Moving World Weekly roundup 20140618

william

A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.

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Will.i.ambitious

3D Systems and Coca-cola have partnered to launch the Ekocycle Cube printer, under the creative direction of Will.i.am. The 3D printer uses 25% recycled polymers in its filament cartridges, and aims to increase the ‘awareness and popularity’ (aka coolness) of recycling through 3D printing. As Chief Creative Officer, Will.i.am is designing 25 “fashion, music and tech minded accessories” for buyers of the device, which will also use the Cubify smartphone app to browse and print designs. Despite the many naysayers, Will.i.am may be a good fit for the role. No stranger to creative direction in the tech space, he built a social media network in 2008, founded a company that has already produced a smartwatch prototype, had a stake in Beats, and was named Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation.

This is not the first time we have a seen a celebrity take on a creative leadership role within a global business. Up until January of this year, Justin Timberlake was ‘Creative and Musical curator’ of the Bud Light Platinum brand. JT left this post due to a conflict of interest; his own tequila brand 901 was collaborating with drinks giant Sauza, bringing it into competition with Bud. There was also Alicia Key’s ill-fated role as Blackberry’s Global Creative Director, and Ashton Kutcher’s role as Creative Director of Ooma. Perhaps it’s these examples making Will.i.am look good.

Despite the fancy C-suite titles, the majority of these ‘hires’ mask a basic brand ambassador relationship, aimed at leveraging equity from both sides. If the celebrity and business brands are well-aligned, it can lend credibility to an ambitious celebrity, and support a business to launch products and services into new markets, or to a new demographic. However the impact of trading the allegiance of a celebrity for a title shouldn’t be underestimated. It diminishes the work and vision that is required of the industry’s hardworking non-celeb creative leads, and gives Kanye crazy ideas.

 

Design with depth

San Francisco Design Week is this week, which means many designers and studios from across the Bay Area will be coming together to confer on design practices and what’s going on in the now. While not drastically different from any other “Design Week” events that takes place in the world, I think it’s important to not overlook the value of these regional iterations. Design Weeks serve as a more focused regroup and reexamination of what’s happening in an area, allowing designers and studios practicing in the region new material to either be inspired towards or react against. Taking the pulse of a design culture in the present is the best way to get an idea of where it is going in the future. For us over here in San Francisco, this is a good time to check in with ourselves about where our design culture is headed, from the conventional to the experimental, and how we want to shape our role in that.

And speaking of our role, the Moving Brand’s San Francisco studio is being featured in the SFDW Open Studio Tours, “a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of influential Bay Area design studios”. For those of you stateside come by and see what we’ve been up to!

 

Shocking generosity

Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, has so many technology patents that it’s resorted to giving them away. In the same week that MIT released a report damning patent disputes as a major inhibitor to innovation, CEO and real-life-Tony-Stark Elon Musk announced Tesla is opening up the technology behind its trademark electric cars and embracing the open source movement. Initially, several hundred of Tesla’s patents will be made public in an attempt to encourage investment in electric vehicles from major manufacturers. Competitors BMW and Nissan are already reported to be in talks with Tesla, keen to take advantage of Tesla’s network of 97 Supercharger stations which currently dot a path across continental USA.

The move is significant for the automotive industry, enabling manufacturers to standardise the many different power needs and plugs that exist across the market. Creating an open standard is a key step in building the extensive network of charging stations required for electric cars to become a realistic proposition for consumers, and an attractive alternative to hydrogen-powered designs from Tesla’s competitors Honda and Mercedes-Benz. Musk said earlier in the week that creating an affordable and efficient car battery was more challenging than getting to Mars, referring to his ongoing quest to conquer space.

After the announcement, Tesla’s stock prices leapt to their highest point in months, following growing concerns over the company’s inability to repay increasing debt. MB’s Principal Consultant, Nathan, comments: “I can’t help but think it’s a sign of a business that is either struggling or worried bad times are ahead… I’m reminded of Betamax vs VHS. Either hydrogen or electricity will win. We can’t have both: it would be a nightmare for standards and infrastructure. One technology will win, and only time can tell.”

 

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