Designing for the New Economy

3D Printed Toy Car

Wouter Scheublin, in cooperation with the Dutch research institute TNO, designed this wonderfully minimal pull back car made through 3D printing.

Wouter leveraged on some of the strengths and advantages of the 3D printing process, in this case laser sintering, to design the car and the pull back mechanism all in one go,

Every part, including the gears, axles, wheels and pull back spring all come out from the printer as a complete assembly. The only assembly required is the 4 rubber bands tires and perhaps packaging.

I applaud Wouter’s amazing experimentation and sublime Industrial Design. This product really got me excited. However I was quite surprised to note that this car is on sale on his website at Euros €180, and obviously made to order.

I wonder if a designer is experimenting in such advanced manufacturing processes should he not also experiment with an advanced business model as well? Why not sell the 3D file at perhaps €10-20 and possibly make a whole lot more money, and at the same time save on shipping costs and effort?

With 3D Printing cafes exploding all around us, I think selling the 3D file of your design is the way of the future.

Via: Website

Creativity is about Self-Confidence

Heidi Grant Halvorson shares on Behance’s 99U that being in a position of power will allow you to be more creative.

Being in a position of power certainly changes you – not necessarily in an evil way, but research shows there is a definite shift in how you perceive the world around you when you’re the one in the driver’s seat. You think in a more abstract, big-picture way. You become more optimistic, more comfortable with risk, and more open to new possibilities.

In fact, a series of studies by psychologists Cameron Anderson and Adam Galinsky showed that when people felt powerful, they preferred riskier business plans with bigger potential rewards to more conservative plans, divulged more information, were more trusting during negotiations, chose to “hit” more often during a game of blackjack, and were even more likely to engage in unprotected sex during a one-night stand.

Well ok…

It sounds like being powerful equals to more creativity, and if you read further on in the article, it says that being powerful but feeling powerless reduces creativity.

To a certain extent you can equate creativity with risk-taking behaviour, but not always so. I know of design entrepreneurs who produce very creative work, but are very conservative business people. Furthermore, being in a position of power does not mean that you have to be a CEO or a head of an Agency (as suggested in the article), it could also be a small player with a unique selling proposition, skill, or design strength.

Therefore a more accurate description in this article should be: by being in position of power, you achieve a higher level of self-confidence that becomes a strong driver for creativity.

Via: 99u

VCs Fund Startups with No Ideas – A Perverse take on the Design Thinking Process

I’m not sure if I should jump for joy, laugh or cry? Perhaps I should just sit dumbfounded.

Forbes recently reported a new trend in Silicon Valley; Venture Capitalists are now funding Start-Ups with no idea what they are going to do. Sounds like the dot-com bust all over again.

The exception is now the rule, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reports that “pivot” is the buzzword on the lips of every Silicon Valley founder and venture capitalist these days. Having some kind of notion what line of business your fledgling company might want to pursue used to be a prerequisite to raising capital. Now, it’s a mark of hubris. You don’t tell the market what it needs; you gently offer it a series of options, which are less viable concepts than ritual sacrifices aimed at cultivating the favor of the start-up gods. It’s called “iterating.”

This iterative process and delivering to what customers want is one of the core tenets of Design Thinking. Therefore I am a little please to hear that VCs are endorsing this process. However, it is dangerous to only focus on this part of the process, as this is a validating activity that results in incremental innovation. Unless this is what you (or the VCs?) want. Probably that’s why everyone is complaining that startups are stagnating, and software innovation has not been meaningful in awhile.

There is so much more Design Thinking can do for Startups. Understanding your customers so that you can deliver design driven innovation through meaningful solutions is one of them.

Via: Forbes

7 Things Small Businesses can Learn from the Sparrow Sellout

People loved Sparrow, a clean and simple Gmail client for the Mac and iOS. But nobody knew by how much until they sold-out. The internet was just a buzz with unhappy people, myself included. Even their own investors were unhappy.

We won’t go into a debate on whether you are or not an entrepreneur if you’re looking for an exit strategy by selling to the highest bidder. But when Sparrow sent an email to me two weeks ago announcing they were acqui/hired (for a rumored amount of $25 Million) by Google, I realized that this is an excellent case study of what to do (or not to do) if you are running a small business looking to create an innovative solution for your customers.

