If I had thought ahead, I would have gotten a pedicure. A few weeks ago, I was at an executive retreat and found myself in a strategy session that took place in an open-air porch. All of us were sporting shorts (or skirts) and bare feet. Seeing so many toes was, to say the least, unexpected.
Yet that was precisely the point. Our host — the owner of this magazine — had taken us out of our everyday routines because he wanted to encourage open discussion. As Emory University professor Gregory Berns writes in "Rewiring the Creative Mind," our brains are biologically engineered to engage in repetitive thinking. To generate new ideas, we need to force our synapses to behave differently. Unplanned encounters and new environments are the best ways to jolt our neurons into finding novel pathways.
That is what we hope this issue does for our readers. Yes, the economy is struggling. Investment markets are jittery, and the geopolitical scene is tense. But what better time to champion new ways of looking at our world? We need fresh concepts and inspiration if we're to work our way to a brighter future. Provocative designs and eye-opening imagery are, we believe, compelling tools for sparking provocative solutions.
Marcel Wanders, the Dutch designer who is pictured on this issue's cover, shows how assaulting sensibilities can build creative capital (Moooi Fabulous). John Maeda, the incoming president of the Rhode Island School of Design, hails from MIT — and is injecting digital thinking and a business tilt into a largely analog education system (The Double Vision of John Maeda). From to , major corporations are turning to top design firms to amp up their products (Design Factories), while others are looking to Mother Nature for inspiration (Truly Intelligent Design). And if trend forecaster Li Edelkoort doesn't get your mind whirling — mushrooms and androgyny are both on their way in, she says, while baseball caps are out (Fashion Sorceress) — then nothing will.
We hope the design of this issue moves you as well. Art director Dean Markadakis and photography director Meghan Hurley have prepared a visual feast, with support from deputy art director Jana Meier (who conceived the framework for our Masters of Design package), associate art director Henry Yung, associate photo editor Jessie Adler, and photo assistant Lisa Parisi. It is their effort that makes Fast Company such a distinctive and appealing environment each month. On page 95, columnists Dan and Chip Heath extol the power of saying thank you. I certainly thank our art and photo team for making me look better — from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.