It was a truly terrifying Halloween this year, with superstorm Sandy hitting the East Coast. Our New York team at frog was particularly affected, as the studio is located in downtown Manhattan and was closed for five days due to extended power loss. Even more challenging: the personal experiences of our entire team. Most of frog NY was without power at home, too; many had to relocate temporarily to safe places to stay, often with generous friends and family.
Many neighborhoods in the New York City area had to cope with flooding and fallen trees (and, tragically, losses of life). With the entire subway and bus system, bridges, tunnels, and other transportation arteries shut down, it was often impossible and very dangerous to get around. This meant that even very basic services, such as food deliveries, were stalled (and with gas shortages, these and repair services are still delayed in some areas). We thank everyone in our global community for their kind concern, understanding, and support during such a difficult time.
Despite the extreme challenges, frog's creative, let's-improve-the-world spirit has been shining through. Throughout the storm and afterward, we shared reports with each other on the damage of the storm and offered resources to help those in need (which included many of us). New York frogs joined in on the relief effort in a hands-on way, by dropping off food, baby blankets, and diapers to collection efforts for storm victims, and by volunteering to clean up areas throughout the area, from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Riverside Park on the Upper West Side.
Through the industrial age we have systematically repackaged the artifacts of our lives in smaller and smaller containers. We are in the age of miniaturization. Mobile computing is at the center of our increasingly de-centralized lives. Interestingly, artifacts like music, photos, and video have taken more portable forms while remaining sublime indicators of our identity: our history, memories, behaviors, and habits. Acquiring, creating, and consuming these artifacts—or what might be called our digital legacy—constitutes much of our mobile activity.
Trends like the steady drop in computing’s price to performance ratio, network speed innovation, cheap supply of memory, enhanced battery life, and large-scale quality manufacturing all fueled the evolution of miniaturization. But advances in user experience arguably played a more important role. The introduction and rapid adoption of multi-touch opened up the experience in ways previously impossible with indirect interface models. Rather than impose an abstraction in the way users interacted with content, content began responding in expected and familiar ways for users. Performance also made the experience responsive and immediate. There were no more spinning cursors or hour-glass icons interrupting the moment. Small nuances, like the use of physics or the way items and lists responded to touch, brought moments of delight that users understood and connected to.
The current generation of mobile device is roughly 8-9 millimeters thick with a 3- to 5-inch touch screen, a couple of cameras, sensors, and a connection to the network and cloud. Mobile platform wars are certainly far from over, but a period of mobile normalization has begun. It’s not unlike the time when personal computing settled with Windows and Mac OS. The core features are similar and standard interaction paradigms have stabilized. Android vs iOS vs Windows Mobile are not really as strategic decisions as they previously were. The steady pace of incremental innovation by Apple and Google has a tangible cadence. It hasn't stalled but perhaps it has crested. While we continue to cram more and more of our lives behind that 4-inch display, we also lose out on many of the important attributes that make our digital legacy important to us. There is something missing from the experience. Touch is a great enabler but it breaks down when we have access to every song recorded, every picture we have ever taken, and several terabytes of history and social interactions that we are constantly encoding about ourselves.
What's next for brands in an era of ambiguity and paradox? On November 11, frog's chief marketing officer Tim Leberecht will join the entrepreneurial network Sandbox for a thought-provoking event ahead of the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai. Tim will join fellow members of the WEF Global Agenda Councils, Brian Collins of COLLINS and Sujata Keshavan of the Brand Union, as well as Wolff Olins' Charles Wright in a discussion exploring the changing dynamics of business and branding. Please RSVP to join the conversation.
frog recently participated in the annual IIT Institute of Design’s Design Research Conference (DRC) that was held in Chicago. Our challenge was twofold: to facilitate an interactive engagement with the entire conference audience and to provoke thought and reflection on the conference content and theme — the adjacent possible.
Each year a group of students at the Institute of Design works to create a conference that explores emerging themes and practices in design research. This year’s focus on concepts from lateral fields and disciplines was inspired by author Steven Johnson’s description of the adjacent possible. Johnson draws upon this idea, originally from scientist Stuart Kauffman, to argue that good ideas are often generated by the recombination of other existing ideas:
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations.”
In the context of the conference, this essentially boils down to a few simple questions: What can designers learn from other fields? Which ideas can help us create better solutions?
I spend a lot of time playing multi-player video games with people all over the world. In the process, I have come to realize that the gamers I play with represent a wide range of age, ethnic, and gender diversity—sometimes even more than the range of people in my daily life. I started to wonder if this was true of other gamers: were their groups of in-game friends more diverse than their real-life friends? What was the impact of these video game interactions on gamers’ awareness of other cultures?
