Artist Transforms a Fallen Redwood Tree into A Gigantic Eight-Tentacle Sea Creature

Washington-based woodcarver Jeffrey Michael Samudosky has been creating elaborate figural works from a variety of Pacific Northwest trees since he started his company JMS Wood Sculpture in 1998. One of his most recent projects is a replica of an Enteroctopus dofleini, or Giant Pacific Octopus, carved from a fallen Redwood given to him by Redwood Burl. The cephalopod’s tentacles curve and twist their way across areas which Samudosky left natural, including the entire back of the trunk which gives the illusion that the octopus is on top of the tree, rather than a part of it.

Samudosky has previously carved deep sea diving helmets, rams, and bears twice his size. You can explore more of the self-taught woodworker’s pieces on his website and Facebook. (via Laughing Squid)

from Colossal

iOS 11 will annoy the hell out of design nerds

iOS 11 will annoy the hell out of design nerds

Apple is usually lauded for raising the bar for product and interface design, since way before it launched the first iPhone. But designer Ryan Lau has noticed a number of design issues in iOS 11 which lead him to believe that the company’s software development division is no longer paying as much attention to detail as it once used to.

And he’s right.

In an exhaustive post over at Hacker Noon, Lau lists several gross inconsistencies in UI elements, ranging from font rendering problems to alignment issues and buggy or redundant animation across iOS’ core interface and bundled apps. They might seem like minor niggles, but considering that Apple wants to charge over a thousand dollars for its new flagship phone, having icons and text line up isn’t too much to ask.

Lau points out how the hover effects in the App Store and Apple Music menus are inconsistentCredit: Ryan Lau / Hacker NoonLau points out how the hover effects in the App Store and Apple Music menus are inconsistent

Lau also noted how some of these problems weren’t even present in iOS 10, and have only cropped up in the latest version. He also said that these these bugs occur in the Golden Master (GM) of iOS 11, which is generally the final, ready-to-ship version of the platform.

Hopefully, Lau’s post will catch Apple devs’ attention and encourage them to fix these issues before they begin to aggravate design-conscious fans of the brand. Head over to this page to see all the bugs he caught.

from The Next Web

Chatbots Are Pumping Up The Sales Process

Modern businesses face crucial challenges related to customer retention and business development. A shift in focus from primarily sales-driven organizations to more service-driven systems, has e businesses trying to improve revenues by engaging customers in better ways.

Research shows that customers become angry when businesses do not satisfy or provide proper customer support. By improving customer support functions, businesses can build brand loyalty and boost revenue in a short time.

Chatbots are the new-age tool for helping businesses improve customer satisfaction, thereby, improving sales. Chatbots are becoming an effective tool for lead capturing and are being integrated into websites to help businesses get prospects in efficient and cost-effective ways. They are more than simply a traditional live chat. They have assisted the start-up world with scaling operations, building customer bases and boosting revenues. Conventional businesses are leveraging the benefits offered by chatbots to sales improvement, customer satisfaction and increased revenues.

Brands are going the Chatbots way

Every Chatbot feature provides a number of benefits. Even the most popular brands have begun using them.

For example, publishing giant Harper Collins is using its own inhouse- developed set of Chatbots, Epic Reads and Book Genie. Both interact with Facebook Messenger users make recommendations for interesting books based on their particular preferences.

Another example is Starbucks’ AI-powered app Chatbot, My Starbucks Barista. It translates complex information like “double upside-down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup” into contextual data for the business. As you can see, the bigger the brand, the more innovative the Chatbot! But this isn’t the only application for Chatbots. They are even better at expediting and making more effective the sales process.

This is how:

1. Lead Filtering and Identification:

If you run an ecommerce business or a sales website, you may be receiving significant traffic due to promotional expenditure, but does it convert into tangible sales? The answer is, highly unlikely. Even a sales funnel will only work if the user follows through with the content.

However, when you position a Chatbot, it prompts the user when looking for something specific. You feed the Chatbot with keywords and once the user responds, the Chatbot connects them with an actual salesperson.

You may be unsure about retaining a 24/7 sales representative because you don’t want to waste resources on casual ‘digital dwellers’ who have no intention to purchase. This is where the Chatbot can help you identify the lead at the right time, putting your sales team into action just when you need them.

2. Automated Response to Queries:

With time and experience, your sales team will be able to develop a set of general and frequently-asked questions, usually asked by prospective or new buyers. By leveraging a Chatbot, you can use this information to assist buyers without the need for a 24/7 customer representative. This saves you additional expenses and allows the Chatbot to redirect any non-standard questions to your customer representatives.

