Fig. 1: A card-carrying Cardinal (who still roots for the Cal Bears).
Fig. 2. Studio 2 in building 550, the best class room at the d.school.
Fig. 3. A student creates the mind map of her homepage concept.
A little over ten years ago founder David Kelley and Executive Director George Kembel tapped me to help to them articulate and launch the Institute of Design at Stanford University. It was a true privilege and an honor. Over the years I’ve stayed involved, be it lightly, advising and guest lecturing for classes.
However, this last summer, I conspired with Caroline O’Connor, a former d.school fellow and current lecturer, to develop and teach new course curriculum.
The driving idea was to create a series of classes specifically geared to aspiring entrepreneurs, providing design training and frameworks that they could immediately apply to their own budding ventures. Dubbed “Founders Studio”, our mission is to offer hands-on experience (and tools) for some of the most pressing needs facing new businesses — everything from brand strategy to user experience design.
Authentic to the d.school’s ethos, we begin by developing a prototype to test our idea, and ran a three-evening class in the fall called, Guerrilla Branding for Entrepreneurs. Each night was a three-hour intensive workshop that featured a series of mini-lectures, followed by group and individual exercises for the students. Additionally, each class had special guest advisors, to help guide the students.
We started by introducing a concept stub — a germ of a product concept, specific enough for the class to quickly grasp the idea, but open enough for their own direction and interpretation (see the course ‘teaser’ below for the details).
Day one focused on research and need finding for the target audience. Day two focused on positioning and articulating the brand. And finally, day three focused on bringing the brand to life and expressing it on a prototype home page.
Yes, from product concept to testing homepage designs in three nights. That’s a lot. Perhaps too much, but the prototype absolutely served its function. It was clear the students got a lot out of the studio, and in the process, the whole teaching team learned a ton from the students. Learnings that will certainly be applied to develop future Founder Studio classes. So, look out for more in 2013.
I was in Portland last week to speak at DMI’s Design/Management Thinking Conference — Balancing Extremes: Tensions in Design. The two-day event, at the stunning Gerding Theatre, offered focused presentations, discussions, and interactive sessions with leading business and design leaders.
The program kicked off with John Hoke and Angela Snow, Nike’s VP of Global Design and Global Director of Creative Operations, who spoke about how tension fuels Nike’s breakthrough design innovations. Their big, bold keynote was peppered with high-energy videos featuring cutting-edge products and triumphant sports moments.
I immediately followed with my own session, Little “I” Innovation, in which I proposed that committing to incremental improvements and pivoting on adjacent innovations are just as critical to business success as the big breakthrough ideas. It was a fitting juxtaposition. I was however compelled to employ the multi-talented Justin Timberlake to help me make my point.
Last week, David Bliss and I presented at the 2012 Planning-ness Conference.
For those that haven’t had a chance to attend, Planning-ness is described as an "un-conference" for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty. Each session is half teach and half workshop where participants put the presented ideas into action. This year a two-day, two-track event was hosted at the Annenberg Community Beach House in sunny Santa Monica.
In our session, we mapped the ever expanding Internet of Things landscape, broke down the “anatomy” of connected objects, and described how personal connected objects have the ability to encourage new behaviors, even increase human potential.
After which we gave the following assignment: Think of a personal object. Imagine how you might embed sensors, log interesting data and connect it to the Internet for analysis. Consider what insights this new information would bring to light and what behaviors, or ideas those could inspire.
All of the participants embraced the challenge with passion and enthusiasm — generating ideas that sparked imagination, laughter and smart thinking for where the Internet of Things may go.
Fig 2: The new G-Shock with Bluetooth.
Fig 3: The Chambers, by Rza.
Fig 4: Polaroid’s Android camera.
Fig 5: Justin Bieber-bot with Tosy’s mRobo.
I went looking for the future in Las Vegas. From the moment I walked into the first hall of the Consumer Electronics Show I was adrift in a sea of 3D TVs, bedazzled iPhone cases, iPad wannabes and a myriad of lifestyle headphones. “Beats” by Dre have been popular for some time, but have you heard about “Street” by 50? Or, “Soul” by Ludacris? Perhaps you’ve heard of “Chambers” by Rza? Then there was the candy colored assortment from iWave, iLuv and Nixon. One thing is clear — lifestyle headphones are more than a fleeting fad.
We Like to Watch
By sheer quantity, you’d probably surmise that the future is all about TV. Ultra-thin and ultra-big — one was 84 inches! 3D in every flavor — including the new kind with no glasses required. (Speaking of glasses, I saw a TV that up to four people could all simultaneously watch different programs by wearing special glasses with built-in earbuds. I didn’t try it, but I can tell you that without the glasses it could possibly cause seizures).
The 4K and 8K TVs that offer four to eight times the pixel resolution were certainly impressive. Sadly, it may only be an alternate future in which the broadcast industry supports these formats.
For me, TVs that boasted facial recognition and took voice commands showed the most promise. I’m ready to ditch my many remotes and own a TV that knows what volume I like it set at and can pull up my favorite show, based on a verbal description.
“Hey TV, play that episode of 30 Rock when Jack talks to his TV.”
Pictured above, some of the passionate creators at SAY Media’s Create conference this year:
2. Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Groupe discusses ecommerce combined with editorial content
3. Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not A Gadget, muses how advanced media technologies could deeply affect advertising experiences
4. "Meet the Editors" panel with Ted Rheingold: Dogster, Jane Pratt, Ed Levine: Serious Eats
Recently, I participated in SAY Media’s Create conference with an inspiring group of passionate people who are all creating amazing content and building culture around the things they love.
The event got me thinking about the future of media — and how brands can best position themselves alongside “passionate” content to foster more meaningful connections with their customers.
Media creation and consumption continues to fracture and expand into every conceivable space. What once were a few trusted sources has become an ever-expanding universe of niche players. Never before has there been more content available in more places. However, consumers and creators are often overwhelmed, finding it difficult to know what’s relevant, and to connect with others who care about the same things they do.
For brand marketers, this landscape has become frightfully convoluted, proving to be a difficult ground to find reliable tactics for consistent success — particularly when it comes to connecting meaningfully with their target audiences.
So, how are people discovering media today? What draws them in? What inspires them to engage and what compels them to come back for more?
The Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Atomic Age, the Jet Age, the Space Age and the Information Age - every technological era has brought about profound effects on socioeconomic and cultural conditions. They've reshaped human behavior and reset reality.
But, before the full effects of each of these technological developments have taken hold and fully permeated the collective understanding, people and businesses undoubtedly found themselves navigating a strange "in-between" time - a time where future visions are uncomfortably mingled with legacy artifacts and pre-existing expectations.
Today, in the Connected Age, technological innovations are bringing about seismic shifts in our reality every day. The dust is far from settled, and perhaps, it never will be. For businesses and brands this uncertain and unpredictable landscape is wrought with danger. Red herrings, pitfalls and fruitless dead-ends surround us, while opportunity is elusive.
But fear not, Larry Johnson (Odopod's Associate Director of Strategy) and I (Director of Brand and Strategy) have been hard at work cataloging the common mistakes, collecting helpful techniques and distilling best practices to survive and thrive in today's in-between times. We've compiled them neatly, into a presentation of course, and would love the opportunity to share them with you, our industry friends and peers at SXSW 2012.
This preview is just a taste of what's to come. We promise to keep it short, sweet and useful so send us a vote and we'll see you there.
This year I attended my first SXSW Interactive. It was, in a word, overwhelming. However, even as a freshman, I did manage to find a few good hacks...
An Interview with Robert V. Kozinets
As section editor of the “Digital Consumer” in the 2011 SoDA’s Digital Marketing Outlook I had the opportunity to speak with Robert Kozinets about his unique brand of online ethnographic research – netnography. An anthropologist by training, Robert is recognized as a pioneer of contemporary consumer research and is published in countless industry journals and is Professor of Marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.
