Powerful consumers? Not always.

The ever-provocative Seth Godin wrote this about the power of the producer (i.e. the creator, manufacturer, provider to the consumer):

Producers and consumers

In the short run, it’s more fun to be a consumer. It sure seems like consumers have power. The customer is always right, of course. The consumer can walk away and shop somewhere else.

In the long run, though, the smart producer wins, because the consumer comes to forget how to produce. As producers consolidate (and they often do) they are the ones who ultimately set the agenda.

Producers do best when they serve the market, but they also have the power to lead the market.

The more you produce and the more needs you meet, the more freedom you earn.

And it reminds me of a TED Talk by Thomas Thwaites on “How I Built a Toaster From Scratch”. We live in a world where almost nothing we use, touch, interact with, is something we could actually make ourselves. As powerful as we are as a society, we are pretty incompetent as individuals. We need the producers, and each other.

Pollution-free solution to our energy needs?

I’ve often wondered what’s been happening with the idea of harnessing the powerful, predictable movement of the oceans’ tides to create electricity.

It seems obvious, but then you’d have to look at how to actually do it, and how to keep it all maintained and functioning. Machinery below the waterline is subject to everything from electrolysis to corrosion to barnacles. Just keeping a boat hull working decently requires a lot of maintenance. What about a giant generator?

Well it looks like somebody’s figuring it out. And to maintain this thing, you bring it up the surface, clean it off, and then lower it back down. At least that’s what seems to be happening in this video.

Sure hope this works! It could be part of the solution to global warming.

(Thanks, Eric!)

The power of design to heal

One of the most amazing things about great design is how it merges function and emotion. The power of a beautifully designed product goes far beyond decorating or styling or even marketing. The best design actually means something to people. It can change lives.

Here’s one example of how industrial design can be used to transform a person’s self-image while it simultaneously transforms the way their body functions. Touching and beautiful—see what design can do for a missing limb. (Thanks to Gabe for sharing this.)

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.

Quora: What are the best new products that people don’t know about?

African kids using Lifestraw

Yeah, this Quora article title is ripe for self-promotional mediocrity. But much of it is actually amazing. Some brilliant — even life-changing — solutions to everyday problems. I couldn’t stop reading.

  • A bicycle made of cardboard that’s waterproof, fireproof and will cost third-world riders $9.
  • A smart pitcher that tells you when your milk is sour — invented by sixth-graders.
  • A genome sequencer that costs about $1,000 and can sequence an entire human gene set in a few hours, vs. the 13 years and $4 billion it took to do the first one 8 years ago.
  • The wonderful, practical Bobble water bottle that filters your water as you drink it (we own two of them).

And so much more. Check it out — it’ll get added to as people discover the page.

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.

Boom!!

Exploding fireball in pink and yellowIf you love design and have not yet discovered the Designboom daily email, trust me. You’re not getting your Vitamin D.

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