November 29, 2012
I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to the news that MoMA has acquired 14 video games for its permanent collection, apart from a hearty “hurrah!” and slight confusion about what it means for a museum to “acquire” a video game. Luckily, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli comes to the rescue on that last front, writing a detailed post on the museum’s blog:

In order to be able to preserve the games, we should always try to acquire the source code in the language in which it was written, so as to be able to translate it in the future, should the original technology become obsolete. 

Then of course there’s the issue of curating the backend of the game (the part that arguably contains the creators’ true creativity), the code. Writes Antonelli:

We request any corroborating technical documentation, and possibly an annotated report of the code by the original designer or programmer. Writing code is a creative and personal process. Interviewing the designers at the time of acquisition and asking for comments and notes on their work makes preservation and future emulation easier.

Then there are the rights issues, which can only be legion. So it’s not perhaps as simple a slamdunk as you might have imagined, and hats off to MoMA for recognizing the artistry and genius of the likes of Pac-Man, Katamari Damacy, and The Sims (with Pong, Asteroids and Donkey Kong still to come.)
[Pac-man image via Flickr/methodshop.com.]

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to the news that MoMA has acquired 14 video games for its permanent collection, apart from a hearty “hurrah!” and slight confusion about what it means for a museum to “acquire” a video game. Luckily, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli comes to the rescue on that last front, writing a detailed post on the museum’s blog:

In order to be able to preserve the games, we should always try to acquire the source code in the language in which it was written, so as to be able to translate it in the future, should the original technology become obsolete.

Then of course there’s the issue of curating the backend of the game (the part that arguably contains the creators’ true creativity), the code. Writes Antonelli:

We request any corroborating technical documentation, and possibly an annotated report of the code by the original designer or programmer. Writing code is a creative and personal process. Interviewing the designers at the time of acquisition and asking for comments and notes on their work makes preservation and future emulation easier.

Then there are the rights issues, which can only be legion. So it’s not perhaps as simple a slamdunk as you might have imagined, and hats off to MoMA for recognizing the artistry and genius of the likes of Pac-Man, Katamari Damacy, and The Sims (with Pong, Asteroids and Donkey Kong still to come.)

[Pac-man image via Flickr/methodshop.com.]

November 20, 2012
"If you have zillions of dollars and all the time in the world, I don’t think you’re going to produce great art. And you certainly won’t feel like sticking it to the man who’s giving you those zillions. It’s funny, isn’t it? In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have the types of pressures that can lead to great art."

How the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine gave rise to modern animation is a beautiful homage to the legendary 1968 animation film. Written by Simpsons writer and Futurama producer, Josh Weinstein, the piece gives great insight into the paradox of the artistic process. He includes an important lesson on “how brilliant things get produced,” which he describes simply: “it’s called trusting in artists and letting them do their stuff.” For control freaky executives used to calling every shot, this is the hardest lesson to learn of all.

July 2, 2012
Shyam Sankar, a data intelligence agent working at Palantir, gave a great talk at TEDGlobal which took on the topic of human computer symbiosis. He cited J.C.R. Licklider‘s notion of intelligence augmentation, and wanting humans and machines to cooperate, not battle each other unto the death. In Human-Machine Synergy, Ben Lillie captured Sankar’s energetic talk, while in The Story Behind The Slides, I talked to Collin Roe-Raymond, lead graphic designer at Palantir, about the process of putting together a really beautiful presentation.
[Image c/o Palantir]

Shyam Sankar, a data intelligence agent working at Palantir, gave a great talk at TEDGlobal which took on the topic of human computer symbiosis. He cited J.C.R. Licklider‘s notion of intelligence augmentation, and wanting humans and machines to cooperate, not battle each other unto the death. In Human-Machine Synergy, Ben Lillie captured Sankar’s energetic talk, while in The Story Behind The Slides, I talked to Collin Roe-Raymond, lead graphic designer at Palantir, about the process of putting together a really beautiful presentation.

