The electric light was a failure.


nytimes.com | http://goo.gl/6wVwA 

Invented by the British chemist Humphry Davyin the early 1800s, it spent nearly 80 years being passed from one initially hopeful researcher to

The incandescent light bulb

another, like some not-quite-housebroken puppy. In 1879, Thomas Edison finally figured out how to make an incandescent light bulb that people would buy. But that didn’t mean the technology immediately became successful. It took another 40 years, into the 1920s, for electric utilities to become stable, profitable businesses.

And even then, success happened only because the utilities created other reasons to consume electricity. They invented the electric toaster and the electric curling iron and found lots of uses for electric motors. They built Coney Island. They installed electric streetcar lines in any place large enough to call itself a town. All of this, these frivolous gadgets and pleasurable diversions, gave us the light bulb.

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today. If you don’t know that the incandescent light was a failure before it was a success, it’s easy to write off some modern energy innovations — like solar panels — because they haven’t hit the big time fast enough.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. The incandescent light was a 19th-century failure and a 20th- century success. Now it’s a failure again, edged out by new technologies, like LEDs, that were, themselves, failures for many years.

That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome. Maggie Koerth-Baker

Physicists at Wake Forest University have developed a fabric that doubles as a spare outlet. When used to line your shirt — or even your pillowcase or office chair — it converts subtle differences in temperature across the span of the clothing (say, from your cuff to your armpit) into electricity. And because the different parts of your shirt can vary by about 10 degrees, you could power up your MP3 player just by sitting still. According to the fabric’s creator, David Carroll, a cellphone case lined with the material could boost the phone’s battery charge by 10 to 15 percent over eight hours, using the heat absorbed from your pants pocket. Richard Morgan

Chris Nosenzo
Soon, coffee isn’t going to taste like coffee — at least not the dark, ashy roasts we drink today. Big producers want uniform taste, and a dark roast makes that easy: it evens out flavors and masks flaws. But now the best beans are increasingly being set aside and shipped in vacuum-sealed packs (instead of burlap bags). Improvements like these have allowed roasters to make coffee that tastes like Seville oranges or toasted almonds or berries, and that sense of experimentation is trickling down to the mass market; Starbucks, for instance, now has a Blonde Roast. As quality continues to improve, coffee will lighten, and dark roasts may just become a relic of the past. Oliver Strand
Your spandex can now subtly nag you to work out. A Finnish company, Myontec, recently began marketing underwear embedded with electromyographic sensors that tell you how hard you’re working your quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscles. It then sends that data to a computer for analysis. Although the skintight shorts are being marketed to athletes and coaches, they could be useful for the deskbound. The hope, according to Arto Pesola, who is working on an advanced version of the sensors, is that when you see data telling you just how inert you really are, you’ll be inspired to lead a less sedentary life. Gretchen Reynolds

The Process of Creativity

The creative attribute has always been a highly debated and researched component of the human psyche. The “designer” job title seems to be one that calls to the more creative minded among us and according to some, requires the highest level of creative processing. This idea does lend itself to the truth, web designers are called upon to find creative solutions every day. However, we certainly aren’t alone.

Contrary to previous belief, creativity does not limit itself to the “right-brained” artistic types. The ability to find creative and innovative solutions to problems holds value in almost all aspects of life. Even those with highly analytical jobs and hobbies benefit from the ability to approach a complex issue from different perspectives and foresee alternate outcomes. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to suggest that creativity itself is more rooted in a process than random visionary moments.

In one way or another we have all experienced that classic “aha” moment. Be it in our own experience or through those genius minds we love to follow in shows, movies or books, the light bulb moment of mental clarity is an iconic expression. But whether you know it or not you may be reaching those light bulb moments through more of a defined process than you think.


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Lightbulb
Image credit: Ferdi Rizkiyanto

The creative attribute has always been a highly debated and researched component of the human psyche. The “designer” job title seems to be one that calls to the more creative minded among us and according to some, requires the highest level of creative processing. This idea does lend itself to the truth, web designers are called upon to find creative solutions every day. However, we certainly aren’t alone.

Contrary to previous belief, creativity does not limit itself to the “right-brained” artistic types. The ability to find creative and innovative solutions to problems holds value in almost all aspects of life. Even those with highly analytical jobs and hobbies benefit from the ability to approach a complex issue from different perspectives and foresee alternate outcomes. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to suggest that creativity itself is more rooted in a process than random visionary moments.

