NBA draft picks


The recent NBA draft got me thinking, what does this have to do with design?  You might think, “nothing” since American team sports and designers in general don’t seem to mix, maybe its that “I’m an artist” vs. “I’m a team player” mentality, but that’s for another post.

Work with me here for a sec. Let’s look at some NBA draft results over the course of a few years.

Atlanta Hawks – 2005 – Selected Marvin Williams ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul

Detroit Pistons -2003 – Selected Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Golden State Warriors – 1996 – Selected Todd Fuller over Kobe Bryant,  Steve Nash


Los Angeles Clippers – 1988 – Selected Michael Olowokandi ahead of Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce

And arguably, the biggest mistake…

Portland Trail Blazers – 1984 – Selected Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan


The process of the NBA draft is full of analysis.  Players come in for workouts (testing prototypes), lots of statistics (intensive research), analysis on how they fit as part of the team (portfolio analysis), then ultimately making the selection (placing the bet on the product).  The “companies” spend 2-3 years doing this research on any given player.

Look above again, all that testing, research and ultimately, placing the bet on how to move forward, sometimes, just doesn’t pay off.  Look at how many “bets” ended up as busts.

The Design connection: lots of research, data and testing doesn’t always pay off, especially if the data is wrong (duh, but lots of people don’t realize they are just looking at bad data), as in the examples above.  Even if the research was right, just seems like there are so many other factors that can turn things upside down that data doesnt seem to uncover.  What’s the current economic condition? What’s the competition doing? Did your product/idea have a hidden flaw? Your product tested well, but just didn’t perform in the real world, that’s full of so many unknowns. But that’s what’s great about life, it always throws you a curve. (sorry for the mixed sports metaphor)

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate research, but i also think you can’t go overboard and you can’t let that drive every last decision you make.

Sometimes, you just gotta let passion drive…

swine flu and design


On my way home, NPR was interviewing a psychologist about people’s fear of the unknown, in this case, Swine Flu. Basically, the Doctor was saying that people are afraid of Swine Flu because no one can connect the dots around who might get it or not, hence it seems, random. He went on to say that even though statistically, more people die from driving cars and crossing busy streets, people and the press don’t seem to obsess over this. Why? His theory was that driving cars and crossing busy streets puts the user in control, hence it feels like a normal experience, nothing noteworthy to speak of.


So your chances of dieing are greater on the streets but since people aren’t in control of Swine Flu, it becomes a larger issue in their minds. So is it fair to say that people start to act irrationally when it comes to things unknown even though statistics prove there are larger issues at hand?  Why don’t people wear bright orange safety vests when crossing the streets?


So how does this connect to design? In design research, consumers are asked to comment on something really new. Ask a bunch of people about something they aren’t sure about, have no prior knowledge of and something they haven’t experienced before, basically, the unknown, how do you think they’ll respond? What is the psychology of the response? Will they be able to provide a rational answer? Will they try to tap into what they know but can’t since they are being asked to comment on the unknown and answer irrationally? People don’t want to sound stupid, yeah? So will they hide their fear of the unknown and pull a response out of their ass, hence sounding stupid?  Dooohh!

Good researchers will say that how the respondents are recruited and how research itself is conducted should prevent those irrational answers.  But does that weird psychology take over anyhow?

Do polls matter?


Designers typically hate it when people “vote” to make design decisions.

I just figured out how to add polling software to this blog…so how about this, a poll about a poll…

do you like polls? (select as many answers as you like)

View Results

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the Jenga Economy

The economy has been a like game, one where people have built up an interwoven, towering system, full of money, profit and excess. It starts with a small Tower, filled with resources. Each player takes turns, removing resources without regard to the overall system. They reinvest what they have taken, to make that tower bigger with the goal to create the biggest empire possible. Sounds fun yeah? The Tower is growing, people are making money, everyone is happy. The only thing the players see is that growing Tower of wealth, and even though its right in front of their faces, its foundation is becoming weaker and weaker. They have selfishly used all the resources without regard to the overall system. Something about the game won’t let them stop, many could walk away rich but the game entices them to keep going. In the end, it all comes crashing down. Everything was dependent on each other…and everyone is out. Remind you of Jenga? Let’s hope there wont be a Jenga Environment that comes crashing down on us as well. So what to do? Fortunately, there’s hope with President Obama in office. People on the top floor of that Tower, all now hangin’ with everyone, at the bottom. So time to band together and rebuild, collectively as one. From Barack’s inauguration, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” Thanks to Dan Clements for the conversation that led to the jenga analogy.

Sottsass and Miami Vice: commonalities?

