Aus unserer Forschungsabteilung.
Seit drei Jahren sprechen wir mit Menschen, die ihr Leben einer seltenen Ausprägung des Neuen widmen. Uns bewegte die Frage, was das Neue zur Innovation macht und wo es im Unterschied dazu nur eine Bequemlichkeit ist. Dieses Thema haben wir mit einigen der besten Wissenschaftler, Designer, Künstler und Aktivisten auf der ganzen Welt besprochen.
Matt Webb (Studio BERG), Greg Saul (Designer), Doug Drexler (Production Designer), Thomas Meyerhoffer (Designer), Eugene Kan (hypebeast), Brian Gerkey (Willow Garage), Larry del Santo (TCHO choccolate), David Cage (CEO Quantic Dream), Marcin Jakubowski (Open Source Ecology), Stefan Schulze-Dieckhoff & Stefan Claus (Heimplanet), Dan Grayber (Artist), Peter Molyneux (Lionhead Studios), Scott Snibbe (Designer), Bill DeRouchey (simple), Pieter Hoff (Waterboxx), Bilal Musharraf (Khan Academy), Christian Long (School planner), Sam Harrington (Ecovative Design/USA), Zhong Lin (Pysiker), Alisa Andrasek (Architektin), Mark Rembert (Director at Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce), Simeon Nasilowski (Programmierer), Cultured Code
Pop-Art für alle. Scott Snibbe und Björks Biophilia.
Apps sind der Faustkeil des frühen 21. Jahrhunderts. Allein im AppStore von Apple findet man über 500.000 Mini-Programme für alles, was der moderne Homo Sapiens so braucht. Die kleinen Werkzeuge sind manchmal praktisch, manchmal lustig und meistens überflüssig. Einer, der sein künstlerisches Talent einsetzt, um darüber hinaus zu gehen, ist der Künstler Scott Snibbe. Für Björk hat er mit Biophilia gerade eine der spannendsten Apps entworfen und programmiert.
“IT DEPENDS ON YOUR MIND.”
SCOTT SNIBBE ON INTERACTIVE DESIGN.
How did you get into developing apps?
I’ve been making that type of work, screen base interactive work, for a very long time. It started when I was a kid, 30 years ago when I got my first Apple II computer. I was always making abstract interactive artwork, and I grew up in a family of artists too. But those particular pieces, in the 90s, I made a number of screen based interactive works, including Motion Phone, Gravilux, Bubble Harp and a few others. And I was showing them in galleries and museums and people really enjoyed them, but obviously there was a limited reach because they were on these fancy computers in special places for limited times.
So I was always hoping to find some way to distribute these types of experiences more like the way music or movies are distributed to everybody, because they’re freely reproducible, right? You could infinitely reproduce software, but at the time there was just no way to distribute software like that, at least kind of playful, fun software like I was making.
So around that time in the 90s, I actually even made some drawings of things that looked a little bit like the iPhone or the iPad. I imagined people having special devices just for these kind of abstract interactive experiences, but obviously that didn’t go anywhere.
I had a number of different jobs at that time. I worked at Adobe Systems, I worked in a research lab on basic research and media and interactivity and so on. But although these things were popular in galleries and museums, like I said, I couldn’t find a way to distribute them and I really didn’t want to sell them in galleries for $20,000 or $30,000. It just seemed a little bit hypocritical to take something that could be reproduced hundreds of thousands of times and make an edition of it.
So sometimes when I was thinking about those choices, I thought, hey, if you’re the Beatles and you make this beautiful song, “All You Need Is Love,” are you going to sell it in an edition of three for $100,000 each, or are you going to sell it for a dollar each to anybody who wants it?
So then when I saw the iPad and the iPhone come out a couple of years ago – but especially the iPad – I realized finally there’s a way to deliver these experiences. So I took three of the programs I wrote in the 90s and I converted them to run on the iPad and then I released them at the store, and they were really successful and they got a lot of possible feedback.
Do you think the app store is a good place for the arts?
Absolutely, yeah, because it can reach everyone. There are two areas of the arts, right? There’s a kind of elitist high art realm, and then there are the popular arts. And every other form of art has a popular branch. Like literature, you can buy books inexpensively. Movies, you can rent or buy them cheaply or go see them in a theatre. Music, you can buy inexpensively. Until the iPad and iPhone came out, there was no way to mass distribute digital art. So I think it’s fantastic. It really has made my life, because I was always looking for this.
What do people love about Apps? When does an app really work? What do you think are the criteria for an app?
Well, obviously it depends on the person. There’s not one app for everybody, except for maybe Angry Birds or something. So it depends on your mind. My particular emphasis is on things that have a particularly positive effect on your mind. So there are certain human mental qualities that are worth promoting – obvious ones like love and compassion – but also things like patience, attentiveness, creativity, curiosity. So it’s those latter qualities that I’m really trying to promote with my apps.
In general there’s a notable area missing in video games and in software. A lot of the things that you do on an iPad or iPhone might make you a little bit more neurotic sometimes. Checking your email, playing this game, trying to kill something, looking at the New York Times. I mean, I do all these things; I’m not immune from it. But what was missing was these more kind of creative, meditative very, very kind of positive nurturing experiences that actually borrow a lot from nature. They’re meant to be the analog for walking next to the beach or visiting a pond, but unfortunately very few people can do that any more, so actually what I was trying to do is take some of the qualities of nature and completely resynthesize them as these abstract interactive experiences.
Can you tell us just a little bit about the process of designing interactive media. Where do you start? Do you have a consumer in mind? Do you have a situation in mind? Do you start with music?
Well, it really depends. Those earlier apps like you’ve seen in the store, like Gravilux, Bubble Harp and Antograph, they start from the top. They start from a high level idea. Like Gravilux I thought, what would it be like to draw with stars. Bubble Harp, I knew about these diagrams from my education in computer science, they’re called druerenoid diagrams, and they have so much meaning in the human culture. They are in nature, in fact. So you take a slice through a plane of bubbles you get this diagram. Humans sit in these patterns, dogs pee in these patterns, it describes the gravitational influence of stars. So there’s something very primal about nature that these diagrams represent. So I just thought it was a lot of fun to play with.
But the main thing is to make them dynamic and interactive so that they aren’t merely just making a drawing. Most of what you call demos like you might see at MIT are often just kind of showing you the concept, but try to make it personalized, to add some sort of emotion and personal creative expression to the experience where you can affect it. You can even get better at it, like a musical instrument. A musical instrument you can immediately make a sound, but then you could spend your whole life mastering it. And that’s what I was trying to do with some of these apps is make something that you can immediately get some response, but actually you can gain more and more control and expressivity against them.
Do you have an idea about what will come next in interaction design?
I would say the biggest trend is to move away from the desktop metaphor, which I personally think is awful. And I thought it when it came out. So many people thought the desktop metaphor was the greatest thing to ever hit computers, but I was very disappointed, and I was a young guy when this came out, I was just a teenager. But I thought, this is stupid, because the screen of a computer is just pure light, so you could do anything on that screen. It’s like a movie screen or a TV screen. So why turn it into the most boring thing for most people, which is like a desk and office. Why not make it something magical like the movies? So that’s what I always thought, that the screen of a computer should be like a movie screen and anything could happen there.
So if you look at the iPad interface and the iPhone interface, they’ve taken all of these animation and movie metaphors and they’ve adapted it to the user interface. So from my perspective, that is the most significant change in user interface in about 30 years. And if you look at the iPad in particular I think it’s mastered this, where there’s no more windows, there’s no more pointer, all it is is a screen and it uses cinematic devices. So you cut, you wipe, you fade, you animate. You interface elements that have a personality, that shake themselves if they’re wrong or kind of nod when you’re right.
So I think that’s for me the most interesting trend in interaction design is the movement towards interfaces that borrow from film and animation. Apple has mastered that and made it very easy for people to write programs that just automatically use that metaphor.
Biophilia integrates the interface with a new business model. It merges a very creative interface, a very creative application, a very creative work of art, with a very smart business model. Do you agree?Yeah, I think so. The idea is that you’re creating more of a playground and a space to experiment with music. So what Biophilia is, is it seems like something new, and in a way it is, but it’s also getting back to the roots of music – which is that music is interactive. There’s a very short period of history where music is not interactive, from the invention of the phonograph to the end of the CD.
So I think the idea behind Biophilia is foremost an artistic and a participatory one, that if people are engaging with music, they should be able to interact with it, to create or change the music and to understand how it was created. So that’s the foremost motivation behind this project.
But of course on the business side, yeah, there’s a new model, especially with the sales of pre-recorded music diminishing. This is an opportunity to give people a completely new but at the same time true to a human being’s most basic needs for interactivity and sociability. So I think, yeah, we’re satisfying a basic human need that prerecorded music didn’t fully satisfy, and at the same time, yeah, Apple’s made a great way for selling this on the store and making it available to people. Also unrolling it slowly with surprises and dramatic kind of treats for people as the project unfolds in the app store.
Does the quality of the interface make a product more valuable?
Well, of course. I think Apple’s shown that in spades. That’s why people buy their products is because of the quality of the interface both physically and in the software.
So one last question, most music videos tell stories. You open up on an abstract cosmos – why?
Well, Biophilia is a project dealing with the whole scope of the universe. It’s actually everything except Bjork’s personal life, which up to this album had been the main focus of her music. So Cosmogony is the theme song to Biophilia, and it’s also the song that accompanies the menu system, the galaxy that you fall into when you enter Biophilia. So the reason it’s a galaxy is because, number one, the song relates to the cosmos and the music of the spheres, the idea that somehow the movement and harmonies of the cosmos might correspond to some form of music is the idea behind Cosmogony. So it made sense to make Cosmogony relate to something that looked like the cosmos. And then we just thought about how to integrate that with the rest of the project. And Bjork’s designers, came up with this beautiful idea of each of the constellations representing one of the suns.
Das Ende der Bank. Bill DeRouchey und Simple.
Interaction Design ist eine der aufregendsten gestalterischen Disziplinen. Es führt den Designer zurück zu seinen inhaltlichen Wurzeln, nämlich der Gestaltung zwischenmenschlicher Beziehungen. Aus diesem Grund wird Interaction Design die Funktionsweise und das Gesicht der Unternehmen radikal ändern. Und Bill DeRouchey ist einer ihrer Meister. Sein aktuelles Ziel: Die Neuerfindung eines der behäbigsten Geschäftsmodelle der Welt: nämlich das der Bank. Er und seine Kollegen von simple haben ein Unternehmen gegründet, nach dem man sich in Zeiten der Bankenpleiten und der absoluten ökonomischen Ratlosigkeit geradezu sehnt. Es ist nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis andere nachziehen.
“YOUR MONEY IS ALSO YOUR DATA.”
BILL DEROUCHEY ON EMPOWERING CUSTOMERS THROUGH INTERACTION DESIGN.
Do you think that interaction design is an expansion of classic design or is that something that is only a fracture of what classic design is?
Well, of course classic design is a whole ‘nother hour, but I think it is an expansion on classic design only because the mediums that we have to work with are expansions upon the previous mediums. If you look, say, before the 80s or 90s, the main mediums that we had to express – ignoring all the traditional art stuff like painting, sculpture, ceramics and whatnot – but design was mostly involved around print, or physical objects, industrial design. You had a pretty clear distinction between classic 2D design and classic industrial design. But what happened when technology showed up, that caused interactivity to come into place. It caused time to come into play. I think that forced design to expand itself into other ways to think, and that’s what interaction design is. It’s taking on the classic design and adding on time and interactivity. And technology forced us to do that.
And do you think that this transforms the role of the designer within an enterprise? Does he become more important?
Of course. I think he becomes more crucial in that when we build things now, there is so much more using them happening than before. Like the context that they’re being used. The order in which it’s being used. Which aspect of it is being used. When, how. So I think it takes a lot more thought ahead of time to really understand just the person’s context, which requires more upfront design. It requires a more holistic approach to the problem, which is kind of what design is.
One of the most interesting aspects about Simple is the idea of empowering its customers. Can you tell us how that might work?
One of our principles is that your money is also your data. Every financial transaction you make is a piece of data about your life. And that data can then lead up to actually being your story, which I find pretty fascinating. So what we try to do in terms of empowering our customers, one is to give them more information in context about how they’re spending. So if you look at classic products like Mint, they would do a bit of a retrospect of the past about how your spending is, and it’s almost always broken down by categories – how much you spend on groceries, how much you spend on education, how much you spend on housing and so on. So one area where we actually try to empower people is to let people kind of slice and dice that data in much more interesting ways. And that’s mostly just through search. So we’ve got a really strong search tool, in which I can search for “coffee this week,” how much did I spend on coffee this week? And it would show me the aggregate. Okay, I spent $23.18 on coffee this week, and you can track that over time.
The tools are so much more accessible, and I think it personalizes your spending a lot more. It’s kind of hard to quantify how. It’s more an experiential thing. I think once you actually start using the app, just because of the speed of it, it gives you access to your data faster. I think speed is actually another factor of how we’re empower people. For example, if I were to use my card at a grocery store, I can see that transaction in the iPhone app within about five seconds, as opposed to usually with the traditional bank you see it overnight or something like that.
You have a theory about the functionality of language within a good user interface. Can you tell us something about that?
Oh sure. I think really clear language is key to any application. One theory that I have is that the language that was originally used in most technology was often written by the engineers, and it actually shows. So the language I usually see in older technologies, it kind of describes what’s happening inside the application as opposed to explaining to the customer at a more appropriate level what happened. For example, you would see error messages. You see this quite a bit. Error messages like, “That input is not valid.” Which is such a classic engineering approach. Actually, a better one: “User name is not valid.” Now, at an engineering level, that’s a correct statement, because there’s probably some character in the username that somebody picked that is not an accepted character, whether it’s a space or a dash, whatever it is. But to say it’s not valid – valid has a different meaning to a person at a normal level. It’s like, “Whoa! What do you mean, I’m not valid? My name is not valid to you?”
You see this a lot, especially with non-US names. O’Reilly with an apostrophe, that is a perfectly valid name. But if the computer tells you that it’s not valid, it’s just a wrong way to approach. So it’s important to approach language from a much more human, personal level, because people understand technology a lot more now. People grow up with it more, it’s more natural, people just get it. So it’s more important to speak at a more friend to friend kind of level to say what’s going on. It just humanizes the product, and I think that can be a differentiator.
So what you say is that good interaction design can help corporations become more human, is that true?
At one level, yes. They can definitely feel products feel more human, or make products feel more natural. Corporations themselves, there’s like a whole lot of other levels going on. So then you start getting into the policies that corporations have, or how they treat people, say, on the service side. I think that’s why people often react to corporations, companies being human or not, is on the customer service side, which can be another form of interaction design, or is it service design, but that starts getting into definition wars, which I try to tend to avoid, because it’s all just a big mix up.
Do you think that there is a certain mindset for Simple? That there is a certain mindset of a typical consumer for Simple?
I think typically what we’re seeing so far is people that are fed up or frustrated. I think there’s two, and they’re kind of related. One are people who are fed up or frustrated with their existing bank or credit union. Somehow they’ve been done wrong. The bank charged them with some crazy fees or whatever and they’re looking for an alternative. And the second one is people are using web applications that have amazing design and amazing technology now, and then they go log on to their bank online and they just see something that feels ten years old, because it is ten years old. So I think people have higher expectations of just web technology in general, and they’re expecting that in every aspect of their lives. And I think that’s one reason why we are attractive to people is because we’re trying to do that. We’re trying to create a modern web application and phone applications that just happen to also be your main source of where you store your money and you spend and save your money. So yeah, I think it’s people with expectations that things do not have to be the way that they are.
Do you think that Simple can work as a role model for other branches, that other branches might as well be transformed by very intelligent interaction design?
I think so. I mean, that’s what I hope. One thing that we hope to do is not only create a successful business and have many happy customers, but also to push the banking industry to modernize. I think it’s true. People are paying attention to what we’re building, so I think we will have some influence on the financial industry as a whole. We sure hope so. Because design and technology have really just matured to the point where this finally can happen in the banking industry. Of course, the problem that traditional banks have is their underlying infrastructures are typically so old and so fragmented that it’s hard to really innovated quickly. This is more true in the US. The US is in an interesting position in terms of banking infrastructure. We’re typically behind the rest of the modernized world in terms of what we can offer for many technologies. And of course the problem there was because the US was so early in developing technology for banking that it also became the oldest. They started using mainframes in the 60s, and that actually became a difficult thing; it became a negative later on. So it would be hard for the bank industry to turn on a dime and change things. But I do believe that we actually can have some influence on what people can expect from banking. You can look at Apple changed what people expected from a computer. Netflix changed what people expected from a movie source. And I hope we can do the same thing.
Thank you very much.
Da Vincis Erben: das Design-Studio Berg
Leonardo Da Vinci war der Prototyp des Designers. Mit den Mitteln der Gestaltung, der Neugier und des Verstandes setzte er sich mit seiner Umwelt auseinander und schuf Gemälde, Konstruktionen, Texte und unzählige unvollendete Ideen. Auf diese Weise machte er sichtbar, was vor ihm noch keiner gesehen hatte: die Mechanik des Fliegens, das ungeborene Leben, das Lächeln der Mona Lisa. Sein Material war das unsichtbare Gerüst der Welt des 15. Jahrhunderts. Diese unsichtbaren Strukturen sind auch das Thema des Londoner Designstudios BERG. Im Unterschied zum Renaissancemensch befassen sich seine Designer mit den Materialen des 21. Jahrhunderts: den Online-Communities, den Regeln sozialer Interaktion im Web und den komplexen Datenmengen, die unsere Welt abbilden. Dabei berühren sie einige der wichtigsten Fragen unserer Kultur: Wie verändert die totale Vernetztheit den Menschen? Was passiert, wenn wir immer stärker wie eine einzige Community agieren? Wo steckt in dieser Entwicklung Raum für Individualität?
“INTERACTION IS A MATERIAL!”
MATT WEBB ON OUR CONNECTED FUTURE.
Design has become an overused word. What is BERG’s distinctive approach?
Not everyone who does colouring is a designer! It is important for a designer to prolong to the global conversation on design and what design is for. My contribution to that conversation is that design is two things: 1) design is about cultural invention. 2) design is a process. It’s a mix of rational and intuitive thinking, where every cultural artifact or signal is amplified. At BERG design is an approach. What we do is product invention – but the way we do it is by design. There are other ways – you could do product invention through business analysis or ethnography or marketing approaches, but we do it by design.
What I’m excited about is where design goes next. For example designers designing automated ways of doing design. Like a newspaper designer designs a system or a grid. What if your grid would have some kind of intelligence itself? Not as intelligent as a person but some kind of fraction of that – then your materials become something like genetic algorithms or editorial grammars so your more like a gardener or an architect – but the output is still design. What we call that in programming is meta programming.
This reminds me of Karl Gerstner’s book “Programme entwerfen” and his idea that a design-process should be driven by logic rather than by subjectivity.
It’s similar, but I have to push back on the idea of design driven by logic. I have a background in physics and one of the things I’ve learned is that from very simple rules chaotic and complex results can emerge. A designer should not be designing a logic but designing an ecology or designing a rainforest! Imagine what kind of designs emerge after that!
I grew up believing that one day I would be living on the moon or under the sea. But the driving force for innovation has switched from spaceflight to tools for communication. Why?
That is an incredibly insightful question. I think it’s part of another transition which has occurred. Innovation has occurred in the industry first and then technology would be domesticated in everyday life. Look at the way life was industrialized in europe after the second world war: we took the technology of factories and put them into our home in form of washing machines and vacuum cleaners! The flip that occurred is that the center of innovation has moved to everyday life. This also means that innovation reflects the concerns of where it happens first. The industrial sector was more concerned with systems of control – while the domestic sector is more concened with communications and technologies of disembedding.
What are technologies of disembedding?
Technologies of disembedding are the things which free us from the human constraints of geography. We want to be able to lift ourselves out of the immediate context and be free to do whatever we want to do. Money is a technology of disembedding. And the telephone is technology of disembedding because we feel like our friends are always ten feet away – even when they might be ten thousand miles away. So what you are observing is a consequence of this flip.
That said, there is also something going on with how media has had an explosion in that same time. It used be that a new medium came along every new generation: the telegraph, radio, television. But now we can make a new medium almost on demand. Anybody can. We talk about the internet as “new media” but it really is ten thousand new media! Newsweek is different from flickr is different from the New York Times. There is something very free about every user being able to create a new medium which is appropriate to them and their friends!
Has the internet become a design factor for products? Is it affecting product design?
There are two sides for this. One is: there is an expectation that the products in my house will be connected and also be open for me to interfere with them. By “connected” I mean that they are connected through social networks. By “interfere with” I mean that I can adapt them to my use and include them in my life in different ways. You can see this in the way that people mix and match their clothes and edit them and with the rise of services like “etsy” – the online crossing and selling website. This is part of the trend they call “Generation C”. “C” basically meaning “connected” to a community. It´s a generation of people who find it a bit weird that there should only a few people allowed to call themselves a music band and broadcast to everyone else. So they are more of the opinion that everyone can have a band and sell music. And anyone can write a book and be published. They assume that anything they make can also be shared with their friends.
So that’s one expectation that products have to acknowledge. And the other is that internet connectivity is a design-service now. In just the same way that the supply chain is: the fact that I can get my shoes customized in my own fabric is meaning that the supply chain is part of the design service. A consequence for all these new design-services means that the internet breaks the boundaries between being a product and a service and a brand. For example: Nike is a product company, yet I use Nike + as a service.
Do sharing and crowd sourcing principles require a new approach to our concept of property or money?
Money is a particular kind of motivation, a way of doing exchange. But there are many other motivations. Like reputation. Or how people enjoy performing in what they are good at. Look at how people operate on flickr. There’s a joy in teaching other people how to work. There is a lovely german word “Funktionslust”: the joy you’re taking in doing something you’re good at. These are motivations not unlike money. What the internet has done is to disembed them from traditional geographics and social interactions.
One of the weird side effects of money is that it turns people into individual atoms. Yet when people operate in groups you will need other kinds of motivations. Then emergence happens: like flickr. The idea that people in there are teaching one another – how much is that worth in terms of money? Would it really make sense for somebody to sell it? These are questions we need to figure out. It´s not just the concept of property.
Does your design process differ from classical industrial design?
I have to be honest: I’ve never done classical industrial design! So I’m not sure but I can say one or two things about our process. Because we have a couple of steps I’m not sure anyone else really does. We believe in this idea of what we call “material exploration”. We call it “thinking through making”. Whenever we are designing with a material the job of the technologist is to make materials the designers can work with. So lets say we operate with large amounts of data. It can not only be a matter of understanding that amount of data – they have to get their hands dirty with it! They have got to sculpt it, to understand it, in exactly the same was of cutting and carving wood. Now, I don’t know how industrial design works, but that’s not how you need to work on the web. And it’s not how an engineering problem solving works. It’s very trusting and it involves technology and design working together in a different kind of way.
Some of the most interesting things BERG designed have to do with interaction. Interaction is a material! Or as my friend Matt Jones might say an “immaterial”: something which exists, yet you can’t touch. Then in the same way you need to explore it you have to prototype with it. My friend Tom Hume has a phrase “you don’t know what it’s like until you have it in your sweaty palm”. You have to have it in your palm before you know how it works – and Tom makes mobile applications!
Why “BERG”, why a german name?
