Categories
On Design

Why products become classics.

Classic Raleigh Sprint

Why is it that some designs become classics while others do not? Some classics were loved right from the beginning while others were little loved and mostly ignored until much later. Yesterday I was greeted by my old polish neighbour, “do you want this bike? 10 bucks.” In our transaction that briefly followed I quickly realized that what he saw as an old, somewhat useful, bicycle while what I saw was an icon of British 70s culture and a classic.

This lead me to ask the aforementioned question, what is it that makes a product become a classic? I believe there are three elements that a product must have that will lead it to becoming a classic. I also believe that it is one of these elements that will answer why some classics are only recognized as such later.

The three elements are as follows:

1. Be beautifully designed.

2. Embody an ideal.

3. Visually represent the culture of its time.

What do these elements mean? Lets start with the first one, beauty. Beauty is rightfully relative to the beholder, yet some designs capture near universal appreciation. This is a core requirement for a design to become a classic. The design of a classic is appreciated by nearly everyone. Furthermore, the design of a classic stands the test of time. It doesn’t merely embody the design of a fad, but has universal principles of design, such as smooth contours or balanced color schemes.

Secondly, a classic usually embodies an ideal. Let’s think about the classic VW Beetle, “the car for the People”. Or the Porsche, “the car to show the world you made it”. Some ideals were respected, some hated and some were ignored. But usually later, as new products saturate the marketplace, the ideal of the classic stands out and becomes more attractive. The form of the classic becomes a visual representation of that ideal.

Lastly, a classic visually represents the culture of its time. Just as the ideal of a product becomes more obvious over time, so do the ideals of cultures. When those two ideals run in parallel a classic is formed. However, often a culture is not aware of the uniqueness of its time. Nor that the boring product that they take for granted will one day symbolize the ideals that they will become known for or believe in.

When an object, a product, captures all three of these elements it is known as a classic. We do not have to think of what makes a product a classic to recognize it as one. However, when you look at that 30+ year old bicycle sitting in the back of the yard, reminding you of a simpler time, a time before computers ruled the workplace and cellphones ruled the living rooms and buses, you realize it is more than a peace of art, its a symbol of hope and the simple life.

Categories
On Business On Law

Copyright 101

The laws not the bandSo recently I have been put in a situation where I am forced to think about copyrights (the law not the band). Despite my personal resistance to the field it’s probably a good thing to have a good grasp of. Here is an overview of some general principles worth knowing.

Who owns the copyright?

Generally speaking, the person the work is attributed to owns the copyright. This applies to anybody who created the work (self-publishers, contractors etc) with exception to employees. In the case of an employee, the company they work for owns the copyright of any work done while working at the company.

What is shared copyright ownership?

Multiple people can own a copyright. Unless otherwise specified in writing any work contributed collaboratively is owned equally by all who contributed regardless of the amount they contributed. For example all the members of band collectively working on a song own equal shares to that song’s copyright. Generally speaking shared copyrights usually share equally in profits from any sales of the work. We see this all the time in the music industry.

What is copyleft?

Copyleft is a term originally coined by Richard Stallman and is used to describe copyright laws that ensure the right of individuals to modify, share and distribute copyrighted material, and to ensure that future versions of work be free to modify, share and distribute as well.

Are all copyright licenses compatible with each other?

No. There are many licenses that are incompatible with each other. It is a good idea to do some research before choosing a copyright license for any work you do. Some people prefer licenses that protect the work, and other people prefer licenses that protect the end users’ rights to access, modify and redistribute the work (aka copyleft licenses). Broadly speaking those two kinds of licenses are incompatible with one another.

There are also licenses like the GNU GPL that are copyleft licenses but are incompatible with many other copyleft licenses as it imposes the restriction that all resulting copies be bound by the GNU GPL license.

Final thoughts

There are many streams of philosophy and ideals surrounding copyright law that are good to take into consideration when choosing your copyright practices. If you are only just starting to learn copyright law it can seem a bit overwhelming. However, there are a lot of great resources that help to explain a lot of the different concepts. If you are an expert in the field and have something you want to add please post it in the comments.

For further reading.

Wikipedia article on copyright http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

Wikipedia article on BSD License  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSD_licenses

Creative Commons License choosing tool http://creativecommons.org/choose/

GNU free copyright philosophy http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html

 

Categories
On Business

Life lesson #2: Passion is not a luxury.

Steve Jobs quote

My first post for this blog was about inspiration and why I believed it was necessary for success in business. The other day I was watching some videos of Steve Jobs on You Tube talking about business success. In the interview he stated that passion was the ingredient that sustained successful people until they had success.

Achieving success is hard. Ask anyone who has played sport competitively, or tried to change the minds of people in a team or politics. It takes a lot of work and a lot of perseverance, and often times, in business it seems like it takes more perseverance simply because the goal is new and untried.

So passion is not a luxury anymore if you are an entrepreneur and you want to succeed. I’ve often believed that its good to love what you do, but haven’t really taken much time to think about the implications of loving what you do. It means that when the hurdles and challenges come, you have more than will-power motivating you to continue. It means that when your big sale fell through and you can’t pay yourself for a second time in two months you have more than will-power motivating you to continue. It means that when you can’t see the crest of the hill but believe in what you are doing you have more than will-power motivating you to continue.

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs

I don’t know what challenges you might be facing in your business, but I hope that you will persevere. If anyone is reading this and has a story about perseverance please leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear it. 

If you are interested, here are some great Steve Jobs quotes.

Categories
On Business

Life lesson #1: What do you need to do to succeed in business? You need to be inspired.

I wrote this article a couple years ago and thought it was worth posting as my first post on this blog because I still find this very relevant to my success in business.

Not that long ago I learnt an important lesson: know what inspires you. With regards to business there are a lot of books on the topic of motivation, but not too many on inspiration. When starting a clothing company a few years back I began reading lots and lots on business. I read books on leadership, economics, small business, marketing etc. Being the keen student I was I began to follow the rules to success religiously (as they were outlined by the numerous books on the topic). Obediently I developed product workflow, marketed my products, studied my customer, found a niche, and developed the brand. As the sole designer for the clothing company its identity and ‘edge’ was hinged on my design ideas. And then one day, out of the blue, the ideas stopped. I worked harder to come up with new ideas, but it felt like I was squeezing water from a stone. WHAT HAPPENED? I had done everything right hadn’t I?

In short I had lost my inspiration. As I was personally funding the company I began to shop less, focused on redirecting any income I had back into building the company. Shopping less meant I wasn’t buying as many clothes for myself. For me buying clothes inspired me, I would look for a shirt and then start thinking, ‘Oh if only they made it this way, or with a different design’. Ironically the thing that I had stopped doing was the very life blood of the ideas that spurned on the company.

I began to refocus the direction for the company as my ideas for new designs had all but disappeared. During this process I took some time off and started shopping more. Then a lightbulb came on. Ideas began flowing quickly again and I realized what had happened. Fast forward to the present, I have since moved on from the clothing industry, and am working on a few internet related businesses. I have come to the conclusion that for myself inspiration is as important for every business endeavor I work on as is the motivation that keeps driving them. For this reason I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t more written on this topic.

In summary I have learnt that for me to remain successful and creative I must find what inspires me. And then using this knowledge, create situations where I am inspired. For some that might mean taking more time to walk in a forest and for others it could mean simply reading a book or a magazine, whatever it is, find what inspires you and make a point of doing it, it may mean the difference between success and burnout.