Start with Why

Almost 2 million people have watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk on leadership called “Start with Why”, including me (several times). If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and spend 18 minutes finding out about the difference between manipulation and inspiration, and how great leaders understand that it’s not about the What. It’s about the Why.

I’m finally reading his book, and it’s enlightening and engaging. I’ll write more about it once I’ve finished it. but the core idea is nicely summarized right here. Check it out.

Pondering black and white

iPhone and Samsung GalaxyWhy does someone choose a white phone and someone else opts for black? And who the hell chooses a brown phone?

I’m sure there are extended studies lurking in the bowels of Apple’s databanks. But I found myself looking at my black iPhone and my wife’s new white Samsung and wondering what those colors say about the device to each of us.

To me, the white phone seems like either an appliance or a personal fashion accessory. An odd dichotomy to be sure.

On the appliance side, the Samsung feels medical. I’d expect it to check my blood sugar level or to know my weight automatically. And that may reflect the intention of home medical devices to appear approachable and friendly, without losing the professionalism and the sterile look of a clean white object.

On the fashion side, it reminds me of a woman’s compact or a piece of plastic jewelry, like a chunky bakelite bracelet.

And, finally, there’s the sheer hipster coolness quality: “Everybody gets the black one. I’ll differentiate myself and get a white one.”

The black iPhone, on the other hand, reminds me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Smooth and sleek. Carved from a slab of obsidian, with its shiny black face and its flat, rectangular form. As with a black car, its high polish becomes more noticeable — and shows every imperfection. Luckily, these are virtually nonexistent, given designer Jony Ive‘s obsessive attention to detail, fit and finish.

In use, however, the black phone disappears. The brightly lit display becomes the entire focus. It seems to me that the black phone is all about the power of the computer inside, whereas the white phone is all about the object itself — visible and noticeable, like the original iPod with its bright white earbuds.

I’m curious to know if you have a white phone, a black phone, or some other color, and to find out what its color means to you. Feel free to leave a comment.

iMac design evolution

iMac evolution

Just a quick visual geek post. What a beautiful set of objects. I think it’s so Interesting to see the “uplift” of the back of the 1998 and 2000 models — never noticed that before, but the 2000 one is much less dumpy in profile.

I also think that the 2002 model with its hemispherical base and adjustable screen is an amazing design. What a brilliant concept.

Every one of these has transformed the industry.

Where’s Google heading Now and why should we care?

Ed Dale is an Australian internet marketing expert, a prolific emailer and blogger, and a predictor of the direction of All Things Web. He’s just posted an insightful article called:

A Pig Just Flew By And He’s Belting Out “Hollywood Nights” 

If you want to understand why SEO based on links is about to go the way of the dodo, why Siri is Apple’s ace in the hole for far more than just selling phones, and why Google+ is not a social network,  you’ll want to read Ed’s post.  To quote Mr. Dale himself:

I’m declaring something a Game Changer.

It will shock you.

Grab a coffee and read this now.

Seriously, read it now.

Artificial intelligence on your wall

Nest Intelligent ThermostatHave you seen the new Nest Learning Thermostat? Designed by some of the guys who brought us the iPod, it’s a simple, smart and beautiful way to control your environment and save energy. It learns as  you use it. You can set it remotely with your smart phone.

Clearly it’s another step toward the robot hive taking over our homes and our lives. Ah, well, that’s a small price to pay for coolness, right? And, dammit, the thing is gorgeous.


Apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steven P. Jobs (Image by Jonathan Mak)

How can I be a designer and not be moved by the death of one of the most brilliant designers of the modern age?

No, Steve Jobs wasn’t a graphic designer or an industrial designer or an interior designer or an architect or a fashion designer. But he was unequivocally a designer.

He envisioned not just products, but a new way of being in the world. A new way of working, and of playing. And he brought that vision to life.

He was the guy who decided things needed to be simple and beautiful. He was the one who dictated removing the clutter and enhancing the experience. He used the hands and hearts and brilliant minds of a huge team of stellar creators to sculpt a company — one that could create objects and adventures so beautifully designed that millions and millions of people wanted them. And wanted to be a part of his new vision of the world as well.

Was that world perfect? Not even close. But designed? Absolutely.

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh in 1984

What a moment to have captured on video. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this was the single defining event that established our new world of technology. Suddenly the power to create and disseminate one’s creation was in the hands of everyone. Onscreen design and desktop publishing became reality, and enabled our entire business. All the basic ideas that have become Facebook, YouTube, WordPress (not to mention Windows, Word and PowerPoint)  were already right there — inside this little beige box.

40 years of practice makes perfect

No, not me. Apple.

Here’s an amazing archive of 40 years of Apple advertising. It took them a while to get it right, but when they did — wow!

Apple ad from 1976

Apple ad from 1976

It’s fun to see how a company with ideas this innovative, this targeted, this elegantly simple, still had to struggle through a whole lot of mediocre concepts to find their voice. Then, of course, in 1981, they hired Chiat/Day. And the earth shook.

Back in the Dark Ages, I did some computer programming. Just a dab of Fortran on those hideous punchcard-driven mainframes they had at UCLA. I thought it was something I ought to know about. But an Apple II was the first personal computer I ever got my hands on. One of my business partners bought it for himself  — he didn’t bring it to the office, since there wasn’t yet anything you could do with it that we needed. Or so we thought. But when he showed me VisiCalc (the precursor to Lotus 123 and Excel) I was blown away. We tend to forget the horrible experience of running estimates through an adding machine, then typing them up by hand. Then having to change one figure and re-doing everything. Auuggh!

Apple changed everything. They realized you had to design the whole computing experience. They introduced us to the graphical interface. They brought us the mouse. Safe to say, there would be no Windows without Apple. But even more than that, they made using a computer fun.

And their advertising reflects all that. “1984” was as cool a commercial as the Macintosh was a computer. The simple ads where translucent, colorful iMacs are arranged like a flower transformed how people perceived the entire category. The iPod billboards were knockouts in their graphic impact and unspoken message of utter coolness. And I can’t wait to watch the new “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” TV spots.

What a treat to be able to look back on this stuff all in one place and revel in all the captured genius.