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Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

#IAATweetup: Frankfurt Motor Show TweetUp/Designer’s Night After Party

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In what may a possible first on the international motor show scene, a group of us (@daveimai, @joesimpson, @charmermark and @carnorama primarily) will be (loosely) hosting a combined Designer’s Night after party and new media type tweetup.

Find us from 22:00 on September 15 at Eurodeli, located at Neue Mainzer Str. 60-66 in Frankfurt (nearest S-Bahn is Taunusanlage, nearest U-Bahn is Alte Oper).

If you’re going to be in town for the show and are looking to kick on after Designer’s Night (or didn’t get an invite in the first place) feel free to join us!

We can’t wait to meet you all there!

P.S Make sure you use the #IAATweetup hashtag in all your Frankfurt Show tweets so we can follow the event!


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[image: Eschipul]

Eye Candy: Let Yourself Feel by Esteban Diácono

Normally I’d say shut your eyes, put on your best headphones and just revel in the music but when the visuals are so…hmm…delicately stunning, keep your eyes peeled. Fairly simple in creation as far as these things go (it’s just After Effects and Particular), the emotional pull is nevertheless strong.

It’s little bit sad but full of hope. Quite appropriate really.

Detour Ahead: DownsideUpDesign has a new home, becomes DownsideUpDesign.com!

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As a little treat to myself (and, hopefully you guys), I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted WordPress.org set-up for DownsideUpDesign. In the short term, this wont meant a great deal for you but will make my job a lot easier. It also opens up a whole heap of exciting opportunities for the future.

Although the old downsideupdesign.wordpress.com address will continue to work for the next 4 weeks, join in the fun and change your RSS feeds/bookmarks/permalinks to downsideupdesign.com and let’s keep the party rolling!

[Image: Robin D Hinton]

Does GM Design "get" Social Media more than Ford? The Lab is an emphatic "Yes"

It’s been a while since I’ve turned my mind to the GM empire (in fact the last time I saw fit to comment was when the highly questionable GMC Terrain surfaced…). But conversations with the head of social media at GMH (Holden) and a little discovery I made yesterday has got me thinking about the people’s car company all over again.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks discussing the ability of social media to open up dialogue between automotive designer and customer. The benefits, as I see them, are twofold. Firstly, designers get access to crucial insight from the people they often have the least professional contact with, their customers. Secondly, the designers themselves, as opposed to the cringe-inducing PR lackeys, can help spread the message about their work, breaking down the hitherto impermeable walls of the design studio.

Lo and behold, GM has jumped into the ring with a new project called The Lab (take a look at it here) and it seems to be a solid first step in engaging designer and customer in a productive, conversational way. This marks a turning point  in the use of social media as a truly two-way street into and out of automotive companies outside of the PR department. It’s also heralds the incorporation of social media research into the product development process by enabling access between customers and the people responsible for designing their cars.

Traditionally, market research consultancies were commissioned to suss out customer need and wants on behalf of design departments. Somewhat predictably, market researchers, with their marketing imperatives, ask marketing questions and present their marketing answers, mostly metrics, to… designers.

Based on my experience, marketers and designers very rarely speak the same language and, unsurprisingly, rooms of blank stares and yawns are the usual outcome. At best, there might be a clue or two hidden in the marketer-speak for design management to interpret for the benefit of the designers. At worst, nobody in design gets it and they go off and sketch something for themselves (probably on the back of the latest trend report from marketing).

Somewhat notoriously, Ford has tried to get around this disconnect by building a persona around the marketing metrics (her name is Antonella) but at the end of the day she’s a fabrication, too easily moulded to suit the whims of the various stakeholders in the design/marketing/sales triumvirate.

Recognising that the traditional market research model fails to connect with designers and that there’s no substitute for real people, a small number of ex-designers and design strategists (people who, in this context, sit at the confluence of market insight and design output) have set up consultancies that aim to ask the right kind questions of customers in order to get design-relevant responses.

