Lisa Katayama: The Power of Stories in a Complex World

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Photo credit: Tomo Saito

I have always believed in the power of stories to transform the world. Throughout my life, this has showed up in many different ways.


Stories help us make sense of the world.

Before I knew how to speak, I distinctly remember knowing in my head that the universe was much bigger than what I had access to from my limited view as a human baby. I was convinced that my parents lived in an alternate reality while I napped, that this life they had created—with me the infant and all the complexities that came with raising me—was a type of fiction. I used to try to stay awake for as long as I could in an attempt to catch a glimpse of their other world. Read More

Samantha Hankins: ‘But Wait, Is Your Last Name Filipino?’

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I’ve never met my dad and to this day I’ve never seen a photo of him or even discussed him with my mom. From what I’ve gathered, my mom and dad were married, and they were divorced before I was born. I know this because we both still have his last name, Hankins.

My mom was a single parent, and we lived with my aunt and my uncle in an affluent, predominantly white suburb of Chicago. She struggled with the cultural differences between the Philippines and America and therefore prioritized making sure I had a connection to our Filipino heritage. I grew up learning how to speak Visayan, spending summers in Cebu, and making friends and learning traditional Filipino dances with kids whose parents were also in the Chicago Filipino doctors’ association. Through and through I was raised 100% Filipino. Read More

Hajj Flemings: What Is Human Brand Design?

Do truly original ideas exist in the world of business? I am not so sure the next mobile app, restaurant, or service is providing a really unique experience in the marketplace that doesn’t already exist, especially with everyone proclaiming that their idea is the Uber of ‘X.’ In his classic book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen notes that sustainable innovation focuses on incremental improvement, while disruptive innovation focuses on meeting unmet needs by identifying niche opportunities. Most organizations and business owners strive to keep their customers happy by tweaking what already exists.

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Joen Asmussen on The Making of a Gridicon

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Great iconography taps into a universal language we all understand. Like the dove of peace or the red cross on hospitals, the very best of icons communicate thousands of words in a single graphic form.

In much the same way, icons can augment a user interface. If the icon speaks enough on its own, it can free up always-welcome whitespace. Alternately, it can sit next to a label to give it a unique silhouette that’s more easy to recognize at a glance.

What you see above are the Gridicons for WordPress.com. Here’s a brief overview of how we created them. Read More

Tammie Lister: Design for Humans, Not Robots

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Before I begin this article, let me set something straight. I am not saying robots aren’t awesome — they totally are. Robots are amazing. However, beyond comic book robots, there is this discourse between humans and robots. Robots are ‘near human’. We as humans have this fascination with robots. We play with them as toys, we make them in our own image. We have even developed robots with emotional states, that mimic, that care for us. Read More

Bob Baxley: Don’t Judge. Just Observe.

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I find myself in the elevator of the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Seattle, where for the second year in a row, I’m attending a week-long video game tournament with my teenage son — last year at his request, this year at mine. We stop at the second floor, the doors open, and in walk two twenty-somethings looking much like somebody you would expect to attend a week-long video game tournament. That they’re wearing their entrance badges is also a hint. Read More

Hajj Flemings on The 100 Project–The Plan to Rebrand Detroit

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Photo by Shawn Lee Studios

Detroit’s future requires connecting the worlds of design, technology and innovation to neighborhoods.” 

In 2011, I was one of eight entrepreneurs selected for the CNN’s Black in America 4: The New Promised Land Silicon Valley documentary with Soledad O’Brien. It was during the filming of that documentary that I was exposed to the term meritocracy and how the lack of access in the technology space was creating a permanent underclass in communities of color. It literally changed the course of my life. Read More

Scott Belsky on Crafting The First Mile of Product

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As leaders become immersed in their products, they become more focused on the users they have and less on those they don’t.

The natural tendency to gravitate towards your best customers handicaps your ability to build and sustain increasingly inclusive products.

If you want to build a product that millions (or hundreds of millions) of people can use, you must defy this tendency to prioritize the core product at the expense of the “first mile.” Read More