Never before in the existence of this personal blog (since 2011 – the day Steve Jobs died) have we received an article take down request where a correctly quoted article that we posted was requested to be taken down AND a website wanted money for the max. 1-2 hours that we had the article online.
Our vision: We create Innovation, enable exchange and try to give the best ideas to the world by always correctly quoting them.
By following take down requests immediately (yesterday it took us 10 minutes between their email at 14.47 and us having it taken down fully at 14.57) we comply with the internet rule-set of respecting other wishes fully. As a consequence we have never encountered any troubles with anyone and we would like to keep that this way.
Since June 19th 2017. Then it happenend: German Online Newspaper The Spiegel, head of law department Jan Siegel, requested the take down of the cooperational column written by internet activist Sascha Lobo that we thought would fit perfectly to the innovational approach on our website. We are not sure if we can post the link to the article but as a reference here it goes:
We are deeply sorry that we cannot feature Sascha Lobo anymore, although he states on his website that his texts can be used under the Creative Commons Licence when correctly quoted by naming him as author and with the URL provided and most importantly unchanged. That’s what we did and now “The Spiegel” tries to money punish us with this?
So the authors rights are diminished by the newspapers rights?
Does anybody understand German author rights?
The author explicitly states on his website http://saschalobo.com/impressum/ „Die Texte (mit Ausnahme der Kommentare durch Dritte) stehen sämtlich unter der Creative Commons-Lizenz (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 DE).“
In our understanding this means that you can use the text under the Creative Commons Licence for free when being private like here at dieidee.eu. So that the newspaper later cannot deny this and cannot punish you with money requests for literally a handful article impressions?
We hope to be able to resolve this matter in a friendly and respectful way with the Spiegel as we state here clearly no harm done, no harm will be done in the future, and please state clearly on your website which author (or internet activist as with Sascha Lobo) allows the usage of his texts on any internet website.
Google wants its Assistant to be more than just an order-taking robot — so it hired some clever writers from outside the company to help make it happen.
A new story from the Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims details the advancements of different artificial intelligence devices like Amazon Echo and Google’s rival product Home, and how they’re comforting for those who live alone thanks to how personable the AI’s have become.
For Google, that friendly personality is thanks to a team of writers from Pixar and The Onion who helped make the Assistant — which powers Google’s Home device — sound more like a human and less like a robot, according to the Journal. Google’s eventual goal is to help users build an emotional connection with the Assistant, the Journal reports.
Google unveiled its Assistant-enabled Home device last week, a direct competitor to other AI-powered hardware devices like Amazon’s Echo. The Assistant itself is similar to Alexa, which powers the Echo: It has voice-recognition software, natural language recognition, and it gets smarter over time.
You can ask the Assistant to tell you a joke, give you the weather or set a timer, but you can also ask it to do things like remember your favorite sports team or the city you live in. Much like other AI — like Alexa or Apple’s Siri — the Assistant can be equal parts sweet and sassy, which is what helps it seem more relatable and more human. The Assistant lives inside Google Home, but it’s also enabled in Google’s new messaging app, Allo and its new Pixel smartphone.
Ever wonder how much air vents cost on a Honda versus a Toyota, or how much a horn bracket weighs on a BMW? Unless you’re the most deeply obsessive car enthusiast in the world, probably not. But automakers care, and they’re always trying to figure out ways to outdo competitors—even at the tiniest level. Meet the company that tears down entire cars to help do that.
All automakers “cheat” off each other. They buy their competitors’ cars, disassemble them, and learn precisely how they work and how they’re made. This reverse engineering is called “competitive benchmarking,” and while sometimes it’s done in-house, there are also entire companies devoted to the practice. One of them is Munro and Associates, a firm of manufacturing experts contracted by OEMs and suppliers to tear down cars and car parts to the very last nut and bolt.
Imagine a place where auto engineers can check out parts of competitors’ cars like they’re library books. And where they can participate in deep-dive lectures on how other companies build vehicle systems, how the systems work, and how much they cost to make. That’s what Munro does.
Of course, there are some automakers out there who have their own internal labs for analyzing competitors’ cars, but Munro is a huge player in the industry, with multiple facilities teaching scores of companies the intricacies of automotive manufacturing, helping them learn about the competition and saving them time and money on their own future designs. Munro can do these kinds of teardowns more cheaply and effectively because it’s all they do. But not a ton of people outside the car industry know that they exist, or why they are necessary.
I stopped by Munro’s headquarters in Auburn Hills to take a look at what the company does, and was greeted by a building filled with completely— and I mean completely—dismantled automobiles, including that BMW i3 up top.
Munro tore that i3 into its more than 54,000 (that’s 31,000 mechanical, 23,000 electrical) individual parts, analyzing all of them for weight, cost, and manufacturing time needed, resulting in a 23,000 page report sold to automakers interested in learning the most minute of details of BMW’s plug-in hybrid electric city car.
