Unknown Origins

Bill Burnett on Design

November 10, 2021 Bill Burnett Season 1 Episode 85
Unknown Origins
Bill Burnett on Design
Show Notes Transcript

Bill Burnett is Co-Author of the New York Times best-seller Designing Your Life, Co-Director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University. A designer, educator, and Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. He is also the Executive Director of the Design Program, where he manages the undergraduate and graduate degree-granting programs and advises 70 -100 students annually. Bill holds multiple mechanical and design patents and design awards for various products, including the first “slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he is on the Board of VOZ (pronounced “VAWS – it means voice in Spanish), a socially responsible high fashion startup, and advises several Internet startup companies.

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Roy Sharples:

Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you seeking inspiration? an industry expert, looking for insights, or growing your career. I created the unknown origins podcast to provide access to insights and content from creators worldwide with inspirational conversations and storytelling, about art, architecture, design, entrepreneurship, fashion, film, music, and pop culture. Bill Barnett, is co author of The New York Times bestseller, designing your life, co director of The Life Design Lab at Stanford University, a designer, educator, and adjunct professor at Stanford University. He is also the executive director of the design program, where he manages the undergraduate and graduate degree granting programs and advises 70 to 100 students annually. Today, Bill provides his perspective on creativity and design. Hello, and welcome, Bill. So what attracted you to this domain in the first place?

Bill Burnett:

When I was in high school, I really liked math and science and physics and things. But I also loved art. And I took a lot of art classes. And then when I went off to university, I was lucky enough to get into Stanford and, and frankly, I picked Stanford, I grew up in the Boston area on the east coast. But I picked Stanford because it was as far away from my parents as I could get. That was my only creature. I heard it was also a pretty good school. Anyway, when I got there, I realized, you know, there are no physics and art majors in the world. That's a little weird. But But luckily, Stanford had this really weird kind of design program. Now design, you know, it's a big word, people use it for lots of different things. And most of most of the time, when you run into a design, program, or design major at a university, it's an art and architecture school, and it's part of the art majors. But at Stanford, it's different. It was in the engineering school, and it had grown out of this interesting idea that engineers needed to be more creative, that designers need to be more technical, and that we that you should bring in the issues of, you know, anthropology, sociology, psychology, because you really need to understand people. So anyway, there was this weird multidisciplinary program called product design. And as soon as I found that, I realized, that's what I wanted to do, you know, for the rest of my life, because it combined all of the things that I thought were important. And it was and it was part of a, you know, what's become a conversation about what is design and what is creativity for the rest of my life. But I really like this, this particularly weird sort of multidisciplinary spin on it, that design wasn't just making beautiful things, design was making things that work that were useful that that had, you know, a coherent sort of sensibility to the great composition. And were also easy to use. So, so that's what got me into it.

Roy Sharples:

What is your creative process? In terms of how do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up new ideas, developing them into concepts, and then bringing them to actualization? One of

Bill Burnett:

the myths we like to blow up, you know, the Stanford program is that designers are the lone genius, often a studio somewhere working long hours, and then Tada, here's the, here's the solution to whatever the problem is. It doesn't really work that way. But but the first part of my process, the first part of thinking about a new problem, is always drawing, drawing, sketching, diagramming. One of the reasons you know, like you said, designers make the invisible visible, a wonderful colleague of mine, woman in Irie Now who's the head of design at Khosla ventures and also taught with us for a few years said, you know, designer superpowers, or by the designer superpower is making ideas visible and tangible. And so that starts with with sketching, and drawing and, and maybe even making little simple, quick mock ups. And that's how I get, you know, and, you know, brainstorming and making lists of things. And that's how I, that's how I do the individual part, which is sort of this the part where I start, and by the way, you know, you run into, you run into gnarly problems at every phase of a design sound like oh, you do all the creativity at the front and then you just execute. You're constantly going back to whatever your processes for coming up with new ways to look at the problem and solve the problem. So it's always always visual because then you know, the very first class in the standard program is a class called Visual Thinking. But 60% of your brain's visual processor. Lots of ideas occur, you know, as a visual that can't be put into words. And so having access to all those ideas to to drawing is the way we, we sort of up the game and creativity. But after that, it's all about teams. And been on some great teams at Apple and similar startups. And certainly at Stanford, you need great creative people, you need people who get into a creative mindset easily and quickly, in people who can come up with, you know, amplify your ability to come up with lots of ideas. And it's really teams that get, you know, the big projects done and done well, and you know, had a great opportunity to get some amazing teams with really, really smart people. And you want people from all sorts of different disciplines, you want the artist, but you also want the psychologist and you want the engineer and you want the software person and you want that. You know somebody from marketing and you want somebody from, you know, customer service, who can tell you about all the problems, you know, that people talk about. And when you have a really good team and it's really clicking, anything's possible.

