Monthly Archives: January 2013

My obsession with Gensler’s Los Angeles office

If you’ve followed our tweets recently, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve developed quite the infatuation with Gensler’s beautiful Los Angeles office. To recap, Gensler converted the old City National Plaza banking pavilion into this beauty:


I couldn’t decide which I loved more, the openness, the natural lighting, or the use of colors. On the surface this simply appears to be a warm and welcoming office. But since this is Gensler, I should’ve expected much, much more. And so they delivered:

Their application of innovative workplace design and practices left me in awe for two reasons. First, I’ve seen countless companies struggle change their own internal, practices, habits, and cultures, even when they advise clients how to do it on a daily basis. It’s rare for a company to effectively drive change like this internally.

Second, what I take from this video is that Gensler innovates with design and designs for innovation. The same approach that Apple has taken to the peak of the tech market, Gensler seems to master for the architecture and interior design industry. So let’s take a cue from these two giants and commit to always driving innovation with design.

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My Single Biggest Takeaway from Lunch with Jason Fried and Troy Henikoff

We recently had the pleasure of having lunch with the very successful Troy Henikoff (CEO of Excelerate Labs) and Jason Fried (President of 37Signals).  We discussed a number of topics, all centered around Unbranded Designs and what we are trying to achieve.  A number of learnings came from the discussion, but perhaps the most impactful one didn’t surface until after we had finished lunch.  After dropping Jason back at his office, Troy turned to us and said, “Friendly feedback. Sometimes you need to just shut up and listen.”

As we recapped the discussion, Troy pointed out that we spent much of the meeting talking.  In our minds, we were trying to give Jason, someone who knew nothing about our business, as much information as possible, so that he could offer informed feedback back to us.  Unfortunately, in trying to do so, we rendered someone far smarter than us practically mute for large parts of the discussion.

And here’s the really scary part: we would never have known that we were doing that if Troy hadn’t pointed it out!  On the surface, the conversation was lively and free-flowing, and we still walked away with a number of great takeaways.  But as I look back, I realize how much more we could’ve gotten from the conversation by simply prompting Jason with some very basic thoughts and letting him ask and probe from there.

Looking back, I also realized that Jason engaged in this type of “active listening” a number of times during our lunch.  We would be discussing some random topic and he would ask an open-ended question to the group and sit back and listen, sometimes pushing the discussion forward with a follow-up.  Now I have no idea if he intentionally tries to do this, or it just comes naturally, but it speaks volumes that someone so successful (and opinionated) spends much of his time listening.

So to all of you meeting with advisers, investors, and others whose guidance you really want, keep this story in mind.  Sometimes it pays to just shut up and listen, even if it is really hard.  As Troy said, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

Say it loud, say it proud

A few days ago I stumbled onto the website for an interior design company called Better Than Necessary Design. Its homepage contains a nice description of the company’s mission as well as an “About Us” section written by the founder, Jessica Price. To me, the first section read the same way that most company missions read: broad terms and statements that don’t really tell you much or differentiate from any other company. The vagueness though stopped at the end of the mission section as I started to learn exactly who Jessica Price and Better Than Necessary Design were. They believe “design services are not often available to the masses” and “design should be enjoyed by all”, which is why they offer interior design services to a “range of budgets” to make “your home beautiful and practical”.

There are 2 reasons that this really hits home. First, we share Jessica’s core belief that design is not presently available to the masses. She aims to solve the problem by providing interior design services at different levels of budget and involvement while our approach is to help consumers find the truly unique, great designs not currently available in the market. And we make the designs more accessible by producing them in limited runs, driving down the costs from a custom/commissioned piece. We’re providing people with more opportunities to fill their lives and homes with great design.

The second reason this hits home is because of how Jessica presents this on her website. Over a lunch with Jason Fried last week, we discussed the importance of letting the market know exactly what you are about and what you stand for. That means declaring loudly what you do, don’t do, and what you believe. Clearly communicating your stance to the world will result in finding true followers and detracting haters. But that’s a good thing! You now have carved out your place in the market that you can go win. It’s better to be known for something specific, even if potentially controversial or offensive, than to be unknown because you never had strong beliefs or communicated them.

Take a lesson from Jessica and Jason and make sure you clearly state what you believe. We’ll continue to do a better job of it as well.

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New furniture is fantastic… but what do you do with the old?

If you are French sculptor Marc Sparfel, you repurpose them into animal sculptures!

15 years ago, Sparfel moved from France to Barcelona.  While walking through the city, he became inspired by old furniture left out on the street.

I was immediately intrigued by the amount of furniture abandoned in the streets.  Initially, I found the furnishings by chance during my walks, but later realized that in every neighborhood there is a set day to leave large items in the street. So I started walking around the old town according to the ‘furniture days’ of each neighborhood to recover the material bit by bit.

Sparfel deconstructs, reshapes, and mixes fragments of furniture together to create sculptures, mostly in animal form.  As long as his creativity endures, Sparfel seems to have an endless supply of materials.

The neighbors [have] begun to leave me chairs in front of my workshop.  This is my forest, my world where I walk with pleasure, always excited by the surprises the new harvest brings, where I hand-pick the best pieces, and choose the woods as if they were fruit on a tree.

We love this artistic spin on repurposing!  Take a look at some of the pieces below.

wood 21 wood 20 wood 19 wood 18 wood 17 wood 16 wood 15 wood 14 wood 13 wood 12 wood 11 wood 10 wood 9 wood 8 wood 7 wood 6 wood 5 wood 4 wood 2 wood 1


O*GE Creative Group, made up of several Israeli architects, take the concept of nesting to a new level –  by designing furniture shaped as a giant birds nest!

The Giant Birdsnest is offered in a variety of sizes and materials.  The shell can be constructed of cardboard or wood, and is lined with foam padding.   The nest has been built in three different sizes.  The largest, with a diameter of 4.5m, can seat 16 adults!

O*GE describes this piece as “powerful, yet simple concept and intriguing character needs no explanation or user manual: Ready to to be used, to be played in, and be worked in.”  We like that O*GE expects this to be used by a variety of ages in a variety of ways!

Will you be flocking to this piece?

Furniture which is designed to look like a giant bird's nest, Haifa, Israel - 10 Jan 2013

Furniture which is designed to look like a giant bird's nest, Haifa, Israel - 10 Jan 2013

nesting 2.1

nesting 2.2

Furniture which is designed to look like a giant bird's nest, Haifa, Israel - 10 Jan 2013

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