If you don’t believe me when I say the company analyzed 54,000 parts, here’s a shelf filled with analyses of every part in the car, organized into different “zones.”
And these analyses don’t just include major components—it’s literally every single part, including fasteners. Here’s a look at just one of the books:
And here are two randomly-chosen pages from the enormous report. Want to know how much it costs BMW (or, more likely, its supplier) to make a horn bracket? Of course you do!
According to Munro, the horn bracket weighs 0.03 kg, and takes about 10 seconds to make for a paltry 18 cents.
And if that bracket isn’t exciting enough, you’re almost certainly chomping at the bit to learn how much it costs to make one of BMW’s fuse buss assemblies for its high voltage battery pack, and it looks like that 0.01 kg part is a whopping 89 cents that takes 39 seconds to build.
Sometimes a competitor interested in a certain vehicle buys that car for Munro to tear down. In other cases, Munro will buy it to sell the findings. The latter was the case with the i3.
How Munro comes up with these cost figures involves a lot of computerized modeling and expertise from people with decades of manufacturing experience.
That modeling can be visually depicted as a cost map, shown below. The cost map is essentially a second-by-second breakdown of the car’s—and its components’—exact manufacturing processes. Cost maps for entire cars are enormous, and—according to engineers at Munro—can span hundreds of yards in length when printed out. In the case of the i3, there were 196,000 manufacturing steps in total.
A closer look at this cost map reveals just how detailed Munro’s costing process is. It includes steps like “snap together,” “push on connector,” “twist wire,” “screw drive,” “turn assembly on” and other seemingly mundane—yet still time consuming—parts of the manufacturing sequence.
Each step has a time associated with it; Snap together, for example, takes one second, while “push on connector” takes two and “position lug” takes five.
In the end, the cost model shows how the car and its components are manufactured, and results in a report that accounts for everything from material cost to tool burden—which considers things like floor space required for certain tools, electricity to run those tools, and tool maintenance costs— to burden rate, which depends largely on labor costs associated with the countries in which the parts are made.
To come up with the right numbers, Munro has to know exactly which materials are used. Figuring that out part isn’t always simple, either. Sometimes bearings have exotic grades of steel, for example. So Munro might have to send out a sample to a lab to figure out the grade.
Munro also has to know how much of each component is made of each material to get an accurate cost. Take this BMW steering wheel above, which Munro had to cut into to figure out what and how much metal lies below the plastic cover.
For labor costs, it’s also not always straightforward figuring out where parts are made, either. Sure, it’s sometimes stamped into the part or there’s a sticker, but other times Munro either has to do research to figure out a part’s origin, or they just know where it’s made based on similar parts they’ve seen on other vehicles.
If you want the full report on that i3 I mentioned, it’ll cost you $150,000.
How It Works
Baffled by how the company can have this kind of precision in their cost models, I sat down with Munro’s engineers to learn more.
They gave me an example of an instrument panel, saying they know it’s made of a certain type of plastic, requires a certain size tool (they also said the tool might require “slides” if there are special features involved) that takes a certain amount of money and time to operate , and the manufacturing sequence requires a certain amount of time to cool.
They know these things, they say, because they’ve done tons of research and built on decades of manufacturing experience from employees with backgrounds in various manufacturing and engineering disciplines.
I could tell the engineers I spoke with knew what they were talking about, as they could seemingly visualize how an instrument panel is made, waving their hands up and down trying to emulate the movement of the machines that turn a giant piece of plastic into a precisely formed dashboard.
Plus, the engineers told me, the cost models are proven. Some manufactures, they said, actually hand their own parts to Munro asking them to use their model to see how close they can get to the actual cost of manufacture. Munro says their numbers always come very close, and that they’ve even been accused of having insider information.
You Can Have Whatever You Like
But costing is only a part of what Munro does. A big part of what they offer to car companies is engineering expertise, holding detailed workshops for car companies to teach engineers how other companies are designing certain systems.
Let’s say a company interested in electrification might buy Munro a Tesla Model S. So Munro tears it down and invites engineers at that company to a series of workshops on various vehicle systems. One day, people from that company’s electrified powertrain team might attend a workshop on the Tesla’s battery pack. Or maybe people from the cooling system might show up to learn how Tesla keeps its cells and motors from overheating.
And the workshops aren’t just basic “here’s how this is built” presentations. Munro actually analyzes the systems and tries to answer complex questions like, for example, what Mazda does at a system level to give their 3 such good handling for its class. In some cases, they even send parts out to have them tested for strength of even waterproofness.
But one of the coolest things about Munro is the facilities are filled with torn-down car parts, all of which can be checked out like a library book for engineers to study and, if they want to, scan into their own CAD software for further analysis. That might sound like cheating, but that’s how engineers learn and stay current—SAE conferences aren’t always enough.
