Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

On a great dane

May 26, 2011

I think I may be something of a jaded person sometimes – no, it’s true, at times I am cricital, skeptical, even cynical, and find that occasions of real inspiration are few and far apart.

But even I get caught up now and then, and it seems this happens almost every time Bjarke Ingels opens his mouth… so I thought I’d share a few hastily scrawled notes on that, if for no other reason then at least to express my admiration (and hopefully explain what drives it), and also spread the idea of even grumpy old people like myself being happy about something.

Here, enjoy one of his tour-de-forces first, if you haven’t already:

Now, obviously Bjarke is charming and funny and knows how to work both a presentation and an audience, and that is really cool. As lectures on architecture go, in my limited experience with them, this kind of feels like eating candy for dinner.

But – and this is what I like – it’s not all candy.

By Bjarke’s logic, and to continue with the eating analogy, he believes that, rather than force some politically correct but bland or bad tasting health sludge down your gullet, or opt out of health entirely and just eat the aforementioned candy, you should make food that is both nutritious and healthy and provides you with a lovely eating experience of aroma, taste and appearance.


– and for dinner, raw beets, they’re good for you!

Actually, this is no bad analogy when I think about it, becaus it obviously leads to this question: – the idea of food that is both healthy and delicious has become quite ubiquitous and should not surprise anyone these days, so why is it that this trend seems so new and jawdropping when applied to architeture, as Bjarke Ingels does?
Howcome this same, wholesome idea, that what is good for you (for us, the world, society, whatever) should also be a good experience, has not permeated business, politics, architecture and design along with the food and beverage industry?

Unmodestly, I like to think I’ve thought along these lines for a while, as I’m sure others also have – like, what if one of the powers of design could be to make the things society or the world desperately needs fashionable somehow? Even identifying said things, which are often not what seems most obvious or alluring?
What if we, designers, found other ways of thinking in terms of added value in our work, besides the (let’s face it) old-hat concept of desperately trying to create the “designer classic” of the future?

This is why I like Bjarke and his work so much – because no matter how hard you may try to point out flaws in his plans or ideas, you’re faced with two facts:

1. – that he and his company, notwithstanding the comic book presentations, rap music and humor, are completely serious about their ideals and willing to do a lot of homework to explain how they’re supposed to work, and

2. – when Bjarke speaks of hedonism and having a good experience, having a conscience is an indispensable part of it; you’re not just indulging yourself egoistically. To him, this is a requisite of any project.


for the sake of your job and/or sanity, don’t do a Google image search for hedonism – massively NSFW

It’s important to note that you may disagree with BIG’s way of realising those ideals, and that they may not at all be the only propositions one might come up with.
That said though, I think we should really be happy about this example of how it’s actually possible (in these ways, and so maybe in other ways as well) to be joyous, humorous and playful about using technological power, granted by mankind’s struggle through history towards modern society, in trying to create even greater societies and even better technology.

We should also appreciate the message, built in to the concept of hedonistic sustainability, that you can seek enjoyment while still being a responsible person, and that combining joy and responsibility actually strenghtens both.

Rock on, Bjarke!

Update: – Wired featured a large piece on Bjarke which is now available online, and I’m happy to find that Williams (the piece’s author) seems to harbor the same fascination with some of the same main strokes of mr. BIG’s way as I do.

It makes for a helluvalot more spreading of these generous and necessary ideas that guys like that hook on to them than, well, guys like me. Kudos, sir.

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Technology in clown shoes?

November 4, 2010

Did you get an iPad yet?

You do have an iPhone, right?

Or whatever brand of smartphone you prefer – you know, the kind that has internet capacity (and not WAP, either).
If you do, you’re part of the future, if we are to believe some of the big players. Apple seems to have already relegated their actual computers to an afterthought, compared to the efforts placed on the carry-with-you-gadgets, Microsoft is moving in, and every mobile service provider out there is scrambling to give you on-the-go internet, as is a plethora of other service providers (here in Denmark we have free internet access on buses and trains, for example).

Mobile internet is the future, apparently.

Well, I’m not gonna poop on that, it’s probably true – I am, however, going to add some comments to it, for you to make of what you will.

