Designer Dim Sum conversation led by Raphael Schaad and Christian Talmage
An online seminar led by designer and technologist, Raphael Schaad, and design strategist, Christian Talmage, led to a variety of viewpoints being shared in the Designer Dim Sum Network Seminar organized by Jackie Xu with John Maeda.
Raphael Schaad RS/ I’d love to hear thoughts on how to balance keeping a competitive advantage vs. helping the whole industry advance (towards your own vision). As an example, see the excellent post by Elon Musk releasing all of Tesla’s patents:
All Our Patent Are Belong To You | Tesla Motors
Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case…
Christian Talmage CT/ In his article Elon sites patents as a distraction and a detriment to moving humanity forward. If most of us start/join startups because we want to have an impact on the world, why is patent proliferation such an issue? Or does competition actually create a Darwinian force that ensures the best solutions become available to the largest group possible?
CT/ I certainly don’t claim to be a lawyer, but after hearing a number of them speak on IP rights the only two reasons I hear are to stimulate investment and for lawsuit protection in the future. The former seems like a worthy cause during the early stages of a startup, but the latter is a cultural flaw. Can we do something about it? Can we change the lawsuit chasing mentality somehow?
Diogenes Brito DB/ I think we would all benefit from more and more companies sharing successful solutions to design problems in all areas, from patents to organizational structure setup to communication processes. Looking at how much success there has been in the realm of software with people sharing components, I believe we have much to gain from that mentality spreading to other areas of business. “Helping the industry advance” as a duty of any particular company is a hard sell, but the benefits to your own business from doing so are large enough that it can be framed as a good long-term business strategy.
CT/ @uxdiogenes: I think you touch on an important piece here. “Helping the industry advance” as a duty of any particular company is a hard sell, but the benefits to your own business from doing so are large enough that it can be framed as a good long-term business strategy.
CT/ Elon reasons that he wants to share his technology to move the industry forward, which I believe is definitely true in part (I’m a big fan of his work). However, Tesla has a lot to gain with many more fully electric vehicles on the road in regards to charging infrastructure, an important piece that isn’t mentioned. In Tesla’s case, moving the industry forward IS good business!
John Maeda JM/ Design IP is a good distinction to make from other regular tech IP. The 👠 Louboutin case was fascinating to follow:
Louboutin Red-Shoe Decision Clarifies 'Aesthetic Functionality' IP Doctrine - Fordham Law
Louboutin Red-Shoe Decision Clarifies 'Aesthetic Functionality' IP Doctrine Susan Scafidi in Law.com, September 07…
RS/ Regarding Louboutin : ‘aesthetic functionality’ is a very interesting notion. I once saw an amazing talk on how LV ended up with the — now signature — pattern all over their bags — the original reason was to make counterfeiting more difficult. (Does anyone remember that talk/resource? Would love to re-watch.) One of the reasons why iOS 7 bet so heavily on these complex layered blurs is that they’re really hard to copy on mobile devices in a performant way for competitors that don’t control the full stack of hardware+software.
CT/ @johnmaeda: Thank you for sharing! This is a very interesting case. I appreciate seeing design patents used in an effort to preserve brand identity, rather than a marketing gimmick for tires.
CT/ Coming back to Dio‘s thoughts on sharing successful design solutions, what are some examples that we as a design community could promote amongst ourselves? Of course there are assets like UI kits, tools, hacks, etc… but is there something bigger?
Alessandro Sabatelli AS/ I’m personally very torn by patents. While at a previous company, I created a bit of IP which was patented and I was both flattered and annoyed when my work was copied without permission. These were both design and utility patents and while it may be more clear that a design patent protects brand I would argue that a utility patent often does the same wrt the customer’s experience. I also saw how the litigation process burned out engineers and designers who were deposed. And how a company could claim that something was obvious, after having seen it, while watching it develop through much trial and error in non obvious ways. As for me I would love to get to the point where I’m sharing more, particularly with regards to proven design solutions, but as a founder of an early stage startup I can’t quite justify the risk vs reward (yet).
Uday Gajendar UG/ Indeed, having some kind of “DMZ” zone of collegial commons for the purpose of collective professional advancement is my preference, and I’m guessing others would agree too. Beyond mere tools & techniques but towards models, frameworks, archetypes…the “meta-design” level of issues that perplex and challenge design leaders shaping more than artifacts, but also cultures and attitudes. The keys to making such a DMZ possible would involve personal incentives, business support, and collective protections of some sort (instinctively speaking).
UG/ If we can help shape the contours of this “meta-design” level of collective engagement and sharing (re-purposing?) we may go a longs ways towards creating a useful space for enabling the future of our profession, as we delve into problems of varying scope, topic, and context. A sharing of archetypal philosophies and approaches IMHO has far longer shelf-value applicable to a diverse and ever-expanding range of possibilities that will challenge designers for maybe…generations?
JM/ R1 institutions like MIT or Stanford provide that DMZ of protected conversations — though when anything lucrative surfaces, the conversation tends to get stifled. There’s a lesson in there — we do live in a capitalistic society …
CT/ Regarding R1 institutions as a safe haven for idea sharing, I believe that’s the most compelling reason for attending those schools. While it’s true we live in a capitalistic society (and there’s no place quite like Stanford to remind you of that regularly) the Stanford Office of Technology and Licensing is actually quite accommodating for entrepreneurs!