1) Focused product
Sparrow is a simple and outstanding email client for Gmail. It is also one of my favorite Mac Apps, and possibly my most frequently used. What’s great about this App is that it focuses on one thing, email. And the App performed exceedingly well. I’m glad that the developers did not include other so-called “value-add” features such as reading RSS feeds or creating multiple folders etc.

Small business owners would soon discover that if they can maintain a strong focus in their business, products and service solutions, they can be very successful. Focus allows for clarity, and clarity is important for doing something well.

2) A product that fulfilled a need
Before Sparrow came along, we struggled with other email clients. Now that we know better, we demand better. The old saying is true, people don’t know what they don’t know. Sparrow succeeded in making other email clients look and “feel ancient“.

Customers don’t care about you, or your business, or your product range. They care about how you can solve their problems. If your solution is not solving a need, it is not likely going to make a long lasting impact in anyone’s lives. People talk a lot about branding and brand loyalty, but many forget the brand has to be useful first and cool bananas second.

3) It was not perfect, but they kept on improving it.
When Sparrow first was launched is sucked. It was so buggy I occasionally went back to Gmail because the App would not work right. But the team kept on improving it, so much so I was looking forward to the updates. Sometimes Sparrow team members were so excited that they “…would spill the beans about a new app feature on Twitter or Tumblr because they were so excited about it.

I’ve seen, all too often, small businesses getting what I call “launch burn-out”. They spent so much time and energy on getting a product or service to market that once it goes out they either go on to something else or retire (or sleep!). Product or service launches should be seen as a marathon starting line, and not the finishing line. The real work begins when it launches.

4) Kept close to their customers

The sparrow team was very close to their customers, they listen to feedback (they did mine!), they got people to pick their next logo, and the even got their most loyal and fanatical customers to beta test their upgrades.

Small businesses have no reason not to get close to their customers, especially with today’s Social Media applications and Internet technology. I’m still surprised to see so many small businesses hiding behind distributors or retailers and not taking steps to better engage their customers. If you don’t do so, how can you understand what your ultimate end user needs or wants? And if you don’t know what, how can you make the right business decisions or improve your offering?

5) Don’t be Evil. Ok?
All things considered, Sparrow had a lot going for them. They were making hundreds of thousands of dollars, and their customers loved them.

Unfortunately since the sellout, their customers are now just angry for being left on the lurch. More so when many, including myself, found out that the developers were flogging the iOS versions for $0.99 (RRP $2.99) and the Mac version for $4.99. They did this from 19th June to the 13th of July. 7 days before the 20th July announcement of the Google purchase, and also that they will not be supporting the product (except critical bugs) in the near future.

Many people could not help wonder if they were taken for a ride, and all that goodwill they built up was destroyed. Small business need to realize goodwill is tough to build, but can by destroyed in one felled swoop.

6) Are you an entrepreneur or a business man?
I know we said we would not debate this, and we won’t. However small business need to decide if they are building something for the long term, or are they looking to get rich quick and get out. Great products and services need time to build and gestate.

Because of the nature and complexity of Design Thinking and Design Driven Innovation activities, it is naturally a long-term investment and commitment. So really, only the small businesses that are looking to build something awesome for their customer need apply.

7) People believe in why you do what you do.
The real reason why people are upset was that many believed in what the Sparrow Developers, Dom Leca and Dinh Viet Hoa, believed in. They wanted to create best possible email app they could and turned it into something they would want to use.

Because of this, I would add “betrayed” to the list of emotions many people are feeling. If you don’t believe me, read the comments in all the articles I’ve linked to above.

Humans are strange creatures. When people are emotionally attached to something, it becomes hard to give up. Just look at Apple. Small businesses that want to beat the big organizations (that people feel nothing for) should consider this: Share with your customers why you get out of bed each morning to do what you do. The customers you want will walk the journey with you.

What it Means to Have a Designer as a Startup Founder

So it looks like The Designer Fund, a VC fund that specifically invests in Startup companies that have designers as founders is starting to gain traction. It seems that suddenly everyone seems to have an opinion on the premium placed on designers.

Brace yourselves! I’m going to join the fray with my 2 cents worth simply because I find that many people seem to miss what the Designer Fund is extolling. I would even dare say that even the Designer Fund itself seems to miss something in the communications of their objectives.

But before we go on check out some of the current sentiments on this hot topic, researched and organized for you in chronological order:

1) The Designer Fund in all its glory! A brag list of all the exciting and successful companies that have a designer(s) as one of the founders.

2) Yongfook rants, (in respond to this brag list) in his post “Design is Horseshit!“, on how the premium set on designers is overblown and there is a lot more to running a start up than being a designer. Yongfook seems to lean towards the view that design is about creating value through making things beautiful.

3) Joshua Porter calls out YongFook in his post “Design is not Horsepoop“. Joshua’s take is that design is more than skin deep, it’s a process and a mindset. He quotes Steve Jobs saying, “Design is how it works.”

4) Finally, a bunch of us were having a conversation on Twitter today on the seemingly narrow view of design on this website: “Startups, This is how Design Works“.

You see, it is not about how you define design, but how wide (or narrow) you consider the scope of design to be. This is the same problem many people have with the whole Design Thinking shindig. Take a look at the following graphic and you’ll know what I mean.

Click on the Image for a Bigger View.

It’s one of the situations where people are both wrong and right at the same time. We are all really talking about the same thing. It’s all design. From making things look good or easy to use, to creating the right experience, to identifying opportunities for market grown through user insights etc., we are all talking about the same thing.

Now, lets go back to the Designer Fund’s point of view, and look at what they mean where they say that Designers should be part of a Startup’s founding team. What they are trying to say is no different to what some of us (go Rita-Sue!) have been saying for years, and that is we need to get a Designer in the boardroom.

When you have designers (skilled in the “Design as a Strategic Activity” bit) in the boardroom or coffee shop table (where most Startups find themselves), design becomes central to the business strategy and decision making process at the highest level. So the Design Fund believes that having Designers as founders will lead to a design driven Startup that will have a high change to build something meaningful, useful, and awesome!

But to start building, you will need everything to come together in the right way, and at this stage design switches to design implementation mode. Therefore, in reality you will need both parts of Design (and in between) as outlined in my graphic above. Any argument, for or against the Designer Fund, which only considers one part of this equation is fundamentally wrong.

Businesses should Tell a Story and Plant Many Seeds

Guy Kawasaki, at a Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series at Stamford, shares insights on why start-up businesses should tell a story and plant many seeds. I believe that any company (not just start-ups) interested in getting their products (or services) out there or wanting making a difference will find his few words of wisdom very useful. You will find this very applicable in a Design Thinking context as well. Enjoy!

If you can’t see the video please click here to view it on Design Sojourn.

More Designers should be Entrepreneurs

May 19, 2011

Some time ago (July 14, 2009 to be exact) I wrote an article encouraging designers to walk the entrepreneurial path on their own by bringing some of their own creations to the market. My article “Sometimes Designers need to Walk the Path on Their Own” encouraged design entrepreneurship simply because of the learning experience designers can get. Not only that, a designer should have the DNA to be an entrepreneur. It is really only about changing the mindset.

So I was presently surprised to see an interview where Scott Wilson, of Tik Tok Kickstarter fame, explains his thoughts on why Designers should be Entrepreneurs. However I disagree with the99percent when they labeled him as a “new breed of designer/entrepreneurs”. I’m sure you would agree with me that design entrepreneurship is something that many designers have been practicing for quite sometime now.

Anyways here is the quote:

Do you think all designers should be entrepreneurs? Or is that just your particular makeup?
I find it slightly odd that all designers aren’t like that, because you’re just so curious. For me, I have such a hunger to learn, to try new things, and to connect the dots. I love seeing all kinds of things from medical to industrial to whatever, and then going, “Oh that’s interesting, and how is that relevant to this thing over here that’s in a completely different sector or category.”

I think there’s a difference between a designer who just wants to go to his computer and design things in a vacuum or design things to a brief and not maybe be challenged too much, and a designer that can actually see the connections and challenge the brief and push back and create something that’s disruptive to what’s in the market right now.

Steve Jobs at Apple, Mark Parker at Nike – who I was fortunate enough to work with for two years – those guys are big-picture designers. They’re right-brain, they connect the dots. I think it’s really important to train that part of how you see things as a designer.

There are a lot of people out there who have more skill than I do, who are more creative, maybe more open-minded, but one of the things that I do is I see the connections and I see the opportunities and I can visualize them.