The defining factor here is speed. The speed of your internet connection, and the processing speed of your hardware.
By now, the standard internet connection is more than 1 megabit, and many if not most people have way more.
This doesn’t just mean you can download that video of the sneezing panda in mere seconds. It profoundly affects the way web sites are coded; almost the entire progress in website design and coding has been dictated by the increasing bandwidth and computanional capacity available.

The earliest web sites were just static text, perhaps with an 8-bit image, then later with a few spinning gifs, but try going to, oh, I don’t know, let’s say your Facebook page.
Run your mouse over it a little – see all those tips, hints, pictures and stuff popping out? The constantly updating statuses, chat, whatever?
Or check out your favorite news outlet, and notice all the Flash adverts all over it – they need the advertisement for funding, without it they can’t exist.

Each of all of those things demand a chunk of code be downloaded into your browser, and for your computer to execute it. They also demand something else: The Mouseover Event.

Not many mobile units have that kind of bandwidth yet, and they also don’t have any mouseover capacity (because there is no mouse pointer – your finger is the pointer). We’ll get back to the power in a moment, but that event needs a little explanation, especially if you’re not a web geek.


sadly, this is not live anymore – easily one of the funniest memes ever

You see, most of what makes websites of today non-static (or reactive) is due to the mouseover event family. Regular code (HTML or Javascript) can pay attention to your mouse pointer and make the website react to its location, and most Flash in websites is almost entirely based on mouse pointer detection.
Basically, the only thing most Flash content will do on a mobile device is play video and let you click things like regular links – forget about playing all but the simplest point-and-click games, for example.

This is no small point – websites that rely, say, on expanding menus can’t be used at all on a mobile unit, pure and simple; you can’t access the site content if you can’t get the menus to show.

Then there’s the issue of power. That’s actually pretty straight forward: – if the content requires a lot of stuff to be downloaded and executed in the client (your browser), current mobile chips just don’t have the power, and, perhaps more importantly, neither do the batteries.
And battery technology is not following Moore’s law and can’t keep up – if you want an indication of the power consumption, try running some Flash content on your laptop without the charger plugged in. It will hork that power down like a stoner with a plate of burritos.

null
*BURP*

Also, it is worth keeping in mind that a lot of stuff gets downloaded or executed behind the scenes even if you don’t point at or click on it, sucking up bandwidth and power beyond your control.

The reason this situation exists is that web content as we know it was designed on, and for, stationary computers and laptops with a charger never too far away – obviously, the content was built to push the available power to its limit.

But what is the new situation – mobility – going to mean then?

Are we going to see all the knowledge and funcionality of the 21st century internet suddenly becoming, not obsolete (as it is not being replaced by something better, not yet anyway), but just not used anymore?
I mean, take Silverlight for example, Microsoft’s cutting edge web technology, which they’ve spent years developing. Good luck with that on a mobile device – it’s geared specifically towards all that multifunctionality executable stuff, rich media and whatnot, and even if the mobile chips grow powerful enough to handle it, and even if mobile internet becomes fast (and cheap) enough, we still need some pretty exceptional leaps forward in battery technology to be able to use it.
HML 5 is going to have problems too, as a large part of it is centered around extended mouse pointer detection functionality and rich media.

Will all this carefully developed technology be wasted? What should web developers focus on – powerful stationany machines or iPhones? With the current challenge of getting consistant behavior across platforms and a few years worth of computers (which has people like that frothing at the mouth already, let me tell you), they’re not going to be able to cover both flavors at once; the difference is way too big.

Are we going to see two internets – one for mobile, another for “real” computers? I mean, sure, we want stuff that works on our mobile devices but we don’t want to come home to our actual computers and load up something that looks like Facebook Mobile. We want the bells and whistles there.
But do we want two internets?

I guess what I’m asking is, are we going to see this state-of-the-art, developed-over-decades internet tecnology go tripping over its own feet, like the awkward adolescent it is?

