Posts tagged “San Francisco”

Just walk and watch

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On the street, near Market St. in San Francisco. Construction worker (with an extremely personalized hard hat, thick with stickers) carrying a bottle of Lipton Iced Green Tea, a product that is stereotypically opposite from the drinker. A few blocks further and I see an older man who’s odd fashion sense meant he was either foreign or homeless (or both) with a cheap pink fake-leather iPod case around his neck (with iPod), as if he was given the setup by a 13-year old girl. A block further I approach a cluster of people standing in front of some building on Market having a smoke break. They are all fairly young and relatively well-dressed, perhaps it’s some sort of continuing education or something, but as I pass by I see in their midst is a big clergy dude complete with rope-belt-and-brown-robes. As I enter my parking lot, I hear a noise as something hits the ground. “Sir, Sir!” voices call. As I turn I realize it’s something I’ve dropped and they are calling to tell me. I walk towards the item to retrieve it, but before I can get there a man of 70 (not with the “sir” group) scampers over and bends over to pick it up, and hands it to me so I don’t have to get it!

It was a fun ten minutes, filled with many surprises, confounded expectations, juxtapositions, and cultural collisions.

Poop on toilets, please

Lilly posted (a different image of) this poster:

Originally uploaded by h0mee.

The URL in the poster redirects to their blog which, among other things, tells residents of the Mission in SF where they can the poster to put on their own street.

The poster is pretty dramatic, with an interesting do and don’t icon flow. Gives insight into the problems some communities are facing.

Five-minutes-ago Nostalgia

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Last night was a launch party for Pikeo, a new photo sharing application. The product comes from France Telecom-Orange R&D (here in the Bay Area) but the party was at Adobe (since they provided Flex, an ingredient technology), where we had to sign a ridiculous NDA in order to gain access to the party. Food was pretty bad, conversation was pretty good, but seeing a demo wasn’t so easy. However, they had (as the FT-Orange people often do) lots of photography going on, and a few huge screens showing the Pikeo interface. One of them was regularly being updated with images from party, in some slideshow mode. The event was being archived as it was happening, with the archive being fed back into the event itself. You could see who was in the room just by standing in one spot and watching the screen. It wasn’t earthshaking but it was at least provocative to see the normal mode (go to an event, take pictures, go home and upload them, then review other’s pictures) subverted with a bit of technology and effort.

Here’s the setup (on flickr, ironically) before many people showed up.


ZoneTag Photo Tuesday 6:35 pm 12/5/06 San Francisco, California

Originally uploaded by Marc Davis.


MC SP was in da house

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(thanks Katie for the photo)
Friday was the Bay Area’s Best awards, where local winners of the BusinessWeek/IDSA IDEA Awards were feted. I presented the awards. Below are my opening remarks.

In preparing for tonight I’ve been doing some thinking about design in the Bay Area. I’m sure we’ve all had that same experience where we’re on call to our friends and colleagues in other places to try and offer some detailed overview of the local economy for design, consulting, innovation, or whatever. “What’s going on with business out there?” they’ll ask us.

Ummm, well, let’s see.

I mean, how do you answer that?

If you’re like me, you can really only answer it from your own narrow perspective. If you’re having a busy week, you might tell them “The Valley is back!” or if you’re feeling some economic crunch from your employer or your clients, you might just pause and inhale skeptically….”hisssssssssssssssssss. I dunno….”

Of course, we’re all optimists in Sunny (make that Foggy) California, so there’s probably a tendency to lean a bit harder on the “We’re back, baby” side of the equation.

So while I’m sure there’s someone with bar charts, and pie charts, showing the quarterly delta of the Gross Regional Product, design dollars spent per hard good, the macroeconomic tracking index of supply-and-demand curve adjusted for inflation, that’s not me. I can only tell you what I see and hear.

So if you will allow, let’s consider three different aspects of design: people, ideas, and stuff.

Okay, “people”. First of all, look at all of us. A bunch of people who are here tonight for outa-control alcohol fueled mayhem, to raise the roof with each other, for camaraderie, and celebration. To be out with each other and share the connection as part of the scene. We’re here for ourselves, but we’re here for each other. That’s a community. That’s something we know that people move here be part of. If you’ve got friends in other countries or other parts of the US, they may be jealous of that elusive “activity” that goes on here, at events like this and others. If you look at resumes you know that people definitely want to come HERE to work.

One of the largest employers of designers in the world is here…IDEO. With most of their designers here in the Bay Area. Just by mass alone, IDEO puts us all on the map.

We’ve got design students here, with programs at Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts (where I teach), San Francisco State, San Jose State, Stanford and probably someplace else I missed. Those schools are destination schools, and this area is a destination. And certainly the changes going on at CCA and Stanford are well-publicized in the design press, and even in the business press.

So, what about ideas? With Silicon Valley, we’ve got a tremendous history as a place of ideas, ideas that get turned into technologies and of course stuff that people end up using, in other words, design. If you aren’t getting a chunk of the money, you might not think at first that the $1.65 BILLION that Google paid for YouTube doesn’t really affect you, but don’t be mistaken – that’s a dramatic sign about money, content, media, information, entertainment, you name it. Oh, and of course, design.

But the air is thick with ideas here in the Bay Area. Earlier this week I saw a panel discussion with Larry Cornett and Joy Mountford from Yahoo, Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path, and Tim Brown from IDEO. They were considering the design challenges in creating a new class of product: systems with emergent behavior. In other words, where the way the product or system will be used isn’t known before it is created, and the design must allow for that flexibility to emerge over time. Maybe you’d like to dismiss all this as website stuff, but Tim Brown was very clear that he didn’t distinguish; it was all design to him.

And people from outside this area are hungry to bring their ideas here to teach us, and to get our reactions. Just in the last few weeks, we’ve had MOMA design curator Paola Anontelli at Stanford talking about designing the user experience of design exhibits, author and visionary Bruce Sterling at CCA talking about modernism, futurism, and design, Molly Steenson at Giant Ant talking about an ethnographic study she did with Microsoft in Bangalore, India, looking at how people use mobile phones. Turns out that whereas we see the phones as personal devices, for many in India they are shared devices. The design implications for software and hardware in the global marketplace are significant.

And last but absolutely not least comes the stuff. Consider that the talk about emergent systems I mentioned before was held in an overflowing auditorium at PARC, the famous R&D lab in Palo Alto that brought us word processing, the desktop interface, Ethernet, the laser printer, and helped to productize the mouse. We are residents in the ancestral home of revolutionary products, services, technologies – in other words, stuff – the personal computer, the internet, the iPod, the search engine. Revolutionary in that they change how people live, how they work, they create entire economies and destroy others.

And the stuff is why we’re here tonight, after all. Each of the firms we are honoring tonight have a “thing” that we’ll show, a thing that can be seen and touched. But each of those tangible things should mean so much more than the thing itself. The people in our winning firms have taken big ideas, new ideas, and put them into stuff. People, ideas, and stuff, and that’s how we got here, with our Bay Area’s Best.

The event was a lot of fun, although they ran out of beer (I was saving myself until after the awards, and made a dash for the bar only to find they were pushing this malt-beverage-with-caffeine that would have turned me into Portigolio with my shirt over my head) and I had to make do with a churro instead. It was really a party, more than a ceremony, and so lots of people continued to chat, loudly, while we began to speak through the PA. It’s very hard to speak when there’s so much background chatter, and I heard from others afterwards that it was a struggle for some to hear the presentations. I don’t begrudge anyone the desire to continue talking (that’s what’s great about parties) but it would be great if it could be managed so that the speaking-and-listening stuff could also go on as well.

I’m worth a million in prizes

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I’m officiating (? for lack of a better term) at The Bay Area’s Best

Please come out to celebrate the impact the Bay Area industrial design community had in the 2006 IDSA & Business Week Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA). Out of 1,494 entries submitted from 29 countries, Bay Area firms, corporations and individuals won 16 of the 108 awards given. That is 15% of all of the awards given out internationally.

7:00 – 8:00
Tunes/ DJs Ric-Tic Soul 66 and Super Mod 67, spinning genuine 1960’s and early 70’s Soul, Motown, R&B, and Funk.
Moves/ Authentic 60’s style Go-Go dancers
Drinks/ Cocktails
Eats/ Tapas

8:00 – 9:00
Door prizes and award presentation by Steve Portigal

9:00 – 11:00
Music dance drink

I’m tired

On Friday I became a first-time uncle as Talia Elyse Todd arrived. We’ll be headed up to Vancouver in a few weeks to check her out!

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I’ve been running around evenings and weekends the last few days doing fieldwork. We did find a fun place for a debrief (listed as “Java on Judah” in my GPS) with a gregarious San Francisco-type proprietor.

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Sunday was 3 hours of driving, to Bolinas and back, for an all-day faculty retreat for the CCA ID department. Really great session and I feel excited about this and upcoming semesters, but still.

MarCamp in San Francisco, September 26

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MarCamp – Marketing, Advertising, Recommendations is an unconference sponsored by France Telecom – Orange.

How will marketing and advertising evolve in the next 5 years? How best to leverage the power of the community and 2.0 technologies to the benefit of marketing and advertising? How to improve the relationship with your customers? How important will interactivity with your customer be in your product design strategies?

Having been at one “camp”, I’d like to try and lead a discussion at MarCamp; but I’m not clear yet what the topic should be…

interactive city summit

I’m attending an interesting event next week. It’s a two-day summit on the topic of (as far as I can tell) what we want from our cities in the future. There’s an implied (to me) technological bias, but not any assumption that technology is good.

This is not a topic I feel very expert in, not even very well informed, or strongly opinionated about. Given the discussion-based slant the organizers are taking, this could be a risk, but I’m hoping that diving into the issues will unearth some perspectives on, well, living life in the spaces we live in, that I haven’t previously written or talked about.

Tipping the scales for me, therefore, to attend, are the facts that the event is free and local and especially that organizers/presenters include Eric Paulos and Matt Jones, two big-thinking design/culture/technology folks whom I admire.

This summit is part of a larger event going on in San Jose (electronic art, and presumably some other themes; I can’t really parse the details or remember the name of the conference without regular use of the web) – I won’t be part of that.

If you are attending the interactive city summit, let me know!

Take One We Value Your Comments

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These feedback forms in the SFO Long Term Parking bus shelter are always empty. Someone has written Ha Ha Ha as a sarcastic bit of feedback, presumably about the implied hypocrisy of an unmaintained feedback mechanism.

There’s a phone number (that would ideally be covered by feedback forms) that you can call from a telephone (if you’re carrying one) or a courtesy phone (once you get into the airport itself, a 10 minute drive away), for parking information. Parking information? You’ve already parked, if you’re seeing this. The sticker is out of sync with the feedback form holding function.

Sony sells Metreon


More hubris for Sony as they sell the Metreon

Lisa Carparelli, a spokeswoman for Sony, said the company pulled out as Metreon’s original owner upon reviewing its corporate strategy and deciding to focus it on electronics, entertainment and games.

‘We had success in Metreon,’ Carparelli said. ‘We attracted an average of 6 million people a year, but the decision is based on corporate resources.’

Sony will continue to operate the Sony Style Store and the PlayStation store inside the Metreon. ‘We’ll be in essence a tenant,’ Carparelli said.

Visitors panned an exhibit based on the book ‘The Way Things Work’ as boring, and it closed in summer 2001. An anchor Microsoft store closed later that year. An exhibit based on Maurice Sendak’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was scaled back to four days a week and later closed. The Discovery Channel store closed in 2003.

The movie theaters flourished. But Sony didn’t receive any revenue from the theaters and in 2002 rebuffed a quiet proposal by the theaters to expand into the by-then-vacant fourth floor.

One industry observer said the complex ended up with a mostly teenage clientele that alienated the upscale families whom Sony had intended to attract.

‘Sony envisioned a much higher-end customer than ultimately wanted to be there,’ Taylor said.

‘The tenants they put in originally were very unique and esoteric. The Discovery Channel had unique things, but they were for affluent people with lots of disposable income for cute knick-knacks. The most successful tenants were ones who catered to the teenage moviegoing crowd, like the pinball arcades. They intimidated the more affluent crowds looking for a more museumlike experience.’

I guess hindsight is 20-20 in situations like these. Sony in Japan offers pretty much every sort of service you can think of; in the US their attempt at a mall mostly failed (despite their positive spin). It never really had any meaning – there was little Sony about it, and the Metreon brand never seemed to grow into anything. And the place itself always lacked coherence as an experience. Let’s see if it’ll become anything I care about now, though.

Also from this story:

I was shown around the building by a Metreon staffer as workers scurried to finish the project in time. Everyone I’d spoken with had gushed about how Metreon was going to reinvent retailing and serve as a model for similar ventures worldwide.

I said to my guide: “So the mall … ”

“It’s not a mall,” she interrupted. “It’s an urban entertainment destination.”

“Sorry?”

“It’s an urban entertainment destination.”

I dutifully described the place as such in the article I’d been hired to write. But I had no clue what Sony meant. Metreon was a mix of stores, eating places and a movie theater.

It was a mall.

Sony never understood this. Nor did it grasp Bryant’s notion of a seamless entertainment-retail experience. Instead, it attempted to package Metreon as a mini-Disneyland, with a handful of attractions and a bunch of ways to spend money.

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