3. Information Gathering and Recording:

Data shows that people talk more freely when they know who they are interacting with, whether it be with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Home or Amazon’s Echo. This same principle applies to Chatbots. When posting casual comments, most users can provide vital information showing their importance to your business. The data voluntarily provided by consumers regarding recent purchases, hobbies, likenesses and residential areas can be leveraged by the sales team to reach out to specific buyers. While human sales personnel may miss these red flags, a preprogrammed Chatbot will not.

4. Offer Restatement

What happens when one customer, who has been interacting with one salesperson, is suddenly busy dealing with another customer? One of the prospective customers feels neglected and could decide to leave. This would never happen with a Chatbot because every consumer query directed to a Chatbot gets addressed timely.

Another amazing use of the Chatbot is what differentiates good from remarkable sales people While the good ones solve consumer queries, the remarkable ones solve them using the business’ products and offerings.

Most sales training programs state that an ideal salesperson should be able to solve customer queries. The reality is that they are supposed to make sales. If they are busy helping customers, then how can they help the business? This is where Chatbots provide valuable assistance. They are designed to solve customer queries so that when a lead or prospective customer is redirected towards a salesperson, the queries are already resolved so the salesperson can start talking about the product.

These are not just fancy features. They have great business utility which translates easily into tangible benefits for the business with respect to sales efficiency. This is done by:

a. Increasing response time. Despite the level of training and experience held by the sales team, if they are not available at the very moment a consumer needs them, they are worthless. A Chatbot guarantees that salespeople are available every time a prospective lead shows signs of interest in your products/services.

b. Decreasing conversion time. The sales team can now focus on leads having a higher possibility of conversion because they have been filtered using the criteria devised by you and your Chatbot. This results in decreased conversion time.

c. Increasing sales productivity. With the sales team focusing on hot leads, resources otherwise wasted on bringing cold leads into the sales funnel are saved.

The overall result of these Chatbot features is the absolute efficiency and effectiveness of your business, all at the same time.

Chatbots Are Pumping Up The Sales Process was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from Chatbots Magazine – Medium—-d6dc2c824f17—4

How blockchain will finally convert you: Control over your own data

In the past few years, blockchain has developed an unrivaled reputation as the next big thing for the decentralized internet. Startups have absorbed billions of dollars from traditional funding and token sales to develop software and proof-of-concepts that employ blockchain to fix many of the problems that riddle centralized online services.

But will blockchain tech see mainstream adoption?

Blockchain promises it can protect us against DDoS attacks and data tampering, prevent voter fraud, speed up transactions, reduce costs, and enforce transparency and auditability. And these are characteristics every IT expert and software developer can appreciate, but they’re also characteristics the average user takes for granted. Why should a user abandon established cloud services for unknown alternatives that provide similar features on the surface? As long as Skype works fine 99 percent of the time, why should I switch to a blockchain-based alternative?

Blockchain needs a specific value proposition for the average user if it is going to gain real traction. And I believe that value proposition will be the ability for every person to own their own data.

Big tech corporations such as Facebook and Google collect and hoard tons of information about users and use it to improve the algorithms that run their services and generate their revenue. But users have no ownership of the data and have to rely on those centralized services to store and protect their information. This effectively locks them into those platforms, depriving them of choice and control. If Facebook closes your account, you lose all the data, connections, reputation, preferences, and interactions you’ve generated over the years. The same goes for Google, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter, and the rest.

And then there are cases like the massive data breach Equifax reported this week, where 143 million consumers’ social security numbers, addresses, and other data was exposed to hackers and identity thieves.

This is where blockchain and distributed ledgers promise consumers real value. Blockchain’s architecture enables user data to be siloed from the server applications that use it. A handful of companies are exploring the concept to put users back in control of their data.

One example is Blockstack, a blockchain-based browser that aims to create a decentralized internet where service providers don’t own user data. The browser grants you access to various websites and services via a blockchain-based identity. This is an identity you own and take with you to every new application you want to use, as opposed to a profile that resides in the servers of those applications. The browser also gives you full control of application data by encrypting and storing it on a backend of your choosing. This can be Google Drive, Dropbox, or any other service that has the right set of APIs.

