AgeLab and Disruptive Demographics

Aging is a disruptive force in many countries and economies. However, global aging is not simply a story of ‘more.’ The new disruptive demographics of aging is not your grandfather's old age.

In 1900, life expectancy for much of the industrialized world was under 50. Today, living well into one's 70s, 80s and beyond can be expected. How will we spend and make the most of our 30-year longevity bonus?

These new demographics require a radical new view of the changing definition of "old age" and the impact upon society, business strategy and innovation.

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TEDx Nashvile: A Sense of Wonder


On Saturday, April 9, 2011 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center,  TEDxNashville hosted its second annual event titled "Wonder".

Distinguished leaders in technology, entertainment, design, science, art, education, government, public policy, healthcare and other areas will share their remarkable thoughts and ideas focused on creating positive changes in our society.

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Everyday Counter Terrorism Heros

According to UK's National Counter Terrorism Security Office, there are everyday objects on the street in front of buildings, like bus stops, lampposts, and bins etc. These could have not just an apparent function, but could have a hidden purpose – To prevent terrorist vehicle attacks. A project by Toby Ng, a designer in London, is entitled "Hidden Superhero" and so he designed a set of unassuming CT Heroes.
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Design and the Elastic Mind

Photovoltaic cells grown like ivy, electricity cultivated from your corpse, computer-aided oragami, a pheronome dating agency apparatus,... these are some of the beautiful and bizarre designer objects on display at MOMA.

In the words of the senior curator, Paola Antonelli: "Designers they know that their role is to enable revolution. They are constructive by definition."

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To document MoMA's wonderful, monumental exhibit spanning design, science and technology, "Design and the Elastic Mind," we enlisted the help of the show's esteemed curator, Paola Antonelli. Paola speaks in detail about several of the exhibits, including "The Afterlife," a system for turning corpses into batteries, robots that act as personal climatizers and DNA origami. She also weighs in on her curatorial approach, addressing the role of the designer, her mission to shift public perception of design and how design revolutionizes our lives.

As always, but especially in this case, we hope CH inspires you to experience this show firsthand. It's up through May 2008, see details below.

If you absolutely can't make it in person, the website, designed by the renowned
Yugo Nakamura
, is full of information organized into an extremely pleasing UI and the book (available online from the MoMA store) is a must-have resource for designers, educators and the curious.

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The Wisdom of Designing Cradle to Cradle

Gavin Blake in Australia, suggests viewing this video from TED 2005. William McDough quotes Kevin Kelly, "There is no end game, there is only The Infinite Game."

Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account "All children, all species, for all time." A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of "cradle to cradle" design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world's largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he's designing in China.

Fontography of the Candidates

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The fonts that presidential candidates select for their campaign logos reflect an important act of political branding. Sam Berlow of The Font Bureau Inc. says the logos all speak volumes about the candidates they represent.

The Bush/Cheney was great. It just had that incredible NASCAR feel with the slanted sans serif saying, "We're going really fast. Hang on." If you look at Hillary’s campaign, it’s really a throwback to Reagan and Bush. It has that feeling of old typography from the '70s and '80s. It’s serif. It’s sort of highwaisted, as if the lower case, the pants had been pulled up too high. It feels sort of like a bad Talbots suit. Doesn't quite fit right.

Well, there are several oddities about the Huckabee design. The six stars that sort of floating down like snowflakes are a bit odd, and the swash that reminds me of Coca-Cola. And then there’s this yellow element in the type.

Innovation Conversations

As designers and facilitators of rich conversations, we serve a valuable role in innovation.

As facilitators, we can create the "safe container" for authentic (and often times emotional or caustic) conversations to occur, and for subtle, deep cultural shifts in thinking to begin.

As designers, we can give shape to the results of those conversations. We produce a thing--sometimes called a "work product" or "knowledge object" or "communication tool" or [insert corporatespeak term here].

These work products can take the form of a static model, a complex information graphic, a magazine article, a schematic diagram, a fully interactive website, a private wiki, an unedited blog post, or an airport lobby-sized installation art piece. The form is chosen for the target audience (and.. ah yes, the budget) in question.

Whatever the output, the real heart and soul of the innovation process seems to remain the conversation.

The network members of Social Media Today are playing in the emerging space of new ways to have those conversations.

Do Conversations Fuel Innovation?

The McKinsey Quarterly recent edition says Innovation has become a primary force in determining company growth, performance, and valuation. Unfortunately, a wide gap exists between executives’ aspirations to innovate and their ability to execute.”

