Town Hall #27 - The New Possible - USA
Updated: Oct 23
Brian Collins - CCO at COLLINS
Rick Bell - Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University NYC
Melissa Cullens - Founder & CEO at Charette
Dan Formosa - Designer at Dan Formosa!
Ronnie Peters - Creative Director at 360 Design & Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
Mark Bergin 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to another Design Exec Club Town Hall. This is number 27 for us. We're focusing on the US market. It's great to see that six months ago, I could get anybody for as long as I liked. But we've actually got multiple participants who are either going to drop into this call, or are going to drop out of the call because they've got jobs to be done. I think actually one of the people on the call has a new client call they've got to get to. Which that says to me, the economy is running. What we do want to explore is the idea of the new possible. And I know, Rick Bell, you've got the new possible that's come up for you which is the NYC Architecture Biennial, which is great to go see, which I think you're in the middle of. And we know also, Brian, you've got a new ideas publication coming out, which we're going to get into that. And Melissa, you've got your new studio running. You've got new briefs there. And Dan, you're always a dark horse, you don't tell us a hell of a lot about what's happening. But I know that you've been doing workshops for some of your clients. So we'll dig into that. But Brian, because I know you're going to be the first one that actually falls off here. So let's get in, let's quickly talk about the new possible in the world of Collins. Because, you know, when we started talking six months ago, it was the idea that these are great conversations, because we were talking about what could be. And we know that so much of the media is actually about what isn't. And in the US at the moment, there's all of this chaos about what could be or what isn't. And there's so much of a cacophony, give us some clarity. What's Collins doing?
Brian Collins 1:44
Obviously, we're in a new world, and I hate the word, the new normal, because it ain't such a thing. To think that we're in a new world, we talked about this once before, to think that we're in a new world is ridiculous. We're in a broken world from before. I once mentioned this - we're we're not on a new rocket ship, we're on Apollo 13. And we got taken out by you know, a virus. So what we have to do is optimize the systems that are around us. One of the things that we did was, my team loves, turns out, loves working at home. And not only do they like working at home, they like working with each other. So what they're doing is they're testing each other. So, I've got three members of my team who relocated to Great Barrington, Massachusetts and two of the members of my team picked up and went to Honolulu. And so what's happening is they're working in pods, and they're sharing pods, and they're working together. We had this huge office, 10,000 square feet in the middle of Greenwich Village. And it turns out, we don't need 10,000 square feet. So what we did is we're building a new studio, a workshop, a little bit less than half that space, where most of my creative people and many of my people are in Brooklyn. And it's not in a skyscraper, it's on the first floor. It's a studio loft space that used to be an artist's studio, and it's on the first floor - no elevator, they walk in. So we'll be able to have a workshop - we're building our library, we're building a meditation space, we're building a workshop and a presentation room, and a big kitchen. So it's really not as much as an office, it is an incredibly fantastic apartment with a 5000 book library. So that's what we're doing. People will be able to meet there, but they aren't going to work there. They're working Brooklyn, and we've enough room for like 25 people there. But in COVID, we can accommodate maybe five or six, seven safely. I think during the winter, people will want a place that they can go and escape in New York. So that's what we're building right now in Brooklyn, right on the edge of Williamsburg.
Mark Bergin 3:46
And that's really interesting, because in the Australian Town Hall Episode 25, we had one of our architects in Australia, and he was saying the problem is going to be when everyone comes back into the office. Two days, they'll love each other and then on the third day, they're just gonna say will you shut up man? Yeah, like, because everyone's used to working in these quiet times. And I've got to get that Joe Biden t-shirt for him - you know, "will you shut up, man".
Brian Collins 4:15
Was that your American accent?
Mark Bergin 4:16
That's as good as it gets and be nice.
Brian Collins 4:18
It's not bad, not bad!
Mark Bergin 4:20
It's as good as it gets. Hey, I'm Australian. You know, I'm already at a disadvantage.
Brian Collins 4:25
The funny thing was, we had all these chairs. We have like, we have all these beautiful ergonomically designed chairs from Herman Miller. They were not cheap. They're like, new they're over 700 bucks. Refurbished they're 500. So when we moved our studios, we had like 20 chairs, and we gave them to a salvage supply company. They were going pay us 50 bucks for them. I said "That's stupid. They're worth like used $500." We had 20 of them. Of course they wanted to buy them for 50 bucks. I just posted something on LinkedIn - "Is there any designers in the neighborhood or New York who needed a really good chair." We got hundreds of responses. I get a call from the Wall Street Journal from a writer and she's writing a story on what happened. Like we gave away 20 really good chairs. And people loved it. Everyone who came, we took a picture of them, who they were, what their story was. And basically, it was those designers; people who lost their jobs, people who were starting freelance careers, and so they now have this chair. And I didn't know that there'd be such an untapped desire for ergonomically designed chairs. But now we're all working from home. And these things in our house are nice to look at, you know, I've a modernist mid century easy chair. You can't sit in it for longer than an hour. So that was wonderful. Just giving those chairs away. People loved it.
