Category: Design

Another Startup Weekend!

We’ve received another special request for designers at startup weekend. If you haven’t gone, you really should. It’s a great change of pace from the normal weekend activity, with no strings attached. From my young designer perspective, it wasn’t just a great place to practice, but rather it helped me gain a better understanding of my value proposition to business and tech people. For me, that has been invaluable as I’ve continued my career. For more information… Continue reading

Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia

We recently received an email from a Melissa Morris Iovine, a guest speaker at our Creative/Startups event. Apparently there is a new startup weekend coming in June that is to be focused on health and she has a special request for designers. See below:

Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia ( will be taking place June 1–3, 2012! In case you haven’t heard of Startup Weekend (, the premise is to spend 54 hours working on a team to create and launch a web or mobile application which could, in essence, be a credible business startup, in this particular case healthcare-related. No talk, all action.

It’s an intense and invigorating experience. If you have an idea, you can pitch one and then form a team to work for the weekend. Or you can join an idea that you find interesting. Over 54 hours, you get to see what goes into launching a startup and then the projects get pitched to a panel of judges.

One issue that most Startup Weekends face is a lack of designers, which is hard to believe because it is such a great opportunity. Because there are so few, they are in high demand. You get to brand an entire entity, which is great portfolio work. And the teams that come out on top are usually the ones with some good design behind them. This event is all about learning and collaborating, and you will leave feeling valuable, appreciated, and confident.

For more details regarding the role of design at Startup Weekend, please check out this blog post:

The early bird deadline is May 11th, so sign up soon! For a coupon code to the event, email
Hope to see you there!

BDQ’s: Best of the Intertubes

Dom took the initiative to start this post that we have been talking about, let’s get the community to sound off and crack a collective egg of knowledge by sharing our favorite resources (feeds, blogs, books, people, movies, bathroom graffiti). To start things off I’ve got 10 of my favs listed below. – Awesome feed, lot’s of great contributors and a surprising amount of great infographics
Continuations – Like a lot of my feeds I got into this one through a venture capital recommendation. Very techy, but very well written and informative. Tech Tuesdays are killer.
A Smart Bear – Fantastic posts, especially the marketing advice. I’m pretty sure I’m going to write some lengthier posts on James’ internet pricing posts.
Chris Dixon – Startup guy turned VC, Chris is a wealth of knowledge and a great mentor over at TechStars NY.
Instigator Blog – One of the very first VC blogs I started reading is written by one of the founders of an awesome Montreal-based accelerator. Candid, genuine, informative.
Startup Lessons Learned – Probably now on every startups radar, Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup, has become a religious guru of sorts for startups.
Steve Blank – In the same vein as Eric Reis, Professor Blank has some serious cred in the startup world. Keeping an ear peeled for his posts is definitely worth your while.
Both Sides of the Table – I’m throwing in only two VC feeds although I usually read quite a few. The first coveted spot goes to Mark Suster. No BS. Great advice. Love this guy
Ask the VC – The other goes to Ask the VC. Run by the Foundry Group guys in Boulder, they distill the great info into their feed. I’ve several of my favs through them.
Concurring Opinions – Had to put just one legal blog in here. CO’s is a great place to get the scoop on current legal issues (and my main man, super-prof Dave Hoffman is a regular contributor).
Check it and share your own favorites.


Looking to exercise your creative chops and create impact in the business world? Looking for a designer to help you create compelling products and experiences that customers adore? Look no further.

This first-of-its-kind event will bring together businesses serious about hiring designers, and creatives serious about finding a foothold in the world of tech startups and emerging growth companies. Attendees from selected companies will have the opportunity to spend 3 minutes with each of 25 selected designers including a view of their portfolios and a high-level view of where their skills can be applied.

Applications will be open to any interested designers and companies. Attendees will be selected based on their commitment to hiring/joining and making the most of the capacity-limited event.

Businesses Apply Here

Designers Apply Here


Where: Venturef0rth, 417 North 8th Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia PA 19123

When: Wednesday, 4/18, 6-8pm


3/28 Applications open

4/11 Applications close

4/13 Notifications to selected designers and businesses

4/18 The Event

Brought to you by Philly Tech Meetup,  Venturef0rth and us!


the poster:

Killing Assumptions with Open, Honest Discussion

A recent post on Fast Company’s design blog, (clearly my go-to) is about argument. It frames it in a way that vilifies brainstorming, which seems needless to me (I’ll discuss this later), because the gist is still valuable. Arguments enable diverse perspectives on a topic to be externalized. The challenge is keeping it productive and not degrading. The author, a Design Strategist at Continuum, provides a shortlist of guiding principles when doing this, such as keeping it fun (a design staple), and saying “No, because…” as opposed to simply saying “No.” These points, and the others listed are very valuable aspects to executing this idea of productive arguing well.

