Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Co.Design/Meg Miller: The Race To Map The World In 3D

    06.07.17 7:00 am
The Race To Map The World In 3D

By Meg Miller 4 minute Read

Autonomous vehicles require a constant feed of data about their environment, in order to navigate that environment safely. It’s not enough that a car has computer vision—it also needs 3D maps of the streetscape to confirm what it’s seeing. And creating those 3D maps is an enormous task: It means gathering and constantly refreshing visual data for every street. In the U.S. alone, that’s 4,000 miles of roads.
es have been popping up to take on this 3D mapping work, and as a result an interesting use case has arisen. The technologies that are building the infrastructure for self-driving cars may also prove to be valuable to cities themselves—and the architects and developers who build them.

On the forefront of that idea is the start up Carmera, which launched on Monday. The company has a mission of gathering real-time 3D-mapping data that is being used by the makers of autonomous vehicles, but making it accessible for anyone. It joins third-party companies like TomTom and Nokia’s Here (recently acquired by BMW, Daimler, and Audi) that are providing this data to car companies, allowing them to compete with companies like Google that has its own data for AV development. But with a trove of city data at its fingertips, Carmera isn’t relegating itself to the car market—it is also widening its consumer base to include city officials, builders, and planners.


In fact, the first product Carmera has made available is for analyzing a build site, to be used by the construction and real-estate industries. At the moment, Carmera is focused on selling the product to companies in the private sector, but Ro Gupta, the company’s CEO and cofounder, says that they are also in talks with city agencies about how the data could be useful to them in the future, particularly in terms of Smart City and mobility initiatives.

“We’ve been crawling the streets of New York with our sensors for over a year,” says Gupta. “So now we have really good data based on actual observations on pedestrians—inferred data that you might get from a subway turnstile or cell-phone data. We have actual observations on pedestrian foot traffic across all months of the year and across all different hours of the day.”



y two years ago with cofounder Justin Day, formerly the CTO of the 3D-printing startup Makerbot. Since then, they’ve been working on developing their own software that uses machine vision and data processing to create 3D streetscapes that refresh either once a day, weekly, or monthly, depending on the location. They’ve raised $6.4 million in funding from venture capital firm Matrix Partners, with participation from other like MakerBot Industries’ Bre Pettis and investor Semil Shah of Haystack.

Carmera’s mode of operation marries what both major tech companies and smaller crowdsourcing efforts have been doing to gather 3D mapping data. Google, with its mobility project Waymo, and Uber have already started mapping out the country, outfitting their own fleets of cars with sensors and gathering the data city by city. Similarly, Carmera’s own LiDAR mapping vehicles roam New York City and gather visual data.

But like initiatives such as OpenStreetMap foundation, Carmera also recruits others to gather data simultaneously, by attaching Carmera’s visual monitoring sensors to their vehicles. Called fleet partners, these are companies that already have a fleet of vehicles taking routes through the city on a daily basis. Though the storage company MakeSpace is the only partner Carmera has shared publicly, Gupta points to companies with package delivery trucks or service vans as prime partners. In return for attaching the sensors, Carmera provides fleet partners with monitoring data about their vehicles’ safety and efficiency. (One thing Carmera’s partners have found especially useful is using the tracking technology to fight parking tickets—which can total to more than seven figures for many delivery companies, according to Gupta.)
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In turn, the fleets give Carmera images of the city streets on a regular basis, providing it with a base map that is made even more accurate with the more expensive sensors and LiDAR technology that equip Carmera’s own cars. The 3D maps created by and constantly kept up-to-date with this information can be used for autonomous vehicles as they continue to develop. In the meantime, the company’s first product, Carmera Site Intelligence ($499 per export), will provide architects, engineers, and planners with spatial data and location analytics for construction sites. It makes it possible for an architect in Europe, for example, to scope out a site it is considering in downtown New York City just by downloading a zip file with 3D imagery and a panoramic viewer.

The data could also be useful in the design process directly, particularly for firms using 3D contruction software. “In a Revit or BIM environment, they could actually develop the job itself almost like the old style way of using trace paper to sketch on top of a photo of the site,” Gupta says. “In our case the ‘photo’ would be the dimensions of the site itself.”

The New York-based firm Francis Cauffman Architects is the only beta partner that Carmera is making public at this time. Ken Kramer, a principal there, describes the scenario that the data will be most useful: in cutting down on the need for ongoing site visits, gathering physical site data like photos or waiting for third-party data for weeks. Instead, they have been exporting Carmera’s data right away and using the imagery to show the environment while designing their projects.

Carmera’s longer-term goal is to start gathering data in other major cities—something Gupta says they feel well equipped for after doing so in New York City where the streets are constantly changing and tall buildings often make it difficult to get accurate imagery. By the time autonomous vehicles make it to the streets of city’s across the U.S., Carmera hopes to have them all mapped out.
About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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    06.06.17 wwdc

Why Does Apple Think It Can Get Away With Selling Overpriced Stuff?
Just because it’s worked before doesn’t mean it can work today.
Why Does Apple Think It Can Get Away With Selling Overpriced Stuff?
[Source Photos: Apple]

By Mark Wilson6 minute Read

I want to tell you a story about three amazing products.
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The world’s most popular smart home speaker.

The world’s most popular laptop computer.

And the world’s most popular smartphone.

Which belong to Apple?

The speaker? That’s the Amazon Echo. The laptop? It’s a Lenovo or HP. And the phone? Currently, it’s Apple’s iPhone. In the past, Samsung’s Galaxy line has challenged that, though. And if you consider all of the Chromebook laptops and Android smartphones in the world made by different manufacturers? Google wins twice, Amazon once, and Apple not at all.

Most investors and fans will assure you that this isn’t a problem. Apple is one of the most profitable companies in history, after all, making $215 billion in revenue last year. And that’s because the company makes money by selling hardware, on average, for about two to three times the price it takes the company to build it.

[Source Photo: Apple]
The $650 iPhone 7 has a build estimate of $220 (not counting research and development)–which is actually high for iPhones, historically. Apple made nearly 70% of its revenue specifically from selling iPhones last year. Add in iPads and Macs, and you’re at 85% of Apple’s revenue. Say what you will about those margins, but consumers have deemed it fair with their wallets, paying a surcharge on industry-leading industrial design, commonly dubbed the Apple Tax.

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But what happens when our objects matter less than the software inside of them? When Apple’s best UX breakthroughs like touchscreens have been copied? When Siri can’t keep up with the Google Assistant, iCloud is a middle schooler in the face of Amazon Web Services, and nobody needs iMovie because they just Snap and Instagram anyway?

Apple reveals its ultimate strategy: put fingers in ears. Sell its latest product, the smart home HomePod speaker, for $350–or about the cost of 2.5 Amazon Alexas or Google Homes.

Apple will continue to make money off of its premium hardware, while its competitors continue cutting corners to sell devices at cost, but make up the money with ever-present services in your life rather than gadgets in your home.

Why not? It has worked before. Apple introduced the strategy most successfully with the iPod line in 2001, and perfected it through the release of subsequent editions of iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

Compare that to what Amazon does. While tight-lipped on the matter, Jeff Bezos has said the company makes no money off Kindle hardware sales, and one report says the Echo has actually cost Amazon hundreds of millions of dollars to date. The company’s annual report also reveals that even Prime is something of a loss lead product. But Amazon keeps consumers close, because it believes there’s money in the service end, sooner or later. Now, the company makes billions off of Amazon Web Services. That’s right, all of the server infrastructure it built for its own business of serving people, Amazon now sells to power much of the web.

[Source Photo: Apple]
Google is in a similar spot. The Google Home speaker is not a profitable piece of hardware, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s claim to shareholders is that with such devices, “We are very focused on the consumer experience now . . . I think if you go and create these experiences that work at scale for users, the monetization will follow.”

Services from Search to Android itself are offered freely to consumers. (Manufacturers don’t pay to run Android on their phones, either.) Google’s revenue primarily comes from serving us ads, for, again, keeping the consumer so close, that it can find money to be made in the digital bits, not the physical blocks.
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Amazon won’t reveal how many Alexas it has sold–at least one estimate says about 10 million–but in a sense, it’s an irrelevant stat to the balance sheet. Amazon only needs to worry that, if and when people order toilet paper or Domino’s pizza with their voices, Amazon has a product ready to take the order. Likewise, the Chromebook has started eating into dwindling iPad and Mac sales for all sorts of reasons, but chiefly, that schools can buy students a fully functional laptop for less than the price of an iPad, and Macbooks are all more than $1,000. And Google gets to raise the next generation of internet users on Chrome, Search, Google Docs, and other services core to the intimacy of Google’s ultimate ad play.

