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Week 187

Posted by Damien on August 23, 2011

Yes, its true, Keela and Jonathan are working about a hundred and sixty weeks behind me. Hopefully I can bring them up to speed in time for week 188.

Week 188 is likely to be written by a new member of Central: Linda Hoecker. I’m really pleased to be able to welcome Linda to the team. We were previously colleagues at IDEO, which is where for the first time, as Daniel Kushner recently put it, under Linda’s reign the San Francisco office actually ran smoothly. So now Linda is here. At first, to help sort out our studios, and then help prepare us for growth and see where that takes things. We’re lucky to have her, and even within a couple weeks, things have been running better and overall there’s been a lighter step to how we work.

We’re in one of those unenviable situations where there’s only two weeks left to a several year long project. There’s so much to do. 336 photos have to be selected, uploaded and then written about online. All the text and details have to be written. An entire 350 page (and growing) toolkit is being shaped and drafted as we speak. Plans, strategy, business models and launch projects are being hatched. All for our incubated client. Which, now in a couple of weeks, we get to pull the wrappers off of and start speaking publicly about our work with them.

What is exciting about the work with our client is how it will shift into a new kind of relationship where we’re no longer being hired as consultants to help achieve the goals of the client’s organization, but now we’re helping to define the goals as well as develop the opportunities for the client. For us, we get to build an organization of people, infrastructure and parts in order to creatively tackle their goals. It’s really quite a luxury.

BERG BLOKES ICON

As I write this, the BERG fellas are staring at me. From the cover of the latest ICON magazine. On the cover it says, BERG invents the near future. If you don’t already stalk them online, it’s a great piece on them and the three principals (Matts, and Jack). In the article there’s a line I like:

The trouble with the modern world, the guys agree, is that designers are used by business to achieve the goals of business– not the other way around.

Firms like BERG, of which there are but a few, fall into this category of being incredibly smart not just about the process of design, but also business and the system that built stuff falls into. It’s great to see. Inspiring too.

In the near future, which we’ve not yet invented for ourselves, we’re to be dipping our toes into conservation and the complex systems existing there. In the mean time, I must get back to the moving parts of one machine, and contribute to our own, now smoothly running machine.

Week 19

Posted by Jonathan on July 15, 2011

We’ve just installed new high speed internet next-door, as well as increased our bandwidth in the main studio. This also applies to our daily mental capacity. I’m thinking we need to do that with human resources as well, and it just so happens that Central will be growing soon! There is so much going on here, that I’m forgetting to eat.

The studio is in hyper-focus mode with the Exchange Project, which seems like 5 projects in one. We’ve been doing tons of research; scouring academic journals and historical texts, as well as dipping into the ethnographic side of the design process through some field-research trips. Of particular note, from the design side of things, is Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style. I read this front to back when I was in School at RISD, but felt compelled to read through it again. It’s proved most useful for weighing the past few years of professional design work, with more empirical and research based principles for design and typography. It feels great to look at type as a science and craft again.

In contrast, we’ve been doing a lot of research on product design, where designing emotion and experience have proved once again to be as important as designing the product itself. Don Norman speaks to this in his Ted Talk, 3 Ways Good Design Makes You Happy. What’s been especially exciting, is orchestrating all of these principles into design guidelines for our project. We’ve been taking on the monumental, yet very necessary task of pulling data from the best minds in typography, educational design, structured writing, cognitive theory, industrial design, and visual composition – and weighing it against (or using it in compliment to) user driven field studies and personal experience – to create the best designed result.

Almost a thousand sticky notes and an equal number of pages later, we are almost there. I think Keela either has secret powers for staying impeccably organized and on top of things, or isn’t sleeping.

Our research also led us to Alan Turing, who has been called the father of modern computer science. His story is an incredible one to say the least. Check out the trailer for a new film that will be launching later this fall here.

We’ve also been visited by an old friend, the Future Fish Project. And a new friend, John Bielenberg, who helped to start Common with Alex Bogusky, stopped by for a great discussion on bicycles and the SoCap conference, where Damien has accepted an invitation to be a panelist. We’re thrilled about this.

Damien also finished writing his article for Print Magazine, but is still writing … something, which just made me look at the mess of notes on my desk that I have to clean. He was extraordinarily generous and surprised me on Wednesday with a limited silkscreen print, Rise for Japan, hand signed by the designer, Milton Glaser. Thanks, D.

Speaking of Japan, I’ve taken on the responsibility of Creative Directing a class called Design for Social Innovation, at Musashino Art University, in Tokyo. The students are working to develop a collaborative idea generating web platform, to help with the ongoing recovery efforts in Japan. Something like Open Ideo. Although it has fallen out of the news here in the US, there is still so much work to be done. The class is hyper-smart and very talented. If you’re wondering how this actually works, we use facebook as a progress and communication tool, dropbox to exchange files, and skype video calls. Technology is amazing when used in this way.

What a week. I’m going to see Harry Potter. In IMAX.