24.6.11

CUTE CAN CAMERA

I have come to the conclusion that La Sardinia (a 35mm sardine tin camera) is probably the perfect gift for the friend who has everything.  I came across these cute, can cameras on Emerald Street the other day and reckon they are the most practical and stylish accessory you could have hanging from your neck at this year's festivals. 

You can buy La Sardinas from Lomography or you could try making your own, although the designs are so adorable you probably shouldn't bother. 

They take good snaps too.

WHY COMING FIRST DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN WINNING: MALCOLM GLADWELL ON INNOVATION

Yes, that is probably the longest post title we have ever published, and yes at school we were always told to keep it short and catchy, but in this instance, it's difficult to shorten.  Cannes Lions, the International Festival of Creativity, has been taking place all week. This post has been inspired by, and taken directly from the festival.

Thanks to a work connection, I have been receiving daily updates on the most forward thinking and thought provoking presentations.  One presentation seemed particularly relevant right now so I thought I'd share it.  On Tuesday, Malcolm Gladwell presented 'Why coming first doesn't always mean winning'; a thought piece based on innovation but like all his theories, it applies to numerous other subjects.  

According to my connection, Nextness potted the presentation perfectly, so here it is in their words:



Malcolm Gladwell’s job applications were turned down by 14 advertising agencies in his native Canada. Lucky, because since then he’s busied himself  with The Tipping PointBlinkOutliers, and – today – the best talk so far at Cannes Lions.
Here’s Malcolm’s talk, recreated from notes in as close to his own words as possible.
Should we care about being first or not? In our culture, all the glory goes to the person who’s first: in science, the person who discovers something first gets the Nobel Prize; in business, the patent; and I just read Keith Richards’ autobiography so I know that coming first in rock and roll means you get to sleep with thousands of girls.

But we don’t need to be first. We need to be third.

Consider the case of the 1982 Bekaa Valley fight between Syria and Israel. The PLO had moved into Southern Lebanon and made Israel nervous; Syria moved into the Bekaa Valley and put missiles near Israel’s border. Israel attacked the Syrian Army in what was known as the Bekaa Valley turkey shoot, knocking out 17 out of the 19 surface to air missiles and shooting down 39 Syrian planes on the first day alone. The next day, they took out another missile and 27 more planes.
The lopsided military engagement continued: the Israelis made brilliant use of drones to take perfect photos of what they wanted to attack. They made use of the most modern airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to orchestrate the most complicated mixture of planes, overwhelming the Syrians so much they were almost too scared to fire their guns. And they used precision guided missiles. Back in Vietnam, these missiles hadn’t been accurate, but the Israelis were using missiles that were 90% accurate, which is why they could shoot down a total of 87 Syrian planes with a loss to their own forces of only three.
A crushing advantage over their competitors, an astounding victory – one that everyone would look at and say “that’s what we want to be.”
But Israel were not the inventors of a single thing they used in the 1982 war.
The Soviets laid out the future of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 1970s with brilliant long term thinking. All the technology was actually American, developed during Vietnam. The Israelis weren’t first. They were third.
You can see why the Soviets, the US and Israel all did what they did by looking closely at their culture.
The Soviets had a centralised, bureaucratic and intellectualised military, basically a thinktank given time to ponder deeply the future of war. Russian culture values holistic thinking, and values the person who takes time to step back and think and this is what they did.
The US has a highly decentralised military – Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army all with different HQs and leadership who don’t talk; all with ties to the highly innovative private sector. It makes perfect sense that Americans would be best at coming up with new gadgets.
The Israelis’ previous military experience was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where they experienced a huge first day loss due to surface to air missiles fired at them by Egypt. It devastated the strategic advantage of their air force, and they scoured the earth for the answer to this problem so it never happened again. Russia’s thinking, America’s weapons and technology. They put these things together in a brilliant way, and that’s how you get the Bekaa Valley turkey shoot.
Russia and the US show us that being good at one thing means you are necessarily bad at another. Russia can’t innovate because they are centralised and slow. The US is decentralised and innovates brilliantly in partnership with the private sector, but can’t tie it all together because it’s so decentralised.

