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Sam Dunne

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  15 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We're thoroughly looking forward to heading along to the Product Design + Innovation conference in London next week. Now in it's fourth year, the event—which we've noticed growing steadily year on year—looks set to truly outdo itself, with a decidedly star-studded speaker line up and a program spanning a breadth of critical issues and contemporary dynamics shaping the design industry.

Robert Brunner, Beats designer, co-founder of Ammunition and ex-head of Apple Industrial Design Group, looks set to open proceeding with an examination of what design's rise to prominence in organisations means for practitioners. Creative legends and luminaries Richard Seymour and Sir John Hegarty will share a stage to reflect on what design and advertising can learn from one another about 'storytelling'—a topic that has enjoyed a lot of attention of late, but yet to be clearly articulated. If that wasn't enough, NewDealDesign founder and famed FitBit designer Gadi Amit will close the event, with insights from the frontiers of industrial design and interaction.

Having programmed this year's event, Core77 columnist Kevin McCullagh will be chairing proceedings for the fourth consecutive year. Core77 correspondent Sam Dunne will be reporting and, of course, tweeting live.

Check out what else is lined up on the two-day program. Tickets may still be available on the PD+I homepage.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |   1 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Reflecting on my childhood—an aspiring industrial designer and enthusiastic, if fairly untalented football (yes yes, soccer) player—it was always the sculpted, plasticy forms of the 2002 Adidas Predator Manias that I'd dreamed of one day saving up enough allowance to own—an iconic masterpiece of design with it's arch-hugging profile, audacious scarlet red tongue (personalized if you were really lucky) and ball bending rubber inserts on the inner foot, worn by the likes of Beckham, Zidane and Raul. Looking back now, it's funny to think that Nike once played second fiddle to Adidas on the football pitch.

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In recent weeks, the Nike brand has been weathering some negative press—and certain factions of the design and technology world have perhaps been revelling a little too gleefully in the news of company's exit (read by some admission of failure) from the wearables market. Whilst talk of the brand's move to software and rumours of partnership with Apple's wearable tech endeavours seem like a sensible move, talk amongst the technologically enlightened bemoans the ignorance of the management. Whilst it is a shame to see exciting developments in technology flop and fade, I can't help but think the Nike leadership know exactly what they're doing. As one commentator pointed out, Nike pull in as much moolah with one successful shoe launch as the whole wearables market's combined worth (estimated at around £s;330million). Perhaps the predictions of overoptimism for wearables are coming to pass. Perhaps we should also be in admiration that a brand this large is still brave enough to take on such uncharted territory.

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Stopping by Nike's Innovation Summit in Madrid last week, it's apparent that their thirst for experimentation and disruption—and indeed assault on the increasingly lucrative world of soccer—is far from over (the new slogan encapsulating this spirit? "Risk everything"). With the monumental prospect of a World Cup in Brazil, the home of modern football (and, of course, an important emerging market), designers at Nike have been working overtime. Coming out of the World Cup four years ago in South Africa, the cogs start turning as they noticed the game was changing. Gone are the days of slow, tactical build up and brute strength—the modern game demands explosive speed and razor-sharp skills from its increasingly fine-tuned athletes—a shift that has made the sport ever more sensational for its leagues of spectators. It was this insight that lead to the realization that the sport was perhaps ready for a dose of Nike's feather-light and fine-tuneable Flyknit technology. Ever ambitious—and of course more than prepared to take risks—Nike aim to evolve not only their football wear but, in doing so, take no shame in shaping the very sport itself in their image.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  26 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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HTC launched the new HTC One (M8) to great fanfare in central London yesterday, its new DotView case stealing much of the show. Core77 UK correspondent Sam Dunne caught up with VP of Design Scott Croyle to talk industrial design on the front-line.

With the keynotes out of the way and a restless swarm of tech bloggers let loose on banks of demo handsets, we were plucked from the fray and ushered down a bright white corridor of pre-fab meeting rooms. A quick handshake and a warm smile, Scott takes a seat at a table strewn with a spectrum of handsets, apologizing for the smell of fresh paint. I mention the local joke that the smell follows the Queen around. He lifts his gaze and grins quizzically.

