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Design Trend Patterns

George Crichlow

Borrowing from the architectural world, design patterns are templates and reusable solutions for solving problems. For instance, the bathroom is recognizable design pattern that everyone understands. There is a sink, a toilet and a shower. While the layout may change, its function is universally recognized.

If we extend that concept to the digital world there are lots of design patterns that we recognize. For instance the business card is a format that conveys information about a person and service. This concept can be applied to scanning and ideation process to help businesses and individuals make sense of trends. The below solution borrow from the pocket format to tag and organize microtrends that then can be analyzed and synthesized into larger macrotrends.

The application of Pocket uses the concept of pocketing content from the web and scrubbing their format so that the information can be cleanly disbursed across multiple platform. I imagine trend consultancies and can pull from my pocket that i’m calling Afternow to sort through and organize trends for their clients. Trend firms can also give Afternow to their Scouts to organize local trends they identify.

A second alternative draws inspiration from the fashion world. What if trends and ideation tools could be bought and sold like retail items online.  What might they look like? How would that information be presented and how might someone make a repeat purchase? The below example explores the idea of selling tools to convert abstract trends into applicable business strategies.

As an offer these might become guiding principle that can used to exchange information between clients and regions.

What is service design?

George Crichlow

From what I understand my thesis, Organizing Principle is very much in-line with service design thinking. I was introduced to the above book by Delia Dumitrescu, Lead Innovation Architect at Trendwatching. On the company’s website they have a nice video explain what service design is.

So far what i’ve come to understand is that service design is an organizing concept that helps distinguish goods and services, but more importantly it is a way of raising new questions of what value is. It causes us to looking at the interdependent relationships between an object and a consumer and how each relate to one another. In doing so it helps us understand which touchpoints can have the most value and tells us which areas are most in need of design.

Multi-Sensory Experience

George Crichlow

Creating multi-sensory experiences can be a powerful storytelling tool. Often when doing workshops I like to introduce sensory exercises as a means of setting the stage for an assignment.

The above exercise is an attempt to design “without telling”. My intention was to get people to self organize themselves into groups of two. As an exercise this activity demonstrates my thesis topic of designing the design process. When given guidance and constraints, people can channel their activities toward a common goal. At times during the creative process, stakeholders can have disparate interest, which can derail a project. This exercise is designed to help c-level executive practice listening to each other so they can be open to new possibilities.

The exercise works by handing out bits of paper with an animal name printed on it. Participants are asked to shut their eyes and on the count of three they are to start making the noise of their animal. The room should be filled with the sounds of “baaa baaaa”, “oink oink”, “eiow eiow” etc. The aim of the game is to meet up with the rest of their species as quickly as possible. The first team to find each other wins. Here is what it looks like:

In deconstructing the experience the narrative can be broken down into three territories of: attraction, engagement and conclusion.

1. Attraction
The exchange of papers and the closing of participant eyes.

2. Engagement
The sound of animal noises filling the room. Listening for other participants.

3. Conclusion
The reward of finding a partner.

At the conclusion everyone should be in a completely different frame of mind. Ready, open and receptive to new ideas. This is the beginning of the ideation process to generate new ideas.

Plotting the landscape

George Crichlow

When the mind gets stuck it’s important to do something different. I received a timely email from Seth Godin reminding me that the enemy of creativity is fear. He says that acting in a creative way generates action, and action persuades the fear to lighten up.

This week I sought to get inspiration from everywhere. I spoke with Delia Dumitrescu the lead innovation architect at trendwatching about her process. I read excerpts from David Burkus’s book The Truth about Creativity and took advantage of NBA All Star weekend and attended a shoot-around practice. Finally I met-up with some of my oldest friends, both NYC natives who reminded me that the work I’m doing is dope and can be applied to their industries as well.

At the end of it all, I realized I don’t have a clear picture of the toolkits that people in the trends and innovation industry use. There are hundreds of terminologies that are used but many can be grouped. So I began by mapping out a framework for the different stages of developing insights, ideas and inspiration. Below is a diagram of my take of how the industry applies these tools.