Are we ready for the return of Memphis? Has the clean simple look run it’s course? Will the Apple iphone not look like an ipod with a dial pad but have big bold round shapes, oh, uh ok, the 2nd gen Imac did that…you remember, round hemisphere, rectangular display… Well whoever designed this little gem for Krups had memphis on the mind. My question, is that Sottsass frowning? Or, maybe Krups commissioned some guy, oh say Matteo Thun to do this piece. Well, just to be sure, i checked his website and didnt find this in any of his recent product design work…but I did find that he designed the nice little espresso cups for illy, modern, but playful.

Well back to original question, is Memphis making a comeback? Early 80’s, you know Miami Vice, pink and teal. 20 years old, that’s about the right time for a new take on retro. Let’s think about this, Miami Vice was remade…and pink, well pink was a big hit last year, so is Memphis ready?…you decide.

The Genious of Observation

and the power of documentation.

Was Da Vinci the grand inventor that many claim him to be or just one of the most astute observers of our time? So maybe I’m on Da Vinci overload. I recently saw the movie, then went to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (one of the best science museums I’ve been too, though I’d still say the Exploratorium in San Francisco has a richer hands on experience) Anyhow, no doubt that Da Vinci was one of the smartest and chock full of talent, but after leaving this exhibit, you’d think that Leonardo invented just about everything in the modern world. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoyed the exhibit, but seeing this exhibit made me think back to my art history classes in design school. Think of all the things that were done before Leonardo. The Parthenon, 450BC. This is a serious feat of design and engineering, 1800 years before Da Vinci.

How about the Mayans? They were around from about 250 to 900 CE. They were claimed to be one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of all pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas.

How about Archimedes? The Chicago exhibit shows the water screw and does give credit to Archimedes, but one part of the exhibit claims that Da Vinci invented the death ray made of mirrors to fend off attacking ships. If my facts are right, Archimedes gets to claim this one too, though the folks at MIT and the Mythbusters have busted this one.

One could go on and on about what was invented first and when, but here’s where I think Leonardo was genius, he documented everything he saw. And yes, he had his share of inventions and improvements on ideas that he had seen.

So here is something for all us inventor/designers to think about, you could be first with the idea, maybe even get it in the public domain, but if you don’t claim that you did it without some kind of documentation, well you may be shit out of luck. (Note, this isn’t an endorsement for the Patent Lawyers Association either) Here’s something else to think about, maybe our famed inventor didn’t care to claim to be the originator. Maybe he was just creating a vast, detailed visual dictionary, but since he’s not around to tell the story, the press and media tell it for us. And finally, maybe all Da Vinci was doing was trying to be the best, most creative and curious problem solver he could possibly be, no fame, no fortune, just the love of exploration and invention. No PR, no stories, just pure passion. 500 years later, he’s got his fame, I wonder if his family got the fortune!

Say what? huh?

In Japan, keeping your ears free from wax is serious business. I saw this in Engadget and had to laugh.

It says, “Though it’s not really a common topic of dinner conversation in the States — “Who’s been cleaning your ears at Yale, Son?” — the Japanese have a certain fondness for the act of ear cleaning.”” If you havent figured it out, its an ear pick with a mini scope so you can see all the amber goo in your ear!

The reason this is so funny is that a friend told me a story of her first trip to Japan. She brought back these really cute figurines on the end of a sticks. She thougth, wow look at all these cool characters, so she bought a bunch to bring home. Little did she know, she was buying ear picks! She showed them to me and when I told her what they were used for, she got grossed out and had that 🙁 look on her face. She got over it and kept her ear picks, I just wonder if she’s using them for ear cleaning or something else. Be careful of what you buy overseas, I guess it could have been something more embarrasing.


This one is for all Vespa lovers. I wonder if all these lights work? I barely get any light out of my one headlamp on my old P200. This must have 20 batteries, somewhere!

On a serious note, does personalization equal passion equal the need to express oneself? Passion coming from the “end user” that is. (i hate that word, user, its not like we’re not talking drug users here) Anyhow, think about it, when someone really loves something inanimate, like a car, or a laptop or a vespa, that’s when they take the object to the next level by making it more their own, by customization. You don’t see too many people customizing their Camry’s do you, just not inspiring in the first place. That said, seems like passion begets passion.


USB drives have definitely hit the “commodity” stage. Check out this piece of USBling from Kingmax (found on Gizmodo) as well as this goofy, but fun stuff from Dynamism. As pricing for this type of storage drops, I say let’s have fun with this. Add some real bling, like diamonds, give a few out to some pop stars like Jessica Simpson (that is if she can use a computer) or Paris and you’ll instantly move this from commodity to specialty. Think of the margins then! See my other link to see how designers are creating more USBling: Tech addiction For the story on Kingmax: