Sam Irwin FS

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Sam Irwin:

Reading Reviews

Week 1

Ideas for Startups

I thought that this essay was very clear in its message, I felt like I could relate simply from experience at Bennington having to generate ideas for classes based on prompts. I enjoyed how the essay was positive and pushing the reader to not limit themselves from their own self doubt. I was especially interested when it was discussed how an idea can have room for improvement or modeling into something great, great ideas don’t come easy, that they are almost always worked on and improved form something before. This is something I feel like I have done in a lot of my work, but I continue to see room for improvement in those past ideas, I consider this a very positive thing in that I still am excited to come up with new ideas as I am workshopping or editing an older one. One point that especially resonated was the note about downwind and upwind jobs, I thought that this was a powerful point in that it shows how far people can be willing to go with their skills and creativity. It is important to work together, it is impossible to generate ideas simply on your own, it is always valuable to have the voice of another person, whether it be a friend or a critic, these comments will shape the idea into something more practical and broad in how it will be understood.

The Messy Minds of Creative People

This essay I enjoyed for its truthfulness in different types of character. I thought it was interesting and true that some people have certain knacks for certain skills, but also really resonated that just because you are not in a specific discipline, does not mean that you cannot contribute. I particularly have found this true in classes at Bennington where I have found myself completely outside of my comfort zone, but also ending up being able to contribute to the conversation. It is interesting that both of these essays hint at producing mass amounts of ideas as a very productive way of working, I am not saying that I disagree quite the opposite, but I feel like I have heard time and time again that multi tasking is not efficient, I am not saying that these two ideas are the same either, but they do possess similar qualities. If one is working on one idea, another project could sway them in a different direction, I have found this to be the case with my own work multiple times.

Week 2

Design for Action

This essay had a clear overall message explaining how design is essential for any successful venture. It elaborated further on this notion by explaining how design is integral for creating change through action as well. One must have a clear plan and process in order to create any sort of change in a successful and productive way. I enjoyed how this article was organized in explaining how thoughtful, simple design measures can vastly improve a work ethic. One point that was introduced was the notion of a hybrid version of a product. When a hybrid model is introduced, there is an issue of users favoriting the previous version, having grown used to it and such, the new versious should be similar enough not alienate the users that really love the design features, but also different enough that it separates it greatly from the original design. Before reading i was not looking forward to a list of what not to do or a list of what to do when prototyping or advancing an idea, but i found this part actually very helpful. I feel like I go through these steps when trying to expand an idea, but seeing them so clearly written is very helpful. What is brilliant about some of these idea to me, is that when they are created they really do seem obvious, but it is not so simple getting to that place. It is not too easy to be able to strip down an idea to figure out wha is not working and how to implant it in the most logical way possible. In order to do this you must be able to separate your idea into components and to figure out the core of what you are trying to accomplish. A question that I had during the reading that I feel like has been a common theme in a lot of the reading thus far, is this idea of competition. What does it mean to make your business more competitive, and why is that positive? Is it that you want to be the leading innovator of what you do, do you want people to know how superior your product is? I understand that the economy is competitive, and the company has to be able to generate a profit or some sort of revenue, but this language confuses me slightly for now. With the example of the bank owner in Peru, what I found made him so successful was his ability to think in the future, to be thinking what would help his community in the longer term. This strategy of being able to think steps ahead of where you are going is powerful, however it can also cause self doubt as the article points out, it is important to remain optimistic in your evaluations.

Design Thinking

This essay more clearly explained how design is successfully implemented in different contexts. Something that struck me was in the beginning of this essay explaining how Thomas Edison never stopped inventing. How with the lightbulb, he needed to go further to make it really work to its fullest capacity, so he did. This inspires me in the sense that no idea is truly ever finished, anything can be made better even the best products can be improved to some degree. I was also interested in how the essay mentioned how designers jobs used to be to make a design perhaps look more pretty after it had already been created by market researchers. Really every person at work is a designer in how they are working, only the person with the title carries the weight of making a product desirable. I also enjoyed the section on prototyping. The example with the surgeon blade was clear and resonating, it may have been a low quality object, but it completed its goal of illustrating an idea, a prototype should be no more then the ideas that you have conceived, and then those ideas can be shifted around until another prototype is created. When the author mentioned aesthetics I was interested, primarily because of the earlier example of the coasting bike. The designers not only had to design the product, but they also had to make it cool. The designers were the ones who came up with the slogan, this component is just as important as all of the other ones in the system.