Are Kindles or Chromebooks as polished as anything Jony Ive would let off the assembly line? Generally, no. But the best design isn’t always the most polished, with the tightest tolerances and finest materials. Mass-produced goods first and foremost have to be affordable, too.

[Source Photo: Apple]
Back to Apple. To sell an iPhone at cost would literally destroy the business. Only about 10% of the company’s income is off of services, detached from glass and aluminum.

Even Apple seems to understand that hardware is ultimately a limited business in 2017. Because the company call its apps, not its phones or tablets, its “fastest growing, highest margin” product. Apps that Apple, for the most part, doesn’t even make. But Apple still gets a hefty 30% cut of app sales and in-app purchases.

In other words, even though it’s a small chunk of Apple’s revenue, the wunderkind of Apple’s business is technically software! Because software you don’t code but can still profit upon are one of the best businesses of all.

So the question becomes: Can Apple keep doubling down on its hardware margins, ignoring the sort of service-level diversification that keeps us using Amazon and Google things all day long, without really giving them another thought? Consider that the middle class is shrinking, and 63% of Americans don’t have $500 in their bank accounts, and the answer is, maybe not. It’s a stark outlook for Apple, that only gets worse if you consider that, if the next billion customers are in Africa and India, hardware needs to be cheaper. Here, Apple is at a disadvantage. Geeky arguments over whether the iPhone 7’s curvy edges are superior to the Pixel’s machined frame are moot when smartphones need to be $500 cheaper to be in your life at all (and not have a screen that costs over $100 to repair).

However, if Apple has any particular hope, it’s this: Amazon and Google are both invasive with consumer data. These companies track our activity largely with the goal of selling us something at just the right moment. Apple is far more transparent. It’s actively pushing machine learning to the device level by developing an on-device machine learning API and working on a specialized machine learning chip to bring advanced AI to your phone, theoretically, without all your data going to a server, where it might be accessible by the government, advertisers, and more. It’s making cross-device encryption a standard, which means a federal agent who seizes your phone at a border crossing–which happened during the Muslim ban–can’t as easily download its contents and read it all. And most of all, that new HomePod speaker, powered by Siri, will anonymize and encrypt everything you say. That means your private questions are not tied to your Apple ID for later reference. Such is not the case for Amazon’s and Google’s assistants.
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Apple has and will make trade-offs to protect consumer privacy. (Many of us, at the end of the day, get some value out of a Google knowing our history of things we’ve searched, even if it’s constantly creepy.) It might not work, but at least we’re getting a clear picture of Apple’s big gamble going into the next decade: that people will continue paying more than they should for hardware, with the hope that it’s not just nicely designed, but that it operates with discretion, too.
About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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    06.05.17 wwdc

The iPhone’s Most Important New Feature Stops You From Using It
Apple’s new Do Not Disturb mode is designed to stop distracted drivers.
The iPhone’s Most Important New Feature Stops You From Using It
[Images: Apple]

By Mark Wilson1 minute Read

We’ve all had friends–ahem–who insist on checking their phones while driving. It’s a serious issue: 3,477 people were killed in 2015 due to distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet our phones, with their constant notifications and pings, are designed to grab our attention no matter the context.
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Now, Apple is admitting that the iPhone itself might be partially responsible. With the upcoming release of iOS 11, your iPhone will have a Do Not Disturb mode for driving. That means it will automatically see when you’re driving–and suggest you switch to a driving mode.

What’s your iPhone look like in this new mode?

Like this:

[Image: Apple]
That’s right, your phone simply looks unappealing and dead.

Announced this afternoon at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, or WWDC, the new mode isn’t mandatory, but it is automatically suggested when the phone recognizes you’re paired with a car via Bluetooth or moving at high speeds via GPS. If you choose to turn your screen back on, you’ll be reminded with a prompt that you’ve set your phone to Do Not Disturb. However, you can override it with a button press if you choose (or if you’re just a passenger).

