Find patterns, exploit them.

Gavin is a designer, professor, and sustainability advocate. He lives and works in Brooklyn and teaches graphic design at Pratt Institute.

  1. April 8, 2014
    I recently stumbled on The Inspiration. And this is what I found. While most of these truthfacts are meant for comedic relief, this one is 100% accurate and hit a nerve. Content is advertising and advertising is content. You might as well make the last grey box red as well. 
All jokes aside, advertising is invasive. We can’t even take pictures with the President without someone getting paid for the content. I use Adblock for Chrome, but I’m not immune to seeing ads. I live in New York City and I’m surrounded by my iPhone, iPad, XBox, and friend’s iPhone’s, Smart TV’s, etc. And surprise, spending is increasing. Here’s a look at the increase in ad spending in 2014. 
This recent tweet exchange with Ben Kunz defines my sarcastic view of the culture of American consumerism. It’s everywhere. And the collective message broadcast by advertising isn’t credible. Consumers don’t believe advertising. The stories being told lack an authentic narrative so we cry “bulls#!t”. 
Advertising however, is not the problem. Advertising in its truest form is education. It’s often a smoke screen, but it’s the beginning of product literacy. In other words, advertising is telling people why they should buy your product. Bullet by bullet. Spending money as a company to make your product message relevant is good practice. 
The problem is complex but it starts with companies focussing on the bottom line and exploiting markets rather than improving lives. Former P&G global marketing officer Jim Stengel puts it this way: “Those who center their business on improving people’s lives have a growth rate triple that of their competitors, and they outperform the market by a huge margin.” When a company talks about what they’re doing, it’s their Mission. When a company talks about what they will do in the future, it’s their Vision. Too many companies lack vision. And that’s where they’re failing.
As Conrad Lisco points out, companies leave this thinking to the marketing team. But, for those products that are truly innovative, the vision is at the core of their company. It educates all of their decisions and messaging. And points the company toward a sustainable path. It’s not an afterthought. Disruptive innovation looks to affect the future where lives are improved. It’s not just a tagline written by a desperate copywriter with a 5pm deadline.
I wouldn’t hate advertising as much if the products behind it were made to last. What if the goal of that product was to improve my life rather than make a quick buck? It would certainly make writing a tagline easier if you could say “you’ll never have to buy another one again”. The majority of products lack quality. And that’s why we can see through the advertising. If sustainability is the problem, design is the answer. Innovation is a design practice. It’s problem/solution. Better design. Sustainable product design. 
And I will end on this. Have you ever stopped to think where your old phone, laptop, fridge go after you buy a new one? This may seem like a moral issue. But, it’s a business practice issue. I heard Robin Nagle speak last year about waste in the metropolis. It’s an important issue for the next generation. Professor David MacKay from Cambridge University says “the whole system will consume less energy if we build things to last. We will also produce less waste. Yes, please.

    I recently stumbled on The Inspiration. And this is what I found. While most of these truthfacts are meant for comedic relief, this one is 100% accurate and hit a nerve. Content is advertising and advertising is content. You might as well make the last grey box red as well.

    All jokes aside, advertising is invasive. We can’t even take pictures with the President without someone getting paid for the content. I use Adblock for Chrome, but I’m not immune to seeing ads. I live in New York City and I’m surrounded by my iPhone, iPad, XBox, and friend’s iPhone’s, Smart TV’s, etc. And surprise, spending is increasing. Here’s a look at the increase in ad spending in 2014

    This recent tweet exchange with Ben Kunz defines my sarcastic view of the culture of American consumerismIt’s everywhere. And the collective message broadcast by advertising isn’t credible. Consumers don’t believe advertising. The stories being told lack an authentic narrative so we cry “bulls#!t”. 

    Advertising however, is not the problem. Advertising in its truest form is education. It’s often a smoke screen, but it’s the beginning of product literacy. In other words, advertising is telling people why they should buy your product. Bullet by bullet. Spending money as a company to make your product message relevant is good practice. 

    The problem is complex but it starts with companies focussing on the bottom line and exploiting markets rather than improving lives. Former P&G global marketing officer Jim Stengel puts it this way: “Those who center their business on improving people’s lives have a growth rate triple that of their competitors, and they outperform the market by a huge margin.” When a company talks about what they’re doing, it’s their Mission. When a company talks about what they will do in the future, it’s their Vision. Too many companies lack vision. And that’s where they’re failing.

    As Conrad Lisco points out, companies leave this thinking to the marketing team. But, for those products that are truly innovative, the vision is at the core of their company. It educates all of their decisions and messaging. And points the company toward a sustainable path. It’s not an afterthought. Disruptive innovation looks to affect the future where lives are improved. It’s not just a tagline written by a desperate copywriter with a 5pm deadline.

    I wouldn’t hate advertising as much if the products behind it were made to last. What if the goal of that product was to improve my life rather than make a quick buck? It would certainly make writing a tagline easier if you could say “you’ll never have to buy another one again”. The majority of products lack quality. And that’s why we can see through the advertising. If sustainability is the problem, design is the answer. Innovation is a design practice. It’s problem/solution. Better design. Sustainable product design. 

    And I will end on this. Have you ever stopped to think where your old phone, laptop, fridge go after you buy a new one? This may seem like a moral issue. But, it’s a business practice issue. I heard Robin Nagle speak last year about waste in the metropolis. It’s an important issue for the next generation. Professor David MacKay from Cambridge University says “the whole system will consume less energy if we build things to last. We will also produce less waste. Yes, please.