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– and it designs back…

August 19, 2010

I’ve tried not to get into this, on account of it being a veritable can of ticked-off killer bees, but I think I must, so with a due sense of dread I utter the word: – Microsoft…

(disclaimer: while I am very much a Mac fan, this is not going to be a “Mac vs. PC” article, and I probably won’t respond very well to that line of discussion. Clear? OK, let’s proceed)

So what’s the deal here?

Well, as any designer with a user experience focus should, I have taken note of this thing, the computer – in fact, the very recent history and speedy ascent of this thing presents us with a unique opportunity to see what design actually does in a complex environment.
You see, the computer operating system is the first widely accepted, uniform “object” ever to have taken on its shape purely by design, and to have spread far, far beyond any specific demographic, environment or circumstance.

What I mean is, the chair, the hammer, the glasses, the car, all the other designed objects we have, they were made into their overall shapes by a meeting of function and design – so there’s a million chairs in the world, but they all have a seat, and they all have some manner of footing, and a car won’t work unless you have a reasonably intuitive steering method that is also reliable, and so on – you get the point.


some are weirder than others though

Not so for the computer OS. Nobody had any expectations for this entity, and there were litterally no limitations – anything could have been built on the 0’s and 1’s that make up computing.
To say that something was limited only by imagination has rarely been more true.

Anyway, long story short, someone at Xerox PARC came up with a programming paradigm called Smalltalk, somebody thought of multitasking in windows, there was some borrowing, some stealing, some lawsuits and some business shenanigans, and presto, what we now know as Microsoft Windows became the prevalent operating system of computers all over the world.

And this design, it’s designing back – and this, as they say, is where the plot thickens…

For example, pretty well 90% of all computer users consider crashing and recovering from it a basic condition of working with a computer, much like refueling a car, but this is by design, not by function.
The only reason they think so is because the only OS they’ve ever known, Windows, is prone to crashing. They don’t know that a computer is not a thing that’s supposed to crash anymore than the aforementioned car is, and that it should be treated the same if any particular model is prone to do so.
Similarly, the way most people react when a piece of technology doesn’t do what it should is something along the lines of “- oh, I’m so stupid with machines!” – but this, too, may (!) be traced back to the fact that Windows, most people’s first and only direct acquaintance with hi-tech, notoriously chides the user when something goes wrong, and/or talks tech above the user’s head with gibberish alerts that sound ominously complicated, yet serves no purpose since nobody in the room understands what they mean.
It has done so ever since it was first brought to the market, and an entire generation of people just got used to it.

The list could go on but as I said this is not about bashing Windows, so let’s just say the point is made.
(if you feel like a real tirade, albeit an extremely well spoken and interesting one, this guy did his homework and then some)

Now, I’d like to think there’s more of a reason for looking at this, and certainly for writing about it, than just establishing that I don’t like the Windows experience particularly – and there is.
That reason is, there’s a cost – mostly in actual money, too, we’re not talking abstract cost here – and we’re failing to notice.


imagine a pile of these reaching from earth to the moon…

For example, look at the concept called the productivity paradox. If you don’t feel like following that link, the brief version is that, in the business world, there is hardly any visible gain in productivity with the increase in IT expenses.
This is named a paradox and has statisticians and other researchers flailing for an explanation but I believe the answer is right at hand: – the most prevailing computer user interface is Windows, and Windows does not increase productivity, at least not in any way relative to the expenses incurred by using it.

Let’s do a bit of math here – I know, it sucks, but it matters:

Acme is a copywriting company that, so far, has worked on electric typewriters. There’s some 25 writers employed, and they each get 40.000,- a year.
So let’s get them computerized – each work station costs $750,- and each copy of Windows is $300,-.
That’s $93.750,- right there – or more than two whole salaries for the first year (and we haven’t bought antivirus software yet, or even an office package). The computers better make these people that much more effective, but how would they do that? They’re still just writing stuff.

It gets worse though.
A piece of hardware such as a computer should be able to run pretty well for at least 5-6 years (in fact there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t run much longer than that) but, mainly because of Windows, this company is probably going to have to upgrade most of the workstations every 3 years or so – in addition to that, there’s going to be point updates to the system, costing money too (say, a couple of hundred dollars pr. workstation pr. year average).

