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Innovation and Design at the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show

Posted by Plish on March 10, 2016


Just got back from one of my favorite shows, the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show.  It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new and cool in the world of housewares and home, in the kitchen and in people’s minds – what’s good for the eye, stomach, heart, and/or soul.  Below are some pics and descriptions of products that I found particularly innovative, beautiful, unique, and/or conversation evoking.  Occasionally I include the clever  – the product that takes a different tack to do something that’s already done extensively/commonly. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but these really made me stop, pause and ponder.  They are in no particular order.  They are here because they deserve to be and they each have their own virtue.

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The Everplush company recycles cotton and more. They are leading the charge in ‘sustainable softness’.  This company is finding innovative ways of providing textiles that use embedded microfibers, jade, and lava rock powder to provide enhanced moisture wicking (without sacrificing comfort), cooling, and warmth retention, respectively.  I was impressed with the feel of these materials and the company is looking at ways of making their products even more ubiquitous.

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It seems that very few things are standardized in the world of blenders.  What caught my eye is that the Tribest folks utilized something that is standardized: the Mason Jar.  By doing that, you can blend, drink and store using standard jars.  No need to worry about plastic blending containers and cleaning.   It’s smart.

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I love tea.  I have an entire drawer filled with teas of all sorts as well as a gourd+silver decorated bombilla for savoring Yerba Mate.  World wide, tea is not just consumed, it’s experienced. Teforia  realizes this and their product is a beautiful and different way of approaching the consumption of tea.  The infuser ‘reads’ the package, and then knows what the best brewing sequence is for that particular tea.  It then adjusts temperatures and steep times to optimize the extraction of flavors from the tea.  I compared a green tea brewed typically and with the Teforia infuser.  The Teforia tea color was richer and the flavors layered and complex.  It was a pleasant dance upon my palate.



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Food Cycler

Love this.  The Food Cycler is an in-home composter.  Put your scraps into bucket and 3 hours later it’s reduced to a powdery, flakey compost that you can put in your garden.  Truly no fuss or muss or additives.  Great way to minimize landfill burdens and help create a more integrated home food waste disposal process.


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Pancake Bot

Do you like pancakes?  Check out the Pancake Bot.  It’s a food printer.  It doesn’t need to print in 3D because pancakes are well, 2D.  Upload your designs via an SD card and enjoy the pancakes.  Oh, if you don’t want pancakes, you can turn off the griddle and print 2D cake decorations on paper.  Go wild!

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These FlavorSheets bring simplicity and bold flavor together in a simple package.  Wrap the meat/fish in the sheet, vacuum seal it and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Take it out and the food is evenly seasoned and, the seasoning is not falling off when it’s thrown on the grill.  This makes great sense in sous-vide cooking as well.

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Molecule-R Aroma Technology

Do you want to create your own arugula noodles,  or savor a bite of fruit and merengue on a fork while simultaneously whiffing the aroma of vanilla, or create exotic drinks with green tea foam?  If so, joining the Molecule-R community might be right for you (It is for me!!!🙂 ) Molecular gastronomy is revolutionizing how people experience food.  Once the domain of high powered chefs, it is now possible for homechefs to make and experience edible works of art.  Molecule-R provides kits and materials for those interested in molecular gastronomy.   They are an extremely helpful group and the kits seem well laid out.  Get your lab coats on and have fun with your food!

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This is simple beauty, courtesy of Ohashi.  I love the MAST humidifier.  Add water and the leaves of curved cypress release moisture.  These  Masu boxes, or variations of them, are made from discarded wood – beauty from that which would be thrown away. They are used for storage, as cups, and are designed and manufactured exquisitely.

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Continuing the beautiful, elegant theme, these tea settings from Zens radiate serenity and aromas of tea in their design. Simple yet profound…

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Mortier Pilon

While beer kits have been around for some time, and they are still being sold by great companies such as Mr. Beer, and Brooklyn Brewshop, the trend for making fermented things at home is expanding into fermented/pickled foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, Kefir, Kombucha or whatever else you’d like to get bubbling!  Fermented foods are good for you and fun to make.   Three different companies took three approaches.  Mortier Pilon is a fancier (and more expensive) system. Their couture mason jars (an oxymoron in some ways – these jars are too nice to be considered mason jars) add a touch of class to the fermenting stuff within.