Roy Sharples:

I like how you empathize, that the creative process is not about the fluke of nature, and being the Lone Ranger. It's a collaborative, iterative process where alchemy is usually in the execution of the process. The CT Picasso, inspiration exists, but it has to find you working, or similarly, the Muse exists, but she doesn't visit the lazy thing. David Hockney said that one what I mean is that the best ideas often come from grafting, and persistence, as opposed to falling out of the sky and waiting, your inspiration to float upon you. Similarly, to what you said previously, about innovation being around us all the time, but as humans, we just can't see see it or how it all fits together. designing something authentically creative means embracing originality by providing something new to the world by overturning the status quo and making unique connections between disparate universes to light the way into the future. And collaboration is a useful trigger to creating new experiences, and seeking that inspiration and snaps you out of your comfort zones. However, the creative process does not mean being fooled into believing that is simply about following a process and expecting creative results as an outcome. Having the vision to see around the corners, and pushing through adversity when faced with setbacks, and navigating through ambiguity with fearless leadership, making the sacrifices and executing your ideas in a disciplined and persistent way. What is design to you Bell?

Bill Burnett:

Well, I'll go with hirings definition, design is the art of making things tangible. You have a problem, you know, people need a new way to do something, because it's a new, it's a new technology. And a lot of times very first versions of that are really clunky and hard to use. And you have to be an insider to figure that out. But But then eventually we get to a place where lots and lots of people want to access this particular piece of information or work on this particular problem, or they want to do some some kind of a task. And then designers take a look at what the human need is. And then they look at what's technically possible, and maybe push that as hard as they can be right at the edge of what's what's possible. And then they they start building from the start, you know, nobody knows what the future looks like the only way to figure out what the future looks like and start making things. And eventually you make something that is in fact, the future. You know, when I was at Apple, I was working on the power of teams. And the very, very early, you know, Apple laptops had his little miniature trackball set up, because that was the only thing we could figure you couldn't you couldn't put a mouse in a in a portable computer because the mouse needs something to move on. Right? Yeah. And I remember sitting in airplanes in the early days of laptops and watching people with these Windows laptops with a mouse plugged in to the port and rolling the mouse on their leg. And that was just obviously a bad idea. So we started thinking about other ways to point and we looked at lots of different ways of pointing on his screen. It turns out it's pretty hard to beat the mouse for accurate painting. But we came up with this idea but what would be perfect in a laptop was something flat something that you just used your finger to point with rather than mechanical device, and that it took a while. almost no space because we needed all our space under the under the master batteries under where the where the where the trackball was for batteries. So the designers and people studying human interaction so we're looking at what's the best interaction? What's the what's the most logical way to move pointer onto the screen? Well, how about I just move my finger around on something? It looks like a screen. i This was before touchscreens for cars. Yeah. And and and then you go okay, that's interesting. And then we had some guys in the advanced technology group who were looking at these capacitive sensors and saying, Hey, maybe we could take a capacitive sensor and make it make it a way of pointing. It's kind of the early version of multi touch. And then, and then we built a bunch of stuff. And then it didn't work because it turns out capacitive sensors are really sensitive to electrical interference, and you got lots of electrical interference in your house, you got lights burning, and ballasts in, in fluorescence and all sorts of noise. And so every time you put your finger on the trackpad, the cursor would jump around all over the place. And then we get some software, people can figure it out some, you know, low pass, high pass software filters, and all of a sudden, we had a new printing device. So it was a team of technology, people, science people and economics people and then industrial design people. We didn't know what we were going to end up with. But we knew what we we knew what we what we wanted, in the best of all possible worlds. We wanted something that was intuitive, simple, easy in, you know, fun to use. And that was the PowerBook 500 series was the first laptops with a trackpad. And so you know, it's a perfect example of design is all of those things. It's not just, you know, making a very nice looking laptop, which we also do very, very well.

Roy Sharples:

From your perspective, Bill, can you provide some standout examples of people centered, design based approaches used to affect every

Bill Burnett:

Once in a while, and this isn't necessarily designed to lead but we'll get there. Once in a while. I experienced some technology and I go, wow, yeah, this is gonna change everything. And it's often an experience in its very early stages. There was a student that came out of our program, named Mark bolus, and he started a company called thinkspace labs. And this is way way back in the 80s and 90s. Human and he was doing VR, and VR headsets in those days, were being CRTs on these counterbalanced boom, Sims a box the size of a television and you put your head in it, and you didn't bet the VR. But I remember looking at that and going, having that experience with Marc's first prototype and thinking, Oh, my God, you know, obviously, this giant box is someday going to be just a pair of glasses, and this is going to change everything. Now, you know, we aren't quite there yet, but we're close. And by the way, marks ran elaborate. He became an academic and both the VR lab down at USC and that's the lab that lucky Palmer came out of and that was the basis of Oculus. So the first time I saw VR, I went, oh my god, this is gonna change everything. Now. It's been 30 years and we're almost there. I remember sitting in my, my, my kitchen table one night, and thinking what is the what is this Napster thing up here? All this stuff about Nasser's downloaded and I started uploading some signs and I thought, well come on this, this can't have every song and so I have a very eclectic musical tastes. So I look up some Frank Sinatra stuff, bang, I got five servers, that stuff. And then I look up Mario Lonza, who was a opera singer, and popular singer and an opera singer in the 50s. And like, nobody's got Mario Lanzarote, because I find five, you know, sort of, yeah, you know, weird, you know, Indian raga music Frank tensor was that have that and all of a sudden, it's like, Oh, my God, this is going to change everything. Now, it wasn't Napster. Eventually. It was the it was the iTunes store. Yeah, but the notion of, I mean, I love music. And I, you know, whenever I travel, I carefully curate five or 10 CDs to take with me and my CD player on the plane. And then I got an iPad, and then they had 10,000 songs. And then and then I had, you know, streaming and I had 15 million songs. And I realized this is this is this is not only going to change the way we do music, it's going to change how artists make music. It's gonna change everything. So everyone saw you see those, those moments where things change? There was like great, great terms of human centered design. The Napster interface was a disaster. It's horrible. I mean, you know, you're just hacking your way around the web looking for science. Yeah. What what Apple did. And what's interesting is when Apple introduced the iPod, everybody thought it was kind of crazy because it was like $400 at the time. The the Rio was the mp3 player out there, and it was $49 and everybody was playing Rios But what Apple did when they did the iPod and then wrapped the iTunes service around, and whenever you have a product plus a service, you create this whole new platform experience. And all of a sudden, not only was all the music available, but it was available. And it was it was elegantly designed. And it was beautifully created. Remember that I had that little thumb wheel that she spun. I mean, it was just a beautiful piece of interaction design coupled with a lovely piece of hardware that was just the right size to fit in your pocket. You know, every every detail was thought through, you know, I often use a bunch of Apple examples. And I'll say right now I'm quite critical of Apple's current design. I've never had my machine crash more than the than it does lately. I don't think the software is is as tight as it used to be. And sometimes the user experience isn't that great. But when they get it right at home, does it best. You know, other other examples, classic disco called Design for Extreme Affordability where they go to places where you know, they can, they can solve really kind of important problems. And this was the problem in Africa. And other other you know, places where people don't have a lot of health care. Babies are born prematurely, and they die because they can't regulate their body temperature. They're just too small. And so the the group of students was working with a group in Africa, and we've been a rural villages, and they came back and said, hey, you know, we've got the problem isn't that the, the hospitals don't have the right kind of care. The problem is the babies aren't born in hospitals. They're born in villages, they're born in huts, yeah, what we really need is a way to get the baby from the village to the hospital. And they design this basically a little sleeping bag, that's that you put babies in and keeps them warm. But the real innovation was they came up with this material that you could just throw in a pot of boiling water, it would essentially melt. And then you could take that slip it inside the sleeve in the sleeping bag, and that would keep the baby warm. And so you know, sometimes it's the physical interface. That's the amazing things. And nowadays, it's often the digital interface. And that's the amazing thing. And you know, more and more, we're just people are not willing to accept bad design, right? Yeah, we're used to, we're used to kind of a low level of friction, and anything we do, you can go on Amazon and buy something with one click, you can, you can have all your songs in a Spotify playlist, you know, and using their algorithms and AI to create, you know, to curate your music you've never heard before, they just really love so it's, I think that I think design is really on an upswing lately. And it's it's a good thing makes the world a better place.

