Insights 1.21

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Insights 1.21

Design:

  • People seem to be really excited about Nintendo's latest product combining cardboard constructions and digital gaming. The low-tech charm of cardboard is powerful because it is simple, and in its simplicity, evocative. It's similar to the point Scott McCloud makes of abstraction being more relatable than realism. Imagination allows people to tune experiences exactly to their own aesthetic desires and narrative interests, but as an element of design or UX it's largely ignored by companies. The typical business preference favors tightly controlling experiences to protect brand sentiment and expectations, rather than enabling customers to invent and alter on their own. Maybe because Nintendo has been in operation since 1889, they have a better sense for just when to use imaginative blank space instead of pure technological power, whether the format is computer screens or cardboard.
     

Body/Image: 

 

Work-Life: 

 

Up in the Air: 

 

 Behavior:

  • A smart review of Divining Desire: Focus Groups and the Culture of Consultation from The New Inquiry. Among other things the book highlights how some of the most famous 'focus group gone wrong' stories are actually erroneous tales: in truth (in the cases of New Coke and Edsel cars) executives ignored the collective voices and fell into product failures as a result. Focus groups are certainly flawed as a research technique (people make different decisions privately than among peers or strangers, getting representative samples is difficult, etc.) but the larger takeaway is that research best practices require real listening. Today's research trend of 'user personas' faces similar issues arising from sloppy execution. Done right, personas help guide development, translating behavioral research from noisy data to clearly addressable needs and wants. Done poorly (which unfortunately is usually the case), personas boil whole populations down into crude fabrications, leading to biases reflected in design, engineering, and messaging choices. 

 

More next week. 

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Insights 1.15

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Insights 1.15

 Design:

  • Design trends from CES, as observed by Core77. We question the notion that what is put on display by large corporations endlessly-seeking quarter over quarter growth is really evidence of trends, but it's informative to see what those companies would like to be the trends of the moment. 
     

Roadmapping the Future:

  • Behind the plethora of obscure brands thrown at you by web or mobile ads is a mesh of niche e-commerce tools, digital surveillance, AliExpress goods, and gig-economy-precariats drop shipping those same goods. It's a flurry of nearly meaningless activity, a 21st century arbitrage that obfuscates consumer choice, and adds noise to an already cacophonous system of trade. These gameable systems have stifled some of the internet's earlier free-wheeling energy. Micro-enterprises (along with artists, writers, and musicians) could previously gain exposure primarily through the word of mouth that followed quality of goods or content, slowly building a loyal following capable of extending their message for free on large social platforms. That technique has mostly gone away, now creators and small businesses must pay for each additional unit of reach, increasing customer acquisition costs and leaving less money for improving the products themselves. WIRED's profile of the Outlier brand covers their pursuit of advanced fabric and construction methods, but also how the company's early tactics leveraging an engaged customer base and word of mouth will no longer get them the publicity they need. 


Feeding the Future: 

 

Work-Life: 

 

Virtually There: 

 

 Communication:

 

More next week. 

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Insights 1.09

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Insights 1.09

Design:

 Communication:

 Building Things:

 

Up in the Air: 


Energy: 

 

Branded: 

  • A fascinating read from The Wall Street Journal on how mega-corporations like Unilever misunderstood consumer behaviors in response to globalization: “The more things globalize, the more people want to affiliate with everything that is local. This has led to unbelievable fragmentation.” The company has been working to become more nimble and nuanced, creating their own localized products to stave off micro-brands-turned household names (like Halo Top ice cream) and regional favorites that have superior cultural fluency, better matching needs and desires of specific places and populations. 

 

Archiving: 

 

More next week. 

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