Discovered: The Punkt Alarm Clock

One of my New Years resolutions was to no longer sleep with my iPhone next to my bed.  No more checking emails as soon as my eyes open.  No more sending off late night emails that could wait until morning.  So our "charging station" got moved to the other side of the room, which meant we lost the other function of our phone--the alarm clock.  For the last couple weeks we have been using the classic Braun Travel Clock, my husband's from growing up, but it lacked a snooze button.

So the hunt began.  Our requirements were simple--well designed, slim profile and a snooze button.  We scoured blogs for "best alarm clocks," "modern alarm clocks," etc... to no avail.  Then, on a rainy Saturday afternoon we popped into Moss and came across what I am now deeming the perfect alarm clock.

Designed by Jasper Morrison for Swiss brand Punkt, the AC 01 is everything we were looking for and more.  I love how simple and intuitive the controls are and in addition to a snooze function, glow-in-the-dark hands and dial, it also has an led light that illuminates with a simple push of a button.  You can buy one online here.

Team Work: Ikea + Carl Kleiner

I'm loving these latest shots for Ikea by photographer Carl Kleiner.  Similar to the images he created for Ikea's first cookbook, Hembakat är Bäst (Homemade is Best) Kleiner forgoes the usual backdrop and takes a bird's eye view that allows us to completely focus in on the actual products.  Aside from the photography, I love how each shot is so perfectly composed and balanced.  Big props to the stylist (and Kleiner's wife) Evelina Kleiner.

 

*via TRENDLAND

 

Tidbit: Starting Your Day Right

I'm loving this tidbit of wisdom from Seth Godin:

The first thing you do when you sit down at the computer

Let me guess: check the incoming. Check email or traffic stats or messages from your boss. Check the tweets you follow or the FB status of friends.

You've just surrendered not only a block of time but your freshest, best chance to start something new.

If you're a tech company or a marketer, your goal is to be the first thing people do when they start their day. If you're an artist, a leader or someone seeking to make a difference, the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded/insisted to what happened yesterday.

 

Image via Tsylord

Discovered: Nest Learning Thermostat

It has taken me a couple weeks to catch up on the daunting stack of magazines that awaited me after being out of the country for six weeks.  I am finally caught up, which means that I just read about this beauty - the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Designed by Tony Fadell, formerly of Apple and designer of the original iPod, the Nest is the thermostat we all never knew we needed.  Using software that analyzes and tracks your usage patterns over time, it will program itself in a week to understand your heating and cooling needs.  It also has built in sensors that keep track of whether or not you’re at home and a wi-fi connection that monitors the weather outside so that it can intelligently understand how the changing temperatures affect your usage behavior.

Aside from the gorgeous minimalist design, what I love about the Nest is that it solves a serious problem.  In Fadell's research, he discovered that 10 million thermostats are sold every year, yet only 6% of programmable ones are actually programmed.  He also discovered that the heating and cooling of our homes accounts for 50% of our energy bills.  Considering this impact, it makes sense to really look at creating design solutions for every day items like thermostats.  As Fadell says, and which I am 100% guilty of, "instead of programming their thermostats, most people have given up and treat it like a light switch."  According to Nest, you'll save 20 - 30% a month on your electric bill, which means that it can easily pay for itself in about a year. Unfortunately, the Nest isn't compatible with my building's system so I can't test it out myself.  You can check here to see if yours is.

 

*Via Fast Company

Breaking Down: Colors In Cultures

I came across this infographic the other day and while I think the design of it isn't necessarily the best solution to convey the information, I find the actual data really facinating.  The data is a good reminder that colors do in fact have different meanings in various cultures and countries.  As marketers we need to understand how our choices impact the products we sell and the messages we convey.  This emotional connection to the consumer is key and is one of the things that can turn a good campaign into a great one.

Infographic by David McCandless

Read: The Joy of Quiet

After a long walk through the neighborhood on New Year's day, I came home, curled up on the couch and made my way through the Sunday Times.  The first article I read, The Joy of Quiet, could not have better articulated one of my New Year's Resolutions; I want to spend less time consuming information and more time observing and processing.

Pico Iyer's article addresses the somewhat trendy desire to escape the constant stream of information.  The trick, as we all know and constantly feel, is the balance.  How do I stay connected to the world in a way that helps influence my insights on what's relevant and appropriate yet creates space for the thinking to take place?  I struggle with this balance constantly and while I think there is no one right way, I do think that we all have to try to separate ourselves from everything that is coming at us literally second by second through our twitter feeds, emails, phone calls, instagram likes, calendar invites, RSS feeds etc.  As Iyer said so eloquently, "it's only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it."

 

Wrapping It Up: 2011

2011 was an epic year in so many ways.  I feel like there is no better way to honor it than by presenting....

My Top Ten

One: Brazil. Three weeks discovering my love for maracuja, hours sifting through forgotten record shops frequented by few in the cities of São Paulo and Salvador and exploring the amazing beaches on the tiny island of Boipeba.

Two: My amazing clients that allowed me to collaborate on projects like this and this and this.

Three: Japan: freshly roasted Chestnuts, hiking around temples in Kyoto, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japanese Maples at their peak fall foliage, underground whiskey bars and 20 course sushi meals.

Four: Lots of dinner parties in our house including platters of paella, tagines and a Cinco de Mayo feast for 25 people complete with homemade enchiladas, budín de elote, albóndigas and plenty of tequila.

Five: Celebrating my Grandfather's 94th birthday.

Six: My new Specialized road bike that led to numerous trips over the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges and long rides out to the Rockaways for tacos from this place.

Seven: India: My first Indian wedding, camel trekking mere miles from the Pakistani border, afternoons reading overlooking Lake Pichola in Udaipur and getting lost in the blue city of Jodhpur.

Eight: Celebrating three years of marriage to my kick-ass husband who has an amazing company, which despite his crazy travel schedule (platinum status is an understatement) makes me incredibly proud of him.

Nine: Sunsets.  I have never seen more beautiful sunsets than the ones I saw this year, regardless if I was is Brooklyn, Austin, Kyoto or Jaisalmer.  They have all blown my mind.

Ten: Matilda Uni Rose, our 4 year old pug, who is quite honestly, the. best. dog. ever.

So thanks 2011 for all of this amazingness.  2012, bring it.

 

 

 

Where I'm Going: India

In just eight days I'll be touching down in Mumbai for three weeks of celebration and exploration.  This amazing photo that is making the rounds on the internet is only making me more impatient to board the plane next Thursday night.

This is a NASA Satellite image taken over India as Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, begins.

via Jetset Farryn

 

Good Work: Bonnie Bracelet

On my recent trip to Austin, I stopped in the gorgeous design shop Spartan and came across my new favorite accessory--the Bonnie Bracelet.  Inspired by the artist's biggest fan (her mom,) Bonnie Bracelets are handmade by Kara Ryan.  These hammered brass cuffs are perfectly simple and I have literally worn them every day.  You can purchase them directly from the artist on Etsy

Thank You: Steve Jobs

 

"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." -- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.

Welcome: Welcome Beyond

One of my favorite design sites, Yatzer, interviewed Berlin based brothers Chris and Oliver Laugsch that are the founders of  Welcome Beyond.  It is an amazing collection of unique hotels and homes all over the world.

Welcome Beyond

By Lauren Del Vecchio,

Welcome Beyond is a new travel site with a fresh perspective and delicious eye candy in the form of architecture, design and ambiance. Founders (and brothers) Chris and Oliver Laugsch curate one-of-a-kind places to rest your head across the globe. A villa in Majorca, a modern chalet in Austria, the architectural marvel that is the Treehotel in Northern Sweden… only a few of the many destinations that can be found throughout the site. Explorers by nature and avid world travelers, Laugsch brothers founded Welcome Beyond with the intention of sharing their philosophy that ''where you stay is as vital to the experience as what you see and do''. One look at the images that pop up and you can’t help but agree with them.

How was the idea for Welcome Beyond born?  What was your inspiration? Our dream was always to start a business together, to do something a bit more meaningful and rewarding with our lives. Both my brother and I were at a point where we were fed-up with our jobs and Welcome Beyond really was the culmination of our favorite past-times. We have both lived abroad for many years, we love to travel and we have a passion for good design and architecture.  So it only seemed natural to combine these elements in one place.  We did not go about it in the traditional manner, doing market research and all that. The idea or concept just seemed right, so we went for it. There are, of course, difficult moments, but looking back it has been incredibly rewarding. Every day we deal with fascinating people who all love what they are doing.

How do you find these spectacular properties and architectural beauties?  I know there are a few boutique hotels, have any been built specifically for Welcome Beyond or were they all built originally as residences? They are all the product of passionate owners who often spent years developing, restoring and decorating their properties. And through our personal interviews with the owners, we try to tell their story – how a couple sailing around the world fell in love with a small island and ended up adopting it, how a single mother went on holiday, bought a derelict property and never went back home or why the British building authorities were not amused by the name ‘Love Shack’.  Initially, we found the properties by spending many months looking through newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. Today we have a number of people scouting and recommending properties to us, and more and more owners are approaching us as they want us to list their property. Unfortunately, we can only accept a small percentage of them in order to keep our collection to the standard it is today.

