10 Tips For Success From George Lois, The Original Mad Man

In his latest book Damn Good Advice, the legendary adman George Lois serves up some tried-and-true wisdom for creatives with vision and gumption. According to the mastermind behind brand-making campaigns for Lean Cuisine and MTV, breakthrough ideas don’t arise from following the crowd ("a trend is always a trap"; "a new direction is the only direction") or working in teams ("Teamwork might work in building a barn, but it can’t create a big idea.") but from undiluted courage and genius.

Can We Please Move Past Apple’s Silly, Faux-Real UIs?

Tom Hobbs lays out one of the more coherent and persuasive arguments against skeuomorphic UI design, the practice of deriving digital interfaces from analog objects that aren’t necessarily relevant anymore (think of a Rolodex for "filing" contacts). Instead of aping bookshelves and stitched leather, Hobbs argues for a "just enough is more" philosophy that strips UIs of superfluous ornamentation. Read his nuanced treatise here.

4 Elements That Make A Good User Experience Into Something Great

Reporting from the inaugural Interaction Awards, Helen Walters points to a trend in which the best interaction designs aren’t just good designs unto themselves but support and enhance other products. Read more here.

Why Good Design Is Finally A Bottom Line Investment

By now, thanks in large part to Apple, we understand the importance of design to a product’s success. Still, it’s taken a while for companies--both large and small--to catch up. In Fast Company's October 2012 design issue, Cliff Kuang makes a strong argument for how design has become a "decisive advantage in countless industries, not to mention a crucial tool to ward off commoditization." Read on.

Will Apple’s Tacky Software-Design Philosophy Cause A Revolt?

Fast Company's Austin Carr talks to industry insiders and former Apple designers who bemoan Apple’s continued use of fake wood, leather, and glass in its UIs (i.e., the practice of skeuomorphism). The trend, it turns out, began with Steve Jobs himself, who dictated that the iCal leather stitching be modeled on his own Gulfstream. The tide seems to be changing at Apple: Less than a month after this post appeared on Co.Design, Scott Forstall, a proponent of skeuomorphic design, was asked to leave the company following the disastrous launch of Apple Maps, and Jony Ive assumed control of software design.

Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming. Here’s How To Argue Productively

As brainstorming falls out of vogue, what should replace it? At Continuum Innovation, Daniel Sobol writes, the designers engage in deliberative discourse, a process originally articulated in Aristotle’s Rhetoric and but adapted by Sobol to refer to "participative and collaborative (but not critique-free) communication." Here, he details the five requirements for yielding fruitful collaborative sessions.

The Key To A Unified Brand: A Consistent UI

You’ve seen and experienced it before: The Web team functions separately from the app team, which has nothing to do with the mobile team. But that siloed approach--which can create wildly different experiences across platforms--doesn’t serve the customer or the brand, argues EffectiveUI’s Peyton Lindley. The solution involves an internal organizational shift: "If we can agree that consumers see a brand as having one 'voice,' Lindley writes, "I’d argue that the internal organization’s infrastructure should be set up to reflect that singular voice: No more Web team, separate from the mobile team, separate from the development team."

3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It

Steve Jobs said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” But how do you figure out what they want when don’t even know? Scott Anthony, in The Little Black Book of Innovation, gives three pointers: 1. Spend lots of time with your target customers; 2. Look for ways people have developed their own workarounds to a problem for which there’s not yet a solution; 3. Zoom in on untapped markets.

Meetings Are A Skill You Can Master, And Steve Jobs Taught Me How

As part of the Apple branding team from Chiat/Day, Ken Segall gathered lessons from Steve Jobs, including how to conduct a productive meeting. First order of business: Throw out the least important person from the room.

A Former iPhone UI Designer Defends Apple’s Fake-Leather Design Philosophy

In an interview with Fast Company's Austin Carr, an ex-iPhone designer maintains that skeuomorphism can be an effective way to create a mood. "A leather texture," he says, "definitely creates a certain environment and state of mind when you’re using it. I don’t think there is right and wrong, or good and bad here."

4 Innovation Strategies From Big Companies That Act Like Startups

Where does all the innovation reside these days? In small upstarts, you say? Although most of us think that the big breakthroughs are happening at lean, agile operations, big companies are taking a crack at innovation, too, and they’re taking a page from the startup handbook, according to Soren Kaplan, the author of this year’s Leapfrogging. In this essay, he takes a look at the four strategies they employ, focusing on two programs: "First, they accelerate the speed of innovation, just like a Silicon Valley incubator. Second, they give internal businesses and teams an outside-in perspective, similar to the type of reality-checking that comes from advisory boards or venture capitalists."

