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.
The Internet of Things is comprised of networked objects with sensors and actuators. These objects observe their environment and share the data they collect with each other, Internet servers and people. This data is analyzed and the results are used to make decisions and affect change. Change may come from a connected object making adjustments in the environment, or it may come after the collected information is analyzed further by a person.
Odopod has several clients involved in the Internet of Things space and we've worked with them in a variety of ways including brand and marketing work, product and service development and connected object prototyping.
We recently lead a workshop with one of these clients, exploring ways that their household products could benefit from being connected to the Internet. Several of their products are already connected to each other and the Internet, we helped them uncover new opportunities to push these products beyond pure utility and to find ways to do and say something new.
To get things started we reviewed four themes that come up most often in Odopod's work around the Internet of Things.
1. The quantified self.
At this year’s Planningness Conference, Guthrie (Director of Brand and Strategy at Odopod) and I lead a session on Connected Personal Objects, where we explored how the Internet of Things can drive a virtuous cycle of learning and change based on the collection and analysis of data.
Tracking performance as a guide for change is not a new idea. Companies use data to improve business processes as well as product marketing. Athletes and medical professionals collect biometric data to optimize performance and patient treatment. What's more, an increasing number of non-professionals are collecting information about themselves, looking for patterns in order to positively impact their lives. In all cases, the mechanisms employed range from pen and paper to high-tech devices coupled with data mining.
There is no question that the Internet of Things makes it easier and easier for us to learn from our actions. Many products provide customers with direct access to the information from which they can draw their own conclusions. Increasingly, these products will be bundled with services to perform more detailed analysis and deliver simple, actionable recommendations.
For example, most services that track athletic performance such as running collect data and report extensive information about current and past runs. Future services will take things further. Based on deeper analysis, these services will be able to set optimal diet and workout plans as well as provide real-time coaching based on your individual training goals and performance history.
We see more and more big companies seeking out firms like ours that specialize in digital product and service innovation.
These engagements usually focus on conceiving and creating one of two things: an extension to an existing product or service or an entirely new line of business. In either case these companies are looking for a new and uniquely digital perspective on their business.
Odopod has successfully completed a number of these collaborative innovation engagements. Along the way we've learned a few lessons that may help you avoid common pitfalls to get more out of these collaborations.
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.
We've got a busy next few months, packed with projects launching, a growing studio space, and some amazing new clients coming on board. In the midst of all that good stuff, we're also sending some Odopod thought leaders out into the world to participate in some talks and some panels in some amazing places. Come meet us!
April 30 - May 1, San Francisco
Join Albert Poon, Odopod's Director of Interaction Design in his talk, Welcome to the Post-PC Era.
About this talk: The age of desktop being the primary platform for digital experiences is over. Yes, there are hundreds of millions of traditional PCs with web browsers. They will not disappear. But even the most cursory look at the sales numbers should make it clear that the era of the big screen-keyboard-mouse digital experience is waning.
May 17 - 18, Santa Monica
Join Guthrie Dolin, Director of Brand and Strategy and David Bliss, Founder and Executive Technical Director in Connected Personal Objects: Getting Intimate with the Internet of Things.
About this talk: The Internet of Things is a vast and rapidly expanding landscape that encompasses complex infrastructural systems to the everyday objects found in our homes and even on our person. At its core is a network of uniquely identifiable “things” with the ability to sense their environment then communicate with one another and us. In our presentation we will breakdown the key attributes and technologies that define these connected “things” as well as demonstrate how some of the most progressive connected personal objects may be shaping our future.
May 22 - 25, Montreal
Join Odopod Founder and Executive Creative Director, Tim Barber in The Eureka! Moment, a discussion lead by Dr. Rex Jung, assistant research professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico who is exploring the structural and biochemical correlates of intelligence, creativity and positive affect.
DMI Design/Management Thinking 24
June 19-20, Portland
Guthrie Dolin will be doing a talk on Little "i" Innovation: The Practice of Continual Incremental Improvement
About this talk: When it comes to design-led innovation, we love the big idea—those breakthrough inventions that signal a disruptive change. But these big ideas are rarely the result of a single moment of genius. Instead, it comes from the culmination of smaller ideas, developed over time, from the minds of many. The ideas that really stick in our fast-paced digital world are the ones that “live in beta”—embracing a culture of learning, adapting and improving every day. In Little “i” Innovation, we will explore how the process of continual, incremental improvement has been used to develop some of the world’s most innovative and dominant consumer brands.
If you're headed to any of these events, please be sure to join us or just stop by and say hello. We'd love to meet you!
To all the interaction design applicants, there may be ambiguity on how we define the role of interaction designers. We hope this post may shed some light on what we are looking for.
There's not much interest in designing a tree of static web pages anymore. We're being called upon to design sophisticated digital experiences across multiple devices and contexts. Interaction design is no longer primarily about information science: it's visual design + information design + motion design + pattern recognition + systems thinking.
This kind of work requires a rare individual.
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.
There is an incredible amount of potential stored within social networks and the Internet of Things.
On projects at Odopod, we've scored site contributors based on their social activities. We've provided tools for our clients to hold conversations in Twitter and bring those conversations into their sites. We've generated countless shares and likes. And we've only begun to scratch the surface.
With the continued growth of data available to us via APIs and increasingly sophisticated open source tools, we're looking forward to more and more opportunities to skim a little data and shape it into something both fun and useful.
I recently presented some related research during a brown bag lunch discussion. Here are some highlights.
I started my career in a building with a huge, warehouse-sized newsprint printing press. It featured a production room with pasteboard technicians, plate makers and camera operators - and was a beehive of activity everyday from 3 to 11pm. The distinct hum and vibration of the press could be felt in the body. From that single press room, over 300,000 copies of the daily newspaper were printed, cut and bundled in rapid order in the span of several hours.
For decades, publishing invariably ended with a scene like this one. Editorial meetings and ad sales led to writing, art and photography that flowed through to editing and production which fed the frantic scramble to make plates for ink on paper and finally to a multi-story behemoth that ate paper and disgorged portable, lightweight, inexpensive newspapers.
In 1994, after a few years tenure as an editorial designer, I was assigned to my paper's online arm to consider how to design for the new-fangled World Wide Web, pre-Netscape. My natural first reaction was horror. The web was really ugly. Typography? None. Imagery? Barely - and only if it could be compressed into a 5k gif file. Layout? Laughable.
But something about the web was special and that something was the hyperlink. Unlike type, art and layout, which were invented for print, the hyperlink was the web's unique secret sauce. It was the fundamental idea that enabled bits to transcend ink-on-paper. For the last decade and a half, we have all been on an endless adventure powered by the hyperlink.
Today, web typography, imagery and layout have finally come along. Sophisticated visual expression has finally caught up. And along the way, the web introduced everyone to digital audio, video and the amazing possibilities of interactive media.
We're still in San Francisco, still under the same leadership, still doing great work (here are some case studies). But now we're a lot larger. We've joined a host of Nurun offices around the globe, all part of Publicis Worldwide.
Our focus remains on helping clients succeed in a connected world with products and services that transform the consumer experience.
We continue to work with forward-thinking, longstanding clients including Tesla, Google, Sony and Audemars Piguet. More recently, we've established new relationships with Dolby, the San Francisco 49ers, GoPro, and Blu Homes.
We welcome the opportunity to work with you too.
Tim, Dave, & JT
For new business, contact Stacy Stevenson
For general inquiries, contact us at
For more about Nurun, visit