web design and coding

This is possibly the most accurate and funny pie chart to the kind of work I've been involved with past 6 years.

parody on carbon offset, being carbon neutral
I probably like this too much because I'm an Anglophile and I just find so much of British humour clever and funny and, therefore, worth knowing about. It's a nice spin on being carbon neutral... really nice end to the video.

PS If anyone knows where I can get a copy of the season of Bang! Bang! (Reeves and Mortimer) for US DVD players, please please please let me know.

PPS In case you are wondering on my stance on carbon offsetting. I agree with these two lads. Just stop bad practices. Use good design to improve your process and carbon 'footprint'. Make the easiest (lowest hanging fruit) changes first. On a personal level (not necessarily big business) here's a good place to start getting ideas:

visual learners probably like heat maps

I'm a fan of heat maps and other visualizations of data... since we're looking for a new place, this one is helpful:

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I'm not sure if this is available only in the UK, but at the very least it appears to be only available to schools, universities and offices. (of course that won't stop me from contacting my beloved Design Council to see if i can get myself a license or copy.)

Truthfully, it maybe be something that DM students already know quite well: that design can impact life and lifestyles well or badly. I think this would be great for design students to do before they leave undergrad, and business students to do before they leave undergrad or grad level degrees. Lord knows there's a lack (although improving) business -minded knowing by design graduates and a complete lack (again improving) of appreciation and awareness of design (big D design) by business graduates.

Ideaplay is an interactive design innovation kit for young entrepreneurs, developed by design consultancy Engine and the Design Council. Ideaplay aims to sharpen and refine entrepreneurial skills, improve teamwork and develop students’ understanding of the value of design by looking for design opportunities in everyday scenarios.

* The challenge is simple - follow the experiences of the characters across the storyboard, identify their unmet needs and then propose and develop new products and services
* Learn about the key part that design processes play in entrepreneurship and innovation
* Learn how to use these processes to help identify, enrich and pitch ideas

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Natural Clay plaster for interior

I read this in a recent e-newsletter from Global Green USA. The good folks rebuilding New Orleans in a more sustainable methods. I'll probably get smacked on the wrist for posting their e-newsletter here, but maybe not. I'm not trying to steal their thunder or copywrite, just want to get people talking about it and to know more the lazy-man's way --aka answer my blog post for me.

I'm wondering if anyone has used this type of plaster in his/her home or has an opinion on it, especially on the bit about the charge humans are accustomed to being around in nature. I wonder if I would know I was experiencing it consciously or if I would just 'feel better'. I like that it's renewable, non-toxic and low-energy usage to create.

Green Product of the Month
Natural Clay Plaster

clay plaster Natural clay or earth based plaster for interior finishes including walls, ceilings, and bathrooms are natural, renewable, and non-toxic materials. The manufacturing process requires low energy usage. Plaster walls help to regulate temperature and sound within a home or office. In addition, natural lay or earth based plaster does not attract dust.

It is compatible with the "breathable" construction recommended for both historic and new buildings. Surrounding your interior environments with clay plasters, or paints, that produce Negative Ions will not only help neutralize the electromagnetic effect created by computers, appliances and synthetic plastics, but also will help eliminate static charge on walls and floors. Not only do your walls stay clean, but by using clay surface materials you are helping to filter air of pollen and dander. You surround yourself with the ''charge Humans are accustomed to when living in nature."

Negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy. Normal Ion count in fresh country air is 2,000 to 4,000 negative Ions per cubic centimeter (about the size of a sugar cube). At Yosemite Falls, you'll experience over 100,000 negative Ions per cubic centimeter. On the other hand, the level is far below 600 per cubic centimeter in an office with computers.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

considering motherhood, new york, and being environmentally responsible (but not neurotic)

Here's one for the personal files... having just gotten married last year at city hall and our church wedding this past summer, we're talking through starting a family. So, here's the things we are mulling over, most of which I'm concerned with: money and space, location, health and environmental quality of life, and noise.

Space: Simply put, we're going to have to move. We live in a studio in the East Village and if we bring another person (or any single thing more) into this apartment we're going to lose our minds. We need more space. We need more space where there is a door that we can close to a bedroom. We have two doors now, the one into the apartment and the one into the bathroom. If our family expands, we really want to have another door. And that brings me to the next point.

