3 Tips on How To Be an Innovative Designer from “The Innovator’s Handbook”

Innovation is often seen as a reactionary force—a response to a problem or an opportunity. But when you consider it holistically, innovation isn’t just about developing new ideas. It’s about taking action and making those ideas a reality.

Hi, I’m Hussain Almossawi and I’ve worked as a Senior Designer and Art Director with companies such as Nike, Apple, Adidas, Ford, Amazon, and others. Throughout my career as a designer and VFX artist, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with many of today’s top innovators in some of my favorite companies. Through those roles, I’ve had the chance to witness how these individuals think, how they approach problems, and how they take their ideas and turn them into action.

Innovators often have a different mindset than the average person. They see opportunity where others see problems. They’re not afraid to take risks and experiment. And they’re constantly learning and growing so they can be prepared for whatever comes next.

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Here are a few things that have helped me throughout my design and innovation process, no matter what kind of project I’m working on:

1. Break a Concept Down to Its First Principles

Innovation is often birthed from a desire to fix a problem. It makes sense, right? You see a need in a particular area, and you want to create a solution that fills that need.

But an issue that many designers run into is that they try to solve the problem at face value. They see a need and an instant reaction is to come up with a solution that addresses that need.

One of the greatest ways to reconsider a problem is to break it down to its first principles. A popular method used by inventors and great thinkers such as Elon Musk, the “First Principles” method, is a way of deconstructing a product to its most basic parts and then starting to question every single part before reconstructing it back together again.

This allows you to really understand the nature of the problem you are trying to solve, ask the right questions, and come up with more creative solutions that address the root cause, not just the symptoms. Often, the resulting innovation is something beyond what anyone could have expected.

When I worked in the footwear industry, I had the chance to work on multiple high-level projects, as well as design for signature athletes. The first principles method was something we always used at the start of our projects and process.

Rather than diving right into sketching and creating ideas of what the future of a particular shoe could look like, we simply took the previous model of that shoe and broke it down into all its different parts. We laid them out on a table and started questioning what each piece does, does it truly need to be there, and if it could be improved.

As a result, we started asking more interesting questions – or rather, more insightful questions. This led to a better outcome and understanding of everything that went into the shoe. We would usually not only come up with great ideas but also ask questions that would lead to more innovative ways to manufacture the shoe and reduce our costs.

The first principles method is one of my favorite ways of getting to the core of the problem we are trying to solve. I love how it leads a designer down a path of seeing things with a newer and fresher perspective and offers a much higher understanding and appreciation for the minor details that go into a product.

2. Shift Your Mindset from Reaction to Action

There’s a common mindset I’ve found in many of today’s thinkers and leaders – I like to call it “The Follower Mindset.” This mindset takes previous ideas and attempts to resurrect them into something new.

In other words, these individuals constantly react to the world around them. They take what’s already been done and try to make it better. It makes sense – why reinvent the wheel when you can use existing ideas as a springboard to further innovation? However, sticking solely to a follower mindset can lead to incremental innovation and miss other unique possibilities.

Higher impact innovation is possible when you shift your mindset from limiting reaction to transformative action. This means taking a proactive stance in the world and approaching problems with a fresh perspective.

It’s about being curious and constantly learning so you can see the world in new ways. It’s about taking risks and experimenting with new ideas, even if they might fail. And it’s about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, even when it’s not popular.

You’ve seen this at play in some of the giants in the business. Think of Apple vs. Samsung in the device wars. Perhaps my favorite example is Adidas’ famed Ultra Boost shoes – a design that used compressed palettes to create an ultra-comfortable sole. When Ultra Boosts began to fly off the shelves, competitor shoes began to spring up with the same design look and feel while trying to add their own twist to it. Rather than act on the consumer’s desire for lightweight, soft shoes, they simply slapped a new name and logo on Adidas’ innovation.

This mindset can occur on a personal level with design teams as well! I’ve seen teams with talented designers who find themselves hyper-focused on chasing designs based on existing ideas. Imagine what concepts are missed when we don’t push outside our comfort zones and explore the unexplored of design possibilities!

Designers and creatives have to balance the line between action and reaction. We have to be able to take in the world around us and process it in a way that allows us to see things differently – and then act on those insights.

3. Live Like a “Curious Sponge”

I love a good sponge. The ability to take in far more liquid than its own weight and then expand to hold that liquid is pretty amazing. And it’s this quality that I think we can all learn from when it comes to innovation.

You see, to be truly innovative, you have to be curious. You have to be willing to take in new information and ideas without judgment. You have to be like a sponge, soaking up everything around you.

Our brains are wired to categorize and filter information so we can make sense of the world. And while this is helpful in many ways, it can also prevent us from seeing things in new and different ways.

It’s far too easy to get siloed in our own little world, only taking in information that reinforces our existing beliefs. But if we want to be innovative, we must break out of that mindset and become curious sponges.

So how do you do that? Well, it starts with a willingness to learn. You have to be open to new ideas and perspectives, even if they challenge your existing convictions. You must be willing to step outside your comfort zone and explore new territory.