Piers Gibbon writes about “The Innovative Conversation” The title was inspired by the researchers who have shown that “rich conversations”¹ have more value in business than “dehydrated, ritualized”¹ presentations. That “Connections and Conversations … provide the fuel for innovation” ² and companies need “to create a climate … where everyone feels the responsibility and desire to contribute to the organizations innovation performance.”

In economics, business and government policy,- something new - must be substantially different, not an insignificant change. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value.
The term innovation may refer to both radical and incremental changes to products, processes or services.

FastCompany: Design Thinking... What is That?

by Mark Dziersk

The methodology commonly referred to as design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results.

Although Design is most often used to describe an object or end result, Design in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb not a noun. A protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. Techniques and tools differ and their effectiveness are arguable but the core of the process stays the same. It's taken years of slogging through Design = high style to bring us full circle to the simple truth about design thinking. That it is a most powerful tool and when used effectively, can be the foundation for driving a brand or business forward.

Basically Design thinking consists of four key elements:

1: Define the problem
2: Create and consider many options
3: Refine selected directions
4: Pick the winner, execute

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Tiny Showcase Art Prints

From Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools:

Keeping tabs on the art world is tough and time-consuming. Being a collector is tougher -- and downright expensive. This site does all the work for you and allows you to amass your own hip, limited edition prints for cheap. Sign up for the newsletter and once a week you'll receive a heads up about the artist whose work will be available later that day for $20 a pop. They usually make only 100-200 prints and it's first come, first serve. The first piece I bought on a lark sold out in less than 15 minutes! I discovered the site nine months ago when a friend gave me a gift certificate.
Although I've already spent my gifted wad, I still check the newsletter religiously, almost obsessively. Stumbling on amazing art(ists) is wonderful. Decorating our home with little, unique prints is very satisfying. And part of every purchase is donated to a charity chosen by the artist, too. -- Steven Leckart

Tiny Showcase
Available at

Radio Lab: Emergence

A great audio exploration of organization from chaos, order from the accidental: ants, cities, fireflies and life itself.
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What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies, all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony.


We gaze down at the bottom-up logic of cities, Google, even our very own brains.

Featured: author Steven Johnson, fire-flyologists John and Elizabeth Buck, biologist E.O. Wilson, Ant expert Debra Gordon, mathematician Steve Strogatz, economist James Surowiecki, and neurologists Oliver Sacks and Christof Koch.

Fast Company: Design meet Business: "Business, this is… Design"

by Mark Dziersk

Business people need to develop a better understanding of design, form partnerships between themselves and creativity, and apply strategy to design thinking, in order to compete effectively today.

This article shares 6 tips "to help navigate thoroughly confusing waters."

  1. Design Strategy…an oxymoron?
  2. The world is upside down, embrace it.
  3. Invent new training, train thyself
  4. Understand your DNA
  5. Visualize strategy
  6. No PPTs. Tell stories
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As an accomplished businessperson you probably know a lot about strategy and little about creativity. Creativity is the key to innovation. And, if innovation is (as testified almost everywhere these days) the Midas touch for business today, understanding creativity involves a lot more than orchestrating regimented processes. Most businesses are run by adding columns of numbers, and led by financially motivated business managers armed with…. strategies. If creativity is the fuel that brings innovation to life, then strategy is the mirror equivalent for business.

Visual thinking, storytelling, DNA, and adaptable processes all help enormously. For designers today, a good understanding of the" business comfort zone" with ideas and concepts is a tool as powerful as any Alias rendering or beautifully executed aesthetic prototype. Creativity is the currency, but the strategic foundation is equally important.

Web Design on the Brain

Regardless of the debate on evolution reverberating still in America, the fact is, our brains were built for one purpose--survival in the natural world.

Have a look at this picture.. Where are the lions?

The brain is designed to take in massive amounts of information, concentrate on details, discriminate what is important, focus on a goal, design a plan and send out commands for action.

I was pleased to read that even in the eyeball-and-index-finger world of the web, that the same mental process is still taking place! More to the point--designers need to understand how the brain works in order to build navigation systems and information hierarchies that enable (rather than frustrate) our paleolithic instinct to hunter and gather.

According to Ben Hunt of Scratchmedia, a small consulting business based in the UK: "One way to think about designing for web users is to consider what the brain is good at, and to design to take the best advantage of those strengths."