Week 3

What Is Strategy

We have seen what happens to a company that does not have a clear business strategy. The company inevitabley becomes left behind, and its competitors move on. The reason that there have been some companies that have lasted as long as they have, is because they have a strategy that reflects the companies needs, and is thinking of the future. Apple has stayed the leader of innovation because it is constantly one step ahead in making something new, while being smart about its materials used, labor force. No one has become disinterested in apple, because they have consistently kept their customers, and employees, in mind with their strategy. In order to have a strategy, you need a clear, thought out goal of what you want to accomplish, you need an idea, and you need to make it clear that you are different then your competitors. I thought that this reading was very detailed and helpful in that it helped illustrate the importance of thoughtfulness in a step by step process. Running a company is like controlling a human body, there are all of these components that you must be aware of at all times for it to full function, if you leave one part behind then you may be safe for a period of time, but over time a mistake that you made will catch up to you. Something else that stuck out to me was combining activities. Activities that make your company unique cannot act on their own, they must be all parts of a greater functioning strategy where each activity aids to improve the company.

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy

I read this article after I read What is Business Strategy. This felt like a very natural progression, while what is strategy answered questions about what makes a strategy work successfully, and how important it is to have a well functioning one. This article gave more specific components of that goes into a strategy in the first place. The author breaks down 5 components of strategy that are each integral to a well functioning plan. These are competitive rivalry, threat of new Entrants, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of buyers, and bargaining power of suppliers. He goes into each of these points with detail, and describes how they aid one another in creating a successful business strategy. An example that the author pointed out that I actually mentioned as an example in my last response was apple. Apple is a company that has been on the forefront of innovation since they began. How can a company like that manage to stay afloat and remain the leader of their industry? This is because apple is always thinking ahead with the future in mind. A great example of this is with the iTunes store. Apple didnt have to become involved in the music industry, but by doing so they have extended their reach and power, and now The iTunes store has evolved into a key player determining chart values, and even further letting people have access to movies and television before they are officially released. Good business strategy is never settling, but rather consistently updating and changing reflecting the time you are in whilst thinking about how people will be receiving your service in the future.

Week 4

SWOT Analysis I

I thought that this article was incredibley effective in how it lays out evaluating a strategy. It feels like a natural step in logical thinking but lets you sharpen your ideas, removing everything that may create roadblocks on your path of creative thinking. I kept thinking of an artist creating an idea, with a friend focused in business who would question all of the artists decisions. This produces more valuable, specific, and most of all honest work. Something I also found valuable was noticing how many things could be both a threat or an opportunity. It all depends on how you spin it and how you use it in your strategy. If you ignore a possible threat then you are finished, but if you educate yourself about the market, then you are prepared for anything. I was also interested in quantity vs. price vs. amount sold. This got me thinking about the Charlotte Pipe and how it could vary in price for different markets, a more expensive Charlotte Pipe could have a lot of add ons of effects and extra buttons, but a simpler cheaper one could be the bare minimum, this could allow for varying levels of demand. A part of this reading that really stuck out for me was Porters Five Forces Framework. It really helped me develop not only to keep thinking about the Charlotte Pipe as a product, but also about many other ideas i’ve had, this is something I will definitely be holding on to.

SWOT Analysis II

This second part I found to be just as helpful as the first SWOT section. I found this mainly because I have had a hard time identifying weaknesses, not because my ideas are so great, but because I have a hard time simply identifying them. When I plan out an idea, I do not think of the weaknesses it has, mainly because I am trying to design it without any weaknesses at all. This article helped me realize what can really be a weakness and how there is so much more to this field then I had previously thought. I can see how important it is to identify each weakness on every step of developing your strategy. Something I probably found most valuable in this article was where Financial Condition was discussed. This is something that I typically put on the back burner during my thought process. Mainly because I am intimidated by how stressful it can be, I don’t like asking for money and I don’t like spending it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived in a world with no money and everything was just sustainable for no specific reason? Well as long as we don't live in this world I must remain trying to adapt. Each one of these Financial Conditions made me realize how important this can be, you can plan how you want to earn money in your own terms, so long as it is well thought out. This process reminded me of any other point of planning, it just involves what can actually keep your company in an effective market.

Week 5

The Design of Everyday Things

Something that struck me in this article was the initial clarification of the two elements for users understanding design, these being understanding and discoverability. The comparison I Immediately made was to my own instrument that I am developing. These two factors are things I think about all the time, when people use it, how quickly will they figure out how it works without me telling them. I think of the same thing when I am developing an idea for a interactive system or art piece, or even a video game idea that I am coming up with. I also enjoyed the part about talking about the complexity of modern devices, I feel like what is most important when developing an interactive technology, is that it must feel intuitive and natural. Something that to me was brilliant with apple, was the pinch and expand function for the iPhone. While yes it is complicated and specific, after you start getting the hang of it, it starts to feel natural and purposeful. Good design, is being honest, and expressing truth. A user interacting with an object shouldn't have to deal with complexities or things that draw away from its true intention, anyone can notice these things. When they become integrated with our lives, we tend to not realize the possibilities of what could be better. As human beings we shouldn't have to do anything less then something well thought out and smart, we have evolved to a certain point where these tools will help us to further create more and more tools that help people advance.

