A few weeks back the New York Times published a brilliant piece on the "curse of knowledge", a phrase that means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. When it’s time to accomplish a task those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.
The article suggests this is why engineers often design things that are only useful to other engineers, or why business leaders face obstacles in conveying new ideas to the rank & file staff.
There are implications in the ad agency business as well...where media, technology and consumer behavior are all constantly changing. Agencies race to hire so-called "experienced" experts who only give the appearance of knowledge. Perhaps doing that actually limits innovation.
Chip Heath says in the article: “People who design products are experts cursed by their knowledge, and they can’t imagine what it’s like to be as ignorant as the rest of us.”
To innovate in marketing and creativity, people are badly needed who can think more contrarily and ask provocative optimistic questions -- and then translate those new ideas into simple, relevant, language for others.
Portland-based Umpqua Bank have dropped the corporate-finance-dead-space theme so often associated with a trip to the bank and instead created their first Innovation Lab. The retail space is a high-tech, interactive, community hub, combining technology, art & entertainment.
Some of the features in the bank include immersive video conferencing, nine 50-inch high-definition touch screen displays, a digital community wall, customizable brochures printed on-demand, work spaces & banquettes with hidden laptops, a music portal and gourmet coffee shop. The lab also serves as an independent space for business meetings and social events, like a Nintendo Wii tournament.
Umpqua has partnered with local merchants in Portland to sell their merchandise inside the space, along with tech brands such as Cisco, Microsoft, an Lenovo who all provide elements of the experience.
Their own financial services are sold like colorful rich beauty products, in smart, simple packaging and language throughout.
Umpqua intends the space to be an ongoing experiment, updating it every quarter. The lab was designed by Ziba.
iTunes Signature Maker analyzes your music collection and creates a short audio signature to represent who you are and what you listen to. The site analyzes your music collection and generates an short audio signature that represents all of your music.
Your iTunes signature can be uploaded onto your iPod, e-mailed to friends, or shared your blog or homepage. While its not very useful, more of a novelty, the idea of taking your personal content and transforming it into some kind of identifier or small chunk is interesting as more of our lives are digitized online.
Barack Obama has created a brand identity online that is very flexible and relevant to different groups. Here's some design examples of this flexibily for different constituencies & ethnicities. His campaign has also created an Action Center of tools, assets and advertising materials that individuals to help get the word out about Obama, create local events, or make marketing materials that are high res and highly relevant for different interests.
Brand design alone cannot make a presidency of course, policies and action matter, but it's encouraging to see design and brand innovation in an otherwise stale category, and by all measures Obama is supporting the brand with substance so far...
Fabjectory takes your virtual characters & objects and makes them into detailed, full color, real-life statuettes.
Users upload an image file of their virtual object, and Fabjectory (usig a rapid prototyping technique) will produce a physical version. For now they are only doing this for Nintendo Mii characters, Second Life Avatars and Google Sketch-up 3D objects.
While Fabjectory might just be making simple toys, it does show the potential of taking digital creations & assets and bringing them into the offline world with physical representations. As social networks increase in value in our lives and the web itself more personal to us, these bridges -- online & offline -- become more interesting.
Voiceprints uses specially-designed software to translate a person's voice pattern into an artistic visual design.
The technology analyzes frequencies to create an algorithm that organizes visual elements into a representation of your personal voice.
DNA11 Prints is another example of our personal physical markers being transformed digitally. A quick swab of your saliva provides enough genetic material to create artistic visuals of your DNA sequence.
Our digital world is being personalized rapidly with our content & interests, and increasingly so with our own physical attributes -- digital & physical blurring together. "The man is the machine, and the machine is the man."
Ever print something from a website and get a line of text straggling on another page? With ads everywhere? Formatted all wrong?
HP has developed Smart Web Printing, a technology that plugs into your browser and lets you "clip" an individual photo, block of text or other elements on a page, then pick and choose what you want to print and in what layout.
Its a simple way to pick and choose the content you want and organize it into a useful way for printing.
This is similar to HP Blog Printing available on a lot of blogs like TechCrunch and BoingBoing, that lets you choose and print nicely formatted the posts you want from any blog.
In both examples, HP is adding new functionality to web content that provides consumers with a beneficial tool, while extending its brand throughout the web.
You can learn more about how it works and download the free software for Web Print here and Blog Print here.
Disclaimer: HP is a global client of my employer Goodby Silverstein.