And you have to be constantly learning. Read books, listen to podcasts, go to conferences – do whatever you can to expose yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking. The more different and diverse information you take in, the more likely you will have those “a-ha!” moments that lead to true innovation.

Here are four practical steps you can take in your next design process to help you cultivate the life of a curious sponge:

1. Look Around

The world is much larger and more diverse than you may realize. And there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there if you’re willing to look for it. So take some time to explore your surroundings and see what you can find.

2. Be Open-Minded

When you’re exposed to new ideas, don’t immediately write them off. Give them a chance and really try to understand where they’re coming from. You may be surprised at what you learn.

3. Get Curious

If you hear something that doesn’t make sense or see something that doesn’t fit into your existing worldview, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more curious you are, the more you’ll learn.

4. Push Boundaries

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a lane? Maybe you’re comfortable with the way things are and don’t want to rock the boat. But if you’re not pushing boundaries, you’re not going to find true innovation. So take some risks and see what happens!

The sky’s the limit when you open your mindset up to new possibilities. So go out there and start being curious! You won’t regret the new and fun ideas that come from it.

Supercharge Your Creativity with The Innovator’s Handbook

These three techniques are some that I always use amongst other insights that have helped shift my mindset and process towards innovation as a designer.

That’s why I am excited to announce the release of The Innovator’s Handbook: A Short Guide to Unleashing Your Creative Mindset. This new book, built on years of first-hand experience at some of today’s leading design companies, is packed with practical tips, tricks, and exercises to help you increase your innovation confidence and design mindfully.

This book is for you if you’ve ever wondered how to shift your mindset from being a reactive problem-solver to a proactive idea-generator. When you can unleash your unique creative mindset, you can start to bring innovative ideas to life. The Innovator’s Handbook is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook – pick up your copy and let’s start innovating together!

Click Here to Buy Now!

Hussain Almossawi is an industrial designer, visual effects artist, and author, who has worked across industries and around the world consulting for companies such as Nike, Apple, Amazon, Adidas, Intel, and Ford, among others. He is a regular keynote speaker on innovation and design and has taught at several universities. In 2019, Hussain founded Mossawi Studios, a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in creating memorable, iconic, and bold experiences.

Official book page: https://theinnovatorshandbook.com/

The post 3 Tips on How To Be an Innovative Designer from “The Innovator’s Handbook” first appeared on Yanko Design.

This credit-card sized antenna harvests energy from 5G signals into wireless power for IoT devices!

Harvesting abundant sources of renewable energy and then converting them into something valuable has been the quest humankind has been on for decades. This makes even more sense in current times when we are on the brink of exhausting earth’s vital resources, causing unrepairable harm to the planet. As scouts of this very quest, the team at Georgia Tech’s ATHENA lab has created a 3D-printed energy harvesting antenna that’s capable of garnering electromagnetic energy of the 5G signals to juice modern-day gadgets. The technology is literally about putting the overcapacity 5G network bandwidth to judicious use – turning it into a wireless power grid that could shape the future of our relentless energy requirements for IoT devices or mobile devices.

They’ve created a flexible Rotman lens-based rectifying antenna (rectenna) that can collect the millimeter-wave in the 28-GHz band – the first of its kind. Previously there have been attempts to harvest the 24 or 35 GHz frequencies, but they were not practical since they only worked when they are in sight of the 5G base station. Emmanouil Tentzeris, Professor in Flexible Electronics in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, rightly summed it up by saying, “The fact is, 5G is going to be everywhere, especially in urban areas. You can replace millions, or tens of millions, of batteries of wireless sensors, especially for smart city and smart agricultural applications.”

This one is by far the most potent wireless power grid capable of powering devices at acute range – much better than any existing technology aimed at doing so. The credit card-sized iteration of the technology has a spiky plate around the center, which assimilates the 5G network’s millimeter waves. Just to compare, the rectenna design antenna developed by the team is almost 21 times more capable of sucking power from any direction – making it a viable bendable energy harvesting system capable of being employed in future technology implementations for the end-user.

It could be anything from an energy harvesting phone case, a credit card in your wallet that could charge your smartwatch at the end of the day, or a deck of cards that does more than its core intended purpose. For now, however, the innovation is only capable of powering low-energy IoT devices like sensors on your thermostat, but still, it the first step in the limitless possibilities that it promises.

Designer: Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology

This sleek foldable phone’s practical form factor is designed to boost smartphone photography!

Foldable smartphones hit the scene in a big way a couple of years ago, but they have failed to make any major inroads (as speculated when they first burst into the scene) in the highly competitive segment of the phone market – yes, I’m talking about the flagship segment. The form factor so far has been limited to the clamshell of the Moto Razr, the Galaxy Z Flip, or the bigger tablet-like folding form of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Huawei Mate X. To liven up things and give consumers a sneak peek at how foldable smartphone technology is going to shape in the near future, concept phones refresh the monotony of the predictable designs that we are used to.