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Fermentation Creation

Fermentation Creation takes a much more traditional approach, going for the homey look  while retaining  feel of a quality product.  Their kit comes with everything you need for one great price. Chop, Salt, Brine!  Literally, it’s that easy.  The folks at the booth were great as well!

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Microbiota, Inc

Microbiota is all about Kefir – both milk and water versions.  Their containers are pretty straightforward and basic and remind me of the way home brewing equipment looked when brewing first came on the scene. Functional but not much else.  Having said that, only a few years ago, it seemed the only people who knew what Kefir was were Eastern Europeans.  So the fact that this is at the show is impressive.

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Ever looked for a knife handle that fits perfectly with your hand?  NextGen Knives has analyzed the grip that chefs use, and made a handle that is more comfortable to accommodate that grip.  Then they took it one step further and figured out a way to customize knife handles by using a 2D scan of your hand and engineering the shape to give you a comfortable fit! These knives are Made in the United States and use specialty steel alloys for the blades.  This knife starts a long overdue conversation, not only about knife handle design, but kitchen utensil design, and brings 21st century technology into the manufacturing process.

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Water purification is still a worldwide concern.  I was impressed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thinking of the Ideal will Design the Beautiful (Happy Birthday, “Bucky”!)

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2014

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution isn’t beautiful, I know it is wrong.
— Richard Buckminster Fuller


Today is the birthday of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.  For those of you who don’t know him, he was an amazing architect, systems thinker, writer,  inventor, designer, and futurist.  In short he was a thinker and doer.  He considered himself, “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

For Fuller, beauty wasn’t just something nice to look at.  It was something to strive for when designing things, services and ourselves.

To many, Fuller was perhaps too utopian in his thinking.  What they fail to realize is that this ‘utopian’ tendency was fundamental to his design capabilities.  His goal was not to make something that was ‘good enough.’  His goal was to contribute to designing a world in which 100% of the human population could reach its highest potential with 0% negative impact on the environment and larger systems in which humans are integrally intertwined.

This concept of “ideality” is an important concept to remember and one of my favorite ways to generate innovative ideas.  (Ideality is essentially the ratio of all the positive benefits of something divided by the sum of  all the negatives. ) A more practical way to think of ideality is to think of it as a machine that does everything you need it to do but without any negative consequences.  For example, a bicycle that moves me from Point A to Point B without pedaling is an ‘ideal’ bicycle.  From a personal energy standpoint, a motorcycle is an ideal bicycle.  However, in order to be truly ideal, there should be no negative impacts at all levels of the system.  While a motorcycle is ideal with regards to conserving personal energy, it’s not ideal with regards to impacting the environment with its exhaust, and when its lifespan is over and it needs to be disposed of.  (Learn more how Ideality is at the root of designing products in the highly recommended book:  Cradle to Cradle .)

Ideality is powerful in that it forces people to think of the ramifications of what they are doing.  It also forces designers (us) to look at contradictions in the problem solving process.  The longer we can hold on to those contradictions and bounce them off of each other with the goal of designing a solution that transcends the contradictions, the better the chances we can come up with solutions that are closer to the ideal solution.  Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, in his book, “The Opposable Mind“, calls it Integrative Thinking.

An often overlooked benefit of designing towards to the ideal is that it forces us to look inside the problem itself for the solution.  (Want to create the ultimate experience of eating chocolate and drinking your favorite cordial but you hate washing the glasses afterward?  Make the drinking vessel out of chocolate!)  It is this quality that makes the Ideal solutions beautiful.  Once you experience it, you just know.

This quest for the ideal was key to Fuller’s thinking, and in this day and age, we shouldn’t be satisfied with half-solutions that cause more problems than they solve.  We need to start embracing the Ideal in politics, society, businesses and in our personal lives.  The future of “Spaceship Earth”, (as Bucky called it), may very well depend on it.


If you’d like to learn more about Buckminster Fuller’s thinking, below are some resources:

Design Science – A Framework for Change – A fascinating and insightful presentation on Fuller’s Design Process thinking.

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975) – There’s a link to the transcripts if you’d rather read.