Apple isn’t the first to introduce such a mode on the iPhone–in fact, both Waze and Pokèmon Go automatically kick into driving modes to restrict your actions while on four wheels–but it is encouraging to see Apple adopt it at the OS level. Because we really shouldn’t be on our phones while driving. And frankly, we don’t seem to have the self-control to manage that impulse on our own.
About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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    05.31.17

We Studied Brands Around The World. What Consumers Want Isn’t What You Think
We asked more than 5,000 people to tell us about the brands they sought out, then we analyzed what those brands did. The results were surprisingly consistent.
We Studied Brands Around The World. What Consumers Want Isn’t What You Think
[Photo: Afton Almaraz/Getty Images]

By Brian Millar6 minute Read

Traditional advertising went after “share of mind”–the idea was to get you to associate a brand with a single idea, a single emotion. Volvo: safety. Jaguar: speed. Coke: happiness. The Economist: success. Bang, bang, bang, went the ads, hammering the same idea into your mind every time you saw one.
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Advertising briefs evolved to focus the creatives on a single USP and a single message. Tell them we’re the Ultimate Driving Machine. Tell them in a thrilling way. It worked when you saw ads infrequently on television, in a Sunday magazine, or on a billboard on your morning commute.

It hasn’t worked online. Audiences have stopped engaging with advertising. Big brands like Pepsi and P&G have slashed investment in Facebook spending. The agencies’ response has been to create new formats of ads that take over a page, dominate our mobiles’ screens, and generally scream at us. And when somebody screams at you for long enough, you put in earplugs and ignore them. Or, in the case of the online world, you install an ad blocker, as much of the U.K. population has now done.

Yet there are many brands online that people don’t want to block. We asked over 5,000 people around the world to tell us about the brands whose content they actively sought out, then analyzed what those brands did. The results were surprisingly consistent. Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

Some of Victoria’s Secret’s biggest hits have been funny: the hijinx of models on Instagram, blooper reels on YouTube. Taco Bell is beautiful on Instagram, hilarious on Twitter, and inspiring in its online Live Mas campaign. Movember has grown into a global movement on a tiny budget by creating Facebook content that celebrates the glories of mustaches, moves us with cancer survivors’ stories and provides insane moments of slapstick.

So we commissioned a second piece of research to help us understand the emotional landscape of the internet. Forget advertising for a second: What is it that makes the internet so compelling that countries have to pass laws to force us to tear ourselves away from it while driving? Our study showed that there were four kinds of emotionally compelling content: funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring. When we checked back over the most successful online brands, yup, most of them did all four.
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1/5 Men aged 16-24 have a broad range of tastes, reflecting their “snacky” approach to content. They over-index (darker segments) on satirical humor and pop-aesthetics things like manga. [Data: © The EIA 2017]
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Yet most online brands still do only one, as if they’re still appearing on television once a night, rather than following us around as we chat to friends on Facebook, search for inspiration on Pinterest, or scream into the void on Twitter. No wonder engagement is plunging and ad blockers are on the rise.
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To increase your share of emotion, and join the ranks of the brands people love online, you need to ask a new set of questions about your audience:

What kinds of things do my audience find funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring?

Where does my audience go for those kinds of content?

How does my brand produce content that will mesh with more of my audience’s emotional needs?

Take BMW, for example. Our data shows that people with an affinity for the brand-–its core audience–love sensual beauty most of all online. They’re also in the market for laughs, and love parody. They find thrilling things inspiring, hate heartwarming stuff (don’t you love it when the data confirms your prejudices), and have little sense of wonder.

The good news for BMW is that it’s nailing the “thrilling” genre of inspiring content. The bad news is that “thrilling” represents about 15% of a BMW driver’s emotional life online. Much of the rest of BMW’s content is what we’d categorize as inspiring–TED Talks, designing for the super-future. They’re completely missing the bigger emotional picture.

