ooober cool design

Product Design, Product Innovation, Upcoming Inventions

ooob inventionThis award winning design is called Ooob. Considered both a bookend and a doorstop, these colorful things can do whatever you want them to do. The soft, heavy, rubber-skinned design doesn’t leave any scuff marks on the floor, nor does it scratch your door. Completely rounded and weighted with a 1.2 kg steel core, this design will keep any door open and any stack of books upright.


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Innovation News: Digital Newstand

Product Design, Product Innovation


Because newspapers are rapidly being overtaken by digital media, someone has devised a way to merge new technology with old tradition. This newspaper stand newsfeed displays the latest headlines on a monitor. Just think of the possibilities when it comes to reusing obsolete products as time takes its toll on the technologies of yesterday.

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Arne Van Oosterom: Designer Interview

Designer Profiles, Innovators & Creators

headshot-arne_van_oosterom_klein2Arne Van Oosterom authors the Weblog that accompanies Design Thinkers, a strategic design consultancy in Amsterdam that specializes in business, service and social innovation/ transformation. Oosterom is also a lecturer and chairman of the Service Design Network Netherlands.

1. What was your first impressionable moment that involved design? I grew up in a family of artists, illustrators and designers. So I guess creativity is in my genes and design has been a part of my life as long I can remember. Drawing, photography, writing and making music were things that played a major role in my life while growing up. And they still do. Being creative is a way of life for me. It’s the way my brain works… quickly bored, constantly wanting to be stimulated and always restless.

2. What is service design? Service design is designing and organizing the interaction between (service) provider and end-user using creative tools and methods.
An important service design principle says: co-production leads to co-ownership, which turns customers into ambassadors. Meaning: organizations and governments should empower the consumer. Easily said, but in reality most marketers and communication managers have no idea where to start. They are used to only dealing with the cosmetics — the outside. Implementing ideas using this service design principle has major consequences for the internal organization.

But all the new developments happening around us are pushing us to take a look beyond boundaries of traditional media, top-down structured businesses and marketing techniques. Even though organizations and governments usually play it safe and are not easily persuaded to move into another direction, the necessity for change is getting stronger.

This is where service design can be instrumental. While using service design methods, organizations are forced to look into a mirror and deal with realities. Besides that, service design offers methods to use newly found insights for developing ideas, concepts, prototyping, building and implementation. Service design is a holistic approach and looks at the whole system. The back stage and front stage of a service organization.

I believe that service design is a natural response to the changing world, which is fueled and accelerated by new technological developments.

3. What is social innovation? To me, it means adding real value to people’s lives by designing better systems. But personally, I don’t like the word ‘innovation.’ It’s one of the most misused words ever and has lost all meaning. I feel attracted to the word ‘transformation.’ So I would use ‘social transformation’ (through the design of systems) or just social design.

A few months ago I started the Social Design Task Force in collaboration with people from agencies and universities in France, Finland, Austria, Scotland, England and the Netherlands. Our aim is to use our creative talents, networks and recourses to improve people’s lives. This means we are involved in a very wide range of projects. For example: We are trying to find a way, a system, to get people (living in cities) to use their bicycle for trips up to 5 kilometers. If the project would succeed it will dramatically reduce traffic jams and improve safety, health and air quality in larger cities. Another project is a crowd-sourcing project for Greenpeace where we try to get young people actively involved in climate change issues.

We are trying to find solutions to problems that affect our lives in a very personal way.

4. You spend a lot of time traveling and going to speaking engagements.  What is the benefit of attending these forums? We, at DesignThinkers, are pioneering and want to be at the forefront of developments. This means we are searching all the time, always hungry for more knowledge, new insights and meeting new people. Being connected and having conversations with professionals from many different disciplines is the best way to keep learning and growing.

In some ways it’s almost an addiction, but I have to keep moving and keep challenging my ideas. I refuse to believe that I know all the answers. Like most people, I don’t know much. But I’m working very hard to find out what the questions are.

If I stay behind my desk there is a chance I would start to believe in my own delusions. I’d start running round in circles. Putting my ideas to the test in the real world, with people who might not agree with me, is very hard, sometimes painful, but always of tremendous value.

5. If you go to just one design conference anywhere in the world, which would you recommend? This is very difficult to answer. In fact I don’t like going to conferences as a spectator at all. Especially those conferences aimed at people like me. Usually the programming is about telling us stuff we already know by people we already know. There is always a lot of agreeing.

That is why I primarily go to conferences to meet people. Initially I go to meet up with people I met before, in real life or online, and I always end up making new friends.

But if you are interested in service design and want to meet and greet the professionals, I have to recommend going to the service design conference 2009 held in Portugal. The conference is organized by the International Service Design Network (, of which we are part, and is a great opportunity for me to meet up with all my friends and colleagues from around the world. But be warned: they are agreeing with each other all the time…

6. Much of what you talk about on has to do with innovation and creative thinking.  Who is a good example of executing good business sense pertaining to innovation and creative thinking in the Netherlands? My first thought is TomTom. They showed that with creative thinking and a new approach you can create a whole new market and even be world changing.

And I am a big fan of the way Phillips is trying to integrate creative thinking in their organization. Phillips is a very large and complex organization, so implementing new ideas is not easy. But I applaud their courageous attempts and I’m expecting great things from Phillips in the future.

7. As a product designer, you have to meet the demands of consumers.  Do you believe consumers are more conscious, or ‘smarter’ than, say, the consumers of even 10 years ago, and are demanding smarter designs from today’s designer? People have the same basic needs as 10 years ago. That has not changed a lot.
What I find more interesting is the amazing impact the Web is having on our world. Internet is upsetting the balance in a major way. It makes companies and governments more transparent and vulnerable and it enables people to self-organize.

Everything in our world is organized and structured by the law of networks. And Internet is a new kid on the block, but it is going to have an unparalleled impact. We are witnessing the first symptoms of a much larger phenomenon that is going to restructure everything we know.

The opportunity the Internet gives consumers (or ‘prosumers’) and citizens to self-organize into influential peer groups is going develop into one of the biggest social and economical changes of our time.

8. What separates the designer from the average consumer, and how do you bridge that divide? A good designer is a translator or intermediator (much like an artist).
The designer is the bridge. But in the end we are all just people, and consumers and all people are extremely creative.

I would like to add that I don’t think designers should be put on a pedestal. Lately, people are trying to convince me that designers have super powers. Well, they don’t. As far as I know they are no smarter than the next person.

9. You use Twitter and are registered on LinkedIn.  What do you feel is the best way to reach designers around the world in regard to communication technologies? I do not target designers per se. So I wouldn’t know. I like to connect and have conversations with people. People I can learn from or have fun with.

I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo and everything else because it’s part of my job. I advise customers about social media and so I must experience it first-hand.

I’m always trying to connect all my social networks together. But in general they are unsatisfactory and just crude versions of what is yet to come. I can’t wait for web 3.0 to break down all the walls.

But I must say I’m enjoying Twitter… against all expectations.

10. What should the ideal designer do every single day, with the intention of becoming a better designer? Work hard and make lots and lots of mistakes. If you don’t experiment and try and try again, you won’t grow. Even the most talented and famous designers had to work long and hard and fail miserably many times before becoming world-class.

And last but not least: don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Think for yourself.

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In A Zip: New Invention

Product Design, Product Innovation, Upcoming Inventions


This earphone concept, Y I Sound Invention, features a zipping action to keep ear bud cords from tangling up when not in use. This ingenious design includes a volume control and brightly colored zipper teeth to help form follow function. When users are finished listening to their sound device, they simply zip up and put it away. Smart design for sure!

Innovative Earphones

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From Crayon to Wacom

Design Tools, Innovators & Creators, Product Design, Prototyping

wacom crayon designIt was said to me not so long ago that I should write a post about the Wacom that I work on everyday in the design studio. Giving it more thought, I could not do what I do without my Wacom. The progression of the workstation is astounding, considering the formats that I have used as a designer and while growing up. So here is the evolution of my writing tools and work surfaces since kindergarten.

Like any other child, I believe crayons were my starting point. Crayons on paper, crayons on cardboard, crayons on walls. Rubbing onto textures, coloring within the lines and even chewing a few crayons. Then I graduated to colored pencils and markers. At this stage, I am mostly talking about dried-out, hand-me-down markers and colored pencil stubs from the art bins in grade school.  

Next, I moved up to graphite pencils ranging from 6B down to 2H. They were commonly under lock and key by my art teacher and were soon followed by Prismacolor brand colored pencils. To have access to Prismacolors was the touchstone of any art student, because that meant your work was respected enough by your instructor to have any color imaginable at your fingertips, and you could hand sharpen them with an Exacto knife. Reaching a greater level of artistic ability opened my grip to bigger and better things like watercolors. New media meant new materials to draw on as well: heavy paper, watercolor tablets and spiral-bound sketchbooks.

Wacom BoardCollege then provided me with the marker rendering experience, old-school style. The thin, accurate Prismacolors of the past were set aside for thick, two-sided rendering markers. Marker rendering had me balling up cotton swabs and smearing baby powder on the surface of marker paper, hoping that I moved in such a fluid motion that it was a ‘one take wonder’ that I would not have to correct. I even learned to inject alcohol into the old markers to revive the dying pens in my small collection. Markers were cool, but markers were time consuming and messy.

All of these different drawing instruments through school led me to a crossroads where style and execution met technology. The next tool to be learned was the computer mouse. 

This challenge was an advancement in my hand and eye coordination like I had not seen since I had first learned to grip a crayon. Learning to use a computer mouse was almost like going back to step one. So many advancements in technology had taken place as I had progressed from crayons to markers that I understood the new standard was the computer mouse. By training my artistic eye to communicate with my index finger and palm, I could bridge that gap between new interface and the elements of design that I had learned through my early years of art education. 

Just as I had learned to grip my crayon and coordinate the far reach of my imagination to the surface of the paper with the movement of my hand, I had mastered the mouse. I went through college learning to use design programs with a clicking mouse. At home, at school and at work I reached out intuitively to grasp the mouse as I worked on any project, click-clicking away. But here is where it gets tricky — as I moved into the design world upon graduation, I had to adjust to a new technology that, once again, brings me back to step one again. The Wacom. 

The Wacom uses an interactive pen display that had me training my hands and eyes to once again adjust to writing on a new surface. No more crayons on cardboard. No more Prismacolor in a sketchbook. No more cotton swabs and alcohol soaked rendering markers. Everything I needed; every tool, every color, every texture within reach of a writable surface. No more dirty palms or stained fingertips. No more crumbled paper, wasted on a bad stroke. The Wacom was revolutionary in how I designed. 

Today, I grip the Wacom pen with the same loose grip as I did when I learned to scribble with a crayon. I select my pen tip, choose my color and draw as I so simply did when I learned so long ago. The Wacom interface that I use today has been so well designed that the action of simulating the crayon in hand is intuitive. I can’t wait to witness the next advancement of the writing tool. I imagine that will include speaking with my hands and illustrating ideas in 3D.  I’m ready, and I can not wait!

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