Roy Sharples:

What are the key skills needed to survive and thrive? As a design practitioner?

Bill Burnett:

It's a great question. Because you know, when one of the things that I always when I talk to employers, I say you're interviewing for the wrong thing. You guys are interviewing to find out if you know, the student knows, Photoshop, Illustrator, hater figma and sketch your you've got a workflow of how you make stuff that your company, and you want people to plug into that workflow, and you're describing it with a whole bunch of pieces of software. And that's the wrong thing to interview for it because guess what, you know, when I got to school, you know, when dinosaurs roamed the Stanford campus. You know, everybody you know, yet you had to you had to you had a drafting board, and you had to know how to do orthographic projection? Well, no one's done that in 20 3040 years now. Now, everything is done, you know, in CAD, and in 10 years, the CAD will be automated with AI and it'll be more like thinking or sketching, then, then, you know, using that tool, so people keep thinking that design is about tools. And, and, and not really about what I what you're calling key skills, the key skills using design to be able to learn fast, because all the tools you're using today will be obsolete in five years, and you'll learn need to learn new tools. You can't say, Hey, I'm a Photoshop designer, because Photoshop won't exist in five years. For the thing that you're using will be so different from Photoshop, that it wouldn't have mattered that you had that experience. So if you want to stay a good designer and thrive, you have to you have to be fast at learning and being willing to, you know, adapt to new tools and throw away the old ones as quickly as they become useful to you have to be relentlessly curious. Because the stuff that I'm working on today with my students, or you know, in my own in my own practice hasn't stopped I couldn't even have imagined doing even 10 years ago. Yeah, I tell my students, that's the cool part about this job is that in 10 years from now, you'll be doing a job that doesn't even exist. Yeah, no, you'll be working with machine learning and AI, you'll be working with datasets, you'll be manipulating information in a completely new and novel way. And still, but still, the underlying core skill will be human centered. Curiosity. We know when I when people asked me for a really, really, really quick explanation of what we call design thinking now, which we used to call human centered design. It's really simple. Designers are trained through brainstorming and other creative techniques to generate hundreds and hundreds of ideas for every question you ask them. And it seems just logical, we also have research that proves that if you have lots and lots of ideas to choose from, you will choose that. Now, lots of ideas are easy. And ideas themselves are cheap, take those ideas and couple them to an actual observed human need. Go out in the world and figure out what the problem is that people are really wrestling scale it up a little bit. It's not it's not about, it's not about coffee, it's about the coffee experience, it's not about, you know, making the car go fastest, make the car feel fast. So once you figure out what the actual problem you are trying to solve, and you've got lots and lots of ideas, it just seems to me logical that you're going to come up with a better stuff, then the other, the other teams, because they aren't spending as much time thinking about what the user needs. And they're generating one or two solutions, and they don't have a large domain to choose from. So designs have to be really curious, really good at generating lots and lots of ideas. Being having a what I call a frictionless mind, like, throw away all the constraints develop lots and lots of ideas, come back to that later. But tie the ideas to, you know, some tea and empathic observations about humans. Remember, humans can't tell you what they need, they don't know what they need. The point of view about observing them and, and provoking them with prototypes, and seeing what they do with them, is all about uncovering what's really going on what they really need, and finding a solution that's delightful. So curiosity, hungry to learn, in a deep connection, you know, to the skills that are, are going to be probably ever, ever, you know, ever the same sorts of things will, will improve our ability to observe, will improve our ability to understand people by looking at data and other things, but it still comes down to human empathy, and the understanding of what's really behind what shows up on the surface as the quote, you know, design brief.

