Transformation is in the air. Business leaders across industries are recognizing that “old school” management isn’t up to the task of nonstop innovation. As a result, companies that were once run from the top down are steadily shifting to a more networked style of management in which employees and customers play a greater role in driving innovation. Networked cultures tend to be more creative, more agile, and better able to anticipate the needs of customers.
How do you create a culture of innovation? By recognizing one simple fact: If you want to innovate, you’ve got to design. Design and design thinking are the tools that create new products, new services, new business models, new markets, and new industries. The best way to leverage innovation—as outlined in my latest book—is to build a “designful company”.
To find out where you are on the culture curve, take this simple test: Share a total of 10 points across each of the 10 pairs below. For example, if your company is more siloed than collaborative, you might score it 6 and 4. When you’ve finished, add up the two columns to measure your progress. If your totals come out to 60 and 40, for example, you could say that you’re 40% along the path to an innovative culture.
Since Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879, designers have often used the familiar pear-shaped product as a graphic device to represent a “bright idea.” Think again, designers, because the European Union restricted the sale of incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in 2009. It also targeted the phase out of Halogen bulbs by 2016. Cuba and Venezuela actually started phasing out incandescent lights in 2005. Other nations have scheduled phase out plans – Australia, Ireland and Switzerland in 2009; Argentina, Italy, Russia and the UK by 2011, and Canada in 2012. A late adopter, the United States will begin phasing out incandescent lights in 2012.
Just when traditional annual reports have all but disappeared in the business world, a guy named Dan Meyer in the beach town of Santa Cruz, California, has produced his own personal 2009 annual report in video format. A high school math teacher by day, Meyer aimed for the kind of accuracy that even an independent auditing firm would admire. On his blog, he credited his speed in getting his report out so fast to having a “working knowledge of a) the degree measure of angles, b) proportions, c) percents, d) coordinates, e) 3D space, f) modular arithmetic, and g) linear interpolation. “ He adds that he even calculated an integral.
Stephen von Worley on Weather Sealed posted this chronological growth of Crayola colors from the line-up of original eight introduced in 1903 by Binney & Smith to the 133 colors available today. By von Worley’s calculations, Crayola colors double every 28 years.
For a product targeted heavily to consumers who are too young to read or to talk about the good ole days when reds were redder, it is interesting to note that Crayola has remained dedicated to innovation, upgrades and product naming. In addition to its standard colors, Crayola has launched specialty sets with names like Magic Scent and Silver Swirl. It has discontinued colors with low market appeal; apparently, Maize, Raw Umber, Blizzard Blue and Thistle just didn’t cut it with seven-year-olds. Other names, of course, had to be retired for political correctness. Prussian Blue was renamed Midnight Blue in 1958, Indian Red became Chestnut. Also, bowing to pop trends, Crayola introduced metallic FX colors like Big Dip O’Ruby and Blast Off Bronze, and glitter shades like Red Violet with Glitzy Gold Glitter (a name that rolls right off the tongue), and Silly Scents like Sasquatch Socks, Big Foot Feet and Alien Armpit. It had to discontinue regular scents like Chocolate and Jelly Bean because parents complained that kids found they smelled good enough to eat – and did.
All this effort makes Crayola even more endearing, especially when you consider that with just four colors – c, m, y, k – you can arrive at any color in the spectrum, and Crayola’s target customers aren’t so jaded that they’d reject a product because it’s “last year’s model.”
Kulula, South Africa’s first no-frills commuter airline, makes up with humor what it lacks in global stature. Its two-plane fleet, which flies short-hops from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Durban, is painted a conspicuous lime green with callouts identifying each part of the aircraft, including the cockpit area where the “the big cheese” (captain) sits, and the “loo” (lavatory) “or the mile-high club initiation chamber.” This is a brand identity that you are not likely to forget. In fact, you may even look for Kulula planes on the runway to amuse yourself.
The inflight instructions are equally irreverent, with the flight attendant advising passengers to make sure they have all their belongings with them when leaving the plane, but if they have to leave anything behind “make sure it is something the cabin crew can use. Preferably not children.”
Or telling passengers before takeoff: “If you have a child with you, please be sure to fasten their seatbelt first. If you have more than one, please select your favorite now and fasten their seatbelt.”
