3 Down, 2 to Go!

Here I sit here on the computer writing a blog post when I should be at the Charity Black Tie, especially since I am such a fan of Water de’Silva.  Oh well, hopefully next year.  And rest assured I will not miss the next two events so here’s to seeing everybody at the Lingenfelter collecton tomorrow and at the Edsel and Elenor Ford House on Sunday.  Until then, lets quickly review the past couple of events, the IDSA Conference and the Eve of Eyes Party!  And just a quick thank you again (as always) to my talented friend Ingo for the awesome pictures.

The annual Eve of Eyes Party was held at Lawrence Tech and promoted their new Transportation Design Program.  There was a smattering of cool cars on display but I had more fun hanging with the design “luminaries” in attendance.  

Anybody recognize these people?

And while there was a ton of student work on display indoors (along with the food), the majority of people remained outdoors as the weather was absolutely perfect.

There were also a ton a great cars on display.  And you know what they say, behind every great car is great people (shouldn’t that be “are” great people?).  And behind and in front of the Nomad are Susie and Steve Pasteiner.  You can read details about some of Steve’s projects here or better yet, stop in and visit his store on Woodward for all your art, model car, book and magazine needs.

One of the great things about Lawrence tech’s Transportation Design Program is that the University also offers other degrees like Engineering and Marketing.  The benefit is that the students get to work together on projects in a cross-functional manner just like in the business world.  The result?  Read about it here.

One of the more unexpected aspects of the evening was Cameron McDonald’s Swimwear Fashion Show .  Unfortunately I have no pictures to post so you are going to have to leave it to your imagination or look here for some of his previous creations.

As long as we are chatting about events, we may as well mention the character in the picture below.  Camilo, Fuel Injected, A Solo Exhibition opened last week at 323 East and runs through July 2nd.  Details can be found on the website here.

If you wish to see the rest of the pictures from the event, look me up on Facebook.  And speaking of Facebook, a couple of our designer friends could use your assistance.  Nick Greiwe and Casey Swanseger are trying to win the competition to be the GM Employee Team to compete in the 2011 Chevrolet Fireball Run and you can vote for them here (#5 Team LeMons).

All this talk is not to ignore the interesting conference on the Business of Innovation I attended Wednesday evening that was a combination of the Michigan Chapter of the IDSA and the Alumni Group of Michigan State’s Broad School of Management (and thanks to Jeevak Badve for putting it together as usual).   Unfortunately I do not have any pictures available but here are a couple of high points from each of the speakers.

Shaun Jackson, University of Michigan, talked about innovation as it relates to successful companies.  He does not see technology as the central solution, rather that successful companies have a unique understanding of the human condition and leverage technology to fill some need or desire.  For all you aspiring design students out there he also mentioned that he always looks for design talent that has a good background in anthropology.  Finally, along the lines of the anthropology discussion, most bad designs are not a result of bad designers, but a result of not fully understanding the problem.  He mentioned that he sees a lot of “wonderful solutions to the wrong problem“.

Nate Young of the New North Center also had some great points to share, for example “if you can’t beat them, join them, then beat them”.  He is also afraid the use of “Design Thinking” as an industry buzz word is getting tired and will eventually come to hurt the design world.  By overusing the word, just like with “Innovation”, the meaning gets diluted.  And he is a big fan of In-and-Out Burger and marvels at the fact that there are only 13 items on the menu, but there is always a line of passionate customers.

Scott Klinker of the Cranbrook Academy of Art kept coming back to the point that good design and innovation come from “putting the story first and the product second”. During the discussion on bad design Scott added that many companies are stuck catering to their existing culture instead of focusing on innovation.

Mark West from The College for Creative Studies also has some great advice for design students.  He talked about the fact it took him a while to realize that “everything I designed <didn’t> have to resonate with everybody”.  Good design involves putting yourself in the shoes of whomever is the customer.  Bad design happens because not enough companies go out in the field and become “one with the customer”.  The example of the Oxo measuring cup was used (Mark should probably look at working on commission because he convinced me to go out and buy one and I don’t even cook).

One last point I think needs to be made (and forgive me for interjecting my opinions in amongst all these design experts).  A great question from the audience was asked about design thinking and the customer process.  The answer from the panel was that the customer processes need to be designed from outside in versus the typical way of designed the process from the point of view of the company (totally agree so far).  A followup question, however, was asked about government and how design thinking can be used to make it function better.  Aside from the laughs from the audience the general response was government doesn’t need to get better because it doesn’t have competitors and to this point I HIGHLY DISAGREE.

Maybe in the old days when people tended to live near family or had angst about moving around the country, government had a monopoly position in people’s lives.  But with today’s economy and with the amount of mobility that is available, people are now free to move around the country (or world) as they see fit to either follow jobs or even just to find a better climate.  And in that environment government does have a competitor, other governments.  And there are 2 key pieces of un-arguable evidence; on a national level it manifests itself every time a city or state offers incentives to a business to move there.  And on a local level it can be seen by the slow death that hangs like a black cloud over the Detroit area.

I would like to solicit your comments on this point and would like to revisit it at a later date.  I moved here from the beaches of North Carolina and while I miss the weather I love it here.  I love my friends and I love this industry and I hate to see the path it is on.  So hopefully something from the design community will help stem that tide, at least that is my hope.

Anyways, off to more fun events.  Check back on Monday for more reports from The Lingenfelter Collection and the EyesOn Design Car Show.

About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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One Response to 3 Down, 2 to Go!

  1. Hi Frank,

    To be fair, your reporting on ‘the government doesn’t need to get better because it doesn’t have competitors’ – is both paraphrased and taken out of context. The statement wasn’t an opinion. It was framing one clear aspect of the problem – ie. Monopoly is the enemy of innovation. I think we can all agree on that idea.

    With that said, I agree with your point that the problem is more complex than that. Governments ARE competitive in some important contexts (vs. other cities, nations). Governments are incredibly monopolizing in some contexts too, with poorly designed public services like the DMV.

    For me, this raises 2 questions:
    1. What areas of the public services can be privatized and made competitive, and therefore innovative?
    2. Can innovation be championed by elected officials who are competing for office?

    Both of these suggest some interesting ways forward for government leadership….
    Thanks for the feedback.

    Scott Klinker

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