Jaguar isn’t. The company’s “Good To Be Bad” campaign completely nailed parody, a “blue ocean emotion” for the luxury automotive category. It brought surprise and delight to a rather stuffy brand and forced its audience to reevaluate its range.
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You don’t have to be multinational to be multifaceted. Rude Health is a great example of a small U.K. brand that’s grown a cult online following through its unpredictable content. It alternates beautiful food images with racy humor, authoritative rants about the food industry, and inspiring healthy lifestyle tips.

Useful:

Inspiring:

Beautiful:
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    Oreos step aside. We've got rude health crackers and @chicpfood's cacao hummus instead. Drop by the @rudehealthcafe tomorrow to sample some chocolate themed @chicpfood hummus, Rude Health granola and porridge pots. Easter n all.

    A post shared by RUDE HEALTH (@rudehealth) on Apr 12, 2017 at 6:36am PDT

Funny:

    You’re in rude health when… you get your kit off for a good cause. You stand up and speak up for what you believe in. You cycle naked through the city. _______________________________ Ever wondered what it would be like to bike through your home city in nothing but your birthday suit? Sick of the lack of cycle lane on your route to work? Frustrated about the cult of the car? What about the green alternatives? Join us as part of #YoureInRudeHealthWeek and get your kit off for a good cause at the London Naked Bike Ride 2017. More info in bio.

    A post shared by RUDE HEALTH (@rudehealth) on May 16, 2017 at 10:05am PDT

Online, being multidimensional beats being single-minded. Surprise beats consistency. Share of emotion beats share of mind. The best online brands have always understood this instinctively. Now we have the data to prove it.

Brian Millar is cofounder of the Emotional Intelligence Agency, an internet data and strategy company.

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    05.02.17

22 Movies And Shows Every Designer Should Watch On Netflix
Netflix’s queue is constantly changing. Here’s a guide to the latest stuff.
22 Movies And Shows Every Designer Should Watch On Netflix

By Mark Wilson7 minute Read

(This is an updated version of a list we published two years ago–the majority of which was no longer streamable, given Netflix’s content churn. We miss you, Objectified!)
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The Netflix queue is one of the most dangerous time-sinks on earth. But to designers, it can actually be a great source of inspiration, with everything from design documentaries to films that are pure visual art. Here are 22 must-see design movies and shows on Netflix.
[Photo: Magnolia Pictures]
Iris

In this very watchable, critically acclaimed short documentary, interior designer and round-glasses-loving fashion icon Iris Apfel is profiled by documentary legend Albert Maysles. Even though she’s in her 90s, Apfel still quips, and dresses, better than you do today. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Blinkworks]
Indie Game: The Movie

What’s it like to make a hit video game with a staff of one or two people, taking meetings with Microsoft execs before going back to 12 hours of pixel painting? This very watchable documentary profiles two teams of designers while they created Super Meat Boy and Fez, a couple of the biggest critical and financial indie hits of the past decade, in a high-stakes race to make both deadlines and ends meet. [Watch here.] There’s also a sequel now. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Touchstone Pictures]
The Films Of Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Moonrise Kingdom are both currently available for streaming. Who can ever get enough of the quirky prop magic created by Anderson’s long-time collaborator, Kris Moran? (Not us.) [Watch here and here.]

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei is China’s most prominent artist-activist, known for openly challenging the Chinese government (and even being imprisoned for it). The documentary takes you inside his studio, work, and philosophies. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Exit Through the Gift Shop]
Exit Through The Gift Shop

If you haven’t heard about this “documentary” about graffiti artist Banksy, we’d rather not spill the beans. Come for the street art. Stay (or leave) for the conspiracy theories. [Watch here.]
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Metropolis

Yes, it was filmed in 1927. Yes that means it’s silent. But Metropolis is still an amazing piece of architectural sci-fi, set in a dystopian future in which just about everything has gone to crap except for the unbelievable set budgets. It’s hard to believe that the film was made before the advent of computer-generated imagery. Director Fritz Lang relied on tricks like mirrors and miniatures to pull off the film’s special effects. If you can’t take the pace of the movie’s narrative, we won’t judge. Just load it up in the background for a bit of visual splendor. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Happy Movie]
Happy

What makes us happy? Really? This hit documentary by Roko Belic profiles the question by profiling different happy people from around the world, examining the question through spirituality and science. It’s more of a survey of the field than a conclusive or authoritative documentary, but it will leave you with a greater understanding of what is, perhaps, the most important topic in human existence. [Watch here.]

Sky Ladder

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang likes to blow things up. Sky Ladder is a gorgeously filmed portrait of his work, with a subtle respect for sound that will make you feel the fizzles and booms. [Watch here.]

Abstract: The Art Of Design

Produced in-house as a Netflix Original, this series is basically Mind of a Chef for designers, which profiles the design elite including starchitect Bjarke Ingels, Nike footwear designer Tinker Hatfield, and Pentagram graphic designer Paula Scher. Critical the series is not. But there’s no better portrait of the place and time of design today than this slickly produced series. [Watch here.]
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[Photo: Long Shot Factory]
If You Build It

This inspiring, beloved documentary follows a group of North Carolina high school students as they learn to design and construct a new building for their school. The movie opens with a TED talk about the project itself–so there’s a certain self-aware pat on the back that might make the film cloying to some. But watch a kid build a twisting chicken coop that looks straight out of an architectural biennial, and it’s tough to be too cynical about the power of design thinking. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Untold Creative]
The True Cost

In the era of social media, the fashion industry has gotten faster. Trends go viral, and manufacturers like Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M have responded by transforming from seasonal lines, often planned a year in advance, to clothing that goes from factory to store shelves in a matter of weeks. But there’s a price to all of this surprisingly cheap clothing. This documentary by Andrew Morgan examines fast fashion’s unadvertised sins. [Watch here.]
[Image: Focus Features]
Kubo And The Two Strings

What happens when you combine some of Japan’s most beautiful arts–origami, ink washes, and ukiyo-e wood painting–with stop-motion animation? You get a beautiful movie also happens to be only the second animated film in history to be nominated for an Academy Award in Best Visual Effects. But since it grossed well under $100 million in its 2016 release, barely making back its own budget, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it. [Watch here.]

Mind Of A Chef And Chef’s Table

Your friend has told you that you need to watch Mind of a Chef and Chef’s Table 100 times now. Your friend is always right. So if you haven’t partaken in these two series, we guess it’s time to enjoy some of the most beautiful plates of food come together in slow motion–even if the chef-as-genius motif is a bit overplayed. [Watch here and here.]
Encounters at the end of the world

In this Werner Herzog documentary–a filmmaker who has been accused of artfully blending fact and fiction–Herzog takes us to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, a place of desolate landscapes to explore “the prospect of man’s oblivion.” The visuals contrast between vast, empty spaces and tight quarters where you feel almost too close to the film’s subjects. As with all Herzog’s work, it jumps between the sublime and mundane, the inspirational and the utterly boring. [Watch here.]

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Tales By Light

If you’ve ever watched the behind-the-scenes of Planet Earth, you know: The stories behind the photography can be every bit as exciting as the captured moments themselves. Tales by Light is a Netflix Original that profiles nature photographers at work. It’s all a bit meta. You’re watching photographers, getting these amazing photos–all being captured by camera operators, who are getting the amazing video that you’re actually watching of the photographers at work. But if you’ve ever had the fantasy of traveling the globe, camera in hand–well, this series won’t cure it. [ Watch here.]
[Photo: IMDB]
Sneakerheadz

Let us get this out of the way first: Sneakerheadz is not a great documentary. But it’s a superb primer to a cultural movement and big business you may know nothing about. This very hand-holding documentary goes as far to define words like “colorway” before explaining how Run DMC planted the seeds of Adidas’s business strategy today. Critics agree that the film backed off where it should have pushed. Indeed, one of the more interesting subtexts is the evolution of the sneaker market itself–from a hobby that was about originality and discoverability, to one driven by carefully marketed, corporately coordinated “drops” of limited-edition kicks. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Disney and Pixar]
Finding Dory

If you don’t have a child in your life who has forced you to watch Finding Dory–and then watch Finding Dory again–it’s a must-see purely for its visual splendor. In an age when Hollywood computer animation cuts every corner possible, Pixar demonstrates the height of the medium, with an impossibly intricate octopus (the studio’s most complicated character built to date), and scenes that squeeze what must be a thousand or more fish into a single tank. It’s hard to believe there are enough animators in the world to build such a thing. [Watch here.]

Fresh Dressed

Today, it’s a given that hip-hop culture has influenced the catwalk–Fresh Dressed is a documentary by writer Sacha Jenkins that takes you into the history–for looks at the origins of trends like fat laces and oversized clothing. Plus, interviews with famous faces like Kanye West and Sean Combs keep things moving. [Watch here.]
[Photo: Dogwoof Ltd.]
Dior and I

As Raf Simmons prepares his first couture line for Christian Dior, preeminent fashion documentary director Frédéric Tcheng follows him through the design process with a single camera and seemingly unfettered access. Unlike many design documentaries, which are more promotional than critical, Dior and I reads imperfect and honest–especially in a simple scene in a car, as Simmons provides some seemingly earnest introspection about his own career and how people see him. [Watch here.]

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Black Mirror

In 2015, Netflix commissioned its own run of the hit British show Black Mirror, which gives a Twilight Zone twist to technologies of the modern day. By many reports, the series is only getting better over time. And in a world full of social networking, AI, and augmented reality, it’s not just science fiction anymore, either. It’s a demonstration of what the world could become if technology and design choose to consume our world instead of improving it. [Watch here.]
About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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    03.14.17

Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”
In a new report, John Maeda explains why writing is a must-have skill for designers.
Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”
[Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images]

By Katharine Schwab3 minute Read

READ MORE
A Reading Guide For Designers Who Want To Write
Thinking Beyond The Interface
The Next Phase Of UX: Designing Chatbot Personalities

These days many designers can code–an increasingly important skill for landing a job. But few are just as fluent in their own language as they are in Javascript. That presents a serious problem in terms of design. Users still depend on copy to interact with apps and other products. If designers don’t know how to write well, the final product–be it a physical or digital one–can suffer as a result.
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In his “2017 Design in Tech Report,” John Maeda writes that “code is not the only unicorn skill.” According to Maeda, who is the head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic and former VP of design at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, words can be just as powerful as the graphics in which designers normally traffic. “A lot of times designers don’t know that words are important,” he said while presenting the report at SXSW this weekend. “I know a few designers like that–do you know these designers out there? You do know them, right?”

By pointing to writing as the next most important skill for designers, the report suggests a corrective to an overreliance on the interface–to the extent that writing itself has been left behind as a design skill. “A core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” writes designer Susan Stuart, in a blog post highlighted in the report. “These are the skills of a writer — all kinds of writers, but particularly fiction, screenwriting, and technical writing.”

Learning how to write isn’t just an important skill for the future: It’s applicable right now. Trends in digital design emphasize clean lines and few words–giving language itself more weight. “Art direction and copywriting are as fundamental to the user experience as the UI,” as Paul Woods, COO of the digital design firm Edenspiekermann,wrote here on Co.Design. “Sure, you can have a beautiful UI/frame, but once you have that (we all know a great UI is an invisible UI), all the viewer cares about is what’s inside: the artwork, the story.”
[Photo: Ilya Pavlov via Unsplash]

It’s not just that designers should treat their copywriters better, as Maeda mentioned at his Design in Tech SXSW talk. As chatbots and conversational interfaces become more popular, writing becomes the vehicle for experience design–so much so that writers are being integrated into those design teams. Companies are already starting to use AI to customize language for users on a mass scale. This writing-based design could transform the very nature of UX.

“We talk about the power of words—both content and style—all the time,” writes R/GA brand designer Jennifer Vano in blog post featured in the “Design in Tech” report. “When it comes to friendships, romance, work dynamics, and, dare we even mention it—though nothing is more telling, more relevant—politics, words have the power to change our opinions, incite action, divide or unify us, move us. Words can shape reality.”

As a well-known voice in the design world, Maeda’s report will help cast light on the issue–but design schools also have a role to play, as well. The report details how design education is falling short in other areas, as well. For instance, the top three skills needed by designers in practice–data, business, and leadership skills–are not available to them in most basic coursework.

Design is changing fast, and design schools risk producing students without fundamental skills needed in the industry today. Writing is one of them. After all, content is still king.
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Video: This Machine Creepily Duplicates Your Handwriting Perfectly To Create “Handwritten” Notes
About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Follow her on Twitter @kschwabable.

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