Category Archives: Design

The Myth of Youth in Design Innovation

“It takes a long time to become young.” ~Pablo Picasso

Diana Balmori, landscape and urban designer, still innovating at the age of 81.

Diana Balmori, landscape and urban designer, still innovating at the age of 81.

There is a brutal culture of ageism in the tech sector and Silicon Valley, and this ageism that worships youth above all else spills over into the design sector as well. When tech giants such as Mark Zuckerberg declare that “Young people are just smarter” people take it as truth carved in stone. It must be true. After all, look at all the tech billionaires in their twenties.

Yet empirical evidence, common sense and personal experience tell me this is a fallacy. Jonathan Ive and Steve Jobs did some of their best work when they were over the age of 40, and Ive is still one of the best designers on the planet at the age of 47. Burt Rutan was 41 years old when he designed and launched the Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping, and he was 62 when he launched SpaceShipOne, the first private space plane.

The following is the top ten list of FastCoDesign Magazine’s “Most Creative People in Business of 2013”:

  1. Nate Silver, sports and political elections number-cruncher and big data innovator – 36 years old.
  2. Dong-Hoon Chang, Executive Vice President and Head of Design Strategy for Samsung – 52 years old.
  3. Hilary Mason, data scientist and hacker – 32 years old.
  4. Leslie Bradshaw, entrepreneur and social scientist – 32 years old.
  5. Diana Balmori, landscape and urban designer – 81 years old.
  6. Kirthiga Reddy, Director of FaceBook India – 40 years old.
  7. Daniel Graf, Director of Google Maps for Mobile – 40 years old.
  8. Max Levchin, computer scientist and founder of PayPal – 38 years old.
  9. Jill Applebaum, Creative Director at JWT – 43 years old.
  10. Megan Sheehan, Art Director at JWT – I couldn’t find her age, but based on her experience and accomplishments I’m guessing she’s in her early 30’s.

The youngest on the list are 32 years old and the oldest is 81. And unless I’m off about Megan Sheehan (who is a terrific designer, check out her work here: http://megansheehan.info/), there’s not a single person in their 20’s.

In my personal experience I didn’t start to do my most innovative work until I was in my mid-30’s. A combination of experience, perspective, and a deeper understanding of the conditions that foster innovation made me a more innovative designer and thinker.

And this is why the conditions of innovation, and building a balanced team, are more important than youth. I hit my stride in my mid-30’s for a confluence of reasons. First was that after a decade working as a designer at the cutting edge of dot com startups, I moved to Europe and enrolled in an MFA program in Art. Suddenly my time and my mental space were set free to experiment, but at the same time I had far more experience, knowledge and technical ability than most graduate students that I could apply to my work. On top of that, I had thrown myself into a completely different culture, started learning a new language and looking at the world from a different perspective, all conditions conducive to sideways thinking. Upon completing my MFA, I immediately started working as a professor at a university. Teaching students about design and media innovation taught me new perspectives, and being in academia further freed me to experiment, to do research, and continue to work as a consultant in industry. After several years I was appointed head of my department and charged with rebuilding the department and driving student enrollment, and I took the same approach to team building that I had taken as a Creative Director. I ran my academic department like I would a creative agency, creating conditions that encouraged my faculty to innovate with their curriculum and mentoring students to become innovative media makers.

The conditions for innovation rely on several factors, and here I’m adapting ideas in part from the management guru Peter Drucker, as well as from my own experience as a designer, leader and teacher. The first is that innovation is work that requires knowledge, ingenuity, risk-taking, and sideways thinking. In organizations this means building teams with complimentary strengths, respecting both the sideways thinking and risk taking of youth with the knowledge and expertise of experience, and rewarding experimentation, even when it fails. The second is to cultivate an acceptable level of chaos as space for ideation, balanced against order for getting work done. Brilliant ideas rarely happen when you’re staring at your computer screen, but on the flip side work doesn’t get done when you’re playing ping-pong with your coworkers. And a third factor is an inherent acceptance of change. Peter Drucker calls innovation “an effect of economy and society” (check out Drucker’s book Innovation and Entrepreneurship) that at it’s core changes people’s behaviors and/or conceptual paradigms. It’s surprising how many organizations say they want innovation, but are change averse. You can’t have one without the other.