Pillar, another open-source blockchain project, is developing what it calls a personal data locker and “smart wallet.” Pillar is a mobile app that stores and manages your digital assets on the blockchain, where you have full ownership and control. These assets can be cryptocurrencies, health records, contact information, documents, and more. Pillar also aims to address another fundamental problem: The average consumer’s lack of interest in managing their own data. Pillar will be an AI assistant to which you express your intent, whether it’s making a registration, buying an item or anything else that might involve your data. The assistant will then find the services you need and provide them with data from your wallet instead of replicating and storing your sensitive information on their servers.

Projects such as Enigma employ blockchain to preserve user data privacy while sharing it with cloud services and third parties. Enigma’s platform protects data by encrypting it, splitting it into several pieces and randomly distributing those indecipherable chunks across multiple nodes in its network. Enigma uses “secure multiparty computation” for its operations: Each node performs calculations on its individual chunk of data and returns the result to the user, who can then combine it with others to assemble the final result. Users maintain control and ownership of their data chunks on the blockchain. They can grant or deny access to third parties and services wanting to perform calculations on their data without actually giving away the data itself.

Social media is another domain that blockchain startups are disrupting. Platforms such as Nexus and Indorse improve privacy and data ownership by storing information on the blockchain and putting users in control of how their data is accessed, shared, and monetized.

The key idea behind blockchain applications should be to shift the internet from application-centric models to structures where users are at the center, maintain control of their digital footprint, and can decide who will access it.

We still have a ways to go before users truly appreciate the value of their personal data and digital assets. But as they begin to understand the consequences of allowing centralized services to hoard their data and decide to reclaim control of what’s rightfully theirs, blockchain will be the technology they turn to.

Ben Dickson is a software engineer and the founder of TechTalks, a blog that explores the ways technology is solving and creating problems. He writes about technology, business and politics.

from VentureBeat

Illustrator turns each ‘Game of Thrones’ season 7 episode into a GIF

Last year, Tel Aviv-based illustrator Eran Mendel created a GIF for every season 6 episode of Game of Thrones. We were stoked to see he did the same thing for season 7.

Will these GIFs hold us over until season 8 premieres in 2018? Definitely not, but they’re still pretty great. Check ’em out below, and read about Eran’s process for creating seamless looping GIFs here.

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 1: Sam explores new frontiers

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 2: Sam waxes Jorah

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 3: A goodbye kiss

Episode 4: A Targaryen always sprays her debts…

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 5: A feast for crows

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 6: Toying with the enemy

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 7: Rider on the storm

Game of Thrones GIFs

Episode 7 bonus: Eran says, “How could I seal this season without referring to one of its biggest moments? (Most of) you asked for it—and I was happy to deliver this season farewell.”

For more goodness, Follow Eran Mendel on Instagram.

Want to see your work featured here on the InVision Blog? Get in touch with us: @InVisionApp.

You’ll love these posts, too

The post Illustrator turns each ‘Game of Thrones’ season 7 episode into a GIF appeared first on InVision Blog.

from InVision Blog

The most overlooked growth hack: designing for emotions

Emotional design is the secret sauce of many successful products. It can make all the difference between a good product and one that users talk about to everyone.

Think of a digital product you love and have raved about to your friends. Often, in this crowded market, these products are not one of a kind — there are competitors who offer almost identical functionality. So why do you prefer one over the other? It’s more than what the product does, it’s how the product makes you feel.

Usually, when we think about the role emotions play in the marketplace, we think of advertising. Psychological and neuroscientific research has revealed that —

Emotions are so powerful they influence our perception, decision making, and even memory — the more emotional an experience the better we remember it.

However, these days it takes on average seven impressions for people to act, and no amount of advertising will ensure customer retention. Instead of waiting till that later stage to consider emotions, product designers can inspire specific feelings in their users by designing with emotions in mind from the get go.

Emotional design has the power to turn users into fans, spreading the word about products they love. Don Norman defines it as making a product or service that delivers in a person the emotions that we (the company) cares about. It’s the secret weapon of companies like Apple, Mailchimp, and Slack, which is why copycats have a hard time mimicking their success. The investment required to implement emotional design is small, so it’s something any company can profit from, especially startups with a limited marketing budget.

How to implement Emotional Design

First, before thinking about emotional design, the product must provide value to its users. Next, the design needs to be functional, reliable, and usable. Only then can we focus on adding the emotional cherry on top, by thinking “what feeling do we want our product to spark in the user?” and designing toward that emotional goal.

