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One of SFIP’s programmatic interests, under its transdisciplinary problem-solving theme, is the idea of “artist-driven innovation.” Due to their singularity of vision, passion, and imagination, artists and designers often drive achievements in other synergistic areas to new levels that mere mortals can’t imagine (think Frank Gehry and his custom CAD software, for example).

So we’re especially pleased to announce our first artist-driven innovation project, We the People, in collaboration with Santa Fe artist Sydney Cooper and leading Santa Fe design studio Anagram. Click through to the Project Description to learn more, and join the project crowd-funding effort on United States Artists.

An excellent post over at frog’s design mind blog (“Adapt, Jugaad, Hacking, Shanzhai or the Merits of Seeing the World As It Is Not”) makes a number of crucial points, many relevant to SFIP. Among them are the idea that innovation fads come and go (remember Design Thinking?); the insight that “wrong is right,” since true innovators always “see the world as it is not”; and the corollary observation that innovation is a mindset, rather than a process that can be administered or learned, for which serendipity is key. Author Tim Leberecht focuses in on the Indian practice called Jugaad: 

“Jugaad is a remote sibling of the Western-style hacking, the manipulation of existing products and services, and with the Chinese Shanzhai phenomenon (innovation through fast imitation) it has in common the utter disrespect for any kind of brand or management ideology. Adaptation, improvisation, rapid experimentation, fast failing, a high tolerance for ambiguity, super-flexibility… together these principles are perhaps marking the beginning of a new era of doing business, a new economy.”

It’s enough to make you think that innovation is a case of emergent behavior in a complex system (which to some extent it is), beyond influence. But I would also argue that there is room for adding structure, context, and what I’ll call method (as opposed to a process) to accelerate and diffuse innovation. As one example, SFIP’s method, based on its overall problem-solving approach, features five main themes: Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama, in his first State of the Union address, told us that other countries are making the investments needed  to seize the opportunities present in meeting the world’s grand challenges, and that the U.S. risks being left behind. He’s right.

The National Science Board’s biennial Science & Engineering Indicators suggests that as early as the 2012 edition, the U.S. will no longer lead the world in total R&D expenditures – unless corrective action is taken (graph here). And Senator Jeff Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, recently told a Senate hearing that  “…our investments in new energy technologies, and the science underlying them, have been surprisingly deficient over the last 20 years….  our national R&D investments in medicine and biotechnology, as a percentage of sales, are about 40 times greater than our research and development investments in energy.” Read the rest of this entry »

Over the past few weeks, a chorus of voices from around the world has started to sound like a warning buzzer for U.S. competitive and innovation strategy. Thomas L. Friedman, writing in the New York Times, reported back from Denmark that that country has succeeded in levying a susbstantial energy tax (deemed politically impossible here), and applying the proceeds to renewable energy innovation, development, and deployment.

Bruce Nussbaum from Business Week completed a tour of Asia, impressed everywhere he visited with the attention being paid to design as a critical innovation element at all levels (including national policy), leading to what he called “Designomics” in his speech to the Design Korea 2009 International Conference: “The global economy is emerging from the Great Recession… with a very different shape, a very different trajectory and a very different set of growth engines.  Read the rest of this entry »

The recently concluded Aspen Design Summit (November 11-14) was, at least conceptually, an important trans-disciplinary event. Growing out of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio conference on  how design can help inform and improve  social sector delivery, the hands-on workshop (sponsored by Rockefeller and the Winterhouse  Institute in collaboration with AIGA) brought together public, private, and design sector experts to work on five well-defined (and very challenging) projects with as many client organizations. Read more about the Summit, the results, and the overall problem-solving space at Change Observer here and the Winterhouse Institute here.

As the entire “design for social change” movement gathers momentum and matures, we hope to see more organizational infrastructure emerge (and this is an area of keen interest to SFIP). One of the outcomes of the Aspen event was a proposal for New Design, a soft structure linking interested design firms to philanthropic funders and  social challenges, which may be a step in the right direction. As one summit participant oberserved: “…there’s only so much you can accomplish in three days….” What if this was one part of an “Appropriate Solutions Laboratory” @ SFIP?

Here’s some fascinating trans-disciplinary and highly innovative work in the architectural design field (with some very cool pictures, too):

HOK, one of the world’s largest architectural firms… formed an exclusive alliance with the Biomimicry Guild, a Montana-based consulting organization that pairs consulting biologists with designers, seating architects and ecologists together at the drawing table.

http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/09/architecture-imitates-life

John Maeda–formerly of MIT Media Lab and now at RISD–has posted a simple diagram that demonstrates the natural evolution of the common STEM principle

Check out the RISD blog post HERE

stem1

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Innovation Observations

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Innovation Parks: Past, Present, Future

Download a .pdf of SFIP's presentation to the 2009 ASC conference HERE

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