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A multi-disciplinary look at the assumptions and reality of a designed world.

Context, Identity and You

When I was in the industrial design graduate program at RISD I became intrigued by the various, and profound, ways in which cultures understand personal identity. My particular interest was in 'material culture,' defined as the stuff we wear, carry, display and use to express who we are, what we stand for, who we want to be in the future and how we desire to be seen by the culture that surrounds us. The element that seemed most captivating to me, and became the basis of my thesis work, was the growing understanding of how the very nature of personal identity has shifted over time, most obviously from the start of the Industrial Revolution until now.

Organization Transformation by Design: Prototyping the Future

At a meeting with the embedded innovation group of a massive consumer packaged goods company a couple of years ago, a vice president at the table compared new product and platform development to changing the course of a supertanker: You could turn the wheel as hard as you wanted to, he said, but the scale of the organization made any progress excruciatingly slow and laborious. As he explained it, this problem causes companies to approach innovation as a series of contained and incremental improvements, achievable in the short term and defendable, but ultimately not tied to any clear mandate. To counter that, groups like his fight to create a vision of the future that can be harnessed to create change, transcending politics in the process. For it to be successful the critical elements of that vision are a shared belief and trust that change will occur.

Building Your Own Temple of Enthusiasm

Every once in a while I come across an example of an environment that really resonates as magical; Deus Ex Machina's Temple of Enthusiasm in Canggu, Bali does that.

Let's Make Magic, Again

Disney's Communicore
Disney's Communicore, proposed Epcot attraction of the 1970's.

A few days ago day Seth Godin took a swipe at magic. Well, that's not really true. But he did make an interesting comment about its disappearance in our increasingly digital lives. By citing the Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he calls out the seeming overpowering of magic by advanced digital technologies...

Stillness with a twist

(image from

I admit it. I'm a junkie for animated gifs.

Working the Narrative

I think of projects and client relationships as stories. Like any good novel or film, they possess a plot-line, evolving from start to finish; and contain characters, narrative arcs, sub-plots, intrigue and, often, conflict. Designers are storytellers, so it seems natural that our process would have storytelling qualities.

The Question of Sustainability

Last week I sat on a panel at swissnex San Francisco, discussing sustainability in business. The panelists represented a wide range of industries, from a start-up software entrepreneur to a leadership expert at a major grocery chain and a research scientist from a global food producer; each had a story to tell about their field and the conversation was lively. As the lone designer in the bunch, however, I often felt like I was speaking a different language.

The Power of Transmedia Experiences

Imagine entering a room for the first time. If you’re like me, you probably look around, take the scene in, and combine all of the different individual elements into one seamless picture of the world you’ve entered. None of those elements contain the complete story of the room—rather, the combination, arrangement, and directed narratives within each one aggregate into a deep, holistic view of the environment. The whole is greater than the parts.

Design and the Garden

The history of gardening is a fascinating subject because it is, at its core, a history of dominant design styles. Perhaps because gardens feel so permanent and unchanging we take the formal qualities of what a garden should look or feel like for granted; representing a style that has always been and always will be. But the garden is anything but that; instead, it’s a constantly changing ecosystem, evolving from season to season and from formal style to style.

Curation and the Fallacy of Control

A few weeks ago I heard myself say, “we want users to feel like they control the experience” then caught myself at the implication of the thought. Are we misleading people into feeling like they have more power than they do? As user experience designers, whose side are we on? Digital, experience and product design all pay lip service to a user’s control of the experience, but how much of that is an illusion?