Posts filed under ‘Innovation’

More Money, Less Pain

The June edition of Psychological Science published the results from six experiments conducted by psychologists and a marketing professor that tested the power of money in relation to social interaction. In one of the most startling results, they found that merely touching money or thinking about expenses affected participants both physically and emotionally.

In one experiment volunteers were asked to take a “finger-dexterity” test, one group counted stacks of $100 bills, while the other group counted paper. Afterwards both groups were but into a social interaction simulation where they were meant to feel snubbed and isolated. The group that counted out the money before the simulation rated their level of social distress much lower than the group that counted paper.

In another experiment, the same “finger-dexterity” test was taken and then the volunteers were asked to dip a finger in very hot (122 degree) water. Those who counted the money rated their pain as lower than those who counted paper.

The pain test was then repeated but with the volunteers now writing about either their expenses the previous month, or the weather. After the finger dip, those who wrote about spending their money rated their pain as higher than those who wrote about the weather!

“These effects speak to the power of money, even as a symbol, to change perceptions of very real feelings,” like pain, said Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.

What does this mean for the designer? It’s just one more thing to consider when presenting the project costs. Clients need to feel comfortable enough with the potential of your work to transform their lives and their interiors to offset the real and psychological pain of letting go some of their hard-earned money! It’s about making sure the client understands the value–both immediate and long term–of investing in their home décor; so that the experiential satisfaction they get from the process and the results more than offsets the purchasing pain.

See more about this on Live Science. Within that article are also links that discuss the value of “experiential” purchases vs. “product” purchases.

7 August 2009 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

Favorite Fabrics From IMM Cologne

IMM Cologne is not much of fabric show, but what I did find there was absolutely stunning. Création Baumann, the highly regarded Swiss textile company, introduced several amazing new products, utilizing innovative print techniques and the latest in fiber and fabric technology. Here are just a few of my favorites.

SuperHero Fabrics  Silver and Steel are two collections developed primarily for the contract sector, but I would love to use them in my own enormous windows. Silver features a thin aluminum backing in fabrics that range from opaque to sheer. Steel uses vacuum cathodic evaporation to adhere micro particles of steel to fabrics. The advantage of these new technologies is that the fabrics are washable and that the coating can be applied to a much larger range of fabrics and is less subject to the creasing of the metallic film.

Creation Baumann Silver & Steel fabrics

Creation Baumann Silver & Steel fabrics

Print Masters Providing an almost trompe l’oeil effect, Eplis features narrow ribbons of color transfer printed on a pleated fabric. It’s a fascinating combination of techniques that draws you in to explore it better. Another collection that merited a second look was a small group of digital prints on sheers that could be either cheesily retro or amazingly au courant depending on what section you looked at, as each of prints had detailed photorealistic sections intermixed with areas of blurring, overlay or other distortions.

Creation Baumann: Eplis & Garden

Creation Baumann: Eplis & Garden


Seductive Layers  Incredibly adaptable, the sophisticated Coco would look stunning in a loft environment or a traditional setting. The open star motif applies antique lace-making techniques in a thoroughly modern manner; a tulle flourish at the bottom is just another reason to love this fabric. Indiva is a two-layered sheer that shifts slightly during the printing process, resulting in a unique, slightly blurred effect that gives the look of fabric swaying in the breeze, even when it’s still.

Creation Baumann: Coco & Indiva

Creation Baumann: Coco & Indiva


Shrunken [Trail] Blazers  Using a special paint that affects the shrink rate of the fabric and produces a crisp, dry hand,  Création Baumann experimented with a tremendous range of looks. Violetta features layered blooms for a technical/traditional mix, a similar motif to that used on Coco; while Filippa also applies a burnout for additional dimensional and light layering effects.

Creation Baumann: Violetta & Filippa

Creation Baumann: Violetta & Filippa


Crushed  Fashion inspired and truly stunning in person, Saphir Crash is a sheer crush pleated offering while Yves is the opaque version, a blend of silk and metal.

Creation Baumann: Saphir Crash & Yves

Creation Baumann: Saphir Crash & Yves

3 March 2009 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

IMM Cologne Design Talents

There may have been a slightly tentative mood to IMM Cologne during the first day, with exhibitors and attendees both testing each other’s commitment, but soon enough everyone settled into their roles and while it wasn’t quite business as usual, it was close. At the show’s end, most expressed the type of surprised satisfaction that things hadn’t been as bad as they’d expected.

That isn’t meant to be flip, because expectations have an incredible impact on the success of a show. In other year’s the slight drop in overall attendance, the decline in international visitors, past exhibitors who didn’t show and the more limited range of new product introductions might have all been cause for significant grumbling and an aura of discontent, but because no one is really sure what to expect in business these days, the relative normality of show business was greeted as success. New products were shown, orders were placed, deals were made…the design industry continues to do business. And IMM Cologne demonstrated that even in this uncertain era, shows remain a critical, vital, part of the design business.

So, that said, let’s get to the good stuff! Here’s a few favorites from the show. For more on what caught my attention at  IMM Cologne, check out my postings on Designer Pages, Surroundings and in the March issue of Vision magazine.

I have definite soft spot for young designers and the d3 design talents section of IMM Cologne typically offers a full buffet ideas and approaches—thoughtful, playful, analytical, experimental, etc.—sometimes all from one designer. 

Chae Young Kim 
Deftly combining natural and artificial, intuitive and scientific approaches, hand-drawn and digital renderings, Chae Young Kim developed a series of patterns until the theme Urban Camouflage. Using fractal structures and patterns to construct an almost unnaturally lovely take on nature, Kim uses computer graphics and repeats that deliver a truly hand-drawn feel. 

Urban Camouflage by Chae Young Kim

Urban Camouflage by Chae Young Kim

Kai Linke 
Ich war’s nicht (It wasn’t me) is a collection or purposely deformed stools, shapes that look as if they have been twisted and damaged through use or abuse, but were instead created that way. One of Linke’s earliest prototypes was made of a felt form that was then filled with concrete. The weight of the liquid concrete further distorted in shape and once the concrete hardened, the felt was stripped away and the final, randomized shape was left. In these examples the stool on the left in steel and bronze, the one on the left is concrete.   

Ich war's nicht by Kai Linke

Ich war's nicht by Kai Linke

A design collective, the D.E.C.A.F. name represents their concept of Design-Environment-Concept-Art-Furniture. The group created a lamp that brings “street art” into the home in a fun, functional, (relatively) clever manner. Designed to work for both interior and exterior applications, the Graffiti lamp, according to its creators, “sheds light on those who work in the dark.” I love the concept and the overall look, however I would have loved loved it had the graffiti said something other than “lamp”. 

DECAF Graffiti Lamp

DECAF Graffiti Lamp

Raphaël Charles 
The 20/30 rug appears to be made rocks or stones scattered on the ground. The name comes from a standard grade of coal and is actually composed of polyethylene foam leftovers that are typically not otherwise recycled. The main rug is made of springy nuggets attached to felt base and each is supplied with a scattering of loose “lumps” to use as the owner wishes. 

Raphaël Charles 20/30 rug

Raphaël Charles 20/30 rug

Ryohei Yoshiyuki 
There were a couple of pieces of convertible furniture that I found particularly appealing in the d3 section. This piece is called Your Level, a typical modern cabinet that can be transformed into eight separate shelving storage units, or combined in a variety of manners. Even the tallest unit stands securely against the wall on its own (assuming of course you have relatively level floors) without the need for additional support.   

Ryohei Yoshiyuki My Level

Ryohei Yoshiyuki My Level

Philippe Malouin 
This piece took second place in d3 innovation award. Called the Grace table, it is a remarkable innovation in engineering, although I have to admit, in looks it leaves something to be desired. Grace is an inflatable table, large enough to seat 10 adults and sturdy enough to support all the plates, cups, bottles and more that go with meal of that size. Malouin’s challenge, working with Eurocraft, a leading manufacturer of inflatable structures, was that stability, rigidity and flat surfaces are not the typical characteristics of inflatable furniture. And, when deflated, Grace, along with its legs and support structures all fits in a standard-sized duffle bag. 

Philippe Malouin Grace table

Philippe Malouin Grace table

Pepe Heykoop 
Recent Eindhoven graduate Pepe Heykoop took home first prize the d3 innovation awards with A Restless Chairacter, a chair based on a rickety old chair in his studio. Through re-engineering each joint in aluminum and rubber, Heykoop is able to control the overall flexibility of the chair, which means the user can wiggle, twist, squirm and sway without damaging the structure of this seemingly stiff, uncomfortable chair. The flexible frame is wrapped in an equally flexible skin of polyurethane rubber. 

Pepe Heykoop A Restless Chairacter

Pepe Heykoop A Restless Chairacter

19 February 2009 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

So as I was cleaning out and starting a New Year,  I came across this piece written several years ago by Michael McDonough and published by Design Observer. I have to confess, I pull this out periodically and reread it because it is timeless advice for designers.  Each time I read the list something different hits me. Lately, its number 9 -Show me the outputand I’ll show you the money. What ones strike you?

Enjoy and Happy New Year.

From Michael Bierut, Design Observer Blog  03.24.04:

The Architect’s Newspaper is my new favorite design publication. It’s a 16-page tabloid that comes out about twice a month. It’s literate and timely, a fast-paced collection of news, reviews and opinion from voices as various as Michael Sorkin, Peter Slatin and Craig Konyk, all beautifully designed (in two ruthlessly efficient colors) by Martin Perrin. And, best of all, it has a gossip column.

Last month, they published a piece by Michael McDonough, the accomplished New York-based architect, writer and teacher, called “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” I read lots of these kinds of things (and even written a few myself), but I found McDonough’s not just entertaining but actually quite useful, and valid for nearly any kind of design discipline. He has graciously given us permission to reprint it here at Design Observer.

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School by Michael McDonough

1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.

Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.

Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.

You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4. Don’t over-think a problem.

One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.

In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6. Don’t forget your goal.

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.

Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.

The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9. It all comes down to output.

No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10. The rest of the world counts.

If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.

1 January 2009 at 12:51 pm 1 comment

The Paradox of Choice

 In August Susan discussed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Choice that Shapes our Decisions touching upon client’s indecisiveness because of too many options. Mark Hurst,a marketer, that I follow recently talked about the same subject with Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice , another  outstanding book on the subject. As can be the case, I am in a different business place today than in August and after rereading Mark’s blog; it all came together for me and I am on board.

Schwartz says, “Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.”

People can’t ignore options. There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better. Some social science research says that one consequence of leaving your options open is that people are less satisfied with their decisions; if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. He refers to it as accepting choices that are “good enough”.

Transfer that thought to your retail business. If you provide sales options in your retail store, SAH or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices.

 Schwartz goes on to outline how we should do that:

“There’s no general answer except “restrict options” – though in what way depends on what you’re selling. For example, e-commerce sites and store or your SAH client presentation should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to.

He cites an example of home furnishing stores -stores that sell things that don’t go naturally together – like clothing and furniture. They’re selling a certain aesthetic. How does a small store sell furniture? It puts a couple of things on display, and then offers a million items in the catalog. You’re not overwhelmed when you walk in; instead, you are in an environment where that’s manageable. If you like a couch, and tell the salesperson you’re interested, and ask if it comes in different colors or fabrics, the salesperson can trot out the catalog and then you can see the infinite number of couches you can get. First you’ve been seduced into wanting a couch by what appears to be the simplicity of the decision. That’s the right way to design things in the modern world, where everything is too complex.

He goes on to discuss’s If you like this.. popup. I have to say that I find it annoying. I don’t find myself buying from those popups and if I do start surfing, I end up losing focus and leaving the site without buying what I intended. So maybe he has a point. Schwartz suggests somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time.

The lesson here is to arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. My husband I just bought a new TV and it took us over 1 year to decide because of all the options, new models and upgrades coming on the market. I was about to throw in the towel. I should have promised myself that I would go to only two stores and then stop my research and make a decision.

That brings me to a retail trend I have been noticing lately- the limited edition, curated site or store. While this concept plays into several consumer behaviors right now it also is based on the paradox of choice. Gaby Basora, the genius behind coveted line Tucker, just launched e-commerce with a twist. Here’s how it works: Each month, there will be a limited-edition (100-150) classic blouse in a unique print that is available only on the site. That print will not be sold again, which means that if you score one, you will be the proud owner of a Tucker collector’s item, so to speak. Consider Gaby’s take. Cut back on the number of samples books you’re bringing into the house or consider a limited edition window fashion website,

For a “more is better” person like I am; I have resolved to start to editing my options in both my personal life and in working with my clients. If they came to me because I am the so –called expert: then here are the choices I recommend and I can back up. If she needs to see every fabric in every sample book, she’s not the client for me.

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14 December 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Our Attachment to Closing Doors

One of my favorite new business books so far this year is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. It addresses all kinds of issues from the motivating power of pain, pleasure and just plain placebos, explanations for why the honor code in the workplace (leaving a dollar in the conference room for your coffee and doughnut) really does work, and more.

But the most interesting examples for me where those where Ariely explores the all too human penchant for keeping as many options as possible open, even when the choice to do so is clearly, obviously, detrimental. Ariely even created a game (try it out for yourself here) where you have the choice to keep options (doors) open or not, all while trying to achieve the highest score. Even knowing what you’re “supposed” to do to win, most people will find themselves clicking to keep as many possible doors open, rather than optimizing their score. Why?

“Closing a door on an options is experienced as a loss,” Dr. Ariely explains. “And people are will to pay a price, sometime a significant price, in order to avoid to emotion of loss.” In the game of course, the trade-off is a lower score for more open doors, but in life sometime the trade-offs aren’t as obvious: wasted time, missed opportunities, lowered creativity, etc. All because we’re afraid to firmly shut the door an option, a project, a colleague, etc.

And flip this to the client side…how much information is too much for clients? Whether they gather it on their own, or we supply it them, the more options they’re presented with, the harder time they have coming to decision. And from Dr. Ariely’s research, this is an ingrained human habit. So don’t get too upset with your clients for dithering…instead think of ways to simplify and clarify the decision-making process for them. Plus keep in mind that they might be willing to pay in order to keep options open! 

As for the “option habit” in our own businesses, I’ve been making a conscious effort to truly weigh what keeping certain opportunities “live” costs me, and I’ve found I’m more willing to cut the cord on them than I was before reading this book. But make no mistake, it is an effort, and it often does cause little mental twinges and spasms of doubt and regret…but I also feel less cluttered mentally and emotionally than I have for a while.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

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13 August 2008 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

Learning to Fail

By now you’ve surely seen the ads for The Incredible Hulk movie starring Edward Norton. And, if any of you have young children or grandchildren, you might remember that there was another Incredible Hulk movie released not so long ago.

And you’d be right. In 2003 Marvel Comics revived the Hulk with a “major motion picture” with the intent to cash in on the successes of Spiderman (another Marvel comic), and Batman (a competitor). The eagerly awaited movie turned out to a major disappointment however, serving up more Bruce Banner than Hulk, and focusing on the despair and psychological trauma Banner creates and feels every time he lets his emotions get the best of him. Fanboys panned the movie, reviewers were lukewarm at best and the box office was terrible. 

The 2008 version starts off by rewriting the history established in the 2003 movie; it’s basically one big do-over. The 2008 Hulk is angry, aggressive and does a lot of smashing…which is what people who go to Hulk movie want to see. 

Marvel Comics had a very expensive and very public failure delivering on a brand promise to a target market. And, to the tune of another $150 million or so, they decided to demonstrate to that disappointed target market that the company heard, understood and was willing to do something to make it up. 

Now not everyone (ha!) had $150 million available to rethink, rework, repackage and revise a product to better fit the market, but the question for you is: What do you have (product, service, image, etc.) that isn’t quite fitting with your target market…and what are you willing to invest to fix it? 

25 June 2008 at 4:07 pm 2 comments

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