Benjamin F. Jones, a professor at Kellogg School of Management, did a study last year on age and innovation. He found that the average age that inventors and Nobel Prize winners make their greatest achievements is 39. This is because innovation usually doesn’t come out of left field with no foundation. Innovation is built from an iterative process, learning from past mistakes, building on successes, and then drawing unexpected connections. This takes time, hard work, risk taking, experience, and knowledge. In organizations, this means it takes teams constructed of people with complimentary diversities.

UX Design and Social Entrepreneurship

“The human-centered focus, and the rigor and creativity required to maintain that focus over the entire course of the work, sets design thinking apart from other methods of problem solving.” ~Sarah A. Soule

Design thinking has been adapted as an effective methodology not only for product design and business models but also for social entrepreneurship. Design thinking for social good, a methodology utilized in product design, involves the designer engaging with social and environmental issues from the perspective of the individual people directly affected by the problems that the designers are trying to address. Solutions are brainstormed directly from the “users” perspective (the users being the affected people), rapid prototyping allows for empirical field testing, and solutions are synthesized. With social entrepreneurship the solution may be a product, but it may also be a new paradigm of behaviors or ways of doing things. User-Experience (UX) Design thinking provides a model for expanding design thinking to broader behavioral and social aspects in order to tackle increasingly complex and interconnected social-political-environmental challenges.

A solar cooker made from easily obtainable recycled trash materials. Appropriate design and technology that addresses a wide range of social and environmental problems.

A solar cooker made from easily obtainable recycled trash materials. Appropriate design and technology that addresses a wide range of social and environmental problems.

An example of this is a project that a non-profit organization I work with engaged in a project of social entrepreneurship in Nepal. They wanted to engage with a number of problems that turned out to be interrelated, including overpopulation, deforestation, access to education particularly for girls, and access to clean water. By traveling to Nepal, talking to local people and community leaders and spending time living amongst normal people, who designers would call their “typical users”. The project they decided on was a design for a solar cooker made from local trash including cardboard boxes, aluminum foil or tin, old glass window panes, etc. They taught women and girls how to make the solar cookers themselves and how to cook with them. The primary use of the solar cookers was for boiling and sterilizing water, thereby removing the need for collecting firewood, which contributes to deforestation. Due to the scarcity of wood, girls would spend hours every day collecting wood. The solar cookers freed up time for the girls to instead attend to their school studies. Girls who receive a basic education tend to have smaller families, be more economically prosperous, and ensure that their children also receive an education.

UX design thinking was critical to tying together all these different threads, in designing not just a product but a new way of doing, teaching and thinking about interconnected social and environmental challenges. Design thinking, often described as utilizing the designer’s creative methodologies to connect the needs of people with what is technologically feasible, becomes a greatly expanded concept when the “UX” is added in front of it. Although UX design historically grew out of the techno-centric field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), it now extends to all aspects of a person’s interaction within a given system, encompassing interface, graphics, physical interaction, as well as social, political and environmental systems. Engaging effectively with the complex challenges that social entrepreneurship attempts to take on requires UX design thinking.

Creative Leadership for Innovation and Agility

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” -Erich Fromm

Peter Hayes, Director of the Visual Arts Network South Africa, and Julian Scaff, creative professional and ux expert, discuss building creative cultures at a conference in sustainability in Brussels, Belgium.

