Fostering a culture of innovation, 2011-17
Creative technology, strategy
with Moving Brands

One of the things I appreciated most at Moving Brands was how highly the studio values experimentation. I was privileged to work on a number of R&D initiatives over the years—and more importantly to be part of the ongoing conversation about how best to incorporate learning and innovation into our ways of working.

It looked different at different times: sometimes we focused on side projects, sometimes we partnered with entrepreneurs, sometimes we sought new ways to add value to client work. My role also varied over the years. I led projects, offered technical support, and helped define the role and strategy of R&D within the studio. Below are a few examples of projects and approaches I worked on.

Image from a presentation that says, 'Why do R&D? Keep up; push yourself; keep interested; change.'

Side projects. As designers working with tech companies and aiming to use technology well in our work, it was important to understand new technologies before they became the norm. One way to do this was through side projects: experiments that let us get our hands dirty, take risks, and tell new stories. The best involved the entire studio, so everyone was able to learn.

Photos showing the interface and some of the resulting letters from 'Hand Drawn'.
Hand Drawn, 2011. A mashup of typography with a hacked Kinect. Participants drew the shapes of letters in the air, which we used as the basis for a crowd-sourced font and 3D printed letters.
Photos of a 3D printer,  models printed in plastic and chocolate, and a window display showing the 3D-printed advent calendar.
3D Advent, 2011. An excuse to bring an early desktop 3D printer into the studio. Everyone in the studio was was invited to design a model of something important to them, which we used to create an Advent calendar of 3D-printed chocolates.

Internal tools. At times we looked inward, seeking ways to use technology to make our work easier, more imaginative or more efficient. We built prototypes to test and push ideas, and tools to automate routine processes.

Screenshots with different patterns: voronoi cells, phyllotaxis, penrose tiling, and cellular automata
Pattern generators, 2016. Javascript scripts that generated mathematical patterns for a graphic design project. The designer could easily tweak patterns and save results in SVG, which connected easily with their existing workflows.
Photo of a computer screen with code for resizing icons in Ilustrator
Automated icon production, 2015. Illustrator script that took a master image and output files at a range of sizes in RGB and CMYK. We were designing 60+product icons that would be used in a variety of contexts, and this dramatically reduced the time required for artworking.

Experimenting with experimenting. Beyond any individual project was the question of what innovation meant to the studio. How could we make innovation part of the fabric of what we do, something that truly pushes work? While projects offer a concrete focus, they can also feel isolated. In recent years, we began to focus more on developing people and knowledge, on sharing (and discarding) a broader range of ideas and opportunities. In 2016 Moving Brands formed MB Gobi, a team dedicated to creating new opportunities with emerging tech—and though I've since moved on, R&D at Moving Brands continues to evolve.

Capture of a slide from a talk, listing different approaches to R&D: partnerships, occasional projects, downtime, dedicated time, dedicated team, maverisk team.
Slide from Cultivating the New, a talk I gave at Designers and Geeks on our evolving approach to R&D.