Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘Musical Creativity’ Category

Design Better Products Using These Seven Tips From SongWriting

Posted by Plish on July 2, 2015

You know how much I like music. You also know how I like using parallels from other industries to supplement what I do.  I came across a great article from BMI (that happen to be the Performing Rights Organization that I belong to) that discusses 7 things to look for in improving one’s lyrics.  After all, a song has less than a few minutes to hook you and if the lyrics don’t work, the song doesn’t work.  It dawned on me that focusing on these 7 facets can also improve your products/services.

Here are the seven tips and how they apply to product design:

  1. Is everything you’re writing related to the hook/message of the song?  Is everything in the design related to the message/meaning of the product?    What message or vibe do you want your product to convey?  Are buttons, directions, colors, shapes, feel, smell all working together to convey the same message?
  2. Have you used details in your verses? Have you used details appropriately in the product?  Architect/Designer Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Details call attention to the various centers of a product.  They can work together or provide distraction.
  3. Have you already said it?  Are there unnecessary redundancies in the product?  Not only is excess information (excess detail) annoying it can be confusing and lead to errors in use.
  4. Have you said enough?  Just as saying too much is a problem, not saying enough is equally bad.  Designers can assume that a person using a product knows everything the designer knows about the product: the context of use, how it works, etc.  These assumptions can then covertly get built into the design resulting in frustration and product misuse.  As a designer ask yourself, “Does using this product require knowledge that only I have?  Will the person using this say, ‘I didn’t know I had to do x for y to work!'” If the answers are “Yes” or “Maybe” then find a way to overtly communicate that knowledge.
  5. Is your chorus lyric the main message of your song and is it memorable?  The chorus is the part of the song that most people remember and join in singing.   It sticks in our heads.  Is the main use of the product memorable – does it get stuck in your head?  Does the product create a type of obsession?  Do you want to go back for more?
  6. Do your words sound good sung?  Does the product communicate naturally?  Is the product communicating in ways that are congruent with the desired experience?    Is there a unified brand experience? Does something seemed forced about the product interaction?
  7. Are the little words like “and,” “but” & “’cause” used properly, or can they be removed altogether?  Every action leads to an action and/or reaction.    Do I have to press this and hold that to make something work?  If I swipe but don’t use four fingers will it cause something undesirable to happen?  Does everything in a product get straight to the point?  If it doesn’t, it should be by design, not by accident. Little words like “and” and “but” create connections that can lead to confusion and a lack of intelligibility.   If they can be removed, remove them.  If you can’t remove them, make sure that each “and” or “but” in the product design is important and essential.

There you have it. Next time you hear a song that you’re singing along with, think about what makes that song work.   More importantly, think about ways to make your designs sing! :)


Posted in creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, Innovation Tools, Musical Creativity, Service Design, The Senses, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons in Innovation From Songwriter Eric Carmen

Posted by Plish on May 4, 2014

I was listening to classical music the other day, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18 to be exact.  One passage struck me as familiar….very familiar.  That’s when I realized: All by Myself by Eric Carmen.  It was a song I had heard in my youth.  I don’t particularly like it, catchy as it is, though I’m in the minority.  All by Myself reached number 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100.   (In 2011 it even made it into an episode of Glee!)

Anyway,  I thought that it was an amazing coincidence that this song had classical echoes, and then I read on how the song was written.  All by Myself does indeed contain the passage from Rachmaninoff.  It also contains parts of a song called Let’s Pretend that was also written by Carmen. Said Carmen, “I just took those notes and took it from there. I thought, ”Let’s Pretend’ was a nice melody.’ The song didn’t go quite as far as I thought it should have. I’ll go back and steal from myself for this.”

“Steal from myself.”  I love it.

He wasn’t afraid to take  a good thing and reuse it in another context – and in fact, the new creation was more successful.  Keep journals and notebooks of your ideas and inspirations.  Even if you use something, don’t be afraid to leverage it again – perhaps it can be used more effectively somewhere else.

Carmen didn’t stop with that inspiration.  He also borrowed from the Rachmaninoff piece.  Being that it was a classical piece, Carmen assumed the music was already in the Public Domain, meaning he could use the song for free.

He was wrong.

The Rachmaninoff Estate heard the tune, contacted Carmen and a deal was reached.  Carmen would give up a hefty 12 percent of what the song made as royalties.