Roy Sharples:

What are your lessons learned, the pitfalls to avoid, and keys to success that you can share with aspiring design practitioners?

Bill Burnett:

Well, the pitfalls to avoid, are, if you believe that if you believe that people, you know, are naturally empathic, then they can understand each other, and then we can even understand people that are very different from ourselves, then, then you believe that you know that this methodology is possible. Now, we've we've been really thinking hard about that. And last couple years, because as we've been talking about equity and diversity, and having multidisciplinary design teams, and making sure that all points of view are represented, because the reality is it's not true that everybody has, you know, completely bias free empathy. Everything I do in design, every interview I have every observation I make, I have to recognize it's coming to a bias. Yeah. You know, I'm a white cisgender, male, you know, over 50, you know, I've got my, my lens on that I can take off. And so I need to be on a team of people who have different lenses and can look at the problem differently. So the major pitfall to avoid is to sort of, is to recognize that we all have biases, and we're all coming at something from from a point of view, which means we're not really seeing what we're looking at. We're just seeing what we are what we're trained to look for. And that may be eliminating important information or not recognizing the wisdom of the people I'm creating with, you know, nowadays, we don't talk about going out and creating for people we talk about creating with people. And I think that's a really important change because it addresses the issue of bias. So, so one pitfall to avoid is that you think you know the answer that you're going to that you're going to do a brief set of observations and then come back with an answer that's going to solve the problem. When you haven't actually really dug into the, you know, what are this the sociology of that community? What's the psychology of that community? And you know, what, what are you missing by only having one point of view when you do the observation so that that's the pitfall I think to avoid, and it's a big deal, because if we're going to do design that is inclusive, for and it's for everybody. And if we're going to design, it's universal, which means that everyone, including people with different abilities, cognitive physical abilities, can still use the design effectively, we have to have diverse teams to understand that we have to train ourselves to notice our bias. The keys to success. You know, I look at people who've been doing the same for a long time, Dan Harden, and with Johnny, Ive at Apple. You know, the design team at at Harley Davidson, you know, people who journey iconic work year after year after year after year. I come back to curiosity. They they're never satisfied with it. If you've if you complete a piece of design, and particularly if you're in a big company like Harley or Apple or, or you're a big firm like website, and you're designing for hundreds of different companies, it's pretty easy to win some awards, and then just sort of you know, Step and Repeat, everybody liked that, that everybody liked that style on that last thing style, the next thing to look like that. And when design becomes styling, and it became started starts quoting itself starts ref referring to itself. You've lost your edge soon longer interesting. And you know, John, Johnny and I have left Apple a couple of years ago, but hadn't really been at the studio for quite a while. And Apple's gone stale. They're just repeating themselves. You know, the new icon 13 has hard edges, and no one had rounded edges. And the one before that it had hard edges and the one before that had rounded edges. And it's you know, they they aren't, they aren't pushing any new limits. And that's another problem is when we're down this minimalists sort of Swiss German style language, and you take all of the emotion and irrationality out of the design, eventually, you get to something that isn't just a square box. Yeah, because that's the least emotional, most rational way of enclosing anything, you know, or a round circle. And so, you know, but humans are humans aren't that rational humans, you know? Yeah, what's the difference between because you say, give me the specs, for two cars, in high end portion of high end Ferrari, you look at the specs, and zero 60s, the same, top speed is the same cornering is the same, all the handling characteristics are the same. So literally, they are the same vehicle, they do exactly the same thing. And a Porsche looks like a rational piece of German design, and a Ferrari looks like an emotional, organic, you know, sort of physically sexually, you know, weirdly human in a different sort of way, then apart because a bunch of Italians that. And so I think I think this idea of voice, and and where you're coming from is really critical. But I think it's easy to particularly when you're successful, it's easy to get stale. Let's just do what worked last time. Right? So let's just keep doing work last time, and particularly when you're done some sort of design philosophy that ends in extreme minimalism. You're in a dead end. Yeah. So curiosity, you know, and figuring out what's next. And you know, and sort of radically collaborating with the world and then pushing and pushing technology pushing style, pushing everything to its limit, and then doing it again, and never been satisfied with the last one. The designers that I know where a really good design win an award and then that talk to them. I'll talk I'll talk to Dan it whips on ago. Hey, I say you won an award for tonal that new strength training machine on the wall. That's pretty cool. Because yeah, you know, that I look at it. I got five things I want to change, right? Because he's never satisfied. Right. And I think that's the that that hunger is a key component of great design.

Roy Sharples:

Comfort zones re creative dead zones! To quo

e David Bowie:

"if you feel safe in the area you're working i , you're not working in the ri ht area. Go a little bit out o your depth. And when you feel hat your feet aren't quite tou hing the bottom, you're ju t about in the right place to o something exciting." Few movements survive long term without embracing both radical and incremental innovation. Every successful designer, artist, entrepreneur, and business needs to innovate continuously or risk being surpassed by the competition and the new wave and the longer term. The golden rule is to avoid the deadly sin of complacency and greed, kicking in like a pile of debt that you can't cure. Why, in general, people can be shiftless and self gratifying. And as a result, the future will leave them behind. And this is because they can self destruct through excess and become victims of their own success by cultivating destructive habits and complacency. There's an endless graveyard of companies who rested on their laurels and ended up eating themselves with their own success, such as Kodak, Blockbuster Blackberry, to name a few within millions. And it is exactly the same in the creative arts. It's why art movements come and go. Fashions fashion barn, recycle, repackage, reissue, reevaluate the painting song, film, short performance event and satiate the audience. This is the lazy and habitual nature of human beings, we get consumed easily and bored quickly, and our mains just simply are not big enough to consume and look beyond north south west and east 24 by seven 365 days per year. The key is to stand tall and vertically into the future. Combined with effective prioritization, being laser focused and disciplined execution are the keys to success. It is just as important to decide what you do not do as it is what you do. Your other point around finding your unique voice that is so critical. And the Beatles are a great example of this. For example. They started off imitating American gospel r&b, rockabilly, and Emily rock and roll. Their music dealt with love songs and teen relationships, which was the standard feed of the day, which would have been so easy just to cash in and milk that cow, right for as long as you could, which many others do, and hence why they don't survive the longer term because they're not. They don't have that hunger and curiosity and fearless leadership and approach to continuous innovation. And similar to artists like Banksy, Dali, Matisse, Michelangelo, Picasso and Andy Warhol, who started off as imitators of the masters of their time, so that they could learn and develop their craft until they found their own style, their own voice. And about halfway through that duration, they, they found their authentic voice and style. And so in the context of the Beatles, they ended up producing lyrics and music about everyday life and observations and their native Liverpudlian accents. And then ultimately, they became artists who revolutionized not just how music was made, but how it was listened to and produced, and the acted as a catalyst and soundtrack for social justice movements. And so it transcended way beyond just the music into a socio cultural movement, which redefined how people looked and influenced fashion and so albums, such as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club black band, provided one of the most potent musical cornerstones to the now legendary Summer of Love, where the Beatles have maintained a canonized status unprecedented for musicians to date. But the Keith the key through all of this as well, his expertise is not enough to change the world in any field, and discipline. innovation combined with artistry require the ability to transcend time and create a culture and movement that's manifested through your own unique identity aesthetics and the world around you. Back to the Beatles. I think that's the prime example of what we're really speaking about.

Bill Burnett:

Very few artists are are that fearless Right? Exactly. Every album was different. Yeah, every album was a breakthrough. Yeah, but every album was incredibly risky because what if I just wanted to hear you know, she'll love me i Yeah, there are plenty here. That was I want to hear you doing old Chuck Berry tunes. Exactly, you know, with through a British lens. It's like that's what I think you are then. You know, Magical Mystery Tour leaves me like what the hell is this? Revolver annoying. So you know the person who exemplified that and really became the first Rockstar in the art world was Picasso. Yes. And, you know, for people who don't understand him, go look at the go look at his art when he was 16 and 17. He was at the Art Academy, his father was an art teacher and sent to the Art Academy in Spain, and he was producing drying set were at Old Masters level realism when he was 16 or 17. In his 20s, he blew all that up and created, you know, Cubism and however Christiana Bloop, like one period, then cubism, and then he blew up Cubism and he did this sort of the next generation of, of, you know, sort of modern art. And he reinvented that three or four times in his career. And every time it was like a brand new visual language that no one had ever seen before. And sometimes it was accepted. And sometimes people didn't understand it. But I mean, he was fearless. Yeah, he never He never rested on, he could have just because just, you know, kept painting, the same old painting, if you wanted to. Picasso, this is a story because I love he was so famous, in the middle of his career when he was in his 40s and 50s. That is, his signature was worth 1000s of dollars, hundreds, not hundreds of 1000s of dollars. And so he would, he would go to restaurants, and invite all his friends, you know, 15 people in a big meal at a restaurant. Lots and lots of food, lots and lots of wine. And the bill would come and he would simply sign Picasso. And that was his payment. Yeah. What what a, that's a that's an interesting position to be. Literally, that that's that was the NFT of those days, right? Yeah, Picasso signature was worth so much that he could pay for a meal. By just signing the check.

Roy Sharples:

That's when you know, you've graced the world with your art to the point where your value exceeds all things monetary, he, you've done a great deal of work at Apple. And it's clear, you have an affinity for them. They are an extraordinary company, who have brought solutions to the world that have moved it forward in a significant way. And their second comment was the meteoric Phoenix, rising from the ashes story that really was a crowning achievement of our era. I think they'll they'll find their way, they just need to get a new get the studio going again. Yeah. And, and sometimes, you know, sometimes you're doing great stuff, but the market just changes completely, you know, people have grown up that product or new technology comes and makes that product, you know, not not as not as powerful. The apple of its day before Apple ever existed. And a company that jobs knew about and modeled after was a company called Olivetti already was an Italian. Well, eventually, a personally made made electric typewriters and calculators, big, big desktop, calculating machines, things like that, and eventually made a personal computer. But it had, you know, Ettore Sottsass was the head designer, but weirdly went on to become the designer of the Memphis movement and other things, great architect. And they were doing brilliant design. But they couldn't stay on top of the technology, and the technology accelerated past them. And they became irrelevant. So it wasn't that they didn't have good design or didn't understand users. They just, you know, they were a big Italian company. But the the hotbed of technology, the technology revolution was Silicon Valley, and they just weren't connected enough to stay, you know, stay on top of it. So sometimes markets, you can do great design, but but for the from a number of reasons, markets change, people change, technology changes. And then you're no longer you know, at the beginning, I think maybe that's just that's creative destruction of capitalism, right? Yeah. And fall off the off the lead and then, but somebody else emerges even better, faster. You know, and meeting human people's needs, even What's your vision for the future of design, and the role of creativity?

Bill Burnett:

I think it's going to be fantastic. Like, I've been studying. My partner and my writing partner, Dave Evans, and I just published a new book called Designing your new work life, and we had it published before, but then COVID came in and we republished it with a bunch of things about work and the future of work, post, post pandemic and Ben post, you know, we've got disruptions going on everywhere. There's the pandemic, there's the racial injustice movement in In the US and around the world, there's climate change. And we've got a lot of things that are messing with the economy and with and with business and a lot of opportunities for designers to contribute. But one of the things that's coming is, you know, artificial intelligence will buy some, and by some expert estimates, automate 50% of the current jobs, if you say the current jobs can be done by an AI, and don't require a human intervention. So that's the bad news. The good news is that will that will generate three times as many new jobs as it as it destroys, but the new jobs will require different skills. In all of the research, I've read the McKinsey report on, you know, AI, and jobs and other reports, you know, sort of trying to predict what what will the role of AI, machine learning and other automation techniques, robotics and other things? How will they impact jobs. And, you know, the good news is that the thing that you can't build an AI for yet, and I would argue, you probably will never be able to build an AI for is human creativity. So the role of creativity and the ability for designers or people who work in the design space, which is all about. So you know, programming or engineering, all that stuff is is really about breaking the problem down into small steps, and then automating those steps. So that's all about analysis, and then automation. But design is all about synthesis, it's about taking lots of different things and putting them together in a new way. And synthesis is much harder than analysis. And humans are really, really good at it because we have this massively parallel processor called the brain that can work on 1000s of different things at the same time, and then surface interesting ideas if you learn how to use it that way. And so I think the the future is really bright for designers. Because I think in the future, almost everyone's going to have to be a designer, because those will be the only jobs that are interesting, that are out there. And by designer, I mean a person who synthesizes information into new forms that are actionable or useful for whatever the business or, or the enterprise is doing. And also for, you know, creating new systems for political conversations or new systems for managing, you know, cities, and, you know, something like 67% of the world's population will be living in cities by 2016. So we have a lot of interesting design problems ahead of us. And we'll be using big data machine learning AI to to automate the parts of design that are easy to do. But the human creativity, the putting things together, and not always finding the unusual, or the beautiful in something, you know, will still be a human endeavor I've mentioned by machines, and I'm actually looking forward, I'm looking forward to having more machines help me do more things faster, but like so when I got out of school, I was on a drafting table with a drafting board, and I had to draw drawings. And then I handed them to a draftsman and they they completed the drawings, they handed it to a model shop and they made a part and I was trying to build a prototype, it would take three or four weeks. Yeah. Now I sit on my MacBook I, my sketch a couple of things in CAD and push a button, they get a cup of coffee, a 3d printer makes my part that does that, does that mean? My job went away? No, that just means my job is even more interesting. And I can and I can create more variations faster. And I can explore more, more prototypes and more, more options more quickly. So that's all good. And now if I had machine learning front end, or a AI front end of my CAD program, where I said, Hey, make it about three times longer than it is tall, that is wide and put a hole over there. Now move that hole a little to the left. If I could just do that, instead of sitting there and painstakingly picking edges and tangents and end points and entering in numbers. That would be awesome. So I'm happy to have the AI do all the all the grunt work for me. And I think in the future designers will still be even more important and that the role of creativity is the is is that it is the least automatable thing about the human experience. We still don't really understand it fully. But we know a little bit more than we used to about it. And that process isn't just throwing 100 million options together and then figuring out what the best chess move is. There's nothing creative in that. And the only reason computers can be good at playing chess is that they're 64 squares and you know, certain number of parts and moves and even inside all of that it takes us a supercomputer a billion calculations to figure out the next move. And that's automatable but when you take when the board Isn't 64 squares of 600 million squares? Computers have, you know no ability to compete with the human brain?

Roy Sharples:

How soon is the future? One thing for sure is, the future is unwritten and everything is possible Do you want to learn more about how to create Without Frontiers by unleashing your creative power? Then consider getting CREATIVITY WITHOUT FRONTIERS. How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future. It's available in print, digital and audio on all relevant book retail platforms. You have been listening to the Unknown Origins podcast. Please follow subscribe, rate and review us. For more information go to unknownorigins.com. Thank you for listening.