Want a piston? Sure. Want to study BMW’s seat foam? Why not? Hell, here’s the sound-deadening fiberglass found in the BMW i3’s muffler. It turns out there is 0.311 kg of fiberglass in there. Some muffler engineer out there might find that to be useful.
They had to disassemble the muffler to figure out what materials are inside and how much it costs to build the thing, as well as how it’s done— it all goes into that big, quarter-mile long costing map.
And if I still haven’t communicated just how far Munro actually takes this whole teardown thing, check this out: on the right is a wheel hub. It connects your suspension to your wheel, and normally, car manufacturers just buy that whole thing as an assembly.
But Munro didn’t just write “Hub Assembly: $50,” they actually tore into the assembly itself, cutting into the bearing surfaces to figure out exactly what materials comprise this hub, and how it’s all made.
Next, here are all the brake parts off the BMW i3:
Again, Munro didn’t just count the caliper assembly as one part, they tore it into its basic components: brackets, piston, bolts, etc— some of which are bagged, and all of which are tagged with information about what material comprises them is and how much they weigh.
Why Else Do Companies Need This Kind Of Detail?
Munro isn’t just there to help engineers learn about how the competition designs and assembles its cars, it’s also there to help automakers—who really should be called “auto assemblers”—figure out if they’re getting ripped off by their parts suppliers.
Knowing exactly how much it costs to build a wheel bearing, for example, can act as leverage for negotiation against a supplier of that part. At the same time, suppliers also go to Munro to learn. If, for example, one of their competitors is selling a part for what seems like impossibly too little, the supplier might ask Munro to tear it down and figure out how the competitor is saving cost.
And Munro does costing, benchmarking and even quality predictions for many different industries, not just automotive. That plane above is a Republic Seabee RC-3, which Munro says incorporated a “minimalist approach to Aircraft structural design,” making it a great way for Munro’s engineers to learn more about lightweight design.
Besides automotive and aerospace, Munro has worked with clients from the defense, marine, medical and the electronics industries. You name it, and Munro’s engineers tear it apart.
They even did analyses on rice-cookers for one company looking to reduce manufacturing costs and increase quality:
And that’s really their goal: they want to use their general manufacturing knowledge and their understanding of how various manufacturers accomplish certain tasks to help clients become more “lean”—to reduce time to market, to improve quality, to reduce research and development expenses, to reduce engineering and manufacturing costs, and to keep companies competitive.
Those are really the goals of competitive benchmarking in general, and Munro’s facility has demonstrated just to what lengths automakers go to scope out the competition.
Here’s more of what Munro does, particularly that i3:
When the Apple Watch debuted in 2015, Apple told us it would be fashionable. It would usher in a new platform for high-tech fads covered in Vogue. It was going to save us time—one second at a time. It was going to do all sorts of things we couldn’t even imagine yet, like sharing your heartbeat, or scribbling a shape to a loved one.
It was a remarkable pivot, and it hints at the watch’s fundamental shortcoming: It’s a product without an apparent use case. Whereas the iPhone put miniature computers into our hands, and the MacBook fulfilled the promise of truly portable personal computing, the watch is a solution in search of a problem. Apple does not disclose sales figures, but a recent report from the research firm IDC claims Apple Watch sales dipped almost 57% in the first quarter of 2016—this despite that sales at competitors such as Fitbit are up.
Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, that Apple has backed into the de facto selling point of wearables, a new, old narrative: The watch will make you swole.
The Fashion Pitch
It made sense why Apple chased fashion. The field was crowded with fitness bands, and Apple no doubt wanted the watch to be something more desirable. Apple recruited Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts, and paid her $70 million to build Apple into a bona fide retail powerhouse—along with an all-star fashion team including Paul Deneve, Mark Newson, Catherine Monier, and Marcela Aguilar. Apple’s fashion push was about more than the watch, of course—it was about turning Apple into a lifestyle brand. But the watch was a linchpin.
When the watch debuted publicly at Paris Fashion Week, and Karl Lagerfeld was photographed trying one on, it seemed destined for immortality. The company recruited big-name designers, like Hermes, to create bands as easily as they do developers to make apps. And what were assuredly highly coordinated sponsorship campaigns, stars like Beyoncé wore them on Instagram. They even made a version in gold—for five figures—and forced appointments to try it on with white glove service. That watch has since been discontinued.
The problem with positioning the watch around fashion? At best, the Apple Watch can’t be fashionable for very long because fashion is fleeting. At worst, the Apple Watch just wasn’t that fashionable to begin with. Apple may have sold a billion iPhones, but iPhones don’t live all day, every day, on your wrist.
The Productivity Pitch
So fashion was a reach. The Apple Watch just needed a killer app, something that made it indispensable to a modern connected worker. The Apple Watch’s value at launch became „glances,“ which was supposed to help make you a more productive person. That meant checking your wrist for the time, or a text message, as if this was a breakthrough the world had never imagined before.
And so we’re back to this week, at Apple’s iPhone 7 event, where they showed off the Apple Watch 2, a device that’s almost entirely unchanged, except for a new way of marketing it. Did you see the watch controlling smart lights? Or appearing on a catwalk? Or giving someone directions to a meeting?
No. But there were burpees and golf swings! Aside from introducing a new, white ceramic version—a nod to current design trends—and quickly mentioning some new bands from Hermes, Apple ignored all this fashion and productivity stuff. But Apple was sure to show a splashy home-brew dunking machine, a metal arm that stress-drenched Apple Watches in a tank like they were strapped to an angry Michael Phelps swimming the 200-meter fly. Apple was sure to give Nike several minutes to introduce its custom Nike Plus branded version. „You can wear it when swimming, surfing, or just doing that occasional cannonball,“ Apple COO Jeff Williams said. The Cannonball: The Apple Watch’s first killer app.
And in case you think I’m editing the presentation for argument’s sake, realize, no moment was free from fitness. Heck, even when the software developer Niantic introduced Pokémon Go Apple Watch support, the script rounded about to tease the 4.6 billion kilometers players had taken since the game launched. Even this moment of unbridled, monster-catching recreation had to become quantified fitness on Apple’s stage.
Who Cares If The Apple Watch Is A Fitness Thingie?
So by now you’re probably thinking, „Okay, fine, Apple backtracked a bit, but now it knows what the Apple Watch is for. It reverse-engineered its purpose. Isn’t that enough?“
There’s one problem with Apple backing into this position selling a wearable fitness tracker: People abandon their fitness trackers. Multiple studies have found that after a few months, many people stop caring about all their pedometer graphs and sleep cycles. (Anyone who has worn a Fitbit knows why. Sooner or later, all of this life quantification isn’t really all that meaningful unless you’re literally in training.) Even Nike knew to abandon ship after more or less creating the category with the FuelBand. It’s a lot easier, and lower risk, to leave the hardware to Apple and just brand it.
And let’s be honest about the Apple Watch as a fitness device: It’s fine. Call it great if you want. But it’s not the 10-generational-leap better than all of its competitors, like the iPhone was when it changed the entire smartphone market. It’s just the shiniest of fitness bands in a largely commoditized fitness band market.
But perhaps the company has its eye on the long game. Aside from being yet another fitness tracker, the Apple Watch is also also a network-connected health-focused gadget that interfaces with the most popular smartphone in the world, on the wrists of millions of test subjects in the sort of worldwide, cross-ethnographic field study that that health industry could never match. And while the U.S. smartphone market makes a healthy $400 billion in revenue, the U.S. health care market pulls in $1.668 trillion.
If the Apple Watch is ready and waiting—with 5 or 10 years of proven reliability—whenever our doctors and insurers inevitably tag us like cattle to track our daily activity? Then it’s the one purpose for the Apple Watch that’s worth backing into.
But what about current design roles? How will they favor over the next 15 years? Will every company by 2030 have a chief design officer, or will they all go extinct? Should a generation of creatives who grew up worshipping Apple’s Jonathan Iveput all their eggs in the industrial design basket?
We talked to a dozen design leaders and thinkers from companies such as Frog, Artefact, and Ideo to find out which design jobs could die out in the next 15 years, and which could grow. There’s no empirical evidence behind these picks, so they shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Still, they represent the informed opinions of people who get paid to think about the future.
DESIGN JOBS THAT WILL DIE
User experience designers are among the most in-demand designers working today. So how could their jobs disappear? According to Teague designers Clint Rule, Eric Lawrence, Matt McElvogue, „UX design“ has become too broad and muddled. „The design community has played fast and loose with the title ‚UX designer,'“ they write in an email. „From job posting to job posting and year to year, it jumps between disparate responsibilities, tools, and disciplines. Presently it seems to have settled on the title representing democratized design skills that produce friendly GUIs.“ In the future, they predict that UX design will divide into more specialized fields. „The expanding domain of user experience and its myriad disciplines will push the title ‚UX designer‘ to a breaking point, unbundling its responsibilities to the appropriate specialists,“ they say.
Visual designers are the ones responsible for the way an app looks. UX designers, meanwhile, are the ones who concentrate on how it feels. A lot of times, designers do both, but going forward, jobs that require just visual design skills are going to die out. That’s according to Charles Fulford, Executive Creative Director of Elephant, the San Francisco-based, Apple-centric stealth arm of the digital agency Huge. „Gone are the days of UX dumping a ton of wireframes on visual designers,“ he says, as well as „the days of visual designers being clueless about usability.“ What are needed instead are designers who can not only come up with the look of an idea, but make it real, with actual programming and prototyping skills.