However, in the article the value of productive arguing is built on a comparison to brainstorming. I think this is both inappropriate and debilitating, because it is a bad comparison and doesn’t enable the tool to stand on its own. Brainstorming is a generative process, i.e. it is meant to produce a lot of ideas, good or bad, the point is not to care but create. This process isn’t meant to provide well-thought, thorough and refined ideas. This is important to remember, because this article claims that some people thought brainstorming was the key to innovation, as if this was all that was needed. This implied replacement of one tool with the other seems to say that they are comparing apples to apples, so to speak, with innovation as the fulcrum on which the tools are compared. This is not true. Continue reading

Effective Communication

If you were able to make it to the Startups for Creatives event last night at VentureF0rth, I’m sure you would agree with me saying that it was an awesome opportunity and a chance to engage some great members of the community. For those who couldn’t make it, or have no idea what I’m talking about, the event (co-hosted by VentureF0rth, Philly Tech Meetup, and the BDQ) was the first in a series designed to better integrate the philadelphia design community with the philadelphia entrepreneurial community. Specifically, this first event was run with the goal of educating designers about the value that they bring to startups and with the help of some kick-ass, designer/entrepreneur panelists (special thanks to @chuise, @OperationNICE, @wells_jake, and @ptribal) about what the startup experience is like of designers.

So without further ado, my take-aways (by profession). Continue reading

This is the title of a Fast Company article that is secretly advocating for design at the beginning phases of projects, rather than the end. Experience and interaction design already focus their considerations on how people interact with a product, organization or process and how that can be optimized and streamlined. Service designers are looking, specifically, at how to create new services that fulfill a potential client base’s latent needs. Including these people and their processes early on, only makes sense, because it enables the business to be built around customer.

Designers live and breathe qualitative data. On the obvious level, aesthetics are not defined by math. Yes math has a role, most good visual materials is based on a grid, but more important context, precedent and expectations also play a role. Will this be on a magazine or a billboard, is this for a restaurant or a tech start-up, what work has come before? These questions are more important when considering how to make unique, engaging graphics. In the broader context of Design, designers study people, their environments, their perspectives, their culture as well as their responses to make an informed decisions. It is this qualitative data that, that paints a richer more textured picture about a potential client base to enable more tailored and appropriate offering to be developed. So listen to Fast Co. and don’t feel bound to quantitative data.


Higher Education Bubble

Not really design-y or business-y but certainly still germane. This article from Fast Company, or Co. Design as this is from their spin-off, is about the potential of a bubble in the economy of student loans.

They claim that apparently because student loan debt isn’t erased in bankruptcy court the debt effectively just follows the student around their entire life, graduate or not. Connecting that fact with the high-unemployment, and thus higher rate of college applicants etc. etc. that this is and will have significant impacts on the American/Global economy.

It’s certainly an interesting take, they don’t really propose any better solution other than developing some means to show how much one can do and learn outside of college if they really want to make something for themselves. Building on the argument that college is doing nothing more than buying that ticket to a higher paying job, and the lack of skills it is providing are actually quite detrimental in terms of debt, but also in getting a job (which of course ties back to debt).

To me this highlights yet another fault in the premises the economy is built on. That pure bottom line mentality is eating us from the inside out. Politicians and corporations want to know how it will make them money and get them deals. In turn they exploit any option they can, and now they’ve really whittled down their options. They are literally preying on the futures of individuals, hopefully, striving to make a difference in the world, individuals that believe a higher education will help them do that more acutely, quickly and significantly. Now though, this is disappearing before our very eyes. How will the economy, and America, run when we have a bunch of “higher educated” individuals discussing the classics in shanty’s under bridges because they can’t get a loan to start a business or even a credit approval to rent an apartment…

Yeah, I took this pretty far, but my point is still the same, the definition of progress will have to change to continue making progress.

P.S. I didn’t look at the infographic/video

Open Design and Self-Replicating Robots

Open design is a small idea in the huge field of design. It is an idea that is spreading though, and an idea I think should spread. The book Open Design Now is dedicated to it and has a number of articles, essays and stories about what it means to be open and how the idea is being implemented.

You’re probably wondering what does it mean to be open? Well it is akin to open-source coding, where the product and the machinations are free for anyone to tweak and modify. This doesn’t mean there is no money involved, as the book on openness can attest, what it means is that the products are not bound by proprietariness. That products, and potentially the resources that went into making that products, are accessible and able to be modified to fit the needs of the consumer.

As an example here is a fun essay about how the Makerbot business got started. You can always do a google search and see more about it too.

Design the new Business

Trailer – Design The New Business from dthenewb on Vimeo.

Had a chance last week to attend the US premier of a documentary about design thinking, Design the new Business. The film was produced and filmed by students in the Master of Design program at Delft University, The Netherlands, and features many interviews with designers working in the Netherlands or Germany. The film is basically a snapshot of thoughts and comments working professionals have about design being used by business for strategy and new product development. My favorite quote to sum up the movie came in the beginning, which was that today’s world and work is defined by complexity. Everyone understands this, and businesses need to manage that complexity and respond to it to thrive. Designers can provide clarity in the fuzziness that surrounds this complexity, and that’s why they are useful, if not vital to business. Alexander Osterwalder, one of the authors of Business Model Generation was one of the best experts they interviewed.

Unfortunately, I thought the presentation at our particular event was pretty lackluster; the presenter was one of the students who participated in the project, but he couldn’t name an interview that was a favorite, and didn’t even seem to want to talk about the motivations behind making the film. My conclusion: even designers can give boring presentations sometimes. The movie is being screened at special events for the next month, then they will probably make it available for watching in it’s entirety (it’s about 40 min long) so check back on the website for when it’s available.