Money Grubbing Freaks & Total Flakes

Fast Company recently profiled Denis Weil, McDonald’s VP of concept and design. Denis has been the driving force behind a broad number of initiatives at McDonald’s to go beyond “primary colors and fiberglass booths.” The real take-away of the article, however, is the insight that design solutions must mesh into the operational aspects of the business. According to Weil, “We don’t design in a vacuum here. If an idea doesn’t come alive in the restaurant, it doesn’t work.” That’s a key success factor that is often overlooked in design projects.

This Aussie McDonald’s is emblematic of the global restaurant chain’s new design direction. (Source: Fast Company)
This sentiment is echoed by Peter Lawrence, Chairman & Founder of the Corporate Design Foundation. In a recent interview, again at Fast Company, he talks about the merging of these sensibilities (business & design) through an annual student collaboration between MIT and RISD. In interviewing students who participated in the program, it took students half a semester to learn that “the business students weren’t all a bunch of money grubbing creeps and that designers weren’t all total flakes.” This situation isn’t unique to the educational sphere – it’s just as pervasive within many corporations.

Overcoming it, however, is critical to bringing innovation to market. Only by developing products that achieve business goals as well as user goals can companies be successful. This is often best done at the start of a project and is one of the driving factors behind multidisciplinary teams – one that put designers, researchers, marketing, engineering and product managers on equal footing. By coming together and understanding the problem at hand from multiple perspectives, ideas become stronger and more grounded in reality.

Fast Company – Making Over McDonald’s

Fast Company – Peter Lawrence on Bringing Design to the Business World



Form follows Function, but how do you define Function?

The function of a product is typically viewed as what the product provides in terms of utility. Take the desk for example. It provides a work surface for writing or typing, storage for papers, a dedicated space for items like a phone, stapler, tape and piles of papers. To accommodate various users, some are adjustable in height and have feature that allow them to be expanded with shelves or drawers.

When you think of it, however, the function of a desk is much greater. It’s a personal space in a shared office environment. It’s a venue for personal expression. It’s a place of solitude and separation from the world. It’s a reflection of one’s personality and beliefs. It’s your home away from home. Just to name a few. When we expand on the idea of function to include more than just utility, we begin to really understand the role products play in our daily lives. And it’s through this expanded view of function that we open up entirely new opportunities for innovation.

To see more on the role of the desk in everyday life, take a look at this video…

Sourdough Culture

The WSJ this morning has an article on the obsessive behaviors of people who bake their own sourdough bread.

Ms. Farjado had previously taken her starter from Germany to Fairfax, Va., to Uzbekistan on postings as a foreign service officer for the State Department. She transported it in a water bottle sealed with duct tape. One time, the bottle exploded in Mr. Farjado’s suitcase and covered his clothing with sticky white glop.

When I was an undergrad coordinating the annual student art show at Brown, we had a sculpture that did the same thing. Nancy (the artist)  regurgitated food for a week and filled seven bottles with it (one for each day) and then sealed them. One morning I got a call from the gallery director telling me that a couple of the bottles exploded and I needed to get the artist down to the gallery ASAP. Okay, back to sourdough culture…

I find it fascinating how people can become so obsessive over food. Perhaps that’s what I like about foodie culture. Just think of all those nights spent watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, and Top Chef. Perhaps it’s because I am so completely not a foodie that these people interest me. I mean, food can taste good and be pleasurable, but do these people have some super sensitive taste buds or biological urge that others don’t share?

WSJ “Was that blob in your kitchen born in the Gold Rush?

Was That Blob in Your Kitchen Born in the Gold Rush?

When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war

The NY Times and Armed Forces Journal are reporting that the US military has become infected with PowerPoint. The following slide seems to be the poster child for this meme and has popped up in a number of outlets. Just in case you were wondering, it’s “meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy.” Yeah, that’s pretty obvious.

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter. (excerpt form the NY Times)

Again, from the NY Times article: “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

If you want a deeper analysis and argument against PowerPoint, be sure to check out the article in the Armed Forces Journal. It’s excellent.

As a person who spends way too much time using PowerPoint, I have to say they have a point. Oh, they also have a  term for PowerPoint jockeys in the military… PowerPoint Rangers.I wonder if their berets have little PowerPoint logos on them.

NY Times We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint
Armed Forces Journal Dumb-dumb bullets
UK Mail Online When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war

Guerrilla gardening

The excellent trend watching site Springwise (be sure to sign up for their free weekly email) has an excellent post on a company in LA that sells “seed bombs” for “guerrilla gardening.”

Basically seeds encapsulated in compost that can just be thrown into empty lots and will germinate on their own. An except from their post…

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Common Studio, Greenaid aims to facilitate what it calls “guerrilla gardening” in the many forgotten grey spaces of the urban world, including sidewalk cracks, vacant lots and parking medians. Toward that end, it has reclaimed a series of old, quarter-operated candy machines and converted them instead for use selling seed bombs—mixtures of clay, compost and seeds that can be thrown anonymously into derelict urban sites to (temporarily) reclaim and transform them.

Homemade Pop Tarts, Girl Scout Cookies & Snicker Bars

Never satisfied to let a good thing be, a number of people are attempting to create homemade versions  of yummy treats such as Pop Tarts, Girl Scout Cookies and Snickers bars.

A little Pop Tart trivia for you. Walmart is so good at tracking customer purchases, that they know people stock up on Pop Tarts when they know big storms are coming. Not only that, but specifically Strawberry Frosted Pop Tarts (my personal favorite!). On top of that, Walmart has an internal weather forecaster who tracks the weather and they use his guidance to shift inventory in their warehouses in advance of storms to ensure that they have an ample  supply of Pop Tarts (and other essentials… water, generators, etc.) when the storms hit.

While I applaud their attempt to make a Snickers bar, something seems to be missing in the translation.

The Girl Scout Cookies however look yummy-licious.

See Baking Bites for the cookies…

Smitten Kitten “Home-made Pop Tarts
Instructables “DIY Snicker bars

Food Infographics

I’ve been coming across infographics related to food lately. Here are a couple of them I found interesting…

Information Is Beautiful “Snake Oil Supplements
NYTimes “Factory Food
Cool Hunting “Salt Mountains