Money: We have no cash for a downpayment on anything. The economic and market conditions are not good for people in our financial position to buy something anyway. Interest rates are too high for us to be able to keep up with, and as I said we don't have any cash anyway. Prices in new york are so high right now and vacancy levels in Manhattan are around .5% to .8% That means almost nothing is available and it's all expensive. Every new construction/development is luxury in our neighborhood. And the few environmentally-responsibly architected buildings in the city are so completely out of our price range its frustrating. So we want to move into a place that has enough space, only one of our paychecks can afford (in case i decide i want to raise my own child for the first years of his/her life (blasphemy!), and dammit I want to keep shopping at Whole Foods in Union Square and the farmer's markets. I have such a love affair with Whole Foods (The layout, the products, the design, the food, the principles/beliefs, the wind power supply, etc). I actually think about how it's more expensive (sometimes) to do all my shopping at Whole Foods vs. how happy it makes me and so I secretly make that a requirement when pricing apartments. In fact, I've decided that becuase I believe so strongly in not using chlorine to bleach toilet paper, paper towels, flour (baking/cooking), paper products of any kind -- that I simply can NOT buy normal/cheaper toilet paper.

I must have Seventh Generation toilet paper and paper towels. I believe in the research they've done to prove the eco-value of their products. I must have ecover or Seventh Gen dish washing liquid. I must use 100% post-consumer, non-chlorine paper for my printer. I must be able to have all the extra money (even if it's not THAT much more) to keep these things in my life because I believe it is better. There isn't anything -- except reliable and credible research over a period of at least 5-10 years -- is going to sway me otherwise. And I must be able to have wind-powered energy supply from ConEd or another energy company. Now that I have it, I don't want to go back.

I'm not even going to buy my children baby food, organic or processed. They're getting fresh veg and fruits, and I'll mash them up in a food processor or by hand. I loath sugar derivatives in food. I'm known to buy plenty of products for my husband (like pop tarts) that are probably slowly poisoning his body -- but that's my personal line between being responsible and being neurotic. Sometimes the joy that something brings is okay in my mind vs. the environmental or social impact. Luckily, Pop Tarts aren't cigarettes. Don't even get me started on that in my home. I can't and don't want to control other people's personal habits, just don't come in my home with that one.

So where was I?

Location: I want to stay in New York City. Be that in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens (the Bronx and Staten Island aren't our thing). I spent most of my life in New Jersey and I'm not going back unless there is no alternative. I crossed the river, I'll go visit my family, I'm not living there... unless we start thinking about public school systems and then I'm likely to begrudgingly go back. I'd love to stay in our neighborhood, anywhere between West and East villages. And of course with all the luxury developments going on what's a couple (who needs to spend less than they make so they can save up to own something one day) to do? We've decided we're not going to spend as much as we can afford, otherwise we never get out of the renting race. I know we'll end up somewhere far away (subway-wise) from where we are now. I'll miss having Minca across the street (eco-friendly or not I LOVE MINCA. Ramen noodles rock my world!). I'll miss my favorite NYC pizza and fresh pasta at Luzzo, which is a few blocks away. There are 6 movie theaters within walking distance of our apartment, and Union Square a short bus ride (or 20 minute walk) away.

I'm a downtown girl. I sometimes wish I could plead with the NYC gods to make it 'not so.' Alas it is, and if I'm going to be someone's mom I should at least be a good one. And by good, I think that means making family most important. I'm working on figuring out a way to make ramen noodles and a healthy baby live on the same block. Is that asking too much? Do I sound too much like someone who has never had a child? Probably, but that's who I am now.

I'm going to jump ahead to noise now...

Noise: Anyone familiar with the East Village, or Manhattan, will be thinking: how can noise be something you care so much about -- you live in one of the nosiest-at-night places. True. I did score my studio on a street that is one-way, with a school on one side and low-income housing on the other. So the street doesn't have traffic that goes through. Our street is, therefore, a lot quieter than others above and below us. There are 3 bars and any drunk person who has ever walked past our building and spoken, yelled, sang, barfed, yodeled, became violent, had a fight, or did anything louder than a normal-office speaking voice. I heard you. You woke me up, and I half-asleep plotted violent ways to end you. My favorite are the car alarms.

Let me tell you car owners who park on the street overnight this: (a) if your car alarm goes off no one will call the police for you, mostly it's someone too drunk to stand up who set it off or a garbage truck going by in the morning, and (b) be in a place that is near enough so you can turn it off. The most torturous night of sleep I've had due to a car alarm was the night someone's was parked in front of my apartment building, it went off for 28 seconds every hour. I know this because it went off every hour and I could count it. I plotted so much violence against this person that when they appeared in the morning I considered throwing things at her. My neighbor across the street must have been equally livid since he came out of the building, yelling at her and telling her what her car was going all night. She told him to f-bomb off and he was a lying gay man. Insert your own derogatives and curses as she did. See? Not nice AND no one cared to steal her car, we just wanted it to stop making noise.