But it gets worse yet.
Because, unless these people are mostly superusers, having 25 workstations running Windows is going to require at least one full-time IT support employee. If the company has servers, too, one guy probably won’t cut it (if they run Windows Server, IIS and the sort).

– and just as you thought it wouldn’t get worse anymore, it probably will; the company is all but guaranteed to experience serious downtime and expenses due to a virus or hacker attack. Most attacks (even taking the spread of Windows into account) exploit weaknesses and security holes in Windows that should not exist in the first place.


Remember these? Gone. By the wheelbarrow.

The calculation is not meant to be textbook but I’d have to be off by quite a lot before computerizing such a company is going to be worth it.

Again, my point here is not that they’d be better of with Mac systems – my point is we, society, businesses, take this as a prerequisite condition of day-to-day operation without question, even though similar conditions in any other field of human endeavour would have us frothing at the mouth.

Could this be because the omnipresence and uniformity of Windows has redesigned our perception? I maintain that it is, simply because there is no other explanation for our glaring blind spots regarding computers.

I think we, people, need to start learning to cope with tecnology and design – in fact, we’re overdue; the personal computer is spreading in the form of smartphones, and these are already beginning to show the same kind of vulnerability. If we just sigh and resign to this development, we will react to it in the wrong way, also known as the Micosoft way: – the tecnological equivalent of frantically trying to heal two broken legs and a gunshot wound with a band aid and a tylenol.

The world of computers should be teaching us this, to the tune of billions of dollars every year in costs incurred by virus-, bot- and worm-attacks, spam (some estimates have more than 75% of all spam spreading via Windows PCs, thanks to their inherent vulnerabilities) and just regular wasted time.

And it’s not even that we don’t know – articles flood the news everytime there’s a major virus or worm attack. It just never gets traced back to Microsoft, which is even more baffling when you realize that significant action could be taken against these attacks, and the costs they cause, by redesigning the computer operating system in a sensible way.

I think this is really an appeal to the true power of design – just imagine if we solved this problem, born from (bad) design, with (good) design, and saved the world billions upon billions of dollars…

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Perspective on neo-tribalism

May 18, 2009

Have you heard about that, neo-tribalism?

Well, it’s a concept notably promoted by Seth Godin, modern marketing guru and widely credited for popularising the concept of “permission marketing”, and it revolves around using technology (that is, the internet) to form modern tribes around products, causes, activities etc.

actual tribe, the model for Godin’s concept

At present, this idea has considerable buzz going for it in marketing circles, spilling over into lots of other fields of professional communication – so I think this might be a good time to do a piece on it… here goes:

In Godin’s perspective, a neo-tribe is inherently positive – it’s a group of people who genuinely believe in something, and who are given the goodies about that something and the channels for spreading them.
Ideally, this means that a relatively small number of “true believers” will philantropically spread ideas far and wide, in a way no one person or company could, with a credibility you couldn’t match, and reaching deeper into the receiving masses than you could ever hope for.

A PR professional’s dream, and also, when it works, a great idea indeed – which is why Godin has reached the levels of fame and recognition he now enjoys – and a powerful implementation of permission marketing.

In fact, I use techniques similar to these when I communicate about the things I do, and I have done so before I knew anything about these concepts – however, my experience leads me to this advice: Don’t think this is magic.

The fact is, there are many, thousands, of us, trying to create this kind of following – you see this every day in your email inbox, on your twitter, Facebook, everywhere.
And you do it. Sort of.
You see, the modern tribe has two major weaknesses that an actual tribe either didn’t have or rarely fell under…

and neither did jedi…

Number one: – tech tribalism is easy. I can join a tribe about the most important topic in the world and be a contributing member in five minutes flat, by joining some manner of internet tribe, but I don’t even have to give my real name, and I can also forget about my tribe in five minutes, without any consequences whatsoever for me.
Tech tribes can build, grow huge and create momentum in short order, but they can also fizz out just as fast, and there’s usually little the tribe chiefs can do if that happens; it’s part of the speed of the media.
Just because your Facebook group has 50.000 members doesn’t mean that any of them actually do anything for your cause or product.

Number two: – there are other tribes. Many, in fact. An actual tribe doesn’t have to worry about this until it meets one of them, at which point they may have to fight over the ressources.
Which is exactly what tech tribes will have to do almost constantly.
See, like the food the actual tribes fight over, there’s only a limited availability of people, their time and their attention – so a tribe for veteran car owners can be in direct conflict with a tribe for fans of the tiger lily, simply because they occupy the same space in the receiver’s attention.

This can get much longer but for now, I’ll say this: – by all means, let’s go ahead and use those techniques Godin promotes, but as an advocate of really beating as few dead horses as possible, I say let’s already consider our next moves – and most of all, let’s be as real as we can about anything we do: Nothing is inherently perfect.

Now go forth, grasshopper.

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Cross-web beta

March 31, 2009

You saw that button called “cross-web navigation”, which activates a sort-of top bar at my main site there?

(hey, maybe the bar is above this very blog right now!)

Well, I was inspired by Unhub (thanks for the heads-up, Mindjumpers), who were in turn inspired by Skittles, to make my various identities across the web more readily available to my audience (in so far as I have one).
It can be a good idea, I think – at least if your various sites support each other and whatever purpose you made them for.

So I went ahead and whipped up this little thing – it’s in beta so far, and has only been tested for appearance in Safari; if you’re on another browser, consider this my style disclaimer.
Definitely works on the principle of KISS but I think it does the job.

So maybe I’ll keep it around…

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“Would you like to listen to some music…?”

March 14, 2009

I am no fan of websites with sound on by default – even though occasionally it can be done well, most sites run some sort of ambient loop which gets old very quickly.
On the other hand, music is, of course, great, and the internet is a multimedia, errr… medium, so let’s try to use that for the powers of good – here’s my take on that:




Jesper W. of Copenhagen’s website now offers you, dear visitor, a right cool radio station

(I’d put it right here, too, but WordPress doesn’t allow that type of embedding)

It’s my station over at last.fm – I’ve decided to put it in as an opt-in, popup solution: If you’d like music, you’ll get it, and you can even keep listening after you have left my corner of the web (no doubt vastly impressed and inspired).

The station features everything from cornball to dire techno and polish dancehall, because I am a man of broad taste (plus, I’m getting old, I think) – it’s all good.

You’re quite welcome.

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I told ya!

March 3, 2009

Remember how, back in an earlier post, I sort-of casually mentioned how easy it would be to add a sign-up for a newsletter at my shiny new website?

emailbow

Here you go – still did it myself, promise, using only what I could find on the internet in terms of guidance.

Now, all I have to do is pepper my soon-to-be-enormous fan base with creative wisdom.

And trust me, I will – irregular, sure, but wise it will be, creative it will be. Or, at the very least, funny.

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Huzzah, the new website!

February 18, 2009

This may not be very comme il faut but I feel like congratulating myself just a tiny bit – the new site at jesperwille.com is up as of today! Yay!

I’m particularly happy about this one because this time, not only did I design it (of course, the previous one was of my own design too) but I also programmed it all myself.

Actually, I mention this for a reason (as you may have guessed) – this was, and is, a project…

This internet thingy, well, let’s just say it’s keeping JW on his toes, being an experience nerd – I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t, in some way, have thoughts about how this medium is used. Some do it this way, others that and the other, but in my opinion, far too many websites (considering how long we’ve had for practice) succumb to the scourge of technology:

Discordance between purpose and the underlying tech & mechanics

omgwtfwebsite

(you thought I was going to say “feature overload”, didn’t you?)

So what I did was set out to define for myself how I wanted my website to look and feel, and what I wanted it to do – and then get my own hands dirty and see if I could indeed do this, without having to become some kinda professor and without forcing the hand of my users, or annoying them (technically speaking – if you’re annoyed at my style, that’s entirely allowed).

I didn’t think it had to be that bad, since a site such as this has very few functions – no databases or sign-ups (although I could have added a newsletter real easy – maybe I’ll do that one of these days), just pure presentation, which is all a lot of sites do, so I decided part of it would be doing it myself (if a non-coder can, it’s a strong argument against technological difficulty as a reason for not-too-well-done websites, right?)

I also don’t like flash sites very much (no offense intended, my previous site was flash) – I think it breaks the conventions of navigating the net, but not in a good way in and of itself.
It’s all down to the flash programmer, and that can mean too much freedom, because the function of this type of site has to be rather simple – and doing simple things should never be complicated just for the hell of it (even if it looks good in flash).

So the mission was to find out how close I could get to my initial vision, using only basic code, no embedded flash or any such stuff, and getting all my info off the web (did the weirdest google searches I’ve ever done).

Well, I got pretty close – the new site looks like I want and does what I want it to, so: Mission accomplished.

Until I change my mind.

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Good Lord, how time flies…!

February 13, 2009

Have you ever been away from home for a loooong time, then returned and proceeded to remove the white sheets from the furniture, wipe away the dust and cobwebs and re-inserting yourself into your own space – feeling comfy and I’ve-come-home-ish all the while?

I never have – but I assume it must feel a bit like this.

The Channel has been somewhat dormant for a while, for several reasons – more about that in a moment – but it is now time that I want to reinsert myself into this, my quasi-professional blog space, and resume blogging about creativity.

Mostly my own, but I’m sure there will be due references to others as well.

Since last I’ve been working as chief of communications for Mekavi, where I’ve created a communicative identity virtually from scratch – it was, and is, a sound company with a good agenda: Bringing designer lighting to all, but without much history of, or ideas about, telling anybody that.

 


had a serious hand in making it look this good, too

 
This is where I came in.

Mekavi is now featured regularly in every design magazine in Denmark (as well as many a blog, including Modern Urban Living and Copenhagen Collage) and has a steady growing following in the creative communities, as well as beginning (these things take time) to blaze into the minds of the general public – a job well begun, still lots to do though…

I also had a lot to do with how the website looks and works at present, not to mention the upgrade we’re currently working on – just you wait and see…

(in other duties, I am a lighting consultant, design advisor – in-house and out – and also do general sales. Many caps)

Obviously, I’ve had a full day of writing stuff then (there’s also a company blog, and one at Decorate), and on top of that I’ve been doing a bit of communications-related blogging at Kforum – and for all this, The Channel has suffered.

But no more.

I’m back baby!

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What’s in a title?

May 29, 2007

I am not formally educated in the field of professional creativity, my skills in this field are self taught (in so far as I have any).
Or, as I put it in my description at LinkedIn, I have attended the notorious “School of Hard Knocks”, an education which never ends an nobody passes alive.

So what am I?

Professionally, I mean – what is my title?

Designer, right, but that’s like saying you’re a musician, the next question is bound to be “what kind of music do you play”, “which instrument” or whatever – it’s just too general.

So here is my actual work title:
– Design/User Experience Creative Playmaker

got my number
the playmaker’s number is usually 10 so why should I be different?

To understand why that is, you must read the definition of a Playmaker, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“… a playmaker is an attacking player who controls the flow of the team’s offensive play, and is often involved in passing moves which lead to goals. [….] – creativity is the only true requirement, and good passing ability and tactical awareness help.”

– and the qualities of a good playmaker:

“Perhaps the most important quality of a playmaker is the ability to read the game, and get into good positions making for effective receipt and distribution of the ball. Intuition is another key element of a playmakers’ game, as they need to know where different players are at different times, without taking too long to dwell on the ball. A good playmaker will often hold possession, allowing other team members to make attacking runs. The ostensible role of the playmaker is to then provide or facilitate the final pass which leads to a goal.”

Notice for example that the playmaker reads the game and is an offensive player, and also notice that the playmaker is a team player par excellence.

The term is, of course, ripped off from the game of football, but I think it’s such an on-the-nose description of what I want to do as a creative professional – namely use my creative toolset to facilitate for those who use other toolsets, be it in the creation of physical objects or the field of user experience (which basically covers everything as we all use stuff, and we all experience stuff – it’s just a fancy way of saying that we see it, feel it and form an opinion about it).

So there you are – the next time we meet you’ll know what to call me.

Jesper W.
wearer of the shirt

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