Words Designed to be Read, Not Written

Great design focuses on what is truly needed, not on existing solutions. Especially when the solution is some 10,000 years old, like writing.

We write to convey, distribute and preserve thoughts, and until now our focus has been stuck on the page. Back in the day … way, way back in the day, the solution was a chisel and a slab of stone. The process was not only slow, but the materials were extremely expensive. Fast forward many centuries to the time of penning down thoughts onto sheepskin, and there was still that same constraint: the delivery mechanism, i.e. the surface upon which you wrote, was expensive. If you look at the process from that vantage point, it’s easy to see how we came upon the design of the paragraph. Yes, just like the one you’re reading. A paragraph is a design that is intended to squeeze as many words onto a space as possible. And that makes perfect sense when space is precious.

But I’m guessing you’re not reading this piece on a slab of stone, a scroll of sheepskin or even on piece of paper. Most likely you’re digesting my words digitally; exactly how I’m producing them. And that space is pretty darn free. We can write, cut, paste and copy with unprecedented speed and ease, and yet that old standby – the paragraph – remains. It is a design built for writing, but not necessarily for reading. (more…)

A $25,000 Challenge to Keep it Simple

When you look at a retailer like Target and its unique positioning as an “upscale” discounter, you’ll notice a few things. One is that it not only has to be excellent at the science of retailing but it must also push the art of being a merchant. Being an artful merchant is about design, curation and expert editing of offerings. And these days you can add social innovation to Target’s fashion traditions.

Target’s latest social innovation leans into the world of wellness and disease prevention, in addition to recovery and maintenance of health conditions, and pushes its desire to serve its guests’ needs well beyond the pharmacy counter.  But that’s not even the beginning of the innovation because this time the initiative starts outside of Target’s walls with the ideas coming from the most creative minds in our neighborhoods.  (more…)

The Solution To A Problem You Didn’t Know We Had

OK boys and girls, let’s be honest here: How many times have you used a public restroom and noticed people doing their thing and leaving without stopping to wash his or her hands? Tsk, tsk. But c’mon, we know that this happens a lot and no amount of extra soap on your hands is going to make up for the fact that your bathroom buddies aren’t doing their part in keeping sanitary.

Until now. (more…)

Diving Into Design with Deeper Impact

While it may be easy not to think about what goes in to producing your lightweight cotton tee or your favorite pair of jeans, it’s always better to be aware of the creation process … including the harvesting of the material and every worker that touches it. Everyone is cloaked with the issue of wearing clothes, right?

Nike, ever the innovator, has been referencing an in-house application for the past eight years that informs the producers which materials are more sustainable by comparing them against one another. An example of something this app (until now it was considered more of a sustainability index) provided was the amount of water required to produce a certain material. Then you could look at another material to find out how much water goes into that one. It was a simple index that, according to this piece in Fast Co Design, assisted Nike in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent from 10 years ago. Considering how big of a player Nike is in the garment world, 18 percent is a massive reduction in gas emissions. (more…)

Think the Mall is the coolest place for teens? Think again.

When you think of restless teens and gathering places, what comes to mind? Maybe a park, restaurant or mall … somewhere they can socialize and be themselves. Whatever you come up with, I bet you two packs of gum that your list doesn’t include a library. And why would it? Libraries are for reading, studying and – the horror! – being quiet. While teens should certainly be hitting the books, libraries aren’t likely to be the place they want to meet.

Don’t quote me on this, but if other libraries take after the New York Public Library, that trend might change. The NYPL created an entire floor dedicated to teenagers. Its modern, earthy architecture was designed specifically to draw teens in and get them to stay. The construction of the floor cost a cool $1.8 million, but when you see pictures of it you’ll understand why. (more…)

Breaking Down the Barriers to the World of Philosophy

Kickstarter has taken the world by storm as of late. Seth Godin wrote a book with its funding. Zach Braff is producing a movie. Traditionally massive barriers to creating and distributing content and ideas are dropping as people are making waves by transcending traditional forms of action and crowdsourcing their funding.

Of the coolest Kickstarter projects I’ve seen as of late is a book – or, more impressively – a concept called Philographics. It is the stripped-down, to-the-bones version of philosophy in graphic form. Hence Philo-graphics. Concepts that take years to understand are smartly designed and distilled into one simple graphic per philosophy. (more…)

Not Your Average Watering Hole

What is it about a billboard on the side of the road catches your eye? Is it bright colors? Flashy lights? Humor? Like you, I’ve seen a lot of billboards in my day, but quite possibly the coolest one I’ve laid eyes on (via a computer screen anyhow), is located just outside of Lima, Peru. The billboard’s purpose isn’t solely to advertise like the rest of the slab-sided advertisers out there – it serves a very functional purpose. This sign doesn’t just tell, it does. (more…)


Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Yes. Every hour.

I could end this blog post now and you’d get the joke.  That’s not a good number. But a Harvard professor and genius designer has come up with a product that just might make a serious dent in that outrageous statistic.

David Edwards has created many a beautiful thing. Most notably perhaps is Le Laboratoire, an innovative and experimental design center Paris. He’s also come up with all of these wild ideas. The man truly honors the word design: his artistry produces things of beauty, things of function and most of all he knows how to produce things of meaning.  So when he came up with the idea of edible food packaging people were prepared to listen with an open mind. (more…)


If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of empathetic design; products and services that are made from the prospective of the user.

What you’re about to read about is something that far too often we think of a merely a service: how we get information.  But the information itself is indeed a product as well and too often it’s not designed with the consumer of that information in mind.  Usually, the focus is built around what the producer needs to say.  But a truly good story – one that really sticks with you — is built to be heard not just stated, and infographics are emerging as a wonderful design constructed for that purpose.  The need has never been greater as each day we are introduced to another information aggregation website or application.  Listen, I’m a big fan of big information – but sometimes it can be a challenge to keep all of the data straight or pay attention to one story while there are a million others out there equally as deserving of our attention. (more…)


When you hear the term “design,” you likely think of things like logos, Photoshop and well-oiled machines. What you likely do not think of is government. But, whether it’s good or bad, our government is a design.  We know the blueprint of our government as the Constitution and Bill of Rights of course.  And lately it would seem that, like so many other institutions in our country, our government is failing us.  But what if it isn’t the design of government, but rather the design of our politics that is to blame?  We’re not used to thinking of politics as separate and apart from our governmental institutions, but separating the two just may lead to a better ability to redesign and make what’s wrong, right while not messing with what’s actually working.   (more…)