Archive for April, 2012


Next UP on Design Matters…

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


Ken Carbone is a designer, artist, musician, author and teacher. He says he can’t spell, can’t type and only learned to swim after he turned fifty. He’s never won an Oscar, never watched the Simpson’s and secretly loves opera. He is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of the Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City. Their client list includes: W Hotels, Morgan Stanley, Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Canon, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Corbis Images, Architectural Record Magazine and the Musee du Louvre. Their work has been recognized for design excellence and published internationally. He is currently a featured design blogger for Fast Co. magazine. However, he says he would give it all up to play guitar for Nora Jones.

Check out the episode this Friday at 3pm only at Design Observer.


Next UP on Design Matters…

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


Debbie’s latest podcast with Randy J. Hunt: Up now on Design Observer!

Randy is the Creative Director at Etsy, a company he refers to as the most awesome marketplace on this fragile planet we inhibit. He founded and ran Citizen Scholar, Inc design studio and print brand, and co-founded Supermarket, a curated design marketplace. He has also appeared on the Nickelodeon television show Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Impressed? Click Here to Listen to the Show



Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Check out the latest visual essay by Debbie Millman: Persistence


For a larger view, visit: Imprint

And don’t forget the exhibition of Debbie’s Look Both Ways essays goes live at the Chicago Design Museum this June! Fore more info visit: CHIDM.COM


A Different Way to View Innovation

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

So often when we think about innovation, we instantly jump to the notion that everything needs to be high tech. Consumers today are looking for rich content and experiences that take their interactions with brands to the next level. Life is no longer about 3D. Now, we’re talking about 5D. At the same time, one growing trend we’ve seen more of lately, is a return to humble materials, a resurgence of real-life experiences, a focus on physicality, and a “back to basics” movement of sorts.

We often work with our clients to think about the impact that technology and the notion of “5D” has on their worlds and their consumers. But it can be just as interesting to look through the lens of the low tech in creating really impactful experiences for audiences. Here are a few examples of ultra-rich “low tech” experiences, recently dug up by Kalyn Ryan, who keeps me honest when it comes to being hip and in the know, here in the Innovation group:

  • Plus One Berlin – A new service where guests can book a stand-alone room in Berlin’s Kreuzkölln neighborhood, but also can connect with a local resident for advice and personalized experiences. When you book your room, you choose from 28 locals who you can hang out with while in Berlin for a non-touristy view of the city. Forget spending hours on websites and mobile apps trying to plan your trip—instead, talk directly to a person who knows the city inside and out for a completely unique experience.


(Image from

  • Pop-up Libraries Take Manhattan – This is a fun, new phenomenon that has hit Manhattan, compliments of architect John Locke. Locke took note of all of the unused payphones around the city and started turning them into pop-up libraries complete with shelves of books for New Yorkers to read. It definitely makes an interesting statement about the speed with which technology takes over our world and how quickly a medium can become obsolete. I guess it was too expensive to line those shelves with E-Readers?


(Image from

  • FabCafe – I love Shibuya in Tokyo and here’s just another reason why. FabCafe is a new cafĂ© that is keeping its patrons occupied while they wait for their food by letting them use a laser-cutting machine. It’s so completely random but also pretty genius, and really takes the notion of the “coffee shop as the third space” to the next level. Walk in for a coffee. Walk out with a full stomach and a 3-D object you’ve made yourself. Definitely an experience that a consumer will remember, and one that is very targeted towards a specific type of person.

fabcafe(Images from

All of these examples have some very strong commonalities. They create powerful experiences for those involved. They are completely unexpected and cause people to view their worlds differently. By all senses of the word, I’d describe all of these examples as very innovative, and yet they don’t rely on technology (for the most part!).  As innovators, I think we can borrow from these examples as we think about what truly creates breakthrough change. I think technology is a huge piece of innovation and progress, but I also think there is a time and a place to remove it from the equation. For this is when we sometimes stretch our thinking, and our experiences, the most, and can really change the game.

Amy Meyer, Sterling Inovation


Sterling Activates the Awesome for Comedy Central

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012


We’re happy to announce that Sterling’s strategy team helped Comedy Central and partner agencies win a Silver in the Sports+Entertainment+Media category in the ARF David Ogilvy Awards for “Activating the Awesome.”

Our work helped Comedy Central:

- Understand differences in the humor of Gen X vs Gen Y

- Isolate ways to connect the brand to a younger audience

- Develop a bold new programming strategy, including Tosh.O, one of the break-out shows of the year

“Comedy Central had the foresight to know that the future of funny was shifting – our work was to shed light on the cultural and consumer drivers behind these shifts and identify what they would mean for the channel,” says Alpa Pandya, Managing Director Strategy, NY. “To Comedy Central’s credit, they used this to form the foundation of their strategy for growth. We can’t remember when we laughed as much on a project!”