It works on two plains. The horizontal axis looks at the relationship between watching and interpreting. The vertical axis explores the difference between thinking and making. In the early stages of trendhunting there is a process of observation. This is where people who specialize in coolhunting live. They observe, catalog and call attention to interesting things as occur. 

The second quadrant looks at thinking and interpreting. This is where trend consulting becomes important. Its about deciphering the business applications for a trend. Trends don’t exist in isolation. They have to be placed in contexts so they can really be useful. It is about pulling out insights from the inspiration. 

The third quadrant of interpreting and making is where business strategy is developed. This is where strategic brand and communications firms help clients develop innovative ideas. Tools like moodboards are used to transfer knowledge from a trend to a concept. Briefs are also effective tools to set expectation of the types of concepts that will be developed. At the end of the day the unifying output for agencies in this bucket are the developments of strategic concepts that can be tested in the field. 

Finally the last quadrant of making and watching is about transferring concepts into executions. Many industrial design firms sit in this space. Companies like fuseproject and Frog Design have strategic capabilities but are able to product concepts and working prototypes. A general framework they use is to discover, design and deliver. What distingushies this groups from the others is that they actually create the product. This is the big strength of an innovation company like frog that offers the possibility to collaborate at very early stages with the people who generate insights and create ideas. 

What is your What?

George Crichlow

I think i’ve hit a wall. My topic is no longer interesting to me and i’m not seeing the potential for this work. As an attempt to change course, I tried a mapping exercise to help me re-energize and refocus on my goal of helping brands live up to their potential.

The exercise works by taking an existing user persona and maps their needs across four categories. The categories include their needs, the context, the channel and the factors necessary to make it real.

For my purposes I chose to map out the needs of a brand manager. In this example Bozma is a busy executive who is tasked with brokering partnership agreements with celebrities and to keep her company relevant through paid sponsored events. Because her job is to be in the know, she sometimes gets overwhelmed by fast moving industry and has a strong desire to know what’s next.

The context is that her company has introduced new wireless headphones that will allow their brand to appeal to a wider audience. The CEO’s wants to make inroad with young urban kids that are into extreme sports like snowboarding and skatboarding. Because her company is known as a lifestyle brand she has to find the right kinds of partners to align her brand with. She is looking at sponsor events and endorsing the right athlete that lives the lifestyle that her brand represents.

The channels that Bozma will use to speak to her audience include special events, private music listening sessions, instagram and various other social media platforms that utlize lots of visual components.

Some factors that will aid Bozma in meeting her goals is understanding what this new audience values as well as learning how they interact online.  She will to meet with various lifestyle experts and attend lots of events around the country to help her grow the presence of her headphone company at these events.

This exercise helps me relate better to my target audience and help me begin to think about how I can better help her reach her goals. 

This process is good to do in small groups. As one person speaks the rest of the group jot down ideas on post-it notes. When everyone has written something down, then the presenter and the group can sift through the post-its to decide what to prioritize in each bucket.

Consider Why, What & How

George Crichlow

In the Power of Why, Simon Sinek ask “Why is Apple so innovative? Why is it that they seem so different? Sinek looked at many companies across many categories uncovered a recurring pattern. The companies that consistently standout, think and act differently than others in their category. The secret is that they tell consumer why they should care. This is crucial to how brands present themselves to the world because it changes context of the conversation brands have with consumers.

In thinking about conversations, it important to define the outcome. Conversations are meant to exchange information for the purpose of taking an agreed upon action. Therefore it is of the utter most importance that people share their ideas so they can develop the same mental model when trying to solve a problem. It makes building consensus amongst large groups easier and it make it easier to get an idea to market when all the stakeholders in an organization are in agreement.

In my workshop, I am accounting for this by developing a standardize way to present ideas.

This tool is important because it creates a template for people to share ideas. In this model I use Sinek’s methodology of using “why”, “how” and “what” to present ideas. By using this as a framework, brand managers, engineers, developers and agency partners can all speak the same language.

The result is consensus. Ideas usually fall apart when there is room for interpretation. Since all of the stakeholders on a project are in the room, nothing should be lost in translation. This is important because when each partner goes off to execute against their specific discipline they know exactly what role they share in bringing that idea to life.