[Image c/o Palantir]

July 2, 2012

Massimo Banzi is the co-founder of the Arduino project. An interaction designer and an educator, the spirited Italian told his story at TEDGlobal, in a talk that’s chock full of great examples of the boundless creativity and innovation that comes with an open platform, including a smart cat feeder, a way to silence irritating celebrities and a musical instrument. You can also read the blogged summary on his talk.

June 14, 2012
"All pop-science these days must be translated into stories, as if readers, like children, cannot absorb the material any other way."

In The Curse of Knowledge, writer Isaac Chotiner eviscerates Imagine, the latest book by the popular writer, Jonah Lehrer. I haven’t read the book so I can’t yet evaluate the review’s analysis, but in and of itself this is a beautifully written take on a genre of literature that’s become enormously, perhaps troublingly popular in the last few decades. It’s also a good reminder of the questions we must ask — or demand others ask on our behalves — when attempting to evaluate what’s in front of us.

[Story via Christopher Butler]

June 6, 2012
"Another big ad agency wants an inspirational talk to their Creatives, won’t find the tiny fee. This is how artists survive. Shame on them."

— Agencies and companies often hold “salons” to inspire their assembled troops. Some companies make a fairly tidy reputation for doing so (I’m thinking of things like the authors@Google events, which started back in 2005.) But there’s a difference between an author touting his or her own published work in the name of marketing and selling books, and agencies calling in artists to get them to show off amazing work… and then not paying a dime for the privilege. The above tart tweet came courtesy of British public artists, Greyworld (see my previous post on their most magical work), whose leaders just experienced this very situation. They followed up with a longer rant on Facebook. It’s good to see the growing confidence and independence of artists and designers who used to believe they had to rely on the largesse of the bigger agencies that so often commissioned their work. The worm, as they say, is in the process of turning. And frankly there’s no quid pro quo if one party doesn’t get no quid.

May 25, 2012
How Can Companies Copy Cities Successfully?

Jonah Lehrer was an entertaining presenter at the 99% Conference, and he flagged some particularly fascinating research, from Geoffrey West, of the Santa Fe Institute. A theoretical physicist, West’s interest in “general scaling phenomena” led him to study cities. Lehrer then outlined the difference between cities and companies, which might seem rather dull but was actually quite thought-provoking. For instance, Lehrer described, while the two might look somewhat similar on the surface, there’s one critical difference: cities never die. “They’re immortal. You can nuke a city and it’ll come back. You can burn it to the ground and we still have San Francisco.”

Companies, in contrast, die all the time. Lehrer cited a fact we’re all too quick to forget (or fail to remember) when we’re bemoaning the death of another industry icon: the average lifespan of a Fortune 100 firm is only 40 years; 25% of Fortune 100 companies die every decade. And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

According to West, the reason for this is that as cities get bigger, everyone within its confines becomes more productive. “That’s why urbanization is the great theme of the 21st century,” said Lehrer. “We cram ourselves together; we have more ideas.” The design of the city keeps us all on our toes. 

Companies enjoy the opposite effect. As a company gets bigger, everyone becomes less productive. Bureaucracy happens; meetings happen; management happens. There’s less profit per employee; they’re no longer able to innovate at the same rate; people get in the way of creativity and innovation.

"The magic of cities is that they’re freewheeling and chaotic," concluded Lehrer. "It’s a bunch of strangers bumping into each other. Cities don’t try to maximize creativity which is precisely why they do. Companies on the other hand micromanage, we chain ourselves to desk, we don’t drink beer in the afternoon, we brainstorm when we don’t want to brainstorm."

I love this insight. Now the question becomes: how can companies better imitate cities?

[Photo: Julian Mackler]

March 29, 2012

For the slick launch of its first 2 SIM card smartphone, Samsung created a film in which they mapped projections onto a human face. It’s slickly done, though for the life of me I can’t tell what it has to do with either Samsung or its products. But, as Superflux’s Justin Pickard put it on Twitter, “Human as screen. Even as a publicity stunt, that’s legitimately crazy.”

