Author Archives: Nathan Shedroff

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

  • Business’ Biggest Blindspot

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    One of the most interesting aspects of business culture is that while many businesspeople are focused on creating lots of value (particularly the multiples they see when companies like Instagram and WhatsApp are purchased by huge companies like Google and Facebook)—basically, what every startup is trying to do—the tools they use are habitually focused on creating and managing traditional business value. When you hear someone exclaim “people won’t pay more for that,” this belies a fundamental misunderstanding of people and business. Most designers know there’s more at work in creating great customer experiences than just a focus on the numbers but even our tools are only now groping to describe what these other aspects are and how to work with them.

    This is one of the reasons why Steve, Sean, and I wrote this book. Most businesspeople recognize that there is premium value in the world (any brand that can charge more than others is a premium brand). But in developing products, services, events, and spaces as offerings for this brands, those doing the developing still run-into the challenge of “justifying” the very aspects of the experience that make it premium and desired in the eyes, ears, and minds of customers. This is an old frustration of many designers and developers.

    Our supposition is that we can’t use traditional tools, built only around “the numbers,” to create premium value that comes from emotional, identity, and meaningful engagement. And, the other half of this point is that we can’t communicate these aspects of the projects, nor verify them in the field with traditional design tools. In short: we need new tools!

    In Blindspot, we describe some new techniques that should easily become a part of customer research and some new tools, in particular the Waveline, for using this key research to better develop the offerings and experiences that create premium value.

    This is only a start. Eventually, we’ll need to rethink all of the tools we use to create, manage, and measure value but that job will be for another book.

    “Ecohol” packaging?

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    From PSFK:

    Designer, Jörn Beyer aka Jørn, based in Düsseldorf, Germany has revamped the packaging of major spirit brands, to see if people’s product decisions would be affected by replacing their signature glass bottles with Tetra Paks. The resulting series called ‘Ecohols’ displays the labels of Jack Daniels, Absolut Vodka and Jägermeister on ordinary beverage cartons. What remains of the brand, is it just about the name, its contents, or the total package?

    What do you call Sustainability?

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    Several years ago, I had a conversation with a Parisian educator about design and innovation. When I enquired about sustainability, she replied that French designers weren’t terribly interested in sustainability. While a certain amount of ecological awareness was already part of their culture, doing something more sustainable just didn’t get most design students in France excited.

    Further in the conversation, I asked about the correct French term for “sustainable design” (my French is VERY rusty after many years not using it). I expected it to be “design sustainable” but her answer was “design durable” (or conception durable)–literally, “design that is durable.” That explained why designers and design students in France weren’t particularly moved by this idea. It never occurred to me how different the term might be and how the translation itself might impact the imperative of its message.

    When I suggested using the term “design systemique” (literally, systems design), she paused and smiled. Her response was “that might change everything.”

    Consider how simple a change that is but what a profound difference it might make. How we frame sustainability changes people’s concepts and their involvement. This is more than just a “sales job.” It helps us understand the extent and importance of a concept. Reframing sustainability from something about durability (definitely a part of sustainability but not even close to the whole thing) to something about systems, changes our idea of where we can participate and how interesting an complex our solutions might be.

    So, what is sustainability (or sustainable design) called in your language? And, what might it be called to get more traction?

    Designing for a Workforce that Acts More Sustainably

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    I was just pointed to Gerd Waloszek’s (in SAP’s User Experience Group) fantastic, 6-part series on more sustainable solutions. It’s incredibly deep, well-written, and a detailed exploration that ties what I wrote in Design is the Problem to interaction design and user experience. I’m terribly impressed and appreciative. It’s worth your time to read, as well:

    Beautiful, Sustainable Prosthetics

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    It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. It’s not like there isn’t a lot happening related to sustainability and design. In fact, it’s the opposite–there is so much happening, it’s difficult to stay on top of it all.

    However, I wanted to point to a fantastic example of how all areas of sustainability can come together to create a context for much better solutions. In this case, it concerns prosthetic devices.

    We’re all familiar, by now, with the Maker Movement, 3D printing, CAD software, the resurgence of craft, etc. One firm, led by designer Scott Summit, pulling all of these together in service of helping people is Bespoke Innovations. They create custom prosthetics for heal people that are not only effective and insanely beautiful, but personal, sustainable, and don’t cost more than current solutions. Just take a look at some of their products.

    This is the kind of solution that can arise when designers think systemically and holistically: for the same price (or less), these solutions 9which need to be fitted personally to these people’s bodies anyway), can reflect their personality and increase their effectiveness. In addition, the very same processes (like, for instance, reducing the mass, weight, and amount of material) can become benefits in other areas (like creating more ventilation for the skin) and, at the same time, offer the opportunity to be beautiful (like the delicate lace pattern created by these perforations). All of these come together and are made possible by CAD software and 3D printers, of course, and they enable these solutions to be more sustainable for people across ecological, economic, and social dimensions.

    We need to see more solutions like these!

    Scifi becomes a patent issue

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    This is a pretty amazing development. As the patent war heats-up in the mobile computing sector, Scifi is being recognized as instances of “prior art.”

    Essentially, Samsung is using a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey to bash Apple’s IP case, citing it as prior art for tablets. There isn’t much in the scene that shows tablets in actual use (two sit on a table playing an interview but there’s no interaction with them). Better clips might have come from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which uses PADDs throughout that and the following series.

    Read the article at FOSS Patents

    We have two thoughts:

    1. To interaction designers, this means knowing scifi could become a vital part of their work, since it’s public prior art.

    2. To studios, this creates some pressure to use experienced designers (outside of production designers) on staff (or consulting) for interface/interaction design. It might also signal the possibility for studios to begin patenting what comes out of their own imaginations, since the relevancy to industry may be just a matter of time.

    The survey so far

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    We haven’t posted in awhile but we thought I’d give a quick update. The book is coming together really well and the first draft should be finished in roughly 30 days (at least, we hope). We thought we’d publish the list of properties we’ve reviewed so far (not all are films and television shows). Not all of these will make it into the book and it’s clear to us that we have way more material than one book will hold (sequel perhaps?). However, we want to make sure that, on this maiden voyage, we don’t leave-out anything critical (or something we’re going to be crucified for later, for not including). So, in the interest of transparency, here is what we’ve made it through so far. If you don’t see something on the list that you think we should know about, now’s the time to speak up!


    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Adaptive Path Charmr
    Aeon Flux
    Alien Resurrection
    Alien vs. Predator
    Apple Project 2000
    Back to the Future
    Battlestar Gallactica
    Big Bang Theory
    Blade Runner
    Buck Rogers (1939)
    Children of Men
    Chronicles Of Riddick
    Cisco Telepresence
    City of Lost Children
    Clockwork Orange
    Cowboy Bebop
    Dark Star
    Defying Gravity
    Deja Vu
    Deka Prosthetic Arm
    Demolition Man
    Demon Seed
    Destination Moon
    District 9
    Dr. Strangelove
    Dr. Who
    Eagle Eye
    Enemy Mine
    Event Horizon
    Fantastic Four
    Fantastic Four Silver Surfer
    Flesh Gordon
    Flesh Gordon 2
    Flight of the Navigator
    Forbidden Planet
    Galaxy Quest
    Ghost in the Shell 2
    Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Hollow Man
    HP Halo
    Independence Day
    Iron Man
    Iron Man 2
    Johnny Mnemonic
    Jurassic Park
    Kekkou Kammen
    Knight Rider
    Knowledge Navigator (Apple)
    Lawnmower Man
    Le Voyage Dans La Lune
    Logan’s Run
    Lost in Space (film)
    Lost in Space (TV)
    Men In Black
    Microsoft Actimates
    Microsoft BOB
    Microsoft Photosynth
    Minority Report
    Mission to Mars
    Motorola StarTAC
    Ms. Dewey (Microsoft)
    Outer Limits
    Pitch Black
    Pultius Products
    Quantum Leap
    Red Planet
    RIBA and RI-MAN (robots)
    Rocketship XM 2
    Silent Running
    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
    Space Truckers
    Star Trek (TV series and films)
    Star Wars I-VI
    Stargate Universe
    Starship Troopers
    Strange Days
    Sun Starfire
    The Abyss
    The Cell
    The Day the Earth Stood Still
    The Fifth Element
    The Final Cut
    The Glass Bottom Boat
    The Incredibles
    The Island
    The Last Starfighter
    The Lathe of Heaven
    The Matrix
    The Terminator
    The Tonky
    The Truman Show
    The Visitor
    Things to Come
    Total Recall
    Transformers 2
    Until the End of the World
    Vanilla Sky
    Visual Human Project
    War Games
    When Worlds Collide
    X-Men 2
    Xenotran Xenovision

    Two new books from Brian David Johnson

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    Brian David Johnson is a futurist at Intel who’s work complements our own investigation well. He’s a sharp, fun, and fascinating guy who is exploring how Science Fiction is already being used as a prototyping process for the development of real technologies, products, and services.

    His latest two books (he wrote Screen Future last year), investigate the subject from two different perspectives. The first, Science Fiction Prototyping, directly investigates how SF can be used as a design technique, complete with interviews, examples, and some process description. It’s a fun, smart read. You can download his book in PDF here:

    The second, The Tomorrow Project, is a set of commissioned SciFi stories specifically to inspire designers and developers to create new things using these stories as a departure