The end result is a common purpose and a more refined expression of a  product, service and experience that comes to market.

Designing Design Workshop

George Crichlow


Today I conducted a workshop to test out my thesis. 

Currently I’m exploring the idea of creating challenger brands. It’s a concept first developed by Adam Morgan, in Eating The Big Fish. In his book he explains that the top three characteristics that define growth businesses are their ability to 1) Change the state of mind of their audience and employees. 2) They are able to change the state of the marketplace and finally 3) Demonstrate rapid and sustained growth.

An example of a challenger brand is Netflix. When they originally launch they challenged their audience to rethink how they rented movies. Secondly they challenged the industry by applying a mail order subscription model to the movie rental business, and finally they grew so quickly that they displaced Blockbuster as the preferred rental business.  Now they are challenging on-demand cable services by launch new movies and TV series on their online platform. They are causing people to rethink what the value of a subscription means.

David Burkas author of The Myths of Creativity outlines 10 myths of creativity and in it he dispels the idea that business people are creative.  It is the restraints of the system that they operate in that frowns upon creativity. In reality companies have enough internal ideas, there just isn’t a process to filter those ideas through. Reframing mindset begins with changing the language of how a company describes itself.

My workshop is designed to help C-level executives rid themselves of the weight of their title and the constraints of their business. It should enable them to think freely and openly about what the possible future of their business can be. Some things i’m looking to test for are: 

1) Is this a fluid process? 
2) Does each exercise build on top of the other? 
3) does the audience feel included, engaged and open-minded? 
4) Does my process generate new ideas?

I began by introducing the concept of a challenger brand. Then I presented the agenda for the workshop and gave them some background. Then I guided them through 5 exercises to help them rethink about a brand. In this case I used the example of The Holiday Inn

The day began with introductions a fun exercise and some background on the challenge. Participants were then given a focusing question to guide their thought process. 

 Below is a summary of each exercises that followed:

1. Breaking from the past


In order to re-imagine the potential of a brand, it’s important to identity the current constraints.  In this exercise we examine painpoints in the hotel experiences and then we challenge those notions. In doing so it gives the stakeholders permission to think outside of the box.

2. In Common


This exercise is about constructing and deconstructing the qualities of a hotel. Each participant is asked list out a number of attributes of the hotel and then as a group work together to distill two words that best describes their common attributes. Part of the exercise is getting group members to collaborate and form the same mental model of the task at hand. 

3. Revolutions


Revolutions is a tool to help clients break from the norm. Design research has shown that the top three narratives to breakaway from the status quo  are to 1) doing the opposite or what is currently being done. When Mini Cooper launch in the USA they reframed the conversation about the value of cars with their Zig-Zag campaign. The second alternative is to exaggerate what is currently being down in the marketplace. Makers of the Nano car in India did this appealing to street vendor drivers on bikes playing up the safety of the small car. Finally the last approach is to do something weird. In launching the Honda Civic Honda. 

4. If We Were Bought By


As a means of reframing the business, participants were asked to take their two key words and apply it to a business or brand from another category. For instance Ikea developed it in-store experience by looking at the flow of the Guggenheim Museum. By reframing the context in which the hotel lives in allowed participants to think more broadly about how to think about designing a new experience.  

5. Brand World

The final exercise builds off the previous exercise and ask participants to frame their idea through the lens of the business. It frames the idea in a way that be implemented.   It asked c-level execs and project managers to think about what it would take to implement the idea

Lastly all participants are asked to vote on their best idea and which part of the idea is the strongest.

At a later date, the ideas are examined and packaged into a strategic recommendation on how to create a challenger brand using existing resources and agreed up ideas to help the Holiday Inn standout within their category

Stating your intent

George Crichlow


This week I did an exercise to clarify what the intent of my thesis will be. This is important because based on the exercise that I did last week regarding my audience and stakeholder interviews, I realized that I need to speak with more experts. As I begin to seek out experts in the field I need to be really clear about what I want to achieve so they can best help me.

 The “intent exercise” consists of posting adjectives related to my thesis on a wall and grouping them in a positive and a negative pile.


