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.

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).

Selected Reasons For Avoiding an iPhone

As much as I like Apple and its products, ever since I realized how easy it was to change font sizes and make my papers seem longer way back in school – when writing class assigned page minimums as a surrogate for making a point, I won’t be getting an iPhone. Here’s why:

1. Simply too expensive. It’s just a category killer for me to walk around with a phone over a 2-spot. Once I went on a bike ride and got caught in 45 minute rainstorm. Phone was dead … Painful, but not a mortal situation.

2. I’m trying to spend less time on the net: a decent enough phone can do that. Conversation with my dad today about where former Ravens backup Troy Smith is: (ten seconds and I had an answer: Omaha Nighthawks!?). Having conversations where Che king the net is necessary like I’m in a presidential debate alters if not mars the state of conversation, not that I’m wistful, it’s just not that necessary.

… anything more and it’s more like having a device that needs cherishing like, perhaps, an iPad.

3. While I’ve done the phone upgrade thing in the past, never again for me. I went to the bank the other day, and they gave me complications and I had the freedom to just end the relationship right there on the spot. Powerful place to be: like being the swing vote on the Supreme Court. Well, not exactly. The people I the cell contract are the weakest group.

4. The iPod is just as good if not better (price) … (& if they can’t support Bluetooth tethering, then I can wait and if i can’t, I’ll jailbreak the iPod on my current non-iPhone service).

5. The issues with being an early adopter…

6. Insurance on a phone? Remember the days when you bought a phone and it lasted twenty years? The phone at my grandma’s might be older than me. Once the phones got small and powerful, it takes a lot for me to like them even more.

7. Compatibility should be the next frontier and with all those guys suing one another and no two connectors being compatible, building an entire OS is the only way to build them when compatibility should be the way to go… To the degree this pits Google against Apple: Game on. Until the dust settles there some, buying the latest phone means buying a whole lot more than just the phone.

I learned this when I bought a Nike/Philips mp3 player back in 2000. The player was nice and compact but the software was clunky on a Mac and this translated into a great player on a bad system. Apple solved this with the iTunes/iPod integration not only on Mac but surprisingly enough, on PC. Great design, a wide open market & the rest history.

8. I prefer to zag.

9. Open source the phone OS, so it can be “pimped” how I like it… Not possible? Right….

10. Change the paradigm of cell phone service in the States making the plans less punitive and more valuable to the loyal customer … Not possible? Right…