Julian Scaff, creative and ux expert, and Peter Hayes, Director of the Visual Arts Network in South Africa, at a creative meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

The field of design is undergoing a period of rapid change, with disciplines broadening and overlapping and designers taking a more active role in leadership and innovation. There are more designers serving as executive of companies than at any time in history, and the reason why is because innovation and creative thinking are keys to the success of companies. Studies by the Boston Consulting Group, amongst others, show that companies that ranked as more innovative enjoy significantly higher rates of success and higher profits than companies that are not. Innovation is key to success. Companies such as Pepsico, Sony Music Entertainment and Burberry have a Chief Creative Officer, and the company J. Crew has two presidents: Libby Wadle, president of J. Crew Brand, and Jenna Lyons, president and executive creative director.

Designers have been professionally trained in the creative process, the process through which the designer finds solutions to communicate ideas and solve the creative challenges of a particular project or endeavor. Increasingly designers are not simply serving clients, but driving new ideas, new products, new services, and new paradigms. The designer-as-leader is an innovation expert. But for a designer to be an effective leader, she must learn several key skills and concepts.

Good Leadership is Good Design

When it comes to leading people, let’s throw out the word “management”.  Management is for projects, for assets, for time lines. Good leadership is about pulling (not pushing) everyone on your team towards a common goal, and trusting each of them to do what they do best.  Trust is key. To convince your followers of a vision you must first convince yourself. Convince and inspire yourself, and you can convince and inspire others. Communicate to the team, collectively and individually, what the vision and goals are and how you’re going to achieve them.  Listen, ask for and welcome input, and respect everyone’s contributions. Being a good leader is like being in a good relationship: trust and communication are key. And being a good leader is like being a good designer. You’re designing a creative culture.

Embrace a Balance of Chaos and Reward Failure

How many times have you had a brilliant idea sitting at your desk staring at a blank document? How about in a coffee shop? At a botanical garden? Laying on a sofa listening to music? Chaining your team members to their desks, demanding precise schedules and forcing people to work the way you work is a creativity and innovation killer. Embrace a bit of chaos and distraction in the office. Things like a foosball game, a lounge with music, a garden, etc. aren’t distractions from work, they’re potential drivers of creativity and boosters of productivity.  But balance is key: too much chaos and nobody gets their work done; too little, and ideas don’t flourish and people burn out.

Having a crazy new idea that doesn’t work isn’t a failure, it’s a stepping stone to success. A recent article on BBC News outlined how the Google X Labs, the company’s experimental innovation laboratory, encourages and rewards it’s employees for trying new ideas, no matter how crazy. Google expects a 99% failure rate.  This might seem steep, but without trying out all those “failed” ideas, Google never would have innovated new products such as Google Maps, Translate, and Google Glass. In a culture where people are afraid to fail because they’ll look stupid or be penalized for having a “bad idea”, few people will take risks needed for creative breakthroughs. Encourage the members of your team to pitch and try out crazy new ideas, big ideas, and applaud them when these ideas fail.

Create an Agile Culture

Agile Management and Scrum Method are big buzzwords in the field of management and leadership right now, and for good reason. The world is changing rapidly, and being too slow kills creativity and innovation. Agile management is an iterative form of project management wherein small teams deliver results in stages, building the project up rapidly in modular stages. Larger, more complex projects may be broken up into parts and distributed to smaller teams, each rapidly prototyping, testing, and delivering their modular portion of the project. Scrum Method takes Agile Management further by embracing the notion that not all problems can be fully defined from the start, allowing for project requirements to evolve and change based on empirical results during the development and testing phases of the project. I won’t get into all the details of Agile and Scrum, but some of the key things are how meetings are conducted: projects begin with a Sprint Planning Meeting that may last no longer than 8 hours to detail and plan the entire project; daily Scrum meetings update all team members on progress and are limited to 15 minutes; project cycles are typically 7-30 days, and if a project is much bigger than that, it is broken town into 7 to 30 day modules. These limitations keep things moving quickly and minimize miscommunication.