Thanks to our wonderful clients at Comedy Central for inviting Sterling to be part of this great project and congratulations to all involved.

Click to find out more.


Next UP on Design Matters…

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

This week Debbie welcomes user experience designer, author and speaker- Khoi Vinh to the podcast! Former Design Director at, Khoi shares his insights on leading innovation for a variety of digital products. Learn more about Khoi at

Tune in at 3pm, this Friday at Design Observer.



The Instagram User Will Decide

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012


Like many others, I’m still coming to terms with the price paid yesterday by Facebook for the fun, photo phenomenon called Instagram.

And for the average person, the shock is not surprising – I mean $1 billion for a 13 person outfit with no revenue looks to be silly but on closer inspection, the value is clearly all in those 30 million active and fanatical users…and more about them later.

Strategically, the opportunity to offer an Instagram-type product achieves two things for Facebook:

At a general level, it will help keep their competitiveness alive and well

At a specific level, it should play a key role in their efforts to upgrade their mobile offerings

Financially, according to those in the know, the billion dollar price tag is right in line with other recent tech deals such as Zynga. The fact that these evaluations are considered sensible is further evidence that I am in totally the wrong business!! But that’s a separate discussion.

So strategically and financially the deal makes sense but I am not so sure when looked at from a branding point of view. Let me explain. Instagramers (or certainly the ones that I know) are ultra passionate about their brand at a very individual level. And remember, not all of this Instagram tribe are necessarily Facebook fanatics. In the longer-term, this may or may not matter but in the short-term, we should not gloss over the fact that this great, new, fun hobby brand has just been purchased by one of the biggest and most polarizing tech brands in the business. It is almost inevitable that there will be a backlash, not from their 13 employees but most definitely from a segment of their users.

It’s as if that wonderful bed & breakfast inn in Tahoe that you discovered last year has just been purchased by Best Western or Marriott. It just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Most importantly, your relationship with the purchaser is different. And for a more linear example, it would be like Zipcar selling to Hertz.

In the case of Instagram, it will depend on Facebook’s sensitivity towards the Instagramers. Facebook is a huge, mature, adult brand. Instagram is like a new born baby brand. Brands such as these sit at two different ends of almost every spectrum. The emotional connection between a recently discovered embryonic brand is very different from the mass appeal of a titan brand like Facebook with 845 million users worldwide

From a branding perspective, Facebook will have to proceed with great care otherwise those loyal and fanatical Instagramers will simply walk to one of the many Instagram-like services. So, at the end of the day, I see this deal as much about the Instagram user as it is about Facebook and that puts the consumer, as ever, in a very strong position.

Simon Williams


FUSE: New Dimensions of Magical

Thursday, April 5th, 2012


That time is once again upon us!

We invite you to join Debbie, DeeDee, Pam, Simon and many more Sterlingites this April at this year’s FUSE, the premier conference for showcasing how design can drive brand growth and bottom line.

Come network with structural, digital, and graphic designers, as well as creative directors from all over the world. Get inspired and inspire others with your design vision.

Headliners this year are:

-Jonah Lehrer, Author, How We Decide & Imagine

-Sheena Iyengar, Author, The Art of Choosing

-Maggie Macnab, Designer & Author, Design By Nature & Decoding By Design

-Mathieu Lehanneur, Industrial Designer & Interior Architect

-Joe Sabia, Digital Producer & Creative Consultant

-Vince Voron, Head of Design, Coca Cola North America & Former Apple Sr. Industrial Designer

-Steve Frykholm, Vp & Creative Director, Herman Miller

Be sure to catch the Sterling gang Day One at the Design Leadership Symposium, where DeeDee Gordon, President of Sterling’s Innovation group, teams up with Guido Schmitz, Packaging and Technology Innovation & Global R+D at Bayer. They’ll be talking about the Power of the Consumer in driving Innovation, and how co-creation worked for the Bayer brand.

And of course, we’ll all be there when Debbie Millman, President of Design at Sterling & Co-Chair of FUSE, gives her welcoming remarks to all FUSE attendees, Day Two, alongside Cheryl Swanson, Co-Chair and Principal at Toniq.

This year promises to be better than ever and we truly hope you enjoy the show! See you this April.

For more information, visit

Check @sterlingbrands on Twitter for a special 25% off discount code off your registration!

See you there!


Next UP on Design Matters…

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This Friday, Debbie welcomes public radio producer and reporter- Roman Mars!

As host of the radio show 99% Invisible, Roman explores the 99% invisible activity that shapes the design of our world– find out what he reveals at Design Observer, Friday at 3pm.



Sterling Buzz…

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012



We’re proud to announce that Debbie Millman’s collection of visual essays will be on exhibition at the Chicago Design Museum this Summer!

This series of essays examines the close relationship between design and everyday life. Each beautifully illustrated essay reveals the magic and wonder of the often unseen world around us.

We hope you can join us when the exhibition opens this June!

>>Click here for more info