Style, Story and Inspiration

“Fashion doesn’t save lives, it supports the soul. I don’t care if you buy clothes from me or if you go to a street market and buy a fake copy. The most important thing is that you are inspired by my designs. It’s important to love life, dream, be inspired, inspire others and become interested deeply in something. If you miss these you become a businessman of life. I don’t want to become a businessman. Style is not a question of how much money you have in your purse, it is a state of mind” Giambattistia Valli

Valli is an Italian fashion designer who makes clothes for women, but her suggestion that one should “dress from the heart” as if you are in love is a good yardstick for men as well. I love her concept that style is a story  — where in even the most basic of outfits, or the things you own tell your story. She says, “How can I think about tomorrow if I don’t know what was yesterday?” That is a good advise not just for fashion and clothes, but also on how we design the future here in Silicon Valley. 

What is a Brand

Robert Brunner was director of industrial design at Apple and also a partner at Pentagram. While at Apple and worked on numerous products including the original PowerBook. In 2007, he started Ammunition group, a San Francisco-based design house, which helped design products for companies like Square. 

He was also the chief design officer of Beats Audio, that little headphone company Apple bought for $3.2 billion earlier this year. Brunner was one of the keynote speakers at True Ventures’ True University event where he talked about multiple topics. Here are some standouts from his talk:

  • Relationship between companies and it’s constituents happens through things and how those things make you feel.
  • Design is the interface to the outside world.
  • You don’t own your brand. Brand isn’t your logo. It is not your product, packaging or retail presence. Brand is a feeling. It is what they think, feel about your company. It is something that resonates with people.
  • It’s the idea, not the object. The broader idea of what a phone means to you is really the iPhone.
  • Technology enables, but design establishes.
  • Harley Davidson is a really powerful brand. People tattoo their logos on their bodies, and that is amazing brand affinity. [In comparison, there aren't that many Apple logos tattooed on our bodies.]
  • Money and opportunity are not extraordinary assets. I think raising money doesn’t mean anything in terms of success. Extraordinary assets are having attention, or exceptional people in your organization.
  • Risk is not a four letter word — risk and innovation are closely tied and when you do things for the first time, it is very risky. Avoiding risk is the riskiest thing you can do. Design and risk go hand in hand and if you eliminate the risk, you will do whatever everyone is doing.
  • (For Beats) the product & the brand is the celebrity . That was the genius of Jimmy Iovine.
  • Hiring Diane van Furstenberg to design your product isn’t fashion. Fashion is the tribe you belong to or you aspire to belong to. Google Glass isn’t the tribe you aspire to belong to. (In comparison, Beats by Dre was a tribe a lot of people wanted to be associated with and thus those products are fashionable.)

Brunner also spoke at my Roadmap conference last year. His video from the event is available here

Independence Day

It is funny how a simple piece of paper makes you feel differently about a place, a day and an event. The meaning and context of Independence Day changed for me last August. Today, I am observing my first Independence Day as an American citizen. Happy July 4th, fellow Americans. And let’s remember why we got the independence and the founding values of our great nation.


After Silk Road

An old-fashioned, in-depth article on the rise and fall of Silk Road by Mike Powers, published by Granta Magazine is a must read for anyone with interest in Bitcoin. Powers also wrote a follow up piece on life after Silk Road for The Guardian. On another note, 30,000 Bitcoins seized by FBI as part of the Silk Road bust were auctioned and bought by Tim Draper, a partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a venture capital partnership based in San Francisco Bay Area.

What I am reading today


 Silence can be a challenge. The world is a discordant concert of pings, alerts and notifications, each representing validation and reassurance. Someone out there cares. Silence can be easily mistaken for ostracism. Silence is an indictment.

From ESPN Magazine’s feature on (now) Oakland Athletics’ pitcher and phenom-flameout Scott Kazmir’s comeback from baseball wilderness. A great read for anyone who is lost in modern world’s cacophony.

Blogfather Speaks

There is a lot of talk about blogging, that it is coming to an end and what might happen to it. Earlier this week, The New York Times said it was doing away with blogs and reporters were bloggers. The big media, and most have always confused blogs and blogging with a system of publishing. It is more of a philosophy, a sensibility and a point of view/lens into the world, as I have written in the past on number of occasions.

Mathew Ingram, who like me is an old school blogger, has weighed in on the matter over at Gigaom and points out that just as newspapers absorbed their digital efforts into editorial operations, they essentially killed any possibility of reinvention for the digital future. And with blogs being absorbed into the main editorial, the Times is killing the soul of blogging. Today, Dave Winer, who I affectionately call Blog father, sums it up:

Before Google Reader and Twitter it was a mix of short title-less items, and longer essays, some with comments others without. Look at the archive page for March 2001 for an idea. (I picked that month at random.) …… Blogging started as a very irreverent thing. If it’s going to be anything as we go forward, we have to stop caring what other entities think we are and focus on what we think we are.

Blogs are our digital homesteads and will also mean more to an individual that to a big business/editorial operation.

Update: As Dave had said back in the early days of news-oriented blogs, “Blogging doesn’t eliminate what reporters do, but it changes it. The Times never had blogs. It would have been wonderful if they had, but they merely used blogging software in their editorial process. “

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