2012 Innovation In Pictures

Take a look back at the images that captured innovation in action.


Most-mentioned event at SXSW this year: American Express: The Tweet. Sync. Save program, and its sponsorship of the limited attendance Jay-Z concert. SXSW conversations around Amex: “Did you see what Amex is doing? They are killing it.” “” and “I just saw Jay-Z.”

Meet Ben Barry, Facebook’s Minister Of Propaganda

He may be the man behind Facebook’s actual Little Red Book, but the cultural czar heading the company’s Analog Research Lab is more than thrilled to let employees create their own cultural destinies.

Transforming Billboards Into Lush Aerial Bamboo Gardens

It’s not an ad for anything. It’s just a little nature to brighten the cityscape.

Youngest Victims Of Joplin, Missouri, Tornado Rebuild Their Ravaged Town (With Water Slides)
How The Failed Aakash Tablet Is An Object Lesson In India's Long Road Ahead To Tech Innovation

Last October, Indian politician Kapil Sibal called a press conference. Indian politicians call press conferences all the time, even those with a last name that is not Gandhi. And with two portfolios--he is both India's minister of human-resource development and its minister of communications and information technology--Sibal typically has a lot he wants to talk about.

A 35-Mile Laser Rainbow Illuminates New York As A Memorial To Sandy’s Victims

The laser-beamed art project by artist Yvette Mattern is powerful enough to cross from Manhattan to the storm-devastated neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens, providing a little hope to still-recovering communities that calm is on the way.

19 Photos Of BuzzFeed’s Offices And 4 Things That Drive BuzzFeed’s Culture Of Win

BuzzFeed cofounder Jonah Peretti and chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan talk about how the company’s open culture has supported its growth in audience and mandate and what’s next.

An American-Made Miracle: How An Aeron Chair Gets Built Every 17 Seconds

Using techniques imported from Toyota, Herman Miller has achieved stunning efficiency while empowering its workers.

Amazing Photos Of Animals In The Wild, Snapped By Hidden Automatic Cameras

The Smithsonian’s Wild project uses advanced automated cameras to capture images of animals in their natural habitats as they go about their day. It’s a much better kind of specimen than a dead, stuffed animal.

10 Essential Items In An Entrepreneurial Globehopper's Survival Bag

What are the most useful, day-saving things you should keep on you if you're constantly shifting climates, time zones, and currencies? Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia Coffee shares his must-pack items.

The Vision Thing

How Marty Scorsese risked it all and lived to risk again in Hollywood.

Making Beauty Out Of Sandy: The Eerie Quiet Of New York Without Power

Photographer Phillip Van wandered the streets of New York during the post-hurricane blackout, capturing haunting pictures of a bustling city gone silent without electricity.

Punk Rock Branding: How Bruce Pavitt Built Sub Pop In An Anti-Corporate Nirvana

A pivotal eight days for Kurt Cobain, Sub Pop records, and rock 'n’ roll as we know it.

Watch: The Handmade Process Behind Your Eames Chair

We tour the Herman Miller factory that painstakingly crafts many of the Eames’s most famous pieces.

Surprisingly Beautiful Photos Of Trophy Hunters Show The Complex Relationship Between Man And Beast

David Chancellor’s photography examines the competition between man and wildlife in Sub-Saharan Africa by focusing on one of the game’s most contentious players: the tourist trophy hunter.

The Key To A Thriving Creative Class? Give Artists Their Own Real Estate Developers

It worked for St. Paul, Minnesota, where artists revived an old warehouse district--and got to stick around to reap the benefits of what they helped create.

In The Heart Of Afghanistan, Entrepreneurs Innovate For Peace

Impossibly optimistic and totally obsessed, Afghanistan’s aspiring tech moguls believe that computing will not only help make them money but also secure peace in their land.

The small circle of tech entrepreneurs coding for change in Kabul includes, from left, Ahmad Reza Zahedi, Abdulghani Vahidi, Mahdi Rezaei, and Yousef Ebrahimi.

Need To Clean Up After A Storm? A New Material Could “Obsorb” The Mess

This new kind of sponge doesn’t soak up any water, but it finds oils and solvents delicious. Just add it to some dirty water and watch it work.

See A Fantastical, Post-Apocalyptic View Of Our Future, In Miniature

Lori Nix has added some new scenes to "The City," a series of scenes set in the wake of unseen disasters.

A Wonderfully Surreal World, Where Buildings Are Shaped Like Guns And French Fries

Victor Enrich uses Photoshop to create a vision that feels like an alternate, but parallel, universe.

The Top 10 U.S. Cities With Quality Outdoor Space

These are the places where it’s easiest to grab some time with nature without ever leaving the city limits.

How Bill Nye Became The Science Guy. And A Ballet Shoe Inventor. And a Political Voice

If he didn't resemble Steve Martin, know how to pronounce "gigawatts," and speak his mind, Bill Nye might not have become America's smartest, most beloved bow-tie enthusiast.

A Conversation About Courage, With George Lois and Platon

The legendary ad man Lois and Platon, a giant of modern portraiture, sit down for a talk.

What’s Really Happening In Blacked-Out Manhattan

The lights are still out for a quarter of a million people in Lower Manhattan, and things are getting dangerous. But cell phones and social media are enabling an entirely self-organized recovery effort that is showing up where FEMA, the Red Cross, and the city are not.

How To Be A Happy And Successful Creative Freelancer (Or Work With One)

Freelancers share their best practices for being their own boss, and why you should so totally just do it.

Dueling Photogs Share The Same Roll Of Film

Two artists expose the same roll of film once. Serendipity ensues.

A Colorful Tour Of America’s Urban Farms

Ghost Town Farms

In late 2009, Novella Carpenter traveled to Brooklyn to teach a workshop on butchering rabbits. Participants paid $100 each and went home with the main ingredient for a fine meal. The New York Times ran a long feature on the event, accompanied by recipes for rabbit ragù and rabbit loin with bitter greens. Afterward, Carpenter flew back to her hometown of Oakland, California, with the satisfaction of having trained a few more local food loyalists in the hard-core art of butchery.

Facebook Of Latvia Is Bigger Than Facebook (In Latvia)

Draugiem.lv might not have a billion users. But it owns the web--and some of the biggest brains on it--in Latvia. Here's what Facebook could learn from it.

Can Ben Silbermann Turn Pinterest Into The World’s Greatest Shopfront?

Ben Silbermann, Pinterest cofounder and CEO, rendered in 22,765 pins by Eric Daigh. Click here to see how it was made.

Shooting The Flood: Behind The MTA’s Photos Of A Sandy-Ravaged Subway

The MTA’s post-Sandy shots of a ruined subway system gave people a valuable look at the real devastation the city was facing. Here, the MTA and photographer Patrick Cashin talk about taking the shots and getting them out to the public.

An 1884 Classic Reimagined For the 2012 Olympics

Does this image remind you of anything?

Haunting Dioramas Re-Create Tiny, Bloody Crime Scenes

Photographer Bill Finger shows us violent crime scenes and eerie suburban dramas unfolding within miniature film sets. Then, he destroys the evidence.

“I emphasize a certain degree of theatricality in my images,” Finger explains. “By opening the image to questioning by the viewer, they’re left to wonder ‘how much truth does this photograph hold?’”

The Lowline, New York’s Revolutionary Underground Park, Says Let There Be Light

The Kickstarter-funded project to open a park in an abandoned underground trolley terminal takes a step closer to reality this weekend, as the organizers debut amazing tech to bring enough sunlight underground to grow plants.

With A Single Tweet, President Obama Revealed How To Become A Powerful Social Brand

President Obama and the First Lady celebrate their win. As of this writing, "Four more years" has been re-tweeted almost 900,000 times and favorited by almost 300,000 people. But what the tweet reveals about social branding is far more telling.

Stephanie Izard And Daniel Boulud On The Tricky Art Of Designing A Meal

We eavesdrop on Boulud, one of the most accomplished chefs in the world, and Izard, a Top Chef winner who’s opening… a diner?!

Hurricane Sandy, A Drenching Reminder That Tough Times Inspire Remarkable Innovation

Tough environments offer motivations to fix problems in a way that might be inconceivable elsewhere. A look at some inspiring innovations that were necessarily conceived under duress.

Red Bull Stratos Shatters Records--And Traditional Notions Of Marketing

"I know the whole world is watching now," said Felix Baumgartner, at the edge of space. They were--Red Bull Stratos set viewing records and marked another giant leap for a brand that’s setting the standard for content marketing.

The Year’s 20 Best Microscopic Photographs

Nikon’s annual microscopy competition honors the most remarkable microscopic photos of the year, from bat embryos to bone cancer.

An ant carries larva in its mouth, magnified 5x.

Be Mesmerized By These Photos Of Birds Caught In Nets

Captured on film in the moment they’re snagged by biologists for study (they let them go unharmed, don’t worry), these photos of trapped birds are an oddly compelling illustration of the intersection of nature and science.

How To Write Thought-Leadership Pieces That Get Published And Don't Make Editors Want To Die

If you want your Op-Ed or contributed content featured in The New York Times or, heck, Fast Company, read this (handslap!) before you even reach for your pen. Are you listening, PR?

The Rise And Fall Of The Company That Was Going To Have Us All Using Biofuels

Amyris's breakthroughs in bioengineering--and its plans to make biofuels from Brazilian sugarcane--promised to transform how the world's businesses produce energy, cosmetics, and medicine. Then reality (and Wall Street) got in the way.

Fields of Dreams: Sugarcane plantations next to Amyris’s Paraíso plant near São Paulo.

