Studio Snap Shot: milled hides

hides

I picked up these bargain-bin hides while in OKC this past week. It feels freeing to have so much (cheap) material to work with. I’m going to try out a bunch of things in weeks to come.

These hides are milled which means that they are soft and don’t have as much structure as the veg tanned scraps I’ve been working with. But I still think they can hold the shape of a basket if I keep it small enough. We’ll see! If all else fails, these babies can make a whole lot of straps and book covers.

for more studio snap shots, see my google photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PKaNMFj8ScEsxeK58

 

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Urban Plastic Waste into Street Furniture

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I adore this “zero-waste” project from Thessaloniki titled “Print Your City” in which they reclaim plastic waste and process it so that it can be fed into giant 3D printers to make these lovely benches/planters.

See more on the project here

repost: Write-storming #inclusion

If you read this blog, then you know that I’m interested in techniques for harnessing collective intelligence. Why? Because the complex problems we face require participation from a diverse array of stakeholders. Why? Because diverse participation, when done right, leads to better outcomes.

If you do a lot of teamwork, then you know that it’s easy to fall into the pattern of letting a few people on the project team dominate the majority of the conversation. A great technique for engaging the entire team, and thus arriving at more creative results, is write-storming. What write-storming does is it carves out time and space for all team members to engage in quiet writing and reflection. The ideas that individuals generate during a write-storming session can then be drawn on for group discussion.

I’ve been doing write-storming in one form or another for years but I really like how author Leigh Thompson maps out the technique. I’ll summarize here: Write-storming sessions are short, like 5-10 minutes. In a session, team members work silently to generate a lot of ideas on their own. Each idea should be written on an individual index card in legible hand-writing – I recommend all caps for legibility. Then the cards are collected, shuffled, redistributed, and read aloud for discussion. It’s important that the ideas remain anonymous so that the team can focus on the work and not on egos. The next step is for the team to categorize the cards and flesh out the ideas that have the most potential. I recommend fleshing out an array of ideas from conventional & easy ideas to unconventional & challenging ones.

 

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Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work in FastCo 

 

 

repost: Why is Design Thinking Useful?

Design-thinking is a popular topic among product developers and entrepreneurs. I think that’s because there are a lot of similarities in the processes that designers, developers, and entrepreneurs use. Whether we’re developing apps, services, or physical products, we’re all in the business of making new stuff and saying to a group of people, “This will solve your problem.”
Some of what you’ll read here will sound familiar. I’m a designer, so this post is phrased in a design-thinking vocabulary. But it’s a useful vocabulary for anyone, especially for folks who work with team members and users from different disciplinary backgrounds.
Design-thinking is a combination of anthropology and art. It’s anthropology because design-thinkers study how groups of humans interact with one another and how tools mediate those interactions. And it’s art because design-thinkers make stuff that other people will see and use. Artists call other people the “audience,” but design-thinkers call them “users” and more recently “co-creators.”Design-thinking is useful in several ways:
DESIGN is HUMAN CENTERED
Design is often understood as how a product looks, but that’s because form and color are the visible edge of design. But there are several other elements of design. Design-thinkers don’t start their projects with a technology or a product idea. Instead, they start their projects by finding problems that humans have. Then they study those problems where they occur like an anthropologist in the field. Finally they prototype and test product ideas that address the problems they’ve identified.
TIP: Start your project by observing and talking to people with problems.
NAME and FRAME PROBLEMS
Design-thinkers never assume that the problem they start with is the problem they’ll end up solving. They spend a lot of time at the beginning of a project making sure they are addressing the right problem. They constantly revisit the problem statement and if they stray from it they do one of two things: revise the prototype to address the problem more clearly or reframe the problem. Here, they are both anthropologists and artists: the former interacts with humans to understand the problem and the latter is  iterating.
TIP: Revisit your problem statement early and often. It should evolve over time.
DIVERGENT and CONVERGENT THINKING
Design-thinkers know the difference between divergent and convergent thinking. And they know when in a project timeline it’s appropriate to engage in one or the other. Divergent thinking is exploratory, like what we do when we’re brainstorming or sketching. And critique is convergent, honing in to make decisions. The entire product-development process goes back and forth between these two types of thinking. For example, once you hone in on an idea to develop it further (convergent), you put your divergent hat back on to explore all of the options.
TIP: Be conscious of when you’re engaging in divergent or convergent thinking. It will help you control your development process.
CRITIQUE
Design-thinkers value critique. They don’t consider their ideas precious; they just want to find the best one. And if that means sharing ten ideas to find that most of them fail, then so be it. Here, they are like artists who have a complex relationship with their work. Work is painful and they accept that. Critique hurts at first, but after a few of them you develop a thick skin.
TIP: Talk to other people about your ideas, even your bad ideas. If you don’t, then you’re missing out on valuable feedback.
BUILD to LEARN
Design-thinkers don’t have all of the answers before they start designing: they prototype. This practice is similar to that of making art. Sure, artists think about what they will do and make sketches, but the best discoveries happen as they start the work.
TIP: Build prototypes, test them with users, take note of where the prototypes break. Lather, rinse, repeat.
AT HOME with AMBIGUITY
Part of what makes designing so challenging is that it requires you to navigate ambiguity. Design-thinkers accept this. They are “at home” with uncertainty and know that it can be frightening, but they rise to the occasion because they accept it as part of the design process. If someone had the problem figured out already, it wouldn’t be a problem, right? Design-thinkers recognize that the problems they are working on are problems for a reason and that their job is thus appropriately difficult.
TIP: Understand that the design process is difficult. This understanding can help us get through the sometimes arduous or frustrating design process.
CHALLENGE the STATUS QUO
One of the reasons design-thinkers often struggle with ambiguity is that they are challenging the status quo. If they see a problem they don’t like, they never say, “I can’t do anything about that. That’s just the way it is.” Like artists, they make stuff to promote change. If you’re developing a new product, you had better believe that you’re in the business of promoting change.
TIP: We must be discerning artists. Artists introduce something new to the world and declare “This is better than that.”
NAVIGATING VISION with CONVENTION
That’s not to say that design-thinkers don’t appreciate users’ comfort zones. They know that their own vision is often too radical for users, so they put their anthropologist hats on and work on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is their vision; at the other is users’ comfort zone. The trick is to find that sweet spot on the spectrum where people are pushed out of their comfort zone, but not so much that they are scared away. Once we find that sweet spot, we’re in a position to nurture early adopters.
TIP: We must be realistic artists and know that without adopters our work has no meaning.

