Silicon Valley v2.0
Have you noticed how nearly every major North American city is attempting to brand themselves, at least in part, as Silicon Valley 2.0? For example:
Vancouver has got serious buzz right now and we’re getting a lot of attention as a centre of innovation and for our incredible tech community.
— Vancouver Mayor Greg Robertson
Mayor Robertson doesn’t stand alone. There’s also this article in the Montreal Gazette about the city’s “flourishing” tech scene, and Portland’s quest to build a “Silicon Forest" has been well documented by The Huffington Post.
The list goes on. Across the continent, cities like New York, St. Louis, Nashville, and Atlanta are rushing to proclaim themselves as the next great tech utopia.
Obviously major cities need to fight to attract a talented workforce, but I’m not sure this is the most effective way to do it.
To be fair, the tech industry is growing at a rapid rate in many North American (and probably global) cities, but advertising the growth of your local tech community is like announcing your garden has green things poking out of the soil. It’s no surprise—or at least, it shouldn’t be.
This trend of tech-friendly branding will continue, I’m sure. But the truth of the matter is that when civic leaders strive to build communities worth living in—not just for the tech elite, but for people of all walks of life—ambitious, talented people always seem to turn up, ready to call these places “home.” With that in mind, I would suggest that cities dispense with the tech angle, and focus their branding on the things that make them worthy of the title.
If you design things for digital screens, you should set aside some time to read this point-of-view from Frank Chimero. It’s important.
The crux of Chimero’s essay is that, as a community, we need to establish a language of transformation. The skeumorphic/flat debate is a symptom of an industry grappling with the question of digital authenticity. What do screens really want, and how do we go about building it?
Chimero argues that the defining feature of the digital canvas is a capability for change, what he calls flux. Design isn’t just the layout of fixed elements on the page, but also the adjustments between states. If we are to design for interstitials, then we also need to develop a language to describe the behaviours of these transitional states.
Flip. Jump. Grow. Squish. Pan. Scoot. Fold. Sort. Morph.
These are the elements we’re trying to describe, and each is a starting point, but there are still many interactive elements which we don’t have the vocabulary to describe.
For example, what do you call the Tumblr Staff Blog's logo that loads in a random colour, before jumping and rotating as you scroll down the page? Or the animated content dividers in Polygon's recent Playstation 4 and Xbox One reviews? How would you describe the transitional space in IFTTT's mobile introduction? And what about the slideshow scrolling style that Apple has begun to adopt?
We need a language that allows us to label these interactive elements so that we can have meaningful discussions about their place on the digital canvas because without it, we’re flying blind.
It’s strangely fitting that the advertising industry seems to attract some of the most status anxious, insecure individuals around. We’re eager to please, and desperate for attention, just like the brands we serve.
To compensate, distressed talent tends to surround itself with more accomplished talent: other people who’s successes can provide a kind of reflected (but ultimately shallow) glory.
Taken alone, working at a reputable agency, or with people who do great work just isn’t enough. It may sound good in your Twitter bio, or as a soundbite in polite conversation, but winning the battle against creative anxiety has nothing to do with your job title.
If you think this is a negative post, or a rant, this is where it gets exciting.
Putting their reputation on the line.
Doing what they think is right.
Pursuing their passions.
These are the ways in which creative professionals confront anxiety — not by giving in to what they think people want, and certainly not by taking the path of least resistance. In other words:
Do what you think is right, not what you think will impress others. If others don’t like it, fuck ‘em. — Bob Hoffman (The Ad Contrarian)