(Loughs) Our company was originally called Schulz & Webb. It was a design partnership and we wanted to grow. We looked at a lots of different names, but we couldn’t decide. So we ended up asking a good friend of the company, who is an author of comic-books. He looked back at some very old BBC-Science-Fiction. And I will tell you a secret which you can share with your readers which is that BERG actually stands for something else: the “British Experimental Rocket Group”!
Now it turns out, that’s also german for “mountain”, which somehow we forgot which means in the UK “BERG” feels like the right kind of name for a small company where as long we have german clients they assume we have 200 people who wear black pinstripe suits and shout at people. What we are not, we are actually very nice!
Der Grüne Prophet – Pieter Hoff lässt die Sahara erblühen.
Die Wüsten und Steppen der Welt wachsen täglich. Es beginnt oft mit der Abholzung und Brandrodung ganzer Wälder und endet mit der Überweidung durch Vieh. Im Jahr verliert die Erde 12 Millionen Hektar an fruchtbaren Boden. Boden, auf dem kein Gras mehr wächst, oder? Pieter Hoff ist davon überzeugt, dass man diese Flächen zurückgewinnen kann. Der Niederländer hat damit begonnen, Bäume in der Sahara zu pflanzen. Ist der Mann verrückt? Wohl kaum. Seine Erfindung ist revolutionär wie einfach: Die Waterboxx ermöglicht Pflanzen, selbst unter extremen Bedingungen zu gedeihen.
“YOU CAN CONSIDER IT A COPY OF MOTHER NATURE”
PIETER HOFF ON THE INSPIRATION OF THE WATERBOXX.
What causes desertification?
I think the biggest problem is that people destroy eco-systems by cutting the largest trees for wood. I just was in an area in the north of Kenya. There were 30,000 hectares of beautiful forest with lots of water. Therefore there were lots of springs in the soil. They thought, if we cut the trees, then we have 30,000 hectares of pastureland for our cows. So they just burned the whole 30,000 hectares, and then they put the cows on it. But because the trees were gone, the wells disappeared. Now it’s just dry land and everything was destroyed there.
I think in general it is human interference. People cut trees and they put cattle on it, goats or sheep. No young trees are able to grow because the trees have gone. Rain stops, because the soil is going to be very hot so you get hot air rising, and as the hot air rises you have some condensation about it. So it’s a combination of factors. The reason starts with cutting trees, caused by human interference.
Can you tell us about the development of waterboxx?
My inspiration came from travelling worldwide, visiting my clients who bought lily flower bulbs from me. I was a lily breeder once. All my clients were using drip irrigation and the water levels everywhere in the world are dropping with a speed that you can’t imagine. If things don’t change, then in 100 years time from now, there’s no fresh water any more for people. I really became worried about it. We have to find a solution, we have to plant in a different way and use another source.
Because I was a grower, I knew from experience that in the morning, leaves are always wet, so actually plants are used to drink from the air. I once had a kind of a flow and inspiration. You should make an instrument that’s copying how leaves are working, and that’s how it started. I had that thought about 1994, 1995, and didn’t do anything with it because I had a very big company. But in 2003 I became 50, and there was more than one discussion on climate change and erosion, and I thought, Pieter, you have an idea. I almost felt a kind of a moral obligation that I had to go and work on it.
So I sold my company and I started to work on the invention. Then of course you also to start work on, okay, and how serious is the problem? And then you find that actually deserts are not dry, that there are many deserts caused by us. That there is a lot of rain, but that now you can’t plant any more because rainfall depletes.
I started in 2003, and in 2009 I was so far after four years of trials in the Sahara on a small scale, that it really worked. Then I decided to go and start to produce it on an industrial scale.
When I was sure that it worked, I invested in a mold, in the summer of 2009. I was really sure about it after four years of trials in Morocco. In the spring of 2010 we produced 30,000 boxes. I have sent those boxes all over the world now. And recently, just in February, I made another 50,000. So it’s really used worldwide now and it’s growing very good.
How does the waterboxx work?
Actually you can consider it a copy of Mother Nature. In Mother Nature, the planting of trees, and actually every plant is working through seeds. Mother Nature doesn’t dig a hole like the humans do, but it plants on top of the soil, and then the excrement, which is the carrier of the seed, is covering that soil. When the excrement is covering the soil, the humidity that is actually in the soil below it, it is in the capillary column – the capillary column is the thousands of micro channels that are in the soil and that transport the water down when you have rain, and up when it is very dry. By excrement, those channels are covered, so the water cannot evaporate. Then the seeds seals that humidity and starts to germinate, makes it’s radical roots, and then it taps down, and as soon as it finds enough water it starts to develop its leaves.
Actually, that’s what I do with the waterboxx. Because we plant from soil, we prefer to plant, just germinate seed or very small saplings of trees. By not stripping the capillary column, the tree immediately finds water that is naturally right in the soil. By putting the box on top of the soil, you actually copy the function of the excrement, because the water that is in the soil cannot evaporate. So it is not only the producing of the water and transporting that water through the plant, but is also in the same time taking care of that you prevent the evaporation of the water that’s around the roots. So it’s also based on efficiency.
Then as a last thing, the water that’s in the box also functions as a stabilizer of temperature, because as you know, water is the material on earth with the highest energy absorbing profession. So we have found that even if you have all day about 50 celsius airtemperature, in the box the water is only 25, which means that the soil temperature below the box is never higher than 25, 26. So if you plant it in extreme desert and you actually take care that the climate and the circumstances for the plant are very nice, because soil temperature is low, the middle of the box is shade to the plant, so it’s not in the burning sun. Then the seed has a possibility to start to germinate and grow.
Do you see a Dutch way of engineering behind waterboxx?
What I do think is that as a grower we have a very high education in Holland. Our country always considered growers, growing, as something for professionals. So they took care of a very good education for us. I think that’s one of the problems in many countries. What I actually see is that growing is not considered a real profession, because it has always been done, and government’s don’t educate their growers. All growers in Holland, you can say 90 percent, have a university education. So I don’t think it is a real coincidence that this invention has been done in Holland.
I see many growers plant their crops in the traditional way without any knowledge, and that’s why the production per hectare is low. If you look to the growers, not only in Holland, but also in Germany, we are so well educated that our crops are extremely high. To give you one practical example, corn growers in Germany and Holland, with only five months of good temperature and sun, produce about 80 tons per hectare. And corn growers in Ecuador with 12 months of sun, no winter, very fertile soil, volcanic, they only produce 10 tons per hectare.
Sometimes I say – and it’s a little bit hard, but it’s true – in many countries people put things in the soil but they aren’t really growers. But in our countries like Holland and also Germany, France, we have really been taught how to grow a crop and produce the best quality.
What has got to happen to spread waterboxx?
I need people like you. It’s absolutely true, that’s why I’m always very open for every journalist, no matter how small or how big a newspaper is, I always try to be nice and help them to write an article. Because my personal dream is that I want to spread the message that we have to reforest all the lands that we have destroyed over the last 2,000 years, and that’s about two billion hectares. So if we are able to reforest that two billion hectares with trees producing food, extract, medicines and all those kinds of things, then we can actually develop a money-making business model. Through planting trees we can help solve a part of the food problem. In the same time, those trees, unbind carbon dioxide into carbon, of which they make wood, and oxygen that they put in the air.
I made a calculation, that if we plant two billion hectares, we unbind more CO2 than we are producing through fossil fuel. So suppose our politicians decide – and that’s what I go for – to choose the tree solution as a farm solution for the climate program, then what you actually do is that you produce food, and at the same time, as a side effect, you solve the climate problem. That’s what I go for; that’s my message.
Is this your vision for Groasis?
You know, the tree solution, there are many areas where you perhaps don’t even need to use the waterboxx, but I don’t mind. For me it’s much more important that people are to understand that we have a kind of a moral obligation. We can’t just go on changing our climate, because we have children that have to live in the world. In the next 35 years we will have about three billion people more. So we also have to find solutions for the food problem.
It is also something that we all have to understand, that, yes, we do have challenges, but we also have a solution nearby. Whether you use my waterboxx or not, I think everybody should be aware of the fact that we have to start it off with trees.
Why do people care so little about sustainability?
The problem is that people don’t care yet, at least not enough people. I think one of the things is that over 50 percent of people living in cities with supermarkets, they are kind of disconnected from nature. As long as you have food enough you think that there is eternally food enough. Already in many countries, because of the food lack that we have, the food prices have gone out of control. But their income doesn’t run out of control, it keeps low, and where they could live for one dollar a day two years ago very easily, now you actually need two dollars a day to eat. But you can buy it, and I think that’s one of the reasons that, for instance, in those countries like Egypt and, you know, let’s say the Middle East, the problems that have started over there, in my point of view, have started because of poverty and hunger, and then people get desperate.
I think any politician who wants to remain in power in the next 35 years, really has to take care of his food supply for the poor, because otherwise the poor will bring him out of power, because people who are hungry forget everything and they just go and fight for their life.
What has got to happen to change people’s attitude?
I think what has to change people’s attitude is that we have to understand that people think now that deserts are just a desert, they can’t use it. But I really made lots of figures about it, and there’s about two billion hectares with sufficient rain for trees. Not sufficient for crops that you sow from seed like soja, corn, graines, because seed sown crops need rain once in awhile to germiate and grow. But in many of those areas, characteristically, they do have enough quantity, but you don’t have it all the year. A tree is very able to grow under these circumstances.
To give you an example, in Eritrea you have 1000 millimeters. That’s 300 more than in Germany or Holland, but it falls in a week. Now if you have trees, they can live from that pretty easily, but if you plant corn and it has one week rain and 51 weeks drought, the corn will die. So what we have to understand is that we have two billion fertile hectares that we have to bring into culture again. It’s not that they always were deserts, and that’s the awareness that I want to develop.
How can enterprises build a business model on waterboxx?If you calculate with conservative numbers investing in trees is becoming very, very interesting, because in 35 years from now, the Amazon and Borneo and Indonesia are empty. But if you look to all the figures, the use of wood is always in the same correlation as the population.
So if the population is going to rise in the next 40 years with 50%, it seems that wood use is also going to rise with 50 percent. And then if in 35 or 40 years those areas of Brazil and Borneo and Indonesia are empty, it means that you have a very high demand, but you have not enough offer of wood. So it’s for sure that wood prices are not going to drop any more, that they will rise and rise. And then of course you need food and all those other things. So anybody investing in trees is going to make money with it.
The only thing that is a negative thing, somebody who wants to have an early and quick profit, he’s not the right person. For instance a hedge fund. In the short term it’s not an interesting model. But I think for pension funds that have had large losses with with specualting on stocks, I think it could be a very important and interesting change of the policy to go for the longer term and to go for security.
How can people support waterboxx?
By blogging about it, by writing about it. I founded just a few weeks ago Club iPlant. If they go to my website they can be a member of the club and pay a fee of two euro 50 per month, and then, I will take care that we’re going to plant trees for that money. It’s all on my website. Another way, of course, is that I hope that I can wake the interest of people who have responsibility for those pension funds and investment funds and that they read about it and that I open their eyes and that they see the possibility. Some people who read your article may go and help, try to get this going through their profession.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Gott spielen. Mit Entwicklerlegende Peter Molyneux.
Peter Molyneux ist eine Legende. In seiner 25-jährigen Karriere als Computer- und Videospieleentwickler hat er mit ziemlich jeder Branchen-Regel gebrochen, Spiele gestaltet, die Genre-Konvention verletzen oder gleich ganz neue Genres erfunden. Ohne Molyneuxs Pionierleistungen wären heute als Kult gefeierte Klassiker wie „Civilization“, aber auch aktuellere Spiele wie „Spore“ nicht denkbar. Tatsächlich ist er Vater eines der beliebtesten Spielegenres der Welt, der sogenannten „Göttersimulation“.
„MORE AND MORE GIMMICKS DOESN’T MAKE A GREAT GAME.“
PETER MOLYNEUX ON 25 YEARS OF GAME DEVELOPMENT.
Can you tell us your definition of what a game is.
I think I could have answered that succinctly five years ago, but now I think it is a very complex question, because gaming itself is such a widespread activity now with the advent of mobile phones and Facebook games and games on dedicated consuls and games on handhelds, it is being played in different genres and different types all over the world. At this precise moment in time there’s probably approaching a hundred million people playing some sort of game in the world at this very moment.
So I think it’s a form of entertainment which has human interaction in it, which has choices and challenges and involves people in both deep stories and characterizations and mechanics like leveling up and trivial things that allow them to burn away the 15 minutes while they’re waiting for a train. So it’s a very, very broad spectrum of form of entertainment. Of course what computer games really are, like every other form of entertainment, is a way of solving the biggest problem in a lot of people’s lives, which is boredom. It’s a very short route to solving, “I’m bored, what shall I do now?”
Did you see that coming? Did the industry see that coming, that expansion of gaming to what you just described?
I think the industry always had a dream of being a really mass-market form of entertainment, but I think we were taken by surprise by things like Facebook and Zynga making FarmVille. I think everyone was just really shocked that it became so enormously popular. 36 million unique people play a game like FarmVille every single month, and that’s a lot of people. If you say, well, how many people in the world are watching a particular television program, 36 million would be a big ratings number.
Katie Salen has opened a school in New York that is basically using games as a means to teach pupils. Can you see that as a different kind of using games or making more sense out of games?
Yes. It’s kind of like television, isn’t it? Television, broadly speaking, is used to entertain us, and is a very short cure for boredom, but is also used for education. Schools use television, and I think the same is true of computer games. Certain games do teach you things. They can teach quite complex things like morals. I’ve designed a few games that have done that, and I know some schools use that. I think it’s just a proof point of the wide spectrum of the type of games that are being made. The fundamental fact that every piece of research shows is if people can just be having fun while they’re learning, then they learn faster and they learn better, so games is a great proof point of that.
Do you have an idea of what other domains might be conquered by gaming principles?
It’s interesting, I worked on a project, which is called Milo, for awhile, and I had a long conversation with someone who said that they would like to adapt that technology to be a form of a companion for people who are in a very lonely situation, like older people, and I never even thought of that. And another person just did, you know, you can use the technology in the form of mentoring. I think there is an enormous possibility, an unlocked potential in computer games. I mean, after all, what’s so fascinating about computer games – and certainly I’m talking about the bigger computer games, but almost all computer games – is that actually behind the scenes there are unbelievably technical pieces of – technically they deal with physics engines and graphics engines and simulations – and yet the veneer that we put on top is all about accessibility and understandability. And if you take that idea of taking something very complex and making it very understandable, you could apply it to business solutions, you could apply it to almost anything.
Do you think that game development somehow contributes to the development of artificial intelligence?
I do, personally. I think that computer games have a need for artificial intelligence. They absolutely need to have characters that can think, and you can see that they need to have characters that appear to be human or have human capabilities and human possibilities. And when you have a need, then that vacuum always tends to be filled. The big problem always with artificial intelligence a lot of the time is that if you’re developing it in a vacuum without a need, it’s much, much harder to develop. So I think that computer games have, maybe not just in the way that you think, because it’s some of the stuff that goes on behind. For example, this is a very trivial example, is there’s a very robust piece of artificial intelligence to do with matchmaking, matching you with somebody else in the world and giving you good gaming experience. That’s a piece of artificial intelligence, it’s been patented, it’s had papers written about it, and that has come about because of the need for that to exist. Do you see what I mean?
Do you think the mechanics of video games somehow mirror the mechanics of the human mind? Because sometimes we have the feeling that maybe games kind of let us learn about how the human mind is constructed because it’s like a doctor/patient relationship.
I think an analogous comparison like that is you can make it fit. You can say, well, games have got reward systems. We thrive, and young babies thrive on reward systems. But I think you are making it fit. I think saying a computer game is in some way constructed like a human mind, I don’t think that that is actually the case. I’ve been involved in some research in how the human mind works, and I wasn’t in any way thinking, “Gosh, this is like how a computer game works.” The human mind is an incredible and wonderful thing, which has evolved over the millennia, and if anything, computer games emulate the way that our conscious mind thinks. But I’m not sure that I would say that a computer game is in any way constructed like a human mind.
Do you have a theory on where the industry is heading? Is it heading into the creative domains or more in the domains that everybody knows like shooters and stuff?
I think that we’re proving undoubtedly is that we are becoming more creative and more diverse, and there are far more interesting things happening now that we’ve got, interesting devices like Connect. They allow us to experiment far more than we’ve ever done before. I really do feel that the games that are being made at this moment are going to redefine what we think of as computer games. It may take a few years for those to come out, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be seeing whole new genres of games which really just shock and surprise people.
The mechanics of interaction become more and more refined. Is it possible that one day the perceptive wall between games and reality will fall?
Well, if that ever was – and I’ve always joked to myself – if there was some operation I could have where there’s some intrusive device put inside my brain where I could perceive the computer game like the real world, I’d have it done, even if there was a 50/50 chance of me becoming brain dead. Just imagine the world, it would be amazing to be a games creator and have that ability.
Yes, I think that if you think of our perception of the world is going through some very simple devices in human beings, their sight, sound, touch and smell, and is there a way of getting more directly into the brain rather than through those devices, I think, yes, there could be, and that would apply itself to all sorts of things. We can already with Connect see your movements and see your body. It’s not a stretch of imagination to imagine that we can start projecting things into your eyes which seem real, rather than you having to be forced to sit in one location. I think the real science fiction of that sort of thing is starting to become true now.
One question concerning a management thing. You are part of the Microsoft Universe. How does one build lasting relationships between creative people and business people?
Well, my experience, there needs to be this mutual understanding, is that creative people often by business people are viewed as a force of nature which has to be tamed and controlled, that they can cause as much trouble as they can cause good. And creative people’s view of business people is that they’re constrained and they never give enough freedom for the creative world. I think the way to get around this is firstly for the business people to incentivize the creative people by what’s important, by setting them simple problems. Like, for example, I don’t mind someone coming to me and saying, “Look, you’ve got X amount of time to make anything you want, but you have got X amount of time, because you just can’t carry on forever.” If they say that at the start of a project, that’s fine, it’s just part of the creative problem. You’ve got two years to make a game. I’ve got these amounts of resources, I’m going to creatively mix that together. It’s exactly the same as the marketing people who come to a creative person and say, “Look, we really need a game for teenage girls.” That is a creative problem. As opposed to them coming and saying, “Well, just give us another game.” So I think if there’s a great dialogue between a business person and a creative person, then some wonderful things can happen. And if we both understand each other’s motivations and limitations about what’s important, then even better things can happen.
What do you think makes a successful game? What are the criteria of that?
There are words that I can use that don’t mean anything, but they really are important, and it’s the feel of a game, how it feels, what it feels like to interact with a game, the seamlessness of the experience, the understandability of the story that you’re putting, the compulsion, but not too much compulsion into the way that you drive a player through. These are all the essentials. These words don’t actually mean anything, they’re very subjective. There’s a quality to the experience that you give to people which has to be high enough where they’re not frowning and thinking, “Oh my God, I can’t bear looking at that or hearing that or experiencing that.” There is a threshold of not repeating things too many time so people get bored, but not doing things only once so if people get expert at something they might want to do it again. So there’s a style and a craft to the experience that you make.
What I’ve learned over the years through a lot of dreadful mistakes that I’ve made is that just making more and more complex features and more and more gimmicks in a game doesn’t make a great game. It’s the way that you mix those very well-crafted mechanics together with a great story, with great dialogue, with great characters, with great environments, with understandable gameplay that ends up making a great game.
Thank you very much.
Ein Lehrer. Millionen Schüler. Die Khan-Academy.
Besseres Lernen, lebenslanges Lernen, lernen Online, lernen für alle. Die Frage nach der Zukunft des Lernens und Lehrens treibt nicht nur Politik, Eltern um Kinder um, sondern alle, die in einer immens beschleunigten Welt nicht auf der Stelle treten wollen.
“ANYONE CAN LEARN”
BILAL MUSHARRAF ON THE POWER OF INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY.
Khan Academy seems so much simpler than school when you actually work with it, how do you do that?
I think it was basically the format. Probably students would respond better to that question, but it was basically the simplicity of the format, the fact that every video stands on its own. It begins with Sal exploring, and a curiosity that he satisfies by the end of the video, and doesn’t approach it in a pedantic kind of way and leads his listener who he addresses as a peer and not as somebody that’s beneath him. He just approaches it from the standpoint that he might know something about an intellectual curiosity that his audience might have and tries to satisfy it in an intuitive manner.
Do you think that this kind of curiosity is part of the basic experience with Khan Academy?
Yeah, it’s been in our DNA to basically try to redeem that curiosity, that anyone can learn, because people have closed the books on many subject areas that they feel they weren’t good at. It might have had to do with them not getting the appropriate exposure. So we want to tickle that curiosity again and say that, hey, anyone can learn, and once you’ve learned, actually, then anyone can teach. So Sal took to sharing how he felt like many subjects that were taught to him were not appropriately taught, even through college, and he tried to do his best in teaching, and he found that his audience responded well, so he kept going.
And now he’s the first global teacher. I think there’s a rising tide in this space, and we’re one of the boats.
What is the global vision of Khan Academy?
It’s to continue to develop more content. So far, we had focused on subject areas where Sal himself had no main expertise, but going into the future we’ll be going into subject areas where the content producers will be different and it’ll be different domains. So diversifying the content beyond math and science and finance into humanities up to the high school level, and then going above the high school level into more complex areas. So developing the content, and then also developing the online assessment platform to compliment that.
In addition to that, we’d like to develop the functionality for our community to engage each other and for maybe peer to peer learning across the globe. And we’re piloting our platform within the US. Right now we’re just engaging schools within the vicinity to see how we can develop the blended learning platform in the classroom. Because it’s a new area, and we’re working with the teaching community to develop I guess I’d say best practices.
Teachers were spending an inordinate amount of time having to deliver the same lecture year in, year out. Now they can leverage Khan Academy to now expand the space in their classroom for more application, for more problem solving and helping develop this customized self-paced learning for each student while delegating the more mundane aspects of teaching to Khan Academy. So we’re engaging the teaching community to develop that aspect and seeing what kind of things can be enhanced in the classroom.
Education is still an elitist asset in terms of a global vision. Do you think that Khan Academy might change this?
We hope to address this enormous gap that exists. Knowledge hasn’t changed – in many different areas it hasn’t changed in centuries, and it’s a travesty that the majority of the globe doesn’t have access to that. So we hope to make that available. Sure, it’s on YouTube and it’s on the internet, but the fact that he has this very simple way of displaying the content is very replicable on a chalkboard. So when I thought about the developing world, I feel like it can really be effective as a teacher training tool as well for places where you just don’t have teachers. You can showcase the content and people can actually replicate it on chalkboards.
Schoko Tech. Timothy Childs und Tcho.
In den USA hören sie auf den Namen Hershey oder Ghiradelli, hier heißen sie Lindt-Sprüngli oder Stollwerck. Es sind Schokolatiers, die schon im 19. Jahrhundert Naschwerk produzierten und ihren guten Namen auf dem Fundament ihrer Tradition aufgebaut haben. Doch was macht man, wenn das eigene Schokoladen-Unternehmen in der Dotcom-Ära gegründet wurde? Timothy Childs hat die Frage verblüffend einfach beantwortet: Sein Unternehmen TCHO denkt, arbeitet und sieht so aus wie ein Dotcom-Unternehmen. Tatsächlich verschmelzen in der „TCHOkolade“ zwei Welten: das hochmoderne Silicon Valley und die traditionelle Schokoladenindustrie.
„IT’S LIKE FUTURE CHOCOLATE.“
TCHO´S MARKETING ASSOCIATE LARRY DEL SANTO ON NATURAL FLAVORS, BETA TASTING PROGRAMS AND THE TCHO BRAND EXPERIENCE.
Where do you get your ingredients from? How does your relation with the farmers work?
We have our own program called TCHO Source. TCHO Source is a program where we work with all of the cocoa farmers and cooperatives that we source from, so we get our cocoa beans from places like Ghana, Africa, Madagascar, Peru and Ecuador, and so each one of those countries of origin kind of signifies a certain flavor that is associated and is inherently present within the cocoa beans. So, Ecuador we use for our nutty chocolate. It has a very nice kind of natural nut flavor, like a hazelnut, kind of butter, really nice tone to it. We use the beans from Madagascar for our citrus chocolate, which has kind of a nice tangy flavor. Again, none of these flavors are added. It’s just the natural flavors of the cocoa bean. We use the Peruvian beans for our fruity chocolate, which has a little bit of a sweeter tone to them, maybe a little bit more of a berry flavor, maybe cherry aftertaste, and then, finally, kind of our pilot chocolate, the one that got it all started, was our chocolaty, and that’s the one that comes from Ghana. We named it chocolaty because it is our darkest, but also it has the most fudgie, chocolate-rich flavor, and that’s what those Ghanaian beans bring to our chocolate chocolate.
You run your company a little bit like a software company. Why?
People think the T in T-C-H-O stands for technology meets chocolate. That’s not necessarily the background of the name. The name actually originates from our German designer, Spiekermann, and they just wanted to have a four-letter placeholder that represented chocolate for their packages back when they were designing our early prototypes for packaging. We bring old-school San Francisco, which is kind of the chocolate aspect, to kind of a new American Silicon Valley technological side to it. Just from the way that we have our factory build out, you know, it’s very clean. All the machines are old-school but have been updated and retrofitted to be more new-school and compatible with a lot of new-age technologies. We have an Apple application that we’ve developed with a group called FXPAL, and what they’ve done is worked with us putting cameras in our facilities and in our labs, and our chocolate makers can see what’s going on in these labs from their iPhones.
We kind of bring this whole technological piece to it, and Wired U.K., actually covered that whole program that has been developed with FXPAL, and it’s been a really cool thing to see because a lot of other companies are not doing this. We also use technology on our end a lot to communicate with our cacao farmers, and really make sure that they’re on the same page as we are when it comes to the sourcing of the beans and roasting the beans, and the whole production on their end back in the farms, back in those countries. That’s become a huge integrated piece of our company, so the whole technology piece.
How does the process of creating a new flavor function?
We have our bean team, our sourcing and development team, and we have our V.P. of sourcing and development, John Kehoe. He’s always traveling around the world looking for new beans, checking other countries, other cooperatives, other farms, kind of what flavors that they can have and that they’re developing. What we do is we ferment our cacao beans. Just as wine companies ferment grapes for wine to get those flavors, we ferment our cacao beans. That’s where the flavor process really begins, and then, once they kind of get those beans, they’re kind of shipped over here, and they do a lot of tests here in our lab, in our facility. So, whether it’s getting those beans, they’ve already been fermented and dried, then they’ll roast them here, they cut them open with a bean guillotine and examine them, and they put them into a program, which basically is a database of all of the beans from every single country that we’ve used, different farms. And they do huge tastings every day.
You also have this beta tasting program. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and what the reactions of the consumers were?
We were founded on the kind of whole beta program, so that’s how we released our first line of chocolates, you know, A versus B. In the beginning, and I wasn’t here for that, but basically what the beta started out is kind of getting consumer feedback and using the consumers, and kind of our closest fans and followers of TCHO as a feedback mechanism for all the flavors that we develop and produce. So, let’s say, in the very beginning, we were testing our chocolaty bars, so the beans, both batches, were from Ghana. One might have had a little bit more sugar or vanilla than another one, and we would test A versus B at events, or ship it to people and give us their feedback and do it all online, and that’s kind of what developed. Whichever one had the more votes or more positive feedback, that would be the next chocolate, and so that’s what we’ve done more recently, with our milk chocolate.
So, we started doing beta milk chocolate about six months ago, maybe a little bit less than six months ago, and the same kind of protocol. We sold them online for $5.00 and people had them shipped to their house, or they could get a whole auto-ship of different kind of iterations of the beta chocolate. They were able to taste it, not really focusing so much on the texture of the chocolate, because they were all handmade, but more on just kind of the natural flavors and how the sugar comes together with maybe a certain milk that we’ve added in, and then a huge kind of online form for people to give us their responses and kind of their feedback. So, we are still using this whole beta program as kind of a basis on releasing our milk chocolate, which is coming early 2011.
How does beta testing differ from focus groups?
I think focus groups are more feedback from a product that’s already been launched and a product that’s already been – well, it could be two things. If you do a focus group before you launch a product, and you can get feedback that way, and people don’t pay for that, or you could do it after a product when you want to follow up on how the product is doing or how you need to modify it. So, that’s what I think, from a marketing standpoint, focus groups are, but beta is more just kind of unlimited customer involvement, and making people feel like they have a say in what we’re gonna be releasing as our next official chocolate. I’ve kind of always explained beta as the American Idol of chocolates, where you vote for which one is your favorite, and then that would become the next kind of chocolate from TCHO. So, it’s sort of a glorified focus group, but much more on a level where people aren’t paying for high-quality beta chocolate, and then hopefully, down the line, they vote and then they get to see kind of their involvement throughout every step of the way, once we release our final iteration of it.
It’s a great way to connect it to the consumer even before the product is released, and then you’re part of the process.Exactly. It’s been a really exciting thing to see happen and be a part of, and the response to that has been overwhelming, especially from our milk chocolate. People have actually loved it, and some people say it’s the best milk chocolate that they ever had.
So, talking about flavors, what is the flavor wheel?
The flavor wheel has kind of become its own logo in itself. Basically, again, we focus on the natural flavors of cacao, so what does 90 percent chocolate actually mean? What does chocolate that comes from South America mean? So, we incorporate those two elements – percentages, as well as country of origin – but also the natural flavor. So, we’re calling ourselves new American chocolate, and we focus on these natural flavors of the cocoa bean. So, just as back in the day when Napa kind of took the whole American wine industry by storm, we’re kind of doing a similar thing with the chocolate industry with these natural flavors.
So, when you bite into a TCHO chocolate bar, you’re not biting into anything that’s added. You’re not biting into a Ghiradelli chocolate with an added raspberry filling. It’s actually the natural, purest form of chocolate that you can get, based on the country of origin, based on these flavors, based on the iteration and kind of the formula that our bean team has developed to make the chocolate taste the way it does, as well as dating all the way back to the farm, for the production of that, with the fermentation and how the cocoa pods and the cocoa trees produce this fruit. And so, that’s why we have the flavor wheel, which focuses on these natural flavors of the cocoa bean, so there’s, again, the citrus, the fruity, the nutty, and chocolaty, which we have released right now, and we’re still in developing the earthy and the floral flavors.
I also read that you also sell chocolate to other industries that use your chocolate as an ingredient. Does the flavor wheel play a role there, too?
We call it private label. So, for example, Starbucks, in all of North America, so the United States and Canada. We have released exclusively for them a Starbucks milk chocolate that we’ve made them, and a Starbucks dark chocolate. So, the flavor wheel doesn’t really come into play for them because they’re more interested in just a certain flavor that they’re looking for for their certain consumer, but they like the quality of TCHO. So, we kind of have a different combination maybe of our different beans for those flavors. I don’t have the exact breakdown of that, but that’s kind of what we do for other companies like that.
What role plays design for TCHO?
I think it’s a big role, a really big role, especially because our creative director, Louis Rossetto, CEO, comes from Wired. You know, basically that was his baby. He was co-founding editor. Very designy. You think of Wired and you think of design, you think of technology, and I think that’s really brought here, too, and with Spiekermann, they’ve done a great job building our brand from the ground up, and I think the brand was even built, the packaging was already set in stone before the chocolate was even really made. And so it’s really the whole branding and design, and every single aspect of what we do has to relate back to that, and it’s very important that every sort of communication or every sort of image or sell sheet, or anything that we do relates back to this one kind of bible of Spiekermann design that we have, which is beautiful and I think it really speaks to people. It’s not too pretentious, but it’s a little bit more of a high-end brand, and people absolutely love it. So, the design aspect of it with each packing, with the citrus chocolate and the nutty, and the fruity and the chocolaty, and kind of how they’ve interwoven currency on top of our packaging, because chocolate back in the Mayan and Aztec times were used as – cocoa beans and chocolate was used as a form of currency back then, and it’s kind of a metaphor to today. So, the design aspect of it, there is always a reason and a story behind why we’re so into it.
How do you distribute your products?
We have a countrywide distributor, a nationwide distributor that we work with to sell our products through outlets, like whole foods, or more of the high-end retail grocery markets. So, everything comes from this one location in San Francisco and is distributed across the country.Is there anything else that makes TCHO different from other chocolate companies?Definitely the fact that we’re very interested in TCHO source and fair trade, and getting the finest quality beans from the finest quality farms, and bringing the finest quality product to our customers that we possibly can, as well as just kind of how we’re positioning ourselves with this whole new American chocolate. You know, instead of having a rectangular bar, we have a square bar. We just try to do everything a little bit different, and kind of with the whole technological background, with the Wired background, Louis and Jane bring that whole kind of technology, techie edge to TCHO. We’re like old-school San Francisco chocolate meets new age kind of Silicon Valley. It’s like future chocolate, you know? It’s kind of cool.
You’re operating in an industry that is marketed with tradition. Does it help to be different?
I think that everyone wants something new and something different, our target demographic are the millennial generation, so people between 20’s and 30-somethings love our chocolate. The brand experience that we provide is much different than anything else. Ghiradelli is an amazing company, they’ve been around forever, and they have that heritage brand, and so people will always love Ghiradelli. People will always love Hershey’s for whatever they’re doing. When people think of Christmas, they think of Hershey Kisses and they think of a lot of things that Hershey’s has done. Chocolate Santa’s, you know, that’s, again, that more classical, traditional thing, but we’re kind of doing something a little different. You look at our packaging, even for our holiday packaging, we have a local artists, a Dutch designer by the name of Max Kizman, who has done phenomenal works for us with his art pieces and putting them on our packaging. A little bit new age, a little bit more modern art/contemporary, and, again, that’s what we’re going for, and so people really respond to that because it’s different and because it’s just such a new way of thinking and positioning chocolate.
What can other enterprises learn from you?
I think, especially in the chocolate industry, people can learn the importance of not only fair trade and working closely with the farmers and getting high-quality, good message chocolate, or chocolate that has a good message, rather, that’s really important because people really – these days, especially in areas like San Francisco that’s such a food-y culture, people are obsessed with organic and fair trade and vegan, and the list goes on and on – healthy. I think that that message really should resonate throughout your product, and with the good message that we have through TCHO source. That’s definitely something that we want to drive home to consumers, as well as our competitors, because, I say it again, we are obsessed with the finest quality chocolate, and with that comes working closely with the people that help make chocolate come to life, all the way back to the farms.
Will TCHO expand?
Most definitely. I mean we have been doing really well the past four years, and not only working with Starbucks for the private label bar – that’s gonna only keep on growing – we’re always constantly growing every day, and selling more chocolate through our store, through Web store. Our location has expanded for our on-site factory tour and store from a little tiny 200-square foot space to a 1,300-square foot space. So, we’re expanding and only getting more coverage. A New York Times article has really helped us out a lot with awareness on the East Coast and kind of that more high-end premium chef market, and really being competitive in that market compared to other companies. So, we’re kind of like the new kids on the block, and the new American kids on the block, and people have responded really well to that, and I can only see us continuing to grow over the next five years.
What is TCHO’s vision?
We have our whole kind of business ethos, but overall, it’s producing the finest quality chocolate from the finest quality beans, from the finest quality farms around the world, and providing an experience that really resonates with people that’s a little bit different than what they’re used to, and kind of getting people to think outside of the box and take a new look and have a new perspective about chocolate and the chocolate industry as a whole.
Thank you very much.
Grossmeister der Emotionen. Der Gamedesigner David Cage.
David Cage ist einer der erfolgreichsten Gamedesigner der Welt. Mit seinem Studio „Quantic Dream“ in Paris hat er Millionenerfolge in die Welt gesetzt. Vordergründig entwickelt und verkauft Cage Computerspiele. Aber in Wirklichkeit handelt er mit einer ganz besonderen Ware: mit Emotionen. Kommen diese in Spielen wie der Supermario-Reihe glitzernd, bonbonfarbend daher, lotet Cage in seinem Erfolgsprodukt „Heavy Rain“ ganz andere Gefühlsareale aus. Hier geht es um die geheimnisvollen Pfade in das eigene Unterbewusstsein und seine manchmal nicht nur glücklich gefüllten Räume. Cage erobert damit nicht nur neue Videospiel-Dimensionen, sondern auch Käuferschichten weit jenseits der 18.
„THE PLAYER BECOMES A WRITER.“
DAVID CAGE ON INTERACTIVE STORY TELLING, GAMES FOR A GROWN UP AUDIENCE AND THE COURAGE TO FIGHT FOR YOUR IDEAS.
What are the basic differences between a story for a game and a story for a movie or a novel?
There are some common points and there many differences. The common point is that you need an arc for your story because an arc is a structure that can be common for turning points and et cetera, et cetera. It has characterization and the characterization in an interactive story needs to be as strong in a movie. Because at the end of the day it’s all about character. It’s about how it resonates with the audience. So it is a paramount importance in both cases.
Now the main difference is that in a linear medium you tell one story. And this is the story that the writer choose to tell and as the audience you just attend, you just watch the story unfolding on the screen but you cannot interact in any way. You just watch what’s going on. Interactive story telling is all about not telling one story but telling many possible stories and letting the audience decide which story they want to be told.
On a complete point of view the script for a movie script is about 120 pages in general but the script for “Heavy Rain” for example is about 2,000 pages and it takes many paths, many different variations, different variables, different versions of each scene with different consequences that will themselves have different consequences and that will ultimately lead to different stories and different endings. It’s a whole different story in a way.
On a linear medium I would say that a writer choses one story where on a non-interactive medium the writer provides for all the possible stories.
Does the player become a writer?
For me the player becomes a writer. He becomes the actor, he becomes the director, he becomes really the core writer of the story because he makes choices and his choices really reflect who he is and reflect his personality. For example in “Heavy Rain” there are many dilemmata, many moral choices where it’s not obvious what you’re going to do so I guess that the story works like a mirror in many ways who tells you who you are. And this is exactly what writing a story is about. It’s about a mirror showing the image of the person. So yes I think the player is a writer.
Do you start with character or with storyline?
Both. I think both are really interrelated. It’s really important to think of both at the same time. Sometimes you need to tell a story and the characters just appear from the story and it just is obvious and then you give them some characterization.
I rarely start with the character. I know that many video games do that. You have some Lara Croft in mind or this kind of character, and what could happen to this great girl that looks like Indiana Jones but is a female character. I don’t really work that way. I’m more interested in situations in a story and emotions, in moral dilemmata. These are really the starting points. Its’ really the emotional situations that are of interest to me.
One of the key emotions in “Heavy Rain” is the loss of control. Why is this basically negative emotion so important and attractive to the player?
Well you should ask players. You know there is often some misunderstanding about emotions. It’s not necessarily the pleasant emotions that are the most appealing. And movies know that very well. Many horror movies or movies that make you feel really uncomfortable that are sometimes great movies just because you felt something; you experienced something very strong. Otherwise only comedies would be pleasant in movies which is really not the case. You like to laugh in the theater but at the same time you like to be scared, you like to cry, you like to feel different things. And with games it’s exactly the same thing.
It’s really interesting to see how I think some depressing scenes in “Heavy Rain” worked very well. For example the scene called “The Father and Son” when you need to take care of your son and the light grows dim and it’s really depressing. It’s in winter and dark and there is no communication with his son. It’s a very depressing scene. And in my mind it’s one of the best scenes in “Heavy Rain”.
Do you have a theory on why people play? What is the sense behind gaming?
Many people have theories about many things. I think it’s interesting to have this kind of role play and this is something we all did when we were kids. We all played cowboys and Indians or gangsters or whatever and policemen. It’s about role play.
When you become an adult I guess it becomes an emotional stimulator in many ways. It allows you to test yourself or to see how you would feel in very difficult situations or how you would react but without having to take any risk or to bear the consequences of your decisions. “Heavy Rain” asks the question how far are you prepared to go to save someone you love. Which is a question that hopefully very few of us will have to answer in real life.
But within the context of the game which is a safe environment you can have this question asked and try to answer it without having to take any risks. I think it’s very interesting place. Again it’s really a mirror of who you are as a person but it’s only between you and the game. No one else will know. Will you kill someone to save your son for example as the game asks you at some point is a very tricky question. The game allows you to ask yourself this question and decide for yourself what you would do in this situation.
And I think this is really this emotional component of interactive experiences is something that is very little use in most games. Most games just put a gun in your hand and ask you if you want to shoot, how many soldiers can you shoot or zombies can you shot before you get killed which is really an uninteresting question to ask someone. I don’t care. I don’t care – my neighbor is 12-years-old and is probably going to make a better score than me at these games. So what? It doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m more interested in more meaningful experiences.
Do you have a target group in mind when you develop your games? Do you start with an image of a 13-year-old or the image of a 33-year-old person?
I try not to have the image of my audience in mind. The only thing I set as a goal for myself is to work for an adult audience. So I don’t make games for kids or teenagers; I make games for people who are 18 plus. Just because I think it’s very different themes. When you’re 15 you’re not thinking for the same thing in a movie or in a book or in a game then when you are 30 or 35 or 40. And it makes sense. I think the whole gaming industry makes a lot of games for people who are 15 today but very few games for people who are 30 so I am really interested in working for adults.
Do you think that the market will change in the way that the market for television series has shifted to adult entertainment?
Well that’s what I hope. That’s what I hope. What I like with TV shows and movies in general is that they found ways to address all possible audiences without having to choose. When you look at TV series today for example you’ve got TV series for kids, TV series for teenagers, you’ve got TV series based on horror or sci-fi, every single genre you can mention there is a TV series or a movie in that genre. But when you talk about games you can only list action, horror – there are very few genres and very short audiences that we actually address. And my hope for this industry is that we manage to find ways to address wider audience.
Can you think of true interactive stories for multiplayer platforms?
Well I try to figure out how to tell interactive story for one player and it’s already a lot of work, it’s a huge challenge, so thinking multiplayer is definitely something interesting and definitely something I have in mind in the future. But there are many, many challenges to overcome before we can actually create this experience.
Some more general questions on being an innovator. “Heavy Rain” is a true game changer. Can you name some of the ingredients that make that success?
I think that if there is one quality in “Heavy Rain” it’s courage. We took many risks and our publisher Sony took them with us because the game went against pretty much all current paradigms in matter of games and game play. It’s all about storytelling where the whole industry is out for action. Our main character doesn’t have a gun, doesn’t drive a car, doesn’t jump on platforms, does not do all the things that most video games do. There is not one main character but four main characters which very few games do. And it’s for adults while the rest of the industry makes games for teenagers.
“Heavy Rain” goes against pretty much every single area that defines the video game industry today. So it certainly took some courage to go against everything that way.
So did they leave free hand on most of these aspects?
Yeah. But I’m a very fortunate creator because all the publishers I worked with so far always left me total freedom. I had very little constraints for 14 years; pretty much always did the games I wanted to make the way I wanted to make them. And there are many reasons for that. First of all I think I made very clear before working with a publisher that I was here because I was passionate about what I’m doing. The creative area is really my area. So you can agree with that or disagree with that as a publisher but if you disagree then you don’t work with Quantic Dream I guess. But if you are in agreement, if you like what we do and the approach we have then that’s a given; this is something you need to accept.
But also I think what we do is very complex. Everything is intertwined, everything is interlaced in what we do so it’s not possible to say can you change the main character and make him a female or giving him big muscles or can you delete these scenes just because everything works together as whole. You cannot take a part of it or change just this thing or modify it. It doesn’t work. This necessity to maintain the consistency really gave us some creative freedom.
And now with the credibility, coming with a success it becomes easier to keep this freedom just because now you proved that you’re capable of delivering something that the market can buy. So it helps for the future product of course.
One last thing you would tell young developers?
My main advice to them is to have courage. Dare to do things. Don’t listen to people who will give you very reasonable advices. If you’re in this industry to be reasonable then you’re in the wrong place. This is a place to be creative; this is an industry to be creative, to have new ideas. The more people there will be to tell you that you’re ideas are impossible or that it will never work the better your idea is actually. So trust your ideas, trust your instinct, fight for your ideas and have courage.
Bucky Fullers Erben. Stefan Clauss und Stefan Schulze-Dieckhoff.
Das Nichtstoffliche ist das Material unserer Zeit. Wir versichern uns unserer Identität über die Fotoalbenreihe auf facebook, Daten, die eben noch auf unseren eigenen Festplatten ratterten, lösen sich in der Cloud auf. Wir reisen mit leichtem Gepäck. Die beiden Hamburger Jungunternehmer Stefan Schulze-Dieckhoff und Stefan Clauss hatten die Idee, für diese Generation eine passende Urlaubsbehausung zu konstruieren: ein Zelt, das man aufblasen kann. Und tatsächlich ist ihre Behausung „The Cave“ so schnell aufgestellt und wieder abgebaut, dass sie mehr Transit als Haus ist. Für die Realisation ihrer Idee mussten sie auf eine Abenteuerreise durch die Kulturgeschichte der Baukunst gehen. Ihr Ziel: die perfekte Kuppel.
„WIR SIND KEINE DOGMATEN.“
STEFAN CLAUSS SPRICHT ÜBER DIE ROLLE VON DESIGN, INNOVATION UND „BUCKYBALL“-ARCHITEKTUR.
Welchen Ursprung hat die Idee zu dem Zelt „The Cave“?
Es hat alles mit einem Surf-Urlaub in Portugal angefangen. Wir haben das erste Mal versucht, in über drei Meter hohen Wellen zu surfen und wären dabei fast abgesoffen. Das Surfen haben wir den Rest des Tages ad acta gelegt und erstmal Leute dabei beobachtet, die was davon verstehen. Wir sind dann erst relativ spät an den Zeltplatz angekommen und haben dann in der Dunkelheit versucht, das Zelt aufzubauen. Und obwohl wir das Zelt zur Probe schon einmal aufgebaut hatten, hat das hinten und vorne nicht hingehauen. Es fing dann auch noch zu nieseln an und wir waren tierisch von der Situation genervt. Da ist dann der Gedanke entstanden, es muss doch wohl möglich sein, ein Zelt zu bauen, was einfach funktioniert. Die Idee stammt also wirklich aus der Anwendung heraus.
Wie finanziert man ein Start-up?
Wir haben uns bei den Pro-Ideen-Fonds in Hamburg beworben. Das ist eine Initiative der Stadt Hamburg, die sich zu 50% aus Geldern der Stadt und zu 50% aus Geldern der Europäischen Union finanziert. Dort haben wir uns einer Jury gestellt, die das Projekt auf Herz und Nieren geprüft hat. Danach haben wir 50.000 Euro für die Entwicklung eines Prototypen bekommen.
Wie viel Zeit habt Ihr in die Entwicklung gesteckt?
