Friday, November 4, 2011

Yeah, That's Halloween Awesomeness.

I am a Halloween fiend. We built the freaking Chamber of Secrets in our basement this year. I love this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The World's Leading Creative Class Countries

The Worlds Leading Creative Class Countries
"The United States does quite a bit worse on this measure than on innovation and technology – ranking 27th in the world, just behind Slovakia.
At the top of the list is Singapore (47.3 percent), followed by the Netherlands (46.3 percent), Switzerland (44.8 percent), Australia (44.5 percent) Sweden (43.9 percent), Belgium (43.8 percent), Denmark (43.7 percent), Finland (43.4 percent), Norway (42.1 percent), and Germany (41.7 percent).
One BRIC nation, Russia ranks higher than the U.S. at 20th (38.6 percent). Brazil is 57th (18.5 percent), and China 75th (7.4 percent).
Many studies have shown that a key factor in American competitiveness and prosperity was its once world-leading system for developing and deploying human talent. That edge has clearly eroded. And not just in terms of educational attainment and performance, but in the share of its workforce in high-skill, high-wage Creative Class jobs. While the U.S. still holds a substantial lead over China, many other nations have caught up and surpassed it on this score. But America is a big country and my own research shows that the distribution of Creative Class jobs is geographically concentrated, with certain regions like Silicon Valley, greater Washington, D.C. and college towns like Boulder, Colorado scoring as high as the leading nations. While such creative concentration may be enough to underpin continued clusters of technological innovation and entrepreneurial business formation, it means a larger share of Americans toil in lower-skill, lower wage jobs—a key factor in the nation’s deep and widening socioeconomic inequality. While I am not as pessimistic as the declinists—there is still time for the nation to reverse course—many of “the rest” have clearly caught up and jumped ahead on this score. Given the deep divides that vex this country, it may be an issue that is particularly difficult to address."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs, Product Design,and Me

Yesterday's news was a bummer. I can't help feeling that with the loss of Steve Jobs presence, Product Design is changing irrevocably - our leader has left the building. For years now, much of traditional product design in the US has been slipping away, small parcels sneaking off to China, India, and beyond until what remains is a shadow of the former glory. Manufacturing exited the building first, quickly, soon taking engineering with it. Now, overseas factories provide modeling and tooling, promoting their own products to clients who used to pay for American design.

Nearly every client I've ever worked with has expressed their desire to emulate Apple, to be a leader in their industry, to be like Steve. Honestly, few have had the dedication and guts to risk long-term research and investments the way Steve Jobs did. But his standard still pushed everyone to do a little more. He made me more diligent. He made us all feel like everything is possible.

I hope that Steve Jobs pulls off another miracle, hits yet another grand slam, and surprises us all by debuting another astounding, design-minded company in a few years. I still hope to meet the man some day. But for now, take a listen to his Commencement speech at Stanford, it's classic Steve Jobs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

100th Post: $100 Favorites

It was hard to decide what to write about on my 100th blog entry. While I could certainly come up with top-100 lists, who'd really want to read all of that? One of the things I like best about reading blogs is finding out about cool new things that I come to love in turn. So on this momentous occasion, let me share with you a few of my favorite things that I'd happily drop a hundred dollars on, in honor of the hundredth post:

The Sodastream Soda Maker, favorite purchase of the year
SodaStream Jet Black Sparkling Water & Soda Maker 4-pc.

KitchenAid Mixer Attachments - trust me, without these you have no idea what your mixer is capable of!
KitchenAid FPPA Mixer Attachment Pack for Stand Mixers

Philips Dual Screen Portable DVD Player takes long trips from excruciating to easy
Philips PD7012/37 7-Inch LCD Dual Screen Portable DVD Player, Black

Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker - consolidates the baby food process and is a super nice splurge for a new mom.
Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker

Dewalt 18V Cordless Drill - a bit over budget, but the ideal drill in my eyes. Great battery life and an easy chuck make short work of DIY work.
DEWALT DC759KA 18-Volt NiCad 1/2-Inch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit

SimpleHuman SS Step Trash Can - think about how many times you use your trash can every day. Treat yourself to a good one!
simplehuman Rectangular Step Trash Can, Fingerprint-Proof Brushed Stainless Steel, 30 Liters /8 Gallons

iPod Nano - if you aren't in the apple game yet, this gadget is a great way to get started. With music, media, calendars, and apps like the pedometer, the nano quickly integrates into your day.
Apple iPod nano 8 GB Graphite (6th Generation) NEWEST MODEL

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Snobject: Moleskine Coming to you in Color!