  2. February 25, 2014
    Quote shared by Kim Sloane, my former professor and now colleague on the human figure. Here is a link to his talk at Columbia. 

    Quote shared by Kim Sloane, my former professor and now colleague on the human figure. Here is a link to his talk at Columbia. 

  3. February 21, 2014
    What do you do with 450 million users? Here’s how Facebook is going to get their money’s worth from Whatsapp.

    What do you do with 450 million users? Here’s how Facebook is going to get their money’s worth from Whatsapp.

  4. January 27, 2014
  5. January 7, 2014
  6. December 20, 2013
    I’ve always wondered how the gun from Duck Hunt works. It’s one of those questions you think about but laugh at yourself for thinking about. But, if you’re interested in photodiodes, here goes. 

    I’ve always wondered how the gun from Duck Hunt works. It’s one of those questions you think about but laugh at yourself for thinking about. But, if you’re interested in photodiodes, here goes

  7. December 14, 2013
    I won’t be able to go until Monday night. But, I can’t wait!

    I won’t be able to go until Monday night. But, I can’t wait!

  8. December 13, 2013
    When the content the user is filtering is placed below the fold, the user never sees the actual result of his or hers choices — an issue I have seen a lot of times, and a typical indicator that the webapp didn’t have a mobile first approach.
A way to work around the issue, is to start working with different view modes. That is to divide different functions of your webapp into individual views.
Read more here.

    When the content the user is filtering is placed below the fold, the user never sees the actual result of his or hers choices — an issue I have seen a lot of times, and a typical indicator that the webapp didn’t have a mobile first approach.

    A way to work around the issue, is to start working with different view modes. That is to divide different functions of your webapp into individual views.

    Read more here.

  9. December 11, 2013
    Jason Fried, founder of 37signals has a new book from user onboarding about products and how they improve your life. His above graphic struck a chord with me. Are you selling your product or the benefit of your product? More on this topic here.

    Jason Fried, founder of 37signals has a new book from user onboarding about products and how they improve your life. His above graphic struck a chord with me. Are you selling your product or the benefit of your product? More on this topic here.

  10. December 10, 2013
    As a common language has grown within social media of chat acronyms and expression, I’ve become interested in glitch aesthetics. They would pop up on my twitter feed from someone who retweeted them and it looked like one tweet had spilled into another using non-sensical but aesthetically complex symbols. How is this possible? 
The closest I’ve come to this form of hacking is when I use emoticons in iOS7 and post a tweet. When I view the tweet on my desktop browser, a tiny lonely box appears instead of my coffee cup, or smiling face. This blank box is a UTF-8 unicode symbol which is used for text encoding. Your computer has has failed to find the symbol that coincides with the code, hence the blank box.
This is annoying. And it’s creating a rift within communication. Those on the iPhone can see your emoticon, but those without it cannot. Furthermore, entire conversations are being had using these images.  
Which brings me to @crashtxt who has created a twitter feed dedicated to a similar rift in code. Keyboards have character icons available that aren’t commonly used. This form of expression closely models ascii art, which is creating images from small characters. While these images tend to be form based, @crashtxt is creating a regurgitation of unicode. And I like it. For more on this form of expression, go here.

    As a common language has grown within social media of chat acronyms and expression, I’ve become interested in glitch aesthetics. They would pop up on my twitter feed from someone who retweeted them and it looked like one tweet had spilled into another using non-sensical but aesthetically complex symbols. How is this possible? 

    The closest I’ve come to this form of hacking is when I use emoticons in iOS7 and post a tweet. When I view the tweet on my desktop browser, a tiny lonely box appears instead of my coffee cup, or smiling face. This blank box is a UTF-8 unicode symbol which is used for text encoding. Your computer has has failed to find the symbol that coincides with the code, hence the blank box.

    This is annoying. And it’s creating a rift within communication. Those on the iPhone can see your emoticon, but those without it cannot. Furthermore, entire conversations are being had using these images.  

    Which brings me to @crashtxt who has created a twitter feed dedicated to a similar rift in code. Keyboards have character icons available that aren’t commonly used. This form of expression closely models ascii art, which is creating images from small characters. While these images tend to be form based, @crashtxt is creating a regurgitation of unicode. And I like it. For more on this form of expression, go here.

  11. December 10, 2013
    Designing products that scale is a walkthrough of how Salesforce launched and re-launched its style guide. More specifically it’s filled with advice on how to create a guide that can scale multiple formats. To see the final product visit the Salesforce style guide here.

    Designing products that scale is a walkthrough of how Salesforce launched and re-launched its style guide. More specifically it’s filled with advice on how to create a guide that can scale multiple formats. To see the final product visit the Salesforce style guide here.

  12. December 9, 2013
    A helpful resource for CSS/UI style guides and some best practices for grid systems. The Mozilla style guide provides downloadable assets for desktop, mobile, and desktop. 

    A helpful resource for CSS/UI style guides and some best practices for grid systems. The Mozilla style guide provides downloadable assets for desktop, mobile, and desktop. 

  13. December 8, 2013
    A must-read on the TechCrunch redesign from Daniel Mall. I’ve read it multiple times, and presented responsive design to my students using some of his examples.

    A must-read on the TechCrunch redesign from Daniel Mall. I’ve read it multiple times, and presented responsive design to my students using some of his examples.

  14. December 8, 2013
    10 Rules of Writing by David Ogilvy. I particularly approve of #5.

    10 Rules of Writing by David Ogilvy. I particularly approve of #5.

  15. December 8, 2013
    The entire wealth of wisdom in the world is contained in these two books.

    The entire wealth of wisdom in the world is contained in these two books.