The key to their success is that their outcomes are presented in ways that make sense to designers and the marketing/sales teams. It’s a largely successful approach, and having worked in this kind of arrangement, I can attest to the palpable sense of relief expressed by designers when another of their ilk gets up and delivers truly useful, comprehensible market insights. Importantly, these consultancies strive to deliver outcomes where the direct implications for the designer’s work are clearly defined.

Where this approach falls down, however, is when you want to establish a richer, longer-lasting conversation with the customer. The project-by-project basis on which the older strategy consultancies work is just too finite and the idea of using the internet to reach more people in a more more conversational way just hasn’t occurred to them.

This is why GM’s Lab experiment is so interesting. It cuts out the woefully inappropriate (for designers) market research companies, the simplex, time-limited information stream of the design strategy consultancies and gets right to the customer in a way that openly encourages dialogue.

Admittedly, there are a couple of issues that come to mind. Firstly, if the content isn’t inclusive and word isn’t spread far enough, the only people the designers will be talking to are the die-hard fans (although die-hards have their place as brand evangelists, it’s actually Joe Average who almost always provides the most surprising, useful insights). Their current content videos are too one-sided and way too corporate for this commentator.

Secondly, I have an inkling that asking the right kind of questions, the analysis of the responses and, most crucially, maintaining the momentum of the project will still require dedicated design strategists. Then again, I would say that. I still believe that outside consulting will continue to have an important role in defining design projects, a social media stream will simply provide another, more immediate source of feedback for designers to bounce off.

As an experiment, The Lab ties in closely with the views I’ve expressed in the past and GM should be applauded for their pioneering efforts. It will be fascinating to watch how the dialogue between designer and customer develops over the months and, hopefully, years to come. Ultimately, it represents a bold step towards opening up the design process in a useful, engaging way and a wonderfully appropriate one. I mean, it is the people’s car company after all.

[Source: General Motors, Thanks to @cbarger for the original tweet]

Antonella gains a voice, brain, pulse and a… well, becomes a boy

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There’s a risk that I may depart on some vainglorious romp here, but I figure a little self-indulgence is warranted given that DownsideUpDesign has just kicked over the 10,000 visitor mark.

While I was out in Broken Hill, I had to good fortune to catch up with Mark Charmer at the Movement Design Bureau and, even more fortuitously, Rob Hunter and Amy Johannigman, whose work I had the pleasure of reading as part of the Sue Cischke project back in May.

We ended up having a mind expanding conversation (they come along with pleasing regularity when in Mark’s company), discussing the potential for a highly personal style of social media to help generate really meaningful dialogue around design and sustainability.

It’s dialogue that companies like Ford need to be having yet can’t seem to get started. I have a sneaking suspicion, as do Mark, Amy, Rob and many others, that their reliance on mute personae like Antonella has something to do with it…

While I’ll let Mark and Amy fill you in on the details, I’m honoured by the profile they’ve put together and the concept Mark discusses is something that resonates with me on so many levels. It speaks of a bright future for not only  this DownsideUpDesigner and the others out there like me, but also a more open, responsive and sustainable future for the automotive industry, which I seem to have been destined to be a part of for a while now.

If you’ve got this far, then your the kind of reader I love to have. It’s even better if you leave your thoughts below because without the dialogue we share, DownsideUp is just another tree falling in the woods.

Thanks so much for being a part of the first 10,000. I’m looking forward to many, many more.

[Image: Juliana O’Dean-Smith. “Glamorgan”, Manilla, North-Western N.S.W, longer ago than I care to remember]

Update: Sue Cischke, meet Drew Smith. And Dan and Amy and Robb too!

Now with a 10 minute highlights reel of the original 40 minute interview

Last week I was offered the enormous privilege of taking part in a project being run by Joe Simpson and Mark Charmer of the Movement Design Bureau. They’ve been tasked with looking at the perception of Ford’s sustainability message, from top to bottom and inside out. Having watched the project develop over the last few months, I leapt at the chance to be involved.