UG/ On the notion of “sharing successful design solutions”. I believe this was original intent of case studies presented at venues like CHI and DMI but seems to have taken an unfortunate non-realistic turn, rather than a way of provoking and stimulating counterpoints, adjacencies, and “mash-ups” of new ideas. For me, it’s about creating:
- some kind of “DMZ”
- mechanism for sharing stories
- packaging/shaping/relaying those stories in an effective cross-pollinating way.
UG/ Challenges are how to protect everyone legally/socially & incentives business to sponsor/support?
AS/ Can we concretize the DMZ? How would you imagine company A share what they believe to be a breakthrough without company B seeing it as obvious and just using it? I could see sharing after a release, but isn’t this just a patent. You have the control to do everything from hoard it to give it away.
Marie Kacmarek MK/ The notion of a DMZ around IP is intriguing. When the realities of IP litigation come into play, like Alessandro brought up, they are hardcore creativity zappers. Sharing economies, benefit corporations, even giving economies are for the very evolved or very wealthy. Or they indirectly benefit the “giver” a la Musk,
MK/ Human nature thrives on competition. When we take it away, we can get bloated from surfeit, unless we consciously evolve our craft. Then who are the arbiters? And how are they appointed? Oversight? Governance?
MK/ Look at the music industry as an analogy. Even though I’m talking about copyright and creative ownership, there are obvious parallels.
MK/ For the sake of running the analogy algorithm: let’s say I’m an independent music producer who creates experimental electronic music. For the sake of the analogy someone like Timbaland comes around and ‘steals’ my beats for a new Rihanna song. I could turn around and sue (as many have) but they’re stars so it’ll likely be fruitless. Even ‘worse’ is that the Timbaland song was licensed to Kia for their latest Soul commercial. I’m out big time. Palm to face. In order to retain my integrity, I must now disavow my earlier creation as pablum or go the litigious route. Or I could try to create a safe playpen, a DMZ, if you will. But I have that already with my crowd.
MK/ So the “theft” could be looked at as a bad or a good thing. Bad: my IP has been commodified by someone else. I may even think of suing and/or vilifying Timbaland and Rihanna. There may even be a chance for some errant fame/revenge/money.
MK/ Another way to see it is from an evolutionary standpoint. The beat pattern is now in the mainstream. The kids all get it, even in Paducah. My work has evolved modern music. As an underground artist (kind of like start up IP), my nascent idea has became popular because of the big guy’s stature. Capitalism has forced me to compete, evolve, and create something new. It has put me in a position to ‘design’ something never before heard in order to retain its underground status. It’s coerced my creativity into ultramode. Otherwise I’m finished. I hate to admit it but now I’m innovating faster and better. I have no choice if I want to keep creating art that subverts the mainstream. If it’s good it will bubble up anyway. The cool kids will know it was m, and I’ll benefit from that in some way, shape and form. Plus new sounds has entered our ears because of the steep competition. New sounds are delightful. New ideas are delightful. It’s hard to escape social Darwinism. If be interested in ideas on how to do this within the realm of our current economic system.
AS/ I agree in many ways. I’d rather make new and beautiful things than try to defend the old, but practically speaking creation takes time is money. Having someone steal your work is a many edged sword. In the analogy you made there’s even a possibility that this new music would not have been accepted if it had not been popularized by a mainstream act thereby creating a stage for you and others like you.
RS/ Many industries benefit from sharing IP. I’m not convinced yet that Design has found its scalable format for that (Medium blog posts about process, UI Kits, Dribble, …). Thoughts?
RS/ Open source (software) on the other hand is this incredible success: huge foundational parts of what powers the Mac you’re typing on, the iPhone on your desk, and the internet (the internet!) are free (“free as in free speech, not free beer”, according to the classic hacker joke.
RS/ One concept that is particularly powerful there is the pull request: a suggested, well formatted improvement to an existing solution. A remix, if you will! When the maintainer merge the change to the main project even more discussion and collaboration happens. What is our cross-pollinating format? What is the “Pull Request for Design”?
MK/ No such thing as free beer!? You’ve hit on something really crucial. Not the beer, I’m afraid. But collaboration. What if collaboration were financially fruitful? The idea of a “Pull Economy” seems like good way to do this, and Alessandro brings up very important points about design theft and its impact on the creator. Disruptive tools (like Wix for instance) force front end developers to bring new chops to their skill set, while UI tool kits create four-walls-and-a-door design. There’s only one way out: to create something different. Per earlier comments, totally agree a single unified model could likely fail. Organic cross pollination will peter out without the much needed foundational support. If only Big-A academia could be more inclusive than exclusive, which seems to be happening by drips and drabs thanks to some good folks. Bringing more cultural diversity into the fold could bring in new, unforeseen ideas. How can we get design thinking into the public academic system at an early age like STEM is now? That may be an answer. D School for kids in public schools, and definitely inner city/rural. The next generation could have collaborative thinking skills in their groundwater. How cool would that be?
THANK YOU TO RAPHAEL AND CHRISTIAN!
FYI John Maeda and Jackie Xu are pleased to let you know that the #DesignInTech Report (launched in March 2015 at SXSW) is now available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.