The thing that made them the best at one thing is what made it impossible to do it properly. It imposes a cost on first.

Xerox PARC was a beautiful modernist building, filled with a huge staff of geniuses, staff with high salaries given the task to “imagine the future of the office.” They came up with laser printing, Ethernet, the modern personal computer, and the graphical user interface (GUI).
One day they were visited by a 24 year old from down the road in Cupertino: a young man called Steve Jobs. “What’s this?” he asked. “That’s a mouse.” “What’s this?” “That’s an icon.” At that time to use a computer you had to type in and execute a complex command. The GUI and the mouse changed all that. Steve Jobs started jumping up and down with excitement. “Why haven’t you done anything with this?” he cried, and ran back to Cupertino where his engineers were working on the Lisa. “Stop everything, we’re using a graphical user interface. I want a mouse!” And that was how the Macintoshwas born, the breakthrough that has launched Apple on its trajectory ever since.
Xerox built the culture for innovation: time, money, palatial quarters. But they capitalised on none of it.

A culture of invention is not optimised for implementation.

Apple are always late to the party – late to the mp3 player, late to the smartphone, late to the tablet. This is a man who has made a business out of being late… The people who make all the money come along second or third, not first.

What are the reasons behind this paradox?

  1. It’s a lot easier to figure out technical solutions that what customers want. Xerox thought the computer was an office application, like their Xerox copiers that cost $400,000. It was not a stupid assumption. We did not know what the computer was for in 1970, least of all consumers. It took a few years to realise its consumer potential. Who gets the value of hindsight, or the learning curve? Steve Jobs.
  2. Mass strategy versus elite strategy. Why did the industrial revolution happen in England? England has some notable inventors but their real advantage lies in tweakers and innovators. Steam engines are measured in “duty,” or how much steam you get from the coal. Watt’s great achievement was to double a steam engine’s “duty.” Years later, tweakers incrementally improve it. They’re not geniuses. There are no statues of them in St Paul’s Cathedral. There were thousands of them in their garages and workshops, sharing ideas informally. They took a promising technology and transformed it into a transformational one. The person who was first gets all the glory; the value is extracted by the tweakers.
  3. Material circumstances. When it came to revolutionary military strategy, the two pioneers (Soviets and the USA) were rich with endless resources. The luxury to sit and think deeply. Billions of dollars for technology with no constraints. What about Isreal? they were incredibly constrained – not rich, and no time to to waste. They had just got their butts kicked in the Yom Kippur war. Yet they’re the ones who show how all these pieces fit together.

The National Cancer Institute cured four types of cancer that were thought to be incurable. They had no money. They took existing drugs and tweaked them. They were desperate, so they were forced to be creative and improvisational.
It is a lesson we’ve forgotten.
In the glory of being first, we have thrown resources at problems that might benefit from less, focused on a small about of geniuses when maybe what we need is tweakers and been in a hurry when we should be slow.

15.6.11

CRAFTY


We’re rekindling a romance with all things hand-crafted at the moment… a trend that’s been brimming for a while and we can’t get enough of, art, design, trinkets, ‘things’ generally, where that magical hand-crafted touch is clearly visible.

So let’s take a simple, often overlooked material: good old paper. ‘Paper’ in itself isn’t really 'beautiful', it just provides the space—the foundation on which to create something beautiful. Well, this isn’t always the case, and over the past few months I’ve come across several different examples of artists who are bringing ‘paper craft’ back to the fore.

These intricate and clever pieces all made from paper, and paper alone:


Jeff Nishinaka is a prolific 'paper artist' (is that really a term?) who creates these stunning scene-based masterpieces. I love the way Jeff describes the way he works with paper: “I began experimenting with different papers, finding ways to shape, bend and round edges on it. I wanted to manipulate paper in the least invasive way, to keep the integrity and feel of it. Paper to me is a living, breathing thing that has a life of its own.” (wow). 



Quentin Trollip spends hours painstakingly reviving the art of origami through the creation of these wonderful and charming animals. Quentin started diagramming his own designs back in 1997 and now has his own unique style of designing and folding, combining realism, complexity and aesthetics from a single uncut square of paper.


Finally, here are some examples of other 'origami inspired' designs....
























Some info on my favourites:
1. Ndeur's 'Concept' paper shoes might be a little difficult to walk in, but they are pretty damn awesome. 
2. Swedish designer Clara Lindsten may have just found the answer for the supposedly 'sexually frustrated' who pick the labels of their beer bottles, winding up with a mass of paper shavings around them, as well as an unsightly bottle. Now they can create something rather pretty and also, maybe, relieve some of that tension (maybe).
3. Finally, I like the 'Neo' Gramophone by German design studio Kinkyform very very very much. A super modern twist on an iconic shape; plug your laptop or iPod in and away you go.

11.6.11

BELA BORSODI: THE SUGGESTIVE & WITTY ACCESSORIES PHOTOGRAPHER


Let's face it, accessory shoots and spreads can be fairly predictable and dull, although this is not necessarily the case (see what I did there) when Bela Borsodi is around.

Borsodi uses tongue in cheek humour with piles of purses, watches and shoes, to create quirky characters and situations. Seen all the time even his work becomes a little tiresome, however when it unexpectedly pops up again—like it did the other day­­—it is refreshing and witty.




ANGRY BIRDS LIVE

Another fun crowdsourcing advert from T-Mobile. This time they have collaborated with the cult game Angry Birds in Barcelona; and I believe, that this is the first time live action has ever been generated from a smartphone.

Love the spraying feathers and the way they explode. Enjoy.

video

1.6.11

EXHIBITIONS WORTH GETTING OUT OF TOWN FOR

Having realised that I am probably not going to get to any of the exhibitions currently on my hit list, I thought I would share them with you in case you can get to see them.

1. At the top of the list is McQueen’s “jaw dropping” retrospective ‘Savage Beauty’, showing in New York. This time ever year, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art host a key fashion exhibition, and this year, only sixteen months after his death, it’s a celebration of Alexander McQueen’s contribution to fashion.

The though of seeing McQueen’s collections all under one roof, makes me slightly wet myself.  Not only was he incredible at translating ideas of nature and identity into beautiful and unusual garments, he was the master at creating captivating environments that bought his collections to life. No pressure MOMA curators!

Unlike other designers, McQueen often began a collection with a runway concept instead of starting with cloth or a ‘look’ (so to speak). It was this obsession with execution and showmanship—on top of his exceptional craftsmanship—that made him such a respected and eagerly anticipated designer.

From what I have seen (thank you internet) the curation looks impeccable.  If you want read more about the curation, click here, for a transcript from the curator, Andrew Bolton, the man who did McQueen justice.




2. Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage And The Making Of Contemporary Fashion is the second exhibition on my hit list. Curated by the British Council, Reconstruction focuses on seven International designers who all live in London but have links to wider communities and cultures.

The exhibition kicked-off in Kazakhstan last month and will also be visiting Russia, Uzbekistan and 2 other countries (possibly more) where ‘cultural heritage’ is currently particularly relevant. The exhibition showcases the likes of Peter Jensen, Vivienne Westwood, Marios Schwab, Sophia Kokosalaki and my personal favourite Hussein Chalayan.  Each of the designers work is very different, however they all explore elements of personal or cultural heritage to create contemporary garments.

The exhibition route is particularly interesting.  The British Council has chosen unexpected countries, countries that are not typically associated with 'International fashion', to highlight and pull apart cultural influences.  Having worked for Osman Yousefzada, the seventh designer, I know that his Afghanistan roots heavily influence his work, and can imagine that the London / Afghan dichotomy, in a Russian environment, is rather interesting.



3. Exhibition number three is ‘When Tommy Met Anna’, showing in Toronto’s Hudson Bay.  It’s a collection of photographs of Anna Dello Russo, Japanese Vogue’s eccentric editor. All the photo were shot by the renowned fashion photographer and blogger Tommy Ton who has hugely influenced Anna Dello Russo’s iconic status.