The scalability of language; the role of design

In this final installment of my series on the scalability of language online, I want to take a look at the role of design. So far we've looked at the challenges of language, the problems with machine translation, and the role of video. Design, though, enables ideas to transcend language to reach a much broader audience.

One of the best (if not the best) example of someone who uses design to convey complex ideas effortlessly is David Armano. Let's look at this illustration. To convey the complex ecosystem that has been created through the birth of social media and the immense fragmentation, David used a series of ripples. Like a rock thrown into a pond, it's something everyone is familiar with. The size of the circles conveys their impact (as would the size of the rock). It's intuitive and doesn't need copy to assist it.

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I asked David to give his thought on the use of design to overcome the language gap:

0A5913B7-CCF6-4621-AA7F-7BC3CD62B598.jpg"We were born with two eyes. Before we could speak words, we could see the world, recognize the faces of our parents and gaze into their eyes.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how important visual stimulus really is. We scribbled drawings before writing. Visuals help bring us back to a universal understanding where words can sometimes fail us. It's time to pick up our crayons again."

Picture 18.pngOther bloggers use design to help us think through ideas. Roger von Oech uses his offline products to inspire us all to be more creative. He taps into his wildly successful (and I can personally say very helpful) Whack Pack series to help you think differently. The imagery on each card gives you a better idea of what you can expect.

Design also manifests itself with photography and there is nobody who uses photography better and is more prolific than Thomas Hawk. Thomas is a photographer in San Francisco who covers topics that he is passionate about including photography (duh), photographer's rights and social media. Many of his posts are comprised of single photographs that convey the emotion of the time and place.

These are just a few of the examples where design helps to transcend language. It's a very powerful tool when put in the right hands. Design can just as easily confuse and bankrupt ideas of their merit.

Who have you noticed that uses design to convey ideas? Have you seen it used incorrectly? Let me know your thoughts.

[This was supposed to auto-post last Friday. Sorry for the delay.]

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Photography 2.0

I saw this video on the Strobist blog. It's a great speech by commercial photographer Chase Jarvis at a NYC Photoshelter meeting. (I am an amateur photographer always looking to learn more.) His talk about the world of photography 2.0 echoes what is happening in the marketing industry. In fact, it shows the breadth of how these tools and networks we're creating to connect individuals are impacting the world at large.

Here is Chase's video (this is 55 minutes long, but worth the view):

Chase outlines some "universals" in his presentation. Here they are and how I think they apply to marketers around the world:

  1. Hard work: This is a given. Hard work and experimentation is the only way to get ahead. Some parts of Web2.0 enable laziness, but the people who put there head down and work hard will leap ahead.
  2. Passion: This is the crucial ingredient for me. If you work hard for something you're not passionate about, you're not getting ahead you're losing. Find your passion and use the technology to convey and leverage it.
  3. Personal style: This does apply to marketers. It's called branding. For marketers, this is the personal interaction, the support, the design, the UI, the logo, etc. It all comes together into a personal style.
  4. People: The core of business and certainly of Web2.0. The community, the U in UGC and the social networks are all made up of people. Take this away and there is no 2.0.
  5. Business: To me this gets to the business models. You have to have a knowledge of what makes business work. It's the only way you can turn that on its head, re-invent everything and change the world.
  6. Unconventional: Another tenet of Web2.0. Things that were unconventional a couple of years ago are mainstream. It's all about looking for the next unconventional thing to think about.
  7. Give Back: I love this. Giving back is something I practice on and off line. There are lots of ways to give back. Join an organization, donate money, donate time, become a mentor or use a forum like blogging to share what you know to make the whole community smarter.

Besides the DJ he has live mixing during his speech (phenomenally cool), I think Chase really gets the 2.0 movement. He's all about sharing what's made him a success and in turn is helping the next generation. He's not afraid of sabotaging his business, because he's using pieces of Web2.0 to be seen as a thought leader and visionary. Once somebody reaches that level, people turn to them and engage them MUCH more often than another person who holds their information tight to their vest.

Share, learn, grow. That's Web2.0. (And photography 2.0 too.)

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The Yahoo-ization of Flickr

flickr_logo.jpgYesterday, Flickr (the popular Yahoo! owned photo sharing social network or which I am a Pro member) announced that they would be placing some new restrictions on accounts. The first is a 3000 contact limit per account and the second is the requirement that all users login after 2/15 with a Yahoo! ID. Thomas Hawk (via Scoble) has a really good recap of the conversations going on about this.

Flickr has every right to enforce these decisions, but in what spirit do they make them? The claim is that these changes will increase overall system speed and increase security respectively.

First, the system speed on browsing (which is where they claim is effected) isn't slowed down by contacts. Flickr is also a very graphically light system so it tends to load fast and respond quickly and contacts are deeper inside user profiles.

On the Yahoo! ID, I understand the rationale. Yahoo! wants to expand their user base and push more services to Flickr users, but Flickr is a very independent, irreverent, spirited community of dedicated people. Making a bunch of non-conformists (which most artists are in some regard) conform to something like this is a little off-putting especially through brute force (as of 2/15 you must have a Yahoo! login).

Lastly, I wonder if Yahoo! has other plans in bumping up the graphic load on Flickr (read advertising) and that's the push for data limitations. More importantly, however is the issue this raises on the oversight of social networks. Who controls things like this? Should it be the masses of paying customers making the decisions or at least weighing in? Social networks are fragile and full of dedicated, fickle people who could use that same network to revolt (bad press or loss of members).

