Malcolm Gladwell and 10,000 Hours

 While it's bad reporting to discuss a book based on the reviews, arguably if you were going to do it to any author, it'd be Malcolm Gladwell. Why? He has an uncanny knack for pithy catchphrases that jump out of the pages. In The Tipping Point you have the titular term (where things must change), along with Mavens (those people you go to for advice), Connectors (they know everyone) and Salesmen (can get people to do anything). Blink also had that titular term (thinking without thinking) and thin-slicing (successfully prioritising using the little information we have). And so it seems with Outliers.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Judging from this Time magazine interview, Gladwell's latest cocktail-party offering is the concept of “10 000 hours” work to become an expert (or, as the interviewer helpfully breaks down, 10 years at 20 hours a week). Obviously it helps if you can get it in early, like Bill Gates (got most of his hours done at high school), or many athletes. From a more general view, it's a nice reminder that mastery really does take effort. (Though some of his other stories look less inspiring: the chain effect of being a hockey player born at the start or end of a hockey season is a bit disturbing).

When the going gets tough, the tough get … crafty

 As the recession bears down on us, at times in the design world it's hard to avoid the worry that our roles will be the first to go. However, maybe the one thing in our favour is the thing that gives us a job in the first place … that people are understandable, but not entirely rational. Take the report from the New York Times that craft supply shops are experiencing a boom.


It's a reminder that people still have a desire for self-expression and actualisation even when they have a bit less money. Similarly, the PR Web report of healthy Blu-Ray sales shows that while the format for entertainment may change, the need for it will not. (Not that that helps the movie industry though!) The UK's The Independent notices the same for food: Londoners might have less money, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're prepared to cook. However, the most intriguing exception to the recession rule has to be this one: a booming trade for spy gadgets (see Reuters video interview.) Apparently it's a reaction to concern about finances. I can see Bruce Sterling having a field day if this one continues ….

"Back of the Napkin" and other book picks

You know it’s the end of the year when everyone does their “Best of” lists. Fast Company’s “Business Books of 2008″ is one worth checking out. My favourite is Dan Roam’s “Back of the Napkin”: a guide for businesspeople to making diagrams for expressing ideas. (Since everyone in design knows you don’t actually need to be able to draw to do them!)

Dan Roam: Back of the Napkin

Other notables on the list include Nicholas Carr’s look into the future of computing “The Big Switch, and the IDEO map books series “Eyes Open”. (Via Fast Company)

Guy Kawasaki: 'Reality Check' Interview

I've been a huge fan of Guy Kawasaki for a long time – especially since many people don't seem to know that he- rather than Steve Jobs – was probably the person responsible for Mac-evangelism. (Kawasaki rallied Mac fans together during the 'dark age' years when Jobs wasn't there, encouraging them to make sure the product was represented in stores, flame detractors etc – see Leander Kahley's book “The Cult of Mac” for more info). He also suggests the 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides, no more than 20 minutes, with 30 point font. So I'm really excited about the new book he has out: “Reality Check”. Fast Company has also recently interviewed him, where he talks about needing Twitter more than a cellphone, working at Apple, and whether Steve Jobs is an asshole….

(Via Fast Company)

Coffee and Visualisations

Christoph Niemann has created a great story (with coffee and napkins!) of his lifelong relationship with coffee. While it isn’t as disarmingly simple as Jessica Hagly’s Indexed (where she diagrammatises something everyday on an index card), its charm lies in its embodiment of the content (does anything other than coffee stain napkins that exact shade?)

Coffee Visualisation

(Via Good Experience)

The Rise of Service Design

Service Design seems to be getting more and more attention these day. UK's Design Council has launched a new programme known as Public Services By Design, while the Netherlands recently hosted a Service Design conference. The idea of service design has been around for a while: IDEO has been doing it for years, and NextD's similar concept of design leadership is also nothing new. However, there are some other consultancies coming to the fore such as Live|Work (case studies) and Engine Group (case studies). It's also becoming especially relevant as science and technology drive more and more companies. Saïd Business School (SBS) at the University of Oxford also have online their results from their study into “Designing for Services in Science and Technology-Based Enterprises”. (Via Putting People First)

40 Year Anniversary of "The Mother of All Demos"

Or as a poster on the IXDA put it: “Happy Birthday Mouse”. There is a great BBC article up about it. Designing Interactions is also worth checking out. What’s amazing is that since the mindblowing presentation that gave Doug Engelbart a standing ovation from the audience, not much has changed. (See the video yourself. 40 years on, and the screen may be more GUI, but wouldn’t you think we’d have moved on a lot more? The First Computer Mouse

(Via IXDA)

… and when a bit of branding goes a long way

Last post I talked about branding going too far. This time though, it's more about when a bit of branding makes all the difference … with those “404 Site Not Found” pages. have put together a great compilation of inspired 404 error pages.

It's a great example of designers taking a bit of extra time to keep a site 'on brand'. Given that pretty much any CMS allows you to do that, it's a wonder it's not more common. It's probably one of the few easter eggs that you can legitimately deliver on a web site! (Via IXDA)

When Brand Identity Goes Too Far …

I can't remember where I read it, but somewhere someone wrote that when it came to student protests, the placards by graphic design students – well laid out, clean, Helvetica – never seemed as compelling as the scruffy handpainted ones held by everyone else.

That thought came to mind with this picture of a sign put up by a bank in my hometown after it was robbed.

While the sign is obviously 'on-brand', it is disturbingly cheerful and polished for what you'd imagine to be a fairly uncommon event. (Yet ATMs often have scrappy pieces of paper over them with “Out of Order” … you'd think these'd be far more common!) I think I'd have rather seen a hastily made up sign myself. (Image from

Videos from GEL conferences online

Since finding out about Mark Hurst's Good Exerience blog, I've been a huge fan. Also on my list of things to do one day is attend the annual GEL conference he is involved with organising. What's great about GEL is that it's truly interdisciplinary – you can see rising stars from design, art, computing, and general culture. So I'm happy to see that Hurst is posting videos from the previous conferences.

Already up include talks from Alex Lee from Oxo, Kelly Dobson from MIT Media Lab, and choreographer Henning Rübsam.