Experience Prototyping

Every time we discuss prototyping I feel like I start to gain a wider understanding of what it entails. For someone who prototypes their own ideas very often, it helps to read about to topic so that I can explore my own methods of prototyping. When I think of prototyping an idea so that someone else can understand it, I think of that moment where they don't know what I'm talking about, and I have to build something to demonstrate the specifics of what I am saying. This is not because I cannot do it with words, but rather making it so that one fully understands what I am saying. The other type of prototyping for me is where I make a prototype that I use in my own work, that gets across an idea that I want to do in art, but I continuously think about how to expand on that idea as well, this is what I feel like that article was about in terms of experience prototyping. The Charlotte Pipe is a certain type of prototype that I use, it gets across the main ideas that I want to, but it is not in its final stage. I can use this prototype to receive specific feedback about what I am trying to create. Further reading this article, I feel like I started to gain a larger grasp on the steps of experience prototyping, and how I could take it farther. It is essential for user experiences other than my own, without this then I cannot build upon the idea in a concrete and full way. There are so many levels of control and specific methods of handling that I can do to make this instrument better, this reading was another reminder of that. Something that I have encountered myself in the creation of the instrument is how people will use it in ways that you did not intend. when I first made it I did not expect that I would use overtones in the way that I do, but I fell in love this this after I grew attached to it. These are where some of the best ideas will come from.

Week 6

Design Kit

At first when i opened up the design kit website, I was not drawn to the opening explanation video. While I understand it may be a personal preference, but those sort of animated explanation videos have never really appealed to me too much. I wish I could offer stronger criticism, but I do not think that the video was necessarily poorly made at all rather the opposite, maybe its the lens I am viewing it in that is bringing me to a place where I cannot appreciate it as much. Then as I started to explore further, I felt very familiar with the website design. It brought me to our conversation last class on website design, I thought about this as I was exploring and felt very pleased. Having Mindsets, Methods, and Case Studies as the three target sections feels important as you are going through, each section informs the other, and when you feel like you have a question after visiting one part, you are drawn to another. In the Methods section, at first some of them seem arbitrary, but after inspecting each one, I was able to imagine the different scenarios in which this would be incredible useful, especially for a CEO not sure how to move forward. The way that this methods section is organized and with the clear text/video explanations for each method, truly gives motivation to these watching it realizing that these methods are quick, easy, and broaden your thinking with your company. Case Studies is a very clear section with each study organized in a similar way. This I can imagine for the skeptics or for the people are not imagining their own company working out with these methods. This section proves them wrong quickly. Lastly in the mindsets section, this I feel most clearly explains the general ideas behind business centered design. I feel that this is for those who need someone to explain it to them, need someone to explain these different perspectives for them. This website is organized in the way that expects people to move on with their idea, or be “lazy”, with that in mind it extinguishes any room for poor development.

Business Model Generation

This I thought was an interesting take on what we have been reading, the layout was interesting and allowed for a different kind of intake on my end as a reader. By having these smaller sections to go through, I felt like I was able to go through it in an order that felt curated for me. Thinking about what value is directed toward the customer I found to be a main point that resonated in its importance. Companies and ideas can become less valuable as a market increases, it has to keep in mind their customers and how the customers are changing while the market changes, otherwise something else that can answer the questions you can’t will swoop in and take your customer. Communicating these ideas and these values seems more difficult, but by giving the customer more freedom without leaving them confused, can make it so that you have a working relationship with your customer. From there it is clear how important that customers relationship to your product can be. In the realm of instruments, customer relationships are huge. People have ties to specific models for different reasons, and there are huge communities of people who are talking about this. intersecting at this point is difficult, but there is lot of room for fruition within it. After you establish these key terms, it becomes more how your company can remain sustainable, and profitable at the same time with strategies on how to accomplish this goal.

Week 7

Business Model Generation PT.2

Business Model Generation successfully outlined to detailed process of creating a business. It did this by creating chapters that are carefully placed in order to deliver clear ideas.

I took a different more note like approach to this response.

  • Patterns

business models with similar characteristics, patterns that occur within business. this should help to understand business model dynamics.

unbundling business models-

-customer relationship businesses -early market entry enables charging premium prices -battle for talent; low barriers to entry; many small players thrive -employee centered codling the creative stars

-product innovation businesses -high cost of customer acquisition -battle for scope -highly service oriented

can’t these even more easily inform one another and aid one another?