At Yatzer, we find your philosophy refreshing.  You explain that it is about gaining new perspectives:  "...Not just geographically, but beyond the obvious, the predictable, the expected. It’s about gaining new perspectives on regions, cultures and places of incredible beauty."  As a design site we’d really love to ask your opinion, what is it about one's surroundings that transcends an experience to another level? Absolutely, I believe it is about gaining new perspectives. We are all immersed in our day-to-day lives, the usual, the familiar – it is hard to break out of the routine. It requires time and effort to create a truly inspiring space.  And that is what all of the owners of the properties we have listed, have done. They have invested a lot of time and effort into creating a very personal space – often a reflection of their own character. The owner of Casa de Madrid put it this way:  “The decoration of each room is very different yet on the whole, when you walk through the house, you can feel the harmony. It is like the same person with a different sense of humor. It’s my personality, from one day to another, and that’s carried over into the rooms themselves.”

Guests appreciate that. People who use our website regard shelter as a meaningful part of their travel experience. They are looking beyond the obvious, predictable and standard hotel you find in every corner of the world. Because being in beautiful surroundings helps recharge the batteries.  So, people do love beautiful and functional things. But we are simply overwhelmed with impressions, everything is constantly changing. It is difficult to find a calming and soothing spot, to find the time to appreciate something beautiful and be inspired by it.  Wilber Das, Creative Director of Diesel and the owner of the Uxua Casa Hotel, is a very good example. The fashion industry is constantly changing, things don’t last. The Uxua Casa Hotel was a reaction to that, a longing to create something that lasts.

Welcome Beyond is also about giving back. You call it a ''social business''. Could you tell us a little bit more about that? *Editor’s note:  This is something that the owners have planned to roll out in their next “phase”.   More to come in the near future! Welcome Beyond is all about finding amazing places to stay and promoting great locations. In order to put some greater meaning into the enjoyment of these luxuries and to be able to give something back, we have decided to operate Welcome Beyond as a social business. In the future we will use profits generated through Welcome Beyond to support those who are less fortunate. We don’t want to simply give away the money to a charity, though. We want to put it to a better and more immediate use. We are already thinking about some ideas and projects but none of them are confirmed yet. It is incorporated into our phase two and is still some time away.

Interview: Maria Cornejo

I've been a fan of Carol Han's blog Milk & Mode for a while now.  She has found the intersection of fashion and food--what could be better?  I'm also a big fan of Maria Cornejo.  So when I came across this article on Bon Appetit, I got excited.  I was fortunate to work with Maria at a storytelling workshop led by one of my clients Karen Harvey.  After spending two days together in the workshop, I came away inspired by Maria's natural ease and her incredible design talent.  In my eyes, she embodies the word goddess and this interview only affirms my feelings.

 

Kitchen Couture: Designer Maria Cornejo's Ceviche

By Carol Han

A few days ago, Chilean-born fashion designer Maria Cornejo had the best meal of her life: homemade gnocchi, made by her husband, photographer Mark Borthwick, and served with fresh basil pesto and lasagna with bacon and vegetables. They ate by candlelight in the garden of their Brooklyn brownstone. And she was wearing (we had to ask) the Long Sarah Dress in Tribal linen from her spring/summer collection.

To us, the dinner sounds just as sophisticated and lovely as her garments. An award-winning designer who counts Tilda Swinton, Cindy Sherman, and Michelle Obama among her customers, Cornejo makes clothes for the thinking woman--simple lines that curve and swoop along the body, and prints that hold attention.

Here she takes a quick pause from fashion week prep to talk food and cooking, which she happens to love, and shares a ceviche recipe she learned to make while growing up in Chile.

What's your go-to snack after a long day of fittings? Roasted seaweed

What do you eat to celebrate a new line? Tacos and margaritas

How often do you cook? My husband Mark Borthwick does most of the cooking at our house. I usually cook when he is traveling or for our picky teenage son, Joey.

