Book review: Glimmer

Glimmer is similar to Change by Design in it’s review and recommendations of applying design and design thinking to business and social innovation. The full title is Glimmer: How design can transform your business, your life, and maybe even the world.

There are three main differences between Glimmer and Change by Design. Firstly, Warren gives more recognition to graphic and visual design, and the arts.

Glimmer is also better structured in that the entire book is divided into four groups covering ten principles, being:


  • Ask stupid questions (challenge assumptions)
  • Jump fences
  • Make hope visible (visualisation and sketching)


  • Go deep (ethnography and immersion)
  • Work the metaphor
  • Design what you do


  • Face consequences
  • Embrace constraints


  • Design for emergence
  • Being anywhere

The other thing that stood out to me while reading this book is that the author Warren Berger appears to be a big fan of Bruce Mau. Quotes from Mau adorn every page and some of the ten principles on which the book is founded are taken from Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. There’s no doubt Mau is a fantastic designer and highly quotable but the book does feel like a bit of a biography.

The author’s man-crush on Mau aside, this is a great book. I wouldn’t say better than Tim Brown’s book – they both have their strengths. I found Change by Design a better read, but with the structure and approach of Glimmer it is more practical and thus useful.

Note: Since writing this review I discovered that the previous cover of the book actually has as a subtitle “Featuring the ideas and wisdom of design visionary Bruce Mau”. That explains it.

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Jenny’s new lens: Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L USM

Every Canon photographer coverts the white Canon “L” series zoom lenses. They’re just gorgeous.

Jenny recently upgraded from her 400D to a 550D and decided to throw in one of these “L” series 70-200 zooms, the larger maximum aperture f/2.8, the non image stabilising model.

She’s let me hold it, and I took this photo of our border collie Misty. It’s not an amazing photo but what is amazing is the sharpness and clarity of the image. That said, it was also taken on her 550D as well so can’t really compare to previous photos taken on a 400D.

There is no need for sharpening in Photoshop in post-processing. In fact I automatically applied sharpening and had to undo it because it was too much.

Misty our border collie carrying a stick.

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Humanitarian design is fine if done right

In response to Bruce Nussbaum v Emily Pilloton in the debate Is Humanitarian Design a New Kind of Imperialism? they both make good points although I do agree Nussbaum needs to do his research.

I love design and I love travelling so it would be great to combine both and do design work overseas for entirely selfish reasons — but I do accept Nussbaum’s criticism that the motives and intent behind people delivering design services in other cultures can influence the effectiveness of their design work.

However by following a rigorous evidence-based design methodology with an aim to implement a solution that is desirable, feasible and viable in the local context then I believe designers can contribute in a meaningful and positive way in any situation regardless of their attitude and reasons for being there.

To extend Nussbaum’s argument sighted designers shouldn’t be designing for blind or vision impaired people; non-cognitively impaired designers shouldn’t be designing for cognitively impaired people.

I think it’s absurd to expect designers to stay within the confines of their own cultural silo because apparently they are unable to empathetically and sensitively embed themselves in another culture in order to apply their design expertise.

Designers are facilitators. There’s no place for cowboy designers, lone wolves who storm in, make a mess of things and leave again. Like a catalyst, we guide others who truly understand the situation to develop the solution without us actually being part of it. It would upset me for someone to point to something I’d been involved with as a designer and label it as mine — it’s a group effort. If someone attribute a design exclusively to me then I’ve done something terribly wrong.

Even though Nussbaum’s blog post did get my blood pressure up a bit I do concede he’s got a point — about bad designers. I don’t believe such criticism can be levelled at good designers who make the effort to design and implement sustainable solutions that are relevant to the local context and that are adopted. Hell, I have to deal with the same problems of user adoption and uptake with web applications here — it’s no different. I’ve seen business software deployed with no user consultation or support and be outright rejected even though the developers believed people could be forced to change. I think the “imperialism” angle is overplayed. It really is just about good v poor or unethical design.

