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Week 203

Posted by Keela on December 08, 2011

 

5:10pm. Standing guard.

This week…

Well, we got a new coffee maker. I broke the old one. It had it coming anyway, always dripping coffee everywhere when I try to pour a cup. The new one is shiny and brews a mean cup. I’m the only one who uses it…so happy early Christmas to me.

I’ve switched to the drip coffee maker from our regular nespresso machine. I attribute this to the volume of work. Large projects, big tasks and up-hill climbs call for a big pot of coffee, refilled every 40 minutes or so. It’s especially needed when editing. A proper cup of drip coffee is a must when editing a long paper, or Re:Vision Toolkit for that matter. Read a sentence, take a sip, read a paragraph…hold the cup and ponder. Coffee in one hand, pen in the other,  can’t edit a paper drinking espresso … you’d be wired with ink everywhere .… not red of course. I’ve learned that writers don’t really like red pen all over their work. It makes sense, I just never really thought about it being offensive. I use a green fine-tip sharpie…sometimes blue, although they do go through the page which is a drag.

Did you hear about the word of the year…it’s occupy, well so says Geoff Nunberg.

“The occupiers were romantics, holy fools, anarchists. Or they were an incoherent mob of dirty hippies — and with iPads, moreover. I make “dirty hippie” a strong candidate for comeback word of the year. It would have vanished from the language years ago if it hadn’t been kept on life support on South Park.” I’m right there with you Geoff, Dirty Hippie…comeback word.

Because it’s my last weeknote of 2011, I’d like to switch it up a bit. The end of the year is about reflection of the past 350 days or so, big events, milestones hit, new additions. So, I’d like to end with my Central highlights for 2011…

Best of List for Central 2011

1. Studio arrangement-We finally cracked how to arrange the studio, and it only took 5 NORDEN dining room tables and 7 EXPEDIT shelves.

2. Interns-We had two outstanding interns, Emma and Kathleen for our incubating client Re:Vision and now we have one of our very own, Maria, stellar researcher and all around smart cookie.

3. Squiggle T’s-flying off the shelves like hot cakes…well really given away like hotcakes in our attempt to establish some sort of Squiggle army. You all know who you are.

4. Linda the studio ninja-always 3 steps ahead of you, always smiling, always has cookies…sometimes the German ginger ones.

5. Our obsession with Tinkering Monkey and the new foam core rails that were installed yesterday. Now our 4’x8’ foam cores are 100% usable space, up from a measly 66%.

6. Cute Kitten Project Management-(compliments of Damien) in development. Let’s just say you better be pretty accurate with your projections or someone…or thing might get hurt.*

7. Alabamboo-2500 miles on a hand-made bamboo bike…we were just glad to be a part of their journey.

8. The Central Chicken compliments of Tom, our hot-blooded contractor.

9. Weightshift…and the “how fast can you launch a website project” see current website, or Central V1 or V2 for their past work.

10. Damien announcing he was giving up espresso…both times.

11. The Re:Vision Toolkit, always talked about never revealed…until now. It’s still in development, but things are coming along…thanks to the Cute Kitten Project Management tool. Coming soon to a Central shop near you.

Happy holidays to you all. See you in 2012.

*No animals were hurt in the writing of this post.

 

Week 196

Posted by linda on October 20, 2011

As I get my weeknotes ready the espresso machine hums in the background. The printer is churning out toolkit proofs for Keela to review and Christy’s fingers are feverishly typing away on her laptop.  The weather is thankfully cooler now.  I welcome the fog since the A/C is confused and against my wishes (and relentless button pushing) pumps out heat.  As a result our contractor melted.  Sorry Tom.  I’m sure I’ll soon hear the hum of space heaters and the clicks of resetting circuit breakers.  Maybe we should have a Squiggle hoodie?  Which brings me to some cool news!

New Squiggle T’s are here!!  Check them out, orange squiggle on a navy background, looks really good.  Sizes are limited to women’s medium and x-large.  For the men we have large, x-large and a few xx-larges available. We haven’t updated the store to show the orange squiggle T or that we have the XL sizes available so please make sure to leave me a comment on your order that you want the orange squiggle and size if it’s one of the XL or XXL.