Buckminster Fuller Gives a Lecture About Semantics at San Quentin State Prison (1959) (At one point he told the inmates: There are no throw-away resources,and no throw-away people.” )

Critical Path – Perhaps the best and most accessible summary of his thought.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute – A great resource on everything Bucky!

Posted in Books, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, Society, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, The Future, The Human Person, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

EPA (and all of us) Need to Walk the Talk on Earth Day, with an Emphasis on “Walk”

Posted by Plish on April 22, 2014

Earth Day is a perfect day for people and organizations to ‘walk the talk’ about being ecologically friendly with their products and services.  It’s an opportunity to be innovative, to be creative with ways of making an impact on the world, to show that it’s not just talk.

I was extremely surprised then, when I saw that the EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is jetting on  a week long, Earth Day themed tour.  Seriously.  Jetting?  When the EPA “ask(s) Americans to act on climate change through simple actions to reduce carbon pollution in their daily lives,” shouldn’t the EPA lead the charge by doing things to reduce pollution?

With a little technology and marketing savvy, much more could be accomplished with much less environmental impact.

What would you think of these ideas?

  • A week long walking/bicycling caravan, with blogging of the entire trip.  Participants would be on “Good Morning America”, and other such shows.
  • A week of Skyping various news, daytime  and cooking shows. (Cooking? Heck yeah!! How much food is wasted, and waste created, in kitchens?)   Punctuate the week by having an open brainstorming discussion with Ms. McCarthy to allow the public to share ideas for ways to be more green.
  • Spend each day giving an interview from a mode of public transportation that’s more environmentally friendly.

 St. Francis of Assisi is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of the environment (I’ve created a non-denominational pledge to protect the environment, based upon the one in the hyperlink, below) .  There is a saying that is attributed to him that says: “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”  In other words, a lived message is more powerful, and preferred, to a spoken one.  Not that words aren’t necessary, but they are the secondary means of getting a message across.

Since environmental change begins within the hearts of people who change their behaviors, encouraging others to take “simple actions to reduce pollution,” while not living that message, is at best a lost opportunity, and at worst, a damaging activity – hurting the message and the environment.

What do you think of the EPA doing this?  What would you suggest would be more powerful from a messaging standpoint?


I / We Pledge to:

MEDITATE and reflect on the duty to care for the environment and how our decisions can also impact the poor, vulnerable, and voiceless in the world.

LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of damaging the environment.

ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, and other affiliations-contribute to environmental damage through our consumption, waste, etc.

ACT to modify our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to environmental damage.

BE AN ADVOCATE for environmentally protective principles and priorities in environmental discussions and decisions, especially as they can impact people who do not have a voice in these discussions.

Posted in Co-Creation, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, nature, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts and Images from FUSE14

Posted by Plish on April 11, 2014

The FUSE conference has come and gone.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed the last day, but the first two days were pretty amazing.  It was a conference of great insights into the power of Design in creating powerful, memorable experiences of products/services/brands.

I made concept maps of all the presentations I sat in on.  You can check them out on SlideShare.

Day 1

Day 2

There’s a mashup from Twitter here and here.

If you can make this conference in the future, it’s well worth it. The speakers are top-notch, the facility is beautiful, and the food was excellent as well.

Some of my pics are below:

The conference was not just about the past and present.  It was about the future as well.   There are challenges presented by technology and human nature, challenges that could demean instead of elevate people if not addressed.

The conference was exciting, precisely because it acknowledged the multifaceted challenges that await those who seek to design better experiences, better products, a better, more human, sustainable future.

Posted in Best Practices, Brands, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Experience, innovation, Research, Service Design, Social Innovation, Sustainable Technology, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How Monsanto Should Be Innovating

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2013

It seems that every week someone mentions something about Monsanto, and it’s very seldom good.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or the news, someone is saying something.  A simple perusal of a Google Search of “Monsanto” can give one the impression that the company is a litigious giant  that doesn’t care about the well-being of people or the environment and instead is only concerned with making money.  Monsanto even has the dubious distinction of being named “The Most Evil Corporation” of 2013 in a Natural News poll.

Never the less, as far as corporations go, Monsanto is doing very well.  In spite of the bad press and mounting negative public opinion over GMO‘s, Monsanto continues to grow, innovating, patenting and licensing the agricultural technologies they develop.

