- An excellent story on shop design, safety, and gender at Olin College. As with most things design related, focusing on making something more accessible and transforming opaque in-group knowledge into transparent information for outsiders ends up improving the experience for all.
- Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, has existed since the 6th century and like any long-running practice that remains relevant, it has undergone many aesthetic and philosophical shifts. An activity that is as deliberate in effort and fleeting in outcome seems even more remarkable in 2017. But then again, maybe the careful arranging of our feeds and the continual fading of content shares something of the quiet visual poetry of Ikebana, at least if we could rid ourselves of the ads and turn scroll speeds to a more humanely glacial pace. It seems the gift of focus and reflection that this art form provides has always been a welcome presence among the existential noise of being a human in the world, whether it's 627 or 2017.
- The infamously obscure UI of Snapchat may be getting a significant reworking in order to make it more accessible to a broader, less tech savvy demographic, a move most likely spurred on by pressure to respond to shareholders upset by the company falling behind industry stalwarts.
- It seems that the factory workers behind Zara's fast fashion clothes are being mistreated and working without pay. The Turkish workers managed to get their message through via the garments themselves, attaching labels to garments that told would-be purchasers that they had received no pay for their work. It's a rare, direct reminder of the toil and abuse behind crafting the goods we readily consume without thought to their origins.
- In the digital workplace, supervision can look a lot like surveillance. Technology companies are scrambling to create tools that scan virtual actions of employees, trawling for foul language, potential harassment cases, and behavioral changes that could signal someone is about to leave the company.
- The iPhone X is almost certainly going to be the first big consumer AR device, which could bring face-mapping from Snapchat sideshow to global in a way that only Apple's scale can manage.
- More and more, the food we eat is prepared by others, and we may never even visit the restaurant. It turns out, there may be no restaurant to visit, as many meals that are ordered via app are made outside of the confines of traditional restaurants. In lieu of juggling the complex choreography involved in running a restaurant (which is as much about the theater of ambiance, service, and a healthy hum of activity as it is about food quality) many culinary entrepreneurs are creating much smaller, production-focused facilities, accessible only through the small, shiny portal of a smartphone screen.
- Alexis Madrigal on how children attempt to understand robotic toys, and how toymakers' attempts to 'boost customer engagement' may step over the line of enjoyment to manipulation.
- Amazon is following up their fashion tech investments over the last few years with the introduction of numerous brands-within-a-brand for apparel and furniture. They seem to be borrowing the shopworn ampersand-laden naming conventions of many a dead-end e-commerce startup: one of their furniture lines is "Stone & Beam," a reflection of both their astute powers of consumer-behavior data crunching and the overwhelming blandness of their house brands. The everything-store giant already sells more house brand batteries than Duracell, along with copious amounts of everything from baby wipes to HDMI cables, all bolstered by insider analytics and the ability to preference their own lines in search results. While customers are mostly on the winning side of this, paying lower prices for what are ultimately artificially differentiated commodities, many of their competitors must be stewing about the seismic changes in the market. We would not be at all surprised to see a coalition of multinational corporations teaming up to lobby U.S. politicians in the coming years, bringing an antitrust effort against Amazon, all under the pretense of protecting the mom-and-pop Main Street retailers.