The Citroen 2CV Design Brief

Core77 is running a series about French car manufacturer Citroen, and I love how they open the second installment about the 2CV car:

We need you to design something that’s going to remain in production for over four decades.

- It has to be cheap.
- It has to be easy-to-maintain.
- It has to be easy to manufacture.
- It has to get good mileage, let’s say 78 miles per gallon.

Maybe you’d stall by asking who the target buyer is and what the car’s performance needs are. So they come back to you with:

It needs to be able to carry four farmers and over 100 pounds of their goods and harvested crops to market over unpaved roads. And they might be carrying eggs. Yeah, so make sure the car can drive across a ploughed field while it’s loaded up with eggs, and that the eggs won’t break. Also, sometimes they might need to carry big stuff like furniture, so make sure you design in a solution for that.

I have fond memories of a 2CV as one of my neighbors when I was growing up in London had one. I remember riding in it as a young boy for the first time, and her winding the canvas roof back. Seeing the sky while driving! So exotic!

Continue reading about the 2CV's development and history at Core77

Southwest Airlines Gets a Much-Needed Brand Refresh

A notification for the Google Play store about Southwest's mobile app being updated was my first hint that Southwest's brand identity has gone a much-needed refresh, and is only the third time in 43 years that it's changed the livery of its planes.

As Brand New points out, the former logo was actually just a Southwest airplane sitting over the Southwest logo type in boring black Helvetica. The new one is a word mark that is more stylized than before but still pretty simple, along with a heart containing diagonal stripes of Southwest's colors. This really brings their "LUV" motif right to the forefront, where it's been missing, and is a great change.

I was concerned when I saw the new wordmark that the type would be too simplistic at the large scale used on a plane, but it actually works very well. It's treated almost as a supergraphic, and subtleties of a more nuanced typeface would have been lost amongst the fuselage windows. The tail "flame" is very dramatic and will be easy to identify even from a long way off.

In fact, my favorite part of the whole rebranding is the heart logo on the belly of the planes. Southwest planes have always been easy to spot from the ground, and this will make them even more so. Mostly you see liveries paying attention to what the planes will look like on the tarmac, so it's great to see Southwest acknowledging the "worm's eye" view.

With so much of Southwest’s focus firmly set on the future, it was a natural time to look at our visual identity,” says Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. The task given to Lippincott, a brand strategy and design consultancy, was monumental: distill more than 40 years into one modern, impactful look that represents the exciting future of a one-of-a-kind airline.

“The job wasn’t to change who we are,” says Kevin Krone, Southwest’s Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “We already know who we are. The job was to keep the elements of Southwest that our Employees and Customers love and to bring them to the forefront, modernizing them for our future growth.”

“A lot of it was simplifying: getting back to what is true to our core,” Krone says. “We had to pare down until we got to something that was simple, clear, and fresh, yet still reflected our personality.

Here's a neat video showing the process of stripping off an old livery and applying the new one.

A brand refresh website has been launched, with the requisite vertical scroll animations: Southwest Heart

The laws of tech media

In an article on The Verge about the U2 album being pushed into users' iTunes libraries, PeteCE wrote this great comment that nicely captures much of what is wrong with tech journalism (though for the record I find The Verge pretty much the best general tech site):

In the book of Gawker which The Verge has begun using, Chapter “Race to the Bottom,” it states, “And in thine headlines, thou shalt useth leading verbiage which shall baiteth thine readers into clicking. In the final third of thine story, thou shalt backtracketh on all controversy in the headline through the use of facts, so as to dispel the anger of the part of thine audience that is still reading. A higher placement of facts in the story shall not occur, as it may offend those who clicked on thine article to confirm their bias against thine subject.

Taking the Zappos Insights Tour

Earlier this year, a colleague and I paid a visit to Zappos, the online shoes and clothing retailer, where they do "culture tours" of their headquarters. Zappos has been doing these tours for quite a while now as part of its Zappos Insights service. I wrote about Zappos Insights here way back in 2008, and also in my book, Innovation X. It's a great example of a company taking its internal strengths and making them external in order to monetize them.

