Lamest Contest Ever …

I just saw the lamest pitch for a crowd-sourcing contest ever: Mark Cubans’ pitch to redesign the Dallas Mavericks’ uniforms. quite obviously, it’s not THE LAMEST ever. That is courteous of your local church/synagogue/mosque etc., and is a “contest” to redesign the organizational bulletin for your mother’s friend or something.

Obviously, having designed the Dallas Mavericks uniforms would bring with it some bragging rights, and, sure, Cuban’s status as a mogul, business thinker, and Shark Tank all around smart guy, is a person whose attention may be worth having, leaning into other people’s problems for “some tickets” is comical. I like the fact that Cuban has a disregard for all sorts of rules, but seriously.

We live in a world of serious disconnect of design — on one end, we fawn over red-carpet stars who are “wearing” something you could tell me was bought at Nordstrom Rack, where, of course, they’ll pay thousands. Sure the design is unique and thoughtful, but to some extent there is some hiding and coasting and some design is flat, if not a disaster at other times. Yet on the other end, somebody’s going to sweat themselves and use IDEO-like best practices (not IDEO, of course, because who would touch this for … Tickets?) to develop a whole new vision for the Mavericks to have it buried in a contest because some staffer doesn’t like teal? … Just sayin’, it happens, for sure.

While not against contests per se, I’m against stupid ones …

Bikeconomics

I finally fixed my primary bike — which cost me a little bit, but kudos to my older bike which I’ve been riding for some time now.

I bought it at a yard sale about ten years ago now, that $25 bike (circa 1993 Specialized Epic) was high-end twenty years ago and a ride the other day gave me this revelation: “… if you ain’t in shape you can talk all you want about the newest bells and whistles, deep-dish carbon fibre rims, aero modifications, lightness and the like, but if you’re not in shape, beyond a certain point, you might as well be riding a tricycle.”

… And the return per mile on that used bike albeit about ten years old when I bought has to be astronomical: $25 and it’s put in mile after mile without complaint or problem.

“It is sad that so many creations today are just like the rest. It is why Porsche must remain independent. Without independence, without the freedom to try new ideas, the world will not move ahead, but live in fear of its own potential. … Committees lead to creations that have no soul, no identity. This is why no Porsche will ever be created by a committee, but a handful of people inside these walls who know what a Porsche is.”
— Dr. F. Porsche

Porsche356
IMG_20130221_150401-#2

I was in a meeting where a CEO lamented that getting things through her board is difficult—can’t remember the exact characterization. Suffice to say, allowing a board to be a board is a tricky thing. Clearly there are times when a board helps vet an organization’s process, but there are other times when in the process of creation a board is best poised to allow the process to happen in the hands of the creators. A book I read called The Visionary’s Handbook suggests that even in the big company, certain divisions should be treated as if they were very small, giving entrepreneurial power to this force of creation. This type of independence is rare, even in the automotive world.

Unless you’re Porsche.

And with that I thought back to one of my most cherished quotations from what has become somewhat of a design hero for me, the patron of Porsche. I don’t know when exactly this was said, but one things for sure, anytime through the end of World War II, the amalgamation of car companies was rampant. This process saw the end of many storied brands. But for some there was the time to double down and work to come up with that next big thing.

The 356 was one such number. A roadster prelude to my favorite car, the 911, this car had the simplicity of design and a sheer level of enjoyment to see. And if driving a Karmann Ghia is half the experience—probably half the engine—then it must have really been something.

Ray Lewis: The Trump Card

Ray Lewis -- King Card

I knew when my Mom called me twice during the AFC Playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday, the game had hit a chord with the wide populace of Baltimore. My Mom barely watches football and she called to tell me that the game was a “miracle” for the Ravens. Well, I was certainly impressed with their spirited play tying and beating the Broncos on the road, but I kinda thought it was more like a blown coverage at the worst possible moment for Denver allowing for the Flacco bomb to reach paydirt. That said, an amazing game.

Whatever one wants to call it: miracle, heart, never-say-die etc., Ray Lewis has always been able to elevate his game — and inspire the team to do so at the right time. That is truly an aspect of his greatness, in that he inspires it in others. Thus, even as good as he has been throughout his career, he was always been more than the sum of his parts. And the team has been more than the sum of a stat-sheet. A factor often difficult to account for when betting against he Ravens.

Here's hoping that Griffin takes care of himself a little more when he's hurt.
Here’s hoping that Griffin takes care of himself a little more when he’s hurt.