Rob Girling, cofounder of the design consultancy Artefact, agrees. „In the next 10 years, all visual design jobs will start to be augmented by algorithmic visual approaches,“ he says. After all, design companies are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to create previously impossible algorithmic designs, as well as crunch UX data on millions of users. „An AI-powered tool can automatically provide a designer with 100 variations of a layout, based on some high-level template, or style definition . . . We see early versions of these algorithmic procedurally generated tools already in use by game designers.“ For example, the 17 billion planet universe in the recent blockbuster video game No Man’s Sky was largely generated algorithmically.
The short version? If you’re a visual designer, it’s time to diversify.
„When ethnographic research was new in design, there were designers who specialized in research,“ explains Harry West, CEO of Frog. „The role of design researcher is now evolving to become a fundamental skill and practice for all types of designers. Today, for any design challenge, it is assumed that you first learn what the customer wants; every designer must know how to set up customer research and learn from the source.“ Consequently, no one needs a dedicated design researcher anymore. „The role is so fundamental that every designer should know how to do it,“ says West.
John Rousseau, executive director at Artefact, puts a finer point on it: New technologies like machine learning and virtual reality are killing design research. „Design research as we know it may cease to exist—at least in terms of the types of ethnographic field work we do today,“ he says. „Research—-and researchers—-will likely be marginalized by new forms of automated data and insight generation, compiled via remote sensing and delivered through technologies like virtual reality.“
Traditional Industrial Designers
Most designers we asked predictably thought their own fields had rosy prospects. Not Markus Wierzoch, industrial design director at Artefact. He says that classically trained industrial designers who remain too attached to the „industrial“ parts of their profession—in other words, overly focused on the sculptural look of a product—will become, in his words, „designosaurs.“
„More than ever before, industrial design cannot exist in a vacuum,“ he writes. The issuer is that form no longer follows function and function only—software is also involved. That means industrial designers in the future will need to evolve to think about the total end-to-end user experience, a role Wierzoch calls the „post-industrial designer.“ (More on that below.)
Doreen Lorenzo, director of integrated design at UT Austin, also sees the role of the classically trained industrial designer dying off soon. „In the future, all designers will be hybrids,“ she says.
Chief Design Officers
„This is a trend as of late: to have an executive-level design figurehead,“ says Sheryl Cababa, associate design director, Artefact. But that role might—and should—die, because it’s redundant. „Good design is, fundamentally, interdisciplinary, which means that in a company that is design-oriented, all executives will be design practitioners, and the chief design officer position will vanish as quickly as it came.“
CEO Tim Brown echoes the idea that design will be embedded at the executive level, although he doesn’t necessarily think CDOs themselves are going to die out. „Business is moving from a long period where analytical skills were of extreme value in the search for efficiency, to one where creative and design skills will be essential to deal with complexity, volatility, and the requirements for constant innovation… CEOs will need to be designers in order to be successful.“
DESIGN JOBS THAT WILL GROW
Virtual Interaction Designers
Virtual and augmented reality is set to become a $150 billion industry by 2020, disrupting everything from health care to architecture. UT Austin’s Doreen Lorenzo thinks that more user interface designers will start strapping themselves into Oculus Rifts and becoming VI designers. „As more and more products become completely virtual—from chatbots to 3D projections to immersive environments—we’ll look to a new generation of virtual interaction designers to create experiences driven by conversation, gesture, and light,“ she writes.
Specialist Material Designers
Yvonne Lin of 4B Collective believes that in the near future, there will be a growing need for designers who can work in and across different types of materials. For example, she sees bamboo architects as being an up-and-coming design field, as the Western world embraces „the possibilities of a weight-bearing material that can grow three feet in 24 hours and can be bent, laminated, joined, and stripped,“ as Asia has.
She also says that designers who can sew will soon be in hot demand to create structural soft goods. What’s a structural soft good? Think of the kind of things MIT’s Neri Oxman designs, or wearables that are as much tech as textile: a blend of circuit boards and fabrics, like Google’s Project Jacquard.
„Today, there is a skill and knowledge gap between the soft- and hard-good world. Very few people know how to work in both,“ she says. „The intelligent mixing of fabrics (for comfort) and plastics and metals (for structure and function) would have significant benefits for health care and sports products. As people live longer and as sports participation increases the demand for these more comfortable and higher performance products will increase.“ Maybe even tomorrow’s Air McFlys.
Algorithmic/AI Design Specialists
Fifteen years down the road, few of the designers we spoke to were afraid that a robot or algorithm would take their jobs. Though „applied creativity is fundamentally hard to codify,“ as Artefact’s Rob Girling says, artificial intelligence will create new design opportunities—so much so that Girling and other designers we spoke to think that AI and algorithms represent growing field.
