Normally, travelers to India avoid the rainy, humid monsoon season that runs from July to September. But our principals, Kerry and Kasey, have packed their umbrellas and traveled to Kolkata, India, for a very special project.
In 2016, we connected with a company called Freeset – located in West Bengal, India – with a mission to provide employees with safe working environments and fair wages as they make organic and eco-friendly apparel and accessory items. We loved their work and ordered custom bags for our 2017 holiday gifts. Since then, we stayed in touch with the team at Freeset and have followed their journey to provide better solutions for those who are impoverished in India.
We are excited to share that we are partnering with Freeset again but in a different way. As a part of our year of giving, we are donating our research, strategy and creative services to help Freeset move into the future and deepen their impact. As part of the research phase, Kerry and Kasey are interviewing employees in Kolkata. Upon their return, our team will develop recommendations for brand positioning and creative development.
We’re thrilled to be working with Freeset to support their mission and will be sharing more details at our 15th anniversary party, so stay tuned!
Jam-packed into just two days, the Digital Thinkers conference 2019 brought together 26 industry leaders to share their thoughts on the future of the web. Held at the doorstep to Silicon Valley, it featured speakers from some of the largest, most influential digital companies in the world, including Google, Facebook and Airbnb. More than 1,000 attendees from all over the world, including people from our team, gathered at the historic Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco to soak it all in. While we walked away with heads full of inspiration and actionable to-dos, we reflected on our favorite takeaways. Here are just a few:
“The vessel can be as special as the idea itself.”
– Alex Cornell, Former Product Design Lead at Facebook
Nonconventional presentations were abundant during the conference, from T-shirt cannons to beautifully animated slide decks, and that stuck with us. Nothing was quite as special as Alex Cornell’s time on stage. He took us on a nonlinear path through more of a performance piece than a presentation. He and others proved how an idea can’t sell itself, no matter how excellent. It’s the conversation and context provided alongside the idea that gives it staying power in the mind of the audience. That vessel can be just as weird or complex as the original idea. Brandy Porter, director of brand design at MailChimp, also summed up the importance of weird: “Be weird, and be intentional in that weirdness … When we show our weird, we connect with our customers intimately.”
“All design is designing for the future – immediate, near or far. It’s imagining a desirable state and then giving it form.”
— Lisa Ding, Senior Product Designer at Twitter
Sometimes conversations about the digital space can feel futuristic and far-fetched, making it hard to find actionable solutions for right now. Lisa Ding told us to avoid the darkness that the idea of the future often holds and to embrace the fact that every day we are working toward creating something useful for tomorrow, next week or next year. Erik Klimczak, principal design director at Uber, discussed his methodology of designing at scale to future-proof developments. This methodology assumes every issue is infinitely connected to larger problems creating a need to zoom in and out to see how your solution affects or creates patterns to find the best solution.
“Designers no longer just design components themselves: They design policies that govern a system of components.”
— Hayley Hughes, Experience Designer at Airbnb
Hayley Hughes noted that designers can prove their value by being able to see components from a 30,000-foot view and not just how they physically look on the page. Design systems can help businesses make an efficient, resourceful environment and allow designers to focus on creating solutions that impact human experiences. Building and using a mutual or shared language will help with everything from accessibility to creating seamless teams. Similarly, Peter Smart from global design agency Fantasy Interactive pushed us to commit to getting beyond the most viable product and to design for the full human being: “Convention is just permission to try better … Fill your product with life. If it makes you happy, it will make others happy as well.”
Recently, our principal Kasey Hatzung visited the Portland, Oregon area. There she met a local resident, Levi, and started chatting about what they do, where they live and their life stories. It turns out that Levi is originally from Kolkata, India – the exact city where Kasey and our other principal, Kerry Sarnoski, are visiting this month. She told Levi about our Quote to Self project, and in response Levi gave a simple and impactful one-liner:
“Keep moving forward.”
What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self? If you have a nugget of wisdom to share with us, visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!
Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages to see other advice we’ve collected thus far.
This spring, we embarked on an international trend trip to Japan, where we set out to find innovative trends applicable to our clients across industries. Visiting Tokyo and Osaka, as well as a number of other areas, we were able to revisit our anthropological roots, touring museums and showrooms, exploring neighborhoods, and observing as well as participating in everyday life.
AI and digital assistance are on the rise throughout the world, and Japan – long hailed as a leader in tech innovation – is no exception. A key differentiator in Japan, however, is that many new AI features have faces or human elements – making the environment feel much more friendly and approachable.
Rather than speaking to a Siri or an Alexa – which have human names and voices, though no figures – we would interact with a friendly robot at the train station, who would help us find our destination or greet us as we walked into a shop.
Actual humans were often standing in the wings to help with the navigation of tech.
We saw various examples of what appeared to be cutting-edge technology integrated with older traditions and systems.
For example, tapping digital cards to board trains or buses – but being able to load the card only with cash, not a credit or debit card
Beyond the digital realm, we saw an abundance of innovation in technological advances.
Pushing a button to call waitstaff to our table at a restaurant and taxi doors that automatically opened and closed are just a few nondigital innovations we saw in action
As the world continues to push toward tech, trends we saw in Japan encourage us to think about how to make the digital and AI realms more approachable and how to make life as efficient and smooth as possible using both digital and using innovative new technology methods.
After visiting Japan, our team produced a video to commemorate their trip! Click to view.
When we launched our Quote to Self project, we weren’t just interested in what our friends and colleagues here in Minneapolis thought. We wanted insights from around the world, and we’ve been fortunate to receive answers from six continents. (If you know anyone living in Antarctica, we’d sure love to hear from them!)
Our team recently took our question to three major central European cities: Budapest, Prague and Vienna. Throughout the week in Europe, we encountered travelers and locals who were intrigued by our question – and sometimes a bit stumped.
On the streets of Budapest, Hungary, we crossed paths with a woman named Carola. When prompted with the question “What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?” she answered with no hesitation:
“Live your dreams, because when you look back when you’re older, you [may have] missed opportunities.”
Carola turned 15 in the Holland region of the Netherlands, just as the “love and rock-and-roll” decade was coming to an end. The ’60s were known for changing political and cultural mindsets, even in Europe. It was common to find Europeans riding around on Vespa scooters or cruising in their British Mini Coopers. In 1962, the premiere of “Dr. No” launched the longest continually running film series in history, the James Bond movies. London transformed to become the fashion capital of the world. And British pop music took over, leading to the true glory of the 1960s: The Beatles.
Wondering what other advice we’ve received? Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages. Have a nugget of wisdom you’d like to share? Visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!