There are multiple takeaways here.

First, Carmen  took something that was in the realm of Classical music and transformed it into a pop song.   That’s a pretty radical stretch.   This highlights how it’s important to look to other industries and technologies for inspiration.  After all, if an innovation existed in your own industry then everyone would already be using it, right?

Second, as the world becomes more and more ‘open source’, don’t make assumptions about ownership.  Lawsuits are very real.  This story has a happy ending.  All parties involved got something out of the deal.

But I still don’t like the tune…

Maybe you will.  Give it a listen…


Posted in Case Studies, creativity, Crowdsourcing, innovation, Innovation Tools, Musical Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sonic and Multi-Sensorial Branding

Posted by Plish on April 16, 2013

Over at FUSE 2013 , Scott Power, Senior Brand Strategist for Kaiser Permanente, discussed sonic branding vis-à-vis KP’s work with Audiobrain.

Power pointed out how sound is being used as a way to reinforce, not only the Kaiser Permanente brand, but their services, thus helping people get healthier.

Sonic branding is hardly new,  yet this powerful method is underused.

Many people think of a brand as represented by a visual trademark- a company saying: “This is us and what we represent.”  However, with regards to audio branding companies say, “This is what we are offering, and this is what we want it to sound like, and how we want it to impact your senses.”  But, it doesn’t need to stop there!

Walk into a McDonald’s. It has a certain smell.  Order a burger.  Nothing smells like a McDonald’s burger. Those smells are all part of the brand.  What about the colors? The feel of the cups?  The taste? The sounds that you hear when you wait in line?  Leave McDonald’s and imagine what it would be like if every car company had its own distinctive ‘new car’ smell.  What if each doctor’s office had its own smell that helped patients be more calm?

The brand is more than a logo, trademark or tagline.  The brand is tied intimately to the experience of a product or service.  It speaks through the languages of touch, sight, taste, sound and smell.    It’s creates the greatest impact when, not only does it speak for the company and its offerings, but you and I actually understand the language and it resonates with what we expect the brand to be saying. There needs to be consistency, or paraphrasing Sartre: pink cake needs to taste pink!

The exciting part of this, is that Audio branding is only the beginning…

Posted in Brands, Co-Creation, Customer Focus, Design, Experience, Healthcare, innovation, Musical Creativity, Service Design, The Senses, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Music, Art, Creativity, Nature and More – An Interview with Jon Anderson of YES

Posted by Plish on February 13, 2013

Check out this recent interview with Jon Anderson of YES.   (There is a sign-in on the page but you can click the ‘x’ and listen to the interview without registering if that is your choice.)

He shares perspectives on life, creativity, nature, music and more.

From the webpage:

Millions of enthusiastic concert goers during the 1970′s and early 1980′s had a marvelous treat on their hands, going from one progressive rock concert to another. Whether it was a live concert or gazing into the magnificent dreamlike artwork of Roger Dean or the sounds of Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Nektar or Yes, the music evoked beautiful images of the night sky, where we could gave at the shining stars and create our own “Wondrous Stories.”

Verge Multimedia’s Steven Zuckerman had the opportunity to spend about 40 minutes in conversation with world renown singer, songwriter and artist Jon Anderson who spent a majority of his career as the front-man of YES, bringing the audience into a world of beautiful imagery and ideas that resonated in the hearts of the band members.

Jon told (Zuckerman) that the music begins with the creator, and, in other words, flows through him. Composing and singing songs about the earth, environment, peace, love, harmony and beauty are not personal songs for the composer, but they’re Wondrous Stories (no pun intended) to arouse curiosity and confirm that as human beings, as part of this place we call our home, (we) need to be in balance with Nature, for without Nature, we are nothing. We are all part of the same material.

Said Zuckerman, “(While I) originally penned out several questions before the conversation, I tossed them aside to “just have a conversation.” We hope you will enjoy the conversation we had.”


Posted in Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Interviews, meditation, Musical Creativity, nature, Nature of Creativity, Play, Social Responsibility, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Entrepreneurship for the Arts and the Creativity Economy

Posted by Plish on January 24, 2013

Click to go to article

Click to go to article

Being an entrepreneur,  building a dream and sharing it with people requires nothing less than a healthy dose of creativity.   But this really informative blog post over at StartUpOwl (with some great resource links as well!) speaks of a creative economy and how important creativity is to the future of all industries and culture in general.