Even though Monsanto  licenses its technologies to other seed companies,  many in the public perceive Monsanto as taking advantage of farmers as opposed to helping them.  After all, companies generally don’t sue their customers (even if any money won in a case does go to youth scholarship programs.)

To be fair, they really can’t be blamed for  protecting their intellectual property.  When a company invests millions of dollars a day in research, if it allowed people to use their technology in an unlicensed manner, the business could not sustain itself.

But, there is another way…

(Farmers are) the support system of the world’s economy, working day in and day out to feed, clothe and provide energy for our world. – Monsanto’s About Us webpage

There are literally millions and millions of farmers in the world. Small farms, large farms and everything in-between.  Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: Improved, sustainable yields that don’t hurt people or the environment, but yet enable farmers to make a living.

Farmers are passionate about their calling. Each one is looking for an edge, for a way to get the most for the least amount of investment in time and money.  Each one is dealing with local microclimates, soil conditions, and pests; not to mention the economic climates.  They seek out new information, they build and utilize support networks, they experiment.  They are entrepreneurs. (Check out Farm Journal for just a tiny sample of the varied topics farmers digest)

Monsanto, as mentioned before, spends over 2 million dollars a day on research and patents are only good for 20 years (and some of the patents they’re defending now are expiring within the next few years.)  They employ 22,000 people worldwide. No matter how much they invest in R&D, or how many people they hire, they can never account for  all the variables farmers around the world deal with.

So what should they do?

Monsanto needs to begin Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Co-Creation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Open Source, Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Goooooooooooal!!! An Innovation that Impacts Life Beyond the Soccer Field

Posted by Plish on June 7, 2012

Soccer is a sport that’s loved worldwide (where it’s often known as futbol/football/kickball). Just like this image I took when I was in Ukraine a few years back (which is co-hosting the Euro Cup this year), scenes like this one are playing out all over the world, even in countries that have crippling economic hardships. 

Being the son of Ukrainian born parents and living next door to folks born in Germany, I was playing soccer  early in life (long before “Soccer Mom” was even a phrase) and later played in Chicago’s Semi-Pro leagues.   I could never figure out why soccer wasn’t more common among my peers here in the US.   It’s a sport that is easy to outfit. All you need is a ball and somewhere to kick it.  And, like the above picture shows, the space doesn’t even need to be grass-covered.

So when I saw this innovation, I was blown away.

It’s all about the ball.

These two entrepreneurs hatched this brilliant idea as part of an ‘engineering for non-engineers’ class.  Check out the video.


Leveraging things you wouldn’t normally connect (that’s the key to great innovations!) – soccer and the need for energy in parts of the world that don’t have easy access to it – this amazing and fun innovation was born.

In this age of “There’s an app for that”, it truly is refreshing to see a fun innovation that fits so seamlessly into kids daily lives and provides a benefit going well beyond those that exercise provides.   And, if you donate one of these balls, you don’t just contribute to the well-being of kids, you contribute to the well-being of the communities they belong to.

Well done!!!

Posted in children, Customer Focus, Design, games, innovation, Play, Social Innovation, Sports Creativity, Start-Ups, Sustainable Technology, toys, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Innovation Can Change the World When Spelled: L-O-V-E

Posted by Plish on December 21, 2011

Products and services have to obey the laws of nature.  Some laws, like Newton’s Laws, can not be avoided.   Ignore them at your own risk.

Then there are those Laws that aren’t physical, but are no less real.  These are laws that deal with how people behave. They are embedded in who we are by nature, and/or are continually being transformed and modified through cultures and relationships between people and the Cosmos.   These laws are more elusive and difficult to characterize.  They are being observed, and deciphered, by psychologists, ethnographers, behavioral economists, poets and others.

One of these, is the Law of Love.

…the Law of Love is the deepest law of our nature, not something extraneous and alien to our nature. Our nature itself inclines us to love, and to love freely.  -Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

If, as Merton says, this law is the deepest law in our nature, shouldn’t it be the most prevalent law guiding our innovation efforts?

Yet, how often do we see design briefs, or product specifications stating, “Must incorporate Love.”?

Oh sure, it’s often inferred.  After all, we don’t want to hurt anyone, right?  We don’t want to pollute the world, right?

But still, there are people who use Chinese sweatshops to create magical products. There are people who create novel materials at the expense of effluents that taint the environment.

Love of others shouldn’t be inferred.  It should be active and visible in innovations.

During this holiday season, the word, “love”, gets used prolifically.  But, why can’t Love guide what we do, all the time?  What if we asked, “What would this product look like if I loved the person it’s being made for, and the place where she lives and the people making it and the places they live?”

In this day and age, innovation with L.O.V.E. shouldn’t be optional.

If it’s part of our nature, it should be imperative.

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Human Rights, innovation, love, problem solving, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Sustainable Technology, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When Customer Experience Suffers at the Expense of Packaging Technology – A Case Study

Posted by Plish on April 20, 2011

Courtesy of KFCs Website

Since May of last year, KFC has been rolling out reusable packaging to package their side orders.  These containers won a Greener Package  award. According to KFC’s website the new package,

  • Reduces the shipping cube by 14% over expanded polystyrene foam (EPS)
  • Replaces single-use, nonrecyclable expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) with a reusable and more widely recycled resin, polypropylene (PP)
  • Represents the highest value in stored energy when incinerated as an end-of-life solid waste component and part of a waste-to-energy program, at 38 million British Thermal Units (BTUs) per ton of material
  • Requires 25% less energy to produce than general-purpose polystyrene (PS) production
  • Generates half the amount of greenhouse gases as compared to general-purpose PS

These are all great things but there is a problem with this package. 

It’s a problem that stems from companies getting so excited about technology that they forget about how customers will use the product and how that helps create their experience.

What do I mean?

Today I went to KFC to get a couple of single piece meals for my wife and I.  As I was leaving she said, “Make sure you take the cole slaw out of the box before you leave there.”

Why would she say that?

KFC’s sides consist of mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, baked beans and green beans.  Some of these are served hot, others are served cold.  If you buy a single piece meal, you will receive a piece of chicken, a biscuit, and your choice of two sides.  Order two hot sides and there is no real problem; everything in the box is hot.  However, order one or two cold sides and there’s a very real problem.

The chicken, biscuit, and sides (Cole slaw and Mashed Potatoes/Gravy in my case) all get packed tightly in a small cardboard box.  If cold side servings, like cole slaw, are in the box, they get warm…really quickly.  If the drive home is more than a couple of minutes, the cole slaw (or cold dish) will become warm, sometimes disgustingly so (unless you like warm cole slaw).

KFC says this is their best packaging idea since the bucket.

Actually, the bucket did a great job as a package.  Because all the hot/warm chicken was lumped together in the bucket, the chicken stayed pretty warm.  It was also a great way to serve the chicken; just reach in and grab a piece.   The bucket was, and is, a good idea.

This package?

It’s great for the environment but it doesn’t deliver on basic functionality, and that translates to a lousy culinary experience.

People don’t go to KFC to replenish their container stash at home.  They go there for the food – for hot chicken, warm mashed potatoes and gravy, and cold cole slaw.

I look forward to packaging improvements that not only benefit the environment, but win awards because they actually preserve, and protect the food for the trip home.  After all, that’s the real need. 

It’s such a simple concept really. 

Maybe that’s why it was forgotten.

Posted in Case Studies, Customer Focus, Design, Experience, Food, problem solving, Social Responsibility, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

So you want to Design for the Senses? Don’t Forget These!

Posted by Plish on January 15, 2011

When we think about the senses we usually default to the five primary senses of  Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and  Touch.

We could further subdivide the taste  (sweet, salty, etc.) and touch (cold, hot, pain, etc.) categories but usually those distinctions are useful only under certain circumstances.

There are however, four other “Senses” that humans all use to some extent or another, and these also play (or at least should play) key roles in designing products and services.   These are:

1. Motion/Balance

This sense is tied into our experience of moving through the world or for that matter, standing still and not tipping over on an incline.  We even speak of  a  ‘sense of balance.’  The body is especially sensitive to changes in acceleration.  This sense gets reinforcement from the sense of sight which explains why some people get more nauseous experiencing a movie of a roller coaster in a theater than they do on the roller coaster itself. This is because the eyes are telling the brain there is movement but the vestibular organs responsible for sensing movement are saying, “you’re sitting still,” and the confusion messes with your gut.  The Wii and various video games leverage this sense as do vehicles.  Think of how nice a strong acceleration feels when you’re trying to get into traffic from a short entry lane.

