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Conference insights from Vancouver and Boston to Paris and Beijing.

The Powerbroker

The Powerbroker, a documentary by frog senior film designer Taylor Hamilton, screens at the White House 

Interview by Ernest Beck

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington will be commemorated today, Tuesday, Aug. 27, at The White House, with an event that includes a screening of the documentary film, The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights. Directed by frog senior film designer Taylor Hamilton, the documentary is an intimate portrait of “the inside man” of the Civil Rights Movement. The drama escalates throughout the film as Young, who aligned with business and government leaders to create greater opportunities for Black people, comes under fire from all sides, especially the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. We spoke with the 29-year old Hamilton about the film, his connection to Young (who was his great uncle), and how video is critical to telling frog’s story about design.

frog's SXSW 2014 Panel Picker

The SXSW 2014 panel picker is now live! Several frogs are in the running this year, offering their perspective on everything from the emerging consumers of Myanmar to the enterprise software revolution. 

Take a look at our submissions and show some love by giving a thumbs up on the panel picker page.

Project Ansible: Anywhere Workers of the World, Connect

Today, Siemens Enterprise Communications introduced Project Ansible, a new visionary communications platform bringing together voice, video, social media and search into a smart, seamless, intuitive experience. (For additional details: www.siemens-enterprise.com/projectansible and www.frogdesign.com/work/project-ansible.html)

Project Ansible is the result of a research and development partnership between frog and Siemens Enterprise Communications. We spoke with Justin Maguire, executive creative director in frog’s Munich studio, about Project Ansible’s potential impact on businesses and communications, collaboration and productivity in the age of the flexible, mobile Anywhere Worker.

Towards an Urban Design Toolkit: thoughts on the 2013 New Cities Foundation Summit, São Paulo

Sao Paulo lies deep and vast over the horizon. Where one continuous line of buildings stands—extending further (by far) than the view from, say, Greenpoint towards midtown Manhattan—such skylines persist in every direction. The effect swallows all individual orientation but rewards with nothing so much as a sense of being…cradled. This apparent sense of drama continues even into Sao Paulo's open spaces, such as the one in which we now stood, Parque Ibirapuera, a quietly contrasting gap in the endless march and roll of buildings and roads.

Today’s Phones and Tablets Will Die Out Like the PC

The personal computer is dying. Its place in our lives as the primary means of computing will soon end. Mobile computing—the cell phone in your pocket or the tablet in your purse—has been a great bridging technology, connecting the familiar past to a formative future. But mobile is not the destination. In many ways mobile devices belong more to the dying PC model than to the real future of computing.

A Model for Innovation in Emerging Markets

In the outskirts of Musanze, in northern Rwanda, mattresses have become a tool for female empowerment, family security, and social change. Hilarie, a softspoken farmer, mother, and wife, is the mastermind behind this association and has become a figurehead of change in her village and over 30 others in the region because of it. How Hilarie became a purveyor of mattresses for social change offers some fascinating insights about human behavior, community dynamics and… financial services.

Yes, financial services. Specifically, the challenge of financial inclusion—bringing financial services to the poor for the purpose of improving their lives. This is one challenge that resists easy scaling across markets. If a solution devised by a bank, mobile operator, or other financial services player achieves some level of success in one market, it's highly doubtful that the same idea will work in other markets. The always-cited example of this is Safaricom's highly successful M-Pesa mobile money platform in Kenya; no other mobile money service in the world has had even close to the same level of success.

Visualizing Service Design

Roberta Tassi is a senior design researcher and interaction designer at frog Milan, with a deep background in information visualization and communication design.
 
While working on her graduation thesis—exploring the interconnections between Communication and Service Design—Tassi developed Service Design Tools, a website that gathers visualizations used to support design processes. The collection was created with the idea of sharing her research within the design community, and so far it has caught the attention of both academic and industry insiders. Yet, Tassi warns these tools are meant to inspire, not act as one-size-fits-all solution.  
 
Tell us a little bit about Service Design Tools.
I put together this web platform called Service Design Tools in 2009, and I still manage it today. After published, it has immediately become a sort of reference point within the service design community, it's an organized catalogue of tools and examples that professionals can use to support their design activities day-by-day. It can be browsed in different ways, according to specific communication purposes, and it's conceived as an open platform: I still receive a lot of examples of new tools, keeping the collection growing in time.
 
Why are visualizations specifically crucial in service design?
When we speak about a service or a system, an ecosystem or concept, they are a lot of times abstract things. Visual representation is a way to make them more tangible, and so, sharable.
 
The same is when we deal with research outcomes, usually there is the need to translate them into meaningful insights and frameworks to inform the design process, establishing a foundation for all the following activities. And visualization again can be really helpful, to turn information and data into usable materials.

frogThink at The Tech

Approaching a problem with a design mindset is a craft—a way of working that may seem effortless, or even second nature, to a master craftsman, but can prove very hard indeed for a novice. And, like all crafts, it is something you learn by doing rather than by knowing.  You can read all about “Design Thinking,” or other user-centric approaches, but it is only when you start to do them, to apply them, and to practice them that you start on the journey to becoming a master craftsman. As a result, these methodologies don’t really lend themselves to classic corporate education seminars.  You can learn what they are in a seminar but not how to apply them. Such methodologies do not easily fit into a traditional school curriculum either.  Though core curriculum standards are beginning to value twenty-first century skills, such as collaboration and creative problem solving, it is not obvious how a school might integrate the design-mindset into students’ schedules. It’s creative but it’s not “art”; it involves problem solving but it’s not math. So, if design-centric thinking is the future, and schools are not adopting it, how and where might we teach it?

Museums are a great place to start. They aren’t constrained by curriculum, they are environments that celebrate innovation and creativity, and they are often dealing with groups of students looking for an interactive experience.

Designing the Future at Salone del Mobile

 

Milan’s Salone del Mobile began in the 1961 to promote Italian furniture for the export market. In the fifty-two years since, it has grown into one of the world’s premiere design events, drawing enthusiasts and attention from across the globe.

“From Tuesday to Sunday, the city comes alive with all sorts of madness,” says Executive Creative Director Fabio Sergio, based in frog’s Milan studio. “It’s not just about the furniture showcase but what is happening informally in showrooms across the city as companies and designers showcase what is happening within design.”

frog will be joining in the citywide design festival, hosting two events over the course of the week. On April 9, the studio will be opening its doors for an informal showcase of its work along with music and drinks. While the open studio is a Salone del Mobile tradition, this year’s event will serve as a housewarming for the studio’s new space. 

In the Hands of God: A Study of Risk and Savings in Afghanistan

In December 2012 I traveled to Afghanistan with fellow frogs Jan Chipchase and Cara Silver to study the intersection of mobile technology and consumer banking. We were there to study financial services and access in a country where only 9 percent of people use financial institutions but 65 percent own a mobile phone. Today we're releasing the full report of our findings, entitled "In the Hands of God: A Study of Risk and Savings in Afghanistan." Download the PDF here.