K.K. Barrett

Oklahoma native K.K Barrett is an Academy Award–nominated production designer known for his collaborations with Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola. He has worked on movies such as Her, Lost in Translation and Where the Wild Things Are.


In Nov. 2014, I hosted a design conference in San Francisco, and one of our keynote speakers was K.K. Barrett, the production designer for the Spike Jonze movie Her. Deeply unsettling and yet so believable, the movie pointed to a compute-intensive future with an invisible interface. Her was a peek into a world where invisible computing machines and artificial intelligence act as surrogates for some of our human connections.

K.K. and I were hanging out backstage and started talking about a whole bunch of things, many of them too abstract to remember. Fortunately I recorded some of our conversation on my iPhone. Here we are talking about Her, design, dating and the business of modern life and why it isn't that important. This is a quick read!

Continue Reading

Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann is one of the most well-known and creative thinkers in design. A type, information and graphic designer by trade, he began his career teaching at the London College of Printing in the 1970s. In 1979, Spiekermann co-founded MetaDesign in Berlin, and in the 1980s, at the cusp of the PC revolution, he co-founded FontShop, a distributor of electronic fonts. He has designed fonts such as Berliner Grotesk, ITC Officina, Nokia Sans and FF Meta. He is also the co-founder of design house Edenspiekermann. He divides his time between Berlin and the Bay Area.


Erik Spiekermann has forgotten more things than most successful and creative people know in their lifetime. Now in his sixties (68), the German-born designer and typography guru remains as excited about the future as ever.

A few years ago a friend invited me to have dim sum at Hakkasan in San Francisco. The high-end Chinese spot is a particular weakness of mine, but what made the prospect even more delicious were the other guests: Erik Spiekermann and Susanna Dulkinys, his business partner who also happens to be his lovely bride.

The lunch and subsequent email exchanges led to an invitation to speak at one of my design conferences in San Francisco. Erik was interviewed by Jeff Veen, another modern-day design legend, and they ended up talking about a whole bunch of things, including why fonts on modern digital devices suck. Erik's plainspeak resonated with the audience and to date, it remains one of my most memorable moments as a conference host.

Since then we have become friends, though we don't see each other often. We have the ambient intimacy afforded by modern social platforms, with an occasional email and a rarer meal or a coffee. Last year it was on one such occasion that we ended up having this conversation. It was long, rambling and a lot of fun. I promise there will be a part two in the future!

Continue Reading

Jennifer Magnolfi

Jennifer Magnolfi is a trained architect and a design consultant in corporate real estate, and her applied research explores high-tech workspaces and startup environments. She is an expert on technology's impact on how we work, and she is the co-author of Always Building: the Programmable Environment. Previously she worked for Herman Miller R&D and was a Fulbright scholar at the Interactive Institute in Sweden, where she led research on the effects of digital programmability in physical space and networked environments. Italian by birth, Magnolfi now lives in New York City.


Jennifer Magnolfi and I have a common interest: We both obsessively think about the future of work. I have a network-centric view of it: I believe that networks allow us more latitude in how we work, where we work and how much we work. I first had this idea in the early 2000s. One of my earliest attempts to understand this was the WebWorkerDaily blog, which focused on “digital nomads.” Now, almost sixteen years later, the network has upended the idea of work.

Jennifer thinks about the future of work from her own unique perspective — that of an architect. Born and raised in Italy, she has also spent a lot of time in North America exploring workspaces and what they mean in the context of society. She has worked with large web corporations and new workspace networks. She has also spent time working for Herman Miller, the iconic furniture company.

A few months back, the two of us sat down over coffee and discussed workspaces in this information-dense, postindustrial world. Our conversation is especially timely because even the old world is moving toward the WeWork model: The Wall Street Journal reports that boring old Citibank is redesigning its workspaces and saying sayonara to the cubicle. That's why I would like to conclude 2015 with this conversation about the future of the workspace.

Continue Reading

Yves Béhar

Yves Béhar is a Swiss-born designer and the founder of Fuseproject. He has worked on products from well-known companies such as Herman Miller, Apple, Puma, GE, SodaStream, Samsung, Issey Miyake, Prada and others. The 48-year-old is also the chief creative officer of August and Jawbone. Behar, who now lives in San Francisco, is a keen surfer who compares surfing to improvisational jazz.


When Yves Béhar and I met about six years ago, we immediately got along, probably because we both love connectedness, technology, bags and watches. And design too. Or is it perhaps that I can get metaphysical and philosophical about these things when talking with Yves? Regardless, at many of my events, you could find busy Yves and me huddled together, chatting about our common interests.

Over the years, as I have sunk deeper into technology, it's become important for me to invest in some of the handmade, analog traditions that I value — fountain pens, sublime paper and mechanical watches. And yet I couldn’t help but buy the new Issey Miyake watch, Vue, designed by Yves. Despite its being powered by quartz movement (thus making it digital), the watch's sheer minimal beauty grabbed my attention. “Why do I need to see all twelve numbers when only one is needed?” Yves said.

He has a special bond with watches. “Watches are a great way to think about how products should be designed to last,” he told me a few years ago, because they “have to withstand constraints of life — water, dust, scratches.” That makes them a pinnacle of design. And thanks to Apple and its Apple Watch, the devices are back in conversation.

Earlier this year, Yves came out with his third watch: the Movado Edge. It too is not mechanical, and yet it is modern, minimal and iconic, much like the Movado Museum Dial watch designed by Nathan George Horwitt in 1947. Edge is a worthy descendant to the Dial, with no numbers except for a solitary gold dot at 12 o'clock, symbolizing the sun at high noon. When I saw the photos, I was full of admiration for the design, which moves away from the current highly detailed two-dimensional graphic designs of watch faces to a more subtle three-dimensional and yet recognizable design. I knew I had to talk to Yves about it. An email later, we were sitting across from each other, nerding out about the watch. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Continue Reading