Let’s look at a few of the main components of great emotional design:

Contrast and Delight

Slack has been called the fastest growing workplace software ever, by The Verge. But its functionality did not vary much from its competitor Hipchat, according to Andrew Wilkinson, the founder of Metalab, which designed the original Slack.

The difference lies within emotional design. Slack looks very different from its competitors which makes it stand out. Its round shapes, vibrant colors, friendly typeface and emojis make it more reminiscent of a computer game than the typical blue-grey enterprise software. But it doesn’t just look different, it also feels different — the animations give the impression that the app is playfully jumping around. When the logo is loading for example, it bursts into colors like a confetti explosion. “When you hear people talk about Slack, they often say it’s ‘fun,” Andrew wrote on Medium.

Personality and Humor

We like interacting with humans more than machines, so adding personality to our products helps users build a bond with them. For example, Mailchimp lets its personality shine through in the smallest details, from the copy on its front page to the graphics users receive as they send out email blasts. Its tone of voice is familiar, friendly, and funny, like an actual person and not a faceless bot. The voice of Mailchimp tells jokes and stories and talks to its users like a good old friend:

Users loved this so much, they’ve even tweeted about their experience when sending a campaign through Mailchimp.

Neuroscientists have found that dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward. It’s this positive rush of emotions that keep us repeating certain behaviors and can even lead to addictions. Instagram for example uses rewards very effectively. Users obsessively check their feed, because they’re hoping for likes on their last post, which would make them feel good.

Variable Surprise
The Google Chrome Plugin “Momentum” surprises its users every day with a different quote and background image from a beautiful destination. Users expect variability, but the exact image and quote is a mystery until it’s revealed, so each morning it’s a delightful experience. I’ve even tweeted it’s quote several times, and recommended the product to friends.

The overlooked business value
When it comes to digital product design many companies still focus on simply making their products functional and usable. Why? Working as a digital Product Designer, I realized that in the hectic world of product development, we often feel pressure to ship new features fast and push delightful elements to “later” (which often means never). As a result, companies end up spending more money on advertising to compensate for users who are not returning or not talking about their product.

In my own experience, product teams are often simply not aware or underestimate the business value of emotional design.
It can actually help to meet important business goals such as increasing conversion and sales. It even has the power to make users forgive the shortcomings of a product.

For instance, in his book Emotional Design, Don Norman writes about the business value of emotional design:

“Apple Computer found that when it introduced the colorful iMac computer, sales boomed, even though those fancy cabinets contained the same hardware and software as Apple’s other models, ones that were not selling particularly well.

And in Aaron Walter’s book Designing for Emotion, he reports on how Blue Sky Resumes (a service that helps people create resumes) saw a 65% increase in clients each month and a 85% increase in total revenues, by changing nothing but their design.

While emotional design alone does not make a product great, it has the power to inspire strong feelings in users, emotions which equate in high rates of retention and positive word-of-mouth. It’s a powerful growth hack that any company should take advantage of, and in today’s competitive market it’s becoming an essential element of success.

The most overlooked growth hack: designing for emotions was originally published in on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from – Medium—-138adf9c44c—4

The truth no one will tell you about moving to a new country

The truths no one will tell you about moving to a new country

Seven years ago I was catching a flight to what I thought was going to be “just a temporary gig in another country”. Sure.

Photo: Paul Kim

September 2010. After being “found” on Linkedin by a foreign recruiter and accepting a job offer in the US, I was catching a flight to what I thought was going to be “just a temporary work experience”. What started as a career decision ended up being one of the most transformative experiences in my life. Here are a few things I have learned along the way.