„Human-centered design has expanded from the design of objects (industrial design) to the design of experiences (adding interaction design, visual design, and the design of spaces) and the next step will be the design of system behavior: the design of the algorithms that determine the behavior of automated or intelligent systems,“ argues Harry West at Frog.
For example, designing the algorithm that determines how an autonomous vehicle makes the right human-centered decisions in an unavoidable collision. „The challenge for the designers is to tie the coding of algorithms with the experiences they enable.“
„As every object becomes connected—from your couch to your fitness bracelet, the hospital room to your wallet—we need to think about connected experiences,“ says Artefact’s Markus Wierzoch. „[These] offer much broader value propositions, which means we need to change the [design] processes used to define these objects beyond their immediate form and function.“
Enter the postindustrial designer. Postindustrial designers will need to think of the total end-to-end user experience to build „tangible experiences that connect the physical and digital worlds,“ Wierzoch says.
For example, the designer of the future, charged with designing an electrical toothbrush, will need to make sure their toothbrush can connect to an app, give users brushing stats, as well as plug into the future smart home. It’s just not enough to design something that cleans your teeth well anymore. „Someone has to be responsible to stitch complex experiences together,“ Argodesign’s Mark Rolston says.
Design researchers may find fewer opportunities in the next 15 years, but Artefact’s John Rousseau thinks design strategists will be indispensable. „The importance of design strategy will grow,“ he says. „Future design strategists will need the ability to understand and model increasingly complex systems“—for example, social media networks or supply chains—“and will design new products and services in a volatile environment characterized by continuous disruption and a high degree of uncertainty.“ In other words, a future defined by political, social, business, and tech disruption that can happen overnight. In such a future, Rousseau says, design strategists will be like ballerinas, dancing their companies in and out of trouble. „It will be more of a dance, and less of a march.“
The org chart of the future isn’t going to be the same as the org chart of the past. That’s why Ideo partner Bryan Walker thinks dedicated organization designers will be on hand, helping make companies more „adaptive, creative, and prolific.“ These designers, he says, „will help reimagine all aspects of an organization from its underlying structures, incentives, processes, and talent practices to its physical workplaces, digital collaboration tools and communications. “
Get used to working in your pajamas. According to Teague’s Clint Rule, Eric Lawrence, and Matt McElvogue, the future of design is freelance. „Creative AI and global creative marketplaces will give individual designers on-demand access to skill sets previously only capable within large teams,“ they write. „The result is a surge in the specialization, efficacy, and independence of the designer.“ In their vision, freelancers won’t just toil away in solitude, they’ll form a „network of targeted micro-consultancies“ that compete with more traditional firms.
Opera made waves back in April when it announced the addition of unlimited free VPN service to its desktop web browser. VPN, or virtual private networking, is a technology that allows people to mask their actual IP addresses by routing their internet traffic through a third-party server. This way, any software that might collect information about users as they visit a website will not be able to record a user’s actual IP. People also often use VPN services to spoof their region, with the most widely discussed example being people who use a VPN client to make it appear to Netflix as though they’re based in the United States.
VPN services are incredibly valuable to people who protect their privacy while surfing the web, but these services can also have costly subscription plans that limit the amount of data you can use each month. That’s why Opera’s initial announcement was so intriguing, but the company has no intention of stopping with desktop browsing.
Opera on Tuesday announced the release of a brand new Android app. DubbedOpera VPN for Android, the app does exactly what its name suggests, providing Android users with VPN service that will route their traffic through special servers to mask users’ info and prevent websites from tracking them. Of course, Android VPN clients are a dime a dozen. What makes Opera different from most, as we’re sure you’ve figured out by now, is that it offers users unlimited VPN service for free.
“The Opera VPN app for Android sets itself apart from other VPNs by offering a completely free service – without a data limit, no log-in required, advanced Wi-Fi protection features and no need for a subscription,” said Chris Houston, who heads Opera’s VPN division.
Opera’s new VPN app for Android really couldn’t be easier to use. It’s as simple as opening the app and tapping connect, and for most users concerned only with privacy, that will be enough. People who want to mask their regions as well can choose from five different regions including the US, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore.
The app also includes a few additional features, such as the ability to scan Wi-Fi networks for security and display the number of ad trackers blocked over a certain period of time.
In its „A Summary of the Liveability Ranking and Overview“ of 140 cities surveyed, it looks at which cities have the best living and worst living conditions. This includes healthcare, education, infrastructure, safety, and the threat of terrorism.
Interestingly, the rankings also take into account the generosity of expatriate relocation packages — funding a company gives to an individual when they decide to take up a role abroad.
The 140 surveyed were given a mark out of 100 across various sectors and then given an overall score out of 100.
9. Helsinki, Finland — It is only one of two European cities to make the top nine list. It scored full marks for stability and healthcare and highly across culture and environment, infrastructure and education.
7. Perth, Australia — This is one of three Australian cities to feature in the top nine, thanks to perfect 100 scores across healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
T=5. Adelaide, Australia — This city slinks into the top nine most liveable cities in the world due to its high scores across the board, and because Sydney dropped out of the top rankings. This is due to „owing to a heightened perceived threat of terrorism.“
T=5. Calgary, Canada — This is one out of three Canadian cities that ranked near the top of EIU’s survey and tied with Adelaide in Australia. It scored 100 for stability, healthcare, and education.
General view of the Pengrowth Saddledome and the Calgary skyline.Getty
4. Toronto, Canada — The most populated city in Canada got an overall score of 97.2 but missed out on ranking higher due to its infrastructure score dragging it down.
1. Melbourne, Australia — The country’s coastal city is testament to EIU’s assessment that „those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.“
Over the past several months, some innovative design leaders have taken minimal design to the next level. Facebook, Airbnb, and Apple have followed a similar blueprint to simplify prominent products in a way that reflects the trend of complexion reduction (CR) in mobile design.
WHAT THE HELL IS „COMPLEXION REDUCTION“?
You’ve never heard of complexion reduction, you say? Well yeah, that’s because I just made it up. It’s a trend that is beyond flat design, beyond minimal design, and independent of progressive reduction. Some may claim that it’s just the next step in minimal design—the inevitable result of designing for small screens that have little room for visual flourish—but I think it’s something more distinct. There are specific similarities and characteristics that define this new trend:
Bigger, bolder headlines
Simpler more universal icons
Extraction of color
The result? The user interfaces of some of our favorite apps are starting to look more and more like they could all be housed under the same brand.
Some of the changes included removing much of the blue and dark gray color used throughout the app, making headlines bolder, and simplifying the bottom navigation and icons. What was left was a black and white UI with bold headlines where the content shined and functionality was clear. I appreciated the less cluttered interface and was reminded a bit of a platform I have been an admirer of for quite some time: Medium. Medium has been rocking the black and white since launch in 2012, and has reduced clutter with each redesign since, effectively making Medium one of the originators of complexion reduction.
Shortly after the folks over at Facebook unveiled Instagram’s look, I opened up the Airbnb app and was struck by how familiar it looked. This was my first time browsing the app since the company released a redesign in April, yet I felt like I had seen it all before.
Airbnb’s redesigned UI didn’t get nearly the media coverage of Instagram’s redesign a month later (partly because it wasn’t accompanied by a shiny new app icon) but it followed many of the same CR tactics.
The mobile redesign introduced larger, bolder headlines, removed unnecessary imagery and color, and simplified the icons to make them more universally recognizable. What was left was a very black and white UI where the content shined and functionality was clear.
Apple is the latest example of complexion reduction. Last month at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, the tech giant announced a number of exciting things for consumers to look forward to, including the release of iOS 10, which Apple is dubbing, „The biggest iOS release ever!“ (or at least since iOS 8 which was referred to as . . . „The biggest iOS release ever„).
One particular announcement caught my eye. That was the redesign of Apple Music. While the most important aspects of the redesign are UX updates and additional features, the aesthetic was the first thing I noticed. Caitlin McGarry, a staff writer at Macworld, described the updated appearance well, „It’s a totally new look, with giant cards, bigger and bolder fonts, and a clean white background that allows the album art to shine.“
Sound familiar? The design differs slightly from the blueprint used by Instagram and Airbnb (They use solid icons! What the heck Apple?) but the key elements are there: large bold headlines, black and white UI.
SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
As I mentioned earlier, this means more and more of your favorite apps are going to start looking like one another. Why? Much like the NFL, tech is a copycat league. These redesigns were met with generally positive reviews (some people are complaining about a „lack of personality“ in these new black and white UIs but they’ll soon get over that. You open an app for it’s functionality, not it’s personality) so I expect apps both new and old to start jumping on the CR bandwagon.
This means your iPhone home screen will soon become nothing more than a colorful mosaic of bright portals transporting you to Pleasantville.
Now, whether you are for or against this monochromatic fad, it is undoubtedly a sign of progress. The product design process is advancing and evolving from the old segmented approach that encouraged superfluous design to a more holistic process that is truly focused on the user. In the old product design process, a UI designer may be handed wireframes by a UX or product person with the instructions „make it pretty.“ The designer would then spend hours or days adding color, removing color, changing color when the best solution may have been right there in front of them all along . . . the wireframes! As the lines between UX and UI design blur in today’s more integrated design process, designers become less worried about their specific responsibilities (like making it pretty) and focus on the ultimate goal of creating the best product for their user.
Ken Segall, who worked alongside the tech giant’s co-founder, says company’s incredible growth was rooted in his love of simplicity – but things have changed
Four years ago, I wrote a book about Apple and the power of simplicity. It was the result of my observation, having worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director in the “think different” years, when Apple’s stellar growth was rooted in Steve’s love of simplicity.
This love – you might call it obsession – could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization.
But that was four years ago.
Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve’s Apple. They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.
Is this just perception, or is it reality? Has Apple developed a problem with simplicity? Or is it simply maturing as one should expect from a global company? It’s difficult to be objective because Apple has become the world’s most overanalyzed company. It’s created passionate fans and passionate detractors.
My experience with Steve has led me to admire Apple – but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current “state of simplicity”.
Steve Jobs, master of simplicity
First, we need to get one critical fact out of the way: Steve Jobs cannot be replaced. He had the credibility of the founder, extraordinary instinct, vision and energy, and he could make things happen by sheer force of will. It’s just not possible for Apple to be the same without him – but it can still succeed.
Tim Cook has a different style. Remember, he was handpicked by Steve to be Apple’s next leader, and he certainly knows how to make Apple run efficiently. He also recognizes that he doesn’t have Steve’s many talents, so he relies on the expertise of others in those areas where he is less experienced – such as product design and marketing.
That’s where things get a little more complicated. Steve’s vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. That kind of performance doesn’t come as naturally to Tim.
Simplicity in the product lines
Apple now sells three different iPhones, four different iPads and three different MacBooks. The Apple Watch comes in seemingly infinite combinations of sizes and bands. The Apple universe is exploding with complexity! Or is it?
One could easily argue that a watch is a fashion product, so the decision here makes sense. And there is ample precedent for Apple expanding existing product lines. The original iPod, for example, successfully grew into a family of products.
Markets mature. A bigger audience has more diverse needs. If Apple were to ignore those needs, they would only force customers to go elsewhere. (As they did for several years by not making a big-screen iPhone.)
So, yes, Apple’s product lines have become more complicated. But really, are they that complicated? The company’s entire selection of products can easily fit on an average-size table. When a company cares about simplicity, it offers the right choices – not endless choices.
Simplicity in software
Critics have had a field day complaining about the growing complexity of Apple software. Apple Music has been attacked mercilessly, and deservedly so. I personally find parts of it to be bewildering.
Apple’s ability to make software solid and simple has come under attack from a number of normally pro-Apple sites. Not that it excuses Apple, but many forget that such lapses also happened on Steve’s watch. He famously went ballistic over the flawed launch of Apple’s early cloud effort called MobileMe.
The fact is, even the best of companies make mistakes from time to time. What’s alarming the Apple crowd today is that the flaws and complexities now seem to be creeping into the products more frequently.
Simplicity in product naming
Once upon a time, Apple’s product naming was extremely simple. Computers were Macs and consumer products were i-devices.
Now the consumer products are offered as i-things and Apple-things (Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Apple Music). But we’ll give Apple a pass on this one because the i is obviously on its last legs, and a transition like this doesn’t happen overnight.
I’m less forgiving when it comes to iPhone naming. With the current models consisting of iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and SE, Apple’s naming scheme is becoming noticeably less simple.
Then there’s the issue of the S. For some reason, Apple has decided that every other year, it should just add an S to the current model number, because the S-year improvements are internal only. So Apple’s own actions have served to train the public that S years are the “off years”. This is an absurdity, given that such revolutionary features as Siri, Touch ID and 64-bit processing have all been introduced in S models.
The S naming has only served to confuse customers, and make it significantly more difficult for marketing to do its job.
Complicated, yes. But bear in mind that Steve is the guy who started iPhone with the S-names in the first place.
Simplicity in marketing
Apple has a lengthy, award-winning history in advertising. Even marketers in other industries have long considered Apple ads to be the gold standard.
This isn’t because Steve Jobs created great ads himself – it’s because he was adament about keeping the process simple. He trusted a small group of smart people at his longtime ad agency and he was actively involved in the process, week to week.
There were no middlemen, no multiple levels of approvals, and no focus group research. Trust me, few companies on earth work this way. It was Steve’s way of keeping complexity at bay.
With Steve’s passing, things changed dramatically. Apple is building a large in-house marketing group. Teams compete to produce new campaigns. More people are involved. In short, Apple is now managing its marketing more like a big company and less like a startup.
Does simplicity still rule at Apple?
I have zero doubt that Apple believes deeply in the power of simplicity. Simplicity is at the heart of the company’s products and the foundation of its vision for the future.
But simplicity is a matter of perception, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that Apple is struggling to present a simple image to its customers.
There is serious work to be done in rebuilding the perception of simplicity that helped Apple become the world’s most valuable company. Existing problems need fixing, as do the internal processes that have allowed complicated products to make it into the hands of customers.
That said, it’s important to put Apple’s issues in context. Despite its current challenges – and its lapses – I don’t see any other technology creating a simple experience as well as Apple.
We live in a complicated world, and the companies that deliver simplicity are the ones who win in the end.