What The Tech Pundits Don’t Get About Facebook’s $1B Instagram Deal

When Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion, tech writers were left slack-jawed. Why would Facebook shell out so much for a service that won’t generate tons of revenue? Instagram’s value, Co.Design editor Cliff Kuang argues, lies in its great design and ability to tap into users’ emotions--those are important factors for a company like Facebook that has lost its mojo despite its stock of bonafide talent.

Great Brands Are About Fusing Product And Service. How Do You Do It?

Brands have the opportunity to transmit a message across multiple channels--through both products and services. The problem is that these channels rarely align to form a cohesive whole. Method’s Reuben Steiger details how companies can start to create better experiences for their customers, including by restructuring so that all departments--from product development to branding and marketing--work together. Read more here.

Let’s Debunk 4 Myths About How Great Companies Innovate

In Relentless Innovation, Jeffrey Phillips points to Apple, 3M, and Google as companies that have long legacies of innovation and refutes specious explanations for how these giants maintain their edge.

The Brainstorming Process Is B.S. But Can We Rework It?

Brainstorming has long been considered the key to unlocking creativity and bold ideas. But two articles last year--Jonah Lehrer’s "Groupthink" in The New Yorker and Susan Cain’s "The Rise of the New Groupthink" in The New York Times--took the technique to task, citing scientific studies that suggest the contrary: The perceived benefits of brainstorming are baloney. In fact, the free flow of ideas often leads to the stifling of original thought, as the participants give in to peer pressure and, due to a neurological fear of rejection, engage in groupthink. Co.Design editor Cliff Kuang suggests that there may be a way to salvage the process, by allowing for critical discussions of problems, rather than focusing on solutions.

Want Breakthrough Ideas? First, Listen To The Freaks And Geeks

Average users tend to reject the new, but extreme users are more receptive to radical ideas and can offer more insight into how to improve the product, according to Sense Worldwide’s Brian Millar, who’s worked with everyone from dominatrixes and teddy-bear fanatics to Nigerian hackers. "If you’re going to get ambitious about your next task, don’t go and talk to normal people about it," he writes. "You’ll only get normal answers. Get out of your comfortable little world and step into a completely alien one. As we say round here, when worlds collide, transformation happens."

Co.Design

17 Innovation Essays For Jump-Starting Your 2013

In 2012, brainstorming was debunked, big business embraced startup culture, and Apple got its comeuppance (down with skeuomorphism!).

In 2011, the overarching question for companies both large and small was simple: How can we innovate like Apple? This past year, with the tech giant showing some chinks in its armor, the business community found itself casting around for a new source of inspiration.

That came in large part from startup culture. Even the big players are gleaning innovation strategies from lean, agile upstarts as they try to provide talented employees with the encouragement and flexibility required to generate path-breaking ideas. (Read Soren Kaplan’s post for more on that.)

While companies began embracing the new ways of startups, they simultaneously rejected standard practices of the past. Casualty number one: brainstorming. Long regarded as one of the keys to stoking innovative ideas, the technique was largely dismissed as a largely ineffective process. In fact, according to scientific studies, we’re more likely to hatch ideas on our own than in groups. As Jonah Lehrer wrote in The New Yorker and Susan Cain explained in The New York Times (and in her book Quiet), groups give rise to more social pressure than useful creativity. Writes Cain: "People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection."

But, as Daniel Sobol argues, we can rescue teamwork from the downside of brainstorming by practicing a technique he calls deliberative discourse, collaborative communication that allows for criticism. Sobol writes, "Multiple positions and views are expressed with a shared understanding that everyone is focused on a common goal. There is no hierarchy. It’s not debate because there are no opposing sides trying to 'win.' Rather, it’s about working together to solve a problem and create new ideas." Here, he details the five precepts of deliberative discourse.

On the digital side, we saw a pronounced backlash against skeuomorphic UIs. Despite its wonky-sounding label, digital skeuomorphism refers to a design derived from an analog object (think of iBooks’ faux-wood bookshelf). Steve Jobs was a big fan of the approach, which makes technology more approachable by giving users familiar references. The problem, say critics, is that these symbols are merely ornamental flourishes that, in some cases, aren’t even relevant anymore (take, for example, the Rolodex icon for "filing" contacts). Co.Design published two posts that took skeuomorphism to task (here and here) and one by an ex-Apple designer. But Apple itself issued the decisive blow to skeuomorphism when it dismissed its iOS chief, Scott Forstall, and ceded power over its software design to Jony Ive. We’ll see if it’s enough for Apple regain its status as a great American innovator.

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