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Welcome to the New Lantern blog. Our goal is to shine light on leading innovators and creative artists, and how your business can learn and profit from them. Companies large, medium, and small can benefit from employees who think more creatively. New Lantern may be just the source of inspiration your company needs to spark more innovative products, services, and processes.


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Monthly Archive for April, 2010

Mr. Helvetica: Looking Good at 53

Posted by on April 27, 2010 at 8:45 pm

It’s not every day that a movie is made about a typeface. Well, technically it was a documentary by Gary Hustwit that debuted in 2007 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It later aired on PBS in January 2009 as part of the Emmy-award-winning Independent Lens series, which is the version I saw.

The film, Helvetica, subsequently toured film festivals, special events, and art house cinemas worldwide, playing in over 300 cities in 40 countries.

From April 2007 to March 2008, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City displayed an exhibit called “50 Years of Helvetica,” which celebrated the many uses of the font.

Why all the hoopla over a typeface? Well, in short, no other font can begin to approach Helvetica’s long-lived impact on the design, advertising, print and communication worlds. To this day, Helvetica continues to shine based on its simple, functional, contemporary, and timeless qualities.

Helvetica was developed by Max Miedinger with Edüard Hoffmann in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland. Miedinger, a former employee and freelance designer, was commissioned by Haas to draw an updated sans-serif typeface to add to the firm’s line. Miedinger’s new font was called Neue Haas Grotesk, but its name was later changed to Helvetica in 1960, which is derived from Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland.

Helvetica’s popularity was fed by its Swiss design roots and by advertising agencies selling this new design style to their clients. Almost overnight, Helvetica began to appear in corporate logos, signage for transportation systems, fine art prints, and a myriad of other uses worldwide. Five decades later, the use of the Helvetica typeface in our daily lives is as ubiquitous as the air that we breathe.

What does your company’s logo and typeface say about your organization? Are you giving enough attention to how your company approaches the design, look, and feel of your products and/or services?

The best product or service in the world is of no benefit if it is not seen as appealing to the customer.

Take a page from our omnipresent friend, Mr. Helvetica, and make sure you are doing everything you can to appeal to your customers. If so, your company too will find itself still looking good at the ripe old age of 53.

Is the U.S. Losing the Innovation Game?

Posted by on April 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Business Week’s annual listing of “The 50 Most Innovative Companies” has just hit the newsstands (April 24, 2010 edition). On quick glance, you might not see a lot of surprises: Apple, Google, Microsoft, and IBM are at the top of the list, respectively.

Look a little closer and you might find an interesting trend — an increasingly strong showing of Asian companies that are now among the globe’s 50 most innovative.

As recently as 2006, only five Asian companies were on the list. This year there are 15. And if you think these companies from South Korea, Japan, China, and India are in the back of the pack, think again. Four Asian companies make up the top 10: Toyota, Sony, Samsung, and BYD – and two more are close behind, Tata and Nintendo.

Does this say more about the erosion of America’s innovation mojo or more about Asia’s laser-like focus in recent years on design and innovation? Unfortunately for Team America, it’s both.

A recent Boston Consulting Group survey of top global executives found that 95 percent of Chinese executives said that “innovation was the key to economic growth,” while only 45 percent of American CEOs point to innovation as key. No wonder the U.S. is slipping.

Innovation doesn’t come easy. You have to make it a priority and bake it into the company’s DNA. It has to be strongly encouraged from the top, and painstakingly nurtured in every part of the company.

Many American companies today seem to care more about meeting quota and getting the safe single, than swinging for the fences. These same corporate cultures tend to penalize unfettered creativity or a different way of thinking, while rewarding the employee who emulates the boss.

Those who know me know that I don’t know much about sports. But, I do know something about good coaching and getting results. If a coach is successful in persuading the team to play as if they are behind – even when they are still ahead — then that team will usually end up with more wins than losses.

Starting today, come up with your own “50 Most Innovative” within your company. Reward and spotlight those employees who take initiative, find ways to innovate, and appreciate design as much as function. Incentivize those employees who seek not to mimic the boss or other perceived successful colleagues, but who bring new talent and dimension to the team.

There’s still time enough left on the clock to turn your company’s innovation game around.

‘Event Horizon’

Posted by on April 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm

From my window of my New York City apartment in the Chelsea-Flatiron area, I can see 5 of the 31 naked sculptures that make up the unique Event Horizon outdoor art exhibit in Madison Square Park.

Event Horizon opened on March 26 and runs through August 15. It has already caused quite a stir around New York, but causing a stir is nothing new for 59-year-old British sculptor Antony Gormley.

All 31 life-size sculptures are of the same male figure – made from a cast of the 6 foot, 2 inch artist himself. Only four figures are on the ground in the Madison Square Park area. The remaining 27 sculptures are literally framed against the sky, many of them perched on top of the historic buildings that encircle the storied park.

A few sculptures are several blocks away, and one is as far as 8 blocks away standing on a ledge at the 26th floor of the famed Empire State Building, which Gormley referred to as “the exclamation point” in a New York Times article before the exhibit opened.

According to that same article, the New York City Police Department actually felt the need to preemptively issue a statement that reassured the public that the figures were sculptures and not people on the verge of committing suicide. But that is far from the effect that Gormley is looking for from observers. He’s hoping they will see these simple figures in a different way given their uncommon positions in the cityscape.

Provoking viewers to look at ordinary objects in a different way is pure Gormley. He exhibited his figures in London in 2007 atop buildings and bridges, and thought “it was great to see an individual or groups of people pointing at the horizon,” according to eventhorizonnewyork.org.

As remarkable as the Event Horizon exhibition is itself, the fact that Madison Square Park is the setting for the exhibition is even more remarkable. As recently as 10 years ago the Park was an eyesore and near abandon. But thanks to the work of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, created in 2002, the 163-year-old park has been transformed into one of the most attractive big city parks anywhere.

What is on the horizon for your company? I would encourage you to find ways to creatively provoke your employees by taking them out of their ordinary surroundings, and exposing them regularly to the extraordinary.

You’ll soon find it will transform your company into a very attractive place for both your employees and your shareholders.

Thank You Dr. Roberts for the “Personal” Computer

Posted by on April 4, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I must admit that I spend more time these days reading the obituaries. Yes, I know, it’s a sure sign of growing old. But a front page obituary in yesterday’s New York Times particularly caught my eye, “Inventor Whose Pioneer PC Helped Inspire Microsoft Dies.”

The obituary highlighted the life of H. Edward Roberts, a country doctor in rural Cochran, Georgia, who also invented what is regarded by many as the first personal computer in the 1970s – the MITS Altair.

Dr. Roberts may not be a household name for many people outside of this small town in Georgia, but he does mean a lot to two of the richest men in the world, who also happen to be co-founders of the Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

It was Roberts’s MITS 8800 Altair “microcomputer” that made it on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975, which got the attention of a young Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen. The Altair was the “first inexpensive general-purpose microcomputer, a device that could be programmed to do all manner of tasks,” as described by the New York Times.

Gates and Allen were interested in writing software for the Altair. In fact, the lure of the Altair was so strong that Gates dropped out of Harvard and Allen quit his job at Honeywell, and they both moved to Albuquerque, NM — home to Roberts’s small MITS company. And it was there in New Mexico that Gates and Allen founded Microsoft in April 1975, not in Washington State, which they later moved to in 1979.

In 1977, Roberts sold his computer company, later attended medical school, and then moved to rural Georgia where he practiced medicine until he died this past Thursday at the age of 68.

Meanwhile, the programming language that Gates and Allen created for the Altair, called Microsoft BASIC, “was the beginning of what would become the world’s largest software company and would make its founders billionaires many times over.”

But the story doesn’t end here; this is where it gets “personal.”

In January 1985, I walked into a graduate school microcomputer lab at Indiana University, where I met by future husband, who was the lab’s teaching assistant. He showed me the basics: how to turn on the lab’s first-generation IBM microcomputer (running Microsoft’s MS-DOS), how to save data to its 5.25-inch “floppy disk drive,” and he showed me the difference between a “cold boot” and “warm boot.” I guess it was love at first byte.

We were married in 1987, and ironically, years later in 2003, my husband went to work for Microsoft where he still works today.

Our 23rd anniversary was yesterday.

Thank you H. Edward (Ed) Roberts for changing so many lives around the world, and in Cochran, GA — and thank you for helping to change mine. By the way, happy anniversary to my husband, R. Edward (Ed) Ingle.