2. Proprioception

This is the body’s ability to know where its various parts are in relation to each other, even when we can’t see those other parts.  The ‘touch the tip of your finger to your nose with your eyes closed’ test is for this sense.  When people (factory workers, athletes, physicians, etc.) are training various limbs to repeatably do certain tasks, products need to be designed to not interfere with this sense. This is why professional baseball players’ bats are made to tight specifications at an athlete’s request.  Any small variation in the bat could, and most likely will, interfere with this sense and alter the player’s swing. 

3. Time 

Time is something that is poorly designed for, if at all.   We often design to minimize the amount of time being spent but fail to realize that most people have a tendency to overestimate the amount of time it takes to do something when that task is unpleasant.   It’s essential to design products and services such that the passage of time be more pleasurable or useful.   Remember, if you design something that results in a boring three-minute wait, it will feel like ten to the person waiting and it will leave people with a bad experience. 

4. Morality

Here again, like the phrase, “sense of balance,’ we use the phrase, “sense of morality,” in everyday language.  This sense, which also may rely on the other senses to inform it, can influence design in many ways.  Moral sense undergirds the  Sustainable or Green design movements.  Failure to pay attention to this aspect of design can be problematic.  In the 1990’s, it became known that Nike was using sweatshop labor to manufacture its shoes.  Since then, Nike has been on a mission to improve labor conditions, as well as its reputation.  Over the years, they have made great advances, as have other industries like the leather industry where innovative tanning methods have been developed so that workers are not exposed to toxic chemicals.  This interconnected world is starting to breath with a pan-cultural sense of morality.  Ignore it in your designs at your own risk.

So, next time you’re designing something that you want to impact the senses, don’t forget to go beyond the realm of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste.  Innovations that do will be better received, and most likely, better for the world.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Responsibility, Society, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Eight Insights in Design from the World of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2010

This past weekend I was at the Midwest Bonsai Expo at Chicago’s Botanical Garden.  While there, I had the pleasure to watch and listen to a demonstration workshop by bonsai expert Michael Hagedorn.

While it was fascinating watching him transform a tree through his thoughtful touch, it was even more interesting to listen to his insights and reflections on bonsai, bonsai design, and hence design in general.

 Here are some thoughts of his from the workshop:

1. A good tree (design) should have three aspects: A – Elegance; B- Dignity; C – Presence.   However, it is not uncommon for these three to be doled out in different proportions.

I love this observation. It is no doubt influenced by his training in Japan.  How do designs (or even brands!) that you know of stack up?

2. “I should be invisible as an artist”  The tree is designed so that it stands on its own; that even though it’s been pruned and manipulated by the artist, it doesn’t look it.  It retains itself, or, “takes possession of itself,” once the designing part is over.  Think of it: after a product is released into the market place it stands on its own and grows into its own.

3. “Great people and great trees are the same.”  This is with regards to how the tree(design) ages, how it shows the scars of life and still comes through it all with Elegance, Dignity and Presence (see #1).

Some additional observations of mine:

4.  A good bonsai (design) is a result of the artist(designer) embracing the constraints.  A tree has branches, roots, soil, certain nutritional needs.  If any one constraint is ignored the result is a sickly tree (design) or worse.

5. It’s not about adding to the tree as much as it is taking away from the design and redirecting the tree to achieve Elegance, Dignity and Presence.  However…

6.  There are  wildcards like weather, those things outside of our control, that can scuttle all our bests efforts.  So all we can do is prepare the tree(design) for whatever the future may hold and hope for the best.

7. While bonsai are shown and meant to be seen from their ‘ front’,  really good bonsai (design) it seems, have something to look at from any direction.

8. Bonsai is a type for metadesign.  The self-building, synergistic, holistic, fractalesque nature of working with bonsai is beyond regular design.  Bonsai is an ongoing relationship and dialogue between the designer and the designed.

So what do you think?  Do these eight insights resonate with your own experience?  Can you think of examples that highlight or contradict them?

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, Design, imagination, Life Stages, Meta-Design, nature, Nature of Creativity, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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