maximum idea, minimum stuff.

just saving a rambling comment I made on Russell's blog to work on more…

WARNING: this is a bit of ramble, and I realise this is not really about brands, but…

Modern industrial design has always been about maximum idea, minimum stuff – more maximum benefit, minimum stuff. Inject the quicksilver of software into the stuff, and hopefully it ratchets that up further. Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, software has become big and crufty too, but a lot of the 'new wave' (sounds cooler and punkier than web2.0, imho) is lightweight, beneficial small-pieces-loosely-joined. It's not green though in itself – in fact technology typically has a godzilla-like eco-footprint what with the rare-earth metals, extensive refinement, potentially environmentally damaging manufacturing processes and embodied-energy necessary to make most things that involve microprocessors – that's before you even get to switch them on… and leave them on… always-on…

but- like most Promethean gifts, i believe information technology is the best way to bootstrap our way out of ecogeddon.

Read Bruce Sterling's "Shaping Things" for a wonderful vision of how 'things that think' – what he calls 'Spimes' could think about how to euthanise themselves responsible or report for re-use duty to those who need them. He says that spimes are 'Data first and foremost, and objects now and again…' – maximum idea, minimum stuff indeed…

Read "mirrorworlds" for David Gelertner's prescient vision of how tools like google earth teamed with data from our environment could give us simulations that help us to reflexively do the right thing – EcoCognoExoSkeletons…

(plug: i wrote a bit on this a while back:

read Alice's transcript from Will Wright's demo of Spore at SxSW: he wants to give kids a toy planet, to learn how to run the only real one we have… Just as his Sim City gave us all model cities to play with (and ended up being used by town-planning students and professionals for learning and community outreach activities)

The trail of data that we're generating about ourselves as we live our lives part-digitally is creating a model of ourselves that we can reflect upon, and change our behaviour if we feel it's not sustainable for us (or the planet)

The work done by RED and the Design Council is a great example of neat ways that products, design and service can combine to make us reflect on our behaviours in playful non-orwellian ways.

Don't worry – it's coming back to brands. maybe. i think.

In my post about 'Practical Mirrorworlds' I've used a picture I took years ago in the sydney opera house: which is a caption saying "sometimes we draw pictures or make models to help us understand things" – isn't a brand a model that is created by people to understand the promise that a company is making? And don't the guardians of that brand on the company and its proxies inject politics, dreams and values into that model which they believe will be appealing and increasingly sustainable – in both the sense of that appeal over time, which more and more comes to be the same as sustainable in the environmental sense.

And, in Sterling's Spimeworld, couldn't that promise be all that was necessary to understand until you needed the thing?

In the future, Brands should be interactive market-scale toys – models that we can all play with as individuals or communities to understand what we want in terms of things, services, dreams, outcomes before we get them. Spimes will be brands, invoked, instantiated.

Maximum idea, minimum stuff…

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