As far as the debate goes I think Emily Pilloton spent too much time defending the reputation and good work of Project H Design rather than clarifying Nussbaum’s argument although she did have this to say:

I cringed, but nodded along, agreeing with his assessment that too often humanitarian design is a scattershot “fly-by-night” occurrence in which Designers (with a capital D) swoop in with their capes and “design thinking” to save the poor folks.

I suggest you watch Emily Pilloton’s TED talk Teaching design for change.

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Weekend in Sydney

Jenny and I travelled up to Sydney for the weekend with no particular plans besides attending a friend’s birthday party and spent a wonderful couple of days exploring Sydney, Cockatoo Island and some back roads behind Mittagong and Moss Vale.

First up, we had breakfast on Saturday at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place:

Lindt cake.

(I’ve taken a liking to Lindt Madagascar)

Then we caught a ferry out to Cockatoo Island where we spent the entire afternoon wandering between the old buildings and photographing the rusty old wharf-side cranes and equipment:

Wharf crane on Cockatoo Island.

Heavy machine shop at Cockatoo Island.

We had a great view from the rooftop of the 45-storey Park Regis hotel where we stayed:

View of Hyde Park, Sydney.

On the Sunday we came home via Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale with a brief stop at Morton National Park:

Grand Canyon, Morton National Park.

View the whole photo set

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Sunset, 4 July

Jenny had spotted the alto cirrus earlier in the day but on the way home from a TEDx organiser’s meeting it looked like it might make a good sunset so I send the message and we met up at our sunset photographing spot on Coppins Crossing Road.




Most of my photos of the sunset (I took over a hundred total) were taken with my Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM with polariser and Jenny’s Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM, all in RAW. Little post-processing done except white balance, minor colour enhancement and sharpening.

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First frost for 2010

I was running late for work so even though it was on our porch I just used what I had on me, which considering I take my camera everywhere was my Lensbaby with 10+ macro filter, so I’ll have to do a follow up with Jenny’s 100mm macro and tripod.

Frost on a wood hand rail.

Frost on a wood post.

Whilst packing my camera away in the boot of my car I managed to spill the Lensbaby aperture container and lost my f/5.6 disc down the side of the boot and into the car battery compartment (which is in the boot in MINI Coopers). Took ages to retrieve it!

Was great watching the frost melt in the sun through the lens. If I had my Canon EOS 7D already I could have videoed it …

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Tenzing the stalker kitten

I co-hosted a party this evening with my friend Rae Buerckner and took 56 photos … all of her kitten, Tenzing. Cute little thing, very friendly and playful. He took a liking to our border collie and stalked her around the house while Misty did the wombat thing and buried her head in the laundry trying to ignore the cat:

Tenzing the kitten watching Misty our border collie.

A few times Tenzing even snuck up behind Misty and pawed her, just trying to say hi and play with “the big black furry thing”:

Tenzing the kitten sneaking up behind our border collie Misty.

When Misty was in the kitchen, Tenzing would watch from just outside the door:

Tenzing the kitten just sitting, watching.

I tried to use flash unsuccessfully, so all these photos taken with available room lighting with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 on ISO 400 at around 1/40th of a second in RAW and bumped up +1 EV in RAW processing, adjusted to 3,500K then auto-levelled and backed off a bit in Photoshop. My poor, ageing 400D doesn’t cope well with grain. Pretty hard photographing animals playing, especially in that light and with such slow shutter speeds.

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Don’t pets make great subjects?

I was home from work sick today, so apart from snuggling under the blanket on the couch watching DVDs I took some photos of Misty. I’ve taken hundreds of her but so hard to get a good shot – indoors lighting, her dislike of cameras, high-contrast black-and-white fur … but I like these two I got today:

Misty our border collie dog.

Misty our border collie dog.

See more photos on Flickr in my Dogs & puppies set.

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