• Designers on their inspiration, good design, and its importance in the world today. Masters of Design winners John Maeda and Marcel Wanders discuss how design is crucial from a business standpoint, and not just frills to be excised in budget-conscious times.

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  • Marcel Wanders talked about the fairy tale that informed the design of the new Mondrian Hotel in Miami, and the fear he has to face down every time he begins a new project. John Maeda spoke of design's hidden return on investment -- its impact on an organization's human resources.

    The occasion was Fast Company's Masters of Design gala, where Wanders and Maeda, both 2008 winners, held forth on the challenges and opportunities for design both in good times - and in rotten ones.

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  • Cash registers may not be ringing at the mall, but for a few days this week beleaguered retailers could live in a fantasy world where not only would customers line up to buy again, but sales clerks could use a slick touchscreen to upsell them even more goods, right from the register.

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  • Philippe Starck, resplendent in black leather pants, came to New York’s Soho House this week to promote his latest project –- a set of sleek stereo speakers he designed for Parrot, a French wireless technology company whose CEO, Henri Seydoux, is one of the designer’s oldest friends.

    The Zikmu speakers , matching black columns with flared bases, were introduced at MacWorld, then dazzled the crowd at CES, walking away with Bluetooth CIG’s “Best of Show” award.

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  • When you're as big as GE, it's impossible not to be hurt in a downturn. But the company had good news on its 2008 highlight list too: the three-year-old Ecomagination division saw revenues rise 21% to $17 billion; investment in clean R&D doubled to $1.4 billion; NBC-Universal delivered the most-digital-Olympics-ever, via 2, 200 hours of live streaming video. Nothing shows GE's modern outlook more than its willingness to lampoon itself on TV's 30 Rock, created by Tina Fey.

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  • Amazon may have started out simply, selling books online, but these days it peddles everything from pickled carrots to two-carat diamond rings. The Internet's biggest retailer says it logged the best holiday season in its history despite the rough economy. CEO Jeff Bezos credits the $4 billion the company spent on R&D over the past decade.

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