Handmade Desks, “Breathing Rooms,” And Gross Happiness: Take A Look Inside Etsy HQ

Beyond just quirk, crafty marketplace Etsy offers employes a green (B Corp certified) place to work where happiness is measured and learning is encouraged (two words: therapeutic doodling).

Photographing Munich’s Gorgeous Subway Stations, Eerily Devoid Of Passengers

Nick Frank’s pictures capture the creepy, futuristic beauty of the German city’s tube stations.

The Last Chance To Save The Aquarius Reef Base

Fabien Cousteau paid a visit to Sylvia Earle and the underwater base in danger of losing its funding, and says that the work they’re doing there must be allowed to continue.

What Companies Like Taco Bell And Corning Do To Truly Transform

Agility, innovation, and operational excellence form the transformation triangle. Whether you're slinging tacos or manufacturing durable glass for iPhones, your company needs all three to survive and thrive.

Cheap, Chic, And Made For All: How Uniqlo Plans To Take Over Casual Fashion

Uniqlo founder Yanai uses design and technology to improve upon classic American sportswear--and now he wants to sell it back to Americans.

“Watch With Mother” Looks To Challenge Distribution Models, Your Tolerance For Horror

The Glue Society’s Watch With Mother shouldn’t be watched with your mother, or any other kindly relatives.

The Quiet Beauty Of London’s Olympic Arenas, Before The Medals And The Masses

Janie Airey’s photographs prove that the most stunning lines at the London Olympics might not’ve been the ones defining Ryan Lochte’s six-pack.

Will Cities Of The Future Be Filled With Vertical Slums?

After a skyscraper in Caracas was abandoned, it quickly became home to 750 families. As cities develop, will slums build up instead of out?

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Mornings are a great time for getting things done. You’re less likely to be interrupted than you are later in the day. Your supply of willpower is fresh after a good night’s sleep. That makes it possible to turn personal priorities like exercise or strategic thinking into reality.

CeeLo Green on How To Ride Your Creativity

"I define business as black and white," says CeeLo. "Consider it me coloring outside the lines." Got that?

Finding Beauty In Blotto: Drunken Portraits Of Cardiff After Dark

Maciej Dakowicz’s new photo book casts an intimately voyeuristic eye on the late-night life of hard partiers.

Pictures Of Millennials With Everything They Own (And It Isn’t Much)

Sannah Kvist’s "All I Own" series captures her Swedish compatriots surrounded by all their worldly belongings.

Turning Apples Into Alternative Energy, And Surreal Photographs

Somewhere between a fifth-grade science project and a meticulously arranged still life is the work of Caleb Charland. The artist fastens wires to fruit and trees and anything else he can find to create luminous installations, proving that alternative energy is all around us.

The Need For Speed Is Killing Your Company

Haste makes waste: Consider the new Apple Maps app. The drift toward speed at all costs is becoming one of the most prevalent blind spots in leadership today--here's how to force yourself to put on the brakes.

Square is one of the Most Innovative Companies for making magic out of the mercantile
Beastie Boy Mike D Drives Mercedes’ Transmission LA Art Show

Mike D curates the Mercedes-Benz Transmission LA: AV Club exhibit, bringing together artists from Mike Mills and Tom Sachs to Roy "Kogi BBQ" Choi.

Exploring New York’s Most Hidden Spaces: Its Rooftops

In Up on the Roof, the aerial photographer Alex McLean documents the view of Manhattan from above.

This Is What Google’s Secretive Data Centers Look Like

The company has let the public in on the surprisingly beautiful rooms that power your email and searches--and create huge amounts of emissions that you don’t normally associate with the clean-seeming cloud.

Presumed Guilty: Do You Manage By Fear?

What if instead of standing over employees and anticipating their every mistake, you assumed success and solicited feedback on accomplishments? This "trust-and-track" method lowers turnover, increases employee satisfaction--and even improves profits.

The Long Road To Mars: Launching NOVA’s “Ultimate Mars Challenge”

When PBS’ NOVA set out to chronicle NASA’s Mars exploration program and the still-unfolding story of the Curiosity, producers found themselves in an improvised dance of piecing together backstory, accommodating last-minute discoveries, and brainstorming contingency plans in case the landing didn’t stick.

A Photographer Color-Codes Her Life, In Stunning Still Lifes

The baroque photographs of Accidental Archives were staged using the mundane belongings of the artist.

Gorgeous Photographs Show Contrasting Views Of Detroit’s Present--And Future

Two photo projects--by photographers Andrew Moore and Camilo José Vergara--show the urban ruin of the Detroit we all imagine, but also the work spirit of reinvention of the people who actually live there.

National Time clock, former Cass Technical High School building, 2009.

The 3 Key Ingredients For Successful Content Marketing

Every marketer worth his title claims to be doing it. But, and here’s the rub: Very few are doing it well.

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