From a post titled The Brain's Strengths on the blog, Web Design from Scratch:

Matching shapes

The minds of higher order animals are highly skilled at recognising things by their shape, or outline. We have an amazing ability to associate shapes with their meanings very quickly. This can be helpful for spotting your quarry when hunting in thick vegetation or in poor light. We're more likely to use this skill when associating the shape of an icon with 'I can make a printed version of this page if I move my mouse and click on that', or to decide to ignore a banner ad based on its shape.

Seeing patterns

Our brains are great at spotting associations between objects, based on similarities, alignment and grouping. This is helpful for working out where to move in order to separate an animal from its herd, or for telling which strangers belong to which tribes. Today, we're more likely to use this ability to find the navigation on a new site, or to tell at a glance how many unopened emails we have.

Focusing on the important; ignoring the unimportant

When we match shapes and patterns, we quickly sort what to focus on from what to ignore. This is a talent we share with all natural predators. If the brain loses its ability to filter out noise, we go mad. We use this skill every time we look at a web page, by scanning for clues that help us get nearer our goal.

High-speed problem solving

When faced with new problems, we're great at working out new ways of addressing them, even by abstracting patterns that have worked for different problems. Our minds are tuned for computing available information, and quickly choosing a most likely solution. (This capacity is one of the things that distinguishes the intelligence of apes from monkeys.)

Stasi Chic

When I lived and traveled in Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall came down, I was captivated by the interior design of utilitarian minimalism that pervaded the former East Bloc.

Whether in Slovakia or Bulgaria or Moscow, there was something so ubiquitous and clean about the architecture of dictatorship.

From We Make Money Not Art:

Daniel & Geo Fuchs have documented the architectural legacy left by the former GDR’s Ministry for State Security (Stasi), the main security and intelligence organization of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

0aindastaz2.jpg 0stazii8.jpg

The Stasi had nearly 90,000 official workers and 170,000 unofficial collaborators in a country with a population of 16 million. The organization was dissolved 18 years later, yet some of these sites have remained practically as they were.

The photographs show the rooms that the Stasi used to interrogate prisoners; prison cells for political prisoners; the offices of the minister for State Security; bunkers; and the files stored by the Stasi Documentation Office in Berlin - endless stacks of protocols generated by control and espionage, division and corruption – witnesses of the total control of a regime that clung to power for over 40 years.

The images are on show at La Virreina in Barcelona until July 1. Images.

Brand New

Brand New is a Speak Up spin-off displaying opinions, and focusing solely, on corporate and brand identity work. It is a division of UnderConsideration. The blog compares older brand identities and their recently updated versions. The deconstructions of the logos is sharp, educated and catty. Kind of like a carload of really smart designers, home for the holidays, driving around their hometown riffing on all the strip mall signage.

Posted on Jan.20.2007:

I have never eaten at Hardee's or Carl's Jr, mostly because I rarely eat at fast food burger places but partly because if you asked me to name five Quick Service Restaurants (QSR for short) focusing on burgers I would have a hard time getting past McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. In fact, it wasn't until today, while googling around, that I finally made the connection that the faux hot commercial with Paris Hilton soaping up a Bentley was for Carl's Jr. And for Hardee's. Apparently my brand neurons never made a full synapse between these two places and Paris. Or that Hardee's was the crazies that were pushing the 1420-calorie burger earlier this century. Perhaps the reason is that I'm not their target audience: Young, hungry guys. I guess I am the three things: Relatively young, sometimes hungry and genderly a guy. But when put together, I prefer to disassociate from my brethren. And, hopefully, this too explains why I can't bear the sight of these new logos and much less comprehend how "research showed that the new logos were seen as classier, more unique, more appealing and more attractive overall."

Design = Business Catalyst or Financial Drain?

Stretching back in time before the era of the printing press or the pyramids, there has been a war raging within the human race--a war between accountants and designers.

From the FastCompany blog:

No Accounting for Design

Is market share a meaningful measure of design's financial performance? You'd think so, judging by the number of design consultancies that use increases in sales and market share to trumpet the "success" of their redesigns. The Industrial Designers Society of America even uses market share and sales as two important metrics for its prestigious Design & Business Catalyst award, which recognizes "market and financial performance" so as to demonstrate to executives "the value of design."

But while market share might be meaningful to designers, it has far less resonance with CFOs, the ultimate arbiters of design investments. Julie Hertenstein and Marjorie Platt, two Northeastern University accounting professors who've attempted to quantify the contribution that design makes to the bottom line, argue that market share, by itself, doesn't really mean much. "Market share is just that, a share˜it's measured as a percentage," says Hertenstein. "If you can't measure it in dollars, it doesn't show up on the accounting statement." read full post>>