Category: design thinking

design thinkingenvironmentpublic healthscience & technologysocial media

Amazing Stuff: November 6th Edition

A year ago something that truly is amazing happened: Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. This week there were some far less amazing things that I found — but some amazing stuff no less.

1. Wired Science published some of the newly released photos of islands from space. It is a stunning collection of visual images of our planet from thousands of metres into space. They provide a remarkable perspective on our world.

2. Are you better off owning a dog or a Toyota Land Cruiser in terms of the planet’s health? According to a New Scientist article published this week (and commented on in Fast Company) owning a pet might be worse for the environment than a gas guzzling SUV. True? It’s not clear, but it does provoke some interesting discussion on what really influences carbon emissions and the health of our world.

3. Visualization of data is one of the ways in which we can make complex information accessible to more people. A newly published TED talk by JoAnn Kuchera-Morin provides a stunning representation of some of the ways in which visualization tools can aid our understanding of our planet and our brain.

4. The New York Times has a new innovation portfolio site. For those interested in new ideas and design, this is a must-visit on the tour through the Internet.

5. Amazing or not, H1N1 is causing a lot of distress around the world. This week, Fast Company (their second mention this week!) reviewed some of the ways in which people can get on top of tracking and preventing the disease using iPhone apps. Mobile public health has never been so interesting.

complexitydesign thinkingpublic healthscience & technologysocial media

Amazing Stuff: Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween everyone,

Halloween is a rather important day. It’s not only the day that dentists fear, but also the end to my favourite month and the end of the busiest period in the academic calendar when the last of the mid-terms have been graded (round one, anyway) and most grants are in (for now). Tomorrow, retailers will be rushing out the Christmas stuff in North America (at least those that didn’t have it out after Labour Day in September). But as these dates come and go, the amazing stuff continues to find its way into my inbox, Twitter feed, Facebook page, web browser and Google Reader feed. Here’s the neatest and most interesting things I discovered this past week:

1. How to Organize A Children’s Party (or how complexity science can help your work). Interested in complexity science, but don’t really know what it is or how you’d use it in everyday life? This very brief and entertaining video from Dave Snowdon (@snowded) at Cognitive Edge consultancy  explains the difference between ordered, chaotic and complex systems and how they might look from the perspective of organizing a party for 11-year old boys.

2. What Does Meaningful Mean? is an infographic developed by Frog Design to show how to design products and services that actually have meaning to people, not just tell people that they are meaningful. A good reminder to all of us who design things — which is most of us.

3. Brian Solis. OK, so this is not an amazing ‘thing’, but rather a website where Brian Solis, a marketer and PR consultant, hosts his blog and details his ideas and products for public consumption. There are a LOT of new media pundits out there (I won’t name names, but chances are you’ve heard of them) who are being raved about and followed by thousands who have very little to say when you actually listen closely. Brian isn’t one of them. Tour his site and you’ll see some interesting thoughts and insights on how social media can be used effectively by everyone to communicate, and not in some ‘jingo-istic’ manner, but in real terms.

4. Green Porno. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my colleague Andrea Yip (@andie86) who told me about this entertaining, informative and very odd set of short videos hosted by Isabella Rossellini that combines nuveau performance art, sketch comedy, sex, environmental education and awareness into a funny and uniquely effective medium for communicating about the serious issue of climate change and environmental stewardship.

5. And lastly, Healthmap, is a health and geographic information aggregator that maps infectious disease outbreaks across the globe. Become your own Centre for Disease Control at home and watch where the hotspots are for the flu and other illnesses in your neighbourhood or around the world.

design thinkingscience & technologysocial mediasocial systemssystems thinking

Amazing Stuff

So far the Amazing Stuff I’ve shared seems to be a hit with some folk. Perhaps this is the week that you’ll find something that I found pretty interesting relevant to you.

This week’s Amazing Stuff post features some thoughts on design. I first thought the word ‘designer’ had to mean going to design school or something to that effect. Thankfully, the many brilliant design thinkers out there who are promoting that way of seeing the world have shown me the error of my ways and illustrated how we all can be designers — and how with some thought and creativity we can become good ones. I design public health programs and resources and find myself fascinated by the myriad benefits that design thinking (like systems thinking) has to offer our enterprise.

1. The Value of Empathy . The Design Observer Group has a great website for ideas on design and this they featured an essay by Andy Chen on the role of empathy in design. He also writes a sharp, sometimes biting, critique of the way in which designers (and marketers) play on emotions to stir empathy on one hand, while being totally oblivious at other times. His illustrations from advertisements such as the RED campaign really take this message home and provided me with one of the most inspired reads of the week.

2. Is Social Media the New Cigarette? Probably the most provocative read I had all week was this post from Bill Ives and his Fast Forward blog. Bill goes way out on a limb and points to some rather disturbing and sometimes humorous parallels between cigarettes and social media both in how we use it and how it gets regulated in society as a result.

3. The Book of Odds. Did you know that the odds of choking to death on a non-food object is about 1 in 92,950? I didn’t either — until I discovered the Book of Odds, which was launched this week. The ‘Book’ is a compendium of stats on all kind of things serious and, well, odd, taking odds-ratios to a level of prominence that we’ve never seen before. Entertaining and useful all in one well-packaged site.

4. The Democratization of Social Networks. A little more on the academic side of things, Amanda Lenhart from the Pew Internet & American Life Project posted a presentation showing how the landscape of social networking is changing rapidly. Almost half of Americans are now engaged in some type of social networking activity online, which is up from less than 10 per cent last year. If you think social networks are a fad, you might want to look through Amanda’s presentation.

5. The Chemistry of Information Addiction. Another science-based gem this week was a report in Scientific American about research that looked at monkeys and information needs and the neural basis for our ‘need to know’. It turns out that we just might need to know the answer. The research is laying the foundation for future studies looking at human information use and testing the hypothesis that, in some way, we are information junkies and, when given the opportunity, will do whatever we can to get more information about the things that are important to us and that this is a hard-wired part of the brain.