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Posts from the ‘Creativity’ Category

The Durability Paradox

I was reading this article on durable product design at Core77 when I came across a phrase that struck me as being somewhat incongruous.

But what he found was that most of these so-called durable goods were not up to snuff…

… In April of 2010 the first iPad came out, and Hofert bought one. The iPad had of course been a top-secret project at Apple, and upon its release there weren’t a lot of cases available for it. Hofert got himself a scrap of leather hide and decided to make one of his own.

via Core77

The article itself is quite interesting, and Hofert has built himself a fanastic group of products around this idea of durability in an age of ravenous consumption. However I found the example to be an odd one. I also purchased the original iPad and saw this problem unfold myself. Initially only the base cover from Apple was available but over the next few months many alternatives came about. Leather, canvas, wool, all kinds of interesting and not-so interesting designs. Being a bit of a fashionista myself when it comes to a daily carry I can appreciate designs in the finest and most durable of materials and was attracted to these myself. I never pulled the trigger on buying one though, and I think this article helped me understand the reason why. A leather case for a first generation iPad is a durable solution to a non-durable problem.

A durable problem is a problem that lasts. A durable product is a product that lasts. A durable product for a durable problem is a product that lasts solving a problem that lasts.

A leather wallet is a durable product. A waxed canvas bag with buckles instead of zippers is a durable product. A double stitched pair of duck cotton work pants is a durable product.

Storing your ID and cash is a durable problem. Carrying items with you as you walk, bus, bike, or drive is a durable problem. Wearing pants is a durable problem.

Carrying a $500 technical accessory that will be replaced in 15 months is not a durable problem. In fact I would argue that in the course of designing a durable solution that problem, you are actually creating more problems than you solve. If your leather backpack lasts 30 years, that’s great, you’ll get 30 years of great service. If an iPad case that fits the original iPad lasts you 30 years you end up with a fantastic case for 2 years, and a strangely shaped piece of leather for the remaining 28 years.

Creating durable solutions to durable problems is an investment in the future and a fantastic use of time and resources.

Creating durable accessories for non-durable problem is a fashion statement, and a potential waste of time and resources.

Not that there is anything wrong with fashion statements. Nor do I think that an iPad case was really Hofert’s goal, just his first experience in leather working. I simply find it a funny example to choose when trying to highlight the benefits of building durable products, to choose that example.

think different, just like everyone else

Something unexpected has happened at Apple, once known as the tech industry’s high-price leader. Over the last several years it began beating rivals on price.

via The New York Times


the latest iPad

Apple used to compete by being the most polished device on the market. That polish cost extra, but to the Apple faithful it was worth it. Apple has moved to the head of the price wars almost by accident. Because of it’s relentless pursuit of minimalism in it’s product lines, by making the decision for the customer of what is “best” they’ve been able to zero in their focus and hyper optimize for a small set of products. I’ve covered this topic before, and here we start to see Apple reaping the benefit of this approach. They have enormous negotiating power with their suppliers based on the size of their orders. It’s much easier to negotiate a better price on components if you are buying 10 million, rather than 100,000. Once you know the market is there, and your initial investment is not a very risky one, you can be a bit bullish and increase your minimum order size.

The interesting paradox here, is that Apple has often pitched itself as being “different”, but when you look at the variation available in it’s product lines, you’ll find a lot of brushed aluminum but not a lot of variation or difference between their products. Because of their design ethos, they’ve come up with “the best” way to accomplish a task and once that “best” method has been identifier, there is not much point in allowing variation. From Apple’s perspective, why would they let people choose a smaller battery if they have already decided which CPU best fits the current price point and size of 11″ Mac Book Air.

You can see more evidence of this philosophy in their current low priced phone offerings. They won’t bother selling you a stripped down version of their current iPhone that uses cheaper components. Instead they wait for the prices to drop on those components considered “best” a year and a half ago.

As Apple sells more and more units behind this philosophy of minimalism they are starting to find themselves in a position where their customers can no longer claim to be “Different”. If you want different, get a Windows Phone. Seriously, they are getting great reviews.

Is this a bad thing for Apple? Not at all. You can only capture so much of the “different” crowd before you are no longer able to be different. Your success alienates you from a portion of your original audience.

Inspiration strikes at funny times

I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out I could use the iPad 2 smartcover like this.


reduce, reuse, recycle – a cardboard iPhone stand

I saw an advertisement for a very clever iPhone stand.

Which I think is a cool idea, and in fact solves a problem that I have. Not the bracelet part, but the propping up of my iPhone part. Rather than scouring the internet for a solution I could prop up on my desk, maybe something in a nice brushed aluminum. I made one of these.

cardboard iphone stand


I like it so much I made another one to leave at the office, and I’ve still got a whole amazon box of cardboard left over!

halloween costume: field notes

Observing the Pileated Woodpecker

Fall is my favorite season, and halloween my favorite day of the season. There is so much creativity on display. Sure there is the occasional 4th down punt on creative design (*cough* sexy animals *cough*), but for the most part people will pull out all the stops to put together an impressive costume. This year the A for effort goes to the giant, functional Rubik’s Cube.

In years past I’ve always gone for something relatively large and cumbersome (read: like the giant functional Rubik’s cube). I enjoy the challenge of navigating around a halloween party where you can barely fit through a doorway, not to mention the construction challenges of making something that will survive the evening even though it’s only made of tape and cardboard. This year I went in a different direction.


I recently signed up for a subscription to the colors limited edition Field Notes and have been so excited about them over the last week I thought it would be fun to incorporate them into my costume, and by incorporate I mean, dress as a giant field notes notebook. I brought along a few pens and encouraged people to make observations of their surroundings. I got a lot of fun drawings and observations (including one about the strong red feathers of the pileated woodpecker pictured above).

Not only did I have a great time watching the creative things people would come up with for their costumes, but also how they responded when presented with a large piece of blank paper and a marker.

I’ve been flipping through the pages since saturday night and it’s been awesome. Maybe next year I’ll go as a moleskine to see which one performs better

Go out and make something

It’s much harder to create than to consume.

But it’s easier than you think.

Just write it down.

Draw it out.

It doesn’t have to be the best, or even any good.

It just needs to be yours.

Make something.

make something better.

Hugh MacLeod: How to be creative

I just finished reading through a presentation by Hugh MacLeod on how to be creative. I would recommend it to anyone that considers themselves creative, and I hope that is most of you.

A few key quotes:

The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to change the world.

Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

via Hugh MacLeod