The Compal CHEESE is the latest to catch our eye, and it seems good both on the practicality front as well as form and function considering what the end-user actually looks forward to. This smartphone is designed to satiate the cravings of photography fanatics with a very compact form factor that justifies daily use-case-scenario. CHEESE has only one camera module on the top, and the upper third half of the phone folds to be used as a selfie shooter. While you might be sucked into believing that it is similar to the Asus Zenfone 6 or Zenfone 7, but they have a rotating camera system and not a folding display like the one on the CHEESE. Without being too bulky or wide (like Samsung or Motorola), the phone manages to balance out the daily phone usage with photography perfectly.

The thing here to note is that the phone folds as the dual cameras face outward in the phone mode. The major half of the screen is for you to use as a viewfinder and photograph composition, and if you’re clicking a portrait of your friend, he/she can see themselves in the folded part of the screen facing them. Furthermore, the side edges of the display act as the camera shutter or be used for other functions like zoom or even to display notifications when you’re not clicking pictures. While it’s still a blueprint of what Compal could make in the future – pricing of anything under $1,200 will keep prospective buyers interested.

Designer: Compal

This paper cylinder is a rollable speaker that delivers surround sound!

When we talk of electronics the trend is to shrink down the size of already existing technology while making it better in terms of usability. The same is true for audio equipment and believe it or not a newly developed iteration of speakers by the scientists at Germany’s Chemnitz University’s Print and Media Technology institute will catch your attention beyond comprehension. No more than a roll of paper that can be tailored into circular rings to encapsulate the listener in immersive audio, the research is backed by years of hard work and determination to achieve this form factor.

The ultimate goal is to design low-cost entertainment systems for modern interiors that embrace anything that’s highly functional and minimal in its look. So, a future where your music system will merely be a thin sheet of paper that can be placed anywhere on the walls or ceiling is more than a feasible possibility. The team of researchers headed by Prof. Dr. Arved C. Hübler has been working to improve the sonorous paper loudspeakers by Chemnitz which produce sound by displacing air to create a vibration. Hence, came into existence the roll-to-roll printed speaker paper, a.k.a. T-Paper which is more economical to produce – virtually in a roll form. According to project manager Georg C. Schmidt, the newly developed technology allows them to laminate the electronics for better feasibility in practical use. “In our T-Ring prototype, an almost four-meter-long track with 56 individual loudspeakers was connected to form seven segments and shaped into a circle, making a 360° surround sound installation possible,” says Schmidt.

This means that in the near future we could see the technology being implemented in trade shows, museums, or the advertising industry. The T-Ring that the team has developed for now is nothing but 90 percent conventional paper with electronics sandwiched to generate sound that surrounds the listener for an expanded soundscape for realism. The possibilities with this technology are endless and in the coming years, we could see home entertainment systems embedded into the home décor objects for a seamless design and superior audio experience at a very low-cost thanks to the developments by Print and Media Technology institute.

Designer: Chemnitz University of Technology (Visuals: TU Chemnitz/Jacob Müller)

Apple’s Foldable iPhone 13 concept may unfold like the Galaxy Z Fold 2 or MotoRazr – what’s your pick?

Talking of smartphone designs – Samsung, Motorola, and now LG have all been bold enough to take a detour from the contemporary. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 that has matured elegantly from its predecessor and the compact Motorola Razr are very good examples of smartphone design evolution over the past few years. The never before seen swivel form factor of the LG Wing is also a bold move in the competitive market, and LG is also working on a foldable phone that looks to outsmart Samsung and Motorola in the near future. So, the question arises, when will Apple be showing us its next big leap in terms of design? Well, they have filed a patent for a folding display that suggests, the idea of a folding iPhone is coming to life, and now it’s only time before we’ll have our wishes granted.

Traditionally iPhones have always been very compact and designed with one-handed use in mind. To that end, Samsung and LG have not constricted themselves and brought big-screen phones to the market that are tailored for multimedia consumption. That competitive push has forced Apple to increase the screen size gradually, as this year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max has a big 6.7-inch display. The Apple version of a folding phone could take design cues from the Galaxy Z Fold 2 if they decide to make it an all-out flagship-grade version, or go for a subtle Razr-like form factor if they desire to cater to a niche set of buyers. If we go by the patent filed by Apple, the display will have a crease-less foldable panel (like Galaxy Z Fold 2) and a folding mechanism similar to Motorola Razr – folding like a handy mirror. The early renders of the iPhone 13 are not exactly promising (for either of the versions) but we can count on Apple’s tendency to be thorough in its design testing and the result will be ready to shock and awe. Personally, I find the Moto Razr inspired fold a more unique design with the folded screen seemingly a throwback to the iPod Nano that was a part of their game-changing arsenal.

Any way they choose to proceed, a folding iPhone is inevitable and who knows it could be the iPhone 13 Fold or a new model that is positioned separately from the conventional iPhone series. Apple is going to bide their time before releasing such a revolutionary d

esign (Steve Jobs would have dared) as they now go for a very measured approach. Will it be able to lure the early adopters who are all in for future-forward designs? Sure they can if the design is ergonomic, the user-interface is seamless and the overall experience improves productivity beyond comprehension.

Designer: iOS Beta News



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