Happy World Industrial Design Day!


Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that’s where creativity arises…They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They’re the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.

– Peter Bregman

Energy-Producing Workspace BY Eddi Törnberg

The thesis project of Swedish student Eddi Törnberg heads in a direction that should be noted. Unplugged is an office that facilitates producing the energy needed to run all of our office electronics through doing everyday activities

Based on the quote “Human nature is above all things lazy” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Törnberg’s thesis came from the belief that society as a whole lacks “the will, interest and energy to struggle to achieve a sustainable society.” So instead, Törnberg created a way around it by deriving energy from things we already do and, since we spend so much of our time working, it’s kind of brilliant.

In Unplugged, there are three techniques used to produce energy: piezoelectricity from the carpet, the chair utilizing the Seebeck effect, and the flower through photosynthesis. (more…)

DIY Closet From Folding Chairs

This is an incredibly clever concept by Yi Cong Lu. These chairs are a simple wooden folding variety and are not permanently affixed to the wall. Yet when opened they stabilize, hold boxes of loose articles and are the perfect width from the wall to hang even the most bulky of garments.

Original article from core77, Re-Thinking Furniture: Innovative Design Explorations by Yi Cong Lu is a pretty good read as well and has a lot of other clever furniture designs.

Far-Fetched Ideas Are Fun, But Innovation Usually Starts Small

Despite what New York Times  editors might think, innovations aren’t always way-out-there ideas. Rather they can be small, incremental changes that better the lives of people.

Innovation is about more than cool. Many of the ideas presented in the feature seem to ignore key elements of human behavior, motivation, and desire. Moreover, the coverage glamorizes innovation and presents it predominantly as those far-out-there ideas, while missing that sometimes innovations with the most impact are the smallest, most obvious ideas. Innovation is about solving people’s problems in a way that’s meaningful to them in the context of their lives. It’s about finding ways to design services, products, and experiences that help people achieve their goals. It’s about making life better for people, on people’s terms, however they define what “better” means.

So beyond the Cool Factor, what else should we keep in mind when we develop innovative ideas? Here are some of our thoughts:

1. Powerful Ideas Can be as Small as a Sack of Beans

When we’re faced with a major problem, we often expect that we need a huge solution to solve it. But innovation doesn’t have to be some big new technology. A solution to a problem as large as global health, for example, may be as small as a sack of lentils. Esther Duflo, of the MIT Poverty Action Lab, has found that incenting Indian families with a kilo of lentils for immunizing their children significantly raises vaccination rates. Duflo’s idea is so effective because it’s based on an understanding of what’s meaningful to the families involved, on their terms. A bag of lentils may seem like a small idea, but it resulted in real, measurable impact.

2. Good Innovations Meet Consumers on Their Terms

It’s the late ’90s, and the diaper wars are on. Huggies and Pampers are caught up in full-fledged battle, trying to come out with the World’s Best Diaper. At the time, both companies thought that “best” translated to “most absorbent,” and they designed their diapers accordingly. But in doing so, they lost sight of what moms cared about: being good moms. Diapers became so thick that wet and soiled diapers could sometimes go undetected for hours.

Continuum partnered with Pampers and helped them redesign their diapers in ways that not only addressed key functional concerns–such as absorbency–but also aligned with what mattered most to moms: supporting the developmental growth of their babies. Something as simple as putting an Elmo graphic on the seat, so moms could easily know which side was front and back, a wetness indicator, and tabs on the front to line up the tape made it easier for moms to change the baby, especially in the middle of the night. We also rebranded the diapers as Pampers Stages to speak directly to moms’ desires to support their babies’ growth, from Swaddlers to Cruisers. Other diapers branded by age; we focused on developmental stages. These small changes made moms feel confident and reassured that they were effectively aiding their babies’ development and shot Pampers to the number-one spot on the market.

 3. Start With Your Vision, Then Work Back to Today

There is value in thinking about pie-in-the-sky, seemingly unattainable ideas. But it’s a matter of how you use those ideas. Often, companies are looking for the strategic ideal to work toward but need some quick wins for right now. And even small changes can have major operational implications that take years to execute. So when we innovate, we first come up with that “lighthouse”–that ideal, almost unattainable experience that we ultimately want to deliver. And then we backcast. We ask ourselves: What are the steps that we can take today that will make an impact while moving the needle on the path toward our ideal? By using this backcasting model, we are able to ensure that each stage of innovation–no matter how incremental–can deliver something that makes an impact for people in the near, mid, and future terms. We always strive to arrive at our ideal, but often we’ve just gotta get there one step at a time.

Small innovations may not garner front-page attention the way big sexy innovations do, but they often make a larger impact in the long run. In fact, I think that some of the most compelling innovations in the Times Magazine‘s innovation issue actually came from the reader-generated “innovation whiteboard” section, tucked away behind the feature article. Most of these ideas are not splashy or particularly wild. But when you read about them, you think to yourself, “Wow, I could really use something like that,” or “Wow, that would really help me,” instead of “Wow, that seems cool.” Because at the end of the day, this is what innovation is really about: Meaningful ideas that solve our problems and make our lives better. No matter how small.


IDSA Portfolio Review

This is for all of you Industrial Design students or recent graduates in the Chicagoland area. It is a great way to network and get feedback about your work from real professionals in the area. If you are interested in attending, please reply to hector.silva8@gmail.com and he will reserve a spot for you. Spaces are limited and this is an awesome opportunity. I alas cannot attend because I will be out of town, so I’m sharing this info with as many people I know. Good luck to anyone who attends!

Facebook Event | IDSA Chicago FB Page

5 Ways Brands Can Fuse Product And Service

For the past 40 years, futurists, economists, and media mavens have debated which business strategies are best suited for the networked, postindustrial era. In his 1971 book, Future Shock, the futurist Alvin Toffler talked about the upcoming “experiential industry,” in which people would be willing to allocate high percentages of their salaries to live amazing experiences.

Companies need to start thinking about the holistic experience between their brands, products, and services. Crafting an experience requires design that considers these three elements of brand, product, and service in order to generate successful results. Any company can be analyzed through these lenses to evaluate the experience it creates for its customers.

A brand is the pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen and felt.

Brands have to empathize with users to understand which elements–measurable or not–shape their experiences, and transform how they work together to create those experiences.

Hoping a Chief Experience Officer will swoop in and save a company is unrealistic. But we can take immediate action in the following ways.

1. Ditch The Brand Book

The days of centrally controlled brands are over. Your brand is a pattern comprised of interfaces, interactions, and experiences. This requires designing for coherence over consistency, allowing you to respond to customer needs in a more relevant fashion. Empowering employees to act autonomously allows them to create better, more personalized experiences.

2. Turn Your Data Into Action

Data, once understood, is an unbiased source of information that reveals customers’ motivations, desires, and pain points. Every designer must dig into the data to discover the meaning behind the metrics. Of course, not all data are created equal. The most helpful approach begins when the right question is being asked, something a cross-disciplinary team is in the best position to do.

3. Share The Wealth

Most of us fight hard for our budgets and have discrete tasks and activities assigned to them. But if the overarching goal is to create products and services your customers will find valuable, then all departments–from product development to branding and marketing–will need to pool resources in order to achieve common goals.

4. Iterate To Innovate

Venture capitalists demand that entrepreneurs fail fast to allow for rapid and efficient understanding of what works and does not. Move toward a more agile approach to product and service design. This will enable you to test, refine, validate, and constantly improve on the customer experience. An agile approach reduces risk while providing the necessary feedback to innovate quickly and appropriately. This requires building in budget and time to prototype, test, and refine.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

Great experiences are the best form of advertising. Your marketing team should be just as focused on creating and improving the product and service experiences as they are on advertising. Use marketing for the insights it generates and enhance products with content experiences your customers will want to talk about.

Ultimately, we all recognize a great experience when we encounter it, but designing your own is elusively difficult. The days of perfect plans within a top-down hierarchy are over. Instead, we need to influence our companies to embrace shared values and product principles. Then, each of us can be a chief experience officer creating memorable experiences and a cohesive, engaging, and delightful brand.


To be less bad is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the best humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the “be less bad” approach: a failure of the imagination.

– William McDonough & Micheal Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Monstrous Discrepancies


Technology + Business + Human Values = Design Innovation