This seems a bit chaotic, and it is. That bit of chaos empowers members of your team to rapidly try out new ideas and respond to change strategically. If you have a brilliant brainstorm and nobody listens, or the idea gets bogged down in committee meetings, or it takes too long to bring it to fruition because of burdensome bureaucratic processes, it not only kills the idea but it dampens the spirit of the person who had the idea, discouraging them from having more ideas in the future.

An agile culture is a culture that embraces change, delivers projects rapidly, and continuously appraises and improves upon ideas based on new empirical information that emerges during the lifecycle of the project. Teams that can go from brainstorm to prototype in less than 30 days will not only be more creative and innovative, but inspirational.

The End of Hardware

The devil of rapid hardware obsolescence.

The devil of rapid hardware obsolescence.

“Nothing is so hideous as an obsolete fashion.”
– Stendhal

The first decade of the 2000s saw the shift from desktop computing to hand-held mobile computing, and from wired internet to WiFi. This revolution was driven primarily by advances in hardware. The BlackBerry was the first successful product in the hand-held market, but the iPhone and Android platforms are the products that really changed the whole computing and internet landscape. Still today, more attention is to paid to what new iteration of the iPhone, iPad or Samsung Galaxy will be released than to new releases of the operating systems. For a company to be innovative, there is still a perception that you need a piece of new hardware. This will not continue to be there case, and it can’t. At a certain point, and it will not be too far in the future, Moore’s Law (which states that the number of transistors on a circuit doubles approximately every two years) will run into the same inhibitions that we will all run into: a planet of diminishing resources.

One of the categories of resources that is already showing signs of hindering technology development is the scarcity of rare metals. Tellurium, used to make advanced electronic components, is three times more scarce than gold. The list of rare metals in your smart phone, including lithium, platinum, and neodymium goes on and on, and overall roughly 97% of all rare earth metals come from China. These materials are difficult to extract, and there isn’t very much of them. That’s why they’re rare.

Another resource we’re running out of is oil, or more broadly fossil fuels. While it’s true that we can extract more of it from harder to get sources such as tar sands and the arctic sea bed, and there are large deposits of natural gas in Qatar and coal deposits in the US and Australia, there are two really big problems. First is that we’re in the era of peak oil, meaning sometime this decade (some experts say we’ve already passed it, some say not quite yet) world oil production will start to decline and will never go back up again, because we’re running out of it. The second problem is that our overconsumption of fossil fuels is quite literally killing us, via pollution to a lesser degree but to a really greater degree by causing global climate disruption. Hurricanes and typhoons are increasing in frequency and strength, summer heat waves are hotter and more frequent, winter storms are colder and more ferocious, some areas of the world are experiencing more flooding while others are experiencing more drought, and sea levels are starting to rise because the ice caps are melting. Climate disruption, from a scientific standpoint, is not a matter of opinion or debate, it’s happening right now.

Moore’s Law, and in general an industry where innovation is tied to planned rapid obsolescence such that every one to two years we are expected to throw away our old hardware devices and buy new ones, is unsustainable. Recycling old electronics is important, but even that is energy intensive and is only less unsustainable.

Theodore Twombly sits at his monitor, in a future where there are no devices, only the digital cloud. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Theodore Twombly sits at his monitor, in a future where there are no devices, only interface points to the digital cloud. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

I recently watched the Spike Jonze film Her, in which a lonely man who lives in the not-too-distant future develops a romantic relationship with his new artificially intelligent operating system. If you’re a designer, you should see this film. It’s exquisitely designed and in so many ways is a plausible extrapolation of how many social and technological trends today may evolve in the future. One of the things I found most prescient in this film’s vision of the future was how little everyone was focused on their hardware. Computers were just white picture frame screens. Little folding pocket folios with a built-in camera, and a wireless earpiece, kept you connected with your digital life all the time. There were no keyboards or mice. Interaction with computers was mainly through voice recognition, and a little bit through gestures made on any surface in front of your screen, similar to the gestures we use now for our iPhones or Android Phones. The only devices visible in the film weren’t really devices, they were only connection and interface points. There were no computers or smart phones. Everything was in the digital cloud.