Mark Bergin 5:45
So I do want to ask, because just before COVID happened, there was the Twitch Campaign had left your studio. Twitch are like every digital service, would have just seen just skyrocketing up with their utilization and activity. Have they had any mindset to come back and say what the next phase is? You know, is that something which is just burgeoning for you or are Twitch just saying, hold back because there's too much happening?
Brian Collins 6:14
Well, no. The next phase is already in the hands of all their creators. Here's what happened over COVID. We worked with twitch to expand them from a platform for gamers. We moved them from a platform that was about gamers to a platform that was about creators, because we found out that people who loved gaming, we're not the only people using it. People loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. People loved Bob Ross, the painter. People loved watching chess. But here's what happened over the pandemic. It became the world's leading streaming service, live streaming, for music. It became like incredible live streaming for sport., Then it became a live streaming conversation for the Black Lives Matter movement. And yesterday, AOC, an emerging leader in American politics has used it as her platform as well. So Twitch has no plan, except to put as many seats at the table as whoever wants to use the platform and can accommodate.
Mark Bergin 7:14
And that's exactly what a good platform play is. You see when people actually start to go down tracks and they've got a platform play, they wind up missing opportunities. So that's great to see. Brian, you're like a double espresso. I think we've all just had that shot. We're gonna let you go.
Brian Collins 7:32
I'm gonna let you go and wish everybody well. I don't think this is over. I think we're going into, at least in North America, into a rough spot. I think the pandemic is going to get worse. We're all crossing our fingers around the election in November. But let me go back. I love seeing everybody but I'm going to go and slay some dragons.
Mark Bergin 7:50
I'm going to come to you in a month's time and let's go do just a one on one spotlight, talking about in more depth details about some of these things. Ronnie, Rick, Victoria, Melissa, Dan and Mark, it was nice seeing you again. I wish I could stay, but gotta pay the rent.
Ronnie Peters 8:11
Hey, Brian, take care.
Rick Bell 8:14
Good luck with your client.
Mark Bergin 8:15
Ok. Now they say that some things are bigger than life, and that's what happens in New York. So there was Brian. Fantastic. I just so love his energy. It's great there. Alright, so we're going to shift into a slightly different gear here. Rick, you're doing the first NYC Architectural Biennial. Tell us a bit about that as a new possible. Because, I know that Archtober has been around for quite some time. And to go see this bounce through, and by the look of it - And we're proud sponsors of it - by the look of it, It's great to go see the energy and the depth that's associated with it. Give us a bit of understanding about that new possible.
Rick Bell 8:50
Well, thanks Mark. And thank you and DRIVENxDESIGN for being supporters/sponsors of the first ever New York City Architecture Biennial. We looked at other biennials around the world, there are many, and we know their attribute and, know their strengths. And we decided that New York would be different in some ways - much smaller, paradoxically, much more international as the city is. It's a startup and we have people participating from all over the world. Many, many people from South America as you saw today and yesterday, continues tomorrow with Jack Travis as a speaker. Today we had Maria Hurtado de Mendosa from Madrid speaking. On Friday, there's a panel discussion with Laurie Hawkinson, Joan Crevlin, Ronnette Riley, Danei Cesario and Maria Perballini all from New York. Women who succeeded as architects in vastly different fields. So the idea was to discuss inclusion in the workplace and in design, and have that as the singular focus for all the discussions, whether one's a practitioner, an academic, or involved in public works or other areas of practice. That is a wonderful way of plugging the, you know, "thank you for the softball". Please check the website nycarchitecturebiennial.org. It's free. It's only one hour a day. And hopefully it works in your timezone. But what I really wanted to answer was the last question. Could I have a minute or two? I'm gonna have to peel off for something in 15 minutes,
Mark Bergin 10:36
Continue with your segment. Then the four of us are going to hang here and we're going to do a bit more of a deep dive, so go for it.
Rick Bell 10:42
Okay. So, you know, I was reflecting while Brian was talking on whether he was right or not. You know, whether there is or isn't a new normal. And, you know, what causes perceptions of change, perceptions of vulnerability. New York, of course, has suffered from changes in perception, sense of vulnerability after 911 and after Sandy. What I scribbled down here just now as Brian was talking. After 911 we stopped, caught our breath, hardened our lobbies and forgot about it. There's a way of saying that in your Australia, New York accent. After Sandy, we stopped, we held our breath, we redesigned the waterfront. And then we forgot to build it. We haven't done a damn thing since Sandy. You know, and I was a public agency responsible for that, so may have called them, my colleagues. With a pandemic, what have we done? We've stopped, we've put on masks, we've slowed down. Perhaps we've also sped it up. I think many of us are taking some time to smell the flowers, maybe even gardening, cooking. But we're also working around the clock and seven days a week - there's no difference any longer. And can you go faster and slower at the same time? So I think there are new norms, you know, a new standards. The building code changed after 911. Our types of social interaction certainly have changed now. And as I said, in some parts of the world, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". Or is it? You know, I think masks are here to stay. Even if we don't wear them. You know, we might carry them in our pocket as a handkerchief or maybe a pocket square, if there's the relevant pocket. Outdoor dining in New York is here to stay, year round. You know, I think most importantly, with the pandemic bred sense of how we're all in this together, the most significant changes, nice as it is to eat outside and nice as it is to garden or work at home, most significant changes, I think are that we have started to look at each other differently, perhaps with greater sense of parity, equality, equity. And I think the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against endemic racism is fueled by that new awareness, a new sense of vulnerability. It's helped by that. It's made it possible. And I think we've also, let's hope, overcome absurdist surreal politics. And I can go into greater detail on that later before I leave.
