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Creativity and the business of social innovation.

Social Innovation Step by Step

Have "design thinking" and "social innovation" become permanently intertwined? You'd have to think so based on Tim Brown's book and the prevailing discourse at any major design/innovation conference (SXSW, PICNIC, GEL, GAIN, LIFT). There seems to be a firm belief that you can't establish any cred as a designer these days if you haven't applied design thinking to a major social issue of some sort (health, energy, education...). Similarly, it would seem that social innovation (or social entrepreneurship) is hopeless without a designer at your side.

Is Apple Really Committed to the iPad?

By now, you are drowning in commentary on the iPad. So, let me get to the point: Don't be fooled by the fancy hardware and "magical" talk: Apple isn't really committed to tablet computing ... yet.

Trapped in the Future with Jobs & Cameron

Annalee Newitz at i09 has published my favorite piece on the iPad so far, dubbing it "Crap Futurism":

"The iPad embodies, as much as possible, the mythical convergence device that technophiles have been craving for almost two decades...The iPad appeals to a very deep and longlived fantasy in the consumer electronics world: A device that does it all. At least, if all you want to do is consume media...The iPad takes us back to the 1980s, or maybe even the 1950s. It's likely to be a device that changes our future, but what that means is we're facing a tomorrow where true innovation is sidelined by a device that represents a convergence of old media and shopping."

Introducing...the iPad Mini!

Speculation is already heating up about a successor to the iPad after Apple's blockbuster announcement yesterday. If past experience is any guide the Apple team is already working feverishly to see if they can pack all of that 'magical' technology that Steve Jobs showcased on stage yesterday (multi-touch, internet browsing, fast rendering...) into a smaller form factor. While some technologists are skeptical that it can be done, others point to the evolution of the iPod and iPhone as proof that Apple will stop at nothing to make the iPad smaller and slimmer – even imagining a day when the iPad might actually fit into your pocket! These rumors are gaining steam after  this image was leaked last night of secret designs for a new iPad Mini to hit the market in 2011.

Why the iPad is a Real "Games" Changer

After throwing off the mediocre display of 3-D technologies and e-books at CES, the industry is eagerly awaiting the main event on Wednesday. There truly is no spectacle that compares to the launch of a new Apple product. The formula is well-established. Everyone is hungry for the next iPhone moment and Apple's bid to squash the Kindle and reinvent the publishing business with the iPad or the iSlate tablet computer. But that is a mere sideshow. The real road kill this time will not be the Kindle. It will be handheld video gaming devices like Sony's PSP and the Nintendo DS, as Apple establishes a lock on the economics of casual gaming with its newest device.

2010: Starting off the Wrong Way at DMI

The Latest issue of the DMI Review was the first thing to land on my desk in 2010. It is titled “New Pathways to Integrated Design Success,” and comes right on the heels of their last issue “Design as Integral to Business Success.” What are they thinking? The articles themselves may be perfectly worthwhile. But DMI (and many others) are clearly stuck in a rut — spinning the same rhetoric about design and business success from issue to issue. Can't we give it a rest? I took some time over the break to reflect on the state of design after some thought-provoking experiences this fall at events like the Aspen Design Summit & PopTech. I am hoping that 2010 is a year in which we can finally bring the rhetoric and practice of design back into alignment. Unfortunately, the folks at DMI seem to be thinking otherwise...

The Peculiar Logic of Remote Control Design

There is no better whipping boy for design than the grotesque multi-button remote controls that clutter our coffee tables, media cabinets and minds. I have a selection of six in my living room, none worse than this one from Time Warner Cable. I can't tell you how many design presentations I have begun with the remote control unit (RCU) as exhibit #1 for the increased complexity of our lives and the huge need for design to improve the state of affairs for the average consumer. So why have we made so little headway? Having worked for both Consumer Electronics and Cable companies on precisely this problem, I can attest to the many reasons why the RCU has been remarkably impervious to good design. But maybe I am just missing the peculiar logic of why the current RCU design is so good?

Is the Kindle Destined for SkyMall?

The hype around the iTablet is reaching a fever pitch with the Kindle increasingly looking like yet another example of Apple roadkill. If Apple can consume 32% of the profits in the mobile phone biz in less than three years, it should be no problem to swallow the nascent e-reader business in one quick bite. No sooner had Jeff Bezos graced the cover of Fast Company than the Kindle was pronounced dead by the digiterati (actually, it was "Kindle in Danger of Becoming E-books' Betamax," according to Brett Arends in the Wall Street Journal). With competition for e-readers heating up, will Jeff be able to defend his walled garden from rivals inside and outside the category that he built?

The 'Ethnography Defense'

As I continue to explore the issues around behavior and influence I find myself caught up in a debate between the proponents and critics of 'Persuasive Design'. This is not a trivial debate, though it can come down to some very fuzzy semantics, such as the difference between intent, influence, persuasion and coercion. Try to imagine Fred Thompson's booming voice here:

"Mr. Fabricant, did you Design with the express purpose of persuading end users?"

"No, your honor. I swear, I was just responding to user needs. In this case the users kinda 'asked' for it. Really. I was just doing what they wanted. At least I thought so at the time."

"Do you have any evidence at all to support your claim?"

Mobile Impact

I recently participated in a Design Roundtable at Fast Company on the incredible impact of cellphones as well as some thoughts on how they might evolve in the future.