HTC's VP of Design makes no attempt to hide his relief at another launch event done and dusted. "Selling," Croyle tells me, "is a huge part of my job, of the designer's job, both externally and internally... You gotta engage the business with stories to drive home innovations that are actually meaningful to people... even our engineers are selling their new stuff with fun little consumer stories now..." And then, of course, it's showtime: "Giving the consumer the stories behind the design helps them engage with our work emotionally." Getting up on stage, Scott admits, doesn't come naturally, "but it's so important for us as designers to put ourselves and our ideas out there... we've got to be confident and resilient if we want to be heard."

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As a leader within a massive organization, Scott eloquently elaborates on the ongoing battle of championing meaning in product development: "There's a fire hose of information and stuff coming at you from all directions all the time... the only thing you can do is to filter it. With experience, designers develop what I call an informed intuition. You don't need to know everything before you act. You do have to know when to trust your gut. These days, I can look at the title and summary of a report and know whether I should dig for more detail. It comes with practice." With a wince of self-awareness, Scott speaks of the language he has armed himself with for fighting feature creep and mediocrity. "I don't let anyone talk about differentiation, it's not about that, it's got to be better-entiated. I'm always talking about meaningful innovation... innovation by itself just doesn't cut it."

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  18 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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The Core77 Ultimate Gift Guide is one of the more popular pieces of content that we put together every year, both for our readers and those of us who have the privilege—and eye—for making the selections.

Here, contributor Sam Dunne elaborates on some of his selections for this year's Gift Guide.

Like moths to a flame, droves of wide-eyed design graduates are coaxed away from the provinces every year, fatally attracted by the bright lights and endless Sharpie marker supply of big city design studios.

Should someone on your (left to the last minute) Christmas gift list be going through this crucial right of passage into urban professionalism, get them welling up with gratitude this festive season with some essential survival tools for the trials and tribulations of working life in the concrete jungle.

For starters, consider getting their photography kit up to scratch with some handy gadgets. The lower budget shopper might try a Slyphone to equip their design grad loved one with espionage grade observational research skills. Those feeling a little more generous could consider one of Sony's revolutionary smartphone-attachable lens, for picture perfect photography without the weight or expense of an SLR.

You can be sure your poor ambitious friend will be doing their fair share of travelling over the coming year. A lot less glamourous than it sounds, your little nomad will need sleep and something to while away many an airborne hour. Gift them the new Ostrich Pillow Light for some handy head comfort or a 100 Questions kit to break the silence when going long haul with colleagues.

The new design YoPros stationery appreciation levels will also no doubt be reaching record levels in a bid to maintain some sanity during late nights in the studio. Give them some unexpected stapling satisfaction with Kokuyo Harinacs stapleless stapler or perhaps a chance to reflect on their Post-It addiction with the Giving Tree.

Sam Dunne, London Correspondent

See the full 2013 Gift Guide for more ideas →

Posted by Sam Dunne  |  14 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Have we reached Peak Design? Plotted on Gartner's hype cycle, the design industry's ascendance from relative obscurity to C-suite sweetheart may be said to have slipped over a peak of inflated expectations some years ago. Should we be wary, we might wonder, of a dip into disillusionment? Certainly, the days of business and political leaders pontificating on the virtues of its practice and processes from up high are over. But the trend towards inaugurations of talismanic 'CDOs' in a handful of enlightened organisations might suggest otherwise.

The perils of becoming just another boardroom 'fad that failed' have been foretold [PDF]; in recent years, the grand promises of foolproof processes and silver-bullet problem-solving have distracted from more balanced debate on the role design can play within business. Whilst design sits higher than ever on the business agenda, has a legacy of overblown promises—ultimately impossible to live up to—been left behind?

Meanwhile, last week's (long overdue?) must-read Design Council report on design-led business [PDF], underscores the sticky and at times paradoxical reality of attempting to prove design's value, alongside compelling anecdotal advocacy from influential business leaders. More strong leadership of this sort will be required in the long run, if design is to convert those still loyal to the short-term bottom line. The breadth and depth of any cynical sinkhole (at a macro or individual case level) will be determined by the ability of design leaders to debunk their practise of tired myths, share compelling success stories—beyond the obvious and omnipotent Apple and tech startups—and build new strategic skillsets [PDF] around existing strengths.

Enter the provocatively named Design Authority, a new collaboration between international design leaders practicing within the corporate realm.

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