Mark Bergin 13:16
Yeah, and so I think you're right, there are some norms coming around. But some of those norms are also significantly broken. And one of the norms that Dan and I were talking about in the pre conversation, we're going to drill in after you've peeled off Rick, is we're going to have a look at the World Series. So the World Series, has the players on the field, they're doing their thing. But sporting events are about what happens in the stadium, not what happens in isolation. And so what we've got is we've got a confected audience because they're cardboard cutouts, and we've got confected audience reactions, and it's lost some of the authenticity and so we're gonna have a look at that.
Rick Bell 13:57
I'm sorry, I'm gonna miss that discussion. I was in Yankee Stadium as a bureaucrat, you know as a functionary for the City of New York, when a roller joint fell. You know, something that shouldn't have been there connecting a beam that was there and a column that had been taken away years before. It was the connector between them. It lingered longer than it might have. When it fell, and it fell during the day in the afternoon, the day of a night game. If it had been while someone was sitting in the seat below that person would have been clobbered, probably killed or seriously damaged. We went around the stadium and painted with purple phosphorus paint anything else that might fall, spalling concrete, anything that looked loose or dangerous, and there was a lot of it. While we were doing that, a gentleman named Kevin Costner, maybe some of you have heard of him, was making a movie. I think it was called For love of the game. I don't recommend it, but it was nice to meet him and see how they were filming concurrent with all this sped up construction activity, because it was baseball season and the Yankees wanted to play the home games at home, not someplace else. Long story short, to make the stadium look occupied, while they made this movie, they had cardboard cutouts of figures like we're seeing now in the playoffs and some degree, even the real people cardboard cutouts in the game last night that the Dodgers won. And they move them from place to place between scenes so that you know, the same people were sitting in the outfield, were sitting in first base line, were sitting at their base line. And I thought to myself, how expensive it was to go to a baseball game. And how many people for a variety of reasons, listen to baseball games on the radio or watch it on TV. And how the sense of a spectator sport with the stadium filled with 40 or 50,000 cheering fans, especially during World Series, every seat occupied standing room only, the spectators were there to make noise. And during all the playoff games and the World Series, the noise is largely piped in. Yeah, miraculous sound engineers. They're props, they're actors, they're extras, they're paying for the privilege of being an extra go figure. And the real audience, like now, is at home virtually watching and by other means, maybe streaming. So yeah, you know, can you construct a stadium where you disguise the fact that there really aren't any people in the stands? It broadened the conversation to other types of arenas and public gathering spaces, concert halls. You know, what's the sound of an orchestra playing if there's no one in the room? Well, when you listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio, it's damn good. You don't have to be there, sorry to say.
Mark Bergin 16:50
So we're going to actually dig into that, because there's something about being in the room, in the moment. Which Rick, unfortunately, you're gonna peel off here, I think
Rick Bell 16:59
I'll stay as long as I can. And I'll stop talking. I'll listen.
Mark Bergin 17:02
So thank you for that, because that gives more fuel to the conversation here. So what I do want to do here is go across to Melissa. How many months are you now into, because you had your role of Ellevest, and now you've moved across and you're running your own studio. What are we, is it month three, month four?
Melissa Cullens 17:22
About month four. Yeah.
Mark Bergin 17:24
Okay. So does it feel like you're in Kansas or does it feel like you're not in Kansas anymore? What's it feel like?
Melissa Cullens 17:31
Gosh, I mean, the studio question is honestly, such a small thing. That's probably the most normal thing about this time is moving from, you know, working for somebody else to moving to working for yourself and deciding to develop something. I think, you know, to come back around to, what are the experiences that we're adapting to. Because when I think about the idea of a new normal, there's a sense of grandiosity that like, oh, we're going to reinvent everything. But what we're really talking about is adaptation; like going from having a 10,000 square foot office to renting an apartment is not the new way of having an office, it's just a smaller office. Piping athletic sounds into a stadium - my husband's a huge Liverpool fan and I'm not a sports person - has been, like, great for him, because now there's new angles on the field for where the players are. So he gets to see, extra parts of the soccer game. But the places where I think we really have an opportunity to reinvent, are the places where we're really cracking, which is supporting working parents. Anybody that has a kid that is trying to do Zoom school right now, or is trying to also work full time and is, so many of my friends have said, I can't work 70 hour weeks anymore. And so what happens when you can't work 70 hour weeks is you don't get promoted. And you have to have a question in your mind about what kind of businesses are we building in the future that requires 70 hour weeks out of anybody. Because if my performance as a parent, male or female is going to be compared with that of somebody who can give their whole life to a company, I'm definitely not going to stack up. So are we inviting ourselves to ask a bigger question about not just like, how are we working, but what are we working towards. What's kind of the end goal, and that's a big part of why I did want to step away from working in the tech space, directly from working towards kind of like the perpetual growth of the startup space, is crazy. Like the things that you have to do, the things that you have to build. Isn't Google, at this point, I think they're just trying to pipe more internet into more places so that more people can use Google because that's like the only way left to grow? So I'm just super curious for everybody else on the call, like, how are you thinking about, you know, what is enough? And how do we build businesses that are sustainable, that aren't looking for growth at the cost of human life, or a career ladder that is no longer just up, but about the development of a robust life that maybe includes hobbies?
