TEDx Talk


I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at TEDx Woodlands about Design Play and how we use cultural curation as a kaleidoscope for our mind. It was an amazing experience both to prepare for the talk and also to share the stage with such amazing thinkers, educators and artists. Special mention has to go to Peter Han and family who are simply amazing in how they put the event together (and also amazing in many other aspects of their life).


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Teaching Design Play to Kids in Extreme Environments

In the images of poverty from around the world often we see young children plastered against car windows begging for alms. For those that have experiences this in person, the hands raised, bleating voices, afflictions and affectations, it’s a difficult world to navigate with an untouched mind or body.

But there’s another here as well story as well. One that starts after the begging is done, after hours on moments captured before heading home. It’s that story I want to share.

I remember sitting in the backseat of a car in Liberty market, Lahore, Pakistan. I remember staring out, fifteen and curious, at a young beggar girl playing with her friends in the hustle of the market place as the stalls closed for the night. Oblivious of audience lost were the sad faces, instead focused were all her energy entirely in the act of play. She was was transformed through an act of childhood wonder.

I don’t remember what they were playing, if at all it was a game with any real rules or not, or just a made up game, created in the spur of the moment. What I do remember is the how drastically the tone of their bodies changed as they moved from a world of want to a world of creation. They were lost in play.

That moment has stayed with me for a long time. Lurking somewhere in the back of my mind I know that if we can keep creativity and play alive we have an amazing transformative power that every child has access to.

There’s someone amazing in being lost in play. It didn’t matter what your situation is or what walk of life you come from play and playful discovery is a transformative force for children. More than that I think it’s a right for every child. A right sadly we focus too little on. This is a shame because I can think of few things that can bring a powerful transformative change to a child’s life.

Design at it’s core is has many aspects similar to play. There’s many models and methods but at it’s very core are two basic concepts. Making and Empathy. You make and game and lose yourself in it. You make something for your friends and share it. That in it’s iterative form is the bases of much design methodology.

This is what we aim to do. How can we teach a design process to kids (5 to 9) in extreme environments.

Can we, by playing like designers, create a sense of hope and bring back the belief in ownership over their own future, for kids in flooded Pakistan, or war torn Somalia, or the ghettos of Oakland.

Link to presentation slideshow

Presentation for MBA in Design Strategy – Experience Studio
Project Team : Jonathan Fristad, Chirapat Vorratnchaiphan, Susan Huang, Eric Dorf

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A New Awareness Experience

Imagine a world where location awareness was as affordable and small as a RFID tag. At 50 cents a piece, always aware location sensors would start entering the market en mass. Anyone could easily be aware of the location of anything or anyone else.
People might start putting GPS aware technology in wedding bands as a sign of a technological union along with a civil one. The idea of privacy around location might erode as we start pinning chips on our kids to ‘keep them safe’.
While tracking our loved ones could be considered good parenting, teens would still find new ways to break boundaries.
Perhaps cities could use them to track traffic patterns and adapt in real time to the needs of the citizens. Location awareness would be used to tag  endangered species.
Losing oneself would be a luxury.


Exploration for MBA in Design Strategy – Experience Studio

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Strategic Foresight – A Day in My Life in 2040

September 15th, 2040.

My alarm clock decides that this would be a good moment to wake me up. It has sensed that I am within the correct moment in my circadian rhythm and gently indicates I should get my day started with a soft vibration.

I yawn and with a snap and pop stand up wondering which city I am in today. The morning disorientation is hard to get used to with the traveling apartments.

Ah. Now I remember, Berlin.

I pick up the closest tablet device and quickly check to see stats on the city. It’s going to be 16 degrees Celsius and a slight chance of rain. Suggestions of what from the wardrobe would fit both the weather and current local fashion.

With the increasing pace of globalization the ease of traveling with a traveling apartment the world had gone from being a small place to a tiny one. A traveling apartment meant you could, in the comfort of your own home, move form city to city for work. Think of it as a trailer except larger, more comfortable, and moving autonomously on a global level.

Most Americans travel like this at least two or three months out of the year. It was the only way they could compete economically in the increasingly globalized economy. There was still a home base. You had to have one for the kids education but frequent travels away was increasingly leading to more culturally aware and diverse society.

I walk with the tablet to the bathroom and let the sensors under the tile take their daily measurements as I lean forward and place it delicately on a sill by the mirror.

I hear a soft bink and the glow of the tile fades to indicate the readings for today are complete. As I start to brush my teeth, with an organic miswak toothbrush, I get a summary of the readings.

Hmmm slight spike in my cholesterol, what did I eat yesterday that could have caused that.

I’m also given trends and can quickly see, apart from the cholesterol, that I am well within my parameters as compared to my DNA sequence.

I have the ‘Your Health Your Responsibility’ movement to thank for all the integrated sensors in my life. Collecting and providing data on my health provides me with whole slew of seamlessly integrated tools to manage my own health. After all they are necessary. Every thing I eat, every substance abused is internationally collected and used by insurance companies around the world to dynamically change cost and premium on the fly.

I jump into the shower and turn on the news.

the sonic radio tunes to BBC and starts playing a list of news stories from the previous night that I may have missed.

“The 302nd day of the Water Wars continue between Indochina and Canmerica each side claiming they will win the hearts and minds of the disbuted territory.

Water, I think as I continue to shower in the showergel, how I miss when it used to be free.
Available at any restaurant or straight from the tap. A public water fountain, when was the last time I saw one of those?

The water wars had ended all of that.

I step out of the shower and and continue to get my days updates as I prepare breakfast. I have local foods delivered to my door step and I dig through the basket to see what they have available. Ah eggs. Perfect! I prepare a soft-boiled egg and some toast as more personalized set of news, social feels and micro statuses are fed to me via a digital surface in the kitchen.

A softboiled egg and toast. Now some milk would go great with that but looks like all we have is some local strawberry juice. A bit strange, and a little more acidic than I am used to be but still good. You have to support the local foods movement.

Oh snap. I’m running late for work. Some things never change.

I quickly finish eating and grab my mobile device which also acts a key access for public transport and work and dash out of the house off to work.

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I wrote this for my Strategic Foresight class and found it a very interesting exercise. I thought I would share it here with the rest of the interwebs.

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eBay Green Box

Today one of my last projects from eBay looks like it’s finally coming to fruition. I worked on the early concepts and developed the first prototypes of this along with Shailesh Shilwant, David Chapman and bunch more awesome people. Everyone should sign up for a green box as soon as they become available.

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EBay is perhaps the ultimate online destination for used goods, so it only makes sense that the site is taking its hand-me-down sensibilities a step further with the eBay Box: a shipping container designed to be sent from sellers to buyers and back until the container becomes a soggy heap of post-recycled mud. The box, which is made out of 100% FSC-certified material, features water-based inks and requires minimal tape to close.

The box idea was the grand prize winner at eBay’s annual Innovation Expo, a celebration of creative ideas from eBay employees. Designed for “simple green shipping,” eBay believes that a single box reused five times could save nearly 4,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water, and conserve enough energy to juice up 49 homes for a year.

EBay will send out a pilot run of 100,000 boxes in October to all sellers who request them. Recipients can log on to a special website to report on the status of their boxes (and track them as they move from place to place), and after a few months, eBay will evaluate the program and figure out how to proceed.

from http://www.fastcompany.com/1686645/ebay-launches-reusable-box-shipping-program

UPDATE : The green box has been getting a bunch of press

Reuters > http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS207497499520100902

USA Today > http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/09/ebay-100k-green-shipping-boxes/1

Springwise > http://springwise.com/eco_sustainability/ebaybox/

Green Team Press Release > http://www.ebaygreenteam.com/projects/the-ebay-box

Living Principles Critique > http://www.livingprinciples.org/ebays-reusable-box-not-perfect-but-a-timely-idea/

Triple Pundit Article Featuring the eBay box and me

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Sketch Jams at frog design

A few weeks ago I started doing Sketch Jams at frog as way for us to experiment in creating ‘thinking with out hands’ culture. Here’s my wright up for the Jam’s as well as a collection of pictures from the ongoing endeavor.


Sketch Jam is based on the simple idea that everyone, regardless of skill, experience, or job description can benefit from a place and time to tinker, play, experiment and practice design sketching. Design sketches can be paper sketches, software sketches, form sketches, electronic sketches or video sketches. All these are open topics for us to explore with our jams.

Think of it as a space and time to play and think with your hands. Everyone whether they are an industrious Intern or an eclectic ECD, a tubular technologist of a daring designer is invited. Anyone who wants to improve their storytelling, making, tinkering abilities, or just wants to blow off some steam after working on a super demanding project is welcome.

Each ‘Sketch Jam’ will be a series of small containable exercises. A ‘recipe’ if you will, with ingredients and simple steps. You don’t have to go to the Jams in any order and each one can be repeatable and open to any level of experience. Practice is the key here.

* Sketch Jams also have their own space on frog’s design mind > http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/author/sketch-jam!-/

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