Articles

. . . . . . . . .

Designing for the New Economy

3D Printed Toy Car

Wouter Scheublin, in cooperation with the Dutch research institute TNO, designed this wonderfully minimal pull back car made through 3D printing.

Wouter leveraged on some of the strengths and advantages of the 3D printing process, in this case laser sintering, to design the car and the pull back mechanism all in one go,

Every part, including the gears, axles, wheels and pull back spring all come out from the printer as a complete assembly. The only assembly required is the 4 rubber bands tires and perhaps packaging.

I applaud Wouter’s amazing experimentation and sublime Industrial Design. This product really got me excited. However I was quite surprised to note that this car is on sale on his website at Euros €180, and obviously made to order.

I wonder if a designer is experimenting in such advanced manufacturing processes should he not also experiment with an advanced business model as well? Why not sell the 3D file at perhaps €10-20 and possibly make a whole lot more money, and at the same time save on shipping costs and effort?

With 3D Printing cafes exploding all around us, I think selling the 3D file of your design is the way of the future.

Via: Website

Creativity is about Self-Confidence

Heidi Grant Halvorson shares on Behance’s 99U that being in a position of power will allow you to be more creative.

Being in a position of power certainly changes you – not necessarily in an evil way, but research shows there is a definite shift in how you perceive the world around you when you’re the one in the driver’s seat. You think in a more abstract, big-picture way. You become more optimistic, more comfortable with risk, and more open to new possibilities.

In fact, a series of studies by psychologists Cameron Anderson and Adam Galinsky showed that when people felt powerful, they preferred riskier business plans with bigger potential rewards to more conservative plans, divulged more information, were more trusting during negotiations, chose to “hit” more often during a game of blackjack, and were even more likely to engage in unprotected sex during a one-night stand.

Well ok…

It sounds like being powerful equals to more creativity, and if you read further on in the article, it says that being powerful but feeling powerless reduces creativity.

To a certain extent you can equate creativity with risk-taking behaviour, but not always so. I know of design entrepreneurs who produce very creative work, but are very conservative business people. Furthermore, being in a position of power does not mean that you have to be a CEO or a head of an Agency (as suggested in the article), it could also be a small player with a unique selling proposition, skill, or design strength.

Therefore a more accurate description in this article should be: by being in position of power, you achieve a higher level of self-confidence that becomes a strong driver for creativity.

Via: 99u

VCs Fund Startups with No Ideas – A Perverse take on the Design Thinking Process

I’m not sure if I should jump for joy, laugh or cry? Perhaps I should just sit dumbfounded.

Forbes recently reported a new trend in Silicon Valley; Venture Capitalists are now funding Start-Ups with no idea what they are going to do. Sounds like the dot-com bust all over again.

The exception is now the rule, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reports that “pivot” is the buzzword on the lips of every Silicon Valley founder and venture capitalist these days. Having some kind of notion what line of business your fledgling company might want to pursue used to be a prerequisite to raising capital. Now, it’s a mark of hubris. You don’t tell the market what it needs; you gently offer it a series of options, which are less viable concepts than ritual sacrifices aimed at cultivating the favor of the start-up gods. It’s called “iterating.”

This iterative process and delivering to what customers want is one of the core tenets of Design Thinking. Therefore I am a little please to hear that VCs are endorsing this process. However, it is dangerous to only focus on this part of the process, as this is a validating activity that results in incremental innovation. Unless this is what you (or the VCs?) want. Probably that’s why everyone is complaining that startups are stagnating, and software innovation has not been meaningful in awhile.

There is so much more Design Thinking can do for Startups. Understanding your customers so that you can deliver design driven innovation through meaningful solutions is one of them.

Via: Forbes

7 Things Small Businesses can Learn from the Sparrow Sellout

People loved Sparrow, a clean and simple Gmail client for the Mac and iOS. But nobody knew by how much until they sold-out. The internet was just a buzz with unhappy people, myself included. Even their own investors were unhappy.

We won’t go into a debate on whether you are or not an entrepreneur if you’re looking for an exit strategy by selling to the highest bidder. But when Sparrow sent an email to me two weeks ago announcing they were acqui/hired (for a rumored amount of $25 Million) by Google, I realized that this is an excellent case study of what to do (or not to do) if you are running a small business looking to create an innovative solution for your customers.

1) Focused product
Sparrow is a simple and outstanding email client for Gmail. It is also one of my favorite Mac Apps, and possibly my most frequently used. What’s great about this App is that it focuses on one thing, email. And the App performed exceedingly well. I’m glad that the developers did not include other so-called “value-add” features such as reading RSS feeds or creating multiple folders etc.

Small business owners would soon discover that if they can maintain a strong focus in their business, products and service solutions, they can be very successful. Focus allows for clarity, and clarity is important for doing something well.

2) A product that fulfilled a need
Before Sparrow came along, we struggled with other email clients. Now that we know better, we demand better. The old saying is true, people don’t know what they don’t know. Sparrow succeeded in making other email clients look and “feel ancient“.

Customers don’t care about you, or your business, or your product range. They care about how you can solve their problems. If your solution is not solving a need, it is not likely going to make a long lasting impact in anyone’s lives. People talk a lot about branding and brand loyalty, but many forget the brand has to be useful first and cool bananas second.

3) It was not perfect, but they kept on improving it.
When Sparrow first was launched is sucked. It was so buggy I occasionally went back to Gmail because the App would not work right. But the team kept on improving it, so much so I was looking forward to the updates. Sometimes Sparrow team members were so excited that they “…would spill the beans about a new app feature on Twitter or Tumblr because they were so excited about it.

I’ve seen, all too often, small businesses getting what I call “launch burn-out”. They spent so much time and energy on getting a product or service to market that once it goes out they either go on to something else or retire (or sleep!). Product or service launches should be seen as a marathon starting line, and not the finishing line. The real work begins when it launches.

4) Kept close to their customers

The sparrow team was very close to their customers, they listen to feedback (they did mine!), they got people to pick their next logo, and the even got their most loyal and fanatical customers to beta test their upgrades.

Small businesses have no reason not to get close to their customers, especially with today’s Social Media applications and Internet technology. I’m still surprised to see so many small businesses hiding behind distributors or retailers and not taking steps to better engage their customers. If you don’t do so, how can you understand what your ultimate end user needs or wants? And if you don’t know what, how can you make the right business decisions or improve your offering?

5) Don’t be Evil. Ok?
All things considered, Sparrow had a lot going for them. They were making hundreds of thousands of dollars, and their customers loved them.

Unfortunately since the sellout, their customers are now just angry for being left on the lurch. More so when many, including myself, found out that the developers were flogging the iOS versions for $0.99 (RRP $2.99) and the Mac version for $4.99. They did this from 19th June to the 13th of July. 7 days before the 20th July announcement of the Google purchase, and also that they will not be supporting the product (except critical bugs) in the near future.

Many people could not help wonder if they were taken for a ride, and all that goodwill they built up was destroyed. Small business need to realize goodwill is tough to build, but can by destroyed in one felled swoop.

6) Are you an entrepreneur or a business man?
I know we said we would not debate this, and we won’t. However small business need to decide if they are building something for the long term, or are they looking to get rich quick and get out. Great products and services need time to build and gestate.

Because of the nature and complexity of Design Thinking and Design Driven Innovation activities, it is naturally a long-term investment and commitment. So really, only the small businesses that are looking to build something awesome for their customer need apply.

7) People believe in why you do what you do.
The real reason why people are upset was that many believed in what the Sparrow Developers, Dom Leca and Dinh Viet Hoa, believed in. They wanted to create best possible email app they could and turned it into something they would want to use.

Because of this, I would add “betrayed” to the list of emotions many people are feeling. If you don’t believe me, read the comments in all the articles I’ve linked to above.

Humans are strange creatures. When people are emotionally attached to something, it becomes hard to give up. Just look at Apple. Small businesses that want to beat the big organizations (that people feel nothing for) should consider this: Share with your customers why you get out of bed each morning to do what you do. The customers you want will walk the journey with you.

What it Means to Have a Designer as a Startup Founder

So it looks like The Designer Fund, a VC fund that specifically invests in Startup companies that have designers as founders is starting to gain traction. It seems that suddenly everyone seems to have an opinion on the premium placed on designers.

Brace yourselves! I’m going to join the fray with my 2 cents worth simply because I find that many people seem to miss what the Designer Fund is extolling. I would even dare say that even the Designer Fund itself seems to miss something in the communications of their objectives.

But before we go on check out some of the current sentiments on this hot topic, researched and organized for you in chronological order:

1) The Designer Fund in all its glory! A brag list of all the exciting and successful companies that have a designer(s) as one of the founders.

2) Yongfook rants, (in respond to this brag list) in his post “Design is Horseshit!“, on how the premium set on designers is overblown and there is a lot more to running a start up than being a designer. Yongfook seems to lean towards the view that design is about creating value through making things beautiful.

3) Joshua Porter calls out YongFook in his post “Design is not Horsepoop“. Joshua’s take is that design is more than skin deep, it’s a process and a mindset. He quotes Steve Jobs saying, “Design is how it works.”

4) Finally, a bunch of us were having a conversation on Twitter today on the seemingly narrow view of design on this website: “Startups, This is how Design Works“.

You see, it is not about how you define design, but how wide (or narrow) you consider the scope of design to be. This is the same problem many people have with the whole Design Thinking shindig. Take a look at the following graphic and you’ll know what I mean.


Click on the Image for a Bigger View.

It’s one of the situations where people are both wrong and right at the same time. We are all really talking about the same thing. It’s all design. From making things look good or easy to use, to creating the right experience, to identifying opportunities for market grown through user insights etc., we are all talking about the same thing.

Now, lets go back to the Designer Fund’s point of view, and look at what they mean where they say that Designers should be part of a Startup’s founding team. What they are trying to say is no different to what some of us (go Rita-Sue!) have been saying for years, and that is we need to get a Designer in the boardroom.

When you have designers (skilled in the “Design as a Strategic Activity” bit) in the boardroom or coffee shop table (where most Startups find themselves), design becomes central to the business strategy and decision making process at the highest level. So the Design Fund believes that having Designers as founders will lead to a design driven Startup that will have a high change to build something meaningful, useful, and awesome!

But to start building, you will need everything to come together in the right way, and at this stage design switches to design implementation mode. Therefore, in reality you will need both parts of Design (and in between) as outlined in my graphic above. Any argument, for or against the Designer Fund, which only considers one part of this equation is fundamentally wrong.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

You will get monthly News & Announcements. New Work & Theme Releases. Freebies & much more.