The Volant Collection from Moleskine offers beautiful vibrant colors - the black's a classic forever, but the new colors are a treat. The green and orange join a family of brightly colored books with great features - tear away notes, removable pages, the palest grid lines, and sticky tabs.  Moleskin continues to make the most delightful notebooks around.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pioneers of American Industrial Design

Often when people hear the term "Industrial Design" they think of factories and machines.  Those things result from design, but Industrial Design is actually the discipline of solving problems through the design of objects.  It's a strange and wonderful merging of art, engineering, business, and research.  It's a unique field full of wonderfully unique individuals.  The masters of my discipline are being honored by the US Postal Service with lovely iconic images that showcase the simple beauty of designing useful objects.

P-Tree Gives you Permission to Pee

The P-Tree by Dutch designers Aandeboom is fascinating.  Drunken revelers can now pee on trees without worry - although having permission might take all the fun out of it.  The P-Tree is simple:  strap the rota-molded urinal to a tree, tie it into septic or drainage, and viola!  Instant potty.  The only question I have left for Aandeboom is, what about the ladies?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Castle of Your Own...

It's easy to walk through a room and think, I really need more furniture, or I wish I had more artwork to hang.  It's easy to forget about your walls.  Vinyl decals transform walls in an instant and bring a burst of personality to a drab room.  I especially love the kids motifs, which offer real style at a great price. And if you were ever a gamer, there are retro game decals here that'll make your day.  If you've never browsed the Blik catalog, do yourself a favor and check it out!
blik Super Mario Brothers Wall Stickersblik Asteroids Wall Stickers

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Snobject: Weber Genesis E-310 Grill

Honestly, all I think when I look at this grill is "Yes, please!"  Seeing as it's the first day of summer here, I thought it only appropriate to highlight this perennial favorite - The Weber Genesis E-310 Grill.  It's relatively compact but boasts 3 burners and tons of grilling real estate.  Users report it's easy to use and easy to clean.  It's built for the long-run, though the longevity comes at a price. The biggest drawback is that it comes in a ton of pieces, but clear illustrated directions get you grilling asap.  And best of all, it's trimmed out like a classic car.  What is there not to covet?
Weber 6511001 Genesis E-310 Liquid Propane Gas Grill, Black

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Things Users Won't Tell You

Let's cut right to the chase - companies want to know what you want to buy. They really, really want to know. They email you surveys, they print feedback sweepstakes on your receipts, and they pay market researchers a LOTTA money to tell them what you want. And you tell them! You're genuinely thrilled to let them know what you're thinking! You want them to know what you want to buy too!

So what's the problem with all of that? Why does it seem so hard to find exactly what you want on the shelf? Because, honestly, you can't tell them what you want. And they're pretty silly to keep asking! For the average user the majority of any experience doesn't register in the conscious mind. The subconscious processes much of what we see, hear, touch and smell - and only the highlights are big enough to catch our full attention.
What companies could really use is insight into unarticulated needs. These are the things you won't tell them, but you'll recognize instantly when your attention is drawn to it. Take the photo above for example. When surveyed, the owner of this refrigerator was asked "can you store wine in your refrigerator" and responded "yes" with no qualifications. Upon direct observation of the user's fridge, it was obvious that wine bottle storage was not being adequately addressed.

The user isn't going to tell you what they need, but it's right there waiting to be observed through ethnographic documentation. Traditionally, ethnography demands a rigorous period of immersion into a culture for observation. The same principles can be applied to observation research on a smaller scale. Forget the focus groups. Forget the surveys. Take the plunge and get right inside the user's world - the answers are there waiting for you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Orville's New Bag Needs No Bowl

The Orville Redenbacher's Pop Up Bowl is pretty neato. Click through to watch the video - unfortunately they don't have one available to embed. The bag unfolds and expands similarly to other popcorn bags. Once it pops up, you tear off one edge and end up with a bowl-like package suitable for snacking. Beats coating your knuckles with shiny goodness when reaching deep into the greasy salty sides of a regular bag for the last kernels...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Needs a Burger Press?

