The sCoop: week of August 8

Device Design Day debrief (D4)

Three Cooperistas attended Kicker’s Device Design Day (D3) last week at the San Francisco Art Institute. Jenea, Golden, and Greg share their observations on the thought-provoking speakers.

Jenea Hayes: The subject of brand was a theme that came up often, with oft-tweeted quotes like Robert Brunner’s “brand is a gut feeling” and Charles Gorant’s “brand is a relationship with an expectation of value.” These concepts are not particularly revolutionary, but they went over very well in a room full of designers who are tired of colleagues and clients who conceive of brands on the level of “MOAR LOGO.”
Brunner’s challenge of “how many people in this room have an Apple logo tattooed on their body?” that was accompanied by a screenful of images of Harley Davidson tattoos was especially evocative. In retrospect, I don’t think his example means what he thinks it means. Tattoos are a significant part of biker culture; does Harley Davidson get to take credit for that? Meanwhile, hundreds (thousands?) of examples of Apple logo tats (presumably among a less inked population) are only a Google Image search away. A Harley tat is perhaps an inevitable expression of a subculture, but an Apple tat is an expression of over-the-top fanboyism.
A minor quibble. The larger point still stands.
Speaking of fanaticism, I became an instant fangirl of Willow Garage. Here’s one reason why: Willow Garage researchers were having a problem in which experiments were being disrupted by humans because of an invisibly ponderous robot. Rather than be satisfied with a “please do not disturb, experiment in progress” sign, they went to the experts for advice. Pixar animators designed subtle but organic movements and reactions for the robots that are instantly recognizable. It was an compelling reminder of the density of information that can be conveyed by well-designed motion and sound. Details matter in design.

Golden Krishna: At the end of the day, when yawns and naps were ready to commence, in walked the founder of NonObject, Branko Lukic, the last speaker of D3. Ambition and idealism were not lost in his first words: “Thank you for coming to see this lecture and I’m excited to share with you some thoughts about the future of design.” Certainly, ears perked on that statement, and his lecture, with logic that only occasionally seemed rational, was utterly intriguing. He boldly stated that pasta is a perfect design (as evidenced by its consistency over time; unchanged by Facebook, for example), and declared, “The reason I would like to share this with you is because you are human.” Was it rational to assume that we were all human? Perhaps.

Greg Schuler: Device Design Day (D3) started out on a high note with Robert Brunner’s talk “Ideas Not Objects”. Brunner asked the group to define brand before suggesting that it’s a “gut feeling” that can’t really be controlled. Later he asked, “Would your customer shed a tear if you were gone?” Designers often think of Apple as a desirable brand but Brunner pointed out a better example: Harley-Davidson. After all, how many people have Apple tattoos? Brunner issued this advice: “If it was easy everyone would do it!.”

Leila Takayama’s “Personal Robot Devices” and Mike Kruzeniski’s “The Elements of Interactive Style” kept the bar high, but I found that some other speakers delivered messages that seemed half-hearted despite their triumphant titles. Branko Lukic’s talk is another story altogether, and I wasn’t surprised that a woman in the audience confessed, “I am deeply inspired by the DIY and the pasta.”


Chris and Susan talked design at Rock Health this week.

Ready, set, DESIGN! After weeks of constructing a sturdy foundation, it was time for the RockHealth teams to get in there and make their products a reality. Chris and Susan helped the teams get started in this week’s workshop.

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