This is where innovation in the future will happen. It’s where it will half to happen. As designers we can’t stop it, and in fact we have a certain moral obligation to drive it, to drive innovation away from the wasteful cycle of almost disposable handheld hardware towards cloud based operating systems and apps. The next revolutionary device won’t be a device at all, it’ll be a concept in the cloud that changes the way we interact with it. The designers and companies who can crack the cycle of instantly obsolete, energy and resource intense devices, and make the physical device itself obsolete, will be at the forefront of the next revolution.

Information for parts of this article came from “Where To Find Rare Earth Elements” by Dr. Ainissa Ramirez on PBS’s Nova Next: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/physics/rare-earth-elements-in-cell-phones/

Syncing Your Body To The Cloud

“Nosce te ipsum.” (Know thyself.)

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NBA basketball player Kevin Durant wearing the Nike+FuelBand.

The age of cyborgs is arriving, but quietly and without the violence and invasiveness of the Terminator or The Borg. Certainly there are surgically implanted devices under development for everything from the automatic administration of drugs such as insulin to artificial organs and bionic body parts. What’s happening more subtly but in many ways just as powerfully is with instruments that are wrapped around our wrists and apps that connect to our physical activities. Theses devices and apps are not just monitoring our activities, they’re turning our bodies into data producing devices that can be monitored and managed. The following are three such wrist-worn sensors.
The Nike+FuelBand fitness tracker wrist band uses a formula invented by Nike to calculate activity levels based on gender and weight by tracking yours steps, time taken engaged in activities, fuel, and calories burned. The data is wirelessly transmitted to your web based account and/or an app on your smart phone.

The Jawbone UP band measures food intake, sleep, mood, steps taken, and calories burned. It’s smart feedback includes tracking your daily activities and rhythms in order to tell you when it would be most beneficial to sleep, to wake up, eat and exercise. It’s connected to an extensive food database so that food items you eat can be entered by name, by photo, or by scanning a bar code with your phone’s camera. Unlike the Nike+FuelBand, it is not wireless and thus it must be synced by plugging it into an Apple iOS or Android phone or tablet.

The Fitbit Flex is similar to the Jawbone UP in that it tracks your eating, sleeping and physical activities. Sleeping and food cycles must be logged online. However, it is wireless and beams the data to your smart phone or tablet, and you can connect with friends who also use the Fitbit to share data about your routines. In a sense it turns the body into social media device.

There are also a slew of smart apps coming out for measuring and data basing the body. Cardiio measures heart rate, Ginger.io tracks activity and performs behavior analytics, inFlow and Mood Panda track and measure moods and emotional health. Stress Check measures stress levels via heart rate.

These devices and apps are rudimentary compared to what’s coming in the next five years. As chips and circuits get smaller there will be stick-on sensors the size of a small adhesive bandage. High end clothes will have built-in sensors in the synthetic fabric that will wireless beam data to the cloud. Further, these smart fabrics will generate electrostatic electricity to keep the sensors and our devices charged. The wrist bands and Google Glass we have now will seem clunky and cumbersome compared to the ubiquitous, invisible and unobtrusive sensors coming soon.

This is the age of big data, and even things that seem messy and unmathematical like biology and our bodies are a part of that. Figure out how to measure and quantify, and you’ve got data to sync to the cloud. Our bodies are biological machines with rhythms, functions and mechanics, and by interfacing them with these sensors we can be cyborgs without a single surgical implant, by plugging in all that data to our other devices. The body becomes another device like our smart phone and tablet that gets synced with all our other devices and with the big data cloud. What’s extremely powerful about this notion is an explosion of self knowledge that can lead to healthier lifestyle choices. When we eat a hamburger and drink a cola we don’t think about or see data visualization about the growth hormones and saturated fats in the beef, or the high fructose corn syrup in the soft drink. But if our body is a device synced to the cloud, we can. It’s as powerful as the real time gas mileage visualizer on the screens in many hybrid cars. When drivers see the real time result of their behavior on the gas mileage of their car, they tend to change their behavior. Game play results, as many drivers play at how they can get the best gas mileage. It can work the same way with our personal health, particularly if linked to social media so you can share your healthy choices with your friends and family, all through measuring, calculating and visualizing data.