I was asked to review Joe and Mark’s interview with Sue Cischke, Ford’s group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering and provide my observations based on what I heard. Given Sue’s long and illustrious history in the industry, it wasn’t a task I took lightly. My take on things now been published for the world (and Ford) to read and I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction.

It wasn’t all about me, however, and I commend you to read the fantastic contributions from Dan Stuges, of Intrago, and Amy Johannigman and Robb Hunter from the University of Cincinnati’s storied Department of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning.

One of the really exciting aspects of  this project is that 4 people have come together and drawn three different, but highly related (and, in my view, relevant) conclusions from Joe and Mark’s interview with Sue.

Although small in scale, the process amply demonstrates the power of the internet to enable collaboration and connection between geographically dispersed stake-holders, something that Clay Shirky talked about to great effect in his 2005 presentation at TED.

Head over to Re*Move to see the other critiques, plus a whole lot more on the Ford project.

@drewpasmith = Yes, I'm on Twitter!

Not having full connectivity on my pony somewhat limits my spontaneity with Twitter but I’m there for better.

Or is it for worse? Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Xing and LinkedIn combined makes me feel a little like a character in the cartoon below. “Just take ten deep breaths and relax, everybody’s doing it!”

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[Abstruse Goose via PSFK]

Facebook owns your soul (and your photos too)

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The more I read, the stronger my fears grow. Call me paranoid, but the latest storm brewing in Facebook land had the hairs on the back of my neck dancing a merry jig.

Two weeks ago Facebook made a change to its terms and conditions regarding ownership of posted content. As far as I can glean, the new conditions stated that Facebook becomes the owner of all uploaded personal content (photos, videos, comments, notes and the like) and this ownership continues should I decide to delete my account. So even if I wanted to opt out, I couldn’t.

I say couldn’t because upon logging in this morning there was a message stating “…we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.” Damn straight you’ll resolve them. Whether it’s for our benefit remains to be seen. Here is the paragraph at the centre of the furore:

 

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. 

 

What’s most galling is that these changes were introduced on the sly. I challenge any of my readers to have noticed this transfer of ownership being communicated through Facebook itself.

I’ll admit that have been a willing participant in the Facebook phenomenon. My patience is being sorely tested, however, as the broader implications of my online presence become more obvious. Put it down to the benefit of 20:20 hindsight. If I lose ownership of my content it will be the last straw.

 The problem is, as a person who deals in new cultural trends and observing society’s reaction to the world at large, if I lock myself out I lose this valuable stream of information. As with so many of my generation, I want to have my cake and eat it too…

Play safe people and make sure you go through your Facebook security settings and lock it down. Apparently it’s the only way you have of clinging on to your data.

Social Media: The Followup

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The other day I wrote a post about my discomfort with the combination of the pervasiveness of social media and the lack of nuance and subtlety provided by text -based communication. I put it that our willingness to be part of a, and share with a, community can overrule our desire to retain control over our personal information and that text can be an inflexible foe when trying to communicate with a deft touch. Bring these two together and you can have  miscommunication with horrifying outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Our Relationships With/Through Social Media

The fact that we are almost constantly connected and streaming our consciousness through social apps, I think, has become so second nature that the ramifications escape us most of the time. You just had a great work out, had an awesome night out or fell in love with someone and you want to let the world know, and why not? More often than not, people don’t respond but you feel happy in the knowledge that your friends are sharing the great moments of your life as they happen.So what happens when you start sharing the not so great moments in your life? Read the rest of this entry »

About DownSideUp Design

I'm Drew Smith and I'm an ethnographer and strategist. By day I shape culture and strategy at Seren. By night I sleep (mostly). And once a month, I host an event called Rising Minds, at Shoreditch House.

DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. All views represented here are mine and mine alone and do not represent those of anyone else.

Get in touch at drewpasmith (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.