Netnography is cultural research adapted to the unique contingencies of the online environment. It is a cultural look at social media. Online, there is surely culture and community, but lots of things about culture change. Conversations are archived, for instance. Bodies are not present. "Location" becomes rather malleable. Identity is in flux. That means we need new techniques specifically adapted to this altered state of reality, a new state of culture. Netnography was devised for this purpose.
Complexity requires fierce collaborators
The complexities of working with global brands in the digital landscape require Odopod to be a deeply collaborative company. We are often one partner in a large ecosystem of other agencies and internal teams, all servicing different aspects of our clients marketing and communication needs. For this reason, we have embraced our role as collaborator and strive to forge formidable partnerships.
Knowing our role in these loose confederates is paramount. Too frequently, overreaching agencies debate their area of ownership and jostle for the client’s favor, which can be a recipe for dysfunction and subpar work.
I’ve found that effective ecosystems surrounding a brand must demonstrate the attributes of any productive and successful team – specifically; mutual trust, mutual respect, complete communication as well as a shared purpose and vision.
Beyond merely accepting the idea of collaboration, the larger team must invite it. Desire it. Even, when required, fight for it.
Throughout my workday as Odopod's Director of Strategy there are concepts (things) that come up over and over. The fact that they come up so often leads me to believe that they’re important. Needless to say, there are far more then five things, but I thought it was a good place to start.
A caveat: I’m not a big fan of definitive to-do lists. Often, I find them too simplistic, generalized and/or dogmatic for my liking. So, it’s with modesty that I put forward the following.
1. Embrace the complexity.
These days there are a multitude of avenues for communication programs – from social, traditional and display media to SEM, WOM or PR. The right answer is probably all of the above. So, no need to debate the tactic, debate the mix.
2. Place lots of little bets.
With such a plethora of tactical possibilities choosing with certainty is impossible. Therefore, it may be wise to kick-off with many small initiatives, testing the waters before diving in the deep end. The key is establishing metrics for success — quickly abandoning what’s not working and doubling down on what is.
3. Live in beta.
The only thing certain about the landscape is it will continue to change – and that change is exponentially accelerating. Hence, being adaptable and nimble is more critical then ever. “Beta” is no longer a step toward the final release; it’s a way of life.
4. Draft on natural tendencies.
The ever-changing landscape gives way to new behaviors and attitudes. It’s important to understand both what they are and why they’re happening. By understanding why it’s possible to identify mechanisms and design systems to harness these emergent proclivities.
5. Challenge the establishment.
Let’s face it; big media dollars still reign supreme. And, the big companies that control those dollars have no real incentive to rock the boat. Routinely, innovation is stifled by the inertia caused by these conditions. Encouraging momentum and introducing fresh ideas will likely require extra effort. Note to self: It’s always a worthy endeavor.
Check out some more of my thoughts on my new blog, Instantly Obsolete »
It's been thirteen years since we started Odopod.
We've always wanted one thing: to do the best work of our lives. Along the way, we have been joined by an eclectic and exceptionally talented bunch of people who wanted the same thing. Together, we've built a company we love.
Two years ago, Odopod was acquired by Nurun.
The acquisition was a validation of everything we had built. It was also a catalyst for some big changes we wanted to make. We began to tackle bigger, thornier problems and to work all over the world. With Nurun, we've had a series of huge wins and have been producing our best work yet.
That's why we recently decided to retire the Odopod brand, formally adopt Nurun as our name, and take the reins of Nurun's US operations.
We're all still here—same team with the same appetite for great work, only now with different e-mail addresses and more frequent flyer miles. And we're growing, so send your talented friends our way.
Keep an eye out for new work from Nurun. It will be our best yet.
Tim, Dave, Jacquie, JT & Guthrie
For new business, contact Stacy Stevenson
For general inquiries, contact us at
For more about Nurun, visit