February 24, 2012
For A Creativity Boost, Think Outside The Box… Literally reveals results published in Psychological Science magazine in which researchers tested whether *actually* working outside of a box might have any impact on creativity. On the basis of this admittedly small-scale experiment, it seems to. 
Of the three groups being tested, one sat in a 5’ by 5’ cardboard box, another sat outside the box, and the third group performed the task without there being a box being in the room at all. I know, it sounds slightly ridiculous, but those sitting outside the box performed much more ably than the other two groups. 
This article doesn’t give too much detail, but we know that the design of space has a huge impact on creativity, and we’re always looking to improve them, so for me this provided an interesting thought to mull for the day. 
[“Super Cool” cardboard box image by Tuppus on Flickr. Story via Audrey Clarke.]

For A Creativity Boost, Think Outside The Box… Literally reveals results published in Psychological Science magazine in which researchers tested whether *actually* working outside of a box might have any impact on creativity. On the basis of this admittedly small-scale experiment, it seems to. 

Of the three groups being tested, one sat in a 5’ by 5’ cardboard box, another sat outside the box, and the third group performed the task without there being a box being in the room at all. I know, it sounds slightly ridiculous, but those sitting outside the box performed much more ably than the other two groups. 

This article doesn’t give too much detail, but we know that the design of space has a huge impact on creativity, and we’re always looking to improve them, so for me this provided an interesting thought to mull for the day. 

[“Super Cool” cardboard box image by Tuppus on Flickr. Story via Audrey Clarke.]

February 23, 2012
"The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution."

The above quote, c/o Bertrand Russell, is quoted in Innovation for the People, by the People, a solid overview of open innovation initiatives being considered/implemented by the various branches of the federal government. The author, David Bornstein, highlights the quote as a way to show the importance of asking the right question when trying to spark the most inventive and useful submissions to a wicked challenge. As he puts it, “the question needs to be open-ended enough so that it does not restrict creativity, or imply a method of solution, but it has to be defined sharply enough so that someone who doesn’t understand your whole mission can still solve your specific problem.” It’s a really tricky balance to get right, but absolutely critical, nonetheless.

[Story via Catherine Tomezsko.]

February 10, 2012
It’s a nosecone, silly. This one was customized by the ridiculously talented artist (and friend), Eric White, and featured in an *amazing* sounding show currently on at the PIMA Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. (I am already trying to figure out how I can get there.) The Boneyard Project involved artists such as Nunca, Retna and Faile using retired World War II airplanes as their canvas, while it also includes another collection of customized plane nosecones from the likes of Shepard Fairey, Futura 2000 and Ron English. Eric also gave a (perhaps unwittingly) brilliant insight into the highs and lows of the creative process with this emailed description of his contribution:

I picked this cone out of the six I was shown months ago because it was the strangest one. The entire thing was covered in that white, shimmery fabric; the outer layer was peeling off. For some reason I kept picturing it pink, and I decided to go for a flat, opaque pink surface being revealed by the torn away fabric. I was tempted to leave it there, but one of my best friends said he thought it needed something else, so I developed the idea of one little window, maybe another level existing beneath the pink. Time was running out, the pickup had been scheduled, so I was frantically trying to come up with something. The night before it was due I settled on something that I thought was great: I found a picture of a little kid with an asthma inhaler that was hilarious to me, and seemed like the perfect meaningless and absurd image that would put it over the edge. I finished about 5am on the day it was due and realized it was terrible. So I then scrambled through 10 different ideas and landed on the “Love Crazy” thing, taken from a title card from an old film. I worked on that for the next three hours and finished. I couldn’t believe I pulled it off. The other thing would have been lame. The text works with the obvious phallic shape and sexual connotations of the pink etc, and I thought the black and white fit well aesthetically… I hope it doesn’t sell. I want it back!”