Physicist Max Tegmark says, “Our reality isn’t just described by mathematics–it is mathematics, in a very specific sense.” What will designers do with that reality? To keep pace with innovation the UX designers of today need to be fluent in big data and ubiquitous computing. That doesn’t mean that they have to be mathematicians, but it does mean that design thinking must embrace a reality that IS mathematics, a reality where the human body can be another the ultimate device synced to the cloud.

Convergence is Done. This is What’s Next.

The New York Times on an iPhone.

The New York Times on an iPhone.

A couple of months ago I received a group email from a media studies instructor with a link to a story about Twitter reporting on Super Bowl advertisements, and the sender declared it to be “Convergence in the media!!!” (Yes, there were three exclamation marks).  I scratched my head at this, because it was just flat out wrong.  Twitter talking about and allowing users to rate television ads is not “convergence.”  But the word convergence has become such a trendy buzz word in media studies that even an instructor in the subject can misuse it.  So let me set the record straight: convergence is a phenomenon that began with the explosion of the world wide web, and particularly enabled by the spread of wifi networks and portable computing, where information technologies and mass media become so interconnected that they merge.  Convergence has transformed entire industries.  For instance, since news organizations have started distributing their product on websites, tablets and phones, they have expanded the types of media they distribute.  Now newspaper journalists not only write stories, they also shoot and edit videos that can be instantly streamed online.  That’s convergence.  Twitter buying some TV commercials isn’t.

Ads for the iPod were a template for how to design video content for the devices.

Ads for the iPod were a template for how to design video content for the devices.

In the early 2000s I gave a series of lectures on how trends in convergence and multi-modality (the delivery of the same media in different formats across different devices) were changing the aesthetics of media.  For instance, the design of news websites, with their multiple layers of information and software-style interface, fundamentally changed the look of television news.  Compare the look of a news broadcast from the 1980s to one today and the difference is enormous.  In the old style the news anchor is sitting in a physical studio in front of a camera.  In the new style the news anchor is embedded between layers of information windows and motion graphics, essentially placed within a software interface.  At the same time, a single device fundamentally changed the aesthitics of video: the Apple iPod.  Once people started watching music videos in the palms of their hands, the old cinematic style of music videos was replaced with a stark, flat, software-style aesthetic.  The micro-screen now rules over the cinema screen, and the affects this has had over media design was fundamental.  I predicted that these trends would spell the end of skeuomorphism in design.  Skeuomorphism is where designed elements mimic physical objects or textures in the real world.  So for example the contacts application on your computer would be designed to look like an actual leather-bound address book.  The new paradigm is called flat design.  Flat design is driven by a philosophy of simplicity and clarity, but even more so it is driven by necessity.  Like music videos viewed on palm-held devices, user interfaces have to be easy to see on micro-screens and easy to operate with your thumb.  Flat design is a beautiful necessity.  Form follows function.

Flat design in the Windows 8 OS.

Flat design in the Windows 8 OS.

Convergence has happened.  Multimodality is the norm.  Skeuomorphism has died (granted, it took a bit longer than I thought, and I didn’t expect Microsoft with their Windows 8 OS to beat Apple to the punch!)  Flat design is the new design.  These were the trends that drove the first decade of the 21st century. So what’s next?

Increasingly, the media and design landscapes are being shaped by the interactions between media, and are driven less by physical product designs such as the iPod or iPhone and more by apps.  But with apps it’s not about the design of a singular app, it’s about the synergies between apps.  Apps can hook into each other.  If I design an app that needs to make use of maps and GPS functions, I don’t have to reinvent those functions, I can simply hook into the existing map app on the device I’m designing for, and the existing GPS functions on the physical device.  Further, a lot of innovation in apps is how they tie into existing physical functions in our world, like apps that do our banking for us, apps for making restaurant reservations, apps that manage our automobile insurance (including using your phone’s camera to file insurance claims), etc.  Synergy is trend happening now.

The Nest thermostat and app.

The Nest thermostat and app.

Synergies not only tie apps to each other and our digital and physical worlds together, but also change our perceptions of the things we use.  For instance, the Nest thermostat fundamentally changes the concept of a thermostat from an HVAC controller in our home to an interactive networked device that learns our behaviors and is tethered to our phones and computers.

That designers now design not just products but synergies and interactions and reconceptualize the old paradigms of things in our lives into interconnected devices, means that every designer must be an expert in User Experience (UX) design.  What makes the Nest thermostat paradigm-shifting is it’s UX. UX has the power to transform anything. If you ever get a chance to sit in the cockpit of a Tesla electric car, you’ll see that the car wasn’t just designed with good ergonomics, it was design with good UX.  This means everything about the user’s lifestyle is taken into account.  The Tesla isn’t just a fancy electric car, it’s a device (one that can actually run apps on it’s enormous center-console touchscreen interface). Square isn’t just a credit card swiper for iPhones, it’s a new UX that creates financial synergies and makes our money a part of our devices.

Designers, take note: the next decade is and will be driven by synergies and UX.

Experiential Design in a Shot Glass

A technology entrepeneur named Brett Cramer, founder of the Spice Lab, is obsessed with salts.  He buys them by the container-load (I mean those small house-sized shipping containers) from all over the world–Himalayan salts, Hawaiian salts, smoked salts, spicey salts, etc. etc.–and sells them to foodies and gourmets.  If you think salt is just salt, check out The Spice Lab or just look at this rainbow of salts:

Tubes of salts from all over the world.

But is isn’t just the selection of salts that are unique to what Cramer and The Spice Lab are offering, it’s how in some cases they’re designed.  Some of the salts are sold in glass tubes that slot into holes bored into blocks of wood.  Cramer has designed a mixological interface to cooking with various exotic salts from around the world.

himalayan_salt_glassesBut the most striking design in his collection is the tequila shot glass carved from Himalayan salt.  Yes, the glasses are made from solid Himalayan salt, which has a translucent pink marbled appearance similar to rose quartz, owing to its high natural iron content.  This introduces a different phenomenological experience to drinking tequila.  With each shot, you get a bit of Himalayan salt, that with the presence of more than eighty minerals tastes earthier than standard table salt.  The glasses are soluble.  Each time they come into contact with liquid, a small amount of the salt dissolves.  They won’t last nearly as long as glass, and you can’t wash them or put them in the dishwasher like normal glasses.  Instead you lightly rinse and immediately dry them off.  But the salt is naturally anti-bacterial, so only minimal cleaning is required.

The experience is inherently different than the standard rock salt on the rim of the margerita glass.  The taste is different, the texture is different, the way the salt and drink are mixed is different.  These shot glasses invent a new way to consume tequila and salt (and lime).  Cramer has combined materials with consumables with interface in invent a new tequila UX.

UX design is the New Design standard.  Graphic designers, user interface designers, product designers, interior designers, architects, etc. can all take their work to a different level by understanding principles of UX design.  Some of these principles are to make things simple and intuitive.  The Himalayan salt shot glasses are an intuitive and simple way to consume tequila and lime with Himalayan salt,  far simpler than mixing a margerita and grinding the exotic salt, etc. Another principle is to reduce latency; these shot glasses make it faster and easier to have a truly sophisticated and different phenomenological and mixological experience with tequila.  And a third principle is that less is more, meaning everything about the design has a purpose.  The shot glasses hold the drink, deliver the salt to the drink in sufficient amounts to be palatable, and are aesthetically pleasing.