“On Brand”

Am I the last person to hear the expression “on brand” used in the context of design? It was one of several expressions that I heard for the first time at the World Creative Forum in London a couple of weeks ago. Another novelty, for me, was the description of Creative Industries as a “portfolio investment” by a dapper young man from the Singapore government. CI will grow to six percent of that country’s GDP by 2012, he said, with great precision.

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Emergent Economics

m. kennedyI’m delighted to report that Margrit Kennedy, a world authority on complementary currencies, has agreed to join us at Doors 8 in New Delhi. www.margritkennedy.de
Non-cash economic systems are, for me, where a genuinely new economy is being born. And where so-called emerging economies are in many respects ahead of “developed” ones. (Barter dates back thousands of years in India).If a light and therefore sustainable economy means sharing resources more effectively – such as time, skill, software, or food – then economic systems for exchanging non-market work have got to be part of the answer. Networked communications, and wireless networks, can be repurposed as enabling infrastructures to help systems like local and complementary currencies, Ithaca Hours, Time Dollars, LETS systems, micro-credit programs, interest-free banking, and other community-oriented monetary systems, scale up.

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Miffed Missive From Massive

Bruce Mau has written to say he is “surprised” by the tone and content of my email newsletter piece last week about his new exhibiton, Massive Change.
What I said originally was:
“We will build a global mind. We will design evolution. We will eradicate poverty”. No ifs and no buts are discernable in Bruce Mau’s new exhibition, Massive Change, which has opened in Vancouver. The website boasts that “few things remain beyond the reach of our fantastically augmented vision” – but it’s nonetheless hard to see from a distance whether such proclamations are meant ironically. The masculine, can-do, rhetorical style of Massive Change seems on first encounter to be a conversation stopper rather than starter. That said, the book promises a “cautious look at our limitations” as well. To January 3 2005, Vancouver Art Gallery. http://massivechange.com/
I did not mean to sound cynical – and if that’s what came across, I regret that. I spend much of my time telling non-design people that, although many of our problems are the result of poor design decisions, designers, as a group, should not be blamed. But a real backlash is brewing against the perceived notion that designers are arrogant and pay far too little attention to the possible downsides of their actions. Harry Kunzru’s new book Transmission, for example, (it’s about Bollywood movies and computer viruses) includes a pretty sharp attack on “Design”. Design is bound to get hammered by a NoLogo type of book in the near future.

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Care and time

Britain’s National Health Service has identified five “key dimensions of patient experience” – and time and speed issues dominate. The top two issues are first, waiting times for appointments, and access to services; and second, time given to discuss health/medical problems face-to-face with health care professionals. A third priority, “safe, high quality, co-ordinated care”, included a need for out of hours calls as a major determinant of satisfaction. Read the whole story:

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Zeroing Out

When an IVR/Speech (Interactive Voice Recognition) system does not meet a customer’s expectations, they become frustrated and hang up or “zero out” to a live agent. According to Forrester Research, customer satisfaction levels with IVR systems fall in the 10 percent range, compared with a satisfaction rate of approximately 80 percent for face-to-face interactions. What a surprise. Companies continue to foist their rubbish services on us because of the numbers. If you or I talk to a human being, it costs the company $10 per call handled. Companies such as NS International look at those numbers and think, get rid of the human agents.
Tal Cohen. “Optimizing IVR/Speech Using Customer Behavior Intelligence”. In Technology Media and Communications Net (TMCnet). 21 June 2004.

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This won’t be news to film buffs but I’m interested in the lessons for design projects. The Danish film cooperative Dogme have developed an interesting model of work. Co-founders von Trier and Vinterberg developed a set of ten rules that a Dogme film must conform to. These rules, referred to as the Vow of Chastity, are as follows:
1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The final picture must be transferred to the Academy 35mm film, with an aspect ratio of 4:3, that is, not widescreen. (Originally, the requirement was that the film had to be shot on Academy 35mm film, but the rule was relaxed to allow low-budget productions.)
10. The director must not be credited.
see www.dogme95.dk and

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Has anyone else noticed how the tv ads of tech companies are becoming indistinguishable from computer games? IBM, British Telecom and Hewlett Packard have all released TV commercials and print ads that feature young professionals floating, gravity-free, in abstract urban spaces. High altitude, low-bandwidth thinking in action.

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Open Welfare

Hilary Cottam is hoping to join us in New Delhi. She and Charles Leadbeater are writing a paper on “open welfare”. They observe: “The open model is not a traditional service delivery model. It relies on mass participation ion creation of the service. The boundary between users and producers is blurred. Broad and widespread participation is enabled by the design of a platform or shared space in which people can share ideas, and communicate. This requires simple systems of codification and rules for assessing the value of a contribution. These communities produce or publish the code or tools for self help which are widely diustributed ; they include mechanisms for constant feedback and review. The basic principles can be described as: “share the goal; share the work; share the results”.
Hilary Cottam and Charles Leadbeater. Open Welfare,: designs on the public good. London, Design Council, 2004.
see: www.designcouncil.org/blog/red

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Human scale architecture

Architects frequently complain to me that the architectural models they make for competitions cost them tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. That’s curious, because one-tenth scale model of a person standing can be purchased for 75 cents – far less than the $5 it costs to buy a model car at the same scale.

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