At the Dots conference last month, Mark Earls gave some fresh takes on his favourite theme – humans-as-copying-machines. The best way to come up with something new, he showed, was to copy someone else, or something else. You come up with something new because, in the process of copying, you make errors.
He went further, arguing that one of the best things to do was “copy from far away” – from another field of endeavour, another country, another industry.
…Apple became the biggest music retail seller without selling one CD; Netflix reinvented the video business without operating a single video store. Google continues to attack new industries with its data-based services and devices; Google’s products from glasses, to self-driving cars to smart thermostats are just a means for increasing and leveraging Google’s data-based consumer insights.
Of course, none of the business models are new, they are just copied from other industries. Copied from far away. Like Nestlé copying the Gilette razor-blade business model to sell Nespresso pods (pricing coffee at £60 a kilo).
Last week I went to Christmas drinks with Brilliant Noise’s design partners, Endless Studios, in their new Brighton offices.
When I go somewhere like Endless, I realise my own taste is largely of the know-it-when-I-see-it variety, and that the creation of beautiful things – from spaces to typefaces to whole brand schemas – is of a whole order of magnitude beyond mine. I know and like stylish, well-designed things – for them it’s a full time job.
If there’s one thing we need from our partnership with Endless it is their taste – they have it by the barrow-load.
The most cutting remark Steve Jobs ever made about the Apple’s great rival of the time was that they had no taste. Yes, they could produce brilliant technology, code by the milliion-lines, but when it comes to taste, he said, they were nowhere.
Taste happens by seeking out beautiful, brilliant things, said Jobs:
“It comes down to exposing yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring the same things into what you are doing.”
Good design creates beautiful things. Deeply beautiful – beyond the first impressions, beyond the surface, because good design means that someone has thought deeply about the created object, space or experience in every aspect. You feel the outcome, you see some of the outcome of a successful design process, but you may never see or understand all of it. Good design has depth and substance.
I recently finished Leander Kahney’s biography of Jonathan Ive. A recurring theme is the design of the inside of the machines by Ive’s team – sometimes to the consternation of their engineering colleagues – so that the circuit boards and innards of the computers were as elegant, in their own way, as the exteriors. That’s deep attention to detail.
When Endless designed the Brilliant Noise brand a couple of years ago, they made physical stencils of some of the shapes they’d created as part of the brand’s system. The shapes were made from the negative space between the letters of the logo and they began to develop them as a set of abstract icons. They also pored over photos and filters and ways of framing images – the right grid that things should align to, the right weight of Gotham for different documents.
I learned two things from them. First, the way that creating a visual brand is about looking at a system, a “kit of parts” that works with a steady logic – not just something that looks good. Second, that you need to go deep and explore an idea, a system of ideas, until you know you have the right answer.
I think I’d heard these things before, in relation to branding – but it wasn’t until I was part of the process of building a brand with design experts like Colin and Ben, the founders of Endless, that I grasped this as a threshold concept.
There’s a love affair between strategy and design. At least there should be. The processes are in parallel and can teach each other so much.
The image, as an act of expression, inherits from the medium. The social screen has three modes: mirror, surface, and window. In its mirror mode, we see our image. In its surface mode, we can “consume” content rendered onscreen. In its window mode, what’s onscreen disappears and we see others and communicate with or to them.
At the Firestarters event at Google ton Wednesday, we got to hear three fascinating talks on entrepreneurship (a topic naturally very close to my heart, being 6 weeks or so into the first year of Brilliant Noise‘s new phase).
I may not have time to write everything up, but here are some notes on the excellent talk given by Adil Abrar, a serial/simultaneous entrepreneur.
Adil told the tale of Buddy, his company that he set up to develop a product that would help people suffering from long term depression and anxiety disorders.
Over the summer the amazing design team at Endless have been working on developing a new brand look and feel for Brilliant Noise.
Over the past year, I’ve muddled by with just a wonderful font, but with things beginning to grow at Brilliant Noise, I thought it was time to get a proper brand in place.
Colin and Ben left the main logotype much as it was, apart from doing some designer-ly tidying and cleaning up. They then developed a series of abstract-like shapes from the gaps between the letters of the name. Like this…