So I agree with Scott, designers have the DNA to be entrepreneurs. It is about curiosity, big picture thinking, and the ability to connect the dots. I would also like to add to his list the ability to wear many hats, working with, and empathizing with other people. Check out the full interview at the99percent for other cool anecdotes such as “Do what you think is Right and Apologize Later”. Enjoy!

F*ck You. Pay Me. (nsfw)

May 11, 2011

The ever-witty Mike Monteiro, famous for his potty mouth, shared at a recent San Francisco Creative Mornings talk, the ups and downs of running a design business. For example, dealing with problems such as getting clients to pay up, getting comfortable with contracts and working with lawyers.

Filled with his usual F-Bomb expletives, this video is not really safe for work unless behind a pair of headphones. Nevertheless it is good to watch and worth spending that 39 mins or so, of your time. You can find a much tamer written version at his Mule Design Blog.

Via: Swiss Miss A Crowd Funding Platform that Empowers Designers to turn their Designs into Reality

I know I have been teasing all of you about a strategic design project that I have been and am still working on. It is now time for the big reveal with its official launch at 9am this morning PST, about an hour ago. I am super excited and very honored to be part of a team of clever and dedicated professionals.

Check out our new baby called CKIE; a crowdfunding platform created especially for funding product ideas. CKIE is an acronym that has been derived from a formula for Creativity. It goes something like this. C=f(K,I,E), which is creativity (C) is function of knowledge (K), imagination (I), and evaluation (E). I’m not sure where this formula came from but it sounds pretty good eh?

Created by my friends from Yanko Design, my role was supporting them in design and business strategy, profiling personas and identifying possible usage scenarios. These activities finally led to the fine-tuning of the user experience of the website and platform. I also brought to the table my extensive experience in managing the process of industrial design and product development activities and how these processes can be merged or applied onto this new Internet platform. Currently the platform is not 100% perfect and there is still much to be done, but we decided to launch it once it was stable and will continue to refine the site in the spirit of iterative software design.

I do know that there are similar crowdfunding or micro financing platforms out there. Furthermore I don’t often recommend businesses to adopt strategies that actually follow other strategies, but in this case the product we have been working on is quite different.

There are 4 main differences.

Firstly CKIE is focused on funding product ideas only. No books, movies, shows, art etc., just products. This means that 100% of people visiting the site are only interested in checking the latest industrial design, product ideas or concepts.

Secondly, CKIE is an international platform. We are open to designers, creators, entrepreneurs and people interested in backing or supporting ideas from all around the world. Why limited your ideas and customers to one geographic location when the world is your oyster?

Next. We have created a platform that is supported by experienced designers and design managers such as myself. Designers, entrepreneurs or anyone with an interesting idea can come on board and be able to speak to a person for help or advice and not be left on their own. We identified that industrial design and product development is such a long and difficult process that it can be daunting to many people, especially those that are in it the first time. Even experienced designers often have some difficulty navigating the tides of the realization process. At CKIE, there are experience design managers who will be able to support and help people get the best out of their design, the development process and the platform.

Finally, as part of our strategic profiling activities, we identified that most designers are good at the design and creation part but actually poor or clueless about the marketing and promotion of their ideas or design. Considering this insight added with how other crowd-sourcing platforms actually rely on participating designers to be responsible for their own marketing activities, the entire experience becomes a challenging and uncomfortable one. No longer. CKIE will leverage on its sister site, Yanko Design’s 2 million unique visitors a month to help market and profile the products that are going to be funded. This means that by putting your designs on CKIE, there will be a much better chance of getting your product seen, funded and eventually sold.

Well there you go. This is just an example of the range of exciting strategic design projects Design Sojourn has been engaged to work on. Check it out, and do let me know what you think? Even better, let me know if you are interested to join CKIE and I can help get you started. Enjoy!

Top 10 Mistakes Design Businesses Make

Mar 12, 2011
View more presentations from David Sherwin

David Sherwin, a Senior Interaction Designer at Frog Design, has complied a list of the top 10 mistakes design businesses make. This presentation is a must read for anyone who runs or owns a design business of any kind, as well as those thinking of starting out on their own entrepreneurship venture.

As this presentation is angled towards running a design consulting business, advertising or creative account managers would also find this presentation, especially the section on price negotiation, very useful. For example, rather than give a discount to your client, look at areas where you can reduce the scope of work you will do. This technique is something I myself have used frequently as a means to manage costs as well as expectations for my business partners.

This one is a keeper!