Thursday, May 31, 2007

jobs and gates share the stage

Only adulations and jokes between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, when they were interviewed at the "D5: All Things Digital Conference" in Carlsbad. Among some priceless stuff though: the awkwardness when they were asked about the Mac vs. PC ads, and Jobs saying that "...most things in life are either a Dylan or a Beatles song". Watch the video here.

design for the other 90%

This is one of the objects that are on display at the "Design For The Other 90%" exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, in New York City. It's a 20-gallon rolling drum, designed to carry water over long distances. In many places, people live kilometers from clean water sources. This drum makes life much easier (the usual way is to carry large containers of water on top of the head).Reference:
MACNEIL JR., DONALD G. "Design That Solves Problems for the World's Poor", The New York Times, May 29, 2007. (here)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

psfk 2

My second contribution to psfk. See the previous post about Docomo's vision of the future here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

a peek into the future

From time to time, NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, releases a video depicting its vision of the future. Docomo's latest video shows how mobile technology will make life safer, more convenient, and more comfortable. In their vision, among other things, people will wear glasses with GPS, tracking systems will prevent children from getting lost, security robots will take care of your house, and you will buy your veggie using your mobile (they seem obsessed with this idea).
Although all this could be quickly dismissed as corporate PR or an overly optimistic view of the future, I remember seeing one of these videos some years ago and saying 'yeah, right'. It was a video showing the use of video calls. Today video calls are pretty common over 3G networks, so don't dismiss this vision just yet as some of these features might very well become reality in the future. Who knows, one day you will even buy your veggie using your mobile. See the video here.P.S.: If you happen to be in Japan, you can arrange a tour to Docomo's R&D Center, in the city of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. I haven't been there myself but they have an exhibit called WHARF (Wealth, Human Activity and Revolution for the Future) that looks interesting. I guess the name says it all.

Friday, May 25, 2007

it's ok to have a messy desk

Al Gore in his home office (in the May 28th issue of Time magazine)

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This has got to be one of those earth-shifting moments in history: China announced it will invest US$ 3 billion in private equity firm Blackstone Group. That will represent about 8% of the firm that, according to the New York Times, "owns companies that have 375,000 employees and $ 83 billion in annual sales".
China is sitting on a huge war chest estimated at $ 1.2 trillion in foreign reserves and they've been looking for options on how to invest it. One of their models is Singapore's Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singaporean government, which holds stakes in several companies, ranging from financial institutions to telcos, based in Singapore and abroad. Keep an eye for more moves like this.
Who could've told this a few years ago?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

the mao suit

This is slightly embarrassing to admit but when I went to Beijing a couple of years ago, I was expecting to see everybody in Mao suits, the traditional communist outfit (O.K., you can laugh at me now). It wasn't utter ignorance (at least that's what I like to think). I had read all about the economic boom there, and had seen many TV reports as well, but despite all this I still had the image of the old communist country in my mind. Tell about the power of a symbol. Or was it because Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor"? Well, maybe both. Either way, all I can say is 'boy, was I wrong!'. Modern skyscrapers, malls, fashionable people everywhere, and most of all the stark contrast of BMWs and Mercs side by side with thousands of bike riders, that's what struck me the most. Not a single person wearing a Mao suit though.
According to this great article about the symbolism of old Chinese communist outfits, "...popular mythology assigned a revolutionary and patriotic significance to the Sun Yat-sen (the suit's designer) suit, even though it was essentially a foreign-style garment. The four pockets were said to represent the Four Cardinal Principles cited in the classic Book of changes and understood by the Chinese as fundamental principles of conduct: propriety, justice, honesty, and a sense of shame. The five centre-front buttons were said to represent the five powers of the constitution of the Republic and the three cuff-buttons to symbolise the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood".
Like Che t-shirts and Adidas CCCP Originals however, the Mao suit is no longer a symbol of the communist revolution, it has become a design icon, as demonstrated by the work of Chinese artist Sui Jianguo. See below this series of bright colored Mao suits.More of this artist's work here.
(via "I see what you mean". By the way, doesn't it sound like a cousin of "Just Trying to Understand"? Funny.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

celebrity endorsement

I came across this Avon ad, on the May 14th Sports Illustrated issue, featuring a smiling Derek Jeter. Then ...
... a few pages later, this Movado ad featuring... Derek Jeter (albeit a more serious one).Just thought it was funny. I guess it must be hard not to come up with this after paying big bucks for a celebrity to endorse your brand.

Monday, May 21, 2007

unlikely connections

I'm a big fan of Momus, the eye-patched musician-cum-cultural-commentator who writes a column for Wired. He writes about almost everything, from design to music to pop culture and to all things Japanese, and I find him always insightful and funny. I guess, most of all, I like his endless capacity to make the most unlikely type of connections. Writing in his own blog, he tells what he's up to: "I was in Scotland, then had a couple of days back in Berlin to write my next Wired column (connecting Apple's Get a Mac ads to Norman Mailer's essay The White Negro)".
What he'll come up with I have no idea but I'm already looking forward to reading it. His Wired columns here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

insight in a pizza box

Like so many other things (e.g. democracy, beauty, coolness), an 'insight' is hard to define but easy to recognize. From a recent Time magazine:

'It suddenly dawned on me that most people running from the law don't eat out, they order pizza.'
CYNTHIA BROWN, of the Butler County Child Enforcement Agency in Ohio, on her inspiration for placing wanted posters of child-support scofflaws on local pizza boxes in an effort to turn up the heat on deadbeat dads and mums.

product placement in monocle manga

I'm truly enjoying reading the Kita Koga manga that comes with Monocle magazine (story and art by Takanori Yasaka). Kita Koga is the story of Niels Watanabe, code name Koga, a cosmopolitan, kick-ass, modern agent, who works for a secret intelligence division in Japan's Defence Ministry. Niels is part Japanese, part Scandinavian, and jets around the globe in his missions. One of the interesting things about it is the product placement. Though they obviously promote the sponsors, the brands here help bring the story closer to reality, so to speak, it's something we recognize. Take a look at the collage below: Niels drives an Audi, drinks Carlsberg, and uses a Prada mobile phone (though perhaps a Sony-Ericsson would've been a better fit).Can't wait for the May edition to come out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

where ideas come from

I took the excerpt below from this excellent article in The Independent, "Why don't we make good ads anymore?".
They interviewed the likes of Sir Martin Sorrell, Trevor Beattie, John Hegarty, and others, who offered their insight about the industry.
But the excerpt I took is from Sir Frank Lowe, a little bit out of context, but it offers a glimpse on how some of the world's greatest ads were created (by somebody who must know).
"...How many hours did it take Terry Lovelock to write "Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach"? He wrote it in the middle of the night in the La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech. He woke up and wrote it by the bedside. "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet" was written by Tim Warriner when he lit up a cigar on the top deck of a London bus. How many hours was that? I found Stella Artois's "Reassuringly expensive" in the body copy of a print ad written by Geoff Seymour. It wasn't written as a line. "Every little helps" for Tesco was written by Paul Weinberger between going in and out of the loo when we were having a drink at the Paxton's Head pub in Knightsbridge." (via 407 In Vitro)


I'm contributing to psfk with the previous post about "Connected Life".

Monday, May 14, 2007

connected life

It's been on the cover of a recent "The Economist" magazine (subscribers only, sorry).It's been tested in Tokyo's Ginza district (Tokyo Ubiquitous Technology Project). Now, what initially seemed more like a sci-fi story is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Japanese government announced last Saturday that it is setting up a test zone for what they're calling an 'IT lifestyle', where everything and everyone is connected wirelessly.
According to The Japan Times (reg. req.), "the government will set up a special zone next fiscal year to test "ubiquitous" Internet technology in situations as varied as providing medical services for the elderly, preventing car accidents and buying vegetables".
Using a mix of mobile, internet, and RFID technologies, senior citizens will have their vital signs sent to hospital where they'll be continuously monitored, cars will have their speed automatically reduced if a pedestrian crosses the road, and people will even be able to buy vegetables using their mobile phones, should they want to do so. The test will be carried out in an area still to be determined, either in Hokkaido or Okinawa, where there's less radio wave interference.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

you say "ouch", i say...

I've always been amused by how people in different countries express pain differently. It's not a sadistic trace of mine, just curious observation.
I was used to scream "ai!" back in Sao Paulo. Now that I live in Singapore, I alternate between "ouch" and "ai". I haven't noticed exactly when I use one or the other, I guess it depends on the occasion or type of pain (still have to do more "research" on this, but am kind of reluctant to do so).
I find it fascinating that even this apparently instinctive reaction is actually culturally molded.
I found this great story on NPR, "Ouch! The language of pain", where they set out to hear people from different cultures and how they express pain. You can listen to it here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

where ideas come from

I saw this Shell ad on "The Economist" magazine. It reminded me of something I had seen before but I couldn't quite remember where.
Determined to find the name of the artist who inspired this ad, I asked the help of my friend PL. He's a brilliant art director, and with his photographic memory, he quickly pointed me to this, the cover of the New York Times Magazine, Year in Ideas 2004 (subscribers only, sorry)......and to this, the cover of the Communication Arts, Photography Annual, from August 2005.Basically the same pictures.
But I still wanted to know the name of the artist who inspired this all, so I searched for "visual complexity", and from this site, I finally found the original source: British artist Jeremy Deller, who won the Turner Prize in 2004 with his "History of the World" mural. See below. I was amused to see that the jacket and the sweaters are almost the same color.And here the print version in black & white.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

say it again? a dell store?

Dell's Founder and CEO Michael Dell has recently said that "the direct (sales) model has been a revolution, but it's not a religion".
Dell already opened a showroom in Dallas (only to display the models, not to sell them just yet).
All signs seem to indicate that we'll soon see a "Dell Store" out in the street.
This will be an interesting story to watch.

Darlin, Damon (2007). Dell's Founder Is Rethinking Direct Sales. The New York Times. April 28, 2007 (here)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

helvetica, the movie

I just needed to have this poster in the blog: Helvetica, the documentary (via infosthetics and designobserver). See the YouTube trailer here.