In other news, if you follow us you know we’ve been helping out with the Alan Turing documentary.  There’s been a lot of interesting events since our last mention of Turing.  Recently Warner Bros. outbid others for the rights to the script and Leonardo DiCaprio is most likely to play Alan Turing.  I’m really excited to hear this because it reminds me of another film DiCaprio acted in that increased the popularity of other documentaries *cough* Titanic *cough*.  I remember weeks after I watched the movie I sought real stories, real footage and pictures from that time. I was glued to the History channel, Discovery and even got a sneak peak at one of the largest complete hull pieces of the ship when it came through San Francisco.  Hopefully the movie will do the same for the Turing documentary.

Okay that’s it for now…time to go back to work.

Week 194

Posted by Keela on October 06, 2011

It’s Fleet Week. Probably one of my favorite weeks of the year. I am anxiously awaiting the Blue Angels to arrive in the Bay and do their “survey flight” for the weekend show. This marks the 30th anniversary of Fleet Week in San Francisco but my first here, so I am quite excited. I just hope the rain…holds…off.

Here at the studio…

The toolkit is coming along. We’ve started to pin up sections for review. If you turn a 4’ x 8’ foamcore board horizontal, you can fit about 10 11×17 sheets of paper for review. This is great for layout review, except that the benches we were setting the boards on were too low and you had to bend down to review. Not so good for the client. So, we called on our good friends at Tinkering Monkey to build us some wall rails that can hold foam core at eye level. Everything is completely customizable, the kind of wood, how many boards to hold, etc. They’re going to start building and then hopefully coming in a few weeks to install. I’m very excited, once everything is in place, we could essentially have 80 spreads to review at once, which is a lot, but not quite the entire toolkit which is currently at 130 pages (1 spread per).

The toolkit itself, which we are creating with our incubating client, explores a different approach to designing a space that looks at the entire area as a holistic system in order to take into account all the issues, transportation, community, energy, etc. I ran across this project called Making Room which deals with the family and community aspect of housing and space and how the guidelines for development of housing hasn’t really changed since post WWII, when houses were built for the nuclear family. Interestingly: did you know that per New York code, it’s illegal for 3 or more unrelated adults to live together in one place?

Other things…

We’re continuing our work to support the making of a feature film about the life of Alan Turing and his role in modern technology. This project is especially pertinent and topical today considering the news of Steve Jobs. Ben Horowitz said it nicely in an online NYT article:  “This is a tragic day for humankind. Like the loss of Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Alan Turing, Mr. Jobs will be badly missed but never replaced.” I think it’s only fitting that Steve Jobs is placed among these greats.

That’s it. Now I wait for the sonic booms.

Week CLXXXIV

Posted by Damien on August 02, 2011

No it hasn’t been that long since you last visited. We did jump from week twenty to over a hundred and eighty. Its just that I stopped to think about how long it has since we’d been in business. And in 2008, The Central Office of Design received a business license from the city of Sausalito and we’ve been trading as Central ever since. All a hundred and eight four weeks since.

The week is busy. But really quiet.

Jonathan has been in Korea. And since we’ve not read anything in the news about him, we’re assuming he’s back in the office on Monday. Emma is likely in Africa now. Perhaps torturing the three people she’s with, of stories of her awesome internship here in Sausalito. Perhaps.

Keela has been working on… everything. The Toolkit. The Picturebook. The Web site. The contracts. The performance. The banking. The bookkeeping. The numbers. The Ride. The event. The call. The machine. And likely more.

Conference Call

One of the things she did was arrange a conference call between ourselves, Amy Benziger from SOCAP, from COMMON: Alex Bogusy, John Bielenberg, Rob Schuham and Sarah Brooks from Hot Studio. Only two couldn’t make it. The rest of us brewed up some ideas for the upcoming SOCAP 11 in September. It should be pretty interesting.

Which reminds me, I should be preparing my stuff for speaking on the Design for Social Innovation track. Which is being curated by the above mentioned Sarah. It looks to be a very interesting set up for the four days. I’m honoured and thrilled to be going this year.

We have a couple of projects in what might best be called ‘development’. Many of our projects evolve through development to become long-term engagements. In a traditional consulting practice a client comes to you, explains their needs, or you help the client define their needs and then you write a proposal to meet those needs. Proposals become easier and easier the more you write them, as they tend to borrow from prior versions as you do more work. However, in our case, the people that tend to pay for the work aren’t the ones who are actually impacted by it, or perhaps even the ones who suggested the work be done in the first place. So business development works very differently. Which is a fun distinction between the two worlds.

In our consulting practice, we have to develop the projects, the funding and the stakeholders. Even if someone brings it to us. So much like the film industry, we get a kernel of an idea, perhaps from an outside person who brings to us an area of concern we might not have considered and we begin to pitch that “around town” to see if there is any interest. We develop the basic materials to explain what could be done, or why we think there’s a need and start to meet and talk to people about the overall concept. Because we don’t really know any precise details at this point. We’re likely just dealing with a huge overarching issue like, fish populations are in serious decline, and we have to get to grips fast with what design can do for this issue. It takes a lot of meetings, many interviews. Lot’s of research and we slowly get a good idea of what kind of story we can tell about the value of running a large-scale design project might be for the huge-critical-thorny-seemingly-intractable problem we’re interested in. Typically by now our development team comprises of actual experts in the space. Whether they’re scientists, researchers or practitioners. And we start to write our version of a script. Which is our project proposal.

A few years back it seemed that philanthropy was the best funding partner to have in situations like these. And back then it was. But today the opportunities seem to be different and the mix of funding partners is much more varied. Which is good in some regards. We now can have partners who are seriously invested in the outcomes and in the performance of our process. Or in areas where philanthropy can work is when the outcome of a particular phase of work could be shared with the entire community. The foundation then would be able to market the work throughout their relevant program areas. So the mix of funding is important. It can help to accelerate a phase of work, as well as create the perfect conditions for another phase. And when a project is in development, you’re trying to figure out where the best source of funding and partnering is for the right parts. Because not all funding is equal, and if you have the chance to get an incredible partnership, that’s the goal to go for.

Once the proposal is written, it really does live much like a Hollywood script. It gets rewritten again and again. It gets notes from different people its shopped around to. It gets tailored to the audience we’re seeking. And along the way we end up creating a kind of brand for this project, an ideal scenario for what we want to achieve which now exists within this new community and our studios. So we act as producers. Shaping the story we’re telling and engaging a community in the vision of it. Finally, when the right funding mix is achieved, we then do the dealmaking to get a full green light to proceed. Contracts signed, kick-off, well kicked off.

Like the film development process, we can easily stage our version of development. And it helps to manage multiple development projects and deal-flow. Yes, we typically do development for free. Having managed ourselves on prior projects to have the freedom to spend a serious amount of time in development on the projects we most want to do. It seems like the development cycle lasts between three and nine months, depending on the sheer audacity of the goal. The smaller the scope, often the simpler the process. But I wouldn’t say there’s not often an exception to that rule.

So we have two major projects in development right now. One year long engagement, and the other is a Future of… project which would be three or more years. This is a fun part of the process. Driven mostly by passion and the belief that these projects are truly worth doing because of the communities and the amount of the environment they’d impact positively. As much as I enjoy the development process, I also can’t wait till they begin.

I think if Nike came to us and asked us to work on supply-chain solutions to alleviate labour-rights issues and said they’d happily pay us to do so, I’d still have a hard time probably understanding that and suggest we spend six months looking for someone else to pay for it. We work best being extremely creative around large complex problems, so finding a sustainable resource for funding these projects is part of that challenge for us, which we very much enjoy. Sometimes the money is to last beyond the project is over, for the ideas that have been implemented and need to run for some time.

But what really topped the week off was an incredible gift from the guys over at Tinkering Monkey. Completely unexpected. If you’ve not visited their site- do so, and feat your eyes on some delicious woodmaking skills and products. And then buy something. Like I just did. Thank you both – Mike and Paula (and congratulations on the engagement!).

I’m out for the next week to ponder my age and make plans for becoming XL. Until then I have a XXXIX year ahead of me.