Discussion of Approach—Ripped From E-Mail

On Jan 9, 2014, at 7:38 PM, Christopher Jones wrote:

… wow. great comments … conversation …

I think that the research point is spot-on… If I came in with a bunch of stuff I just thought was cool, it might not resonate if it wasn’t grounded in something credible.

I went to a lecture by a guy named Robert Bringhurst and he was a ornithologist (studied birds?) and a type designer. He said that the dialect of a species of birds’ songs can change dramatically (enough so the birds notice) even if you move a quarter mile away. hitting home the point that even in the current world of globalization, localization and specificity is so important. Even after getting there, the feedback is so important.

As for User Experience, IDEO’s practice is just boss … Not sure where to begin with them. I follow Tim Brown, their CEO on Linkedin. I did recently see something recently, where in their labs, they spent a day coming up with a “demo” iPhone game to see if kids would like it. But instead of actually making an app, they filmed a guy dancing behind an oversized iPhone cutout (cut out of a box and pretty high-end looking) and they had the screen area clipping masked out so the guy could dance and respond to supposed changes (called out audibly) that would be programmed (for instance someone shouted: “now the characters moves his hands”, “now he dances to the beat”, etc.) And they did a lot to actually investigate the people’s reaction to the “app” (by filming the kid’s reactions)—so much so that they had an idea how they’d program the thing before starting to make it.

It was so cool and it focused on getting close to the apes—so to speak—in the spirit of Jane Goddall’s work.

Thanks for noticing.

And I went to a liberal arts school, so I love all that. It’s all connected!!

On Jan 9, 2014, at 6:37 PM, (colleague) wrote:

“…solve the problem intuitively”

It’s as simple as that!

That was just a little bit of sarcasm. 🙂

I agree 100% with the emphasis on identifying and understanding the problem one needs to solve. One thing I’ve learned from watching you is how much it pays off to research the culture in which the people you want to talk to operate. You touched on it in an earlier email when you talked about the role the primary sponsor plays in brand identity. Same for the steering committee meeting where you talked about the current trend towards retro themes in cycling and how this shaped your design direction. If I recall correctly, you said you wanted to respect the trend without being derivative or formulaic. Great stuff.

A lot of the same applies to UX, especially with regards to the use of ethnography. In fact every time I come across an article mentioning ethnography as a research tool for experience design I send the link to my parents as a reminder that my major in anthropology wasn’t a complete waste of time. 😀

On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 6:21 PM, Christopher Jones wrote:

… I happened upon this in my Evernote and it is formidable design philosophy which applied in this case … (not that they necessarily will act on any/all of it): “Burtin feels that his own approach to developing a design for graphic representation is best summed up by an old Japanese proverb which instructs: ‘First know all there is to know . . .then memorize it, then solve the problem intuitively.’ But for Burtin intuition is not so much a ‘magic spark’ as the result of human curiosity and a consistent experiment guided by logical thought.”’


On Jan 9, 2014, at 2:59 PM, (colleague) wrote:


How did this snowball from just a refresh of the jersey to a full on branding strategy? 😀

Great work. I love it. The poster is aces.

related to this work and presentation:


Porsche 356 Gmund Coupé Illustration

“It is sad that so many creations today are just like the rest. It is why Porsche must remain independent. Without independence, without the freedom to try new ideas, the world will not move ahead, but live in fear of its own potential. … Committees lead to creations that have no soul, no identity. This is why no Porsche will ever be created by a committee, but a handful of people inside these walls who know what a Porsche is.”
— Dr. F. Porsche

I was in a meeting where a CEO lamented that getting things through her board is difficult—can’t remember the exact characterization. Suffice to say, allowing a board to be a board is a tricky thing. Clearly there are times when a board helps vet an organization’s process, but there are other times when in the process of creation a board is best poised to allow the process to happen in the hands of the creators. A book I read called The Visionary’s Handbook suggests that even in the big company, certain divisions should be treated as if they were very small, giving entrepreneurial power to this force of creation. This type of independence is rare, even in the automotive world.

Unless you’re Porsche.

And with that I thought back to one of my most cherished quotations from what has become somewhat of a design hero for me, the patron of Porsche. I don’t know when exactly this was said, but one things for sure, anytime through the end of World War II, the amalgamation of car companies was rampant. This process saw the end of many storied brands. But for some there was the time to double down and work to come up with that next big thing.

The 356 was one such number. A roadster prelude to my favorite car, the 911, this car had the simplicity of design and a sheer level of enjoyment to see. And if driving a Karmann Ghia is half the experience—probably half the engine—then it must have really been something.

Victoria’s Secret Apologizes for Fashion Show Gaffe | The Exchange – Yahoo! Finance

Victoria’s Secret Apologizes for Fashion Show Gaffe | The Exchange – Yahoo! Finance.

Here’s a story from Yahoo! Finance about Victoria Secret using a Native American headdress on a model for their annual fashion show. To me, this story is intriguing because it demonstrates the amazing reach of imagery that designers have in the use of symbolism and how it can often be taken for granted. Despite the amazing reach, there is the responsibility of mining the cultural significance of such imagery and symbolism.

Despite the whimsy, and the knowledge that much of what the models wear in the show is not really intended for actual production or sale, the ignorant use of imagery within even one design has the ability to give the most unintended ramifications. It is perhaps too simplistic to think that one can simply dial up pages on the internet and unearth the cultural moirés of such a design element ahead of time, but while we live in an age of immediacy we also live in an age of design specificity.

It’s that specificity which can inform the story of a work. … And such work isn’t always done in the hour they give on an episode of America’s Top Model. One hopes that the development of a fashion show affords the designers more time than that. Because design is best done when the symbolism is fully understood to enhance the aesthetic, instead of trivializing, and worse yet, lampooning it.

In the Yahoo! article, a columnist for a Native American website, Ruth Hopkins, expounds on the design “… war bonnets are exclusively worn by men, with each feather symbolizing an act of valor.”

“The Jiro Principle …”

I was telling somebody this … and I thought about it today after having some frustration with my “process” …

Quoted from an email:

I figured I’d pass along a bit of inspiration that I recently experienced that reminded me of the work required to be who we want to be. My wife got the movie, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi about a sushi chef in Japan who’s about 85 and goes to work everyday.

In the movie, Jiro has had the same routine for sixty? odd years on the path to being considered the best sushi chef in Japan. I really felt at home with the sense of working to really do what it is they do and it reminds me of the spirit of Scott Belsky’s book.

One scene, and then I’ll leave you was amazingly touching for me. The fella who is the egg sushi chef (specializes in one of the dishes) said that in so doing, becoming the egg chef he made something like 200 egg sushis (which had to be approved) before he was allowed to make them (for the public). He said when he made the egg sushi to the standard of Jiro, he was told: “make it like this” and he was so overwhelmed he cried because of how hard he worked (it takes something like ten years, just to get to that point where one could make the accompanying dishes).

Anyway, it was on my mind.

After watching that movie, it gives me a different perspective on the notion of complaining about the frustrations of my work.


Nothing in the world will ever take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is alost a proverb. Education will not; the wold is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge