Category Archives: Design

Cool design

10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces

office

Physical space matters. It’s easier to be productive, creative and happy at work in a colourful, organic, playful environment than in a grey, linear, boring one.

And I’m not talking about the outside of the building. Many companies have buildings that are sleek, modern, architectural glass-steel-and-cement sculptures on the outside – and cubicle wastelands on the inside. These companies need to remember that most employees tend to work inside the building.

With that in mind, here’s some eye candy from 10 different innovative, well-designed workplaces.

(Also check out my post on 12 Ways to Pimp Your Office).
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BMW sez: bureaucracy sucks

Bureaucrat

The latest BMW ad campaign has very little to do with cars and focuses instead on the corporate values of the Bayerische Motoren Werke.

One version of it says:

We say no to:

Compromise
Complacency
Bureaucracy
Red tape
Lowest common denominators
Middle managemet
Second guessing
Herd mentality

So we can say yes to good ideas.

BMW fights bureaucracy. This is cool. Why is it cool?

1: Bureaucracy kills happiness at work
Bureaucracy saps people’s energy and motivation. If you don’t believe me, read Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie. It’s an excellent book about how to thrive in organizitions plagued by red tape.

2: Branding through good corporate identity rules
BMW are choosing to brand themselves not through their products or technology but through how they run their business.

3: Branding that matches products rules
This campaing works only because the corporate identity they are expressing happens to match the products. BMW’s vehicles (I’m the proud owner of one myself) are innovative and exciting matching the (mildly) revolutionary message of the ads.

It’s great to see companies making a stand against bureaucracy and It’s even better to see companies making bold, positive identities and standing by them.

It just struck me though: Is anyone else surprised to see such an anti-authoritarian message… from a German company :o)

CC-licensed PowerPoint-Free Zone logo

PowerPoint-Free ZoneI’m with Edward Tufte and Kathy Sierra on this one. I never use PowerPoint in my presentations because it:

  • Limits interaction and spontaneity
  • Focuses people’s attention on the slides rather than on what’s happening in the room
  • Often requires dim, snooze-inducing lighting

There are great uses of PowerPoint too, but why risk it when doing your presentations “live” makes them:

  • More fun
  • More interactive and dynamic
  • More interesting

So a while back we got our excellent designer to create a cool logo to celebrate the fact that out presentations are 100% PowerPoint-free zones.

We’re now releasing this logo under a Creative Commons license, so go ahead and use it if you want to go PowerPoint-free too.

The logo is available in Danish, Swedish and English and the CC license allows you to change it to your language if you’d like to.

Get the logo here:

PowerPoint-Free Zone PowerPoint-Free Zone PowerPoint-Free Zone
English
jpg | tif
Danish
jpg | tif
Swedish
jpg | tif

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Why features don’t matter anymore

The success of the Apple iPod should serve us all as a reminder of this fact: Simple is good.

And in case we forget, there’s this excellent article by Andreas Pfeiffer who formulates it very succinctly using 10 simple rules. Here are some examples:

10 fundamental rules for the age of user experience technology:

1) More features isn’t better, it’s worse.

Feature overload is becoming a real issue. The last thing a customer wants is confusion-and what’s more confusing than comparing technical specifications, unless you are en expert? Only nerds get a kick out of reading feature lists. (I know – I’m one of them.)

2) You can’t make things easier by adding to them.

Simplicity means getting something done in a minimum number of simple steps. Practically anything could be simpler – but you don’t get there by adding features.

3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.

Confuse a customer, and you lose him. And nothing confuses more easily than complex features and unintuitive functionalities.

Which reminds me of the time Mark Twain wrote a letter saying:

I apologize for writing you a long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one.

And then there’s this wonderful quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

And that is what we must seek in business: We must seek complexity and then try to discover the simplicity beyond complexity. If you only know enough about your product to present it in a complicated way – one that makes everybody think you must be really clever – then you’re not ready to sell it.

When you can present it in a way that makes everybody realize they’re as clever as you are, then you’re good to go. And that’s when you can create breakaway hits like the iPod.

VW’s sci-fi car plant

Solange de Santi’s excellent book Life on the Line about her experience of working under cover (she’s a journalist) for 18 months in a GM van plant gave me the sense that car factories are noisy, dirty, dangerous places.

Apparently they don’t have to be – they can also be amazing, beautiful, friendly, ergonomic and high-tech. Check out these amazing pictures from the Volkswagen plant in Dresden. I think I could live comfortably and in high style inside that building :o)

Death to PowerPoint

Creating Passionate Users is the best blog I’ve found recently, and Kathy Sierra’s post on how not to use PowerPoint is very funny and smart.

Sometimes the best presentation is… no presentation. Ditch the slides completely. Put the projector in the closet, roll the screen back up, and turn the damn lights back on!

Especially if the slides are bullet points. Or worse… paragraphs.

The second you dim the lights and go into “presentation mode” is the moment you move from a two-way conversation to a one-way lecture/broadcast. It’s hard to be interactive when you’re behind your laptop, at a podium, watching your slides on the small screen.

Read it!

Business – New school

David Heinemeier Hansson is one of the hottest names in IT right now. He’s been developing something called Ruby on Rails, which is a tool for developing web applications. Now Denmark has become too small for David, and he’s left for Chicago, better to work with his compatriots at 37signals, one of the most admired software shops right now.

The evening before he left, he gave a presentation in Copenhagen to a small crowd of techies, bloggers, business people and others. I was there and I was blown away by this guy. Not only is he a good developer, he also has an amazing sense for how a business can also be designed. And he’s 26 years old. Interestingly, his software design principles are the same as his business design principles, making his philosophy consistent and credible. Here are the main points I took away from his presentation:

Solve the next problem
Whether you’re working on software or building a business, this means that you should tackle the issues that matter right now. Don’t solve the problems you think will appear in 6 months – they probably won’t, you see. Solve the next problem, and then the next. In six months time, you will have plenty of stuff to work on, but it won’t be what you thought six months ago.

Solve your own problems
When you work on something that you yourself need, you’re much more efficient. Rather than working on something that some remote client will use, attack issues that are important to you.

Do as little as possible – or slightly less
The complexity of any system does not grow proportianl to the size of the system – it grows exponentially. Making a system twice as large makes it waaay more that twise as complex. Therefore, make your system as simple as possible, or maybe even a little simpler.

And if I may be allowed to brag for a moment here: This is exactly how we work on the Happy At Work Project. Here are a few of our maxims, that I might add:

Try stuff
Rather than analyzing a given choice to death, make a quick decision and try it out. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Relax
It’ll all work out. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t work too hard. Take plenty of breaks and do lots of different stuff to stimulate your mind.

The best of luck to David in Chicago – I’m sure he’ll do famously.