1.30.2010

machine beauty...




In this book David Gelernter elegantly distills an aesthetic formula: 

Elegance = Power + Simplicity

It is an equation that transcends products and machines, and requires an alchemical but very human blend of art and science.  This is a balance that is not easy in most organizations, and one which designers battle for daily.

He also states that "Insisting on the scientist-type versus artist-type distinction reflects the sort of dense bureaucratic worldview in which happiness hinges on everyones's keeping his three ring binder neat."  Watching my children navigate our artistically deprived school systems has made this statement more viscerally resonant. The struggle to reconcile success and pleasure may be harder in schools than anywhere where we are taught (between the lines) that success is tied to the core curriculum, being on time, and getting the worksheet done.

Gelernter also reveals how Microsoft beat Apple because of "cuteness" -  a sad but convincing argument exposing our testosterone laced culture whose discomfort with beauty can stifle creativity. Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind digs in to the theoretical aspects of this example especially in discussing Men, Women and Empathy as well as references to to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on creativity and the advantages of the androgynous mind. At this point you really wonder about the structure of our social and educational foundations!

This is a very thoughtful book that for over ten years I have gone back to over and over, and it is loaded with scribbles and note cards...if you care about growing creative minds and cultures it should be on your shelf.

1.22.2010

quality communication...


This is a shadow thrown from the High Campbell chairlift at Crystal Mountain in Washington. So much snow had fallen in 2009 that there were warning signs to keep your tips up!
You've gotta love chairlifts. They offer a few minutes of quiet isolation suspended and surrounded by space and natural beauty... The thoughts and conversations you have up there are more open, focused and soulful.
Imagine if more meetings were like that... Have you had that kind of attention from the people you need to communicate with?
I know if I really need to talk to my kids...I can do it on the chair

1.10.2010

The Design of Business...



Roger Martin has inspired me in many ways.  He has made design make sense to business while design was struggling to both amplify its importance and awkwardly integrate itself into well established corporate planning and development processes.


Martin has spent time with the princes of corporations and design consultancies, and has synthesized their wisdom with his own experience and brilliant insights. As such this is a great book for an executive who aspires to be a champion of design, and a better design-thinker.  

As a design practitioner; I want more. The many truths of this book can mask the reality of where great design really gets delivered. The brutal truth is that design excellence is often stifled in the middle...where reliability and validity become hand to hand combat between design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and finance. 

Validity air-cover is essential, but not always enough.

I may be wishing for more than this book aimed to capture...but there is more work to be done to ensure that the art & science of delivering design excellence - down to the last detail - is not overlooked or underestimated by disciples of design-thinking.  This book would be perfect with such a disclaimer.

I pay homage to Roger Martin as he has established a beach head for design impact, and has called out the stale patterns of should-versus-could thinking.  It's up to design professionals to write, or create the sequel.