I live in New York City, which has a pretty diverse population, but in the past I have lived in cities like Kyoto, Japan where my gaming friends were absolutely more diverse than my non-gaming friends. Could cultural awareness gained through online gaming translate into more positive attitudes and interactions with a wider group of people offline?
On a chilly October day, a stone’s throw from a postcard-perfect New England harbor and across from an adorable town square, a group that included chief executives, grad students, physicians, public-school educators, activists, scientists, and artists gathered. Some members of this diverse crowd, assembled in Camden, Maine, for the annual PopTech conference from October 17-20, were from large companies such as Nike, Google, and Procter & Gamble. Others were the twentysomething founders of start-ups that no one has ever heard of–yet. Or they were academics, investors, designers, engineers.
They came to listen to, and mingle with, the head of a public school for pregnant girls in Detroit; a Paralympic World Cup snowboarding gold medalist; an Icelandic childcare specialist; and a bank robber/hacker turned neuroscientist, among many others. While this roster is only a tiny sample of the PopTech speaker list, it offers a taste of the broad spectrum of voices and stories presented on the Opera House stage. As varied as they are, they all share the common theme of “resilience.” It is a topic that is gaining momentum not only as a coping strategy in an age of economic uncertainty and dramatic natural disasters, but also as an innovation strategy, too. And the first day of PopTech offered a number of lenses from which to understand the concept, which is also the conference’s theme.
Now in its fifth year, the Open Mobile Summit will connect 800 influencers in converging mobile, media, commerce, and apps. This year’s event focuses on the theme “Connecting Everything: Mobile First” and will take place in San Francisco from November 7-9. The Open Mobile Summit offers attendees the industry's pulse across diverse perspectives.
Paul Pugh will discuss innovating mobile experience design during this year’s event. In his role as Vice President of Creative, Paul leads frog’s focus on the fast-evolving mobile industry and software design. He will be joined by Joff Redfern, LinkedIn’s Director of Mobile, and Steve Jang, Soundtracking’s CEO, in identifying the key elements of successful ‘mobile first’ experiences.
If you’re interested in attending, use our VIP code frog for our special rate. There's also saver pricing available through this Friday October 12. Please note that places are limited and the event usually sells out.
Stop for a second and listen. Close your eyes, use your ears, and just listen.
Whether you are in a quiet office environment or out on a busy street, you'll be amazed by how many sounds there are around you. Most of us do not pay attention to the ambient sounds that surround us. Our brains filter them out and we don't listen. Yet the sounds we miss can be very enjoyable.
Today, what we hear in our daily lives is often designed sound- music and sound effects carefully crafted for games, devices, and products. For example, mission-critical products, such as heart rate monitors used during medical surgery or a plane’s flight deck controls, use distinctive alarming sounds that are designed to be easy to perceive and raise a sense of urgency or danger.
In interfaces for everyday tasks, sound is used to create engaging and beautiful experiences. Sounds can generate a special feeling or underline brand identity while simultaneously providing cues that a command has been received by the system. Most smart phones today come with subtle sounds that indicate the pressing of a touch screen’s virtual buttons. Since there is no way to feel if a virtual button has been pressed, the sounds reinforce the action for the user. Another example can be found in industrial design, where the latest electric cars are being designed with artificial motor sounds. The sounds alert pedestrians to the car as well as reinforce the sense of driving a powerful vehicle. These examples underline the overall trend of sound being used to create an aesthetic experience rather than serving as purely a functional aid to improve interaction.
In his TED Talk frog's CMO Tim Leberecht explores how companies can respond to evermore demanding customers and employees who are empowered by hyper-connectivity and the ‘radical transparency’ of social media. Popular belief holds that commitment is fickle, reputation volatile, and loyalty scarce. In short: Companies have lost control – over their workforce, their customers, and as a result, their brands.
But have they really? Leberecht argues that companies have never been in control, and that they actually have more control over the loss of control than ever before – in fact, they can design for the loss of control.
Tim gave his talk during TED University at TEDGlobal 2012 ("Radical Openness") in June this year in Edinburgh. He recently wrote a brief reflection on the experience of speaking at TEDGlobal on design mind.
For more on the brand stories he shares, read the summary on the TED Blog and "Designing for the Loss of Control."
At the recent HOW Interactive Design Conference in Washington DC, I gave a presentation called "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design." This 30-minute high-level talk was intended to provide conference attendees with repeatable processes that will help them integrate user research into their interactive projects. Other presenters at the conference went more in-depth into some of the methods mentioned in this talk, but I felt that it was important for attendees to understand the role of specific methods and activities within the research process on any design project.