Otherwise, we're really lucky. My building is by-and-large quite. My neighbor likes to play his electric guitar badly but will stop around 10pm. Sometimes it's until 11pm, but whatever.

I guess I really am part of gentrified East Village life. I should probably not have the audacity to look for quite in this place. I do. I will. It's how people think, and I do a lot of that.

So in terms of moving, we're never going to live near Times Square, Columbus Circle, any of the tunnels, or anywhere on Broadway.

This brings me to quality of life...

Quality of life (environmental and health): Unless you have no other choice or the activity and noise makes you happy, I find it hard to stomach the idea of living (especially street-view) on a major through-way in the city. I love that so many of the busses along the UES or UWS are electric-powered. Quieter, less CO2 emissions, and lower to the ground so you don't have to jump up to get on there (I'm a bit short) and they don't have to make that noise when the bus lowers and raises by air-power. I don't particularly love the UES or UWS, but again I'm a downtown girl. I love vising up there, but it doesn't strike me as a place I want to spend so much of my time. (I work in midtown and I can assure you it's not a place I want to spend so much of my time. I did, however, discover a great new-to-me lunch spot called Kafi Roll on 39th Street at 6th Ave (a little in on 39th from the northeast corner, orange flag sign) Excellent roti filled with veg or non-veg. Like an Indian 'burrito'.)

Back to the point. I would rather live on the back-facing part of a building (especially if there was grass or a tree or two behind it) than street-side. I'm done with hearing every drunken conversation from the 2nd floor here. I also have a lot of allergies, or reactions like allergies, which is just exacerbated by living in a city. (We went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to do some consulting work for a month and I felt great. We came back and I realized how polluted cities are, even the 'cleaner' ones.)

And yet we both want to stay in New York City for now, so we will.

Stay tuned for the wearing down of all of my 'wants' into a single 'need' and how this all pans out...

Friday, September 7, 2007

our girl, nathalie's project in the news!

A Global Vision From the New Man at EA Sports

EA Sports is one of the most powerful, lucrative brands in the video game business. That’s not enough for Peter Moore.

Two months ago Mr. Moore stunned the game world with the announcement that he would step down as head of Microsoft’s games operation to be president of the sports division at Electronic Arts, the No. 1 game publisher. He started his new job yesterday, and today in a presentation to journalists at the company’s headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., he is to share his vision for moving EA Sports beyond video games to a global sports and entertainment enterprise.

“There is a great opportunity to take EA Sports and turn it into a general sports brand that can compete not only with Take-Two and Konami and the other usual suspects in the video game world,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday, but also “to look at ourselves in a different way and compete with the likes of Nike and ESPN to win the hearts and minds of a very desirable demographic group, which is the 14-to-34-year-old male worldwide.

“That could mean broadcast sports, sports camps, the ability to license consumer products around the EA Sports brand,” he continued. “That means technology that brings sports to life for coaches, players and television viewers, and it means services online for sports fans to connect with one another.”

Ben Schachter, an Internet and video game analyst at UBS Securities, agreed that Mr. Moore’s big challenge was to find different ways to compete for the time and eyeballs of young men.

“They have certainly been successful in areas like football, but the big question going forward is whether they can actually grow the user base and get these young male consumers to buy more EA Sports products,” Mr. Schachter said. “They are competing not only against nonsports video games but also the MySpaces and Facebooks of the world, and they need to find new ways to bring in those potential customers.”

The company’s cornerstones Madden football, FIFA soccer and Tiger Woods golf games continue to sell millions of copies each year, but both Electronic Arts and its sports operation have grown sluggishly, if at all, in recent years. John Riccitiello, who took over as Electronic Arts’ chief executive in spring, has pledged to reinvigorate the company and seems to have brought in Mr. Moore as one of his prime agents of change.

“It may sound like heresy, but I’m not here to just sell more Maddens and more FIFAs,” Mr. Moore said. “Protecting our base is very important, but I didn’t come here to just maintain the status quo and build the business 5 to 7 percent a year.”

In particular, Mr. Moore said, there could be an opportunity for Electronic Arts to set up a global news and social networking service for sports fans.

“As a sports fan, for the information I have to collate every morning, I have to go to 8 to 10 to 13 different sites just to hit my favorite bookmarks,” he said. “Yahoo has a lot, and ESPN too, but ESPN is very North American. I think we have an opportunity to aggregate information and bring it to life with video technologies.”

In general, he said he would push his operation to develop more online products and to pay more attention to the PC, which is the dominant gaming system in Asia outside of Japan, especially in China and South Korea.

The overall concept, Mr. Moore said, is to focus on opportunities to use technology and the EA Sports brand to connect sports fans. As an example of his intended direction, he said he planned to unveil today EA Sports GameShow, a live online trivia game to be made available free for PCs this fall.

In GameShow, which will be advertising-supported, players will log in to compete in live trivia contests, both individually and as part of teams. Mr. Moore said if the initial game was a success, it could potentially move to the online services associated with major game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

“We continue to talk a good game about online, but we as publishers have not taken full advantage of that opportunity,” he said. “In some ways GameShow is a pilot for what we hope to be a much more substantial online presence going forward.”

Mr. Moore’s background may be particularly suited to the challenge he has set himself. Before working in the games business at Microsoft and as president of Sega of America, he was a senior marketing executive at Reebok and president of the United States operation of Patrick, a French sportswear company.

“If we look at this connected world we’re entering, sports is a sort of social and cultural glue that reaches across the globe,” he said. “There is an opportunity for EA Sports to evolve beyond a games brand to become a true global sports and entertainment brand, and I think we can compete there.”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

future of the notebook: interlocking notebooks

Click on Shop, and watch the flash demo on how it works. Nice design!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

newspapers: print vs. online

I'm still a huge fan of the printed word. I get my Financial Times delivered daily and they keep trying to get me to read it online, and I just don't want to. It's more convenient to read on the train, I can rip out and circle/underline articles I want to keep or reference later, and the is there if I want to email someone an article. I still prefer to read on paper and not online.

There is an image created that "tracks the front page of from 1996 through 2006, illustrating how quickly online presence can evolve. Note how the page structure and hierarchy have changed as images (yellow) and advertising (orange) have gradually become integrated with editorial content (blue)."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

and it's not that much of a farce, it's mostly true

...and makes me question my rationale for going back into agency world.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

sort of, kind of, myself... blah blah blah at the office

I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this in the workplace and then on TV (and perhaps catching yourself doing it). Instead of using "um" as filler... and before I launch into this diatribe completely, don't use UM. Just don't. Say nothing instead of um. It makes you sound nervous and sometimes (depending on how often you say it in a certain amount of time) incompetent. No one needs to do that to him or herself.

Ok, so "sort of". I noticed this earlier this year on the Today show (NBC) where the hosts like Matt Lauer or Ann (I forget her last name) say "sort of" and then I noticed a LOT of their guests would use sort of.

I started a new job in June and noticed the entire office is infected with the sort-of disease. Statements like, "[Name] could you sort of compile those list of deliverables for me and kind of, you know, send it to the group?" or "What we're sort of trying to accomplish here is, sort of like more innovative spin on the existing project, and sort of trying to keep it within certain parameters."

I'm not kidding. These aren't made up examples.

I went to a meeting where inside of the first hour, which was a presentation to a room full of clients, the main speaker said "sort of" 157 times. By the end of the presentation, all staff members from my company said "sort of" 427 times and "kind of" a mere 204 times. If I had the time and wasn't trying to pay attention, I'd have counted how many real words were used also. I'm sure it was far more real words than filler, but you get the point.

Once you notice people saying "sort of" or "kind of" you can't turn it off. You'll notice that most people are using what I like to call 'socially accepted white noise filler'. Everyone is in silent agreement that they won't notice this and we all do it.

I've caught myself doing this a number of times. The longer I work here, the more I start to sound like them and it's driving me up a wall.

If you catch others doing it or yourself, please let me know how you deal. If I've just pointed it out to you and now you can't tune it out. I'm sorry. Welcome to my world.

PS one other thing I've noticed, and I'm less certain this is grammar-suicide... the use of "myself" in place of using "me" or "I". I believe this increasing use of "myself" is to cover those who don't know when to use "me" or "I" -- which often tends to be people that use "I" when they should use "me" because they think it makes them sound more sophisticated. If you know what you should say or should hear, then you (like me) just think the other person is a wanker.

Most recent example is "name, name, and myself will attend the session." I'm pretty darn sure it should be "name, name, and I will attend." Or it could go "Will you invite name and me?"

I know people really want to say "Will you invite name and I?" but you need a direct object. I is a subject, me is a direct object for these examples.


*sigh* okay, I feel better now.

The above was typed in here on 21-Aug-07, and today is 28-Oct-07. I've been thinking about it almost daily (still) for a year or two at least, and have decided to comment it in writing twice.

I've begun to wonder what we're all so afraid of. What happened to English-speaking peoples, in particular Americans. Although I've heard it when I went to Toronto and I'm sure there are plenty of Canadians who think that Toronto is too closely 'related' to the States anyway. And I've heard British celebs on US and UK TV say it, too.)

Why can't we just say what we mean? Or is it that we don't mean anything? Why do we couch anything that is an opinion or statement with a weak pretext like 'sort of' or 'kind of'. Are we afraid the government is going to hear us and come get us; deport us from our own country? Are we afraid of being sued for saying something incorrect, scandalous or irresponsible? What is it? I know it's something. This is too pervasive to be nothing, and yet seems to be happening without questioning why.

There's something in the fabric of American culture, I'm guessing it's American, that is showing up in this way. Have we lost our self-confidence? Is it the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (potentially Iran)? Is it the weakening ties the US has with other world nations? Is it our lack of buying power when compared to China and India? Is it our reduced voice in the UN? Is it our weak dollar? Our potentially re-rivalry with Russia? Or is it that we just talk too much and really have nothing meaningful to say, so we say lots of filler for the sake of hearing our own voices?

I don't know exactly so I'll keep mulling this over. In the meantime this filler language which is accepted as okay plus the warming of the fall and winter seasons in New York is worrying me daily.

Friday, August 17, 2007

European eco-design

From Core77's latest e-newsletter:

European market forces such as Ecodesign, consumer choices and ecolabels are beginning to change the practice of design at the most fundamental levels. It is no more just a matter of a greener product or choosing a less toxic component or material. It requires an understanding of the entire production process, distribution and marketing system on a global scale, and the way that systems are being redesigned to meet these criteria. These trends also imply sea changes in the way businesses are organized and the way they function...

Ecolabel is the first piece of design change that the posting covers.

From me: and isn't that what Design Management is about? understanding the entire lifecycle of something -- in this case, product.

wind energy, oil rigs -- another eco-friendly solution to energy consumption

Now this is forward thinking and good big D design. Convert unused oil platforms off the coast of Texas to wind energy.

Again from Wired's February 2007 issue in an article titled, "Inherit the Wind".

Use what you have, change it for a different end result and maintain/take advantage of a core function. Great idea and better execution.

Now if people would get off the 'NIMBY' problem of thinking wind power is ugly. I can't tell you how joyous I felt when we got to Maui two weeks ago for our honeymoon and the island winds pushed back the clouds from West Maui and I saw the wind towers on the mountainside. How lovely and joyful. (If you had the same view of wind energy that I did, you'd probably welcome any wind-based energy contraption as well. I mean who gets excited about these things and isn't in the field?) Even if you're not all ga-ga over 'green' energy, it's not that ugly. It's a streamlined windmill. And it's sure prettier than smog, dang it!

underwater logging... green solution to a paper problem?

I read an article in Wired about underwater logging in reservoirs. It's in the February 2007 issue of Wired, article called Reservoir Logs.

I found it a clever solution to eco-friendly paper supplies and interesting in its technology and design/vision. I'm not sure that it's one of those things that can be called the solution or a solution per se.

Here's a bit from an e-newsletter from Rainforest Alliance:

"Mother Nature never intended for trees to be underwater," explains Christopher Godsall, president and CEO of Triton Logging. But trees -- perhaps as many as 300 million worldwide -- are submerged in reservoirs and Triton has come up with an innovative, eco-friendly method for harvesting them.

Triton has been recovering Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, hemlock and other species that have been preserved by cold water and turning a profit without damaging the surrounding environment. Key to his efforts is the Sawfish, an underwater logging machine invented by the company. Operated by remote control, the Sawfish attaches inflatable air bags to the trees, then cuts them underwater with an electric chain saw. The air bags float the logs to the water's surface, where they are loaded onto barges.

The Rainforest Alliance has certified Triton's milled wood under our SmartWood Rediscovered program, which recognizes environmentally sounds practices for the recovery, recycling and reuse of wood products. The eco-friendly logging method doesn't emit carbon dioxide the way that conventional logging does, doesn't pollute the water and leaves the lake floor undisturbed.

It's all about the process... green cards

Far be it from me to critize any government office. Lord knows that without forms and proper documentation no one could CYA or, better, do anything to help the citizens.

For anyone who has applied for a green card, he or she can tell you stories of various levels of aggravation and complication. It's a trying process. It takes a long time. It's also necessary on some level because without it there wouldn't be any valid way of making sure each visa recipient was indeed worthy of holding it. There are a lot of dodgy lawyers out there who probably make a ton off of the bureaucracy or at least most people's fear of dealing with a government bureaucracy. There are a ton of good immigration lawyers who make a stressful process less-so for their clients. We went with the latter kind of law office. And even then, there are a number of forms that aren't particularly well-designed and create problems just as much as they allow progress.