In one way or another we have all experienced that classic “aha” moment. Be it in our own experience or through those genius minds we love to follow in shows, movies or books, the light bulb moment of mental clarity is an iconic expression. But whether you know it or not you may be reaching those light bulb moments through more of a defined process than you think.

[Editor’s note: A must-have for professional Web designers and developers: The Printed Smashing Books Bundle is full of practical insight for your daily work. Get the bundle right away!]

The Not-So-Random Spark

Believe it or not, you have probably been practicing the process of creative thinking on purpose for quite a while. Have you ever been instructed to skip a question on an exam that has you stumped and come back to it after you’ve answered the others? Or maybe it’s been something as simple as facing a tough choice with the decision to “sleep on it”. This might seem to imply that our brains continue to work on our hardest problems for us while we sleep or think about something else. Unfortunately it’s not quite that easy.

Even if by accident, when you let go of a problem that you can’t solve you are actively engaging in mental incubation. As it turns out, leaving a complex issue to its own devices doesn’t generate a resolution out of passive thought processes so much as an active new approach. This different approach allows our minds to set aside failed solutions and misconceptions that we generated on our first pass. We aren’t suddenly finding a new solution so much as we are allowing ourselves to shed our fixation on all of the things we thought of before that didn’t work. As we move on with our day or the next task, those bits of information that we forget may be replaced with different pieces to the puzzle. These pieces are pulled from other tasks or mental processes and applied to the equation we couldn’t solve earlier. When something from a current and not necessarily related task locks in with the problem we couldn’t figure out earlier the light switch flips on.

Stop Watch
Down time can be a powerful tool in the creative process.

For designers we should be able to put this into context fairly easily. Certainly there are those among us who have been plagued with the eternal judgment of the typography, layout, and color choices that we see around us everywhere. Even the task of e-mail a client back and explaining why we shouldn’t make their logo bigger sparks thoughts of alignment, positioning and weight. In processing the things that we do or don’t like we constantly build our mental database of micro-ideas that we apply to our designs.

This seems a little less fun than random strokes of genius but it does give us the power to craft our own epiphanies instead of letting them fall upon us. It is because of this, that a lot of designers find success moving between tasks on a single project or shifting to an entirely new project when they feel their creative juices waning.

At the head of all of this it is important to remember that a lot of designers depend on their skill set to make a living. So trying to implement time to let your mind rest doesn’t coincide well with meeting deadlines and “thinking time” doesn’t look great on a project invoice. Like so many things, practice makes perfect in this area and you can go ahead and plan on getting it wrong the first time around. As you become more comfortable with your own working and thinking pace it will allow you to better predict the timeline of a project that includes the mental brakes you need to find creative answers. Continuar leyendo «The Process of Creativity»

14 Ways to Get Breakthrough Ideas

There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of innovation. All CEOs worth their low salt lunch want it. And they want it, of course, now.

Innovation, they reason, is the competitive edge.

What sparks innovation? People. What sparks people? Inspired ideas that meet a need — whether expressed or unexpressed — ideas with enough mojo to rally sustained support.

Is there anything a person can do — beyond caffeine, corporate pep talks, or astrology readings — to quicken the appearance of breakthrough ideas?

Yes, there is.

And it begins with the awareness of where ideas come from in the first place.

There are two schools of thought on this subject.

The first school ascribes the origin of ideas to inspired individuals who, through a series of purposeful mental processes, conjure up the new and the different — cerebral wizards, if you will.

The second school of thought ascribes the appearance of ideas to a transcendent force, a.k.a. the «Collective Unconscious,» the «Platonic Realm,» the «Muse» or the «Mind of God.»

creativity2.jpg

According to this perspective, ideas are not created, but already exist, becoming accessible only to those human beings who have sufficiently tuned themselves to receive them.

The first approach is considered Western, with a strong bias towards thinking and is best summarized by Rene Descartes’ «I think therefore I am» maxim. Most business people subscribe to this approach.

The second approach is usually considered Eastern, with a strong bias towards feeling, and is best summarized by the opposite of the Cartesian view: «I am therefore, I think.» Most artists and «creative types» are associated with this approach, with its focus on intuitive knowing.

Both approaches are valid. Both are effective. Both are used at different times by all of us, depending on our mood, circumstances, and conditioning.

What does all of this have to do with you — oh aspiring innovator?

Plenty, since you are a hybrid of the above-mentioned schools of thought.

That’s what this Manifesto is all about — a quick-hitting tutorial of what you can do to more dependably conjure up brilliant ideas.


http://www.ideachampions.com

There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of innovation. All CEOs worth their low salt lunch want it. And they want it, of course, now.

Innovation, they reason, is the competitive edge.

What sparks innovation? People. What sparks people? Inspired ideas that meet a need — whether expressed or unexpressed — ideas with enough mojo to rally sustained support.

Is there anything a person can do — beyond caffeine, corporate pep talks, or astrology readings — to quicken the appearance of breakthrough ideas?

Yes, there is.

And it begins with the awareness of where ideas come from in the first place.

There are two schools of thought on this subject.

The first school ascribes the origin of ideas to inspired individuals who, through a series of purposeful mental processes, conjure up the new and the different — cerebral wizards, if you will.

The second school of thought ascribes the appearance of ideas to a transcendent force, a.k.a. the «Collective Unconscious,» the «Platonic Realm,» the «Muse» or the «Mind of God.»

creativity2.jpg

According to this perspective, ideas are not created, but already exist, becoming accessible only to those human beings who have sufficiently tuned themselves to receive them.

The first approach is considered Western, with a strong bias towards thinking and is best summarized by Rene Descartes‘ «I think therefore I am» maxim. Most business people subscribe to this approach.

The second approach is usually considered Eastern, with a strong bias towards feeling, and is best summarized by the opposite of the Cartesian view: «I am therefore, I think.» Most artists and «creative types» are associated with this approach, with its focus on intuitive knowing.

Both approaches are valid. Both are effective. Both are used at different times by all of us, depending on our mood, circumstances, and conditioning.

What does all of this have to do with you — oh aspiring innovator?

Plenty, since you are a hybrid of the above-mentioned schools of thought.

That’s what this Manifesto is all about — a quick-hitting tutorial of what you can do to more dependably conjure up brilliant ideas. Continuar leyendo «14 Ways to Get Breakthrough Ideas»

Bombillas de bajo consumo de diseño


Captura de pantalla 2010-09-10 a las 10.07.42

por  Marcus Hurst

Las bombillas de bajo consumo se han caracterizado por ser algo aburridas en su diseño.

Ahora, después de varios prototipos, la marca Hulger lanza el mercado una bombilla que busca combinar una estética cuidada con el ahorro energetico.

El nuevo producto se llama Plumen. Reduce en un 80% el consumo y dura 8 veces más que las lámparas incandescentes tradicionales.

3-in-a-row5751

“Es extraño que la imaginación esté tan alejada de la bombilla, un objeto que representa a las ideas”, explica Nicolas Roope, co-fundador de Hulger.

La bombilla ya está a la venta en Europa. Continuar leyendo «Bombillas de bajo consumo de diseño»

Are You Freelance or Self-Employed?

One of the great things about having a spouse that works in the corporate world is the support you may receive, financially and emotionally. One of the worst things about having a spouse in the corporate world is the support you may have to give, which sometimes includes being present at corporate social gatherings. And this is the situation I found myself in the other day.

I enjoy talking with people – whether they enjoy it as much as I do is irrelevant – but in a corporate environment, I don’t want to do or say anything that might cause my wife any discomfort at the office. So, I try and stay as quiet as possible. Usually there are plenty of snacks to keep my mouth busy, but on this particular event, her boss managed to catch me without a petit-four in sight.

After a bit of chit-chat, he asked about my current career. He wanted to know where I was working, and how business was there. I explained that I am a writer, and I that I write web copy, blog posts, newsletters, ebooks, and more. He listened for a moment, and then deduced that I am unhappily unemployed, but since my wife is a superstar in their company, perhaps he could find me a role within their corporation.


One of the great things about having a spouse that works in the corporate world is the support you may receive, financially and emotionally.  One of the worst things about having a spouse in the corporate world is the support you may have to give, which sometimes includes being present at corporate social gatherings.  And this is the situation I found myself in the other day.

I enjoy talking with people – whether they enjoy it as much as I do is irrelevant – but in a corporate environment, I don’t want to do or say anything that might cause my wife any discomfort at the office.  So, I try and stay as quiet as possible.  Usually there are plenty of snacks to keep my mouth busy, but on this particular event, her boss managed to catch me without a petit-four in sight.

After a bit of chit-chat, he asked about my current career.  He wanted to know where I was working, and how business was there.  I explained that I am a writer, and I that I write web copy, blog posts, newsletters, ebooks, and more.  He listened for a moment, and then deduced that I am unhappily unemployed, but since my wife is a superstar in their company, perhaps he could find me a role within their corporation. Continuar leyendo «Are You Freelance or Self-Employed?»

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