Rituals punctuate our daily lives, and holidays reveal just how anciently-rooted many of those rituals are. All those rituals have been 'designed' at some point, within the particular contours of cultural context, but what would a contemporary practice of ritual-designing look like? The Stanford d.school attempted a study of that question last year, but this season is a good time to revisit the project: people are bringing fragments of the outdoors inside and celebrating feast days as we lurch towards the shortest, darkest days. Perhaps our ancient relatives felt a palpable drift towards a likely doom in that slow waning of sunlight. In uncertain times especially, our rituals help steel us against the fearsome unknown. Formalized, aestheticized practices provide just enough a social umbrella through their artifice to gather up the people we care most about, huddling around what little light there is. We will the days longer, fabricating hope out of thin, cold air, tiptoeing to the precipice with clear eyes and full hearts. Even in highly technological and secular times, rituals remain as common as they are vital.
- NASA shared a bunch of conceptual paintings and renderings from over the years, comparing them side by side with the final systems that were ultimately built. Like rituals, the ability to invent shared symbols and imagery to rally others around is a uniquely human superpower, a pseudo-magic creating the conditions for change. In design and engineering, plans, drawings, renderings serve this communicative function. Those images persuade, cultivate buy-in, and weave disparate threads of multiple disciplines into a solid, unified cable of labor.
Some sound wisdom on how hardware startups should go about building their early teams, and what does and doesn't make sense to outsource to external players. The article counters the startup-world advice trend of advocating for internal design teams always. The reality is that new product lines for hardware startups tend to be infrequent, and keeping a full internal ID team productive and engaged between those product launches can be challenging and costly. In general, early hires should be reserved for things that require continual work (manufacturing logistics) or fairly rapid iterations of shippable-improvements (firmware, software).
An honest and detailed postmortem from Tony Zhang and Taylor Ramos on their long running video-essay project "Every Frame A Painting," which analyzed creative choices within film. Among the topics in the post: the immense amount of time that goes into crafting content that is consumed within minutes (Tony says the average edit time alone for a single minute of video essay was 8 hours), the pressures of an audience to follow a very narrow path, and the difficulty of making such an endeavor even approach a break-even point, despite most their videos having views ranging from 500,000 to over 9 million.
- Whether it's dying malls, or Amazon's ever-expanding house-brands, traditional retailers find themselves scrambling for smaller and smaller scraps of the market. Nike recently made an announcement that from the 30,000 or so retail partners hawking the sportswear-giant's goods, they would focus their energies (and dollars) on just forty. Those fortunate forty are likely expected to create more 'experiential' retail approaches that create enough spectacle and engagement to make the stodgy brick-and-mortar stage into something more.
- Though the world of startups and technology emphasizes shipping speed and rapidly iterating to find your way to product-market fit, a study detailed in Harvard Business Review points out that high-performing teams spend about 20% more time defining strategy than less fruitful firms.