Insights 8.11

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Insights 8.11

Design:

  

Labor Pains: 

  • One of the big "Web 2.0" concepts was the notion that creators could cut out greedy middlemen and reach global audiences directly, on their terms, and empower a whole new set of artists, writers, and musicians. For the most part that concept hasn't played out according the utopian-creator vision, rather the winners have been the fast-growing startups grabbing up content for aggregation, accruing massive audiences and paying out pennies to the authors (if anything at all). One notable exception is Patreon, a platform that hosts some 50,000 creators with a much more direct and transparent audience-to-builder payment process than say, YouTube or Spotify. The Verge has a solid piece profiling the platform, a handful of creators and some critics of the practice. The main concerns are around managing the expectations of a fan-hive that pays out money in dribs and drabs- that one must become not just a great musician or writer, but a great walking, talking, human brand that people can identify with which can mean truncating the true complexity of a person and their experiences. As with the rise of "personal brands" to maximize career opportunities and income, professionals of all stripes find themselves doing more and more performative work to demonstrate value, along with fulfilling the labor of their actual job descriptions. 

 

Just A Game: 

 

Up in the Air: 

 

Bias and Brains: 

 

  

More next week. 

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Insights 7.31

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Insights 7.31

First things first - as some of you may have already heard our team is joining Formlabs! You can read more about it here.

FYI: this weekly newsletter will continue :) 

Design:

  • Furniture is among the most utilitarian of product categories, which makes the desire-provoking element of design that much more essential to gain distinction among the crowd, but those design elements are difficult to protect in terms of intellectual property, making knock-offs a persistent threat. While there's much to be said in favor of some IP protections to incentivize investment in R & D, tooling, and labor that go into bringing new things into the world, some of the furniture that's being defended here is in excess of 50 years old, well outside the bounds of design patents. For design to do the most good in the world it will mean serving the most people (Eames famously said "We want to make the best for the most for the least"). The sooner we dispense with the hagiography of design heroes and lamenting knock-offs as profane violations of Design with a capital d, the sooner we can get to a better future for as many people as possible. 
  • On LOT-2046, placeless fashion and the brandless uniforms of cyberpunk
  • BuzzFeed's food content group, Tasty, is putting out a hardware product: a "smart" hot plate. Previously, the company had developed a sort of hot-glue gun for dispensing cheese, but that seemed to be more marketing gimmick than a bonafide consumer device. The hot plate is the latest from their Product Lab, which is run by Ben Kaufman, founder of the now defunct Quirky. Given Quirky's past struggles with shipping product with greater complexity that worked consistently, we're curious to see if BuzzFeed's team has a deep enough engineering bench (or external contractors) to have better outcomes for users. From a user-centered design standpoint, it seems likely to be a compromised product: the induction heater is really a trojan horse to get people to engage more with an app, and the app is a trojan horse for selling more adspace on a platform where BuzzFeed won't have to share revenue. Just a guess, but I don't think more targeted ads is the problem that home cooks are looking to solve when they buy an extra burner. The more interesting part of this article is the success of Tasty's made to order cookbook - where you can customize the content. We'd argue that greater customization is a more durable trend in product development than oddball brands rolling their own slicked up commodity products with a hidden value proposition.

  

(Dis)trusting Technology: 

  • Bloomberg examines the risks of Dark Web markets, cryptocurrency exchanges, and details present and past day exit scams, where a unscrupulous party creates a storehouse of goods or currencies, only to suddenly run off with the assets once the scam has grown to a suitably tempting scale. As with so many problems of technology, the problems are neither new or uniquely technological - rather they are reflections of humanity's collective vices and virtues. Unregulated and illegal markets have even more difficulty with these issues, simply because the party that violates trust can generally count on the inability of victims to bring their grievances to traditional enforcement and compliance organizations like police or the SEC. 

 

Material Culture: 

 

More next week. 

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The Next Chapter

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The Next Chapter

We’re excited to announce that our team is joining Formlabs!

Over the last 5 years we’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant and creative teams in technology, from startups like RightHand Robotics, Common Sensing, Franklin Robotics to big companies like Google, Target, and Trimble.

In that time we’ve become increasingly interested in not just designing new products, but developing new systems for how our world of objects is conceived of, built, and distributed.

For us, Formlabs is the best place in terms of team, technology, and mission to focus on that work in the most impactful way. We’ll be working on helping develop the tools and processes for making 3D printing more accessible and useful for designers, engineers, artists, scientists and inventors.

We want to make CLEAR design lab live up to its name: we’ll continue to design, prototype and produce the occasional side project. Those projects will be more experimental and documented transparently. We want to share the knowledge that we’ve accrued in the past 5 years and push the boundaries of design - both in theory (the semi-regular writing and weekly newsletter will continue) and in practice.

Thanks to everyone who has been a friend, supporter, client, collaborator or mentor in the past several years. We’re incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and are excited about what's next.

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