Who do you think you are?
May 29, 2008, 12:56 am
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I’m totally fascinated with how people present themselves and the judgements we make based on these impressions.

As Jean Paul Satre famously said “We are condemned to be free” meaning we can be anything we want to be, and certainly present ourselves however we want in a free, modern society…so what do we choose?  The same as everyone else! Even the individualistic “rebels” play to the same patterns – skateboarders or musicians conform to their own stereotypes while at the same time bemoaning homogeneity.

Personally I like to think I do my own thing, but recognise that I identify with certain communities depending on which hat I am wearing – be it as a father, entrepreneur, lecturer, employee, fisherman or whatever.

So why fit in? The way I see it, I often need to appear like those I am collaborating with as its in our nature to want to be with people like ourselves.  By reflecting back what they want to see I will receive co-operation to achieve my own goals.

So I guess my thinking might be individualistic but the image I project will never be as I need the acceptance of others to function…Can we ever get past how people look?


The Power of One Voice
May 27, 2008, 2:00 am
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I hated the TV show, “The West Wing” – I thought it was overblown and full of itself, so I exercised my option not to watch it. I did however catch a sound bite from one episode that for some reason has stuck with me… “Never stop believing a small group of people can change the world as its the only thing that ever has”.  Apparently originally a quote from American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead.

I think it resonated as sometimes it can feel like no matter how big or small the endeavour, we are taking on the world and who are we to think we can succeed (which reminds me of another fav quote from Nelson Mandela, but I’ll save that for another time!).  But no matter how institutionalised and ingrained any concept may be in our society (everything from mega-big like government or the education system down to the toothpick or the safety pin) at one time an individual or small group of people (no “man” is an island right) said “How about this new idea” and proceeded to make it a reality…quite inspiring really….

Product Ideas

As you may have gathered from from my other posts I have more than a passing interest in entrepreneurship! The process of turning an idea in one person’s head into an actual business that many other people find useful fascinates me. But how do you find an idea in the first place? I find regular (daily) inspiration at the following:

http://www.core77.com – great for product ideas. I love the experimental use of materials and form. Sometimes conceptual, othertimes just a basic hack but always interesting.

http://www.springwise.com – a wonderful collection of business ideas. Tends to be more service oriented but gets you thinking, is easily digestible and has a great searchable archive.

I could put up a very long list of others that are out there but these are my favourites…I’d love to hear about ones you like.

So what’s a design store?
March 23, 2008, 8:24 am
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I’m often asked what we sell on the Vanilla Design Store website. The standard reply is “modern furniture and homewares” but it really goes a bit deeper than that…we have a pretty wide variety of products, so what’s the common theme? That terrible phrase comes  to mind of “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it” but I think we can shed a little more light on the topic…For me a “design store” sells objects that have a bit of extra thought put into them. It’s in their function and/or form, for example the “Hollarocket “water rocket adapter – a clever and unique device that converts any used soft drink bottle into hours of fun for a child, or the Aromarest pillows that use the sense of smell to help you sleep better.  Hopefully the product is innovative, and authentic – it should have a story behind it and involve an intuitive leap.  It’s a bonus if it delights the customer and brings a smile to their face but it should improve people’s lives and fit the customer’s lifestyle like a glove – I guess that’s where the “extra thought” aspect comes in, thinking through a better way to do things and that applies equally to the wide variety of products (and services) that use the moniker “design”.  

Designing your life

Conscious Design is the name of the business that produces the “Tio” chair we sell on the Vanilla Design Store site but the phrase got me thinking…everything is “designed”, whether its intentional or not…and by thinking through anything you do there’s more chance of getting what you want or even getting something wonderful you didn’t expect.

We’d like to think that’s a bit of a theme with the products we have stocked on Vanilla but the term is equally relevant to any other area of your life – for example in personal (or professional) relationships.  After reading the list of usual suspects in the field (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and so on) a lot of the success in relationships seems to some down to empathy – trying to understand how someone else sees the world and responding with what they need rather than what you want…and by giving we get more back.

I’m the first to admit my personal relationships aren’t that “perfect” but rather than drifting along its worth keeping in mind you might get better results in life by making a conscious effort to design your life…

Why bother?
January 24, 2008, 10:09 am
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So, why did we start Vanilla Design Store, in fact why do people bother doing anything at all?

For me it goes to the basic human condition (why are we here?) which I think is best explained by American philosopher Noam Chomsky as “we are here to create and explore”.

But what is the purpose of exploring and creating? My take on it is that by doing this we learn and help each other.

But again, why bother? Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) wrote a book called “God’s Debris” which sort of said people want to make stuff and do things because our self-expression is an innate part of the universe – everything wants to be something (very heavy!).

Which brings us back to this humble website…like everyone else, I have ideas and aspirations which I would like to be realised. Unfortunately most people are subjugated to “lives of quiet desperation” (a quote from Henry David Thoureau).

In establishing this site we hope to enable many new products (and the people behind them) to find success…I hope you will join us.

Thanks for reading…I’ll try and make the next post a bit more light-hearted!