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Conference insights from Vancouver and Boston to Paris and Beijing.

Will Design Dethrone King Cash in Russia?


The use of digital banking and electronic payments is expanding in many countries, as consumers embrace technology that facilitates financial services. Yet in Russia, people still cling to cash for most of their financial needs. In fact, more than 90 percent of all commodity purchases are in cash, according to the Bank of Russia, and the country loses over one percent of its annual GDP due to the huge amount of cash circulating and its maintenance costs. This poses a challenge to financial institutions, like Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, which is eager to transition customers to digital services. Sberbank asked frog to design product and service concepts that could effectively support that transition. 

SOCAP 2013: The Smaller, Bigger Ideas Influencing Social


The electric energy at SOCAP 2013 was palpable. This conference is dedicated to talking about ideas that could increase the flow of capital toward social good. The SOCAP platform connects leading global innovators, investors, foundations, institutions, and social entrepreneurs that build this market at the intersection of money and meaning.

China's Electric Bike Charging Cultures

Throughout my recent ten-month research project in China, I sought to study examples of resource-constrained creativity across western China – particularly those related to mobility and transportation. Having spent previous time living and researching in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar, I had come to recognize the importance of the Chinese-engine powered walking-tractor-turned-vehicle (and the many modifications to it) to rural life in these countries. From logistics to transportation to power generation and beyond, I hoped to catalogue and understand modifications to these vehicles in their country of origin before the machines became obsolete. I believed that by understanding various modifications and the forces that drove (or prevented) their widespread adoption that the pace of creative modification could be accelerated in other developing contexts, where the vehicle was still a pivotal rural workhorse.

A Report from TEDxAustin City 2.0

“Dream me. Build me. Make me real.” This was the mantra for the national TEDCity2.0 event held globally on September 20th, 2013.

Q&A: MAYA Design’s Mickey McManus on Taming Complexity in A Hyper-Connected World

In their new book, Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology, Mickey McManus and his co-authors, Peter Lucas and Joe Ballay, coin the term “Age of Trillions”—our near-future in which trillions of inter-connected computers will saturate us with information as never before. In this age of massive connectivity we will literally coexist with information in real time.

I interviewed McManus prior to his October 9, 2013 talk at the Design Research Conference presented at Chicago’s Field Museum by students at the IIT Institute of Design. The below text is adapted from our conversation.

Valuing the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) must move beyond hype and buzz and embrace viable value creation models, according to frog strategists Timothy Morey and Theo Forbath.

Health 2.0 Recap: New Approaches to Health Care Funding

The 7th Annual Health 2.0 fall conference kicked-off with the Health 2.0 co-founders Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya discussing how the future of health care lies at the intersection of consumer technology, enterprise and policy, highlighting the need for a holistic ecosystem.

The day was a mix of optimism and nervous energy.  Speakers, panelists and attendees touted advances in technology facilitated health care tempered by funding challenges that were magnified by the potential government shutdown, now realized. It should come as no surprise that in addition to the key topics of personalized care and big data, the subject of funding was a major theme of the day. Representing a wide variety of perspectives, from startup founders to investors to government administrators, speakers and panelists addressed the challenges of creating sustainable business models in an industry that is largely dictated by a reimbursement model that doesn't account for the current ways in which technology is transforming health care.

frog Event: Speaker Kim Erwin at Wordpress

How do you align your organization to realize a great idea? Kim Erwin, an assistant professor at IIT Institute of Design, is tackling this question in her new book, Communicating the New.

As IIT notes, "For those tasked with innovation, creating anything new -- whether a product, service, experience, or process -- requires more than coming up with the best idea. It requires the engagement and alignment of the many individuals inside organizations who are important to its success. In Communicating the New, Kim Erwin calls out the role of communication in the innovation process as a powerful integrative tool for individuals and teams to define, accelerate and explain The New."

Hiring our Heroes App: A New Resource for Veterans

Military veterans face tough challenges when transitioning to civilian life, especially when job hunting and planning a post-military career. To help veterans and their spouses, a launcher app called Hiring our Heroes – designed by frog and co-sponsored by Verizon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – offers access to tools, links and resources. Jen Blake, a program manager in frog’s Austin studio and a co-lead of the project with Carl Sieber and Jeff van Horn, says the app design “enables veterans to organize their journey step by step instead of doing it haphazardly or own their own.” The app took shape during a quick, three-week concept development program that began with the team interviewing friends and families of frogs who have served in the military, to better understand their concerns. “We enjoyed working on this project,” Blake adds, noting that an enhanced version might be in the works. “It’s a good product and a good cause.”

Evan Guzman, Head of Military Programs & Veteran Affairs at Verizon, spoke with design mind about the app and what it means to veterans. 

Connecting With Users: A Design Research Primer for Healthcare

The more I work with early state healthcare companies, the more I hear that user experience is a big concern for CEOs. Patients and providers are now, more than ever, driving the decision for which products get purchased and how they get used. Much of this choice is based on whether or not the product is usable and fits within their workflow and needs. Reaching out to users and gaining insights on how they work and what they respond to is the underpinning of good user experience and key in shaping product decisions.

In this post, I provide an overview of design research and focus on some areas to help early stage healthcare technology companies plan and execute research to  gain insights from connecting with users.