Kids Build a Bakery in the Forest

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Brawn & Bread by Studio Micat

Bread & Brawn is an outdoor, human-powered bakery designed by Studio Micat and built by kids in a New England summer camp. Human-power is used to mill the grain, knead the bread, and stoke the fire. What a lovely project for children to build and use. This project affords a design experience that nurtures a sense of appreciation for how many resources go into making seemingly simple, everyday items.

See more detail on the project here and here

Artist Spotlight: Craig Mains

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trailers at sea via craigmains.com

This weekend I’m taking a printmaking workshop with Craig Mains at The Ink Shop here in Ithaca. I dig Mains’ work and have for a while now.

In the workshop, Mains is going to show us how he integrates a vinyl cutter into his printmaking process. I have a vinyl cutter in my studio. It’s one of my favorite tools. I’m looking forward to learning how I can expand my use of it.

Check out some of Mains’ prints on his website: http://craigmains.com/printmaking

Inventor Spotlight: Florence Knoll

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Iconic architect, furniture designer, and co-founder of Knoll Associates, Florence Knoll, passed away last week at the age of 101. She developed her classic modernist style for corporate interiors in the mid 20th century and it still rings true today.

Knoll studied architecture at the renowned Cranbrook school with masters like Mies van de Rohe and Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero. She went on to co-found Knoll Associates and was the driving design force at the firm. She designed spaces for corporate giants like IBM, GM, Heinz, and CBS, and she commissioned innovative pieces from Bertoia’s wire chair to Saarinen’s fiberglass tulip series (which she had to convince a New Jersey boat maker to fabricate) to van de Roe’s Barcelona chair. The work is timeless.

 

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Knoll Associates

Remembering Florence Knoll (Fast Company)

 

 

Are You a Strategic Thinker?

The answer depends on who you ask. If you share your strategic ideas with people who genuinely enjoy strategy, then the answer is yes and interesting conversation will ensue. But if you ask people who think strategy can only be talked about by the people who have permission to, then you might be out of luck. By these folks, you are less likely to be described as a strategic thinker and more likely to be described as someone who doesn’t know their place. That latter description has negative consequences.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

If you’re the boss, when people around you bring up strategic ideas, encourage them to go deeper. If going deeper yields interesting results, encourage them to share their ideas.

If you have good ideas but don’t feel you have the opportunity to be heard, carry on. You’re ideas will most likely apply to future scenarios. Write them down and keep them in your back pocket til the time is right.

Roger Martin, How Strategy Really Works