Some key words that I pulled out include:

  • Thought provoking
  • Actionable
  • Desirable
  • Proven
  • Believable
  • Game changing
  • Guiding
  • Collaborative
  • Self sustaining
  • Replicable

Then I made connections between word associations to form a scale of intent. For example thought provoking and actionable.  There is a bit of tension between these two words, so on a value scale I must decide which is more important. This is good because it causes me to think about which is more important as I purse my topic. 


In doing this exercise I realized that what I value is in challenging brands to be different. There are lots of methodologies to create new things but I believe that if you can change how people perceive a product or a service you have a chance to stand a apart.

Prioritize users and stakeholder

George Crichlow

I think this is a class I needed. For weeks I’ve been banging my head up against the wall trying to figure out what my thesis is. This week Abby asked us to think about who our primary audience is for our thesis. For me I want my work to speak to innovation consultancies and people interested in creating new things. This is important to me since I want to work in this field once I graduate.

 Thus far I’m playing with the idea of creating a methodology for developing a practice through the lens of culture.  Abby says I need to define what cultural innovation means.

 For me cultural innovation means looking at how culture affects behavior at large. For instance people that use streaming music services rather than buying albums. This to me is a signal that people no longer want to commit to permanent things. We  see this occurring across many industries from the housing market to subscription services like Barkbox where people get new products monthly.

 I want to use this information as a prototype, so that I can help brands develop new products and services that compliment this new reality. There are many companies that need to shift their offer. I want to help them become relevant by creating new products, services and experiences.

 In order to do this I will need to speak with and collaborate with four distinct stakeholder groups. They are visionaries, decision makers, tastemakers and early adopters.

 Visionaries include innovation firms and consultancies that have the resources to define new ideas.  This group includes firms that can reimagine and reinvent categories. They take the strategic lead in solving unclear business problems and then translate that into a product, service or an experience.

Decision makers are companies that are laggers. They are somewhere between 3-10 within their industry and have to make big shifts in their offer to become relevant. Some challenges that they face are:

-       new leadership

-       underperforming products

-       legacy technology

Within this group are CEO’s and brand managers that have to make key decisions to shift the performance of their company.

 The first audience are tastemakers. Tastemakers are people that live on the fringe of popular culture. They are designers, makers and entrepreneurs that see and live in the world in fundamentally different ways from the rest of us.

 And finally there are Early Adopters. Early adopters are people that have a strong affinity for standing out and constantly seek novel things that they can consume. They want to be inspired by people and things and want to make it a part of their lives.

In order to create cultural innovation I will need to speak to and learn from each of these groups so that I can develop new things. I’ve looked up several methodologies from companies like Sparks and Honey. This firm has developed cultural filters to predict how to effectively communicate to millennial.

I’ve also begun reviewing design thinking books that have identified structured approaches for driving innovation like 101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar, Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keely and The Back of The Napkin by Dan Roam.

In the coming weeks I’d like to play with some of the tools in this book to develop my own methodology.

Making and projecting

George Crichlow


Mapping and projecting is about actively listening to ourselves. As a tool it enables us to understand why we are attracted to certain concepts.

In the above example i’m mapping out areas of interest and plotting a map about what excites me, my fears and risk - and finally what’s holding me back. As an exercise I do this annually for myself, but i’ve never though to apply it to my thesis.

In do so, I realized that in this stage of the process i don’t know what I don’t know. I need more information. Thus far in my journey I’ve made a series of pivots, transitions and leaps that don’t necessarily tell a cohesive story. As a process some of the things I made like Spool and Pedestal are objects that are small gesture in self worth but latter up to the value of idea for a company. I think this is interesting an i’m excited to see where it takes me next.

Design for the Everyday

George Crichlow

As the summer comes to a close, i’ve been ramping up on my reading.

The latest book that i’ve been digging into is Designing for Everyday Objects. While the examples used may be dated the principles are as relevant as ever.

Design for this author isn’t magical. It is practical, providing simple and elegant solutions to everyday problems. One of his favorite problematic design that he mentions is the simple door.

A door is something we are all familiar with and have experience using, but hardly do we take note of the nuances that go to their design. Some doors aren’t so simple. Sometimes they ask us to pull when we are meant to pull.  These are problematic design flaws that author points out throughout the book.

While full of tidbit, these are the top 5 design principles that i’ve gleamed from the readings so far:

Design Principle 1: Self-Explanatory

One of his biggest insights is that design needs to be self-explanatory. Good design requires no instructions. A user can infer what to do.  In the case of the faulty the design of a handle is misinterpreted as something you push vs. pull.  The need to put instructions on a door is an indiction of bad design.

Thinking forward to a more present example, I look to Apple. When the iPhone first came to market no instructions were needed. People could infer what they were suppose to do aiding in the ubiquity of the product.

Design Principle 2 : Easy to Understand

With all new things, there is a learning curve. Good design can facilitate how we perceive something foreign.

The author sites the VCR instruction manual as a poorly design object of design. While the concept of video recording is easily understood, how to operate it, is not. Which takes us to principle 3

Design Principle 3: Meaningful relationship to action

What u think should be is what we should do. Design facilities this transition from thought to action. A product, service or an experience must deliver on the promise of the idea.  One must fluidly be able to do, pass through or interact with the intended design. Therefore its important to limit user options.

Design Principle 4: Give users only one option per feature

It’s important to pair down what people can do or experience. A good designed product or service has few options for interpretation.  For instance Lyft and Uber are for getting car service.  Zipcar is for renting cars on short notice.  There is no mistaking what users can do.

Design Principle 5: Provide visible clues

Knobs, color, indentations and grips are all visible clues that help move users through to an action.  In the case of an interface it can be the layout of an app or the sound of clicking on a button that provide visual clues of what is to come next. This is important.

Recently I bought a product from Quirky to hold my laptop charger.  It is a circular rubber object that I wrap my cords around.  The outside lining is a thin rubber. Because it was thin, it was a clue for me to unwrap it, which allow me to attach my laptop cords. Without reading the instructions I inferred what I was suppose to do.

How Restaurants Can Make You Choose A Salad Over A Cheeseburger

George Crichlow

In today’s Fast Company there is an article that talks about the science and psychology of helping people to make better eat choices while dining. Using design they are help people create healthy eating habits by rethinking and redesigning the food menu.

Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design, marketing professor, and the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, thinks the restaurant industry can police itself—and make more money—by leveraging the power of menu design.

Read the full article here 

George Crichlow

Recently I found a bag company called Côte&Ciel.

it is a design collective that gets its inspiration from the natural world and their French heritage.  I love how they have created a design philosophy that is expressed through their well design bags.

In their own words:

Our vision for Côte&Ciel is simple. To develop, design and produce travel goods that balance modern fabrics with architectural shapes, to make sure bags, rucksacks and sleeves that complement your lifestyle. 

Our products are designed to fit smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. All so you can live life the way you need to, safe in the knowledge that your technology is protected with high quality, beautifully designed storage solutions.

Doing a bit of digging I discovered that the company was originally a commissioned project by Apple. No doubt a Steve Jobs initiative. 

It reminds me that Steve Jobs was the ultimate systems thinker.  Not only did he re-imagine the personal computing industry. He was thinking about the supporting systems that would reinforce and enhance his innovative products. In doing so, this company Côte&Ciel re-imagined the travel good industry.

In thinking about systems and innovations. Larry Keeley writes in his book Ten Types of Innovation, that for a company to truly create a game changing market, along the way it must create at least 3-5 innovations. He breaks down these innovation into three groups. Configuration, offering and experience.

Configuration Innovation, focus on the inner workings of an organization and its business practices. For instance, a unique business model and how a company is organized.

Offering Innovation, focuses on product distinctions unique service offers. The iPhone is an example of a distinct product, and a service like Uber is an example of a unique service offering.

Last but not least are Experience Innovations. This bucket focuses on services, channels, brand and consumer engagement. Zappos used its customer engagement model to become a billion dollar business. Amazonfocused on selling books online to create a distinct channel strategy.

Using Keely’s innovation model.  He defines Apple as an example of an experience ecosystem. Apple created products, services and extensions that interoperate and connect consistently elegant and beguiling ways. Côte&Ciel is an example of an extension of the Apple experience ecosystem.

The product is unique in design and function, but also supports the greater ecosystem for Apple products. No doubt built into the design are specific placeholders for a laptop, ipad, mouse, iphone and accessories that naturally blends into urban and non-urban environments.

The price point is also very high and the distribution strategy deliberate. Another innovation they have employed is a keen channel strategy.  By creating a strong brand, the create demand. The brand is exclusively sold in Apple stores and one or two speciality stores in chosen cities.  But their main channel is direct sales online, where they can control and minimize distribution cost.

No doubt, Côte&Ciel is an innovative offer.  They created a network of unique designers to create a compelling product and brand offer. And finally they employed a unique channel strategy to sell directly to consumers.  

Needless to say I will be splurging on a Côte&Ciel bag very soon.

10 Types of Innovation

George Crichlow

Started a new book this week.

Over the last 15 years the Innovation Consultancy Doblin has analyzed and identified 10 types of innovation disciples that all companies fall under.

What i’ve found really interesting is that companies that develop two or less innovations are at risk of imitation. The best companies continually innovation and often when they go to market develop three or more innovations helping them to redefine their categories.  

Companies that create two or less innovation often fall under this category of creating  new products or new processes. These can be copies and thus require continual product development.

So far what i’ve found most informative is that the most innovative brands cited incorporate 3 or more innovations that help the define new categories. The ones that standout to me are:

Product design

This trifecta gets customers interested. Product design distinguishes their offer. The service keeps consumers in the ecosystem and the brand distinguishes their offer.

My main takeaway so far is that product development is not sustainable. When designing, it more important to design the system that is supplemented by a product, service and experience.

George Crichlow

Watched this Kung Fu movie today called the 7 Grand Masters.

There is one scene where the hero faces a weapon specialist that he easily defeats.  When recapping the fight with is pupils he ask them “why did I win?”

The answer is because the weapon specialist failed to master a single style. While he was very skilled in many forms he was not a master of all of them. 

In design i’ve always focused on strategy. The question is which area of strategy should I focus on.  Still in search of masters…

Think Like a Freak

George Crichlow

Just finished “Think Like a Freak”

Biggest take-a-ways is learning to quit frequently and often so you can work on things that will work.

Thinking small is almost as important as thinking big.  Look for small ways to have big impact rather than trying to change the whole system.

This got me thinking about work, careers and interpersonal relationships that forms cultures.  Rather than working within them, I believe its important to start small alternative cultures that when proven successful can be integrated into larger society as a whole. This is how the business world works.

Recently Songza was bought by Google for $15 million.  They proves that listening to music based on mood proved viable and then cashed-out when a bigger company come knocking. I don’t know what will happen to Songza but they made a small change in the streaming music industry that Google clearly believes could have big impact in the future.

I think what Songza did well was ask the right questions.  Rather than assume that problems are the way they are, they asked “why can’t I choose music based on how I feel” and as a result ended-up solving for a unique problem that we all have though about but never considered a viable option.

Its this kind of thinking that “Think like a freak” encourages.  I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open.

Next step is “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell

Books List

George Crichlow

For my thesis i’m exploring reading several books to gain insights and new understanding to help me design solutions:

I am currently reading four books:

Think Like A Freak

Present Sock

The Fall of Alphas

Design Revolution

So far i’ve learned that when tackling a problem its important to frame the question.  When you reframe the problem you get dramatically different solutions.  In Think Like a Freak, they site the hotdog eating champion for his analytical approach to competitive eating. He broken down the problem, creating best practices and used feedback to create a new solution, hence shattering existing hotdog eating numbers.

In Present Shock, time greatly affects how we process information and how our perception of reality. How we consumer information changes how we perceive the world around us.

The Fall of Alphas, thus far takes an anthropological looks at how effective leaders lead. So far what i’ve discovered is that traditional norms of the charismatic leader is a false premise. To be effective you have to empower others to do what they are best at, rather than trying to control every aspect about a business.

Design Revolution, I found breaks down design by element and shows how people have come up with unique solutions to solves for basic problems.


when designing you have to look at the problem from many perspectives and consultant with many people to before designing a solution.

More to come soon…