Grilling season is upon us, and I've been meaning to look into burger presses. Not necessarily because I want one, but because I've been wondering who does? I'm more the type to be lulled into a stress free zone by patting out my burgers systematically, and I haven't as yet desired a machine to do it for me. But the fact remains that there are a LOT of these little devices on the market in many forms - so here's the run-down:Williams Sonoma is all over the idea of perfectly formed burgers. They've got round ones, square ones, and pleasing heavy cast tools all around. The pass-through design seems to make sense as patties drop straight through after you press them.
Crate & Barrel has also been working the burger angle, although their presses make a bit less sense. The presses are virtually burger molds, with not much opportunity to extricate the patties intact...may explain why they're on clearance at this time!
There's also a lot of professional grade equipment on the market, and an affordable option is Weston's Burger Express. It's spring loaded, making it easy to remove the burger intact off of the raised platform after you press it. And you get to set your desired thickness. As with most presses, the use of waxed paper is encouraged to make production perfect.

What I'd like to see next is a press that allows you to customize - who says we all want the same burger size? Or maybe something that cranks out the burgers like a potato slicer? Or a patty sized cookie gun? There's definitely room for improvement here. I now understand the appeal - users describe deep satisfaction with consistent thickness, shape, and ease of production. But I think a better product awaits - after all if you're in the market for a burger press, you're seeking perfection.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How do you Start from Scratch?

The conversation tends to go like this:
Me: I'm in product development
You: Really? I have this great idea I always wanted to make, let me tell you about it.
I listen to the idea, then you ask: So how much would it cost? You know, to make it?
I describe many caveats and exceptions, but eventually I have to name a number, and your face falls.
The reality is that making something new isn't easy, and it sure isn't cheap. So how do you start from scratch? How do you know if it's worth the risk? This is an area where research meets design to generate a strategic plan. The development process relies on identifying a quantifiable market opportunity - there must be money to be made in the first place. The process equally relies on understanding your users to the degree that you can spot these opportunities, harvest sufficient insights, and produce a desirable solution to a user need.

I recently embarked on this journey for the first time with a true start-up entrepreneur. Over the years I've heard a thousand great ideas, but this was the first one that had the opportunity, insight, and solution to potentially make it. Visit Goat Gear to learn more about the product you're seeing below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Couponed Out Yet?

Extreme Couponers is on TV. A million group coupon emails are in your inbox. Stores you "like" push incentives onto your Facebook wall. There's a coupon just about everywhere you look these days!

Why now? What's the trend all about? A new generation of consumers, who no longer subscribe to print papers, are discovering coupons for the first time through other mediums. Bloomberg values Groupon's IPO at $15B - $25B. To maintain that value Groupon will need to evolve - consumers are already experiencing coupon fatigue, and only 10% have actually purchased a group coupon. People are still vary of jumping down an internet rabbit hole chasing after a coupon - it's a little more sketchy than flipping through the Sunday paper coupons.

As companies accrue more and more data about us, the offers will become more specialized and the targeting will be fine-tuned. But are you really getting a discount(meaning real cash value) from the coupon offers that appeal to you? Or is this just advertising dressed cleverly in sheepskin? After all, you're not saving money if you're buying something you didn't plan to buy in the first place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heinz + Chick-Fil-A = Smart Ketchup

When touring North Carolina I have certain items on my must-eat-list: pork bbq, Bojangles, Cook Out shakes, and Chick-Fil-A. Acquired the Chick-Fil-A yesterday, and it was delicious as usual - and accompanied by a truly nifty ketchup packet from Heinz. Practical, intuitive - the only complaint I have is that I missed the free waffle fry day at Chick-Fil-A that accompanied the product launch in March.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Old VW Beetle is New Again

Well, according to VW the new bug design is going to tap into new buyers:
"VW, which wants to triple its U.S. sales of cars and trucks over the next decade, says the changes will appeal to more buyers, especially men."
But I just don't buy it. I think they should've designed a new vehicle for men if that was their goal. My husband loves his GTI - and it doesn't look like that! Why not release the Corrado in the US? This is a man's car!The Beetle is only a Beetle because of it's visual brand language. They seem to have dismantled that in a search for new market potential. If anything they should've moved back to classic lines, with solid metal body and details. They should've celebrated their heritage instead of throwing it away. Just looking at the new Beetle makes this designer sad.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sodastream, now with more Fizz!

The latest Sodastream model has some bells and whistles that'll hit the sweet spot for many consumers. The Fizz boasts the revolutionary "FizzChip" which tells you when you're running low on gas and lets you set your perfect customized gas level. If you like to set it and forget it, and don't want to be surprised when you run outta gas, this model is for you. The older models, still well worth the money, only provide for manual adjustment of the gas-i-ness, which takes a little practice. Watch and learn - the gas is gonna getcha!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Flip is Over!

