"Creative people should always try to do things they can't do," Marcel Wanders told guests at Fast Company's Masters of Design party in New York. "That's when creativity is needed." But what can design do, asked senior writer Linda Tischler, when the economy is melting down? "People think design is fluff," RISD's John Maeda responded, "but it's a disciplined approach to something difficult. This is hard stuff that makes business better." One Maeda idea: Measure return on investment not in the product, but in human-resource terms. "People who work in creative projects are excited to come to work," he says. "That's radical."
I very much enjoyed reading your articles in the Masters of Design issue (October). Maybe it's because I am European myself, and I get where Marcel Wanders and Li Edelkoort are coming from. Your article on Edelkoort ("Fashion Sorceress") reminds me of William Gibson's book Pattern Recognition, which captivated me for the same reasons. How does one know what's next?
Los Angeles, California
Masters of Design must be recognized for its significance as a seminal, material, and most timely step in opening the discussion of design (in all its disciplines) and moving it into popular culture. Issues from the environmental threat to the global financial mess affect us at the most micro, local, and individual levels. You highlight just how critical design is and will be in addressing these issues.
As I finished reading Masters of Design, I couldn't help but think that you should change the name of your publication to Fast People. All of the projects and companies featured in your articles are representative of individual design philosophies and eccentric tastes. From these personal demonstrations, trends emerge that build "fast companies," mostly by accident. Whether watching the Olympics in Beijing or designers from Amsterdam, the individual always trumps the team or company and captures our imagination.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I was reading your article on Li Edelkoort on my way down to Brazil. I am a shoe designer, and I manufacture in Brazil. Before I left, I was having a discussion with my business partner about trend forecasting. He is fiercely against it and thinks we should be setting trends ourselves. While I agree in some ways, there are those things that come down the pike that you can capitalize on if you know about them in advance. The cool thing about Edelkoort is how out there she is. The conventional trend sources seem a little late, telling us what we already know. Telling me fringe is huge right now is just silly — it has been for a year. I am not sure I will go with a turban, as Edelkoort suggests, but I can see that one being true.
New York, New York
I found it amusing that you chose to respond in the September issue to a reader complaining about your coverage of environmental issues. I too have felt that Fast Company has been transforming into an environmental magazine, to the point of creating more of a Fast Hippie than a Fast Company experience. I agree that the new technologies emerging as a consequence of greater environmental concern are substantial enough to deserve coverage, but the question of how much is too much remains.
Oro Valley, Arizona
The example you gave of "newspaper innovation" (Scobleizer, October) — the Star-Ledger's newscast — is more of the same middle-of-the-road junk application we need less of. This is about as industry-saving as putting a newspaper widget on a MySpace page. I wish you had used this opportunity to show what kinds of innovation are being created and used by Rob Curley, Adrian Holloway, anything from the Knight Foundation, and the Medill School. I wish you had written about Boston.com's Big Picture blog and how it is so fresh and exciting. You blew it.
Matawan, New Jersey
Is Perception Everything?
"Rewiring the Creative Mind" (October) is the first article I have read that quantifies Napoleon Hill's philosophy. When you perceive an idea outside of the norm, your brain goes to work in different ways. It sounds so simple and yet it is very hard to do. What a brilliant way to illustrate it. I will most certainly be reading Iconoclasts. This book just may be the tool I need to keep my ideas fresh.
Wilmington, North Carolina
I would like to clarify a few points in the October Green Business column. First, today's diesel engines are cleaner than ever. By 2010, their emissions of NOx and Particulate Matter (PM) will be reduced to virtually zero. Second, one major reason that there are not yet federal fuel-economy standards for trucks is because of the sheer diversity of applications. Finally, companies operating trucks have every incentive to find ways to increase overall fuel efficiency, not just measure miles per gallon. The real issue is measuring efficiency in terms of work done per unit of fuel. The industry supports the EPA Smartway program and believes it is effective because it is voluntary.
Editor's Response: The truck market is more complex than that of passenger cars, but the government is working on fuel-efficiency standards for trucks now, something that FedEx deserves credit for. We used mpg as a metric because that's what FedEx uses to compare the old trucks with the new hybrids, which are the same size and serve the same functions.
The "last album" category in "Songs of Autumn" (September) excluded collections of cover songs.
In "The Second Life of Second Life" (October), we should have identified Joni West as a fine artist and longtime marketing consultant for firms such as Jack Morton Worldwide and Avenue A/Razorfish. She built This Second Marketing using digital campaigns and focused on the value she could provide, not price.
In "MTV's Digital Makeover" (November), we misspelled the name of Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic opera Invincible.
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A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.