In cafeterias and restaurants around the world, the coffeepot with a distinctive orange band around the neck is immediately recognized as the one containing decaf coffee. Today most people don’t know how that tradition began. Actually, it was once one of the world’s most effective branding campaigns, even though these days consumers don’t associate the color with the product that started it all.
The orange label premiered in 1923 when Sanka, the first commercial decaf coffee, appeared on grocery store shelves in America. In 1932, General Foods bought Sanka (a catchy contraction of “sans caffeine”) and set out to promote the brand to restaurants and diners by giving away free “Sanka-orange” coffeepots and a few samples of the product. Customers and waiters came to recognize that orange signified Sanka, and over time it became the generic color-code for any and all decaf coffee brands.
In January 2007, Sao Paolo, Brazil, did something that would send chills down the spine of most ad agencies. In an effort to rid the city of what the mayor called “visual pollution,” Sao Paolo enacted a Clean City law that banned all billboards and most other large outdoor advertising.
Known as one of the world’s worst billboard jungles, Sao Paolo was rife with illegal billboards and signs. Advertisers had bought up virtually all available street and wall space in the city to hang their gigantic marketing messages. To earn money, some poor residents even sold the front of their homes or space in their gardens to post ad signs. Unable to determine which were legal and which not, the city banned them all.
Since the law went into effect more than 15,000 billboards, 1,600 oversized signs and 1,300 metal ad panels have come down. Strict regulations mandated smaller storefront signage and limited them to hang only above the store entrance and not extend into the street. Even pamphleteering in public spaces was made illegal. Those who didn’t comply faced hefty fines.
In the mountainous village of Granados in central Guatemala, Peace Corps volunteer Laura Kutner came up with a way to solve several problems at once – the need for more classrooms, the shortage of building materials, and the abundance of plastic trash littering the ground.
Kutner rallied the community of roughly 860 people living in the village and surrounding area and together they collected more than 4,000 discarded plastic soda bottles. From there, students and volunteers used sticks and hands to cram the plastic bottles with more plastic — used bags, packaging and grocery sacks – to give the containers heft and form, then stacked them like bricks held in place by chicken wire, and “stuccoed” them with a cement-sand mixture.
Editor’s Note: In his inimitable style, Marty Neumeier, author, lecturer and director of transformation at Liquid Agency, makes complex marketing principles seem logical and easy to understand. Here from his book “Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands,” Neumeier explains why in a world of “look-alike products and me-too services” it is important for brand marketers to zag when everyone else zigs.
It has been interesting to observe how typing text messages with two thumbs on a cell phone is transforming the written language. Acronyms have replaced full sentences – LOL, OMG, GTG. Everything that can be abbreviated is. The question is, will this lead to the evolution of spelling as we know it? It wouldn’t be the first time. Over the centuries, spelling has changed, syntax has changed, even the noun-verb-object order of typical English sentences has changed. I happened upon this fake news article sent to me years ago. At the time, I found it ludicrously funny; now I’m not so sure. Maybe it was onto something, albeit before its time. Copy editors beware; your troubles may have just begun.
From the Magazine Publishers Association and American Society of Magazine Editors comes this two-minute video “Covering the Decade in Magazine Covers.” This edited America-centric view of the Aughts glaringly omits world-altering stories such as the disputed “hanging chad” Presidential election that started the decade and the rise of social media and focus on climate change that ended it. Overall, however, the video is a fascinating glimpse at the visual devices that publishers use to grab consumer attention at the newsstand. Faces, especially of celebrities, dominate most covers. Pop culture and sensational headlines trump the promise of substantive, thoughtful reporting. Obviously, the magazine reading public is more interested in being entertained than informed.
A consistent award-winner coveted by designers, architects and lovers of modern design, the 365 Typographic Calendar now celebrates its tenth year. Each month includes a brief description about what makes the featured font distinctive and a biography of the type designer.
The typefaces for 2011 were chosen by the Studio Hinrichs team from the archives of the 20th Century’s design and architectural icons including A.M. Cassandre, Le Corbusier and Frederic Goudy, plus contemporary stars including Zuzana Licko, Christian Schwartz and Ondrej Jób.
The 365 Calendar is available in two sizes: A wall-hanging 23" x 33" version that can easily be read from across a large room and a smaller 12" x 18" version suitable for smaller spaces and for desk use.
Super Size 23" x 33" (58.5cm x 84cm) $44 retail
Desk/Wall 12" x 18" (30.5cm x 45.75cm) $26 retail