I hope it doesn’t sell too, so that I can arm wrestle Eric for it. Gorgeous.

It’s a nosecone, silly. This one was customized by the ridiculously talented artist (and friend), Eric White, and featured in an *amazing* sounding show currently on at the PIMA Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. (I am already trying to figure out how I can get there.) The Boneyard Project involved artists such as Nunca, Retna and Faile using retired World War II airplanes as their canvas, while it also includes another collection of customized plane nosecones from the likes of Shepard Fairey, Futura 2000 and Ron English. Eric also gave a (perhaps unwittingly) brilliant insight into the highs and lows of the creative process with this emailed description of his contribution:

I picked this cone out of the six I was shown months ago because it was the strangest one. The entire thing was covered in that white, shimmery fabric; the outer layer was peeling off. For some reason I kept picturing it pink, and I decided to go for a flat, opaque pink surface being revealed by the torn away fabric. I was tempted to leave it there, but one of my best friends said he thought it needed something else, so I developed the idea of one little window, maybe another level existing beneath the pink. Time was running out, the pickup had been scheduled, so I was frantically trying to come up with something. The night before it was due I settled on something that I thought was great: I found a picture of a little kid with an asthma inhaler that was hilarious to me, and seemed like the perfect meaningless and absurd image that would put it over the edge. I finished about 5am on the day it was due and realized it was terrible. So I then scrambled through 10 different ideas and landed on the “Love Crazy” thing, taken from a title card from an old film. I worked on that for the next three hours and finished. I couldn’t believe I pulled it off. The other thing would have been lame. The text works with the obvious phallic shape and sexual connotations of the pink etc, and I thought the black and white fit well aesthetically… I hope it doesn’t sell. I want it back!”

I hope it doesn’t sell too, so that I can arm wrestle Eric for it. Gorgeous.

February 9, 2012

How amazing is this? Greek multimedia artist, Petros Vrellis converts Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” into a swirl of animation and interactivity. The music and the movement are perfectly matched to the spirit of the original painting. As Local Projects principal Jake Barton wrote of the project, it’s “a startling flow of lines, color, sound and interactivity.” Wonderful.

February 6, 2012
"In my early job at Vogue, and now at Teen Vogue, you’re managing creative people. It’s very different from managing people who are doing quantitative work. It’s all qualitative, and it’s all you judging their work. And it becomes very emotional."

Loved this weekend interview with Teen Vogue editor, Amy Astley. She nails a problem for those looking to instil creativity and innovation into their organizations… the qualitative aspect of the work can mean that developing meaningful metrics for assessing its effectiveness is a real issue. Where quants can be judged on the accuracy of their algorithms, creative ideas are much harder to manage. That doesn’t mean methods don’t exist, of course, but I think Astley is smart to recognize the potential minefield (and brave to admit where she got it wrong in the past… would that more were strong enough to do the same.)

On a related note, I just logged my votes for this year’s Catalyst Awards, a scheme organized by the IDSA to reward design that demonstrates its impact on business. Many of the entries showed that a lack of accepted metrics is a continued problem for designers, who either haven’t internalized the language necessary to demonstrate their own impact, or haven’t found a way to persuade clients to share the salient details. Thing is, such data are not merely “nice to have”; they are imperative to anyone wanting to make the case that design really can make a difference. Otherwise, designers and creative folks will have to continue to rely on those executives who intuitively “get” the power of design. I think the industry can do better.

January 18, 2012

Wayne White is one of those polymath creative types whose genius knows no bounds. Totally disinterested in and unfazed by the nominal partitions between artistic disciplines, here’s a man who’s dabbled in everything from comic books to sculpture to fine art to set design. Funny, infectiously enthusiastic and razor sharp and smart, White is now the focus of a new biopic, Beauty is Embarrassing, which will premiere in March at this year’s South by South West Film Festival. And what better message to apply to our lives, but White’s conclusion here: “Do what you love. It’s going to lead to where you want to go.” Swoon.

[Video via Eric White.]