So, where does this stop? What are the future limitations that Flickr may impose? Better yet, what entrepreneurial photo sharing network will offer Flickr's pro members (the people who pay) a free, comparable account and the automated import of their Flickr photos? Flickr's API allows pretty good access to make this happen. Zoomr are you listening?

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Where do you blog from?

whereiblog.jpgIain Tait at his blog has a great post today. He's calling on bloggers to take a photo of the computer(s) they blog from. My work setup is pictured here. It's a very interesting look into the psyche of bloggers.

Per Iain:

I was thinking about how much you can tell about someone through their blog or website. Then for some reason I started thinking about where people blog and the machines that they use to blog. Do people with neat and tidy blogs (and thought processes) blog from neat and tidy desks? Do funny people have funny computers? Do techy people have super high tech rooms with loads of neon stuff?

I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. And there’s something sweetly voyeristic about it

So where do you blog from? Take a shot, upload it to Flickr and add it to the group 'computersbehindblogs'. It's interesting to see how many people blog from Macs (myself included). This is a great way to use a social network to bring people from other areas together to share common interests. Nice job Iain.

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If you name it they will come

hello.jpgSometimes something as simple as a name can enable millions of people to share their ideas in ways which had never been done before. One of my personal favorite new names is 'photowalking'. Robert Scoble (blogger extraordinaire and leading Internet video guru) popularized the term and it basically means finding a group of people who like photography and then meeting to walk around and shoot photos. Simple right?

It is simple. That's the beauty. Personally, seeing Robert's first video with the talented Thomas Hawk changed the way I looked at photography. It validated something I already knew. Photography can be a social experience, and shooting in groups offers a collective sounding board to the people involved. Seeing how people physically position themselves to get shots, seeing the angles you never saw and looking at how they process those images in Photoshop has taught me a lot about photography. I've formed a photowalking group at DigiKnow, where I work, and people love it. Having an excuse to get out is all we need (even on days like yesterday when we trudged through the snow).

You can draw similar parallels to blogging. If you're reading this post, you're engaging in my blog. Had someone not given this a name I most likely wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it. Yes it's a type of online diary. Yes it is a trend. But it is an enabler over all else. People are sharing their ideas at record pace and yes, most of the bloggers are talking about personal, local stuff. That's what a blog is all about. Some bloggers, however, have taken the medium to a new level. Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Om Malik, David Armano, Guy Kawasaki, Valeria Maltoni. These are thought leaders, artists, conversation starters and voices of industry. More bloggers are sharing ideas every day.

So, what is the next name that will enable millions to express themselves? What will publish the words of the next Robert Scoble? What platform will showcase the art of the next Thomas Hawk? A name is a powerful thing. A name can start new markets, empower millions and create thousands of new jobs. Long live the name.

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Another example of camera phones and the power of consumers

cameraphone.jpgPaul @ HeeHawMarketing points us to another example of a customer using photos to show the disarray inside a retailer (in this case Wal-Mart). As more and more camera/video enabled phones are sold, companies need to find ways to leverage this technology and respond to users in a personal, conversational manner. I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Great work in opening up this conversation Paul.

Also, see my previous posts Camera phones and marketers and Video at your fingertips.

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Camera phones and marketers

Update: Paul at HeeHawMarketing got a response from Kohls. While I give Kohls some credit for picking up on this and giving some response, you do have to wonder if saying nothing would have been a better option. The highly impersonal nature of the response gives me the impression they've sent this before and judging from the comments on Paul's blog, I think it's a reasonable assumption. Nice work Paul.

Seth points us via Ben McConnell to HeeHawMarketing's post (man that's a lot of references) showing the devastation at a Kohls store caught on a camera phone. Seth's point is right on. This wouldn't have been a major problem for Kohls 5 years ago. It was post-Christmas, the store was picked over, returns were flooding in, people were calling off because of the holiday.

But today it is a problem. See my previous post on how portable camera and video technology is going to challenge all marketers to be more accountable. This same thing will start happening more and more. A staffer has a bad day and takes it out on somebody while another customer captures it on video or snaps a pic. There is nowhere to hide now and marketer's reputations (read brands) rest on making sure that public-facing customer service is at its best.

This is gaining has gained national attention and Kohls is put in the insecure position of responding. New PR firms may be sparked just from these 'new' types of technology-enabled situations.

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Photowalking with Scoble

I've come to really enjoy and look forward to Robert Scoble's photowalking video series on As a photographer, it's always interesting to see how other photographers work, how they move and what equipment they use. The most recent version with Thomas Hawk of Zooomr and Heather Champ of Flickr shows the variety of equipment available to make amazing images. Heather uses a Palaroid instant camera, a Leica and a pocket digital while Thomas uses a pro-am Canon.

Keep an eye on this link if you're interested as the commentary and content are outstanding. More shooters to come.

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Espress yourself


Saw this recap of a Lavazza Espresso ad campaign on I like the way the ads are shot and how they play on the jet age, retro theme. Espresso is an experience and Lavazza definitely makes the right steps here to convey that in Italian fashion.

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Citizen photojournalists have new options

Was looking through some 2007 trend reports and noticed two mentions of companies who are focusing on enabling photographers to get paid for their work. These sites are Scoopt and SpyMedia. While I think this is a great way to get photographers more exposure and bring images to the masses, it may also create an overwhelming problem of citizen paparazzi. I'm going to keep an eye on these to see where they go.

I'd personally predict that a citizen journalism news site will come into its own this year. It may start slow, but the right model could enable millions of writers to get their opinions out.

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Bringing the message into our reality

Check out this site's archive of some outdoor ads done for Amnesty International. A very powerful example of what advertising and imagination can achieve. 

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