Think about it, the arts can help healing, build communities, and even start revolutions.  We don’t see it in the United States too often, but in many countries, the ‘bad guys’ that go to prison are artists, musicians and writers.

That’s the power of the arts and creativity!


It’s horrible to end up in chains

 To die in captivity,

But it’s worse to be free

 And to sleep, and sleep, and sleep—

 And to fall asleep forever,

 And to leave no trace

 At all, as if it were all the same

 Whether you had lived or died!

 1845 – Taras Shevchenko, “Mynaiut’ dni, mynaiut’ nochi”

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Human Rights, innovation, Musical Creativity, problem solving, Social Innovation, Start-Ups, The Future, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Check Out This Summit Celebrating Creativity and Commerce in Milwaukee (and Other Resources!)

Posted by Plish on August 31, 2012

I live about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Chicago usually gets all the top billing with regards to innovation.  I’ll admit it,  I love Milwaukee but I’m guilty of perpetuating that perception.

That changes today.

I came across this article over at BizTimes.com.  Creative Alliance Milwaukee is hosting a one day summit, bringing together creative people of all types, with the following goal:

Through a series of panels, breakout speeches, a trade show, a showcase of Milwaukee’s creative initiatives, live music, onsite artists and an exclusive Creative Salon session, the summit will illustrate how creativity is alive and well in Milwaukee.

I got excited just reading the press release.

Then, when digging into the Creative Alliance Website I came across an amazing resource: A report that highlights over 20 coworking/maker spaces in the Milwaukee area.  That’s 20!  Whether you’re talking innovation from the perspective of a tech business startup or from the perspective of an artist, there’s a collaborative space for you.  Check out the pdf report here.

This is an exciting movement and something that needs to be supported – not just by artists, but by the business community.  Creativity is a powerful asset and the contributions, and support, of creative people can only stimulate innovation and build the economy.

Check out the above websites and let me know what you think.  If you’re in the area, I’ll see you in Milwaukee on Sept. 21 for the Summit.

It’ll be well worth it!

Posted in creativity, Design, Education, innovation, Musical Creativity, Social Innovation, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Trio of Manifesto’s For Creative Inspiration – Rock the World with You!

Posted by Plish on April 4, 2012

Over at Revive Your Creativity I found the following manifesto, and was struck by its simplicity.  Replace the words, ‘storytellers’, ‘story’, etc., with ‘designer’, or ‘innovator’ or ‘musician’, and it still applies. Great bits of wisdom.  (An Audience does exist for what you do!)

The storytelling manifesto was inspired by two other brilliant compositions.  The first is from Expert Enough.  The other is from Holstee.

Soak it all in and live…


Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Design, innovation, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, Stories, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Make Beautiful Music – Bolster Creativity

Posted by Plish on September 23, 2011

Playing is essential to learning.  Children play constantly, and guess what?  They learn constantly.

Adults could learn if they played, but unfortunately we think play is only for kids.

Enter the Theta Music Trainer.

While children could definitely learn from this, adults are the ones that could really sink their teeth, um, ears, into this.

Music connects with those parts of our brain – those artsy, non-linear areas – that help with creative thinking in general.  Flex your musical brain ‘muscles’ and you flex your creative muscles.

The Theta Music Trainer site  gets that creative workout going, and in a fun, and playful manner.  Oh, and did I say, “Free?”  Yup, it’s free.  However, if you get addicted to the games, and want to learn more than the free levels offer, you have to subscribe.   Regardless, there are plenty of free resources worth checking out. (As an aside, the business model for this site is intriguing, don’t you think?)

So, make some beautiful music tonight –  Your creativity muscles will thank you!

Posted in Authenticity, children, creativity, Creativity Videos, games, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want to build an Entrepreneurial mindset? Look to INDIE Artists

Posted by Plish on August 14, 2011

There is a growing consensus that when building a successful, thriving, innovative culture, it’s essential that people adopt the mentalities of entrepreneurs.   While there are many different facets, Bob Baker over at The Buzz Factor has summarized them nicely in this great article  (it’s worth reading to understand the nuances of what being INDIE means). 

In summary, people should be:

I – Inspired

N – Nontraditional

D – Determined

I – Innovative

E – Empowered

Adopt these perspectives and foster them in those around you and, trust me, the sky will be the limit.

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Musical Creativity, Start-Ups, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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