What are a few of your favorite restaurants? 5 Burros in Queens for fish tacos; Il Buco and Frankies 457 for fresh, quality Italian; Hibino in Cobble Hill for sushi.What is your favorite city and can you tell us what your top 5 favorite places are in that city? Los Angeles: Animal Restaurant, Lucques, MOCA, Getty Museum, The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington LibraryWhat are your top three tips for entertaining? Cook with togetherness and with love, candles set the ambience, and make sure you are able to enjoy the time with your guests.What is the one kitchen accessory or tool you couldn't live without? A blenderWhere are some of your go-to tableware items and where did you buy them? Our wooden serving spoons we collect from world travels and Lebanese Silverware from Liwan in Paris.Maria Cornejo's Ceviche

INGREDIENTS 1 1/4 pounds fresh red snapper (or similar firm white fish), rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch cubes Juice of 15 limes (enough to cover the fish) 1 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise 1 garlic clove, minced 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped Salt and pepper

PROCEDURE In a large bowl, combine fish chunks, red onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Cover with lime juice. Refrigerate and let marinate for 3 hours. Serve chilled.

Read: The Elusive Big Idea

Recently in the NYTimes, Neal Gabler made the compelling argument that big ideas are eluding us today. Ideas that used to "ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world, are no longer."  He argues we are living in a post-idea world where "big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them."  In short, information rules our lives; we don't have the time and therefore the ability to transform information into ideas.  Gabler doesn't provide a solution to shift this reality but he certainly made me think that we all should be considering the difference between ideas and information and how we can bring the focus back to using data to create big ideas that change the world we live in.  I also want to note that there are people and companies that are doing this. Check out: Tom's, Opening Ceremony, Madécasse, Warby Parker and Stumptown Coffee.

 The Elusive Big Idea

by Neal Gabler

THE July/August issue of The Atlantic trumpets the “14 Biggest Ideas of the Year.” Take a deep breath. The ideas include “The Players Own the Game” (No. 12), “Wall Street: Same as it Ever Was” (No. 6), “Nothing Stays Secret” (No. 2), and the very biggest idea of the year, “The Rise of the Middle Class — Just Not Ours,” which refers to growing economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Now exhale. It may strike you that none of these ideas seem particularly breathtaking. In fact, none of them are ideas. They are more on the order of observations. But one can’t really fault The Atlantic for mistaking commonplaces for intellectual vision. Ideas just aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world.

They could penetrate the general culture and make celebrities out of thinkers — notably Albert Einstein, but also Reinhold Niebuhr, Daniel Bell, Betty Friedan, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, to name a few. The ideas themselves could even be made famous: for instance, for “the end of ideology,” “the medium is the message,” “the feminine mystique,” “the Big Bang theory,” “the end of history.” A big idea could capture the cover of Time — “Is God Dead?” — and intellectuals like Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal would even occasionally be invited to the couches of late-night talk shows. How long ago that was.

If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.

It is no secret, especially here in America, that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors, and perhaps even in society generally, to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy. While we continue to make giant technological advances, we may be the first generation to have turned back the epochal clock — to have gone backward intellectually from advanced modes of thinking into old modes of belief. But post-Enlightenment and post-idea, while related, are not exactly the same.

Post-Enlightenment refers to a style of thinking that no longer deploys the techniques of rational thought. Post-idea refers to thinking that is no longer done, regardless of the style.

The post-idea world has been a long time coming, and many factors have contributed to it. There is the retreat in universities from the real world, and an encouragement of and reward for the narrowest specialization rather than for daring — for tending potted plants rather than planting forests.

There is the eclipse of the public intellectual in the general media by the pundit who substitutes outrageousness for thoughtfulness, and the concomitant decline of the essay in general-interest magazines. And there is the rise of an increasingly visual culture, especially among the young — a form in which ideas are more difficult to express.

But these factors, which began decades ago, were more likely harbingers of an approaching post-idea world than the chief causes of it. The real cause may be information itself. It may seem counterintuitive that at a time when we know more than we have ever known, we think about it less.

We live in the much vaunted Age of Information. Courtesy of the Internet, we seem to have immediate access to anything that anyone could ever want to know. We are certainly the most informed generation in history, at least quantitatively. There are trillions upon trillions of bytes out there in the ether — so much to gather and to think about.

And that’s just the point. In the past, we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful — into ideas that made sense of the information. We sought not just to apprehend the world but to truly comprehend it, which is the primary function of ideas. Great ideas explain the world and one another to us.

Marx pointed out the relationship between the means of production and our social and political systems. Freud taught us to explore our minds as a way of understanding our emotions and behaviors. Einstein rewrote physics. More recently, McLuhan theorized about the nature of modern communication and its effect on modern life. These ideas enabled us to get our minds around our existence and attempt to answer the big, daunting questions of our lives.