-infrastructure businesses -high fixed costs -battle for scale -cost focused

unbundling a business is unpacking it to get ever separate part functioning on its own, it helps these inform each other.

i get that keeping a focus is important, but don’t customer relationships and product innovation overlap in big ways? you can focus on both

ah. the book is not discouraging this, quite the opposite, more stressing the importance to be aware of these separate functions otherwise how you operate will start to get muddy.

  • Long Tail business models

huge base of products, with few that emerge as most successful.

selling a small number of hit items in large volumes, while also holding a shit tton of non hit items that are sold in small quantities.

  • Multi Sided Platforms

developing a base of customers where the customers are dependent on one another oso that the platform holds value.==examples==facebook, google, social media, online gaming platforms, google.

This is incredibley useful, go back and re look at some of it, this is interesting because within each of these models there is so much to unpack even further, but clarifying these differences is important as well.

  • FREE as a business Model

before i read anything here the first thing I think of is Facebook.

making revenue from other sources then customers.

use your platform to direct other buying opportunities

free advertising

  • Bait & Hook Pattern

creating a product that is cheap that pulls customers i to continue to buy more, first thing I think of is in app purchases.

  • Open Business Models

Taking an open source approach, letting other outside sources contribute to gather markets and spread knowledge. This makes me think of open source software, when a company offers the code that they developed for there product for free and for people to explore.

Week 8

Business Model Generation PT.3


This section of Business Model Generation was very useful for me. I believe that Scenario-Guided Business Model Design is very important for our product. I think this because this is how I initially came up with the product, I think this is a very productive way for us to interact with our customers. Reading about the two types of scenarios for businesses was very informative, with many points in this book, I feel like this is something that I may have vaguely already have done, but reading about it in a refined sort of way gets me to think about it in a more productive way. Something that I think will be very helpful for us is thinking about the future with competitive strategies in scenarios, what will happen in x amount of years when customers expect more or it hasn't made an impact, how will we challenge that idea? I thought reading the examples was helpful, but it was even more helpful when it was unpacked into key points for me, really illustrating what was going on within each scenario. I also enjoyed the length of each scenario, giving you a descriptive type of person that the reader can picture using the product or finding the product helpful within a situation. In thinking about future scenarios, its helpful to be thinking about not just one place in the future, but the steps taken to get there, if you imagine a scenario, I realize it's also very helpful to imagine the scenarios surrounding it. It sounds very silly, but I really enjoy playing chess, and it reminds me of that. You have to think about the different choices you will make and what might stop you on the way to your end goal.

The Ideas

The Charlotte Pipe (name still in development)

An instrument that is designed for beginners into music. Modeled after a flute, the Charlotte Pipe operates as a teaching tool for the player. You have 8 notes that you can play, when you sing into the pipe, a mic within the instrument reads the pitch you are singing at, and you can play in that scale. The idea was created when I was asked to accompany a dance class. After I agreed I realized that while I may be a musical person, I always gave up on my music classes and have very little formal training in music. I was very nervous knowing I was going to be playing with advanced musicians. I created the Charlotte Pipe because I wanted to be able to play and improvise in my own way without the same sort of formal training that a musician might have.` The Charlotte Pipe is meant to both be played, and to inspire the player to learn how to play an instrument that is more complex.

What separates the Charlotte Pipe from other electronic wind instruments, is that it is not trying to replicate a flute or any other type of instrument, but is rather is inspired by it. The sound that occurs, is a combination of room tone, the sound that is going through the pipe, and a simple sine tone. The result is a stand alone instrument which creates sound that is specific to that person and the environment it is played in.

Here is an example of what it sounds like.


An app could possibly be integrated with the instrument, allowing for more direct teaching and clearer musical technique demonstrations.

Problems With the Prototype:

- Uses Guitar Hero controller parts.

- Wired vs. Wireless

- Dependent on Computer

- Is made from a PVC Pipe

- Is limited by being able to play in only one scale, I would like to expand this so the user can pick what scale they play on


Putty (name still in development)

This is a device that can be used in a variety of ways, it can be an interactive decoration on the wall, or a tool that can be used to visualize a design. It consists of a frame with thousands of small needles within it that rise and fall according to movement directly in front of a camera at the base of the frame. The user has the option to freeze the mold that they have created, and resume changing it at any time.

Expansion: could download the data from the model to view it in a 3d modeling program


Virtual Reality Marketplace

An online community and space that is accessed through virtual reality consoles. The marketplace would work similarly to how the internet works now, people create websites and visit websites. This uses the same idea but instead with what people decide to create that can only be accessed through a virtual reality device. It would operate very similarly to a actual marketplace, people post up ideas and experiences for other people to try and experiment with. You could play games, take classes, online shop, experience art, the possibilities are infinite of what can be experienced in an online virtual reality community.

Expansion: People have to pay the service to set up their "shops", otherwise it is free to use other than the expense of your internet provider.