Travel, Design and Expectations

Alan de Botton's Art of Travel is the universal traveler's companion. Rather than a guidebook for a place or time, the book explores the question: why do we travel?

Through the chapters, de Botton considers people's motivations and and desires for leaving their home environment. And to this question de Botton has many interesting responses. Two related ideas, though, have stuck in my mind.

The first is the idea about journeys and destinations. He observes that people often have very fixed ideas about the place they will visit (postcard images of palm tree lined beaches, for example) and so put mental blinkers on during the parts of the trip that don't match that ideal goal. This both shuts out possible experiences, and also prevents people from enjoying and engaging with the bulk of their time on the road.

The second is about traveling locally. The 19th Century book Voyage Around My Room is used as a springboard to encourage people to treat their local environments as though they were traveler. He believes that our daily lives would be much more enjoyable if we engaged with the everyday mundane as if it was an exotic land.

Most of the things we create as designers are used by people incidentally or in passing. People aren't setting out to just use an object, they have goals in mind and the tools we've designed are simply a means to an end.

But in creating those tools we must not only help people get their work done, but also disrupt the blinkered malaise of expectations, and create opportunities for people to re-engage with and re-interpret the things they do every day.

On the Importance of Strategic Planning as a Service

Interestingly, the capability of strategy is found to be needed and integrated into the core competencies of many industries, and now, the light has been thrown on advertising and marketing. This seems to tie in to the overall trend that companies need to step up their game, or, to make more apparent what they are already doing.

-- from adage, 4/16/07 --
'According to agency-search consultancy Bedford Group, one of the top reasons that clients terminate agency relationships is the lack of strategy and creative linkage.
'Louws Management recently commissioned a study to understand both the advertiser and agency sides of this issue.
'The results support the decline in agencies' leadership role in marketing and advertising strategy: Nearly 42% strongly agree or agree that "strategic thinking is a lost art," yet 89% strongly agree or agree that their agency provides "proactive strategic brand and marketing leadership." '
The full story... (subscription required)

Your New Digital Home

-- from cnet --
The Internet in 2016 will be an all-encompassing digital playground where people will be immersed in an always-on flood of digital information, whether wandering through physical spaces or diving into virtual worlds.
"What happens when video games meet Web 2.0? When virtual worlds meet geospatial maps of the planet? When simulations get real, and life and business go virtual? When you use a virtual Earth to navigate the physical Earth, and your avatar becomes your online agent? What happens is the metaverse." - according to a report compiled by the Accelerating Studies Foundation.
> the full story...

Bottling Innovation

-- from springwise --
A patent pending package design, the VIZcap allows consumers to release vitamins and other supplements into water just before they drink it. The technology was developed in response to what VIZdrinks considered to be underperforming sport and health drinks, which lose their potency while bottles and cans sit on store shelves.
The cap works with standard bottle sizes and can be installed on any bottling line. Not just for sports drinks, VIZcaps can also deliver syrups, freeze-dried crystals, baby formula and even over-the-counter medicines.
AGFL (VIZcap's inventors and designers) is actively seeking partners, so hit springwise's site for the rest of the story if interested.

Game Together for a Brighter Future

-- from sfweekly, april 18, 2007 -
It's been envisioned in sci fi novels, this alternate reality where actual work gets done. With today's computing power and people's inclination to be very social by digital means, McGonigal's strategy could actually get somewhere.
"Jane McGonigal wants to harness the power of the communal cerebellum her games create and put it to work solving real-world problems, and then she wants the work to win a Nobel Prize.
"Maybe young folks in warring countries could play games together, and would be less inclined to shed each other's blood. Maybe players could analyze real scientific data in the course of a game, crunching numbers and looking for patterns just as they always do, but with a payoff that goes beyond advancing to the next stage of a game."
> the story...

Forcing simplicity of choice

Garr Reynolds has a nice piece on Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice.

Clearing up the Adobe-Microsoft competition

Right now there seems to be much confusion surrounding the new competition that has developed between Adobe and Microsoft. With a new technology being released seemingly every week and acronyms flying around left and right, it’s been tough to stay on top of it all. In this short article I’ll try to clear things up by talking about each technology and what its competitors are. The easiest way to talk about it is by diving things up into two categories: the desktop and the browser.

Desktop Applications
Desktop applications are stand-alone programs that run off your hard drive. They may or may not connect to the internet. This category includes all the software that you use on a daily basis such as Word, Photoshop, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. The new competitors in this space are WPF from Microsoft and Apollo from Adobe. Let’s take a quick look at each technology.

WPF
WPF stands for Windows Presentation Foundation and it is the new graphics engine for the Windows Vista operating system. WPF applications can still be run on Windows XP if the user downloads a 50MB runtime file. WPF is appealing to designers because it allows you to easily add animations, 3D, and excellent typography to Windows applications. WPF is backed by the immense .NET framework and it allows you complete access to the users devices, drives, etc. It is important to note here that WPF is for building Windows-only applications.

Apollo
Apollo is the code-name for the new cross-platform runtime from Adobe. Apollo allows you to use a combination of HTML, JavaScript, Flash and Flex to create desktop applications that run on both Windows and Mac. The user needs to download a 5MB runtime in order to run Apollo applications. One of the major selling points over WPF is the fact that it runs on Windows, Mac and in the near future, Linux. But this cross-platform compatibility comes at the expense of power. Apollo currently only allows simple file reading and writing from the user’s drive. As Adobe itself has said, you couldn’t make Photoshop in Apollo, it’s just not powerful enough. This is why Adobe has been careful to note that Apollo is geared for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIA) for the desktop. If you need to create a branded media player application or an offline email client then Apollo would be an excellent fit.

The Competition
There isn’t as much competition between WPF and Apollo as some have made out. Like I mentioned above, WPF and Apollo are geared for different purposes. WPF for full-blown Windows applications and Apollo for lighter, internet-connected applications. But there is of course a gray area where the two technologies overlap and both companies are fighting to own it.

The Browser
Browser experiences are obviously anything that runs inside any of the standard web browsers. Here the main competition is between WPF/E from Microsoft and Flash/Flex from Adobe. Let’s take a look at each technology.

WPF/E
WPF/E is the code-name for Microsoft’s cross-platform browser runtime that allows you to create rich browser experiences using a small subset of the standard WPF technology. Unlike WPF, WPF/E runs on both Windows and Mac. You program WPF/E using XAML, which is the new WPF markup language, and JavaScript. It is still in the very early stages and only currently supports a tiny fraction of the features of regular WPF. WPF/E is a great choice if there is need to play WMV video in a branded experience and video is the area that Microsoft sees the most potential in.

Flash/Flex
Everybody knows Flash as it has become the clear leader in delivering rich content to the web. With the release of Flash 8, Adobe obliterated the competition in the web video space. This is apparent when you see that YouTube, Google, and most TV networks currently deliver their video in Flash. Flex is a companion technology that allows developers to make RIAs but the end result is still a Flash file. With the newly released Actionscript 3 language as well as incredible open-source projects like Papervision3D, Adobe is continuing to raise the bar when it comes to rich web content.

The Competition
This is the area that Microsoft has its work cut out for it. Flash has become so prevalent and powerful that it will be hard for WPF/E to ever put a dent in it. But there are definitely some situations where WPF/E would be a clear choice, such as delivering secure WMV video to users. But it is still way too early to tell how this space will pan out and I know that Microsoft has some big announcements coming regarding WPF/E.

I hope this cleared some things up. It could be that tomorrow everything changes again. That’s why you need to stay on top of your technology RSS feeds!
Lee

Organic Electroluminescent is Cool

-- from wsj --
Sony to Start Selling Flat TVs With Next-Generation Screens
April 13, 2007; Page B4
... excerpt...
Sony Corp. plans to start selling small televisions with a technology that's a contender for next-generation flat-screen TVs.
Sony will begin selling an 11-inch TV with an organic electroluminescent screen by the year's end, a Sony spokeswoman said. OEL screens are already used in mobile phones, personal digital assistants, camcorders and other small-screen gadgets. Sony believes it's the first company to launch an OEL TV, she said.

Chattin’ About WaMu

Washington Mutual has been carving a distinctive place for itself in the stodgy world of banking: irreverant, customer friendly, and poking fun at the rest of the banking institutions with a series of witty TV spots. Even it's name is not conventional.
There's a 1-pager interview with WaMu's CEO, Kerry Lillinger, in the April issue of Fortune, and he talks about the importance of making five-year plans: