Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.


On an unrelated (but freaky) note....

Does anyone remember the awful movie, Reanimator? Well there's a real life reanimation project taking place... Interesting and kind of creepy.

I actually had the "pleasure" of witnessing a partial autopsy once. I can understand how scientists and medical professionals become psychologically removed from death. When you look at the human body as a sort of machine, as a mechanic would look at your car, you create a disassociation between human spirit and human biology; the psychic formula that creates an amicable environment for projects such as this.

If there was the possibility of resuscitating an accident victim or a victim of a crime, would you support the use of reanimation? Or do you believe that death should not be tampered with?

There's a lot of superstition surrounding death, so I understand a healthy dose of heeby-jeebies.


True Stories and David Byrne

One of my all time favorite films is David Byrne's True Stories. I watch it now and it still encapsulates the small town malaise and Walmart-ed world of American culture. It makes me laugh - and many hearts for the always endearing and entertaining John Goodman.

Today I stumbled upon Byrne's blog - and it is equally interesting and well written. I am not one to hang my hat on the idealistic blather of rock stars, but if there was the slightest possibility of a musician with clear vision, it would be Bryne.

Check it out. And Happy Gay Pride Toronto!!


Holier than my sandals

Adfreak gives us the latest in godly fashion, "Jesus Loves You" sandals.

I think their tag is something like "Good for kicking sand in the face of any 90 lb agnostic." [I KID. I only kid.]


Good, Clean Canadian Humor

Okay, for those of you who like to poke fun at those south of the (Canadian) border, Rick Mercer is officially (because Canuckflack says so) blogging.

For those of you from the States who take things way too seriously (like me), check him out anyway -witty, scathing, and funny.


Ipod Sucks....That's right, you heard what I said

Utne's July/August edition features an article about Ipod Nation and how turning on means tuning out the rest of the world. [Not yet posted online]

In summary, the writer points to how the seemingly innocuous little headset has created dissonance in the average commuter's life.

Good design is argued in everything from new product sales to saving the world. I wonder, however, how design can be applied to bring people together rather to pander to the individual's taste and preferences?

I do not own an Ipod - or a cell phone for that matter. When I travel, I actually enjoy watching people, listening to conversations, talking to my partner - participating in the community, however transient that community happens to be for that 1/2 hour train ride.

One of the driving forces behind designers such as Bruce Mau and the creative visionaries at undesign is the use of design to create better communities and cultivate social responsibility. Designing cities to be more accessible, with green space and green energy, and with community in mind, definitely happens on a macro level.

But I am left to wonder what product designers, especially in terms of new technology, are doing to bridge the gap between individual needs and community connectedness. Even the blogging and podcasting culture is 98% narcissistic.

Right now product design seems pretty rooted in the "Me" rather than the "We."

Anyone have examples to prove otherwise?



In an ongoing attempt to rebrand the once beloved fast food favorite, McDonalds is launching a new line of bicycles and skateboards....

McDonald's branding own line of skateboards, bicycles

I can't wait for the McThighster.


No More Cookie Monster?

I just received word from a friend of mine who works at PBS in Indiana. Apparently, current funding is under attack and the cuts would mean no more educational programming - namely Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and other children's commercial-free shows.

Public Broadcasting Targeted By House Panel Seeks to End CPB's Funding Within 2 Years
By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer

A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster."

In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which passes federal funds to public broadcasters -- starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million...

John Lawson, the president of the Association of Public Television Stations, a Washington-based group that lobbies for public broadcasters, called the subcommittee's action "at least malicious wounding, if not outright attempted murder, of public broadcasting in America." He added, "This action could deprive tens of millions of American children of commercial-free educational programming."

I'm not a huge advocate of television, but I sure as hell believe in the benefits of public television and community radio as an alternate voice to commercially sponsored programming. I know for some kids, this is one of the few places they'll get any educational material at all.

Please sign the petition and voice your concern.

Thank you!



I have been thinking of accessibility of late. As we construct the world around us, there is a greater push for making it accessible to those with different needs. We build wheelchair ramps (although, still too few), we cut curbs down at instersections, and take down barriers.

Yet as we make these areas accessible to one segment of the population, we remove the accessibility to another, the visually impaired. My professor in University once gave a lecture on wear patterns and determining use and therefore design by examining wear patterns on objects. One of the slides he presented was an image of a cut down curb with white scratches covering it. They came from the cane of a visually impaired person who lived in the area and was trying to determine where the sidewalk ends. My professor then asked us to imagine that same person attempting to navigate a mall parking lot. There are no tactile cues whatsoever.

Is it inherent that when we create accessibility for some we automatically hinder another? And which segment wins out in the end? Texturizing the portion of the sidewalk which cuts down would help, but that would mean replacing thousands if not millions of curbs in North America, when there is a desperate need for wheelchair ramps in most communities. And what about mall parking lots? Why does accessibility immediately bring to mind a wheelchair and not a cane?



Will Wheaton wrote a heartfelt post today about his personal need to pull back a bit, discard unnecessary tasks, lessen the obligation load. Dave Pollard wrote a similar note yesterday and in previous months about his own battle with time and obligations. I, too, have been struggling with the feeling of being tired, maybe because there are so many fantastic opportunities - too many.

Like the article I spotlighted a few weeks ago about information overload and the dumbing effect too much stimuli has on us, I think we are also feeling the effects of being overexposed.

People are tired of 'reality shows.' Tired of knowing that the company they once trusted is housing criminal elements. We're even tired of talking about ourselves - gasp - in blogs and other forms of expression.

The freedom that once came with being able to shout "Here I am world! Take a look at this!" is being replaced with a meek whisper, "Please leave me alone, world."

People are fickle; we want what we don't have. Now that we have the truth, maybe "we can't handle it." At least, that version of the truth in all its ugliness and humility.

The more I get to know people, the less I want to know. I turn off the news when it comes on. I avoid picking up the phone. Maybe we need a period of discretionary lies to counter the information we cannot seem to get enough of.... Feels like subterfuge coming on. Another Victorian era, maybe?

In the meantime, I'll be reading my Jane Austen in the parlor if anyone wants me. Send your calling card first.


Successful firms honor individual spirit...

"If there is a shadow of a doubt someplace, that will cause a weakness."
--Wallace Black Elk, LAKOTA

Remember the scene in Lord of the Rings when Boromir desires to betray Frodo, and the Elf Queen sees into his heart and forewarns Frodo of Boromir's crumbling spirit, knowing that his questioning would poison the group and thwart their efforts?

Okay, my point is not as dramatic as all of that. After all, companies are not likely to shape the course of the world... or are they? We all have felt the negative draw of those who work against the team, either because they disagree with leadership or simply do not really want to take part in the collective efforts.

Having been an employee at a job that was not one of my passions, I can attest to having been that person who does not share the collective vision. When the vision is to make money for someone else, it's tough to invest in the spirit of teamwork, unless you really enjoy your job and the company.

The problem that most team leaders and managers seek to quell is this - the majority of workers are not in a position that stirs their soul. They are bored. They do not care about their job or the company they work for. So management spends tons of money trying to figure out how to harness employee energy, and employees take the position of drone and toil without intellectual stimulation or enthusiasm.

Part of what makes creative firms work, in my opinion, is the shared appreciation for talent. Most people entering creative firms are driven by their desire to do the work. In other words, they like what they do. If they aren't entrepreneurial, they are probably looking for a position in a firm they can grow with. This is the ultimate goal for any firm - finding the right person means really getting to know the individual on their terms, rather than ignoring them and hoping to mold them into drones.

I'm of the thought that there will never be the right job for everyone. The fact is, in order for a large company to make LOTS of money, they must have an army of workers. Of those involved, there cannot be the same level of ownership per individual because the company is doing what it takes to maintain a level of profitability. To do that, a certain level of detachment must take place as corporate goals are often in conflict with employee needs.

I also believe that there are numerous people who have not been taught how to practice self-awareness and have no idea what makes them truly happy. Their fatalism and the malaise of poverty often create that league of drone workers, and so the cycle continues....Such is the fate of factories and transient workers.

This is why the focus of any small firm should be its people. Why? Because we can pay attention. We should not have to grapple with teamwork woes because we have the time and resources to carefully listen and learn from those entering the firm. We have the time to appreciate the talents and the limitations of those with whom we share the floor.

There's no excuse for ongoing internal strife in small firms. It's a matter of listening and not forgetting that everyone, even that part-time person or associate, impacts the success or failure of the firm's collective goals.


Manifestos for Sale

Change This, the premiere source of online manifestos, has slowed its engine since hitting the scene. For those who got in on this early enough, it was an exciting concept. Although some proposals are still in the works, it appears the site isn't as active as it once was.

Has rigor mortis set in? Maybe I am being nice?

That's the problem with most ideas online - they fizz fast. Smelling the trends early on means livelihood, otherwise, some wonder what's the point. This has always been the caveat with trends attached to technology.

It's obvious that online publishing is easier, but print publishing remains timeless.

Confessions of SEO Overkill

40 Media bravely speaks out about their SEO *#$%-ups and how to avoid the pitfall.

In order to squeeze out some more inbound linkage from web design sites, we put together a little piece on our predictions for web design in 2005, figuring we’d get some design blogs to latch onto it. We even sent out a press release to try to secure some traditional news coverage.

It caught on a bit quicker than we thought. Within days, we were receiving traffic from almost every major design site, not to mention hundreds (possibly thousands) of discussion boards and forums. Whether they agreed with our forecast or not, everyone was talking about it, and it secured some great public exposure for Forty Media.

There’s a catch, though. We were a new site with a new domain name, and within weeks we had thousands of incoming links from keyword-rich sites. We initially thought that it would be great for our search engine rankings, but there was one critical point we had failed to consider:

Sudden movements make Google nervous.

The point made: Overkill doesn't pay. Be patient. Maintain good content.


Hot in the Kitchen

Apparently there's a documentary about bloggers coming out, entitled 59 Bloggers. It's getting hot in here....Guess blogging is still very much the topic du jour. Does anyone have any inside knowledge of this film?

Put the lime in the coconut...

It's Sunday - and I am at work. Sigh.... I hope the majority of you are out having a barbecue or basking in the sunshine.

As I am gearing up for the 100 Bloggers project, I have taken some time to surf the current "top blogs" to get an idea of what people are reading, what genres capture the most attention.

I've got to say, it's a bit disheartening...but it makes me appreciate those who put so much time and effort into writing about the iconoclastic and thought provoking. There are too many advertising, marketing and pseudo-political blogs - not to say there aren't some incrediblly well-written blogs of the variety.

Here's a brief list of some of the blogs I would love to see more of...

  • Teen and youth related blogs that focus on youth advocacy and rights (especially in education and politics)
  • Transgendered rights, advocacy and education blogs
  • First Nations blogs
  • Community/Neighborhood blogs, especially those that focus on crime prevention, poverty, etc.
  • Cop blogs
  • Irreverent women's sexuality blogs (for women by women - inclusive of women of all shapes, sizes, age, etc)
  • Really honest business blogs - exposing the good, bad, and ugly of corporate America

What do you think is missing?


100 Bloggers continued...

UPDATE: 100 Bloggers, the soon-to-be-published collection of essays by some incredible blog writers, is back on and Ricksticks will be facilitating the project.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.

For example, what would compel you to buy (or not buy) this anthology?