Nice to see RGIII’s debut at the NFL level. One has to hope he doesn’t do a number like “The Natural” and be hurt so bad that his prime is missed and he becomes a shell of his actual ability. No harm in sliding (unless you’re Michael Vick). Even with all the comments which question why he wasn’t taken out, etc., the onus needs to be on him to recognize that if he doesn’t get himself checked out, good chance no one will.

mac-moments …

With the passing of Steve Jobs, there’s no shortage of reminiscenes of Apple and its impact on design and, of course, the computer world.

I’m watching a show called “MacHEADS” (2010) — pre-empting my F1 watching — which covered the Apple story and aptly pointed out that in ’96, the company was on the verge of no longer existing. (Talk about a death-watch, ’96 was the last time the Orioles made the playoffs).

Jobs’ death has me personalizing the history of Apple as my own remembrances of him is in the wake of the ways Apple touched me.

1. My first remembrance of Apple is from college when all the PC labs were full and I had a paper due the next day.

After waiting some time, I just decided I had to use whatever computer to finish my paper and settled on the sparsely populated Mac Lab. Some hours later: a non-spectacular paper resulted (I got a “C”). Over the trauma of a large essay written overnight, I found how easy it was to edit and change fonts on the word processor. Back then, changing fonts was huge — even nearly a decade after Apple’s landmark commercial.

2. Fierce loyalty to Macs then came with the territory. Studies at the time compared the architecture of design programs on computers and showed how much more efficient they were on Macs over PCs.

I remember the last days of college and being at the end of the (free) “escalator” of access to programs and computers and thinking how great Macs were for designing anything. There was so much more out there, but for me it was a start.

When I got a job, networking in those days was an afterthought after having worked in the techology deficient government. (I used to enter payroll on a computer that looked like that one on Lost and you didn’t know if you made a mistake until two weeks later when you saw the aggregate report).

In the design office though, there was the powerful computer, the design programs and the printer (office and final project printing): all else was extra. I remember only checking e-mail three times a day (once in the morning, after lunch and on the way home — boy that’s changed). Often, the nightmare came in when I needed to interface with PCs.

From those experiences, most Mac Users I knew had nearly as much — if not more — experience working/fixing their computers/setting up networks/dealing with setbacks as the tech companies that set up the networks. (One thing I never agreed with was calling the help desks ‘Genius Bars’.)

3. Jobs’ reemergence translated into pushing the Mac into the hands of Hollywood in big ways as I became stoked when Mac products were the computers used in movies and the like. It seems like ages ago now, but the early days of Sex & The City — and Carrie’s Powerbook was another example that helped translate the iconic nature of the Mac (the scene I saw immediately validated the design update of flipping the logo to appear right-side-up for the viewer).

4. The opening of the store: time was when the push to open Apple Stores was a big gamble.

Witnessing first-time users, Apple products were big on the uptake when people viewed them — and had the chance to see them at work. For someone like me, it had always been a modern museum and a vision of what my office should look like.

5. The iPod. The iPod — even the early ones were amazing pieces of hardware which led the process of chipping away at what the experience of music buying and listening has become. Equally important was iTunes in my view. Creating a Mac and PC environment to develop workflow for the music market was critical to the success of the iPod.

I personally remember betting against the cost of an iPod and getting a Nike/Philips mp3 player. In the end, I was wrong: the software and the flash storage of the iPod reigned supreme back when a 10gb click-wheel iPod was something to have. The mp3 player software just wasn’t as good. Also, Apple also developed a strategy to cut through the piracy of mp3s where there was no structure up until then.

6. For years, my desktop computer was a G4 Cube. Great computer. Great form factor.

7. Somewhere in here has to be noted the failure of Microsoft Windows to take advantage of its size advantage in the mid 90s coupled with the gaffes and problems with its operating systems. Mac proved over and over people could have more computer as long as the penalty of translating their work from a PC-world wasn’t too steep (email, MS Office, internet, etc.)

8. The iPhone and iPad. Both of these devices are enough by themselves to be great accomplishments, though I don’t own either. I always had a love-hate relationship with Mac products so that I never wanted to be the early adopter (I have a thing against expensive phones and being an early-adopter who gets caught out there in technological no-man’s land.)

I just heard a 1996 Jobs interview on Fresh Air where he talked about the post-PC world that takes full advantage of an internet connected world. The “think different” mantra of Apple, coupled with some high-end failures opened the conditions that led to well-curated products that also successfully cultivated content as well (iTunes/appStore popularity).

Well, I considered lining up my Macs for a portrait to send in to the New York Times as they were requesting today, but this portrait is more satisfying in that not all my Mac products are still around (sold The Cube on eBay/threw out the Powerbook).