Mark Bergin 20:23
And I think so that's really interesting, because we are going to keep a musical theme going through this. That musicians that go into the studio for 1000 hours, don't create great albums. Okay. It's generally it's something they wrote on the tour bus, and then they came to the studio, where they recorded it reasonably roar. The engineers went for it, it gets out, it's a single, and then they go work that thing for the next 20 years. Okay. So one of the things I've been doing with people who have been asking for some advisory work is, I've been limiting them so that they get these sprints of less than an hour. And it's like, you're going to get my head and I'm going to have the concentration, we're going to see what we can distill in an hour, and then it's probably best to back away. Because what that means is that then they're getting this, like we did with Brian, we're getting that double espresso shot, which is probably where the value is. The thousand hours in the studio is how we used to charge, because as it was not a large hourly rate, but we racked up a lot of multiples of them. So I think that's going to be interesting to see how do we get out of thinking of the quality of the idea and the quality of the consideration, rather than the how many hours that went and took. And so that's a changing dynamic that's happening in the market there. And so that means people who are actually, in say your circumstance, brilliant minds, but actually having to go and actually say," Well, how do I scale and what work do I do?" And also, those other people who are trying to work out how to manage their kids. You know, we've just had that school was returned here in Melbourne. And that's been after about over 100 days of kids not being at school. And the parents are so thankful that their kids are going back to school because one, they get some time to think for themselves, and that they can actually do the other things that they were doing in their life rather than homeschooling. And I must say I had a look at those homeschooling systems. I had a look at Google Classroom. And I felt like I was on a blog system from about 99. Like the interface is terrible. These children have been brought up with Dorling Kindersley. They've been brought up with scholastic books, they've got Disney in their world. They are so over art directed, and they get this thing that most engineers would fall asleep using. You know, we've got such a long way to go build those education systems to engage the students and to actually help the teachers help the parents. And I think what we did was we made a stop gap. And that idea of, is the new normal a stop gap? Or are we actually at the point that we've got a really good foundation to build that platform on? You've highlighted there's a problem there about people's attention and their capacity to attend work? How do we get to a quality of time rather than a quantity of time? I think that's the big thing. How about for you Ronnie? How are you finding it there? Because, you know, you do quite a few different roles with people. Are your clients buying in volume? Or are they trying to go buy, is it "eau de toilette" or "eau de perfume"? You know, which one are they going for?
Ronnie Peters 23:33
So many interesting topics here. I think what we're finding is, one of the reactions from clients is not just the realization. And, Rick, to your point, and to what Brian was talking about before that, you know, are we just in some kind of new normal or some temporary state, that actually is ongoing. And ongoing in so far as some of our behaviors have changed, and they will be ongoing. And for example, we're working with a very large robotics company in Germany, and they normally go to these trade shows/trade fairs, and they bring 10 of these milling machines that are the size of a car. And set up this massive tradeshow booth, and it happens, you know, once or twice a year and they bring all their customers over there. And they asked us to rebuild and redesign the entire tradeshow booth in virtual 3d. So you can experience it with a headset, or you can experience it on a smartphone or smart TV or your laptop, however you'd like to, but to really enhance the virtual experience. So getting away from the Zoom call and the Zoom format, throwing people into a three dimensional world. But they're doing this not with the foresight of saying, "Oh, we just have to substitute the one trade show that we're going to be missing", but realizing that people's behavior has changed completely. They're not going to be traveling so much. Companies are saving huge amounts of money on transportation and accommodation for sending people to these kinds of tradeshow events. And now the company has the ability to spin up a trade show whenever they want. So next week, they can just invite a whole bunch of potential customers and have what they normally would have had in the tradeshow booth. And we're putting into that as many interactive tools as we possibly can, a chat, a video, a business card exchange, of all these kinds of things. But that was a real realization that we're seeing, is that people see this is going to be an ongoing thing. Not so much in the film industry where we're doing a lot of premieres, and we're helping films get launched and publicized. And those simply because the movie theaters are closed, we know those will open, obviously, now.
Mark Bergin 25:50
And so what I find really interesting there is we've got a stadium full of cardboard cutouts within a confected audio track. And I think Rick, you were right. Even when it's broadcast, a lot of that is piped in or can-sound for the reactions. You know, that's part of what the audio engineers do. So that's why it was so easy for them to adapt that. Having a genuine crowd reaction sound is dangerous, because somebody might swear on a mic, or curse, as you'd say in the states, curse on a microphone. So there's reasons that we protect that. But then Ronnie what you've talked about there is you've been able to actually say, well, we're using the same platforms, the same technologies, but we're actually working out how to enhance the experience. We're not confecting it. We're actually putting in the values that actually create value, rather than something that may actually confect something rather than being authentic. And so I think that's where it comes down to the same tools in the hands of different creators can do very different things. And for Melissa, you know, the idea that people are actually so dislocated that they've now got their time that, you know, the attention of their children, and doing the homeschooling. And that I find very interesting, because that goes right across the spectrum. You know, in share households where there's, you know, equal parenting, you've now got both parents who are actually not as productive as they used to be. And we forget that role in the utility, that having your children going off to school had in making our whole society work there. So Dan, we've talked a bit about the World Series. You're, if I said that you're a baseball nut, is that okay? Or is that impolite?
Dan Formosa 27:31
No, no, baseball nut is okay.
Mark Bergin 27:33
Dan Formosa 27:33
That's a compliment.
Mark Bergin 27:36
That's okay. That's good. Because actually some of these things, I don't know whether culturally I've done the right thing or the wrong thing. So, I am Australian, who cares? So this idea that we're trying to work out well what is an edifying stadium experience? Because we know community sport is all about being on the sidelines in the crowd where, you know, there might be 100 to 1000 people around a game. But when we go to a stadium, we want to feel the energy of 30,000, 100,000 people roaring at the same time. How do we go and bridge something in the middle there? Or is it that we've actually got the best midpoint?
Dan Formosa 28:14
Well, I for one, am having a hard time watching baseball games with the soundtracks; you know, with the can soundtracks and the canned audience reactions. The other thing that probably is really obvious to the players themselves, is they're not playing at their home stadium in front of their home fans. And that's the case now with the World Series too, is they're not at their home stadium. They're not traveling back and forth to be within their environment. I will say something else that's kind of interesting about baseball, is the stadiums themselves are designed, well let me put it this way, every baseball stadium is different. The infield is basically the same, but the way it's groomed and the height of the grass and the the grade of the of the lanes etc. it's all a bit different. The outfield is completely different. So a baseball team will hire players and train players based on their home stadium, because that's where they play most of the games. So that idea is out the window. So there's a lot of things changing, but I think I'm having as much trouble watching baseball games as I am watching situation comedies with laugh tracks. I just can't do it.
Mark Bergin 29:37
And so what they did for the Australian football season was, the big screens that were on the grounds, they actually showed the crowd reaction. You know how they normally have things like goal or try or touchdown, they don't have those you know, audience or crowd supporting graphics and they went and put up pictures of the crowd cheering after they'd done something, to help the players to go and confect their emotional response to what was happening. And you go, now we're getting into a really weird world. I remember the absurd comment that Elon Musk made, that "are we all living in a virtual reality". And, I think actually, that kind of talks that there. But the idea of the laugh track, and this also goes to some of the things about watching streaming services, I'm not sure why I'm not edified watching some beautiful film projects that are on Netflix or on Prime. But at the end of it, I kind of feel like I haven't had a proper meal, it hasn't been nourishing. And so there's something in these experiences that we're creating, where they're not nourishing the soul, but they've definitely got all of the elements. If you went through a compliance checklist, it's all there, but it's not doing the soul. Or is that my disposition that's the issue? And again, if you're doing experience design, you've got to actually be contextual to the audience.
Dan Formosa 31:02
Now, well you know I'll tell you what's interesting about, and I'm gonna say this especially about American football but it applies to baseball and all sports, is that when you're watching at home you can see the replays. And in some ways, you get a much better view at home. Now, what's going to be amazing, and it's being worked on right now with basketball and with football, is that pretty soon you will be able to watch the game, as if you are standing in the middle of the field. And you may have seen some of this already. The way they three dimensionally rotate the players as if the camera is moving into impossible places. So there is some of that going on in television right now. And it's just kind of mind boggling how that is done. But pretty soon you are going to be able to watch the game, a basketball game, while standing in center court.
Mark Bergin 31:57
And we've seen that also happen in the Fast and Furious movies, which actually have picked up a filming style that makes them feel like their the video game. And there's the other movie, Six Down Under, or Six Under, Down Under? Six Under Ground, sorry. Which is another spin off of that same genre. It feels like it's a video game in a movie. And then you're getting then the idea of the video game on the sports field. Melissa, it sounds like your husband is a test pilot for these sorts of experiences. Will you ever get him off these ideas of sitting and having a 360 degree view of the soccer game? Or there'll be another angle he wants to watch?
Melissa Cullens 32:40
It may actually be the end of our marriage.
Rick Bell 32:42
I going to have to leave. Can I interject just to say thank you and farewell. And what I have collected over the years are, I don't know, 50 to 100 baseballs. I could show you the bookcases in my library here where they're located. The basket's filled with them. All signed by architects, architects who came to speak at the Center for Architecture, or I ran into here and there. And when you give an architect a baseball, here's Cesar Puello Eddie Gaedel, just for two. There are many others. Their first reaction is incredulity. You know, why are you giving me this? And there are people standing around them after I talk, saying will you sign this monograph? Will you sign this program? Will you sign my hand or mask? You know, I didn't say that. And, they invariably do with one exception, and I won't criticize Philip Johnson too much. He's dead. I hope. I'm sorry. I know. And they say "you know, it's an interesting object" and the scale of a baseball, here's Ralph Rapson, the scale of the baseball compared to, bare with me ...
Mark Bergin 34:03
What I love is like this is exactly what I wasn't expecting. Yes? So this is great.
Rick Bell 34:08
... compared to a football. You know, here's Norman Foster who wouldn't sign a baseball but certainly signed a soccer ball. The scale of the baseball parallels the scale of the game and I agree with Dan that there's something incredible. I didn't want to say you can watch a baseball game on TV with or without the sound, but the technology changes the game. When you go to a baseball game and you can't really get a grasp. When as a kid you know, I was born in 1952. You take a transistor radio to Yankee Stadium to hear the play by play from commentators who knew really what was going on better than you could tell from from way up high. The scale of the game is vastly different. Whether it's Sandlot, Minor League, Major League, the size of the stadium's vary. The largest is, you know, round numbers 50,000 - a little larger, usually smaller. They're seldom filled. It takes the World Series or an incredibly good team with a winning season to fill most stadiums. What does it mean when you watch a less capable team playing on a smaller field that's more intimate and where the methods of engagement are much more about the world of entertainment than sports. That's, I think the wave of the future. Making it even more palpable that sports are entertainment, especially since so few of us get to participate. Zoom, anyone can participate.
Mark Bergin 35:36
And so that's a very interesting point. Elite sport, is actually, it's elite sport, but there's an entertainment side to it. You know, Usain Bolt that's an entertainer. You know he knew every time he came across the finish line, "if I don't go do my, you know, my stance, that I'm not going to go get that media shot." So he knew what he was banking in. And see you, Rick, thank you.
Rick Bell 35:59
So sorry, I have to leave. I will watch the tape of the discussion, especially if it keeps going on about baseball in the series. I'm a Yankee fan, diehard. You know, I've always rooted for American League teams in the World Series unless they had beat the Yankees. But I like the Dodgers. They're looking good. And I'm gonna try to watch, instead of the presidential debate, take care. Bye, everybody.
Mark Bergin 36:25
So, this is fantastic. We've had a brief conversation about baseball, and then just people's passions that are coming out there. So Ronnie, does baseball run through your veins. So you've been in New York for quite a few weeks now, years! Has it got into your veins or is it you still looking at it going, this is a bit strange?
Ronnie Peters 36:48
Baseball, like I can handle it. It's American football, that I still just scratch my head over. And growing up in a country where rugby is the sport, it's just still way too slow, and way too many meetings every few minutes, because the game has to stop. I just, I don't get it. So anyway, I like the flow of baseball.
Mark Bergin 37:11
One of the things I really like about baseball in the American culture is it goes, you know, the great stories go all the way back into the depression and what it did for the community and how it gathered people together. It was their entertainment and it was this energy. And we had the focus there. And if we go think of the new normal, back in the 1920s, there weren't that many options. So it was you're gonna follow the baseball during the baseball season. Now the kids have got 1000 options that they could be doing. And, that as far as thinking about the new normal to me, is really interesting, because we've gone from having maybe five focuses in the 1920s, to having 1000 focuses in the 2020s. And, so that's where I think this conversation about new normal actually becomes very complex, because there was no normal to start off with. And things that were broken back in January, are just a little bit more broken now. I'd hate to think what's happened to infrastructure projects that needed to have some consideration, because those resources are now being diverted to somewhere else. I remember seeing that in the States that the infrastructure of bridges and rail and pipes and those sorts of things was dramatically lagging behind. Have they actually picked up speed? Because we've seen in some cities that they've actually picked up speed because there's less interruption to the roads so that they can get the trucks in and out. In other cities, they've been so occupied dealing with the disaster that they haven't actually got that advantage that's coming out there. Dan, as far as the work that you're doing with clients, I know that you've been doing quite a few remote consultancies and workshops with people. Do you think that's the new norm? Because you used to, like me used to travel a lot. You're probably now actually finding you can facilitate a lot of this from home. Or is it that you're doing that until it becomes the right thing to start traveling again?
Dan Formosa 39:09
I think it's going to change things. I think there seems like a new permission to work remotely. Now that everyone has tried it and it's kind of okay, and it's got its advantages. I think, working together in a big group in an office or conference room is a bit overrated. I don't want to exaggerate. I don't want to over emphasize that, but I think it's a bit overrated. When I talk to people about where they get their best ideas, it's never in the office, it's never in the conference room. It's always in the car or the shower or you know, as I'm falling asleep or things like that. So I think there is something to being isolated, that is not unhealthy. I also think that it's going to change the way and I should say I'm curious about this. I wonder if it's going to change the way we think about design. Because design has, for a very long time been, at best, put emphasis on the way we design something, and a lot less emphasis on knowledge in design. So there's a lot that we don't know. And I'm wondering if being isolated like this is going to give a boost to the idea that we need to know things, not just do things. And then I can rant on that for like another 90 minutes, but I'll leave it at that, because it's going to be interesting to see how people now that they are isolated or working alone or working in smaller teams, whether they're going to rely on something beyond the process of design, and more about the knowledge and, or realizing that we need to know more about design, as opposed to just doing things.
Melissa Cullens 40:54
I want to hear more, I want to hear more about the difference between knowing things and doing things. Don't stop.
Dan Formosa 41:04
I'm roping Melissa into a project this week. So, that's a loaded question. I don't know if she's serious or not. But, no, you can work with some very capable people when you're working remotely because I can pull Melissa into a project. And she seemed interested and it's just in planning stages. But you know, the idea of finding these people who are passionate about topics and are great about topics and saying, Okay, let's put this SWAT team together. And that's what I've been doing for a long time in the collective model, as opposed to the agency model. And that you can pick and choose people and put things together, like you're making a movie. You know, get the best of this and the best of that, and very little overhead or relatively less overhead, and a lot of passionate people and a lot of people who know what they're doing. And now I think that people are getting a little bit more on their own, I think they need to rely on what they know, not just what they may feel comfortable doing in the group, because that's the way we've been designing things since the 1970s.
Mark Bergin 42:11
And I want to spend a moment here, because it's not only designers that are actually watching the Exec Club Town Halls, there's people who are commissioning clients, executives that are in there. I just want to give them a little bit of insight into that difference between an idea and actually something that is elegant and graceful and finished. We produce these awards annuals, which is about a 200 page book for each one of the award programs. So we've got all this knowledge. And then one of the things I realized that we were missing was a most creative studio and also a most innovative brands collection in each year. And so I said, great, we're going to do that, we know how to do the scoring. But there's the idea. We know where to schedule it. So we can say we can do one in January and we can do one in July. That's the easy part. But it's going to take over 100 hours or more to work out how do you finesse that so it actually accommodates all of the different stakeholders and all their different needs. And that's the part of design where I think we forget to tell people, to make it elegant, to make it that it's going to actually serve all the different needs with all of those contextual considerations. That takes a long time. And so what we often do is that we turn around and we think there's a light bulb moment. So there's a light bulb saying there's going to be a most innovative collection and most creative collection. But then there's at least that hundred or 1000 hours that needs to be done to go turn that idea into something which is actually ready for market. And that's the part that we don't see. And that's often done as a couple of individuals. It might be that somebody is your bouncing board, but it's one person who's doing. And I think it's really interesting if we go look at the way that Logitech have gone and put their design teams together. Which is they know that their teams of between one to three people are really the ones who come up with their new products. It might take 20 or 30 people to go through tooling and prototypes and manufacturing and production. But it comes down to those 1 - 3 person teams, which are going to be the ones who actually drive the product forward. And that's very confusing, because we're used to the idea of scale and multiplying people out and having large project teams. But we've got to get that time allocation there to go do the consideration because ideas are generally flawed. And it takes a long time to go make them graceful and elegant. Hence, the Never Simple t-shirt. Yeah. So then if that's the case and you're working remotely, Ronnie, Melisssa, Dan, how do you actually convince people that it's not the idea, it's actually got to be the next hundred hours, the next thousand hours you need to put into make it right? And I know, Melissa, that if I looked at the work that you did at Ellevest, it was like you had thousands of hours of interviews and thousands of lines of notes that you take in, in design research meetings. And actually, I think there were more notes than there were lines of code, which is actually the right way to do it. You know, if something's done elegantly, there's going to be very few lines of code. It's actually how does a tech company actually afford that time to go consider.
Melissa Cullens 45:23
I think there's like two parts of it. And this was so the kind of priority thing when I started that I wanted to try, and I'm still trying it out, is with our founding team, with our leadership team at Ellevest, my role over time became strategic. So I was hoping to kind of vet ideas as they came into Sally's brain or into anybody else's brain on the team, about how well would they work? How well would they resonate with the community. And to kind of come back around to what you're talking about, about stakeholder management, it was both about vetting the idea with the community, but also bringing the organization along with the journey of experiencing and playing with an adaptive and creative idea. And, then designers are not the only people that have good ideas. There are so many good ideas, and so many people without a whole lot of tools, or expertise or kind of ability to kind of do that work and saying, does it work? How can I change it? And you know, getting in front of people and being able to actually see their idea from their customers perspective. So I've been trying this thing where it's not about, you come to me with your idea, and I go back into my magic box and come back to you with brilliance. But together, we form a team. And I will lead you and your team through the process of exploring your idea. And I'll do all the business for you. But, we'll do a lot of the work together. And really what I'm providing is accountability. I'm providing knowledge. I'm providing experience and expertise, and I'm providing you with the methodology to help you outline the core aspects of what you're trying to accomplish. And it's, fun. You don't have to do a lot of selling because everybody goes with you, and you do it together. And so there, doesn't have to be the you know, gosh, this is going to take an awful long time for me to go back and very, you know, quietly think deeply about your problem. We're going to do the mess together. And I think especially as we are distanced from each other, it's much harder to feel connected. And so doing that stuff in a collaborative way, might just be an interesting way for us to see, you know, new projects come to life and new ideas come to life.
Mark Bergin 47:42
And Ronnie, I think there for you, you've been doing some projects, with how to filmmakers go and get their product into market. And what's interesting, now you get an episodic like there's, you know, multiple bites of this apple where it's like, okay, we got the first one out, we got a winners as a test in the market, we understood how it performed. And whereas when Dan was making physical products, those physical products that go out in the world have tooling and they have to be absolutely detailed. And I have to get into this engineering thing. So, how do you find that actually, taking those multiple experiments and having an iterative model rather than an industrial design which was generally about a perfect model, or as perfect as possible. You've got release candidates going out all the time. An industrial design studio has very few release candidates because of the costs.
Ronnie Peters 48:33
Right. Now, I mean, that is the terrific advantage of working in a virtual world, is that the turn over time, and the time to market is much faster than developing the physical product, right? So being able to try something out and then see what works and what fails or how people react to things. And then responding to that. Yes. And also, then how do we, in some ways commoditize what we're doing to make that process easier as well. And then people will be asking for additional and new features. And Melissa to your point, you know, working with them as a team, and being able to disseminate to a group of people what worked before and what is working and allowing the client to push us to a certain point. But then when do you pull back and you you know, it's not going to be a good idea or it's not going to work? And how do you keep that within that sort of boundary of what you're talking about, good to great design and the great experience. That's, I think one of the really interesting and good challenges. Yeah, and no, I just, you know, maybe this is like slightly segue, but what Rick talked about very early on in the conversation about street dining and outdoor dining in New York City, and I think it's really interesting. To me as a designer to watch something that's organically unfolding in front of our eyes. So it started off with a restaurant being able to put seats out into the street. And that meant parking started to disappear. We're now seeing people's mindset literally starting to shift in the neighborhood. And this realization that the automobile spends 96% of its time parked the average car, right? So, why are we giving away such a massive amount of space in Manhattan in particular, just looking at my story, two cars, right. About four times the size of Central Park is taken up just by cars on the streets and in New York City. So what if we could like pare that back? And now that the city has said that outdoor dining is becoming more of a permanent thing, you're starting to see the restaurants in a design sense compete with each other? Because now it's becoming a brand. It's becoming a billboard, and the beautification of the street and the whole street experience and the outdoor experience is changing. And I'm really loving watching this evolution. And I think, you know, going back to this question of the new normal, and what's temporary and what's permanent, and that that's now become a thing. Where is that going to lead to? And what's that actually going to do to taking our streets back. The increase of people cycling and cycleways in New York City, I think there are some really amazing silver linings that are actually coming out of this, that are starting organically. But I'm so excited to see when the architectural design community then really starts to embrace this and we can start to push it more
Mark Bergin 51:44
I think was around about 2012/2013, when Broadway was blocked off. And there were sections of Broadway that blocked off. And it was, oh, no the traffic's gonna stop. It in one way, improved the traffic circulation, because every time you take a cross intersection in a city out, and there's one less set of traffic lights for people to flow through. And it means they are using more circulatory paths rather than meandering around. And then that brought public amenity of the city. So we're seeing what happened there is now accelerating. We're seeing, you know, if I look back in this conversation we had, that the guys at Twitch, that Twitch are actually accelerating by being an open platform, and they haven't tried to say, this is what we are. We've got the World Series. They've tried to go and protect the franchise that they've got, which is that they have more money that's coming in through television rights than they have through ticket gate sales. But they needed to work out what to go do. And if you think eventually they're going to replace some of those cardboard cutouts and they're going to work out how to go bring back some natural sound, are they adding those layers back in? Because they're probably aware that it's a confected experience not an authentic experience. They're try to do the best they can in these adaptive times. And then for Melissa, for you what you're talking about with the idea of the challenges, which is what happens if you don't work a 70 hours a week. I think that's actually called courageous and smart. But there might be a career limiting move for some people.
Melissa Cullens 53:21
We all do it Mark.
Mark Bergin 53:26
Well, actually, I can tell you that I don't work 70 hours a week. Okay, so I'm happy to give you some tips on how you don't work 70 hours a week, because I used to. So I know exactly what you mean there. But, you know, there's so much that's evolving there. And it's also actually contextual, it always comes down to the context. And I think for people who are viewing this, who aren't designers, and don't have that in the role understanding, it's understanding the context, understanding is it a single shot, is it episodic. You know, I know every one of the annuals that we go make, they're slightly different. And we actually work out this is the release candidate, this is the best that we can do at this moment. We've still got some plans and some ideas of what we want to go put into the annuals and how we want to do the treatments. But this is the best we can do at this point. And we put it out. We make sure it's appropriate. But we still got a vision of what that next version is and the version after that. And that's part of what I don't think we translate through to executives, because when we say something's finished they hear final, What they don't hear is, this is an appropriate release candidate. And that's so different from Dan, if you go think of when you're making physical products, rather than talking about service and digital products. You know, we have the idea of episodes, we have the idea of release cycles. And that's exactly what we need to empower people to even these days with industrial design. If you're making a physical object, the retooling and changing things actually isn't as expensive as it was 10 or 20 years ago. We can go do these things much faster because of those CNC milling machines that you were talking about Ronnie. So I've had a fantastic conversation. We're coming close to an hour here. I want to make sure that we're summing it up. And by the way, I've just got to go have a coffee. After Brian hit me with that double espresso shot of just edited you there, I had to go do it. Thank you so much for your time and to the audience. We'll be back next week with another episode, this time coming with an Asian market focus. But thank you for enjoying another Design Exec Club Town Hall.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai