Category Business

Yvonne Reichmuth

Excerpt from an interview by Tanya König from CNN

You don’t follow seasons. You do one main collection a year. What is the main idea behind that?

I don’t really believe in the system with the seasons anymore. I just think it went way too fast, there are way too many collections, and I don’t want to be repetitive, and I think it takes time to really develop a new idea. Not just to have the time for a great design but also make sure the fit is perfect and the quality is perfect so I’d rather do less and do those pieces really well.

Is mass production the opposite of style?

I wouldn’t say it’s the opposite of style but it’s just not a way I feel comfortable working with. Because I really started with this whole craft because I like the material, I like the crafting itself, I really enjoy doing the pieces as well, so I don’t want to be on the computer and order 3 million pieces and I think its not sustainable the way how we shop and sell, how we produce, and the way we do it it’s different in a lot of ways. We also don’t release a collection, put it in sale after three months, and then just throw it away. 

I feel like that’s an insult to your design because I want to do a design that’s timeless and that’s just as attractive two years after I released it. So people can choose which piece they like the most based upon their personal taste, depending on the style they’re looking for and not because it’s Fall/Winter 2017 or whatever.

Softbank.

“Those doubting his grand visions have been proved wrong in the past. In 1981 he founded SoftBank to distribute personal-computer software in Tokyo with two part-time employees. On the first day the diminutive Mr Son stood on two apple cartons and announced to those befuddled workers that in five years the firm would have $75m in sales and be number one. They thought “this guy must be crazy”, Mr Son later told the Harvard Business Review, and quit the same day. But Mr Son’s drive and ambition saw SoftBank eventually distributing 80% of PC software in Japan.”

The impact of Masayoshi Son’s $100bn tech fund will be profound.” – The Economist

History Lessons

“A century ago cars were seized upon as a solution to the drawbacks of horses, which were clogging city streets with manure. The broader social consequences of cars, both good and bad, were entirely unforeseen. Today the danger is that AVS will be treated merely as a technological solution to the problems associated with cars and that, once again, the wider impacts will be overlooked. AVS have the potential to transform physical transport as radically as packet-switching transformed the delivery of data. But as with the internet, realising their benefits is a matter of politics as well as technology. AVS offer a chance to forge a new and better trade-off between personal mobility and social impact—but only if the lesson of the horseless carriage is applied to the era of the driverless car.”

“Who is Behind the Wheel,” The Economist, March 3, 2018

Attention III – Tactics to Strategy

While the previously shared tactics helped improve my raw productivity score, the approach wasn’t airtight.

For example, the use of Evernote helped me distinguish writing from communicating, but was I using Evernote too heavily now? Was the reduction in email traffic somehow giving the perception that I was disengaged? Am I focusing too much on productivity?

As with any shift in approach, there are pros and cons. Focusing too heavily on productivity did pose the potential that I would become further disconnected from the day-to-day reality of the agency. And perhaps I was spending too much time writing, and not spending enough time in other essential creative and technical pursuits.

These were indeed liabilities, but they didn’t reflect my primary concerns. The shift from communicating to writing (read: transactional emails to critical thinking) was a primary tactic. Tactics typically build from a core strategy, and I was absent one.

What does a productivity strategy really mean? Am I interested in further improving my productivity, or is there something else?

One answer came in the form of a best-selling book entitled Rapt – Attention and the Focused Life by Winfred Gallagher.

The book addresses the topic of attention, and how “your life – who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love – is the sum of what you focus on.

My focus on productivity is to do more with less. Given the diverse subjects that interest me, and the work required to learn and “realize” the material, transforming what would otherwise be “routine” work into a continuous stream of “high density” engagements is a critical and necessary shift.

If I can refine my focus even further, both in terms of subject-matter and the actual practice, I believe I can accomplish far more than what I’ve accomplished to date and in areas that would have otherwise been left unturned.

Attention II – Realization

While I have always been focused in pushing myself along professional, personal, and physical dimensions, it’s only been recently where I’ve identified the fact that one’s ability to focus is what ultimately matters when it comes to taking on harder challenges.

When I was in high-school, I had a desk that had four small storage areas located towards the rear of the primary work surface. These areas were originally designed to hold small items such as envelopes, tape, and writing instruments, but they frequently attracted many other items that I simply didn’t know what to do with.

While my workspace was fairly well-kept, I found myself distracted by these random items that would find their way within or adjacent to the work area. To alleviate this, I built a wooden structure that encapsulated the work area and allow my mind to focus on the work instead of these random belongings. I also went as far to purchase ear protection headphones (!) in an attempt to eliminate, or at least further reduce, all distraction.

This “physical barrier” strategy had a positive effect on my ability to produce, although I recall struggling internally whether all of this was really necessary. After all, my friends seemed to focus reasonably well void of such scaffolding.

Over the next two decades, I continued to refine my ability to focus and made steady improvements across fairly diverse contexts. However, I always felt that more could be done.

Several years ago, after realizing that the vast majority of my time appeared to be spent compiling and responding to emails, I decided to try a new approach; I signed up with an online service called RescueTime.

The premise behind RescueTime is that it assumes that you spend most of your time on the computer, yet you aren’t really sure how much time you are spending on activities that add real value.

RescueTime monitors the applications that you are using and the time spent on each. It identifies, with your help, those applications that are considered “productive” (e.g., Adobe InDesign) and those that are “distracting” (e.g., YouTube). Further classification ability is also provided for those who wish to dive deeper into the underlying data.

The first year’s score came as somewhat of a surprise: 52% productive

RescueTime confirmed my suspicion, and I felt good knowing that improvements were not only desired but necessary. I decided to take action through two simple tactics:

  • Tactic #1: Send less email. The less email I send, the less I’ll receive. Volume problem solved.
  • Tactic #2: Stay out of email completely, and turn off all notifications. Distraction problem solved.

This didn’t mean that I stopped sending email, but I found that what I was really interested in doing was thinking critically, and I accomplished this through writing. The solution? I replaced Outlook with Evernote.

Now I had a tool for writing versus a tool for communication. Both are necessary, but recognizing this difference is what really matters.

Using these two simple tactics, my productivity score improved nearly 30% over the next 4 years, and I am just getting started.

Constant Struggle.

“What’s the point?” is a title of an art piece I’m currently designing. The visual design I’m considering is a collection of notes, designs, and other (project) artifacts I’ve created over the past ten years, with an explicit mid-point marker representing my efforts “pre-agency.”

In my view, it’s critical to question the purpose and value of projects/endeavors in which I’ve invested considerable time and energy. Taking the time to examine this creative history can enable one to examine and consider new projects with a much different perspective. It’s a perspective that’s more intelligent and purposeful. This combination enables a greater emphasis on the core “creative” and helps to minimize (not eliminate) wasted energy.

(It’s worth mentioning I’m purposefully omitting the definition of “creative” to open this perspective to projects of all types.)

One goal (I’m also avoiding distilling the number and type of goal at this early stage) is to maximize the “output” or end-result. Maximization, to me, equates with intense concentration and creative contribution, while minimizing the time spent in non value-add activities. These latter activities, while necessary, are “supporting” and thus do not necessarily require the level of engagement the “maximization” activities require.

While I will examine this in greater detail, this is likely to be a constant struggle that will require frequent re-examination.

Immersion: Challenges & Opportunities

Portfolio Development: My portfolio has evolved fairly well over the past several years – particularly in the graphic design arena.  The evolution from where I began and where I am today shows a clear positive trajectory.  Recent digital illustration work using the Cintiq and Photoshop also show tremendous potential.  The opportunity here is two-fold.  First, when solid progress is being made, I tend to move on to another challenge without spending additional time to further develop / refine my existing skills.  In some strange way, the possibility for greater success deters me from moving forward.  Second, while the portfolio is looking increasingly professional, it is heavily weighted in graphic design and less so in other disciplines (e.g. 3D modeling, rendering).

Community Engagement: The past several years have focused heavily on portfolio development and the creation of my personal brand.  While there has been significant success in both fronts, the communication and level of engagement has been unidirectional.  My original belief of “build it and they will come” places heavy responsibility on external parties to not only learn about me, but to engage in further discussion.  There is an opportunity to change this unidirectional approach through increased engagement / participation on my end.

Process of Elimination: One of the challenges that I’ve faced with Big Generator is that it has lacked clear direction.  While it started out as a pure information design firm, it quickly expanded to become involved in brand strategy and other related offerings.  The opportunity is to refocus the company and establish a clear business strategy so that it can truly be successful over the long-term.

Out of Balance: One of my biggest challenges that I’ve been working to correct over the past two years involves a clear imbalance between my professional career thus far and the skills that are required to move beyond this realm of expertise.  While my efforts have shown true promise in correcting this “right brain / left brain” imbalance, there is still more work to be done.  The opportunity here is to take greater and more strategic steps to bridge this gap and clearly convey my strengths and potential as a design leader.

Emphasis on Innovation: Being creative for creative’s sake is beneficial, but leveraging creativity to solve real-world problems can be extremely powerful.  While my thoughts and designs are truly “mine”, the bulk of my efforts has been focused inward (self-development, strength building, creative exploration).  The opportunity is to shift gears and transfer more energy towards addressing real-world challenges and designing and creating with true purpose.

Mental Barriers: One of the keys to one’s success is the ability to maintain a high-level of optimism independent of the challenge faced.  With a realization that my optimism level is classified as “average”, there is a clear opportunity to employ constructive techniques to quickly move past barriers that would have normally impeded progress.  With the world moving at a faster pace, there is no better time to find ways to accelerate my ability to navigate through these challenges.

Consumer Credit and Sustainability

[While I wrote this article nearly two years ago, I’ve decided to repost it here given its focus on creativity and innovation. – A.D.]

The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) publishes a quarterly magazine entitled “Innovation”.  In the Spring 2008 issue, Craig Badke and Stuart Walker contributed an article entitled “Designers Anonymous” which compares Western society’s consumerism with that of an addiction.  In reading this article, I was able to uncover additional insights which I think are worth sharing.

By making a comparison with the twelve-step program found at the core of Alcoholics Anonymous (which addresses the cause of the problem, not its symptoms), the authors present a similarly structured program for both designers and consumers that encourage sustainable design and purchasing behaviors.

As it is with every addiction, people will need more of what they are getting, or something new to satisfy their desire.  With fewer resources at our disposal and an ever-increasing focus on the environment and our planet, I believe that we’ll eventually reach a tipping point where consumers will come to realize that their purchasing behaviors ultimately impact the environment, and are temporarily satisfying a need that could be fulfilled through other (positive) means.

Because the vast majority of consumerism is driven by credit, credit card companies and other lenders can start moving towards a business foundation in which sustainability is an underlying goal.  Today, these companies are focused primarily on providing the customer access to credit based upon their needs.  This may not be enough for the long-term.

In the future, I believe it’s the lenders responsibility to provide the customer with a “model of sustainability” that can perhaps alter their spending habits for the benefit of the planet.

A similar “model” exists today in the fast-food industry.  Think about how traditional fast-food establishments are making incremental changes for the health benefits of its consumers.  By providing customers with clear nutritional information about each of their products, they are providing a “model of health” that was unheard of five years ago.

Due to the pervasiveness of fast-food in today’s society, companies such as McDonald’s were “required” to make necessary changes in order to adapt to growing demand for healthy eating choices.  Consumer credit is just as pervasive, which is why I believe that lenders will eventually have to promote positive change.

However, this is not to suggest that consumers do not have a responsibility to fulfill.

While following a twelve-step program is a bit extreme and perhaps “prescriptive” (to use the authors’ words), I believe that eventually all consumers will need to pay close attention to what they are buying and decide whether their purchases are truly adding value to their lives at the expense of the environment.

I believe a fair number of consumers are more aware of the impact they have on the planet and are taking steps to make appropriate corrections.  Replacing traditional light bulbs with CFCs, and increasing recycling efforts are good practices in themselves, but omit many other aspects of true sustainability – including the core social impact.

Today, most companies are unable to (either due to lack of knowledge, or desire) provide consumers with a true impact assessment of what it took to produce their product and deliver it to the consumer.  Likewise, most consumers do not have the knowledge yet to think about these factors, nor are they necessarily ready to alter their lifestyle even if this information was presented to them.

Given this information, I believe there are numerous opportunities in the sustainability arena.  Here are a select few which I think may be of interest:

  1. Think more about the “twelve-step” program concept and employ its use in other areas – i.e. use it to focus on the cause of a given problem and less about the actual symptoms.
  2. Employ the use of “models” that truly add value to the customer’s life in the long-term, and encourage companies to build strategies around this mindset.
  3. When working with lending companies, encourage them to re-invent themselves for the long-term benefit of the planet by promoting better purchasing decisions through a “model of sustainability”.
  4. Take sustainability to the next level by utilizing and implementing sustainability frameworks (e.g. Environmental Footprint, Cradle to Cradle, and LCA (Life-cycle Assessment)) in companies who may be unfamiliar with these frameworks and require expertise to integrate them into a long-term sustainability strategy.
  5. Think about sustainability as a never-ending goal and remind companies that implementing small changes over time can make a significant impact over the long-term.  Short-term (incremental) solutions do not have to be perfect.
  6. Encourage greater transparency with customers – especially in this area.  By being transparent, customers are more likely to be accepting (at least temporarily) of a company’s current flaws and are likely to remain customers over the long-term (assuming steps to correct these problems are made).  From a sustainability perspective, providing information about how products are manufactured, and clearly displaying their “sustainability” label are two good examples.  Treat customers as business partners.

Media Temple.

After several months of debate, I decided to move both BigGenerator.com and AdrianDaniels.com (and related microsites – including this one) to a new hosting provider called Media Temple.  I came across their site at WordPress.org and was sold immediately after taking a closer look.

I made this change this past weekend as I’m planning to drive additional traffic to the sites – particularly Big Generator via a new Google AdWords campaign.

I have already seen a considerable difference in terms of site response.  I’ll likely post a review of my initial experiences with Media Temple over the next several weeks.

In the meantime, let me know if you can tell a difference!

Recalibration III.

In my past post, I started to explore the concept of motivation and called attention to why being motivated isn’t always a good thing.

In thinking about my personal and professional lives over the past decade – particularly as it relates to the concept of motivation – I’ve learned the concept of motivation cannot, and perhaps should not, be discussed without a keen focus on the “goal” or objective.  In my opinion, you cannot be motivated to do something if you aren’t sure what you’re motivated for, and goals don’t become real unless someone is actively doing something to make sure they are realized.

Of course, this sounds obvious, right?  In my opinion, it becomes less obvious when there is misalignment between the two.  The purpose of this post is to further explain this connection, highlight the risks when there is misalignment, and illustrate what it means to have “ideal” alignment.

I think achievement of a goal or objective comes down to five things:

1. Understanding what it is that you want and why.
2. Understanding the pathways to bring you towards that goal.
3. Introducing appropriate motivators to push you towards your goal.
4. Periodically ensuring the motivators are working appropriately or need to be replaced.
5. Advance towards a place where supplemental motivators are not required.

Let’s use an example to walk through this process.

Let’s say that you are trying to lose weight.  In order to keep you moving in the right direction, you share your goal with your family and friends.  After all, you may need them to help you stay on track.  And of course, there are many other “motivators” including rewards that you give yourself for reaching milestones in your weight loss journey.  Collectively, this is what I call a motivation framework or motivation support system.  In most cases, having a support system is a good idea.

If your goal is aligned with your values and mission, you’ll find that your motivation level and your ability to reach your goal feeds upon its own successes.  Because your mind is not bound within a self-justification cycle (“I want to lose weight because …”) the energy pathways between mind and body are in alignment and you can ultimately achieve a state of “flow”.  By achieving this state of being, your need for supplemental motivators decreases rapidly and you become further empowered to take on greater challenges (i.e. “I lost ten pounds, but I feel good enough to lose another ten!”).

If however, your wish to lose weight is indirectly connected to your values and purpose, a number of things can start to happen.  First, your support structure may start to “overrun” your initial desire – i.e. your motivation support group may end up being more motivated than you are!  When and if this occurs, you may find that your own motivation starts to plummet and you end up doing less than before.  This downward spiral can proceed even further when your support system begins to run out of energy (i.e. they are no longer providing any motivational support) and/or begins to show its disappointment that you are not reaching your goal (showing evidence that perhaps your support structure wasn’t the right choice to begin with).

As you can start to imagine, this single disconnect between goal identification and values/mission has the potential to negatively influence other aspects of your life – i.e. “If I can’t lose ten pounds with support, how can I do anything?”

In order to have true alignment between goal and motivation, I think one needs to pay close attention to the following:

  • Understand what it is that you want. Keep in mind that this can be a moving target – that’s okay.  If your desires change, ensure that your motivation and motivation support structure changes as well.  If your goals are changing frequently, it might be appropriate to revisit your values and mission.
  • Make sure that your motivation does not require constant support. If it does, it’s possible that don’t want to achieve the goal in the first place.  Along similar lines, if you are tackling the right goal and have the right motivation framework in place, you’ll find that your pursuit of the goal will be natural and the need for motivational support will be much less.
  • You are human. Waning feelings of motivation are normal and may not require significant changes to your goal or support structure.  Instead, you may need to look elsewhere to understand these feelings.

In my opinion, the ideal state is having a goal that is directly linked to your core being and ultimately drives you. It’s the catalyst and energy source for all action.  Without this source, your source for motivation will always need “supplemental power sources” (at least to some extent).  I think that achievement of the farthest end of this motivation maturity scale is the identification and pursuit of a goal that is ultimately self-powered.

In my next post within this series, I’ll spend more time focusing on the human aspect of motivation and goal attainment – this is ultimately where I’ll introduce the next area of “recalibration” which is persistence.