But if information was once grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them. We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn’t have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don’t want to.

The collection itself is exhausting: what each of our friends is doing at that particular moment and then the next moment and the next one; who Jennifer Aniston is dating right now; which video is going viral on YouTube this hour; what Princess Letizia or Kate Middleton is wearing that day. In effect, we are living within the nimbus of an informational Gresham’s law in which trivial information pushes out significant information, but it is also an ideational Gresham’s law in which information, trivial or not, pushes out ideas.

We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward. Few talk ideas. Everyone talks information, usually personal information. Where are you going? What are you doing? Whom are you seeing? These are today’s big questions.

It is certainly no accident that the post-idea world has sprung up alongside the social networking world. Even though there are sites and blogs dedicated to ideas, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, etc., the most popular sites on the Web, are basically information exchanges, designed to feed the insatiable information hunger, though this is hardly the kind of information that generates ideas. It is largely useless except insofar as it makes the possessor of the information feel, well, informed. Of course, one could argue that these sites are no different than conversation was for previous generations, and that conversation seldom generated big ideas either, and one would be right.

BUT the analogy isn’t perfect. For one thing, social networking sites are the primary form of communication among young people, and they are supplanting print, which is where ideas have typically gestated. For another, social networking sites engender habits of mind that are inimical to the kind of deliberate discourse that gives rise to ideas. Instead of theories, hypotheses and grand arguments, we get instant 140-character tweets about eating a sandwich or watching a TV show. While social networking may enlarge one’s circle and even introduce one to strangers, this is not the same thing as enlarging one’s intellectual universe. Indeed, the gab of social networking tends to shrink one’s universe to oneself and one’s friends, while thoughts organized in words, whether online or on the page, enlarge one’s focus.

To paraphrase the famous dictum, often attributed to Yogi Berra, that you can’t think and hit at the same time, you can’t think and tweet at the same time either, not because it is impossible to multitask but because tweeting, which is largely a burst of either brief, unsupported opinions or brief descriptions of your own prosaic activities, is a form of distraction or anti-thinking.

The implications of a society that no longer thinks big are enormous. Ideas aren’t just intellectual playthings. They have practical effects.

An artist friend of mine recently lamented that he felt the art world was adrift because there were no longer great critics like Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg to provide theories of art that could fructify the art and energize it. Another friend made a similar argument about politics. While the parties debate how much to cut the budget, he wondered where were the John Rawlses and Robert Nozicks who could elevate our politics.

One could certainly make the same argument about economics, where John Maynard Keynes remains the center of debate nearly 80 years after propounding his theory of government pump priming. This isn’t to say that the successors of Rosenberg, Rawls and Keynes don’t exist, only that if they do, they are not likely to get traction in a culture that has so little use for ideas, especially big, exciting, dangerous ones, and that’s true whether the ideas come from academics or others who are not part of elite organizations and who challenge the conventional wisdom. All thinkers are victims of information glut, and the ideas of today’s thinkers are also victims of that glut.

But it is especially true of big thinkers in the social sciences like the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who has theorized on everything from the source of language to the role of genetics in human nature, or the biologist Richard Dawkins, who has had big and controversial ideas on everything from selfishness to God, or the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who has been analyzing different moral systems and drawing fascinating conclusions about the relationship of morality to political beliefs. But because they are scientists and empiricists rather than generalists in the humanities, the place from which ideas were customarily popularized, they suffer a double whammy: not only the whammy against ideas generally but the whammy against science, which is typically regarded in the media as mystifying at best, incomprehensible at worst. A generation ago, these men would have made their way into popular magazines and onto television screens. Now they are crowded out by informational effluvium.

No doubt there will be those who say that the big ideas have migrated to the marketplace, but there is a vast difference between profit-making inventions and intellectually challenging thoughts. Entrepreneurs have plenty of ideas, and some, like Steven P. Jobs of Apple, have come up with some brilliant ideas in the “inventional” sense of the word.

Still, while these ideas may change the way we live, they rarely transform the way we think. They are material, not ideational. It is thinkers who are in short supply, and the situation probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.

We have become information narcissists, so uninterested in anything outside ourselves and our friendship circles or in any tidbit we cannot share with those friends that if a Marx or a Nietzsche were suddenly to appear, blasting his ideas, no one would pay the slightest attention, certainly not the general media, which have learned to service our narcissism.

What the future portends is more and more information — Everests of it. There won’t be anything we won’t know. But there will be no one thinking about it.

Think about that.

 

Neal Gabler is a senior fellow at the Annenberg Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California and the author of “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.”