No, designers don’t *have* to code.

Over at Wired, Liz Stintson responds to John Maeda’s new Design in Tech Report:

But design’s role in this world is constantly shifting. In his 2017 report Maeda makes the case that the most successful designers will be those who can work with intangible materials—code, words, and voice. These are the designers who craft experiences for the chatbots and voice interfaces people are increasingly interacting with. Maeda cites a blog post from last spring, in which UX designer Susan Stuart makes the case that writing and UX design aren’t so different. “Here’s where I’d like to draw the parallel with writing — because a core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” she said. “These are the skills of a writer.”

This year, Maeda goes deep on this idea of skills, focusing his own on the growing field of computational design (a field he’s pioneered since the mid-1990s). In the report Maeda makes the distinction between “classic” designer, the makers of finite objects for a select group of people (think graphic designer, industrial designer, furniture designer) and “computational” designers, who deal mostly in code and build constantly evolving products that impact millions of people’s lives.

This piece has a deliberately threatening and clickbait-y headline: ‘John Maeda: If You Want to Survive in Design, You Better Learn to Code.’

Maeda’s report doesn’t say designers have to learn to code in order to survive. What he focuses on is the importance of ‘computational design’ in the worlds of technology and business and about how we need to evolve the way we solve problems.

The never-ending question “should designers know how to code” is vague and moot because if you’re someone who makes money as a digital designer (website, mobile app, user interface), you already know something about code.

There’s a wide spectrum of ‘understanding code’ and a digital designer can lay at any point along that spectrum. You could be fluent in PHP and know how to hand code custom WordPress themes, or you might only have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Both scenarios can lead to you being a valuable designer.

The most important thing designers need to know is what technologies exist and are emerging, how those technologies work, so that they can apply that knowledge to their problem-solving.

‘Exclusive RIght’

From Reuters, Taxi owners, lenders sue New York City over Uber:

Taxi owners and lenders on Tuesday sued New York City and its Taxi and Limousine Commission, saying the proliferation of the popular ride-sharing business Uber was destroying their businesses and threatening their livelihoods.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court accused the defendants of violating yellow cab drivers’ exclusive right to pick up passengers on the street by letting Uber drivers who face fewer regulatory burdens pick up millions of passengers who use smartphones to hail rides.

I use Uber all the time in San Francisco, but I’m also aware it’s not the most upstanding business.

There’s a reason people flock to Uber: the experience of requesting and paying for a ride is seamless. What pisses me off is hearing taxi owners whine, bitch, and complain about Uber rather than figure out a way to improve the process of hailing a cab. No group should have an ‘exclusive right’ to business over others. Fuck that noise.

[To be clear, I could spend many blog posts on how much Uber’s business practices piss me off too. They’re a shady bunch.]

rise from a liquid media

News flash, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and 3-D print objects:

The technology, called CLIP — for Continuous Liquid Interface Production — manipulates light and oxygen to fuse objects in liquid media, creating the first 3-D printing process that uses tunable photochemistry instead of the layer-by-layer approach that has defined the technology for decades. It works by projecting beams of light through an oxygen-permeable window into a liquid resin. Working in tandem, light and oxygen control the solidification of the resin, creating commercially viable objects that can have feature sizes below 20 microns, or less than one-quarter of the width of a piece of paper.

“By rethinking the whole approach to 3-D printing, and the chemistry and physics behind the process, we have developed a new technology that can create parts radically faster than traditional technologies by essentially ‘growing’ them in a pool of liquid,” said DeSimone, who was scheduled to reveal the technology at a TED talk on March 16 in the opening session of the conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here’s the video:

via DrewBot

Adapt or Die

Mike Isaac for The New York TImes:

Regulators in Chicago have approved a plan to create one or more applications that would allow users to hail taxis from any operators in the city, using a smartphone. In New York, a City Council member proposed a similar app on Monday that would let residents “e-hail” any of the 20,000 cabs that circulate in the city on a daily basis.

It is a new tack for officials in the two cities, a reaction to the surging use of hail-a-ride apps like Uber and Lyft.

What a fucking novel idea. When given the opportunity I’ll take Über over traditional taxis (in any city) any day of the week.

Once again, Darwin is more relevant that ever: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The mutants will survive.

I’m Going to Pass on This One

It seems Walter Isaacson is jumping on the innovation bandwagon with his new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.
Isaacson did a really shitty job with his biography of Steve Jobs. In the book you can see he doesn’t understand the industry or the technology and like John Siracusa explains in his scathing review of the Jobs bio, “he didn’t understand it and didn’t bother to learn!”
If you’re interested in understanding how badly Isaacson dropped the ball with the Jobs bio, I recommend listening to Sircusa on the Hypercritical podcast, episodes 42 & 43.
As for this new book on innovation? I’m going to pass.
(if you want to read an author who does know how to write about the history of innovation, I highly recommend Steven Berlin Johnson)

frugal innovation

In a world with microchip implants, car-to-car communication, and talk of drone delivery services, it can seem as if innovation is becoming increasingly high-tech. But what about the world’s poorest, for whom such gadgets are out of reach? What types of innovation would be most beneficial for them?

These questions are the driving force behind efforts in “frugal innovation” — designing products specifically to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people. The concept challenges innovators to do more with less. In general, the creators of frugal innovations strive for them to be affordable, sustainable, lightweight and rugged. Wherever possible, they should be made locally with renewable materials. Perhaps most important, they should be developed with the end user in mind, taking into consideration things like power outages in her village, the distance she must walk to seek medical assistance and religious customs she considers sacred.
—Sarika Bansal, Innovation Within Reach

There’s an idea in this pile of cash somewhere.

Awesome headline: BGR: Samsung is ‘hiring like crazy’ trying to come up with original ideas

Samsung is spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million in building its Bay Area R&D center, which will be an enormous facility of 1.1 million square feet. Business Insider notes that Samsung actually spent more on R&D than any other company in the world last year, although the Korean smartphone still isn’t seen as an innovation powerhouse like Apple and Google are.
I’m confused. Does throwing money at technology not make it more innovative?

Disrupting Disruptions

Over at the New Yorker, Jill Lepore calls out Clayton Christensen on his innovation and disruption theories:

In his original research, Christensen established the cutoff for measuring a company’s success or failure as 1989 and explained that ” ‘successful firms’ were arbitrarily defined as those which achieved more than fifty million dollars in revenues in constant 1987 dollars in any single year between 1977 and 1989–even if they subsequently withdrew from the market.” Much of the theory of disruptive innovation rests on this arbitrary definition of success.
I love Christensen’s work, but it’s always interesting to read opposing views.

The Art of Remixing

One of the things that I am most passionate about is showing respect for the ingenuity of others. Working in an ecosystem where I am often competing very closely, it is inevitable that I will be confronted with situations where the easy thing is to match/copy/remix someone else’s ideas into my own app.

What I have found very frustrating is that I haven’t been able to define what is acceptable in a manner that comes anywhere close to the importance I think this topic demands. Too often I am left with just an I’ll know it when I see it definition.

David Smith provides a great example of the art of remixing

I call it not being a lazy ass and using your brain to make something that resonates with you.

innoveracy

Horace Dediu shares my frustration in how most people have no idea what innovation means:

But there is another form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth.

My contribution to solving this problem is to coin a word: I define innoveracy as the inability to understand creativity and the role it plays in society. Hopefully identifying individual innoveracy will draw attention to the problem enough to help solve it.
I addressed this issue back in 2009.
True examples of innovation are incredible but the amount and frequency this word is abused and misused has made me grow to hate it.

Steroids Suck

Bijan Sabet:

We often hear about new products that promise to beat the current market leader by being the “blah blah blah on steroids”.

I’m not a big fan of this strategy.

That doesn’t mean that the market leader isn’t vulnerable but it’s a question of the approach.

Apple didn’t put a hurt on Microsoft desktop business by a better version of Mac OS. They put the hurt by nailing a new category altogether with the iPad.

By contrast Microsoft has adopted the “on steroids” strategy in many of their products.

The Surface tablet is an attempt to be an “iPad on steroids”. It has a keyboard, it shipped with a pro and consumer model. It can do split screen. The list goes on.

You know how well the Surface did.
via Marco Arment

Don’t Get Crazy

Over at Slate, Jessica Olien explains how people don’t actually like creativity:

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers–creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.
As Olien says in her post, part of creativity is uncertainty and people don’t like uncertainty.
I’d like to think as a web & mobile designer, my industry is the exception to this creativity bias, but it’s not. This is because designers might have the balls to try new, dangerous ideas, but clients don’t.
Clients want creative, but not too creative.

Disruption

Steven Sinofsky responds to the fall of Blackberry on his blog:

Disruption happens when a new product comes along and changes the underlying assumptions of the incumbent, as we all know.

Incumbent products and businesses respond by often downplaying the impact of a particular feature or offering. And more often than folks might notice, disruption doesn’t happen so easily. In practice, established businesses and products can withstand a few perturbations to their offering. Products can be rearchitected. Prices can be changed. Features can be added.

What happens though when nearly every assumption is challenged? What you see is a complete redefinition of your entire company. And seeing this happen in real time is both hard to see and even harder to acknowledge. Even in the case of Blackberry there was a time window of perhaps 2 years to respond-is that really enough time to re-engineer everything about your product, company, and business?
…says the man who left Microsoft.
His post is decent, but hindsight is 20/20. It’s like an alcoholic with a revoked driver’s license telling you not to drink and drive.
Sinofsky mentions “Christensen” once, but it would have been good to mention the actual book that obviates his blog post—The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006