Monday, December 19, 2011

We Need Holiday Parties.

The annual holiday party is a curious rite of passage for just about any agency. It’s an obligatory ritual that’s squeezed in among the hustle-bustle of many year-end activities: financial reports, evaluations, and finishing up OPDP submissions before the holiday break.

For those given the task of organizing the holiday party, there’s tremendous pressure, whether it’s for a shop of 20 folks or an agency with 500 employees. You’re charged with ensuring the merriment of your colleagues. You’re responsible for making sure they have a good time. That is the only agenda: to have a good time.

The quality of holiday parties is as varied as the agencies that host them. Some are so monumentally epic that your grandchildren and people in foreign lands will be reading about them in their history books. (If you were there, you’d know what party I’m talking about.) Others are so awful you just want “Die Hard” to happen in real life.

Good or bad, fun or not, one thing is clear: We need our holiday parties. Because holiday parties are cathartic.

They’re not just some drunken convergence of people who go to work in the same building as you do every day. Holiday parties are important milestones in every agency’s year. It’s a time to get together with the folks with whom you spend a majority of your waking hours and reconnect as people, as friends, as trusted partners. It’s a time to stitch up the past year, pat everyone—including yourself—on the back, and look ahead to the coming year. There is always something to celebrate at the holiday party, no matter how big or small.

Extrovertic holiday parties—yes, we have more than one!—have much to live up to. It’s not like we have a choice—we’re called Extroverts for a reason. In a year of such explosive growth, it would’ve been tempting to overdo it and go all out and over the top—“go big or go home” style. 

Instead, the first of our parties, was rather…nice, charming, and a little quirky. Very Extrovertic.
Berklee College of Music students brought the jam.

A tarot card reader helped us look into the future. (Will anyone use this new app I’m designing?) We ate, we drank, we sang, we danced, and we drank some more. And then we all hopped into cabs, went home, and watched the sunrise.

Like I said, cathartic.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Form, Meet Function.

What’s the first thing you do when you move apartments? Offices? Desks?

You clean house.

You sort through everything you have and decide which pieces can fit into your new space and which need to be left curbside for the garbage trucks.

Following this culling down of belongings comes the fun part—the need to acquire new furniture. Which is exactly what we did for the move to our new 21st Street location.

In keeping with our emphasis on design, each piece of furniture for our new digs was carefully researched and evaluated prior to being purchased. We ended up with snazzy turquoise desk chairs, frosted glass desks, and polka dot-covered work stations (to name but a few).

But the coolest pieces of furniture (in this Extrovert’s opinion) are the Interstuhl chairs designed by Christine Lüdeke. Uniquely designed, visually stimulating, and bright chartreuse in color, these chairs at first glance counteract the idea of form following function. This principle states that:

The shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.

By just looking at the chair, however, it seems to be…,well, non-functional.

But the Contemeporist, a product discovery site for architects and interior designers, quotes Interstuhl and clears things up a bit:

First of all you have to use your imagination to identify an easy chair in the 60-degree slanting element. But if you let yourself down at an angle you will experience something unique. You will be rewarded by a very comfortable seating sensation in a type of cantilever model that has been made possible by modern fibres and new weaving methods.

So, when it comes down to it, the modernist approach to design really does hold true—form usually follows function even when that doesn’t appear to be the case at first. Modern design merely asks that we work a bit harder to reap the benefits.

What are some ways that you can integrate form and function into your home or office?


* A special thanks to Account Extroverts Bill, Thomas, and Steve for modeling in these chairs, thereby kicking them up yet another notch.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Massive Health’s Holy Trinity: Technology, Healthcare, and Design.

As a healthcare communications agency devoted to raising the bar on strategic and innovative thinking, Extrovertic has launched an initiative to explore how the principles of design can be employed to improve our processes, products, and daily agency lives ((see post date 11/28/11)). 

One of the first places we looked at during our design exploration was Massive Health, a startup dedicated to infusing design and technology into healthcare. Massive Health believes a new approach to tackling the healthcare crisis is needed. According to their website, Massive Health is about “making beautiful products that sit in your pocket and give you deep insight into your health conditions.” Massive Health turns “data into meaning, and make(s) that meaning actionable.”

They recently launched an iPhone app called “The Eatery,” which is designed to help people make lasting changes to their diet. Using an iPhone, people take pictures of everything they plan to eat, give it a simple rating (Fit or Fat), and submit. Massive Health’s wonderfully executed app makes it easy to adhere to the simple rules of healthy eating and to implement the basics of successful behavioral changes.

There’s also substantiation that this approach to eating works:

1.      Sharing your goals makes you more likely to accomplish them: With The Eatery, you can share your food selections with your friends and get their reactions. In addition to helping make you more accountable to your goals, your friends may help bust your personal food myths. For example, is that daily smoothie really healthy or, as their site suggests, is it “a sugar bomb?”

2.      Eating colorful foods is a must: In keeping with Michael Pollan’s belief that food needs to be colorful, The Eatery allows pictures of your meals to become part of a patchwork quilt that can you can evaluate in a glance. Is it bland and brown or full of orange, green, purple, and red?

3.      Making small sustainable lifestyle changes is more effective than strict dieting: By compiling your eating habits in pictures and easy-to-read colorful graphs, you are able to identify small self-defeating patterns. For example, is every coffee break accompanied by a cookie break too?

I compare this beautifully designed app to the tools my daughter was given by a nutritionist to ensure she eats 4,000 calories daily—the amount required for her to participate in competitive skating. Flora got a boring three-ring binder and a stack of what looked to be slightly off-kilter mimeographed sheets straight out of a 1960s health class. Only a highly motivated, disciplined athlete like my daughter would stick to that regimen. Her baby-boomer mom certainly wouldn’t!

Massive Health says on their blog, “this iPhone application offers a simple, beautiful approach to eating better.” This is quite an accomplishment; simplicity is something we aspire to but often encounter obstacles in attaining. As someone who has spent close to 2 decades banging the health literacy drum in Big Pharma, I know how hard it is to get the simple stuff through review committees. Bigger words and complex graphics are often more technically accurate, and therefore safer from a regulatory/legal point of view.

Deadlines loom, and the folders stack up. However, apps like The Eatery provide inspiration to push back just a little harder (perhaps there’s an app that can help us make small, sustainable review committee changes). Massive Health’s first foray into merging design principles and healthcare, raises the bar for all of us involved in healthcare communications.