Ursprünglich hatten wir ein Jahr für die Entwicklung eingeplant. Im Grunde sind wir aber mit einer Sache angetreten, bei der keiner so genau wusste, wie machen wir das jetzt eigentlich? Und was sind das für Schwierigkeiten, die auf uns zukommen könnten? Im Laufe des Entwicklungsprozesses wurden wir dann mit Dingen konfrontiert, die wir im Vorfeld gar nicht berücksichtigt hatten. Am Ende haben wir ca. 2,5 Jahre gebraucht.
Was ist der grundsätzliche Unterschied zwischen „The Cave“ und anderen Zelten?
So ein Zelt ist oft eine halbgare Lösung. Wir haben uns zum Ziel gesetzt, dass das Aufbauen intuitiv und einfach funktioniert. Unser Zelt packt man aus der Tasche, man schließt die Pumpe an, man pumpt 40 Sekunden und das Ding steht. Man muss kein Innenzelt einhängen, du musst kein Außenzelt einhängen.
Gibt es einen emotionalen Mehrwert?
Die meisten Zelte sind so konzipiert, dass sie so viel Platz wie nötig schaffen, wenn es um die Liegefläche geht. Bei uns stand die Frage im Vordergrund: Wann würde man sich wohlfühlen? Wir haben uns dann für eine runde Grund- und Liegefläche entschieden. Man mag dagegen einwenden: Das ist doch verschwendeter Platz! Aber da würden wir entgegensetzen: Das ist genau der Platz, der das Ganze angenehm und wohnlich macht, der ein gutes Gefühl vermittelt.
Woher nimmt ein Zelt aus Luft seine Stabilität? Warum wird es nicht einfach weggeweht?
Es ist natürlich ratsam, das Ganze am Boden mit sechs Heringen zu fixieren. Tatsächlich haben wir gestern einen Windtest gemacht und es war unglaublich. Dafür haben wir uns vom Studio Hamburg eine Windmaschine ausgeliehen, die 70 Stundenkilometer Spitze schafft. Das ist eine echt große Maschine, an der ein dicker Propellermotor angebracht ist, der diesen kräftigen Wind erzeugt. Selbst unter der Maximalleistung der Maschine ist das Zelt nirgendwo eingeknickt und es hat sich auch nicht verbogen. Dabei haben wir keine Abspannseile benutzt, allein die Konstruktion hat das Ganze ausgehalten. Diese Stabilität erreichen wir durch die geodätische Struktur, das ist eine absolut symmetrische Figur, bei der die Kräfte, die auf die Konstruktion einwirken, wirklich auf die gesamte Konstruktion abgeleitet und verteilt werden. Buckminster Fuller hat die Konstruktion nicht erfunden, aber er hat es erforscht und weiterentwickelt. In den fünfziger Jahren ist er damit Berühmtheit geworden. Man nennt das Ganze auch „Buckyball“. Die Konstruktion ist übrigens so spannend, weil es eine unheimlich effiziente Bauweise ist: Es schafft nämlich das beste Verhältnis zwischen eingesetztem Material und geschaffenem Raumvolumen.
Welche Rolle spielt Design für Euch?
Wir haben versucht, das Design, die Technologie und Handhabung wirklich zu einem Konzept zu verschmelzen. Design ist bei uns keine Dekoration, sondern es ist eher das Prinzip „Form follows function“. Die Funktion und Praktikabilität gibt dann auch einfach vor, wie das Produkt letztendlich aussieht.
Versteht Ihr Euch im weitesten Sinne als Designer?Wir versuchen natürlich in allen Bereichen, die unser Projekt betreffen, einen eigenen Zugang, etwas Eigenständiges zu schaffen. Ob es nun um das Produkt geht, die Art und Weise wie wir kommunizieren oder wie wir mit unseren zukünftigen Kunden in Kontakt treten. Und wenn man so will, ist das dann eine Form von Design.
Für welche Zielgruppe habt Ihr „The Cave“ entwickelt?
Als wir uns den Markt angeschaut haben, mussten wir feststellen, dass es eigentlich nur zwei Extreme im Zeltmarkt gibt. Auf der einen Seite gibt es Zelte für den Extremsportler, für die das Produkt dann wirklich bis aufs letzte Gramm optimiert ist und wo Gewicht und Packmaß absolut im Vordergrund stehen. Das andere Extrem ist das klassische Camping. Dabei ist uns aufgefallen, dass die Welt, die wir als Zelten und Campen kennengelernt haben, von keinem Hersteller bedient wird. Es geht eher darum, dass man Urlaub macht, sein Zelt aufschlägt und am nächsten Tag weiterzieht oder einfach noch zwei, drei Tage dableibt. Es geht um Flexibilität. Das kann auch heißen, dass man zwischendurch im Hotel übernachtet. „Camping ist unser Leben“ würde ich also nicht unterschreiben. Wir sind keine Dogmaten.
Woher wisst Ihr, dass es Bedarf für ein neuartiges Zelt gibt? Gab es so etwas wie Focus Groups?
Unsere Kernzielgruppe besteht aus 18- bis 25-Jährigen. Davon gehen 4,3 Millionen Menschen im Jahr zelten. Nehmen wir einmal an, 5% interessieren sich für ein Zelt, wie wir es anbieten – praktisch und einfach, dann ergibt sich ein ziemlich großes Potenzial. Nehmen wir einmal an, davon würden wir jetzt tatsächlich 5% erreichen, dann wären das immer noch über 10.000 Menschen in Deutschland, die als Käufer in Frage kommen. Ich glaube allerdings ganz ehrlich, dass es mehr als 5% sind, die sich für unser Zelt begeistern könnten und wir hoffen, einen höheren Marktanteil zu erzielen. Aber das ist Spekulation. Neben der Potenzialanalyse haben wir uns auch eine Trendanalyse angeschaut. Gerade in der jüngeren Zielgruppe gibt es ein wachsendes Bedürfnis danach, draußen zu sein, flexibel zu sein und einfach auch mal kurzfristig zu sagen, Hey, ich mache jetzt mal einen kurzen Urlaub. Da ist auf jeden Fall ein Trend zu erkennen, den wir wirklich in Form von Produkten aufgreifen wollen.
Gibt es Pläne, die Produktpalette zu erweitern?
Im Moment fokussieren wir uns erst mal voll auf die Reaktionen der Leute auf unser erstes Produkt. Klar haben wir jetzt schon Varianten in der Schublade, die wir konzeptuell angedacht haben. Varianten, die wir zukünftig auch gerne realisieren wollen. Darüber hinaus soll es eine kleinere und eine größere Version geben und dann auch die Möglichkeit, verschiedene Versionen miteinander zu verbinden, so dass man dann ein Zweizimmerzelt bewohnt. Es gibt auch Überlegungen, was man mit unserer Technologie, mit der wir uns ja sehr stark auseinandergesetzt haben, alternativ anstellen kann.
Welche Rolle spielt Kommunikation für Euch?
Die Kommunikation ist bei uns in allen Bereichen sehr, sehr wichtig. Wir haben relativ früh angefangen, nämlich zu dem Zeitpunkt, als es um unsere Förderung ging, den ganzen Prozess ein Stück weit öffentlich zu machen, etwa über unseren Blog. Einerseits wollten wir die Leute über unser Projekt in Kenntnis setzen, andererseits gab es auch die Komponente der Eigenmotivation: Wenn du etwas öffentlich machst, dann bist du den Leuten Rechenschaft schuldig. Die Leute stellen plötzlich Fragen: Wie läuft es denn bei euch? Die frühe öffentliche Kommunikation half uns dabei, uns darüber im Klaren zu werden, dass das Ganze echt ist, dass wir das jetzt wirklich machen. Darüber hinaus haben wir dadurch sehr viele Kontakte geknüpft, die jetzt auch involviert sind. Ob es nun um die Leute geht, die unsere Website entwickeln oder sei es die Designer, mit denen wir jetzt zusammenarbeiten. Um das Projekt ist jedenfalls ein eigenes kleines Netzwerk entstanden, mit Leuten, die dann natürlich auch über uns geschrieben haben, die uns Feedback geben, mit Input versorgen.
Kann man als Startup nur mit den Platzhirschen konkurrieren, wenn man eine wirkliche Innovation ins Zentrum der Kommunikation stellt?
Wenn man nicht eine echte Innovation liefern kann oder konzeptuell etwas anders macht und das nicht auch ein Stück weit radikal verfolgt, dann wird es schwer. Denn dann ist es eine Sache, bei der man nur über Druck in so einen Markt einsteigen kann. Ich glaube aber, wenn man als Startup eine Chance haben will, dann ist es wirklich der beste Weg, wirklich etwas Neues zu erzählen, etwas, was es vorher nicht gegeben hat und vielleicht sogar ein bisschen polarisiert. Wir persönlich haben gemerkt: Es gibt Leute, die finden unser Produkt großartig, genauso gibt es aber auch Leute, die sich und uns fragen: Warum? Was soll das?
Über Euren Blog spinnt Ihr eine Art Gründerstory. Hilft das dabei, die Leute emotional mit der Marke zu verknüpfen?
Ich glaube, es ist nicht von Nachteil. Bei uns ist an einem bestimmten Punkt eine Euphorie entstanden und wir hatten das Bedürfnis, die Leute etwas mitzureißen. Im Grunde sind wir zwei Jungs, die versuchen, etwas zu realisieren, dass sie vorher noch nicht gemacht haben. Und wir sind eben kein anonymer Großkonzern, sondern Menschen, die sich überlegt haben, dass sie jetzt ein Zelt bauen.
Better Vibrations. Der Designer Thomas Meyerhoffer
Der Designer Thomas Meyerhoffer, selbst ein begeisterter Wellenreiter und im Brennpunkt der kalifornischen Design-Szene fasst das Erfolgsprinzip für uns zusammen: „Creating an Experience“.
„IT’S IMPORTANT THAT EACH PROJECT TELLS A STORY.“
THOMAS MEYERHOFFER ON USER EXPERIENCES, ICONIC DESIGN AND THE SURF SCENE.
What is your distinctive approach to design?
For me it’s important that each project tells a story that the user gets to experience something in a slightly different way or in a whole new way. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a product or an experience or something relating to a product and it doesn’t really matter if it’s done in one way or another, the actual process, or with whom. I think the result is the most important obviously.
How did working at IDEO and Apple affect your way of working?
The reason I have a small studio today is because I worked for a big studio at IDEO. A big studio has its own place and own functionality. Normally they help large corporations which doesn’t know what to do, so to speak. The first thing we did when I got to Apple was to take away all the external consultants and make a very small team and focus on what we needed to do and that’s pretty much how I run my own studio. I take very few projects on and I focus on them and I work on all of them.
You also work with startups a lot. How does the process work and how does it differ from working for established brands?
The startup needs often a little bit more flexibility. You work closer with them so you understand more of the full picture which can be good but it can also be not bad but it definitely creates a different kind of sort of process and the target changes a little bit. It’s basically I find much more sort of interesting because the picture is bigger.
In 2003 you invented a new windsurfing sail and changed a whole category. How did that happen?That was one of those projects where a client comes and they tried many things and they basically say, “Well we don’t know where to go now,” and that’s an opportunity when somebody comes to say that to you because then let’s go somewhere else and try to figure out where you need to go. There was a lot of upgrading the qualities of that specific brand, NeilPryde, forward. So everybody understood that this is clearly NeilPryde but it’s a new NeilPryde. They basically purified their values and the experience of what they are about in built into the product.
So it’s a good example of what you can do with design even with a company which maybe they didn’t think that they needed design really. They didn’t understand where it would fit in but in the end it was very clear that the work we did from a design point of view really made a big difference for them on different levels everywhere from the top of the company to salespeople.
What was your intention when you started working on your own surfboard?
To have fun and go surf and basically try to do something which was so far out that it really – it might not even work and just see where the boundaries were.
It turned out that it worked really well and then I said that “Man, we’ve got to kind of see how far we can get it now to work even better.” So it’s typical kind of research and then trying to distill – trying to understand what it is that works really well and trying to understand how you can make that even better out of this sort of fairly broad equation of different variables because it’s really interesting.
The shape of surfboards hasn’t really changed for decades. How was your new board received in the surfing scene?I’ve been everything from being heckled to not so well. But I would say with as many bad comments I got and as many much so heckling I got I also got so much more positive comments and it’s been amazing because it comes from people within the industry like shapers which are really well known have come up to me and said, “Hey, this is so great to see somebody taking a step forward and you deserve a lot of kudos,” so to speak. So the bad part always comes easy and comes early on but then there’s been a lot of good stuff coming out of this and it’s been amazing to me with all the people involved and in surfing and all community and understanding and it’s been great.
What’s the secret to the success of the board?
The secret to the success of the boards is quite intricate. The boards have a surface on the bottom which is quite advanced, so to speak, for being a surfboard. It goes from a concave to a convex area into two double concaves. The rocker is changing in two different places. It’s quite elaborate all the work which has gone into it. For the 2011 boards it’s been incredibly fine-tuned when we’re talking about like five millimeters, just really tweaking everything so that it works together as one unit and works really so it gives you the right feedback in the right amount, too.
I see it a little bit the same as a parabolic ski, for example, when they were introduced or the big wooden tennis racket with sort of oversized or the golf clubs where the initial sort of exploration, initial products were pretty – a big step forward and a lot of people were very suspicious. The boards have really come to the next level now and it’s in a refinement state. Now we’re launching the short boards this year too which are really interesting because they’re smaller so the differences are much less than on the long boards.
Will we see other shapers getting more experimental on boards?
I’ve already seen a few things and I think the most important thing is that people open up their minds. It’s not only about the shapers but it’s also about the surfers because ultimately in the end the experience is yours. I mean it’s you riding a wave, you experiencing something. So that’s what it’s all about.
Why doesn’t anyone at the World Tour surf a Meyerhoffer board?”Because I’d have to pay them too much. It’s kind of interesting because I have one of the – it’s probably the second on the World Tour right now he tried my board. He really liked it. Sports for me is like if you’re in the very high level like let’s say you do the Ski Gold for a ski racer I mean you can give him anything and he would race almost as face on the hill. It’s not going to make a big difference. So the very highest level these guys can surf anything very well and I think it’s so much more important for me to see what the average user or the real surfer how it can improve their experience instead of the top ten.
Do products with great stories need advertising?
The success of the product depends on so many different things and one of them is advertising, marketing, distribution, all of this different pieces. Obviously, if you do an iconic, strong product story you don’t need to tell that story again to the users. So you have an advantage but you do need to communicate with that user and average is really what advertising is.
What would be the fairest model for a product designer to get paid for his work?
I think that also relates back to the client on how they are set up and what they want to get out of it and I think you can do things on pro bono, so to speak, for free if it’s for a good cause. That’s one extreme. The other extreme is to just get paid as a consultant. I prefer to work somewhere in the middle between where you get a small part of the company or you’re compensated on the success of the product and that’s where I feel of course and other things. But in the end I think it’s a relationship between you and the client which you kind of have to figure that out. You shouldn’t be too concerned about it because then it’s just – I see too many young designers who are so concerned about that whole thing and start – so that they never get to do the product. You have to kind of really trust that this is going to work out and that you have a good product and you go for it because again, it’s not the only thing if you’re going to get paid or not.
It’s really the whole process of this product becoming on the market, being mature and people liking it, experiences and so forth. There’s so many variables that in the end are going to decide if it was a success or not. Many times like the history tells you if it’s been successful but it doesn’t even necessarily have been a success.
Do you have a vision for your own studio?Yeah. That’s to do good projects basically. To stay small, to work on good things and to get in with other good people and keep doing that. Pretty simple.
Thank you very much.
Jeder ist ein Designer. Das Kollaborationsmodell von Greg Saul.
Eine schwungvoll gezogene Linie, ein paar Mausklicks und ein bisschen spielerische Neugierde: So werden in Zukunft Konsumenten zu Gestaltern und Produzenten. Zumindest wenn es nach Greg Saul geht. Der Designer entwickelte mit dem japanischen „JST ERATO Design UI Project“ ein Verfahren, das die herkömmliche Entwicklungs- und Produktionspraxis über den Haufen wirft. SketchChair heißt das Werkzeug, mit dem der Designer nur noch die Spielregeln definiert, innerhalb derer der Kunde sein eigenes Möbelstück entwerfen kann.
“KIWIS HAVE A CAN-DO ATTITUDE.”
GREG SAUL ON A DEMOCRATIC APPROACH TO DESIGN AND PERSONALIZED PRODUCTS.
What is your distinctive approach to design?
I like to use new technologies and exploring what the role of the designer is. I like to look at designers as people who have not been to a design school, but maybe they’re just people – anyone can be a designer.
How the “sketch chair” evolve?
I did that project with a research facility in Japan. The project evolved through making proposals to this institute, “JST ERATO Design User Interface Institute”. I was interested in looking at new ways of designing products. Sometimes you end up just making the same thing again and again and again because the software is limiting. So it’s very hard to design lots of unique things that work.
But I also really wanted to explore how people could design their own things, how people could design their own products that were more suited to themselves and also more personal.
Maybe there’s something that they connect with more than something designed for them en mass by some designer they’ve never met, and maybe for this reason, that product is more sustainable or maybe they keep it for a bit longer because they have more of a connection to it. We were looking at what somebody needs to design something for themselves, and how to make a successful product if they’re designing it themselves.
So the system has to take a lot of the responsibility of making sure that this thing they’re designing is going to work and also take the role of putting this whole chair together.
Is personalized design something that you specialize in?
It’s something that I certainly explore. But I’m also interested in just changing the way people design.
Do you think that personalized design is a future trend?I think it will definitely be part of the future, yes. And I think it’s obvious that it already is now – maybe not through products, but just through content. If we look at content people use and we look at online services like YouTube: these are not big production houses making movies. These are people making movies, and other people watching them and deeming which ones are good and which ones are bad. So I think, yes, user-created things is going to be big. But I think it will still be only part of the picture. I don’t think it’s going to be the only thing in the future. I think it will still require people who are trained in certain areas in design to make certain types of objects.
What’s the role of the designer itself within a design process that is personalized?
I think the role of the designer is to provide limitations and to actually lead the design. So it’s more of a collaboration between the person – the user or the end user designing their thing for themselves, and the designer who has designed the system. I think a good system is one that maybe restricts the user in a way that designs are generally useful that come out of the system, and also it restricts them so it’s an easier tool to use. You need to design good tools to make good designs, but also you need to think of how the person is going to use this tool, and influence their designs in some ways as well.
Why do you think do consumers want to be part of the design process?
It’s something that they get to become part of, so they can actually tell their friends that they made this thing like this because of this reason, or two people can collaborate and make something together. But, also, I mean, there’s very tangible reasons that somebody might want to make something for themselves just because it fits them better, fits their situation better.
They might have a circumstance where there is not a product that fits for them. Maybe they’re physically bigger or smaller than the average person, but most products are designed for the average person. Or maybe they have in terms of chairs, a table that is taller than the average table and it’s very hard to find a chair that will fit or let you sit at that table. So there are very tangible benefits to this. But there’s also this just connecting with the product.
Is the SketchChair going into production?
We’re trying to decide the best way for us to move forward with it. It would be very, very nice for people to actually use it to make their own chairs. So hopefully in the near future, people will be making chairs for themselves through some way. At the moment, we’re designing a website that allows people to collaborate on the chairs ’cause this is one thing that we think is a big aspect of people being able to use tools that are democratizing the process, knowing anybody can use these tools to design, that maybe anybody can share their designs with other people and have them modified by other people.
So we’re sort of developing the system where people can use SketchChair to design a chair, and then it’s uploaded to a web page. And then other people can sort of vote on that chair to make it higher in the ranking, showing more people. And then other people can also take that chair and integrate on that chair. So maybe a trained designer can make a chair and make it look very nice, but then somebody else can take that chair and modify it to fit them or can add their own sort of touches to this chair. So that’s something we’re sort of going on with at the moment.
Can you tell us a little bit about your project with “democratic designing” a cup?
It was an exploration. We basically just wanted to see what happens when lots of people do design together and their only sort of communication medium is the form itself. So there is no group meetings of what they’re going to do, and it’s no message boards. It’s just reacting to what’s happening and just observing, just observing what actually happened with this cup as it sort of grows over time.
There should not be one person who can sit there and make the whole cup. So you can only make a small influence on the cup. You could only move the points so much every hour, and then you’re locked out. And it was very, very interesting to sort of see how people designed.
There are these details that people wouldn’t agree on. And so one person was trying to put this big spiky handle on the side of this cup. And every hour, they would use their influence to put the spike out, but every hour someone who really didn’t want the spike to be there, would put the spike back in.
Ultimately, it never got anywhere. These people were fighting against each other. So there was no spike, but it was the same as when it started, so they, in a way, wasted their time. And, meanwhile, other people were putting legs on this cup and doing all these things. Ultimately, the cup worked, but it was also a little bit – not so pretty.
Is there a certain New Zealandic approach to design?Kiwis have a can-do attitude. They tackle any problem and just try to get it done. And I think that carries over into the design and sort of a lot of people see things and they say, “Why not? Why not try to do that? Why can’t we do that?” And maybe that influence, I don’t know. But, also, being on a small island in the corner of the world I think definitely influences us a lot.
We’re always kind of looking for new ways to connect with the world, to get out and to connect with the rest of the world. But I think Pinoko – the laser cutting sort of design – design your own products and sell them to Pinoko, the company which had started up in New Zealand, Wellington, in the same school that I was at. And I think that sort of shows that we’re constantly trying to reach out and get out.
What do you tell young people who want to be designers?
I think just whatever you want to do, you can do it. And there’s so much knowledge out there, so many ways to do things. Just have confidence in yourself and to learn what you need to do learn to do what you want to do. ’Cause I think lots of people in the past have seen program and design as a very simple thing. But now, more and more programmers and more and more designers are learning to program because they want to do things using programming and interactivity.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Bessere Menschen statt bessere Schüler. Christian Long.
Hefte raus, Klassenarbeit! So verstaubt die alte Formel klingen mag, der Alltag eines Schülers spielt sich auch heute noch zwischen Frontalunterricht, Hausaufgaben und Prüfungen ab. Doch wie ist die schulische Realität mit der Vorstellung des selbstgesteuerten Lernens zu vereinbaren? Und vermittelt die traditionelle Fächereinteilung in Mathe, Deutsch und Geschichte einen angemessenen Blick auf die Komplexität unserer Welt? Gilt überhaupt noch die alte Binse, dass wir hier fürs Leben lernen? Christian Long mag nicht daran glauben. Der Erziehungsexperte ist dagegen überzeugt, dass man soziale und kreative Kompetenzen fördern muss, um die kommenden Generationen zu befähigen, die Probleme von heute, morgen und übermorgen anzugehen. Mit seinem Prototype Design Camp liefert er ein Modell für die Schule der Zukunft.
“IT’S NOT ABOUT CREATING ARCHITECTS.”
CHRISTIAN LONG ON EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE TO EMPOWER COMMUNITIES FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE.
What is the background of Prototype Design Camps?
I was a classroom teacher for about 15 years. My passion is putting young people in a position of being taken very seriously. Not just helping them intellectually to be ready for college, or just be successful in school, but for the rest of their lives being seen as a legitimate voice and a legitimate thinker, and somebody, that can help move the world forward to all of our benefit.
The voice that always drives me is, how could a young person be put in a position of trust, and not just in that way that often adults will kind of pat a kid on the head and say, “Give me your ideas,” but really we still see them as young. But how, at the age of 15, and 18, and 23 can a young person at the beginning of their career, the beginning of their adult life, be seen as a voice of change, and then have the skill sets to actually create something that will be taken very seriously.