They do several free tours a days, you just need to sign up in advance (they do book up 2-3 weeks in advance from what I can tell). You can go as an individual or as a larger group.

The guides are high energy and fun, and have mostly been at Zappos for a number of years. So far as I can tell they rotate through doing Zappos Insights - this means you are getting to meet the real people doing the work, not people who have only been hired as tour guides.

Our guide was very open to any questions we had, and there was no obvious holding back on answers. She took us around various parts of the building - office spaces, common areas, cafe, etc. The Zappos staff just continued doing their thing - they are obviously used to being part of a zoo exhibit!

In addition to the free tour, my colleague and I paid for one-on-one meetings with managers in specific domains. When booking you can select which of several domains you want to do a deep-dive Q&A on. In our case we did user experience design and call center management. These got quite in-depth, and was a very worthwhile addition.

At least back when I did it, the sign-up page seemed unnecessarily complicated when it came to registering for both the free tour and the paid one-on-one. The follow-up emails were surprisingly sparse on helpful information about finding the building (since it's not that obvious from the street that it's the Zappos HQ) and what to do once you arrive on-site. (It looks like the tours page has been updated since then, with a clearer distinction of tours and the paid Q&A sessions, so maybe it's improved compared to my experience.) However, once in the lobby the staff were very helpful and gracious - they even provide a free shuttle back to the airport.

I would say that if you're coming from a fairly progressive company or almost any tech start-up or company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, much of the stuff on the free tour will feel very familiar: creating a collaborative and fun culture, free snacks, personalization of the office/space, the various amenities and services to employees. But I can recommend the in-depth domain Q&A sessions even if the tour itself isn't breaking new ground for you.

Find out about the tours and booking here.

My podcast favorites

Ars Technica is celebrating the ten year anniversary of podcasts, and has put up a list of its editors favorites. I've been doing a lot of podcast listening recently due to my 2-3 hour per day commute, so here are the ones I've been enjoying:

99 Percent Invisible: This American Life for design and architecture is how I think about 99 Percent Invisible. Flat out my favorite podcast at the moment and I'm hungrily going through the archives. If you're a designer, architect or even remotely interested in the material world, you need to be listening to this show.

The Bugle: John Oliver is best known for his biting comedy on The Daily Show and his new HBO show This Week Tonight. Paired with fellow British comedian Andy Zaltzman, The Bugle is almost 300 episodes worth of raucous satire. Regular segments include commentary on current events, "In the Bin", pun runs, "fuckeulogies" and many references to cricket and football (the proper kind). (Programming note: The Bugle is currently on hiatus as Oliver spins up his new show, and much of the current broadcast have been from their earlier Political Animal show. I don't care for it as much as they role-play in it as opposed to riffing on current events. Go back into the archives a bit earlier this year.)

Slate's Lexicon Valley: Featuring Mark Vuolo and Bob Garfield (also of NPR's On the Media) discussing language. They don't take it too seriously, and there's plenty of humor and personal barbs to go along with the ever-interesting histories of words and languages. My favorite episode: a fascinating tour of the origins and uses of the word "dude" - it's got much more depth than you might think.

Planet Money: The Planet Money crew is constantly finding fascinating and engaging ways to talk about all aspects of the economy, from the Fed to the global economy, from trade tax quirks to money in popular culture. I know...trade taxes...trust me, it's great stuff!

All Songs Considered: Host Bob Boilen is joined by a regular cast of music experts and commentators with an incredibly diverse taste in music. I don't like everything they play but I always find new songs, albums and artists to check out.

Radiolab: Fascinating deep-dives into social science, psychology, the environment, botany, astrophysics....pretty much every corner of science you can imagine. Brilliantly and creatively told and edited stories from dynamic duo Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad.