Aug: Sites/ideas to play with

Inspiration for when your “new ideas” bucket gets dry.

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HOW Live Conference

Earlier this month, I attended the HOW Live Conference in Boston, MA. It was full of interesting talks. Here are some highlights:

Sagi Haviv: Partner & Designer, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

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The old State Farm logo was difficult to read and was in need of a modern take on it. However, when the firm proposed simplifying the pictogram, they received significant pushback from the CEO. Haviv was told that they needed to keep the rounded square border.

In order to convince State Farm to ditch the rounded square border altogether, they put together a number of logos that had been redesigned recently. Then, they showed what the halfway point of those logos would be.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.15.40 AM.pngThis convinced State Farm to go with the simplified three-oval approach.


Stephen Gates: Head of Design Transformation, LinkedIn; Creator of The Crazy One Podcast

Stephen talked about the importance of design in large companies and how to build trust and confidence in design.

He asked us:

  1. Can you express the value of your team beyond your work?
  2. What is your team’s identity outside of the company.
  3. Create a scalable ecosystem for design: As a design team, what are your set of beliefs?

He also talked about his framework for thinking about design environments inside a company:Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.02 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.35 AM.png

This helped to visualize an idea that I’d been personally trying to capture for a long time. It’s a handy tool to help you think about where your design team is and where it can go.


Daniel Pink: #1 New York Times Bestselling author

Daniel Pink spoke about the science of perfect timing. Using big data, he has developed principles for everyone to use for when to accomplish certain kinds of tasks.

Pink talks about how everyone has a chronotype.

15% are early birds, 20% are night owls and the rest are “third birds.” Most people see a peak, a trough and then a recovery in their day to day work performance.  
= People tend to perform better at the beginning of the day.

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He talked about using timing to work better and smarter. If you know that you have more energy at the beginning of the day, use it to do analytical work. Set time aside in the afternoon when you’re more sluggish to do administrative work.

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In large organizations, my experience has been that having too many ongoing projects at the same time for the same product leads to a messy outcome. The ideal scenario involves everyone having a single vision and general focus area.

Imagine you’re designing a sushi restaurant. There are 3 different leaders of this sushi restaurant. One of them wants to focus on sashimi, one wants to diversify the palette with western food and one wants to serve regular sushi. While they all have unique strengths that they can bring to the table (no pun intended), the marketing ad and menu for that restaurant will start to get really confusing.

Here’s a real life example. Public transit in the bay area is managed by multiple agencies. CalTrain runs north/south of the peninsula, Muni serves San Francisco and Bart connects the northern half of the peninsula to East Bay. Additionally, VTA serves San Jose and South Bay cities and AC transit serves East Bay towns. I’ve run into more confused tourists in San Francisco than anywhere else, because no one knows which bus/tram/train to take. When I first arrived in the city, I was dumbfounded by how nonsensical the system was. In contrast, Boston’s MBTA is responsible for the commuter rail, subway system and buses.


Above: San Francisco transit systems

I feel that the same applies to tech products as well. Vurb was an app that helped you figure out what to do in your spare time. You could plan an event with friends, whether it was concerts, music or theatre. They had a lot of interesting concepts – especially that of collaborating with other folks on getting together, but it was hard to figure out when exactly I would need this app. They couldn’t gain mass traction and sold to Snapchat for $110 million+. However, apps like Instagram have remained resilient in today’s mature app market because it does one thing really, really well. It allows people to share a moment through a photo and for other people to see that photo. Its simplicity is what allows it to work.


To create a product that people will use, its purpose must be clear and intentional. It seems obvious, but often we try to stack too many features on top of a product, which makes it less desirable in the end.

That’s probably a sign for me to give this blog a focus. Until next time!



Great User Experience in Real Life

Demilked had a great article on products that have well-thought designs. I want to highlight 8 of my favorite ideas here.

  1. Actual towels for makeup removal. It’s useful, because I hate ruining really nice, white towels with dark mascara.


2. This shower knob has the temperatures on it, so you’ll know what your favorite showering temperature is.


3. This highlighter finally lets you see what you’re highlighting.


4. This bench can be cranked so if it’s wet, you can still turn it to get a dry surface.


5. More fruits and vegetables could use stickers like this one.


6. Color-coded baskets that indicate to staff whether you’d like help while shopping.


7. Chair with slot for bag handle.


8. This carton tells you how many more glasses of juice you have left.




Simple and Practical Product Designs

As a former student of industrial design, it’s often fun to go back and study how other people are currently designing everyday objects around us to be easier to use. Below are a few good ones that I’ve stumbled upon recently.


The Bare Chair (Leano) by Nik Lorbeg – Design Boom | Ridiculously portable. Easy to make.

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The Sticky Feet Flex Mount aka Gekkopod by Gal & Boaz Zucker | Works on any surface.

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The 160 deg. Socket by Zhoucun Yu | Great for large plugs.


A Critique of the Life Cycle Assessment



This was a response paper I wrote for a class, so forgive the essay-ness of the format.

 The LCA is a useful tool for companies who want to move beyond simply complying with industry standards and find ways to reduce their products’ impact on the environment. It can be difficult to find accurate data at times enable to conduct the LCA, but it’s honest. Whether it’s making a difference is another story. The Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) states specifically that the “life cycle assessment is a ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach for assessing industrial systems. ‘Cradle-to-grave’ begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point when all materials are returned to the earth” (1). Although the SAIC touches on the recycling and reuse of material, expressing the assessment as a “cradle-to-grave” approach makes it more difficult to make the leap to “cradle-to-cradle.” 

Because analysts to can use the LCA to “compare the health and ecological impacts between two or more rival products/processes or identify the impacts of a specific product or process” (3), this approach is still mainly working within the existing system of product manufacturing. The database of materials and processes are limited to what is currently being used rather than necessarily what could be used. For example, to lower the eco-toxicity of a flashlight, one could change the material from primary aluminum to recycled or secondary aluminum. Even if the other materials and processes remain the same, the company can still say that are helping the environment. All this is does is change the “bad” into the “less bad.” 

What if the LCA did not only focus on the negative impacts of the product to the environment, but also on the positive impacts? Currently, if trim/scrap from the manufacturing process is reused, “they are considered ‘home scrap,’ which is part of an internal recycling loop. These materials are not included in the inventory analysis, because they do not cross the boundaries of the subsystem” (22). Because they’re not included in the in the inventory, this does not move the product’s impact towards a positive or negative direction. If products of consumption created excess trim that was beneficial for the environment, there would be no way to gauge its positive impact within the current LCA format. 

When a business is trying to advocate for sustainability, they want to be able to use the LCA to determine how much environmental impact their products cause. The LCA is a great way to understand how in need one’s product may be of a redesign. Yet, the LCA may propel the thinking that reduction along with reuse and recycling, is the only way to go; it’s an assessment that’s specifically about the cradle-to-grave procedure, allows people to work only with what data that is available for materials and processes, and expresses impacts in only negative terms. Instead of operating under this system of scarcity, we need reinvention and restructurization of what materials should be used and how they should be processed to create goods. Hence, it’s ultimately “less bad,” and not enough.


 1. United States: Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Life Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice. Cincinnati: Scientific Applications International Corporation, 2006.