For me it’s not just about teaching a young person to be an architect, or teaching them to be a writer, or teaching them to be a filmmaker, but how can they learn to ask the right questions, and then to network the same way that you and I are, and to put together a business plan or a strategic plan, and then bring together mentors and funders and partners to help fuel or be a catalyst for change.
That’s kind of the heart and soul. I want a 17-year-old to be able to give voice, and sketch and give vision to something that’s in their imagination, and I want it to be something that’s their passion to change the world, to make the world around them better.
Prototype grows out of that. I spent a lot of time professionally thinking about the future of schools. I work with architects and educators and technology leaders around the world to imagine what do we mean by 21st Century education? What do we mean by school going forward? And too often it’s just school plus computers. That’s about as far as the conversation goes. We assume that, if we have computers, or if we have money for computers, that it’s all fine; or we over-worry that computers are changing too much and that we aren’t focused on tradition or the heart and soul of education.
The shiny box, the computer, the mobile app, the cellphone, I think for another five or ten years we’re going to be a little too excited about that. Then after awhile all of it’s going to just kind of disappear into our life, and we’d better get good at something else. And that is, once we have everything, what do we intend to do? Once our young people in schools and our educators are powered by the right technology, do we have a good question to ask? Do we have any reason to be forward thinking? Is there anything beyond computers that we have imagined?
So for me, design is a really powerful catalyst for that next stage. And I think in the business world there’s a lot of attention on design thinking right now, and there’s also a lot of conflict. There are a lot of people pushing back and saying design thinking is not so impressive any more. But if we think in terms of pedagogy and curriculum and education, especially K through 12 in the U.S., I haven’t found a curriculum or an educational model that has nearly the same power as design thinking in any other realm.
To me what design thinking is, simply it’s problem solving with a human center, and this idea that we can prototype solutions in real time with the idea that we’ll constantly improve, constantly improve, constantly improve, and then failure, meaning prototype, can be an ally. So I think often school says don’t fail, we have to design engineer out failure so that we can have guaranteed success, and I just don’t see that as being useful or engaging or really practical.
Prototype is really just one messy example. Prototype is a prototype. We created a program that constantly has to be re-imagined with the simple idea that young people should be powered by a creative thinking process so they can be active immediately, right now. Not in five years, not in one day, not to become architects. I don’t care what profession they become, I just want them to have something in their heart, in their imagination, and in their skillset that says everything is a design problem, so how do we begin to ideate, to prototype, to present ideas, and then how do we get people to get involved with us so we can start now?
What is the difference between design thinking and the thinking which is taught in schools today?
I think schools are – on average, this is not true in every classroom with every teacher and every student on every second of the day – but on average there’s this idea that there’s an answer, and it’s a matter of time before the kids get to that answer, and they retain that answer, and then they give that answer back. And that’s this idea that expertise is seen as a series of steps based on experience and very explicit expectations of outcomes. So for me, that’s traditional school.
And what inspires me about design thinking is while there are certainly answers and there’s expertise and experience that we want to draw from, there should be wisdom, in my estimation, not answer keys. And design thinking frees up the educator and the school and the young person to imagine what’s possible as opposed to having to focus on one answer. So that’s my short answer. You can imagine that’s a much longer conversation.
How do prototype design camps look like?
Every time we do it we change. Any program we do we don’t repeat, we start over from scratch. We really want to approach it as it’s a new design problem every time. Even if we have experience to bring to that we have to unthink it.
I’ll give you three versions. One is a one-day experience, and that can be a couple of hours to all day long. The other is a weeklong or multi-day experience, and the other is, I describe it as semester or a yearlong using the idea of school. My preference is the semester or yearlong because we can develop relationships. My feeling is the more that we focus on relationships and the evolution of the young person’s thinking, the more successful we’ll be because it will be part of the way they see the world, not just something they’ve experienced and then move on.So they’re all one and the same. They start with empathy. It’s not about getting to the answer quickly, no matter how accurate we are, it’s about having empathy for a person or a community or a human experience.
I’ll just make it really simple. If the idea was to simply design a phone or an iPhone app, that doesn’t require empathy. You and I as engineers or creatives or designers, we could just design that and then try to make it as inexpensive as possible and try to give it to as many people as possible, and in theory we’re right, or we win, right? But that’s not really what design thinking is about, at least my personal bias.
The idea is, we can eventually design the phone or the iPhone app, but let’s put that aside. What I need to do is treat it as you and I are in a conversation and the sooner that I can begin to empathize or appreciate or listen to your needs, the sooner that I could begin to think, okay, what is it you need? So let me give you an example. You want to develop relationships, let’s say that’s your need. As a human being you want to have stronger relationships. Well, if I assumed you want iPhone app, that might foster or support a relationship, but that may have nothing to do with what you want, or it may be the least useful, or it may limit what it means for you to be in a relationship.
So if I look at it as I’m a technologist or an iPhone app developer, I’m bringing my bias and I assume you want an iPhone app because that’s about online virtual social network relationships. But if I think of you as a father, or as a friend, or somebody getting married, or somebody who lives in a community of a thousand people that know each other on one level, and you say, “I want to develop or strengthen relationships,” that give me a whole spectrum of things to explore.
So I want the young people that I work with to be very good at asking you questions, learning about your circumstance, becoming empathetic, really trying to imagine as best they can your experience and your needs. Once we figure that out, then we begin to kind of focus our energies around ways that we can serve you. I believe that we often put the intellect or the academic experience or the professional experience here, and then service over here, like community service or doing something with our heart. I think the sooner that we can merge those together for young people and say, “I want to know your needs and I want to serve you,” professionally and for profit, or as a not-for-profit, or creatively, I could do both. So it starts with that.
So whether we have a one-day experience, a three-day or a weeklong experience or an entire year together, it always starts with listen first and then begin to generate ideas second. What I like about design thinking working with young people is often young people are not experts so they’re more willing to listen longer, if they’re respected.
So the second step is always asking a young person to see you as a client, not as the expert. But reversing the situation and saying, “You’re 17, but that person is not an expert, they’re a potential client. So how can you serve them, how can you listen, so that everything you do from this point on is to aid them or to collaborate with them or to serve them.”
The next steps, whether it’s one day or three days or a year are still the same. Once I’ve listened, then I generate questions, and those questions should again be a process of empathy and listening. So allowing you as the client to help me better understand my questions. And once I have the right questions I begin to generate ideas, and it should always be an “and, and”, not a “Yeah, but.” Experts are really good at saying, “That’s a really interesting idea, but…” As opposed to, “That’s a great idea and what about…” and building off.
So I really want young people at the beginning of this to think about every idea should build on an idea, not be proving you’re smart or proving you’re right or proving this is better. And it shouldn’t be about defending ideas, it should be about generating ideas – which does two things. It respects you as a client or a collaborator, but it also says the more that we can imagine the possibilities, the better we can fine-tune them over time.
So if we stop after three ideas, then we have no idea what we’ve ignored. But if we generate 30, 50, 1000s of ideas, and we allows ourselves an opportunity to live inside kind of an ecology of ideas, then we can always fine tune, we can always clarify, we can always test and push and stretch and break. And the most important thing to do at that point is to get rid of our ego. To not go, “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “my partner is wrong,” or “what about this idea?” It’s more about the longer that we can recognize and respect and value those ideas, the greater our imagination will be over time.
The next stage is to go from empathy and listening, to asking better questions, to again more empathy, and then to generate lots of ideas, and then to begin, “Okay, let’s put constraints around this.” It’s not that those are bad ideas but let’s reframe the question based upon what our client or community’s needs are. So let’s create constraints so that our imagination can be really strong, really full of fire. If we don’t put constraints then we never know if we have purpose, if we’ve been intentional. Again, this isn’t about being right, it’s about being intentional.
So now we begin to draw constraints and we begin to really challenge ourselves. So if that idea, and that idea, and that idea are possible – and most important is what if we took this idea, and this idea, what’s the synthesis between them?
So if you’re a filmmaker and I’m a chemist and this person is an actor and this person is a designer, what can we create between us that would have been impossible based on our expertise? So allowing young people to contribute ideas based on points of view is much more powerful than the smartest young person, or old person, coming to a conclusion.
So now we’re beginning to have constraints and saying, “Well, what about this and this?” and come to an interesting idea between. Then once we do this we’ve got to move to, how can somebody imagine our imagination? So we have to prototype. We don’t want perfect, I don’t even necessarily want, like in an architectural situation, I don’t necessarily want CAD, or perfect digital drawings, I actually want messy. I want basic material and how do we very rapidly prototype, and very rapidly mock up, and very rapidly construct something that’s really story-telling.
What we want to do is to psychologically try to imagine why would they care tomorrow? It isn’t about if you’re right, because there’s lots of people that are right, but they can only fall in love with one idea, they can only commit to one idea, they can only invest their heart and soul.
The sooner that we can get them to invest their heart and soul, the sooner that they will begin to see that methodology, and then at the very end again, whether it’s one week, one day, one year, it’s all the same, at a certain point in time we have to present a three-dimensional story or a prototype storyboard or something that says, “We’ve heard you, we’ve listened, we understand, and here’s what we imagine will help you go forward. Tell us how we can improve it based upon what you know to be true.” Really what we’re doing at that point is we’re testing, we’re being given feedback. But again, if we’ve done our job right, we’ve been given feedback the whole time.
To go back to my beginning, design is ultimately an environment and a way of seeing the world, but it’s not about design; it’s not about creating architects or graphic designers or creative; it really is about young people being empowered to empower communities for the rest of their life.
Do you have an idea about how a society that is taught in design thinking might differ from today’s society?
If we believe the world is a messy place and there are even fewer things that we can take for granted, then I think somebody who is versed in design, not to become an architect, but everything they see is a potential design problem, and they have empathy, and they have the ability to bring lots of resources and ideas and what-abouts together, then what are the limits?
So I think the greatest impact is you’ve got people that are comfortable in a messy world, or non-linear world. You have people that are able to go, “If I took a little bit of this, and a little bit of this, and a little bit of this, what’s in between?” And they’re also much more empathetic to the people they work with and the people they serve, I think we end up in a pretty good place, or at least a saner place, a place where we can get our footing. I don’t think it means the future is going to be easy or immediate, but I think we can at least get our footing.
And I’ll say this. Traditional school wanted you to be responsible, show up on time, be polite, follow the rules, stay in line. I think what we need are young people that can be response-able or able to respond. So if the world gets messy, I want you to be able to respond in an agile sense.
I think the real truth is, the people I’m going to hire, the people I’m going to partner with, the people that I’m going to spend time with are going to be people who can think in agile terms constantly for the rest of their lives, and not think in terms of guaranteed outcomes. And I think our society is better served by people who can think in terms of agile sensibilities and not just predictable outcomes.
What is your vision for the school of the future?
Our kids are challenged to ask better questions, not answer the questions we give them. I don’t care if that’s a kindergarten in the Montessori tradition, where it’s just about discovery, whatever speed the child has. I don’t care if it’s about a high-level university. I don’t really care what it looks like. I don’t care if it’s a beautiful design. I don’t care if it’s an awkward and impoverished situation. But a young person who from day one is challenged to ask really interesting questions, and then taught to follow that question through, is a much more powerful agent than somebody who just goes, “Well, is this the answer? Is that the answer?”
The school of the future, it’s either going to be a very predictable set of outcomes and we just train you, train you, train you – and I actually think most schools are going to move in that direction – because it’s efficient, it’s cost effective, and it’s easier to manage and easier to get analytics. And frankly, I don’t need you to be a good teacher to teach there; I just need you to follow the rules.
But the other schools, the ones that you and I would want our children to be at, the ones that we would want to be part of, are going to be about asking young people, or any age learner, to ask a set of questions and then to pursue that line of thinking in a lot of directions.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Plastik aus Pilzen. Eben Bayer und Gavin McIntyre.
Computer, Kühlschränke und Kaffeemaschinen werden damit verpackt: Styropor. Doch das so harmlos knuspernde Material ist hochgradig schädlich. Die Herstellung schlägt riesige Löcher in die Ozonschicht und befördert den Treibhauseffekt. Die Recyclingraten sind weltweit kaum der Rede wert und regelmäßig landet das Material in der Umwelt: als Abfall am Waldrand, an den Ufern eines Flusses, es gelangt sogar in den Ozean, wo es in großen Plastikströmen in immer kleinere Teile zerrieben wird, aber nie wirklich verschwindet. Styropor, eigentlich für den kurzfristigen Einsatz entwickelt, verschmutzt so für tausende von Jahre die Atmungs- und Kreislaufsysteme der Erde. Für Eben Bayer und Gavin McIntyre Grund genug, eine kleine Verpackungsrevolution anzuzetteln. Ihr mächtigster Verbündeter: Pilze.
„DESIGN IS REALLY IMPORTANT“
SAM HARRINGTON (MARKETING DIRECTOR OF ECOVATIVE DESIGN) ON THE IMPORTANCE OF DESIGNING PRODUCTS THAT FIT INTO THIS PLANET THAT WE LIVE ON.
What is the problem concerning the common use materials and packages that we are not able to simply recycle them?
Sure, so we’re mostly competing against materials like expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam, and other expanded plastic. First off, they are made from petrochemicals, oil or natural gas; they’re non-renewable. It takes 65 million years for these materials to form. But really the problem is on the back end. So we take these non-renewable materials and use them for a couple weeks as packaging and then throw them out. Technically they are recyclable, although recycling rates are extremely low. I don’t know in Europe, but in the United States consumer recycling of Styrofoam is less than two percent. And that’s really because it’s not economical to recycle. Because it’s mostly air, just the environmental impact from trucking this material around can often be worse than recycling it. So there really hasn’t been a recycling infrastructure built for it because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in most situations. So it’s a non-renewable resource and we personally think it’s crazy to be using these precious petrochemical resources for disposable materials.
And how does your materials work?
So EcoCradle is literally grown. So we, as a seed stock, use agricultural byproducts, the non-food parts of the crop, things like oat hulls and cotton gin trash, everything left over from the cotton plant after they make cotton clothing. And then we bond it together. We’ve discovered this organism, it’s like a living glue, it’s called mycelium. It’s the root structure of mushrooms, and it literally grows in about five days and fills in all the gaps and glues these loose agricultural seed husks and particles together. And the resulting material performs a lot like Styrofoam, it costs about the same as Styrofoam, but it’s one hundred percent home compostable.
And can you tell us something about the development of EcoCradle and Greensulate?
This all started in 2007 as a student project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. And two students, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, developed this idea. They were mechanical engineers but they were inspired by nature, seeing mycelium bonding wood chips together on the forest floor. And they said, “Aha, this is a natural glue, it’s a natural resin that forms in nature, and we can use this to make materials.”
At first a lot of the development went into this product Greensulate, which is rigid board insulation replacing the pink foam slabs of rigid insulation that are commonly used on buildings. But we’ve really realized since then that it’s a whole lot more than just a special eco-friendly insulation, it’s a whole new way to make material. Throughout history humans have made renewable materials from mostly plants and sometimes animals, things like leather and wool, but now we’re really the first people exploring this whole other kingdom of biology of fungi.
So the development started in university and then went on to found a company?Right, so they founded a company. There’s a whole history section of our website, you can find out a little more detail, but it was founded with no money except for this wild idea, and we started winning some small business plan competitions. In 2008 we won the Picnic Green Challenge in the Netherlands, and that was for half a million euros, so that kept the company going for awhile. Now a lot of our material development comes from state and federal grants.
And your products are already in use?
Yes, so today we’re primarily focused on EcoCradle packaging and we’re selling to some Fortune 500 companies, including Steelcase and Dell.
And what has got to happen to spread your products to the market?
Really we’re just racing to expand manufacturing capacity. We’ve got a lot more demand for the material than we can supply today, so right now we’re producing from our prototype pilot plant here in Green Islands, New York, and we’re working hard to build the next demonstration facility which will be much larger, and long term we want to expand worldwide.
How expensive are your products compared to the common use materials?
Well, it always depends on the application and the unit volume, but we’ve found with the customers that we’re supplying now we’re able to match the cost of expanded plastics that they were using before. So we’re matching the cost of the plastics, like expanded polyethylene and expanded polypropylene.
You have the word “design” in your company name. Can you tell us something about your design approach?
So a lot of us, including the co-founders, they actually got a dual major in mechanical engineering and product design. We think design is really critical, especially for packaging. Packaging is something that people think of as this throw-away item, but really when you buy a product you may spend hundreds of dollars on a product and the first thing you see is the packaging, it’s your first impression, and if the packaging is something unique and has a nice story associated with it and is good for the planet, then that gives people a really nice first impression. So that design is really important. All too often, especially with packaging, people just go for the cheapest possible and they don’t really consider the design of the whole experience around it, or how that design fits into this planet that we live on.
How do you distribute your products?
Right now we’re distributing from our facility here, so we’re not working with distributors yet. So long term our real vision, and what works well with our manufacturing system, is distributed local manufacturing. So using seed stocks from farms within 100 miles from here and shipping to customers within 100 miles is really our goals. The nice thing about this technology is that it scales really well, it’s cost effective at relatively small facilities like that.
Why do you produce locally?
We’re trying to lower our carbon footprint from transport, since our seed stocks are very lightweight and our final product is lightweight, we’re trying to minimize the economic and ecological cost of transport.
Would it have been possible to sell your products ten years ago, or is just recently a turn around to sustainability?
Is there a shift of thinking towards eco-friendliness?That’s a good question. I think the shift has been a long time coming, but I think we’re really doing this at the perfect time, just because there’s so many programs out there. There’s so much grant funding specifically for this kind of work that’s been really helpful for us. I think it certainly would have been possible in the past, you know, this sort of innovation can never come soon enough, but we’ve really been doing this work at just the right time. There’s a tremendous amount of potential all around the world.
Do you think sustainability can grow into one of the largest markets?
Oh, I think it has to. If we stand any chance of surviving I think everything has to be sustainable. I don’t see sustainability as a market; I think it’s just a necessity.
Just one last question, what is your vision for Ecovative Design?
Our vision is really to, just like there’s been a number of companies like Dow and Dupont that over the past 50, 100 years have really become very successful companies developing plastics, we really see this as where the plastics industry was 60 years ago when it was just forming. We just recently made this innovation that you can use fungi to grow these incredible materials, and we see these materials being able to replace not just foam things like insulation and packaging and surfboards, but we’ve got some other ideas for making other plastic replacement materials. We really see this as a wide range of bio-composite materials that can do a lot of the great things and amazing things that plastics do today but with far less impact on the earth.
Der Teufel trägt Sneaker. Eugene Kan von Hypebeast.
Eugene Kan ist der mächtigste Mann der globalen Street-Culture. Als Chefredakteur des Online-Magazins hypebeast entscheidet er darüber, was in Hong Kong, Tokio, New York und Castrop-Rauxel getragen werden darf. Damit wird hypebeast für die Produzenten in Portland und Herzogenaurach zum Nadelöhr für die Weltmärkte. Was in Zukunft in den Stores rund um den Globus geordert werden soll, braucht Kans Gütesiegel: einen Beitrag auf hypebeast. Denn was vor ein paar Jahren als kleines Online-Projekt aus Hongkong begann, schickt sich heute an, die Vogue des 21. Jahrhunderts zu werden.
“IT’S SOMETHING THEY’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.”
EUGENE KAN ON MEDIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Where do you come from? Do you have an editorial or a design background?
Actually in regards to my background, I didn’t really think to come out of university and start going to any sort of media or editorial position. I actually graduated with an economics degree. Then to be honest I didn’t really think it’d be all that useful. So straight out of university I really had no direction.
So I actually ended up in Hong Kong playing professional soccer and I was gonna do that for maybe one or two years and then resume a real life job, go back to Canada, maybe slave away at a bank.
But luckily I – at the time, given the landscape with blogging, it’s not something that you necessarily need to be professional at. I did have interest in writing, but it was never something I thought I could take to the next level, but luckily I was able to combine a passion with sneakers and fashion and then turn it into a position as an editor.
How did you get into the whole design fashion scene?
I think it was basically through my love and appreciation of sneakers and the role that footwear played in sports and athletics. What it came down to was, as I mentioned before, I was rounding up my one year of playing football and then I figured I was gonna start looking at what opportunities were back home. Then through a mutual friend I was able to meet the founder of hypebeast, Kevin Ma.
So through that I just began as a small role as a freelance contributor. Then eventually things went quite well and then later I think I started in March of 2007. Then I came back. I went to Canada for a little bit, came back in the summer of 2007 and began my role as a full time editor.
Can you tell us a little bit about how hypebeast started off?
It began about 2005. For the founder, Kevin Ma, he would constantly search forums and find a lot of interesting news. However, it can get tedious to always go to forums all over the place and check news and what not. So we felt why not create a platform where I can aggregate all this news and have a centralized platform for it.
So from there over the last few years we’ve grown from, as I mentioned a focus on street wear and sneakers and I think that right now it’s much more than that. It’s essentially what I like to think as a lifestyle concept. It’s not just fashion. It goes into gadgets, automotive, music, art, architectures, a lot of different things that was reflective of what we like and what we enjoy.
Why Hong Kong?
Well I ended up there for a particular reason, to play football, but I think for Kevin when he moved the business to Hong Kong he felt that coming out of Vancouver, while it’s an okay place. Vancouver’s a really nice place, but in regards to its pace and opportunity, I would say Hong Kong is bar none much better than Vancouver.
Another thing that was one of the strengths at the time was, well it still is to a certain extent is that a lot of people come through Hong Kong before going to China, whether it be production. So a lot of factors play into that. You can meet people that might not have otherwise went through Canada.
What makes a great hypebeast article?I think for a great hypebeast article, I think first and foremost I wanna talk about the blog aspect. It really comes down to image. I think the way that our blog is set up and the context of it. Most people don’t really go into a blog looking to read something very long and in-depth. It’s just not framed that way.
However, they wanna see what’s good imagery. Something that either pushes the boundaries of creativity. It’s something they’ve never seen before hopefully and something that kind of the catalyst for something else. It could be music that is innovative. Could be fashion. Like the way someone approaches cuts.
There’s quite a few different things that depend sort of on what product we’re talking about.
What makes hypebeast unique, especially compared to all these blogs out there?
I think for us what I like to think is our unique factor is that we try to really provide a truly creative experience. I would like to think that when I approach content I go through a mental checklist. How do I feel this would reflect hypebeast. Do I think that this adds any value to the site. Do I think that this is something that truly represents innovation or creativity.
It’s not someone rehashing a concept that has been done in the past and not even improving on it. It really has to bring something new to the table.
What makes a good brand?A good brand? I think for a good brand a lot of it comes down to having a full package. More often than not, it’s much like an artist. They can be the most creative person, but if they can’t sustain their business, that’s important as well.
When I look at a good brand I look at someone that I feel brings authenticity to themselves. As I see it, a good brand doesn’t have to be monetarily successful in the sense that oh, it’s blowing up and everyone’s buying it. I think there’s a certain intangible appreciation I have if someone approaches their brand and this is a true unadulterated vision of what they wanna do. I have I think more respect for that.
You might not be rolling in the money with your brand, but if you feel ya’ know what? This is something that I truly appreciate and it’s not necessarily something I’m creating for someone else, I think that’s a good brand and quality of course. I think that’s another thing. It all ties in in one big circle.
Today hypebeast is some kind of vogue of the digital age. Can you tell us about hyebeast’s growth?I think for hypebeast’s growth, I think it really just came down to being honest to ourselves and having open ears. I personally like to think that when I approach content or anything that I really wanna know the background of it and I think by helping to promote the background and the sort of behind-the-scenes aspect of a brand, not necessarily through the blog, but through a feature or an interview, I think that helps create a more sustainable environment for people aren’t just fixated on the final product.
You’re building a meaningful relationship at the back end and I think that’ll help grow brands and people find interest in that. It’s not just oh, here’s something that who, what, where, when, how and where can I buy it although I’m sure that plays a certain part in the popularity of the site. I like to think that we’re just continually stepping up to the plate and creating different platforms.
I know we’ve been pushing a lot of more video content lately, as well as things that we feel are reflective of our brand, maybe we’ll try to do more product ‘cause at the end of the day hypebeast really is just – it’s not something you can really grasp physically. So we need to find a way to bridge the offline world with our online presence.
How does your editorial department work?I don’t wanna over complicate it ‘cause it’s really quite simple. We go on a day-to-day. We have different inflow of information. It could be through other blogs, other websites. Could be through stores, e-mails, but I think one of the greatest criteria is the visual aspect of it.
I think that in the internet era, you don’t have the luxury of touching and feeling and seeing something with your eyes – sorry; not with your eyes, but we get to see it and touch it and see how it looks. So you really have to make it look as good as possible and I think that that is sometimes overlooked.
If I see something that isn’t flattering on the internet, what’s gonna make me wanna take that next step to either buy-in online or checking it out in stores. Then from there it’s do we really like it. There are times when you really wanna take into consideration your viewer and your reader. I don’t think that’s the biggest factor in what we choose, but it does play a certain role.
We’re actually a pretty small team. Up until recently it was well four people on the editorial team. I think that it’s about enough, but no one wants to be working 12 hour days and especially given the fact the internet is 24 hours, no one really wants to be working 4 am in the morning. So we’re slowly adding people.
With our base in Hong Kong, we recently hired some new photographers, some new graphic designers to help out in that regard, but it’s mostly just everyone comes onto the team and they have more than one thing to contribute. It’s not that helpful to have one person that can only write, one person that can only photograph, one person that can only Photoshop. There’s gotta be a greater mix of skills in there.
How do you provide for a such broad range of content?
Do you work with freelancers?Yeah; a bunch of them are freelancers. I think that hypebeast is done well in the sense that it’s become a pretty global phenomenon. So slowly but surely you extent the olive branch to work with different creative people and they take it and that’s a real beneficial aspect to it all is that hopefully you can help launch someone else’s career. Hopefully you can help them find and give them a platform to showcase their talents, but it usually is mostly freelancers.
What is your advantage above print magazines?I think there’s quite a few advantages that we hold. I think the biggest barrier and I just gave a little talk on it was the biggest barrier that print faces is that they really have to be careful of their curation. It’s almost as though online enjoys an easier editorial job at times because you have no restrictions on physicality. A magazine can only have so many pages.
If I feel I have 100 pieces of good, relevant, solid content that reflect where I wanna place hypebeast, then technically I could I guess although I wouldn’t wanna put up 100 pieces of content, but aside from that, speed is paramount. There’s things that we can put up now that a magazine might not show for another six weeks and by that time it’s old news, which is it’s a double-edge sword for the internet, the speed factor ‘cause sometimes you accelerate trends.
I think, just touching on hypebeast TV, for us we have so many different more platforms. We can show things in video that a print magazine can’t really do. It’s really static, but we’ll see where print magazines can reinvent themselves with new digital formats, like an iPad or tablet computers.
What do you think of the current print magazine world?
I think for the print magazine world another thing that if you’re smart about it you can leverage the internet with your print magazine ‘cause as it stands one thing the internet’s been really good at is finding somewhere for a niche to grow. If you can create a print magazine about something relatively obscure anyways and you can leverage it with the internet, I still think you can make a relatively sustainable business.
At the end of the day as humans we still like something tangible, something to flip through, something to pull out at any convenience and just start reading.
So I think that the good thing is is that much like any industry that becomes over saturated, when you have this monumental shake-up you’re hopefully gonna have the good quality rise to the top.
With your popularity comes a certain power and critical voices might fear the end of independent journalism when it comes to publishers like you. Do you see yourself as some kind of PR portal for big brands or don’t you see that?
I think that we don’t really have a strong need to focus on commercial mainstream brands. If I go back to the numbers for the month of October, we had about 19 million page views, but the most traffic post was something regarding Banksy and the Simpsons and that was only 27,000 hits.
So it’s a drop in the bucket in regards to where one particular piece of information or post will represent in the grand scheme of things. So there’s not a strong focus on that.
With regard to the critical voice, I feel that if I’m putting something up on hypebeast and there’s a need to be negative, then it’s probably not worth putting up. I think that the curation part of it comes into play. There’s a resounding amount of hate that comes through the pages of hypebeast and there’s nothing I can do about that, but I think in regards to that I don’t wanna help contribute to that. I don’t need to add more fuel to the fire by putting up something I personally don’t like, I personally won’t appreciate writing about.
Who has the time to read all that stuff?
I think the purpose isn’t so much to read it all. It’s to pick and choose where you find interest. I think that’s why hypebeast has been able to grow so much is that I might have let’s say 30 articles in a 24-hour span. I don’t expect you to read all 30 of them. I might not expect you to read 15 of them, but I do expect you to read some of them.
I think that if you take this concept and multiply it over multiple, multiple, multiple users, that’s where I think we feel that’s where we place ourselves.
How do you personally read all the blogs and RSS feeds? Do you have some tools or do you go to the sites?I usually use just Google Reader and I feel it’s my duty to read as much as I can. It’s a good thing that I appreciate reading. I try to read as much as I can. Not just within fashion or whatever’s relevant to hypebeast. It’s just an encompassing appreciation for all things that interest me I guess. It’s anything that could be the most minute thing that I might not even know. I’ll be ya’ know what? I should start brushing up on that.
But for the most part I think that my greatest tool as of late has been being able to synchronize and keep everything in the cloud with Google Reader or what other – if I’m on the go I can work from wherever. It’s not really work per se. It’s really simple. It’s scrolling through my phone, seeing what’s interesting, starring it and then when I get to a desktop read it in greater detail.
What do you think of the iPad?
I have to admit I haven’t jumped on iPad ‘cause I’m waiting for something after it that’s good. I think that it’s just another platform for consumption. Reading hypebeast on a phone isn’t all that great I think ‘cause it’s just the limitations in the screen size. So as you bring on more of these formats they’re just gonna hopefully push us to create a better product.
We haven’t released an iPad magazine yet, but obviously you can’t ignore the growing numbers of people who own iPads. So knowing that it’s interesting as well ‘cause when it comes to creating an iPad magazine, it’s like creating a print magazine but better. You’re not restricted to a traditional print format. You can put videos, you can put animations and all that stuff.
So like I said, it’s something that will be very interesting for us going forward.
What’s hypebeast’s vision?
hypebeast vision. I think it’s simple. It’s to continually provide a platform for a product, for content that we find innovative and creative; things that most people might not jump onto or find interest in ‘cause maybe they don’t understand it yet, but for us that’s exactly where I wanna take it on a creative level is where can I introduce the back end concept that no one thought about ‘cause all they see is the front end product. So hopefully bring to light the conceptual aspect of it all.
Thank you very much.
Kleine große Zukunft. Prof. Zhong Lin baut Molekularkraftwerke.
In nicht allzu ferner Zukunft werden Nanomaschinen unseren kompletten Alltag erobert haben. Und sehr wahrscheinlich bekommen wir es gar nicht mit. Die Hightech-Geräte sind nämlich so klein, dass sie fürs menschliche Auge praktisch unsichtbar sind. Wer von Nanotechnologie spricht, meint Maschinen von der Größe von wenigen Molekülen. Kleine Helfer, die schon bald in jedem wichtigen Feld werkeln: sei es in neuen Materialien, Computermodellen oder sogar im menschlichen Körper. Prof. Zhong Lin Wang holt jetzt einen Teil dieser Zukunft in die Gegenwart. Er hat ein winziges Kraftwerk entwickelt. Dessen Anwendungsmöglichkeiten zeigen mitunter das revolutionäre Potenzial eines vergleichsweise jungen Forschungsfelds.
“ONE DAY THIS TECHNOLOGY CAN SUBSIDIZE THE OVERALL ENERGY.”
ZHONG LIN WANG ON THE FUTURE OF NANO GENERATORS.
Where does nanotechnology begin in terms of scale?
This technology, called Nanowires, is quite small. The length of the nano is about ten of your hair width, and the diameter is about 500th or 1/1000th of your hair width. The reason we use these small nanomaterials is because it responds to very tiny little force triggering.
Your team has developed a nanogenerator? Can you explain how it works?We use these nanowires, when you compress it or you stretch it, it will generate a tiny little force, a tiny little potential inside these nanowires. When this piece of potential is generated it can throw out a flow of electrons in an external node. The reason is because the nanowire is made of a material called zinc oxide. It has a piezoelectric property.
What can the generator be used for?
Today we have scale of performance to a few volts of output, to give the power out of micro to milliwatts range. And we have a range of applications. The first one, if you have the monitoring of environmental, monitoring the toxic gases, chemicals. And if you can monitor animal migrations. This is called monitoring environmental.
The second application is call infrastructure monitoring. If you have a bridge, and anything had happened to the bridge, to the surface, we can monitor that.
The third application would be tracking shipped goods, shipped products, through people, because you know who they are, where they are, and what time, and this kind of helps to power this little sensor for this kind of purposes.
The fourth application is for conversion of electronics. For example, we’ve made this big enough we can charge cell phones, personal electronics, and hopefully charge your iPhone some day.The fifth application in the national security for example you can detect the, detectors on board, and if you make this in a security environment, people cannot see it, but it can work independently and self-sufficient. This is the other application we’re looking at.
The last application we’re looking for is for medical purposes. For example, implantable medical devices, glucosessors, and monitoring the behavior of the heart beating, all these kind of medical monitoring purposes.
Do you think that our society will change when using nanotechnology?
I think this will make benefit and make our life a lot easier and safer, and also convenient. The reason why we are not looking for technique that can replace some of the current technology; we’re looking for supplements that make our health better, make us more secure, and we get a warning before anything happens. So our life will be better, safer, and healthier. One day, let’s say, if you walk for 30 minutes and the electricity generated from your foot walking, you can charge your cell phone battery.
Do you think that nanogenerators will one day replace power plants?
It would be a small supplementary to the power plant. I think what could happen, we charge portable electronics, small electronics, something mobile. We are not looking to replace the power plant. For special energy needs. Some of the things you need energy, like for example, a pacemaker for some of the patients. Biosensing. But energy is not measured at like 50 cents per watt. You have it, you need it.
Do you think that technology will one day become completely invisible? Will things work like magic?
I think so, because years ago when we started, we started with very basic science, and we move on step by step. Today we are a lot more close to practical applications. So with that I have the full confidence it’s going to reach the market of some places in five years.
Do you think that nanotechnology is closer to biology or closer to classic engineering?
So one way, people doing a lot of biomedical research use this, but what we do, we already reach our life. That means something we can see, we can handle, and we can make it work and integrate it with our current life. So we can see nanotechnology at work, that’s a big step for us and for the community.
What can engineers learn from the principles of nature?
The engineers learn from this one, for example, in the future you desire a system, and you can consider, where can I get a battery? Can we replace a battery by the nanogenerator? If we can replace it, what other energy can we harvest? We can harvest how to restore the energy, how to utilize the energy. So that would change from simply take usage to a system design so that we don’t need a battery any more for some purposes. We consider the entire system and also consider to interface the system with our environment. What are the energy available, how do we interface it? So that would be a whole platform of consideration.
Do you think that we are going through some kind of a paradigm shift with technology beginning to learn from nature, more learning from nature than to control it?
We can learn from nature and duplicate what nature does and our lives are better off. Our environment will be greener and our energy more sustainable. So I think that’s very important, we learn from nature, and then we try to make living better.
What are the long-term goals of your research?
My long-term goal is to see us one day have a system, which is a pin size, like a fingertip size, and you can have the system distributed in a lot of places, and after you distribute it, to have energy on the environment and work itself. So therefore, that’s one of my goals. Also I want to look long term at basic personal electronics – cell phones, your music player, maybe one day a laptop can use this technology powered. Also I have a hope that one day this technology can subsidize the overall energy. For example, if you do this one underneath the floor, if you’re in a subway station, underneath the rail track, there’s tremendous energy there, and in the tire of a car, and when you go driving you can generate electricity. So I can see that can also supplement the power needs for the society.
Thank you very much, Professor Wang.
Local Hero – Mark Rembert rettet eine Kleinstadt.
Während Heerscharen von Visionären, Forschern und Kreativen immer neue Modelle für die globale Vernetzung und das urbane Zusammenleben entwerfen, gehen auf der ganzen Welt immer mehr Kleinstädte zu Grunde. Junge Menschen und lebensspendende Industrien ziehen weg, die Politik entscheidet im Sinn der Zentralisierung. Die Kleinstadt ist ein Modell aus dem vorigen Jahrhundert. Oder noch älter. Das Modell steht auf der Kippe. Und genau da kommen zwei und entdecken die Kleinstadt neu. Sie zeigen, wie sich ein kleines Nest im Strom der Globalisierung nicht nur behaupten, sondern auch zu einer florierenden Community entwickeln kann.
The project you are doing, is that actually the start of a new New Deal?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think so, in some ways. Of course, the New Deal was like a major sort of federal government initiative, it was very from the top down. What we’re finding now is that a lot of the solutions that we need have to be generated from the bottom up. I think that’s kind of the shift that is taking place in the U.S. right now is a movement from very centralized systems to very decentralized systems. So we see it as a big opportunity. And really, technology allows us to do a lot of things that we probably, as a small community in rural Ohio, probably couldn’t have done in the past. But the access that we have, the information, the way in which we can connect with the rest of the world really produces a lot of new and exciting opportunities. So I think the way we see it is really trying to spur the process of innovation on the community level and helping communities to develop solutions that are sort of tailored to their particular situation as opposed to a large centralized initiative like the New Deal or something like that.
So the project you are working on is a blueprint for other cities too?
I think so. Well, it is to the extent that it didn’t shrink the possibility for innovation. Poor communities, poor, rural communities, which are usually the places that are seen as just waiting to be helped, they can’t innovate or can’t develop on their own, we don’t think that that’s the case any more and we’re trying to demonstrate that. Of course, we really value the fact that we developed solutions and initiatives which grew out of the needs of our particular community. These weren’t things that somebody told us to do or told us how to do them, we figured it out ourselves, and it’s perfectly possible for communities to do that.
I think that’s the message that we try to share with others, that people can do it themselves as opposed to somebody telling them what they should do. I think you get a better outcome that way because the solutions that we developed are meeting the particular needs of our community, which are going to be different than the needs of another community, and we acknowledge that, and we think that’s actually important, and we actually get more innovation that way because we’re taking a very particular context and using that for inspiration.
To give you some background on us, we both brought experience in international development to this project when we started it. We’re of course working in our hometown, but my partner Taylor Stuckert served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia. I studied international development in college, so we both kind of brought that point of view to our work. And I think that in international development we’re really seeing a major emphasis on designing for a particular context as opposed to one-size-fits-all solutions to international development. And I think that that really inspired us, and we’ve tried to apply that same philosophy doing development work in the U.S., which is sort of radical in this context.
Do you think that the U.S. is a development country?
There are parts of it that are going through a process of redevelopment, absolutely. If you go through the Midwest, you’ll see many places which are closer to a third world country than they are the thriving metropolises of San Francisco, or New York, or Austin or places like that. So I think we are. A lot of people in this country are trying to figure out what our economic picture is going to look like, so it’s a shifting process, it’s a restructuring process, and through that we have to really be creative, we have to be entrepreneurial, we have to chart a new course for ourselves, because there aren’t many clear answers to where we’re going from where we stand right now, I guess, if that makes sense.
Do you think that the American way of capitalism has to be rethought?
No, in fact I think that what really inspires us and excites us are the core values that have inspired American capitalism since our founding. I think in some ways we perhaps moved away from some of those values and I think obviously we have some challenges in terms of a large centralized financial system, which I don’t actually think really reflects the sort of deeper values of American capitalism. We’ve valued very large centralized corporations as opposed to a very dynamic culture of small to medium sized businesses that are locally based or community based and are just super national but are rooted in particular places and understand that being a good capitalist also means being a good citizen. Those are really the deeper core values of American capitalism, and I think we try to return to those values and really build on those values. That’s what created places like our community, and I think we’re going to have to return to those values to rebuild it.
Do the problems of Clinton county seem to have something to do with globalization?
Absolutely. Communities like Wilmington are no longer insulated economically. We are now deeply integrated into a global economy, and we have to be aware of that. And I think that for places like Wilmington that are sort of in rural areas or less connected to sort of urban environments, it’s taken us awhile to realize that. It’s taken us awhile to completely understand how the global economy affects us locally. And now we’re going through a process of understanding what strategies we need to adopt that will allow us to be competitive in the global environment.
Part of that, I think means becoming more localized, focusing more on our community, focusing more on producing or consuming things that are produced locally or are sold by locally owned businesses by people in our community. I think that part of it is localization, and part of it is building connections with the rest of the world. And so it’s kind of an interesting balance or interesting line to walk between becoming more globalized and becoming more localized, and we’re trying to walk that line, and I think being able to do that will be the key to our success.
Obviously we’ve been in a unique situation in the fact that we had, of course, DHL in our community, which was an international business, and provided for many years a lot of jobs, but then very quickly took those jobs away. So we’ve felt the hard force of globalization in our community in I’d say a pretty unique way, so it’s definitely caused us to really think about that, but we understand that we can’t separate ourselves from the rest of the world. We can’t just say, “Oh, we’re not going to participate in globalization,” so we have to figure out a way to do it on our terms and to do it in a way that really fills the long-term vitality of our community.
How would you describe your role? Is there a function? Is there a name you give yourselves?
Our organization is called Energize Clinton County, and we picked that name intentionally because we really wanted to bring a new sense of energy, a new sense of vision to our community, and really sort of push the process of innovation. So technically we’re kind of the innovation engine for the community. Innovation can be a risky process, it can be a costly process. It requires a certain approach and a certain set of skills, and I think we saw our community lacking some of those things, lacking the ability to take risks. And so we founded an organization that made that its mission, to sort of take a long-term view, ask where things are going, what opportunities are in front of us now, and then really work toward embracing those opportunities. We’re kind of the community entrepreneurs creating new things for the social good. We’re also referred to as social entrepreneurs. We create new programs or niches or technologies for our community that are focused on having the most social good.
That could in fact be a good model to adopt in other cities. Is there a concrete business model behind that, how do you refinance yourself?We’re still working that out. That’s the challenge is how do you finance this type of work. We’re a non-profit organization so we finance ourselves through a few different sources. We receive just charitable donations from community members who value our work and want us to be able to do our work and serve the community. We’ve received some foundation funding from charities. We’ve received some funding from the local government to assist the local government in its economic development efforts. So we’re funded from a few different sources.
Again, it’s really difficult, because every community’s different and every community is going to have different sets of resources and different limitations on what they can do in terms of resources. So in some communities, our work might not be a non-profit organization, it might be part of a government agency, or it might be part of an educational institution. So it can really take on different forms. It’s more like what is the mission, what is the goal, what is sort of the vision that the organization is working toward? That’s I think what is the model, right? Adopting a certain vision for what communities can do and what they should do to sort of embrace new opportunities and to take perhaps a longer-term look at their success. That’s what we’ve sort of focused on.
Can you tell us about, well, a concrete example or something, like what are your methods? How do you realize your ideas?
Sure. I’ll give you a few examples of projects that we worked on. We’ve done a lot. Our kind of underlying strategy is to really think about how we keep as many dollars as possible circulating in our local economy. So there are sort of two approaches to that. One is bringing more money into the local economy to circulate, and the other is to sort of plug leaks in which money leaks out of our local economy. So we’ve really focused on plugging the leaks and we’ve done that in a few different ways.
One is we’ve focused on renewable energy or energy efficiency, so we’ve worked with like our city, which is going to be this summer installing a 50 kilowatt solar field at an industrial facility that the city owns and leases out to companies. So that’s been a big step for our community embracing solar power. It’ll be easily the largest solar project in our community, although we hope it won’t be the largest for long. Of course the United States is quickly trying to catch up with Germany in terms of renewable energy production, and so we’re trying to help our community be a part of that.
We’re now focusing a little bit more on energy efficiency and we’re partnering with a professor from a nearby university and our goal is to do an energy assessment for every home in our county, so that’ll be about ten thousand homes. We want to analyze and provide each home with an energy report card by the end of the year that will help them understand how they stand in terms of their energy usage and whether or not they have opportunities to invest and save in measures that will help them save energy. So we see that as both a job creator, but also as a way of really keeping more money in our community that we’re currently sending off to a utility company, which isn’t based in Clinton County.
We’ve coupled that with really focusing on serving local businesses, or spurring local business development in our community, businesses owned by people that live here, we see that as very important. And we’ve done in terms of helping businesses sort of market and brand themselves and also adapt new technologies that will help them expand their markets. So we’re currently working on a new website that will provide very low cost e-commerce solutions to any locally owned business in our community, and we’re kind of creating a virtual Main Street where residents can go and actually shop local businesses on line as opposed to having to go downtown to the actual shop to shop. So a lot of our local businesses are killed by Amazon or Wal-Mart, businesses like that, so we’re starting to give them new tools and more power to compete with those businesses, largely using low-cost technology.
And how do you sell or pitch all these ideas? Is there a basic vision behind that, that you kind of told everyone? How do you kind of win the community for these ideas?
Well, a lot of it is we just do things, and when they’re successful the community embraces them. There are different strategies. Obviously developing a very coherent vision and trying to promote that vision is one strategy, but we’ve really used more the strategy of, well, if we do it and it’s successful, people will embrace it, and that’s really worked for us.
What is your personal motivation behind that? There must be a personal vision behind that, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing that?
Sure. We had to face the possibility of losing our hometown, and that ended up being really serious for us. Both myself and Taylor, we both left Wilmington when we were about 18 thinking that we would never come back to our home. We lived in New York, separate, we used to live in different places, but Taylor lived in New York for many years, I lived in Philadelphia for many years. I had a vision of ourselves living in East Coast cities, not living in rural Ohio. And I think when DHL left and realized the severity of the economic crisis our community was going to face, I guess it’s sort of sentimental but we really were sort of touched by the possibility of losing our home town, not having that place in the world that we could call home. So we decided that we should stay and see if we could serve in any way and help preserve that place.
So there is a real sort of emotional drive to our work, but also I think that we’re fascinated by the fact that places like Wilmington are really left out of the American sort of development strategy. All of our sort of national policies are urban-focused, very few of them focus on rural places or small towns. But we really believe and value small town life. We think it’s a great way of life and we think it should be preserved. And there are a lot of solutions out there for places like Wilmington. So we see it also as very exciting from a creative standpoint, because there are very few people doing the work that we’re doing, and there are very few solutions out there, so we feel like we’re on the cutting edge of really creating a new vision for how small towns can be successful and vibrant places in the world, and that’s really exciting.
Thank you, Mark.
Alisa Andrasek. Baumeisterin der Schöpfung.
Kann man unsere Umwelt so formen, dass wir uns nicht mehr an ihr reiben, weil man an einer roten Ampel steht oder sich im Finanzamt verläuft? Etwa so, dass sie einem natürlichen Fluss gehorcht? Kann man die Kräfte nutzen, die hinter der sichtbaren Welt wirken? Jene Kräfte, die Korallenriffe entstehen lassen, Wolken formen und die komplexen Ströme steuern, die sich durch urbane Landschaften ziehen? Diesen Masterplan der Schöpfung zu knacken und ihn auf unsere Welt anzuwenden ist das Thema der Avantgarde-Architektin Alisa Andrasek.
“IT’S A LITTLE BIT LIKE GENETIC ENGINEERING.”
ALISA ANRASEK ON LEARNING FROM LIFE PROCESSES IN ORDER TO FACE COMPLEX DESIGN PROBLEMS.
How did you get into design and architecture?
Early in life, I had some sort of seemingly conflicting interests. On the one hand I had a kind of – maybe you could call it weird artistic sensibility. But on the other I also really loved math and physics and scientific side of things. I was always curious about physics (weird quantum kind in particular), biology, and, as a kid, they would send me to math competitions. I wanted to somehow marry these two sides _ since they tend to be perceived as conflicting.
I also felt I didn’t have focused enough mind for specific scientific field _ I was more into multitasking _ connections in-between things… So somehow architecture seemed as a good home – because it’s such a naturally multitasking field where I can bring all these loves together. And than I also had an interest in architecture specifically… The examples would be too long to list…
Finally I grew up on construction sites because my father has this small construction company in Croatia where I’m from. So the material/constructability aspect felt very natural… So there have always been those multi-faceted surroundings.
How would you describe your role as someone who is somehow located between architecture, design, science, math and coding? What is your approach to that, to all those kinds of fields? How do you kind of match those fields? What is your way you work; you deal with those fields?
Well I think in general, there are new unifications of knowledge emerging. I mean these kind of traditional disciplines such as physics, chemistry, computer science, architecture, of course they’re still very much still here, especially in academic environments. But in practice, there are increasing cross-breeds and overlaps. Someone like David Deutsch who is a father of quantum computation lectures on a category like elegance within the idea of new unifications of knowledge emerging and even new sensibilities. For instance he is talking about elegant formulas. Elegance as one of these new micro-unifications is explored in different fields. I myself often find many of these crossovers and sometimes it’s very interesting to have someone from a different context to rethink the problem.
In the case of Biothing, we work extensively with mathematics and generative computational procedures. I have to credit my most important teacher in architecture, Karl Chu, who was the first one to introduce me into the use of generative algorithms for design. And since then I didn’t turn back because there was a certain power of these processes compared to more purely representational modes of designing typical for traditional discourse.
The question was how to access complexity in an explicit manner. Computational side of things was one of the ways to relate directly to this kind of ideas about complex host environments in which architecture and design need to operate in.
One thing led to another and we started investigating different types of mathematics, less and less linear ones, and more and more bottom layers that can actually adapt or be more resilient. Very soon I started talking to mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists. Philosophers… Manufacturers… The process just unfolded by itself and this exchange is still very much going on today…
And your work is partly based on quite rational thinking in terms of coding and math and why is it still – why are the effects still so beautiful? How come – when does – when do esthetics come into the game?
Well I usually get this question… I get accused of designing things that are “too beautiful” as if that would be a shortcoming in a field like design. There is this first sensorial aesthetic layer where people assume that if something is beautiful it cannot be very smart… I guess I was just mentioning at the beginning of this conversation David Deutsch with his story of elegance that simply works… Certain mathematics work and even in mathematics you have fields like harmonics or Fourier series that can compute different functions. We tend to structure design environments as ecology. One domain affects another, one behavior can be hybridized with another. There is a ripple effect… and when the facets of such ecology are explicitly wired, when there is a connective tissue, when they can transcode into each other _ there can be certain clarity of expressions, emerging “beauty”.
But in this context, the agency of a designer is still very much alive. People often assume if the algorithm is doing everything, then what is the agency of a designer? In my opinion, design agency is not only transformed, but also amplified. There are even more design decisions to make along the way, there is a designing of the whole design environment, including constraints of production _ but also encouraging some behavioral patterns, some expressions over others within such informed design search space. You can heavily condition this search, but you still navigate it with your sensibility, so it is of course extremely subjective as well.
Aesthetics are synthetic – as a synthesis of such rich information layering but also your design intents and sensibility working through it.
Do you think that there will be a massive change in architecture within the next years?
I think the change in architecture is very much happening already, but it’s maybe not very loud… In the ‘90’s we had kind of a loud shift with, for instance, Columbia University where I studied at the end of that period… At that time, you had this amazing generation of people like Karl Chu, Greg Lynn, Jesse Reiser, Evan Douglis and others who started using digital software and producing amazing but still largely fictional projections for architecture. It was an extremely vital period and I am lucky to have caught a tail end of it when I studied with that inspiring generation.
But, since then we are hopefully maturing into this process with respect to materialization, and sophistication with information side of the matter-information equation. We are increasingly connecting information based design sequence to materiality, to production processes, and searching for design expressions within the informed environments.
Often my students go out there and immediately get hired by many different profiles of practices because their knowledge is immediately applicable. And many methods they are working on get, maybe sometimes rather superficially and too quickly, appropriated for different sequences of applied design and construction. For instance, the most obvious example is optimization, where certain systems of design that were derived through more traditional representational methods, get optimized through Genetic Algorithms. But this is in my opinion scratching the surface, or even misuse of such information capital. The larger aspiration would be to embed such intelligence from the beginning and go through generative sequencing of design, where you work less deterministically and more emerging into territories that go beyond your initial imagination, or should I call it preconceptions of what architecture could be.
I sometimes like to say I educate “mutants” and they go out there and the change is already happening… Even if it’s happening through micro-doors instead of a big one. But such micro-revolutions have a tendency to swell rather quickly… Perhaps because we work with architecture, which is bound to matter and to really slow material and production industries _ it’s a very big dinosaur; difficult to change overnight… So yes, the change I’m convinced is already happening.
What is the advantage of bio architecture?
Well I cannot say that Biothing is about “bio-architecture”. Of course, at the moment, some people call this the age of biology because we are learning a lot from science of life and life processes, since recently even life synthesis… I can hardly think of more complex phenomena than life. So I guess we are learning from such context. But the goal is not to reproduce known forms of life for instance. Or to mimic nature. Since what we are producing is in a way extremely “unnatural” and often counter-intuitive and maybe even weird. But perhaps it’s resonating complexity and intricacy or ability to adapt, to be resilient under pressure - properties we find in many complex systems.
And what can designers and architects learn from evolution and evolutionary processes?
When I started my practice, I initiated this kind of platform which is still alive. At the core of Biothing is what I call Genware _ a library of seeds for potential gardens to grow. Within general convergence of matter and information that we see happening, I positioned Biothing as a kind of brain of design _ to the information side of equation. It’s an evolving library of code that gets exposed to different design problems at different orders of scale, and this algorithmic seeds and their consequent expressions can cross-breed with each other. It’s a little bit like genetic engineering and, for the lack of a better example, it could be compared to genetic engineering crossbreeding different behaviors to get synthetic composites. You have the access to very deep levels of such code ecology so you can always initiate internal mutations, and expose such resource to every next design or conceptual problem, sets of constraints and similar, and through this exposure the seeds are enriched, IT is learning as well. You could say it’s evolving within such contingent conditioning…
There is a build up of such intelligence. It is not lost after you finish a specific design project. If you just model an object on your screen it stays there in its inert state. But, if you actually have the access to this underlying intelligence, it can always be channeled into new problems and often at new orders of scale.
And if I would make a quick cross-section to Biothing, there is a clear differentiation of different types of mathematics that we went through as a kind of evolution to get into more and more resilient layers for design. Going increasingly to more bottom layers, beyond geometry, closer to raw data and pre-geometry states. But that’s a long story, and perhaps a bit too technical…
That’s very interesting. And that is something that applies to many fields of design. That’s very interesting. What are your future plans for Biothing?
Something that is really acute for Biothing at the moment is to materialize as much as possible, to expose this kind of expertise and its sensibility to applications. And we are ready to venture into different scales of materialization. We went deep into abstractions in order to be able to face complexity. I felt that it was necessary to build certain more sophisticated expertise in order to be able to make a real impact.
Currently we are designing so many different things from a very small scale of jewelry, to certain pre-master-plan ingredients for very large scale urban planning; and, of course, everything in between. Mostly architecture.
Ich programmiere also bin ich. Simeon Nasilowski und Codea.
Grafische Benutzeroberflächen, Maus und Gestensteuerung haben zu einer beispiellosen Demokratisierung des Computers geführt: Kleinkinder entdecken heute den Rechner noch vor dem Fernseher und selbst die Oma kann ein iPad bedienen. Doch der Siegeszug der Benutzerfreundlichkeit hat den Nebeneffekt, dass wir heute nicht mehr verstehen, was sich eigentlich hinter den Interfaces unserer Rechner abspielt. Denn Codes und Algorithmen sind zu einer Geheimsprache geworden, die heute nur noch wenige beherrschen: die neue Elite der Programmierer. Mit Simeon Nasilowski und seiner App Codea soll sich das bald ändern – wenn wir alle selbst zu Programmierern geworden sind!
„IT JUST HAS TO BE APPROACHABLE.“
SIMEON NASILOSWSKI ON CREATING SOFTWARE WHICH HELPS PEOPLE TO CREATE ON THEIR OWN ACCOUNT.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into programming?
I got into programming mainly through art and graphics, so I really always enjoyed working with 3D modeling applications and drawing, and at some point I wanted to start adding my own features. So I learned how to write plug-ins and add-ons. I enjoyed it a lot, so I went on to do computer science at university.
How did you start your company?
In 2009, two of my friends and I, we were doing our Ph.D’s in computer vision at the university and we found that we preferred to create our own products rather than doing research. So we started Two Lives Left to do our personal projects, which were mostly games and game-related applications.
And can you tell us a little bit about what kind of games got you into founding that company? Do you have a background as a gamer or something like that?
I think it’s probably due to the background in graphics, and games very much crosses over with graphics. So when we were working on personal projects while we were at university, we would often work on games or graphics-related projects, and it was something that we kept coming back to.
Let’s talk about code a little bit and the idea of code being a language. Do you think that is correct, that code is a language actually?
Yeah, I would say that it is a language, though I would say that it’s not very good in terms of communication. I would say it’s quite an unintuitive language, because to most people it’s probably too strict and explicit, there’s no room for error. I think programmers value that, that there’s no room for error, and as a programmer I value that part of code. But as a language for communicating ideas, I think it’s quite an inefficient language.
So you’ve invented that tool Codea that is capable of teaching people how to code or to program. Why is it interesting to learn coding?
I think that different people find it interesting for different reasons. Personally I am very visual, and I like programming because it lets me express ideas that can be then visualized by a computer. So I was always fascinated with things like ray tracing and anything that really worked with graphics on a computer, and so at the moment I’m quite interested in touch and visual motion and simulations. So when I play with an iPad that’s what I like to do, and that’s why I think programming is one of the things that lets you really get a computer to create things visually for you.
How did you get the idea of an application that lets you kind of touch the code?
Well, when I started writing Codea, I wrote it for myself because often I would use similar applications on the desktop. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Processing, it’s a Java-based tool, and Love’s 2D, which is another learning tool for the desktop, it’s a framework for creating 2D prototypes, 2D games. And often when you’re working on games you have arguments with your colleagues about whether certain ideas will work or whether they won’t work, and we had an argument like that, and I was stuck at a coffee shop with just my iPad and I wanted to test the idea, but I couldn’t. So when I got home I started writing something for my iPad that I could use to then create game prototypes when I didn’t have my laptop with me, and that was Codea.
Can you tell us the idea of Codea?
Well, the idea is to quickly get some sort of visual concept or a game or a simulation on the screen directly on your iPad. So the key idea is to write code quickly and see what it produces as soon as you cat it on the screen. So it’s structured very much around getting your results quickly and seeing them immediately. It’s basically just optimized for that.
And who does Codea address? What is the target group of Codea?
To be honest, I didn’t have a target group in mind when I wrote it, it was mainly created for myself. At the moment, though, a lot of people are taking it and just creating things with it, and that’s really fun to see. But I still don’t have a definite idea of who is using it. I continue to create it for myself and put in things that I want it to have, and in the future I want to continue to make it into the program that I really want to use on my iPad. But I have been getting lots of emails from parents that are using it to teach their kids, and it’s really, really great to hear that they’re doing that. I love that people are using it to learn to program. It was never actually my intention. My intention was to just create a tool that I could use on my iPad, but it’s kind of come out of that.
So it was meant to be a tool to prototype, and now it’s a tool to learn. Well it’s still a tool to prototype. I still use it to prototype, but people are using it to teach and to learn with, which is great.
When we saw it, we were so intrigued, because it took us back to the early 80s and the Commodore computers, so there’s a retro feeling to the whole idea. I noticed that some of the creations on the net are a bit retro. It’s probably because it has a lot of limitations, especially when it was first released. It’s very simple vector drawing and a very small library of sprites, so when people started to use it, they really started to creatively work around limitations like writing their own font classes that looked a bit old-fashioned, using the graphics in a way that really worked around what it couldn’t do. I guess that kind of reminds me of what people used to do in the past to work around hardware limitations and stuff like that.
Do you think that coding and programming might be a regular thing for people to learn in school?
I can’t see why not. I personally like it, and the types of problems that you solve with programming are very rich and complex. And really you see that now in modern games, like LittleBigPlanet2 is really programming visually. I think that kids could learn it; it just has to be approachable. One thing I find that it has to be is rewarding. That is to me, to see the result on the screen as soon as possible. That reward inspires me to program, so maybe that sort of rewarding nature of games and other programming apps can encourage kids to learn early on.
Codea is limited to the iPad, but the idea behind it could very well be transferred to a Mac, for example, isn’t it?In fact we want to release that part of Codea open source. Because we’re working on the app all the time we find it hard to find the time to actually extract the engine and release that. But we’d be happy, we want to share that, and allow people to build their own editors and their own, say a Mac application, like you say, or a Windows application, to build and run projects.
What do you see in the iPad? Is that something that you are fond of?
Is that something that you think has a future? Do you think the iPad is the future of computing?At the moment I find that it’s a real, a great base to explore no methods of human computer interaction. I’m a bit fascinated with the inherent intuition about touching what you see and interacting with it, and I like to experiment with that sort of interaction. I don’t know whether it’s the future, but it’s definitely something that a lot of humans find more intuitive than regular computers and indirect controls. So it’s a great area to be working in.
What is your next step with your company?
We continue to make games. Our company is actually something we do part time, it’s not something we do full time. So we all have our full time jobs. But the company is something we work on in the evenings, and we continue to just work on our personal projects. So we’re working on some games, and Codea, of course. But we just want to continue to make things that we want to use and to play.
Thank you very much.
Roboter aus der Kommune. Brian Gerkey.
Seit dem Zeitalter der Maschinisierung träumt der Mensch von einer Zukunft, in der er von mechanischen Helfern in der täglichen Arbeit unterstützt wird. Sie räumen die Bude auf, holen uns Tee oder kochen sogar das Mittagessen. Doch wann wird diese Zukunft eigentlich Wirklichkeit? Wenn es nach dem Robotik-Spezialisten Brian Gerkey geht: lieber heute noch als morgen. Um sein ehrgeizig gesetztes Ziel möglichst schnell zu erreichen, baut Gerkey nicht allein, sondern in Kooperation mit einer Entwicklungs-Abteilung der besonderen Art: einer weltweiten Community.
„YOU WANT PEOPLE TO FEEL LIKE BEING MEMBERS OF THE TRIBE.“
BRIAN GERKEY ON THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS AND USING COMMUNITIES INSTEAD OF R&D.
Do you have a personal vision for robotics or how robots might help us?
My hope and belief is that we can develop robots that will help us in our everyday lives. And I think the first place they will help us is not in the home. We’ve seen some vacuum cleaners, for example, in the home, which are common. But, I think, realistically having robots that help us in our workplace is probably the next step.
So these could be robots around the office or around the factory or around the lab, depending on what your work environment is. And these robots are not – I don’t see them as replacing people, I see them as assistive devices. They’re automating the mundane parts of our work and helping us to do our work better and more productively.
Eventually, in the long-term, I can see robots getting into the home, but the home is a much more complex, less structured environment. It’s much more reasonable to expect robots to behave appropriately in an office or a lab environment where you have some expectation that the environment tends to be pretty clean and there’s not clutter everywhere and so on. These are things we have to take into account when we’re being realistic about where robots will actually be useful.
And do you think that we are on the path where we can provide machines with some kind of intelligence in the near future?
Well, intelligence is in the eye of the beholder. I’m personally hesitant to call a machine intelligent. To answer a different question, I think we are on a path to provide some machines that have some adaptability, some flexibility, some responsiveness, that they can sense the environment; sense, for example, when people are there and possibly have some meaningful interaction with people and also respond to change.
I mean, robotics has been around for half-a-century or even longer, depending on what you call a robot, and there are factories around the world with robots that make circuit boards and weld cars together and so on. And those robots are extremely productive and effective, but they’re not flexible and they’re not adaptable. Those robots are traditionally behind big cages to keep people way from the robots, because if a person came into the workspace of a robot, the person might be hurt or killed. So, this new generation of robots that we’re building now is robots that can really be with and near humans and be adaptive and responsive to what’s happening in the environment.
When will personal robots be affordable for everyone?
It depends on what you want the robot to do. You know, a very broad interpretation of a personal robot would include something like the Roomba. It has a very specific purpose, but it’s good at doing that thing; it vacuums your house and it’s quite affordable. If you’re talking about Rosie, the robot maid from the Jetsons, who will do everything around the house and make you dinner, affordability is actually not the main concern. It’s just that it’s the technical work that’s required to make that happen and that will take many years and then very likely many years after that before you could actually buy one. So, that’s quite far into the future, which is exciting for us because it means there’s still a lot of interesting problems to solve.
If it was intelligent to give machines intelligence, because maybe an intelligent machine would not like to work as a vacuum cleaner. Right. Somebody said that a truly autonomous robot would just plug itself into a wall and charge all day and would refuse to do any work. That is a common concern in science fiction. In fact, the word robot comes from Karel Capek play, R.U.R, where they robots decide that they don’t want to be slaves to the humans anymore and they revolt. So that story’s very old.
My personal opinion is that it is so, so far into the future, and I’m not certain it will ever happen, that we will have robots that will have a level of something you could call intelligence and self-awareness that would lead to that sort of behavior, that it’s just not something I personally worry about. I’m much more worried about the details of getting the robot to look around and understand its world and act sensibly in that world, which is amazingly difficult.
Why is using a community better than using a traditional R&D?
A big aspect of our community is involving the researchers so they can all share their work with each other and actually replicate results. That’s one of the things we aim for with ROS is that, as an open-source system, it allows researchers to easily get access to each other’s work and replicate experiments. That’s a huge advantage over just reading the paper that the person wrote.
Are there certain key factors that are important in building such a world-wide community?
Absolutely. I don’t know how to prioritize them but for one thing you need an identity for the project. It needs a name, it needs a place to live online and that’s one of the reasons early on we created ros.org. Even though, still the majority of ROS development happens at Willow Garage, we want to make it clear that ROS is not a Willow Garage product. Willow Garage doesn’t own ROS. ROS is a community project that exists out in the world, independent of, but supported by Willow Garage and also supported by many other people in the robotics community, including, increasingly, some people at other robotics companies.
So that’s one thing. You want people to feel like being members of the tribe. You want some identity that people can attach to the project. You need to be inclusive; you need to welcome new people into the community.When the first people who come in and submit patches and improvements, they’re gold; you need to treat them really, really well and make them feel welcome. And even if their patch comes in and it’s not that great, you don’t give them a hard time about it. You need to really welcome everyone in so that they’ll keep contributing and get deeper into the community.
And, another, just a really practical thing is you need to have good forums for people to have discussions. We use, pretty much, just a mail-in list and a Wiki; those are the tools that we use. There are other ways to implement it. But having open discussion forums and other places for people to write down best practices and document what they’ve done so that other people can use it is extremely important.
Is an open-source process applicable to any other kind of product?
In my opinion, an open-source model can be good for many other computer-controlled devices. I think we see that in our desktop and laptop computers, but also in our phones. Android, for example, is an open-source operating system for a phone. A lot of the infrastructure in the internet, everywhere from high-end servers to network switches, often run Linux, and I think robots, in that respect, they are more mechanically and electrically sophisticated than most of those devices, but I don’t think that actually makes them that different. I think that having a common open-infrastructure underneath, benefits everyone.
Some see open-source projects as a threat for their business model. Can you tell us why they are wrong?
I suppose if your business model is making and selling proprietary infrastructure for robot systems, then, perhaps, an open-source alternative like ROS is a threat. I think the prudent thing to do, from a business point of view, is to make it not a threat but an advantage. I think, historically, IBM is a great example. They used to build their own operating systems and things like Linux were a threat to their operating-system business. And then they decided it was much more efficient for them to just support and use Linux and stop building and maintaining their own operating system. And so now that’s what they do and they realize that their business is not in selling software, it’s in selling services.
I think we can see the same thing and on a small scale we are starting to see that where some robotics companies are looking at systems like ROS and saying, “Well, there’s an open-source tool that’s supported by a community of developers and, if it suits our purposes, we can use it and then we no longer have to have our engineers working on building the infrastructure, which is not our core business. We can work on building higher-level applications or delivering custom services to consumers.”
Do you have any idea if that could also apply to industries outside of the computer industry? Because the computer industry has always been leading and it would be fantastic to see if that could also work in cars or household machines or whatever.
I think it’s more difficult for existing industries that have all ready developed common practices and there are entrenched players in the market. So, I think it will be more difficult for open-source alternatives to make an entry into those areas, but I don’t think there’s any reason why, given enough time, they won’t.
The robots of Willow Garage still look like humans; they have arms and something like a head or something. Why do they look like that?
I would say they don’t look like humans. For example, we don’t put faces on them. You can find a lot of people, it’s especially common in Japan to put faces and really make the robots try to look like people. We don’t take that route. We actually don’t want people to confuse the robots with people, not that they could, but more importantly, we don’t want people to have the wrong expectations. So, one issue with a robot that looks like a person and sounds like a person is that you have an expectation that it has the intelligence of a person, which I can assure you, today’s robots do not. So, we, for example, don’t even have our robot use speech synthesis. We don’t make the robot talk. It could communicate a lot of information by talking, but if it talks to you, you have an expectation that you can talk back to it and it will understand you, which is just not true. So, there’s that aspect to it. So, I’d say it’s actually not human like.
Now, why does it have a head, why does it have two arms?
That’s because it’s designed to work in environments where humans work, so it’s about the size of a person. Its arms have about the reach of a person. If you’ve seen videos of the robot, you might notice that the whole torso can go up and down; it can get taller and shorter. When it’s at its shortest point, the hands can reach the floor. When it’s at its tallest point, the hands can reach something like a high cabinet in your kitchen. And it can also work at tabletop environments.
Also, the physical dimensions and the motors that control the wheels, it drives on wheels, are designed according to the wheelchair accessibility regulations in the United States. We have something called the American’s With Disabilities Act, which regulates how buildings are constructed. So pretty much every office environment has certain regulations on how wide the doorways are, how wide the hallways are and so on and the robot is designed according to those specifications. So, it’s not designed to be like a person, it’s designed to work naturally in environments that were designed for people.Brian, thank you very much for the interview.
Zivilisation als Lego.
Wie sähe ein Zivilisation aus, die man komplett neu aus dem Boden stampft? Ökologisch nachhaltig? Ökonomisch sinnvoll? Was klingt wie ein frommer Kinderwunsch, wird nun im Kleinen Realität. Dr. Marcin Jakubowski beschäftigt sich ganz praktisch mit den Grundlagen der Zivilisation. Er hat einen Werkzeugkasten erfunden, mit der man ganze Dörfer aus dem Nichts erschaffen kann. Kein Patent schützt seine Ideen. Forschung, Pläne und Anleitungen: Das alles stellt er als Open Source der Welt zur Verfügung. Macht sein Modell Schule, könnte es zur Herausforderung für viele Unternehmen der old Economy werden.
„OPEN SOURCE ECONOMY IS THE NATURAL EVOLUTION.“
MARCIN JAKUBOWSKI ON OPEN ACCESS AND THE ABILITY
TO CREATE YOUR WORLD THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO
What is the intention of OSE?
We’re basically working on a replicable tool set that would be sufficient to provide the infrastructure of modern communities, in a nutshell.
Is OSE meant to renew our society?
The concept is that it’s a regenerative development that we can eventually reinvent the economic system such that it’s harmonious with natural life support systems. So it’s a pretty deep package. We’re trying to consider the whole picture of what we’ve learned from society in terms of best practices so that if we’d have to start from scratch we’d have all the best practices that we can put into play, to make prosperous communities and where also people get along beyond the resource conflict.
So on one level we want to address a simple concept, how do we transcend the fact that resources and their scarcity is still determining the way humans interact. On a personal level, we have to work and so forth. And on a global level there’s geopolitical conflict that’s a result of still the economy of scarcity that we live in, and we’re just asking, well, can we transcend that through a realistic program.
If I was to explain to my child how that new world would look like, what would I have to tell him?
Yeah, it would be communities that are pretty much autonomous from external control. That means they can provide everything that they need from local resources. Because if we ask this question, we know right now that society depends on global flows to make everything happen, global material flows and global trade. And we’re saying the other alternative is if we used modern appropriate technology to process the more common abundant materials around us to build communities that are just more resilient in their ability to both provide for themselves and provide through any shock because they actually have the capacity to do so, because of the knowledge and tools available.
So take it as civilization and then rework it to I think the biggest aspect of it would be appropriate scale. We talk a lot about the scale of villages, like 100 people where you can know everybody face to face and yet still provide enough division of labor to provide for a modern quality of life. That’s the general picture. So take some value that looks like what it does today except it’s survival based or productivity based economy, just based on totally different principles focusing on ability to use local abundant resources.
In terms of an emotional approach, what does OSE appeal to in terms of human emotions?
Freedom I think would be the single word. A place where people are in control of their life. Self-determination. Because the remote power centers are removed from the equation and the basic design. Fulfillment I would say would be also kind of coming from a similar place. Fulfillment that you’re now when you’re free you can pursue the things that are your passions and things that you really like as opposed to being forced to do certain things just to survive. So that would be fulfillment, the ability to create, your world in a way that you want it to, so it goes back to control of your life and being free.
Let’s talk about economics. There are so many open source models popping up all over the globe. Our question is do you think that all those open source principles might indicate the need for a new age of economics?
We claim that open source economy is the natural evolution of where the economy goes to, and the key there being that you have enough of a rigorous process that ends up with tools that are equivalent or superior to industrial productivity. And personally I see that missing in a lot of the different projects. But that’s definitely one of the key design elements, the effectiveness, efficiency to put the economic system into what we call distributive economics. That’s what you end up with. Where it’s no longer monopoly capitalism determining, being the dominant force, but the fact that everybody has open access, and the tools to do so.
Would you consider OSE compatible with the old economy? Does that fit in somehow, or is it something that has to be detached?
I think for a long time it will run in parallel because different people right now have different ways they like to live, or different options they like to pursue in their life. A lot of people are satisfied with the way things are, and what we’re saying is that, okay, here’s an option that if you like it you can take that as a realistic alternative. In the future we think that, if something simply works better, and that’s where we’re aiming, if we’re producing something that actually works, we think that more and more people will transition to that, and perhaps that could be the dominant paradigm of the future. But there’s nothing that says that the two patterns can’t coexist, and they will for a long time probably.
Do you think that there is a place for corporations within OSE?
If we take a look at the big picture, there’s a lot of evidence that the efficiencies that the mainstream industrial system claims today are not really true if you consider the whole system’s picture. So we think that if you actually scale down from mega corporations, global corporations, to much smaller ones – and we can’t tell what that scale will be – but if you’re familiar with Schumacher and Small Is Beautiful, do you know that book, for example?
No, I don’t know.
People have written about it, Schumacher is one of the seminal figures who wrote about the concept that at a certain scale of organization businesses and society simply breaks down, and that’s what we’re seeing today. So there’s a lot of discussion going on that flexible fabrication or small scale fabrication production is not only competitive but superior to in terms of being efficient. And that’s what we’re trying to prove on the ground, what exactly are those scales?
We think that when corporations become more efficient, part of that efficiency will probably be reorganizing into smaller units of organization. Like, for example, take energy. Take oil. If oil runs out or whatever happens to that setting, one option is distributed energy production. That’s a definite proven business model and that’s probably done better by communities taking charge of such operations instead of one global corporation taking the whole show. So I think the case can be made where the reduction in scale is likely to happen.
When and how did you get the idea for OSE?
This came out towards the end of my graduate school. I was doing a PhD in fusion energy and physics, and one particular thing I noticed about that was that I couldn’t talk openly about my research material to others, which was really inefficient. So I really started thinking about this topic and thought, what would it really be like if we can totally collaborate, be open, and not reinvent and compete for resources? And that’s where the idea of open source ecology, a paradigm of open development, open economic development, really started to formulate in that I thought it would simply be much more powerful if people worked together truly, because by definition the results could be better. So the question is, how do you devise a system that would allow collaborative development to produce superior results? That’s the concept of open source ecology.
The whole project is a little bit like Sim City, only in real, isn´t it?
Yes, there is a realistic comparison in that it is like a game because imagine if you’re not only playing a video game, but the video game is actually producing real results. That’s the intention of the Global Village Construction Set, that you actually have a robust set of very human useable tools with which you can get to create your entire reality.
There’s actually some collaborators in Washington state here. Right now they went to South America to do research on the ground in terms of the needs of various communities for their infrastructures. Poor communities, indigenous people who are looking for appropriate housing, food, and their entire economies. So this guy is working on first finding out the needs and then creating actually a game. It would be a life gaming type of a situation where in the game itself you’re building villages, but actually if you pay into that or through add revenue or somehow, with the use of the Global Village Construction Set, you’re actually able to implement real infrastructure in these communities.
Now, that could be feasible if the capital barriers to putting up these infrastructures are very low. So if the plans are totally open source, if you have means to train people readily, and if we could do things like even generate virgin metal from scrap steel, which is part of the technologies, induction furnace, then you’re talking about literally recreating civilization at the cost of scrap. So that’s kind of a scenario we’re actually looking at as a possible application to help further the development of the Global Village Construction Set in a real world application where the tools are actually built out by people playing a game.
In concrete terms, if I wanted to become part of OSE, where would I start? What would I have to do?
Right now we have an ambitious plan to finish the 50 tools within two years on a 2.4 million dollar budget. So the concrete ways to collaborate are subscribe as a true fan with a small donation per month. Become a developer on the ground, meaning if you’re a subject matter expert with lots of different engineering or organizational skills, we’re looking for people that are both the development subject matter experts and organizational support. So right now we’re in a phase of reorganizing the whole operation for rapid parallel development. So if you can help on that, that would be a way to go.
And of course in the background we have our wiki where we collect a lot of different information. People are free to collaborate on that by putting technical details and documentation towards the developing of different tools. So I think the best thing is if people are technical they should contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org, to find out how to plug into the program.
We also have a proposal that we’re publishing right now and you can look at where exactly we are in the development status. And then the funding, at this point we’re planning on paying people for those things that people wouldn’t volunteer for. There’s a lot of things you can get in the volunteer sector. Other more complicated things like modern steam engines, extraction of aluminum from clay, we’re not going to get these people to collaborate until we pay them. So there’s funding that’s required not only to pay people but to build, to build physical prototypes that takes material. So the big push is to get the funding infrastructure developed to the point that we can raise this money.
And right now we’re actually focusing on the non-profit sector, because it’s a whole new level to try to get an investor to try to get a return on this. It’s by definition quite difficult because we’re talking about distributive economics where the users are more the beneficiaries as opposed to outside sources. So at present we’re looking at the non-profit sector as the best way to fund this. So we’re setting up that infrastructure.
And if people can help us, especially people like resource development, fund raising, that kind of stuff is in high demand here. And then the whole subject matter experts team of developers is what we’re looking for. We’re going to need about 100 people, 100 technical developers at least, with all the different topics that it’s involved with. So we’re just basically networking, building the team, doing all of that right now.
Do you consider yourself a revolutionary or rather a romantic?
It’s definitely not romantic because we’re putting this into practice. As far as revolutionary, what I like to say about that is that this is very basic. I think we’re proposing nothing new. The innovative part for us is that we’re actually doing it. So let people draw their own conclusions. But the concept is that we’re just taking the existing infrastructures, critical infrastructures of society, and open sourcing them to make them accessible, user-friendly, and environmentally-friendly. So in some ways, all we talk about is really sharing, and an economic system that allows that, so that everybody benefits. So that’s one of the oldest ideas. So it’s really nothing new, but it is revolutionary if we actually apply that today, because we do have the tools to make this happen today with high technology and communication, just making that appropriate can do a lot for the world.
Power Buddhisten. Kunst von Dan Grayber.
Die spannendste Sichtweise auf die Dinge eröffnet immer noch die Kunst. Hier eröffnet sich immer noch eine Welt ohne Grenzen. Ohne Funktionen, ohne Focus Groups ohne Trends. Wir haben einen ausgesucht, der sinnvolle, scheinbar funktionale Dinge herstellt, die erst auf den zweiten Blick von Werkzeugen und Maschinen zu unterscheiden sind. Damit erregt er den Ärger der Kunstkritiker und Unverständnis bei den Designern. Er kommt aus San Francisco und heißt Dan Grayber. Seine Maschinen sind Power Buddhisten.
„IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE ART.“
DAN GRAYBER ON ART THAT ASKS QUESTIONS AND SCIENCE THAT TRIES TO ANSWER THEM.
How did you become an artist?
I think I focused myself on being an artist in undergrad. When I was sent to school I was really interested in science and art, and the more classes I took, the more I kind of moved more towards art and away from science. That’s a pretty vague answer, but that’s kind of in a nutshell how it happened.
Is there any particular sciences that you were interested in, like chemistry or physics?
Definitely physics, and I think that’s pretty evident in the work that I do, is just a great fascination in physics. I’d say my art represents more of the simple physics aspect side of things and doesn’t get too complex, but then again, some of it does.
What fascinates you about machines and machinery?
I look at machines at all being some sort of extension of some shortcoming of the human body.
Do you see that there is a certain path that mankind is going in terms of using machines as extensions?
I certainly see the extensions becoming a little bit more elaborate all the time, to where now they’re substitutions. I mean, they’re extensions but it seems like in the past they were extensions where there still was more mechanical input that related to what the machines were doing, where I think now it’s less direct.
Where do you kind of look for the design of your machinery? Where do you find these designs?
I think a lot of the building industry has the most apparent mechanisms, and so there’s certainly a lot of cranes and different excavating machines and things that have pretty obvious mechanisms that I really just am fascinated by how they move. I did a recent piece, inner floor mechanism, it’s in a show I have up now that was pretty much directly inspired by a tower crane near where I’m working. I just was really fascinated how the jib and the whole crane kind of moved as a unit, and I just really liked the way that it moved and wanted to kind of incorporate that into something I did.
So sometimes you really are inspired by construction machinery, and then afterwards comes the idea of how to implement that into a work of art?Just randomly walking around or driving, I’ll see something that fascinates me that I really want to use in the future. Sometimes I’ll be working on something and I’ll be having a hard time figuring out how exactly I want to accomplish what I’m trying to do, and I’ll see machinery or something else that will inspire it. I do have some publications. The one I have, I think it’s called 500 Mechanisms in Movement, or Mechanical Movement, and sometimes just flipping through that, just looking at simple physics and levers and pulleys, just stuff to get my mind flowing.
You describe your machines as self-resolving problems. Can you explain this idea to our readers in more or less simple terms?
The self-resolving problems really came from my views of invention and where I fit in that whole equation. The other thing that I studied or thought I wanted to do in undergrad was design and invention, and I started designing stuff and just got frustrated with trying to figure out items that people needed, because it just seemed fairly contrived to just brainstorm and try to figure out something that needed to be improved or something that needed to be created altogether. And even if I came up with one thing, then it just seemed like I was always trying to prove how it worked to someone, or then eventually if you had something that was more successful then it had to be approved by engineers.
The whole idea of the self-resolving problem came of my desire to invent things that really didn’t have anything to prove to other people. It was this whole self-contained invention where it wasn’t invented for a human consumer, it was only invented to solve its own problems.
That actually sounds like you kind of displayed the absurdity of progress somehow.Sometimes it’s a little belabored or just kind of pushed a little too aggressively. I think that’s what you’re saying is that the absurdity of progress is when things are changed that don’t need to be changed.
How does your art connect or communicate to people?
I hope that when people look at my work something happens. There are definitely some people who look at it and nothing happens. But I had a viewer a few years ago who saw some of my work down in LA at a show, and she just looked like she just didn’t like it at all. And I was just kind of curious, so I asked her what she was thinking, and she just said it didn’t look like art, it looked like it belonged in a science museum. And I was actually pretty excited about that remark, although I think it wasn’t really a compliment on her behalf. But if my work looked like it belonged in a science museum, I was pretty excited.
But back to the question. I think art asks a lot of questions. Maybe art asks the questions and science tries to answer it.
What is your motivation?
The simple answer is that it’s really what I enjoy doing. It stimulates my mind in a way and I think I really am into asking these questions about invention and about why things exist, and I think there is certainly an existential part of my work that I really would like to convey with the work that I do.
There have been artists who kind of use machinery as part of their work. Like Jean Tinguely, who’s a Swiss artist. Do you see yourself in that kind of tradition?I don’t. Traditionally, kinetic art has really been about providing this fourth dimension of time and movement to normally static sculpture, and I wonder how I fit into that quite a bit. I know I’ve been described as a kinetic sculptor, and I certainly do make things that move. But when my stuff is installed, it’s very much not kinetic, it’s very static. And so I think I’m more interested in the concept of this machine that is static but it’s under a great amount of tension and pressure. And even though it’s not moving, it is doing something, and what it’s doing is hard to do. And I think that differs a lot from just providing this element of movement and time to a sculpture. I think I’m probably misrepresenting Tinguely’s work quite a bit by saying that, but I do think traditionally kinetic sculpture has been more influenced by that whole time and movement more so than the concept of why it’s doing it.
You mentioned something about an existentialist philosophic background to your work, can you elaborate on that a little?
I don’t know if there’s really a background, but I think definitely something I think a lot about is just this whole thing, it’s basically the whole self-resolving problem, just this idea of an object that’s existence creates the problems that it exists to solve. And it’s my own fascination. I hope that some people see my work and think about that a bit. But I think that’s what I’m really fascinated with – with this whole idea there is this body of mass that just by existing, it exists to solve its own problems, but if it didn’t exist …
Have you had an exhibition in Germany, in Europe?
No, I haven’t. The closest I’ve been to showing overseas, I had a piece in an art fair in Johannesburg last spring, but pretty much all the shows I’ve had are on the West Coast of the U.S. I’ve had a couple of shows in the East and actually will be showing in Georgia in April, but primarily have just been showing in the Bay Area, actually the whole West Coast.
It seems like kinetic sculpture in Germany definitely has a much greater history than it does on the West Coast of the U.S. Sometimes I think that the work I do doesn’t really fit into the whole West Coast vision of art, but I’m here I guess.Thank you very much.
Innovation tut weh. Cultured Code.
Wie schafft man es über Wochen hinweg den App-Store von iTunes zu regieren, diesen heiligen Gral der modernen Vertriebswelt? Und das nicht aus dem Silicon Valley, sondern als Newcomer aus Stuttgart? Indem man die Dinge einfach macht. Und indem man von dieser Einfachheit so überzeugt ist, dass man dafür alles riskiert. Vorhang auf für die in Deutschland einmalige Story von “Things”, einem der besten Werkzeuge für den Menschen des 21. Jahrhunderts.
„WIR WOLLEN, DASS DIE SOFTWARE AUF DIE MENSCHEN ZUGEHT.“
CULTURED CODE IM GESPRÄCH ÜBER DESIGN, EINFACHHEIT UND DEN MUT, DURCHZUHALTEN.
Wie wichtig ist der Faktor Design für die Güte eines Programms?
Viele Leute empfinden Design als Komponente, die man oben aufs Produkt bastelt, damit es schöner aussieht. Wir sehen das ganz und gar nicht so. Für uns ist Design integraler Bestandteil des Produkts. Das gilt für ganz viele Ebenen. Das fängt beim Interaction-Design an. Hier geht es zum Beispiel um die Frage, wie es sich anfühlt, das Programm zu bedienen. Beim visuellen Design spielen dann wieder ganz andere fragen eine Rolle: Passt sich die Oberfläche gut dem Interaktions-Modell an? Und trägt es an manchen Stellen nicht zu dick auf? Nimmt es sich weit genug zurück, um die wichtigen Informationen für den User sichtbar zu machen? Alle diese Fragen stellen wir uns.
Wenn man mit dem Programm „Things“ arbeitet, hat man das Gefühl, es ist sehr einfach. Ist diese Einfachheit Teil des Designprinzips?
Auf jeden Fall. Viele Programme erschlagen einen mit Funktionen, wenn man sie zum ersten Mal öffnet. Oft haben User dann das Gefühl, sie seien nicht intelligent genug und sagen sich: Ach, das muss man halt lernen, bevor man es benutzen kann. Wir denken da ganz anders: Wir wollen, dass die Software auf die Menschen zugeht. Und dazu gehört auch eine Einfachheit.
Können Sie uns das näher erläutern?
Ich glaube, dass die Menschen schon immer einfache Dinge bevorzugt haben – auch im Produktdesign. Gerade wenn man sich alte Geräte anschaut, merkt man, dass sich die einfachen, klaren Produkte auf Dauer durchgesetzt haben. In der Computergeschichte ist es eben so, dass hier lange Zeit keine wirklichen Produktdesigner zu Werke gingen, die an den Menschen gedacht haben. In der Konsequenz entstanden Programme mit 500 Knöpfen, die man alle gleichzeitig auf dem Bildschirm sieht. Leider war das lange der Stand, an dem sich die Leute gewöhnt haben. Ähnlich wie Apple versuchen wir, eine Einfachheit, eine Eleganz in der Software herbeizuführen. Die Leute nehmen das sehr gut auf, sie freuen sich darüber.
Habt Ihr eine Fangemeinde?
Die Fans sind uns sehr wichtig. Wir haben zunächst eine Beta-Version der Software herausgebracht, die nur wenige Leute testen durften. Die haben sich entweder in unserem Newsletter eingetragen oder haben unsere Aktivitäten über Twitter verfolgt. Dabei standen wir mit einigen Personen in einem sehr intensiven Kontakt. Die sind dann auf jeden Fall zu Fans geworden.
Das heißt, ein Produkt wie Things entsteht durchaus in einem dialogischen Prozess.
Eindeutig. Wir haben von Anfang an darauf Wert gelegt, dass wir die noch unfertige Software den Leuten zeigen, um uns Feedback einzuholen. Auf Basis des Feedbacks haben wir Dinge geändert und neu hinzugefügt. Eine Vorgehensweise, die uns sehr viel gebracht hat, weil wir schon sehr früh wussten, was den Leuten besonders wichtig ist. Gleichzeitig fanden die Mitmachenden den Prozess sehr befriedigend.
Ein Produkt kann nur dann einfach werden, wenn man weiß wie es angewendet wird. Wie habt Ihr Euch den Nutzern und seinen Problemen genähert?
Als wir mit der Entwicklung von Things begonnen haben und es noch nicht von anderen testen ließen, haben wir es eigentlich für uns geschrieben. Wir haben uns überlegt, was wir denn eigentlich drin haben möchten. „Uns“ bedeutet zum Teil auch unsere Frauen, Freundinnen und Bekannte, darunter natürlich auch Menschen, die sich vielleicht nicht so gut mit Computern auskennen. Denen haben wir dann auch die Software präsentiert und uns entsprechend Feedback eingeholt. Ich glaube, auf Dauer klappt es nicht, wenn man nur in seiner eigenen Welt lebt.
Ihr seid gerade in der Gründungsphase große private Risiken eingegangen. Konntet Ihr ruhig schlafen oder war das eine sehr aufregende Zeit?
Es war schon aufregend. Eineinhalb Jahre haben wir Things ohne ein Einkommen entwickelt. Und das ist natürlich schon eine recht lange Zeit. Wir haben eben Glück gehabt, dass wir zum Beispiel von unseren Eltern unterstützt wurden. Daneben gibt es gerade in Deutschland oder zumindest aus unserem Umfeld sehr viele kritische Stimmen. Stimmen, die einen nicht unbedingt motivieren, diesen Weg weiterzugehen.
Anders als in Amerika, wo Ihr sofort gefeierte Helden wärt.
Hier in Deutschland ist das Sicherheitsdenken sehr viel stärker. Und dementsprechend war es auch ein bisschen schwierig. Aber wir haben eben auch an uns und unsere Sache geglaubt, das Potenzial gesehen und durchgehalten.
Auf welche Weise ist die App so erfolgreich geworden? Ist das allein durch die Qualitäten des Produkts zu erklären? Qualitäten, die zum Beispiel über Mund-zu-Mund-Propaganda weiterverbreitet wird? Oder macht ihr gezielt Werbung?
Wir machen uns darüber natürlich auch Gedanken. Und ich glaube, es ist eine Kombination aus ganz vielen Dingen. Zum einen haben wir eben wirkliche Fans, die eine Mund-zu-Mund-Propaganda in Gang setzen. Zum anderen schalten wir auch Werbung: ganz klassisch in Zeitschriften, aber natürlich auch im Internet. Hinzu kommt, dass Apple uns eine Weile gefeatured hat: Wir hatten nämlich als einer der ersten eine App im Store. Als der Appstore 2008 öffnete, waren erst mal nur 100 Programme zugelassen und eine davon war Things. Unser Timing hat also sicherlich auch sehr stark dazu beitragen, dass wir von Anfang an bei vielen Leuten auf dem Schirm waren. Darunter wichtige Multiplikatoren, dass heißt Leute, die für Zeitschriften schreiben. Es gibt insofern viele Faktoren, die dazu beigetragen haben, dass Things so einen Erfolg hat.
Wie sieht die Zukunft von Things aus?
Als nächsten Schritt wollen wir das Synchronisieren von Things über das Internet, dass heißt über den eigenen Server ermöglichen. Man muss dann nicht mehr lokal im Wifi-Netz die Daten austauschen. Wir arbeiten gerade sehr intensiv daran und es wird auch noch eine Weile dauern.