Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged NPR.

Remembering David Foster Wallace

If you missed it this weekend, To the Best of My Knowledge featured a tribute to author David Foster Wallace.

David Foster Wallace
Image from Rolling Stone Magazine

Podcast link.

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NickSep 16, 2010

Four Design Trends: June 17, 2009

It's that time once again. Time for us to share four more trends we've spotted that potentially affect design and designers.

1. Illustrators won't work for free, even if it's for Google

The New York Times ran a story this week about several illustrators who turned down an offer to create themes for iGoogle, similar to a project they did last year with higher-profile artists and companies.

Google gave them the typical spec-work refrain of: "we won't pay you, but just think of the exposure your work will receive", to which many responded negatively. After all, exposure is great, but free work doesn't pay the bills.

On the other hand, Google's audience is arguably one of the biggest, so it's certainly a dilemma from the designer's side of things.

Jerry Leichter's comment on TechDirt (reprinted here) has wisdom for the other side:

Frankly, it seems to me that the biggest mistake here was Google’s.

I’m reading between the lines here - I don’t know what Google actually said - but they appear to have been insensitive to how these artists see their businesses. It was only after the fact that they appear to have made it clear that they would be happy with existing work - most artists at the level they were approaching probably assumed they, like most customers, wanted something unique done just for them.

Rather than casting this as an honor - a kind of on-the-web art show - they let it look like commerce. Well, if it’s commerce - why shouldn’t the artists expect payment? Perception and setting are essential in determining how people view a request.

2. Corporate culture kills design

As if you needed more evidence, a couple of firsthand stories surfaced last week -- one from Microsoft, the other from American Airlines -- about how good design struggles (and often loses) against corporate culture and bureaucracy.

Fast Company writer Cliff Kuang (citing Core77!) responds with what many of us know, but few of us will experience:

[T]he overriding weakness [of complex bureaucratic structures], which design thinking makes manifest, is that good design is necessarily the product of a heavily centralized structure. Great design at places such as Apple isn't about "empowering decision makers" or whatever that lame B-school buzzword is. It's about awarding massive power and self-determination to those with the most cohesive vision--that is, the designers. Those are the people with the best idea of what customers want. That's the essence of "design thinking."

3. Twitter by the numbers

A couple of interesting bits of data about Twitter:

According to Sysomos Inc., 75% of all Twitter users joined in the first 5 months of 2009. Their data also shows that user activity seems to follow a power law (similar to blogging) wherein 5% of users account for 75% of all tweets.

  • There are more women on Twitter (53%) than men (47%).
  • 85.3% of Twitter users update less than once/day; while 1.13% Twitter users update more than average of 10 times a day.
  • According to a recent Harvard Business School study, men have 15% more followers than women and are significantly more likely to follow other men than women.
  • As Twitter users attract more followers, they tend to Tweet more often. ((or is it the other way around?)) Once someone has 1,000 followers the average number of Tweets/day climb from three to six. When someone has more than 1,750 followers, the number of Tweets/day rises to 10.

More recent numbers suggest that growth of the service is stagnating-- from rates exceeding 25% down to about 1.5% in the past month. However, time spent on Twitter by the average user continues to increase. With all the coverage of Twitter during the Iranian election, it will be interesting to see what this month's numbers will show.

4. Are paper resumes passe?

According to a recent NPR report, paper is out, social networking is in. Recently unemployed workers are discovering that the traditional tools for finding a job have changed.

Not having a profile on the social networking site LinkedIn is, for some employers, not only a major liability but a sign that the candidate is horribly out of touch..."If someone sends us a paper resume folded in thirds, stuffed in an envelope, it's hard to take it seriously".

And it's not just limited to LinkedIn.

Someone applying for a job in marketing, for example, will do much better in an interview if he or she already commands an audience through a blog. People in sales look better if they can prove they have a broad network of contacts in their field.

I wouldn't throw away your fancy resume stock just yet. But, it seems that if you, your loved ones, or your clients haven't joined a network already, it certainly wouldn't hurt.

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NickJun 17, 2009

Ranking the most ethical companies in the world

What are the ethics of advertising ethics?

As we currently wrestle with a definition of design ethics, I have been struck by another question: what does the endgame for this project look like?

Not to jump ahead too far, but assuming we come up with a model of "good" design, what next?

I think we ask: What can be done to educate designers and consumers on good ethical practices? Moreover, how can we hope to enforce those ethics?

This post was inspired by Ethisphere, a business ethics think-tank that also publishes a magazine on the topic. I learned about them last week during this piece on NPR.

Besides their mission, what interested me is how they create awareness about business ethics in accessible ways. Ideally, if corporations and the public are better informed about ethics, that may serve as a kind of enforcement. Therefore, as we enter into the next stage of DLB -- publication -- I am interested in metrics and visualizations people use to talk about ethics.

For instance, Ethisphere has an annual list of the most ethical companies in the world. I can't begin to imagine what a task it would be to compile a list of the most ethical designs, but it's an idea. People like lists. They're easy to digest and a good way to get people interested in complex topics.

Graphs are nice, too:

World's Most Ethical Companies versus S&P 500
According to Ethisphere, ethical leadership leads to greater profits. It's something we've been saying for a while, but now we have proof of it in handy chart form. Via Ethisphere.

I'm a bit skeptical about Ethisphere's methodology, however. Participation in the index seems to be voluntary, so it's not exactly comprehensive. It seems to be a more collegial affair; the magazine isn't out there doing investigative journalism. There is no "least ethical companies in the world" list each year. (Though, I'd like to see that, too.)

I wonder why this is the case? On one hand, as a company that needs to sell magazines and fill conferences, how objective can Ethisphere afford to be? Who is to say they aren't creating their own market by judging unfairly? Or being too generous to avoid stepping on toes? On the other hand, if they aren't ethical or objective themselves, then they can't claim any kind of authority. The more I think about it, the more complex the situation becomes.

I think DLB is in a similar pickle. How can one sell ethics in a trustworthy way?

I will try to figure that out on Thursday. See you then!

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NickFeb 24, 2009