Journalists, as a rule, aren't exactly known as snappy dressers. Our tastes have long run toward Hush Puppies, chinos, and corduroy skirts. So you can only imagine what "office casual" has brought out in us.
One exception to this woeful sartorial rule is Fast Company senior writer Linda Tischler. Just this morning, Linda was a few minutes late to the office because she stopped off at a Strenesse by Gabriele Strehle sample sale, where she picked up a couple of jackets. She has also come to work wearing Shanghai Tang sweaters and Ferragamo shoes.
Linda, in other words, has style. That's a good thing—and not just because it makes her more decorative than the rest of us. She puts her taste and, more important, her insight into the business of design, to work for our readers, producing ahead-of-the-curve stories about innovative people and important trends in all of its aspects, from fashion to advertising, furniture to architecture, graphics to consumer products.
These aren't just stories about stuff that looks good. There's plenty of "design porn" out there in other magazines. Linda's stories bring us useful perceptions of how designers think or solve problems, and give us new appreciation of design's impact on the world of business.
In this month's cover story, "The Future of Design," Linda has spotted a subtle and significant trend: the elevation of domestic design to the status of high art and, in turn, its trickle-down impact on the $65 billion U.S. furniture business. It's a story about creativity, money, and influence—and, above all, important ideas, something else Linda wears well.
This issue has another eye-opening story that's informed by the passion and expertise of the author. In "Revenge of the Nerds," contributing writer Adam L. Penenberg offers up a vision of the future of movies. As the low cost and high quality of digital filmmaking get linked with the viral marketing and distribution power of the Web, Adam writes, we're seeing the rise of a newly empowered generation of guerrilla moviemakers who could come to rival the powers that be in Hollywood.
Adam brings a knowing eye to this world. As a reporter at Forbes.com several years ago, he immersed himself in the world of hackers. And that was why he was skeptical of a flashy hacker story by Stephen Glass in The New Republic. Adam's reporting ultimately unmasked Glass as a fraud, an episode that led to the 2003 film Shattered Glass. Until recently, Adam wrote a column on digital technology for Slate.
But besides the mastery the writers bring to their topics, these two stories have something else in common. Furniture and film may be as different as chalk and cheese, but along with many businesses, they're undergoing a profound historic shift. It is democratization—of ideas, of markets, of industries, of control. Think of it as the open-sourcing of the American economy, in which resources and capabilities that once resided within the organization disperse into the hands of outsiders. It's happening everywhere you look: in our own business, where blogs and social networks have come to threaten the dominance of traditional media; in marketing, where the same technologies are letting consumers seize control of brands and their messages; at companies such as Lego, John Fluevog Shoes, Jones Soda, and Kettle Foods, where customers create their own products, styles, and flavors. And as Linda and Adam make so compellingly clear this month, it's happening in design, where nosebleed-level work is no longer the province of the privileged few, and in movies, where almost anyone with a digital camera and a credit card (and a lot of talent and luck) has a chance of hitting it big.
It's informed, expert journalism that takes you to the horizon and shows you the future as it's taking shape—and while there's still time to do something about it.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.