What I'm writing about is the design of the process. Since it really is 'all about the process' the process could be better designed. Of course when you are going to improve a form, you must consider the related forms, process, people, offices, resources, money, time, effort, political motives, personal needs, stakeholders, leaders, managers, staff, etc. A form is often the end result of a long 'family' -- and therefore the physical representation of the quality or state of that 'family', or the design of that 'family.' And by design I don't mean what it looks like. I'm talking about big D design, sustainable design. Making plans, consideration and excuting and follow up on those plans, strategies to make sure that people, planet, profit are all well considered AND visually appealing, of course.

The example I'm going to share is my husband's greencard. We were elated when after being married for just over a year, he received a letter stating he was approved. So the other night, when it arrived, he was very excited, relieved and hopeful upon opening the letter. Of course, this was all confirmed he checked his name (often mis-spelled) and then dashed when he saw they messed up his birth date.

They didn't just switch the date or put the wrong day in, they turned a now 28-year-old married man, whose photo is on the card, into a one year old. They had his birth date as the end of July, last July. He was born in mid-August, and not last year.

Of course the likely excuse is that they have a TON of visa backlog and with varying political pressure to hold off and then to push ahead, people inside of a hectic process with not-quite-good-enough forms are doing what they can. Again the forms and process are a reflection of each's designed 'family'. So the family is going through some tough times.

What's more, and to be expected, is that there is a form he needs to fill out. And of course there is documentation he needs to provide to prove that the mistake is theirs not his. So all parties recognize a 28-year-old married man is not a year old. Let's do another form. The form is going to be filled out by the aforementioned lawyer's office because the amount of time and aggravation one can spend with Homeland Security is potentially astonishing.

As many have said before, often the design of the process can reward those who do not abide by its rules. Because this is just one of many examples, large and small, of how you are not rewarded by following the process. I can assure you on all of his forms that the birth date is correct. I can bet that what happens at the end of this is that it was just a simple human mistake (again a piece of the process behind the larger design) and it will be fixed.

I just wonder how long it'll take and how much longer he has to wait to be able to work for any employer he wants, just like I can. It's one of the benefits of having a green card vs. an H1b visa. H1b you are beholden to the sponsor/employer and they to you (in a sense), green card you get the freedom to move around. H1b visas are great and I am grateful for them. They are, as the greencard is, part of a larger poorly designed process that has an extreme amount of pressure to improve and, likely, a lot of dysfunctional 'family members' that impede evolutionary change in its design.

The balance is between necessary CYA and accountability, and levels of frustration on all sides. Perhaps this was worse in the past. I often wonder as a new version of a form comes out if it improves what it wanted to improve and didn't make a bigger mess where one didn't exist before.

N.B. Sustainability for me means good design-- in the big D design sense. It can be simply broken down into the 3Ps: People, Planet, Profit (or whatever order you like to put them in). Essentially it's sustainability in the longevity of success (in as many ways as can be measured). I don't find immigration in the US a sustainable process. I do believe it will be improved because I'm a "Pollyanna" and if I don't have that potentially false hope, it'll be too aggravating and disappointing to realize just how much my representative government -- as a whole -- doesn't care about those who give them the power.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Solar power evolved: harness the heat, get more power

This is a brilliant idea: the evolution of solar power. I read this and thought, duh, of course! there's more heat than light and the science behind it makes more sense as to why this is the better way to go. I'm sure there are alternate thoughts on this point, and I'll keep an eye out for those as well.

New York Times' article called "In the Desert, Harnessing the Power of the Sun by Capturing Heat Instead of Light" printed 17 July 2007 by Matthew L. Wald

Bayer's change management

I have to say, one of the most influential phrases ever uttered to me was "it's all about the process." From a grad-school instructor who was often talking about change management, organizational development and business management. At the time I thought he was full of it, but in the past few years since I heard it, I've realized he's absolutely correct and right-on. Thanks, Richard.

There was an interesting article it the Financial Times about Bayer's CEO and their past years of change management. I have a strange interest in pharma after working on a group project that featured Pfizer, Roche, Schering, and others. (One of my teammates worked for Roche at the time.)

Here are some of the segments I found most interesting:

"Communicating the board's thinking and winning over the workforce was a longer process, in spite of his reputation as a down-to-earth character." {Key here is that clear, consistent, and meaningful communication is the difference between something being successfully understood and being just more words in the corporate sphere.}

"A new, compact, four-floor organizational 'nerve center' has meant most people who are needed for big decisions are within shouting distance." {I liked this name instead of war room since I think the military culture in the US is too entrenched (see? see?) in US business and business thinking.}

"'I think we were driving at the limit over the past few years. A lot of things had to be shouldered by the same people,' says Mr Wenning. 'But we never gave up anything we wanted to do.'" {I thought this was a nice point about how if you are in a significant role within a company and you care about what happens you are in the position to deal with more than most and if you are smart about it and the conditions are right, it can work out for the best. You just may be more worn than others. It's the passion, hopefully, that gets you through.}

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ecofriendly version of Google search

This is exceptional because of how a single change can make such a potentially large impact.

When your screen is white - an empty word page, or the Google page, your computer consumes 74 watts, and when it’s black it consumes only 59 watts.

Mark Ontkush wrote an article about the energy saving that would be achieved if Google had a black screen, taking in account the huge number of page views. According to his calculations, 750 mWh per year would be saved. That’s the kWh per year that 1,000 average US refrigerators would use. Ok, so it’s not an enormous amount to stave off global warming, but it’s significant just by doing something small like changing the color. (Of course in the world of graphic or visual design, changing a color isn’t small.)

In a response to this article Google created a black version of its search engine, called BLACKLE, with the exact same functions as the white version but with a lower energy consumption.
Check it out !

P.S. Bank of America is a key sponsor of the NYC campaign from City Hall, GreeNYC, which promotes suggestions to fulfill its tagline: “Small Steps, Big Strides”. GE and ConEd are the other two corporate sponsors.

Monday, July 23, 2007

great design interface for politics

This undecided interface made me want to be Canadian for a few minutes while I did it. How nicely organized and concise. I not only understood the issues but each party's stand on each. Brilliant! (I'm just wondering how to make this fun interaction WCAG or Section 508 compliant.)

"Undecided" is (what their creators at refer to as:

A product which provides new tools for making decisions through comparative analysis, seeking to provide an alternate model for voter participation through online networks. Voters inform party policy, and parties present platforms to potential supporters. Each of the major parties are allowed to put forward a limited number of issues. These issues then make up the core criteria of The Undecided. The parties are required to take a stance on each issue, which affords side-by-side comparison for undecided voters.

What I really dig about this is its unbiased approach to choosing a political platform - sorta working in reverse like one of those personality tests you find in Cosmo (I don't read Cosmo - just sayin'). And not unlike one of those tests, you learn some pretty shocking things about yourself, politically speaking.

Apart from its obvious agenda, the UI is also really clean and simple – surprisingly fun to navigate. Check it out:

Good communication, product and customer service design

This was from a post from a co-worker, so not mine. I thought this was such great stuff that I wanted to share it:

Today I came home to find an unexpected package sitting on my front porch. It was a small box from Samuel Adams Brewing Company. Inside the box was a note, a small booklet, and 2 glasses designed to maximize the enjoyment of their beer. The glasses were sent to me free of charge from Sam Adams for being a subscriber to Beer Advocate magazine. The glasses were designed by Jim Koch, Brewmaster at Sam Adams, along with several several beer and wine critics. The goal was to design a glass to enhance the flavor of the beer, just like different wine glasses enhance the flavor of different wines. The end result was glass with a unique shape designed to highlight malty beers and bring out the aroma of hops.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Boston Lager in the house, but I did have some Sam Adams Summer Ale. The glass did seem a bit small, but it held a 12oz bottle perfectly, with the head stopping at the rim. The bottom of the glass has a very thin circle etched into it, which released a slow stream of bubbles. The walls are very thin, similar to those on wine glasses. The beer seemed to swirl into the larger bulge as you drank it, releasing a nice hoppy aroma. The beers head was also retained longer than it does in typical pint glass. The beer did seem to finish smoother using this glass when compared to a bottle.

Does the glass actually help one enjoy the taste of the beer? It depends on who you ask. In countries known for their beer (Belgian, Ireland, Germany, etc), the answer is yes. In the US, most bars don’t take the time to serve the beer as the brewer intended. Beer Advocate has a breakdown of what type of glass should be used for what types of beer at

As a home brewer, and a beer lover, its great to see an American brewery trying to stick out from the crowd. The booklet was designed very well, explaining the features of the glass. The glasses lived up to the hype, and gave me a reason to sit down and enjoy a Sam Adams. Hopefully other brewers will pay close attention to what Sam Adams and other Craft brewers are doing to revive the American beer industry.

Steve Jobs' advice for giving a good pitch

I still think our training in Pratt's Design Management prepared us all for making excellent pitches. Here's a view being circulated online:

Here’s a quick five-step deconstruct of Steve Job’s January 2007 MacWorld presentation / pitch (where he introduced the iPhone for the first time) ...

From Business Week:

1. Build Tension

A good novelist doesn't lay out the entire plot and conclusion on the first page of the book. He builds up to it. Jobs begins his presentation by reviewing the "revolutionary" products Apple has introduced. According to Jobs, "every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…Apple has been fortunate to introduce a few things into the world." Jobs continues by describing the 1984 launch of the Macintosh as an event that "changed the entire computer industry." The same goes for the introduction of the first iPod in 2001, a product that he says "changed the entire music industry."

After laying the groundwork, Jobs builds up to the new device by teasing the audience: "Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device." Jobs continues to build tension. He repeats the three devices several times then says, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device…today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" The crowd goes wild.

Jobs conducts a presentation like a symphony, with ebbs and flows, buildups and climaxes. It leaves his listeners wildly excited. The takeaway? Build up to something unexpected in your presentations.

2. Stick to One Theme Per Slide

A brilliant designer once told me that effective presentation slides only have one message per slide. One slide, one key point. When Jobs introduced the "three revolutionary products" in the description above, he didn't show one slide with three devices. When he spoke about each feature (a widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, and an Internet communicator), a slide would appear with an image of each feature.

Jobs also makes the slides highly visual. At no place in his presentation does the audience see slides with bullet points or mind-numbing data. An image is all he needs. The simplicity of the slides keeps the audience's attention on the speaker, where it should be. Images are memorable, and more important, can complement the speaker. Too much text on a slide distracts from the speaker's words. Prepare slides that are visually stimulating and focused on one key point.

3. Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery

Jobs modulates his vocal delivery to build up the excitement. When he opens his presentation by describing the revolutionary products Apple created in the past, his volume is low and he speaks slowly, almost in a reverential tone. His volume continues to build until his line, "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone." Be an electrifying speaker by varying the speed at which you speak and by raising and lowering your voice at the appropriate times.

4. Practice

Jobs makes presentations look effortless because he takes nothing for granted. Jobs is known to rehearse demonstrations for hours prior to launch events. I can name many high-profile chief executives who decide to wing it. It shows. It always amazes me that many business leaders spend tens of thousands of dollars on designing presentations, but next to no time actually rehearsing. I usually get the call after the speaker bombs. Don't lose your audience. Rehearse a presentation out loud until you've nailed it.

5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm

If you believe that your particular product or service will change the world, then say so. Have fun with the content. During the iPhone launch, Jobs uses many adjectives to describe the new product, including "remarkable," "revolutionary," and "cool." He jokes that the touch-screen features of the phone "work like magic…and boy have we patented it."

I think speakers are so afraid of over-hyping a product that they go to the opposite extreme and make their presentations boring. If you're passionate about a product, service, or company, let your listeners know. Give yourself permission to loosen up, have fun, and express your enthusiasm!

Map your own way with Google

Google Maps now allows you to drag and drop points of your route to override the default and redraw the route from new waypoints. While planning our wedding and putting a map (that my graphic designer husband created on his own in Illustrator based on directions we got from Google Maps) I would have LOVED this feature about 7 months ago! There is a video demo of the feature here:

I haven't had a chance to play with this yet, but I encourage you to go have a look. It's especially good, most likely, for people who live in or near big cities where the default directions aren't bad but don't 'know' about local traffic patterns and can often send you into or across toll roads to go half a mile. Try to send someone from Fort Lee, NJ to Hoboken, NJ and not have your directions send you across the George Washington Bridge and then back through the Lincoln Tunnel. It's happened to me in the past, and I can't tell you what a bad idea that route would be.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Design Degrees: Masters vs. PhD

debating the value(s) of a masters vs PhD degree and then also that a degree in design, especially big D design is a professional degree (like Design Management's MPS from Pratt). So it's less about the academic than the professional application. I'm not sure how I feel about this assessment. I think she's right that PhD is more about having an ultimate question that needs to be answered and so much more in-depth research in many more fields and perspectives is required. For me the question is: does that alone make you a better 'big D' design professional or academic?

Here's another viewpoint from my all-favorite Design Council:

I like the comment that :
Too many designers forget that the focus of design is not self expression...' because as we all know that would be art, not design.

Does anyone who has applied their Masters or PhD degree at work (or to start a new business) feel that having one versus the other makes a difference in practice?