Home Depot has a new bucket – and it tells an important story about the importance of user centered design applied to even the most boring corners of your business.


In case you live under a rock, the most profitable company of the 21st century so far has been Apple. How did they make all that money? By rethinking old things that everyone else thought were finished – the PC, the MP3 player (iPod), the cell phone (iPhone), the wrist watch.

The trend is not unnoticed as other companies look on their shelves for items that have not been designed in many decades.

Nest built a company around the boring AC thermostat.

And now Home Depot is starting its own line of vertically integrated, high design lines … starting with – the bucket.

Home Depot | The Big Gripper from Lincoln Street Studios on Vimeo.

The bucket is a classic example of user centered design created by observing real users, noting their obvious problems and solving them with obvious solutions. (Obvious and yet neglected for however many decades people have been making buckets and now patented by Home Depot.) I personally love going to these stores. Not only are you surprised and delighted at ever corner by the innovative solutions to common problems, but you discover something new every trip.

Anything that can be digital, will be. But the reverse is also true, anything that can be done online could also be done in the pre-digital, analog world – it would have just been less efficient (sometimes to the point of being impractical). Take Youtube for example:

I saw this video years ago and lost it. It took me a long time to find it again.

Why this is important:

It can be a useful creative exercise to “reverse design” a solution and trace it back to its real world parallels. By understanding what would have to happen to do the same thing without the web we get a better grasp of the governance and processes required and even the feasibility of the idea. After all, computers can automate any process, but you have to HAVE a process that you can at least imagine doing without computers first. There is nothing magic about computers. You can only get out what you put in. So if a client is asking for a solution, but can not even imagine where content will come from, I send them to this video.


October 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

In case you were wondering: .jpg and .jpeg are the exact same thing. Back in DOS days file extensions could only be 3 letters so the JPEG format – (which stands for Joint Photographic Expert Group) was further abbreviated as JPG. Now that computers allow more than 3 letters – JPEG is sometimes used. But for some of us, old habits die-hard and I still bristle when I see JPEG instead of JPG mainly because it catches me off guard.

Another piece of trivia, one of the first jpgs, Lena.jpg – was the standard test image used in almost every academic article on image compression written since 1974 (for example see: http://www.cs.utah.edu/~croberts/courses/cs7966/project3/)

This scan became one of the most used images in computer history.

This scan became one of the most used images in computer history.

It is a picture of Lena Söderberg cropped from the centerfold of the November 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. Apparently the only source of images they had lying around the lab.

Read more:

Baby Calculus

May 7, 2014 — Leave a comment
I bought my son this book - never too young to start prepping for college.

“Daddy, what’s an asymptote?” I bought my son this book – never too young to start prepping for college. 


Every year it gets closer and closer: the future. And what are you doing to make it a better place? Have you figured out what you really want in life? If not, how do you know if you are moving closer or further away from it?

If you don’t know where you’re going – any direction will do.

~ Lewis Carroll (to paraphrase the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland)

So what are some noble goals for 2014? Let’s take the obvious and most self-centered approach. Like the late great MJ said “If you want to make the world, a better place, take a look at yourself and make that – change.”


Healthier, smarter, stronger, more focused, organized, and disciplined – more prepared to accept any challenge and take advantage of any opportunity.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

~ Seneca (Roman philosopher)

Healthier – To be healthier I plan to continue running – I will most likely miss this year’s Houston Marathon (first time in 5 years) since I have not been training (what with the new baby consuming my life). But I should be able to do the half and perhaps still get in some marathon at some point in the year. Running is, in my opinion, the best sport. Where else can amateurs compete on the same track, in the same event as the world’s best athletes? Football fans NEVER get to play in the SuperBowl, and few soccer fans will ever take the field in the World Cup. But I ran the New York Marathon and competed with the world’s fastest (I came in 32,5523rd). Running every day also helps clear your mind, lowers stress, and helps make you more focused and disciplined throughout the day. In my opinion, it is the best resolution you can make. Do it.

Smarter – Read more. Read more books. Read more books on smart interesting subjects.  Read more books on smart interesting subjects that you would not normally read about. The popular view on the source of creativity and innovation is that it comes most often from people exposed to a wide variety of subjects. Ideas that are mundane in one discipline are breakthrough in another. Read stuff you have no business reading. You’ll find yourself making better, more insightful analogies and metaphors as you relate your cross-department communication challenges to those faced by Napoleon in his war against Austria (don’t use that one – come up with your own).

Organized – I don’t know about you, but 2013 was an information explosion for me. Between my wife and I we took more than 13,000 photos and movies (up from 9,600 in 2012 – yes, I track things like that). I’m working on setting up a workflow that works better than just sync everything to iPhoto – I already backup up to external drives but this amounts to having multiple copies of everything and all these terabytes of files are starting to be a burden on my subconscious. I’ve synced about 20K photos to Flickr (they allow unlimited photos now) but they have a lower resolution. While that works for the web, it doesn’t for later printing. Anyway, I’m still working on this – that’s why this is a post about resolutions not solutions (interesting how those words are so similar but different in meaning. A resolution is not a re-solution…hmm..never mind).

Miscellaneous – I have a lot of projects related to my work at Base22 I’m hoping will really take off in 2014. More about those later. I’ve been writing more and Cody Burleson and have both talked about writing a book forever.

What else…oh…family tree research – I think I got all the easy paths mapped. Mayflower pilgrims, knights, governors, and general’s daughters – those are the well documented, easy to follow paths. Once all the low hanging fruit is gathered, you are left with the hard ones. All those poor farmers and pioneers, soldiers, and illiterate immigrants. I’ve got over 3,000 names filled in so far. Some branches reach back to the 1500s, others I cannot find a path through the fog of the civil war. I’ll keep trying though. Its a fun jigsaw puzzle that really brings history to life. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle however, a genealogy puzzle doubles in size every time you lay down a new piece.


Anyone that says they have their family tree traced back 400 years is probably talking about one or two branches, not the whole tree. Remember – 400 years ago – you had 65,536 great-great-(14 times)-grandparents all alive at the same time. go back 20 more years and you have 130K. Show me an accurate tree traced back 400 years an I’ll send you a crisp $100,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwe Dollar bill.

My main project right now is learning how to get a 4 month old to sleep through the night. All my energy is dedicated to that all consuming problem. Current theory: his naps during the day are too short and by night he is sleep deprived and “wired”.

My final goal this year: blog more (thus this post). It helps me organize my thoughts, I get free stuff in the mail from people that want me to review their books and gadgets, I get unsolicited advice from strangers, and sometimes, I help someone out. The internet is made of random thoughts and the kindness (and arrogance and ignorance) of total strangers – I just want to do my small part.

Happy New Year everyone.