Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AK, all the way!

One of my first posts on this august blog was about one of the most ubiquitous design icons in the world, the
Kalashnikov rifle. About 2 years ago Kalashnikov put out his own brand of Vodka. Now, via Seth Godin, the BBC reports that:

"The Russian inventor of the world's most famous assault rifle has turned his attention to more harmless activities, such as keeping out the rain."



Friday, January 20, 2006

punk, mags, and DIY

Yesterday was an auspicious day for doing it yourself.

In the morning, following a research tangent I found the story of the Dead Kennedy's Pull My Strings. As told in Wikipedia;

On March 25, 1980, the DKs were invited to perform at the Bay Area Music Awards in front of music industry big-wigs to give the event some "new wave credibility" in the words of the organizers. The day of the show was spent practicing the song they were asked to play, the underground hit "California Über Alles". In typically subversive, perverse style, the band became the talking point of the ceremony when after about 15 seconds into the song, Biafra said, "Hold it! We've gotta prove that we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." The band, who all wore white shirts with a big, black S painted on the front, pulled black ties from around the backs of their necks, to form a dollar sign, then tore into the previously unheard "Pull My Strings", a barbed, satirical attack on the ethics of the mainstream music industry. As well as containing the lyrics "Is my c*** big enough, is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star", the song also sent-up The Knack's biggest new wave hit, "My Sharona". The song was never recorded in the studio but this performance, the first and only time the song was ever performed, was released on the posthumous compilation album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death... and the band was never invited to play the awards show again.

I doubt there's anything more hardcore DIY than a punk band writing a new song just to give the industry a stiff middle finger at their own awards show. Awesome.

Then in the evening, IDEO hosted a KnowHow talk with the editors of both ReadyMade and Make: magazines. These mags are both great design-forward incarnations of the modern open-source DIY ethic. Readymade Editor-in-Chief Shoshona Berger and CEO Grace Hawthorne showed some highlights from the magazine and their recent companion book. How to Make {Almost} Anything.

Mark Frauenfelder, one of the editors of Make:, spoke next. Turns out this is the same Mark Frauenfelder that started Boing Boing, and recently was a guest reviewer of laptop bags on Dwell magazine. I didn't get to stay long for Mark's part of the talk, because by that I time I realized a confluence of personal circumstances:

one: It was Shop Night, where the IDEO shop stays open late for people's personal projects.

two: The wife and kids were out at a rare weeknight playdate.

three: I therefore would be able to finish the Bench, a DIY project I had started almost a year ago, and stalled out on due to a lack of time and heavy power tools.

I raced back to the Eichler, grabbed the loose pieces (OK, lugged is more accurate; I had designed the legs of the bench to be flame cut out of solid steel; which is heavy) and raced back to the Shop to cause some table saw danger and make sawdust. An hour later, I had finished the bench seat, and an hour after that I had the bench legs pounded on with a rubber mallet, just before the wife and kids got back from the playdate.

the bench:
legs: steel, flame cut and clear powder coated
seat: redwood lumber, untreated
assembly: pounding, lots of it. note spring pin retainer. as if.
play: zero, due to the fine custom fit (ie pounding)
sturdiness: excellent, much better that I expected.
getting it finished: priceless

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Design paths: give vs want

John Maeda of the MIT media lab mused this summer about whether its more productive to improve a product's performance, or its desirability. -whether to go down the path of what you can give the product, or down the path of finding what someone wants from the product. Metacool recently discussed this musing, and Maeda's conclusion to "do both."

I dont quite agree, in the sense that I think there can be a convergence rather than a divergence.

Here are my comments from the metacool post:

Consider the context. For instance, how many electronic gizmos couldnt really stand to have one more feature added? down-featuring a product like that might actually make it more desirable.

Maeda's two paths can be rewritten as:
"what can we give the consumer?"
"what does the consumer want?"

In many organizations... these two questions are answered by seperate and competing groups.

Perhaps, the realization that making the product/experience actually better -whether that means more desirable, up-featured, down featured, hip, anti-hip,whatever- is the point where Maeda's two paths become the same path, and one ends up doing what is necessary, and no more.

in other words, "what can we give the consumer, that they want?"

I think its important to find that convergent path.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

metacool: Total Design

Metacool calls dibs on 2006. Diego's staked out this year as the Year of Total Design:

"Total Design is to normal design as Total Football is to normal soccer. It's what happens when you combine wickedly good design thinkers with a human-centered, business-sensitive design process. "

Previous posts on design:

More on ideas to reality
Thinker-Uppers vs Idea Massagers
Navel Gazing + bad rock and roll analogy
What design isn't
Target getting it
Nussbaum on design
flux in the design biz
Talking About Design
Simplicity, Design, and Corn
Totally Chaotic!
Premium vs Luxury
Is Innovation Finished Or Isn't It?
Design Lust at Target's Pharmacy
Millenium Challenge 2002 and Design Thinking
Losing The Conversation, Taking It back