I'm both surprised and not surprised that Cisco is shutting down Flip. The designer in me is frankly shocked - that they're willing to throw away the wealth of good brand faith that Flip has earned in such a short time. The strategist in me says, why on earth did Cisco buy Flip in the first place? It's a shame that the great PD that went into the original Flip will die with this company - although the ID work was outsourced, so maybe not so much. Smart Design was responsible for the ground breaking user interface, and for much of the population this technology is still relevant. Yes, smart phones abound, but much of the population can't afford those - the Flip brought simple video capture to those who couldn't afford more expensive products, or who had limited familiarity with computers. It was one of the first video cameras that almost all users could understand how to download.

Why's it going away then? Well, a product line (and a company for that matter) have to be loved to succeed - you have to fight for your brand these days, and have the vision to lead it. Cisco doesn't have that vision for consumer products and frankly they shouldn't have tried to buy it like a commodity. While it makes sense for their bottom line to drop Flip now, it's a waste of brand potential. Overall it's sad that the original Flip owners sold to a bidder worth $40B who would never really have much stake in a $40M company.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beaba Next Gen Keeps it Rolling

Williams Sonoma is promoting the new Beaba products that accompany their baby food cooker/processor. I love, love the new Stackable Formula & Snack containers! Practical, realistic, still fun - someone who's familiar with the daily process of schlepping small amounts of many things for babies designed this. After trying it, they could stand to improve the screw threads - a simple quarter turn to lock would've been more solid, but more expensive to manufacture.Now if only they'd re-visit their food portioning freezer trays. Yes, they're cute, and I get the whole flower thing, but they're completely impractical to fit into your freezer or fridge. Give us the right shape, Beaba!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Skip the Pots this Year

Biodegradable plant pots abound! The Home Depot sells many of its veggie and herb varieties in peat pots, and also sells empties for those of you who start from seed. Local garden clubs tend to be even better about this. As the growing season gets underway, consider what you're buying when you choose your plants - who needs a bunch of cheap plastic plant pots?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby Needs Cool Kicks TOO!

Are you kidding me? Trumpette has the absolute coolest baby socks I've yet to see. I wish my boys could revert just so that I could put these socks on them for a while! Great styles for girls and boys, check them out!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Apple Patents a Stylus for iPad

For those of us who love a pen on paper, the iPad is going to get a little more attractive. Apple has filed a patent for a stylus that includes an accelerometer, to pick up all the nuances of putting pen to pad. Interestingly, while Jobs has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a stylus in the past, Gates has advocated for the idea for some time:
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, made this observation last year when he said students needed a pen to be able to interact with a tablet in a school setting. Mr. Gates said the iPad was good for reading, but not necessarily for creating.
I have to say I agree with him. Looking forward to trying it out one day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

AT&Who? Verizon Hits the Ground Running with iPhone

What's the biggest reason most users report for not owning an iPhone? Having AT&T as their service provider. Well, that's all over. And for me, this is all happening in the family - my husband's responsible for the Verizon commercials currently barraging you with this info. My brother in law will be selling hundreds of the phones to you.

And already, yesterday the iPhone broke Verizon's 24hr sales record in 2 HOURS. That's just the presale folks!! There's nothing new about the phone - no new software, new hardware, in reality it's an 8 month old phone. There's nothing new about this iPhone - except the service. Just goes to show, it's not only what you make but how you sell it that counts! Strategic launch partners and distribution should be a page on your brainstorming wall from Day One.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

ReUse? Yes, Please!

For awhile I was a recycling zealot. I really gave people a hard time when I couldn't find a recycling bin at their home. But the more I learned about recycling and it's limitations - only certain materials, only in certain amounts, and often while expending more energy than it takes to create new materials - I opened my eyes to the greater picture.

All of your stuff matters. Not just the stuff in the recycling bin. Think about owning something forever before you buy it - think about your trash can disappearing forever. If there's no trash, you have a lot more stuff than you thought! So, buy less, and what you do buy, plan to keep in your life.

ReUse is the more efficient, overachieving cousin of ReCycle. Think about objects as transitional tools - what holds your flatware one day may organize your garage tools a few years down the road, and end up housing seedlings or sorting sand in the sandbox. Check out MadLab, featured in this article, a local-to-me shop that produces beautiful examples of ReUse in MontClair, NJ.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Xooming at CES

Motorola premiered their answer to the iPad at CES this year - Xoom, featuring Google Android. Well, all the names associated with the product are way cooler. Seems like the man's version of the iPad, inherently female. Let me know if it's awesome.