  • You are not as fluent in English as you think you are. Nobody out in the real world speaks at the pace and with the patience of an English-as-second-language teacher. You will likely have to study the new language a thousand times more once you make the move.
  • There’s no such thing as losing your accent. The more you lose your accent when speaking, the better your ears will get at recognizing accents — including your own. Get over it.
  • You are not going to be the same person you were in your native language. You can’t. Your personality (the one you are so proud of in your mid twenties) will not survive in a foreign culture. You’ll have to find your new self, your new vocabulary, your new behaviors, your new tone of voice, your new jokes, your new social interactions — or you will always feel like a fish out of water. Unless you have zero self-awareness, in which case you’ll be just fine.
  • You are going to spend a few nights thinking you made the wrong decision. You will cry, but you won’t tell anyone (well, maybe 7 years later…). This will probably be the best endurance test you will go through in life. Do you want it, or do you not want it that much?
  • You will learn you can live an entire life without possessing things. Sharing economy + free spirit + investing your money in the right places. Choosing this path will transform your relationship with the world in many, many levels. You will stop spending emotional energy in desiring to own things and in showing the world you own them.
  • When you are free to wear, pray, worship, eat, look and behave the way you want, you are more likely to follow rules and obey the law.
  • You will learn to “run a ballpark estimate”, “set up a touch base with the team”, “make sure you cover all the bases” and learn how to “handle curveballs right off the bat”. When you’re born in the nation of soccer, reading expressions like these can be disorienting; it’s what I like to call “Baseball English”. After a couple years living and breathing the American culture, you will learn to understand, appreciate, and respect each of these expressions.
  • You will meet people from countries and cities you have never heard of, and you will find it shocking how homogeneous your own country is. Your first reaction will be to try to bucket people into categories (“French people are more straightforward”, “Canadians are nicer”), but that won’t last long. The more you get to know individuals, the more you’ll realize they are quite unique. You will understand that culture ≠ personality, and you’ll be fascinated by how many combinations you get when you mix both.
  • Some people in the country you’re moving to have no idea about the rest of the world (e.g. some Americans do believe that the USA is the only free country in the world). Your first reaction will be to think they are silly. Only until you realize how many things you didn’t know about their country either, and you’ll stop thinking in terms of “us” vs. “them”.
  • The fact you are a foreigner is not as interesting as you think. When you move to a new country, all you want to talk about to your new friends is how “things are different back home, let me tell you”. After a few years you’ll realize this is boring for everyone, including yourself. It makes for good small talk, but doesn’t get you to deeper, more relevant conversations.
  • There’s a chance you will not understand TV humor in America. In my case, I did not understand TV humor back home either — so no drama here.
  • Every country is culturally huge, regardless of its territory or population. The same way you are going to hate when people paint your country’s culture in broad strokes, you will have to learn to use thinner brushes yourself. You can’t have it only one-way. It’s not fair.
  • The feeling of security you get as you walk on the streets (compared to your hometown) can slowly kill your animal instincts of awareness, self-defense, survival. Find other ways to not let them die.
  • You will have issues defining your own ethnicity, simply because classification models vary quite a lot from country to country. Don’t take it personally.
  • You will have to learn to measure the world under new lenses: Fahrenheits, miles, pounds, inches, tip percentages. If you like brain puzzles and appreciate the value they add to your cognitive abilities, you’ll be fine. Also, Google is your friend.
  • Moving to a new country is opting in for a journey that will be painful, delightful, unexpected, harsh at times — but above all, transformative. It will force you to deconstruct your so-perfect self, and to build empathy with an entire nation, which is one of the most aggrandizing experiences one can go through in life. Embrace it.
  • Wherever you are, there you are.

from Stories by Fabricio Teixeira on Medium——2

This is what 500 years of graphic design in print looks like

This is what 500 years of graphic design in print looks like

A new book from Phaidon chronicles the history of printed imagery

Wozzeck, poster, Jan Lenica, 1964, Warsaw Opera, Poland.

In 1455, the budding Italian urbanist and author Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini was in Frankfurt viewing a first edition of the Gutenberg Bible. Later he gushed in a letter to Cardinal Juan Carvajal, “The script was very neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow — your grace would be able to read it without effort, and indeed without glasses.” Enea, who was three years off from being ordained Pope Pius II, was already well on his way to Holiness that day. But his epiphany with the printed page almost certainly helped shape the pontiff-to-be’s ambition in letters: Pius’ novel The Tale of Two Lovers would become a 15th century bestseller and remains in print to this day.

Gutenberg’s accomplishment—the first major book printed with mass-produced, moveable type—was a watershed in the advancement of information distribution. It was also the European impetus for what we now call graphic design.

The Gutenberg Bible, book, Johannes Gutenberg, c.1453 to 1455, self- commissioned, Germany (page 469).

A new book published by Phaidon, Graphic: 500 Designs that Matter, collects milestones from the rich history of visual communication into a single tome of pioneering design and typology. Pairing canonical works to emphasize visual echoes across the ages, Graphic draws connections between images as disparate as the Nazi swastika (1920) and original Macintosh alert icons (1984). The result is a bold, non-chronological litany of some of the most important visual messaging of the past thousand years. Think Fette Fraktur meets the Nike “swoosh” logo.

In a world inundated with information, graphic design—the way in which messages are communicated through media—is vitally important. From subway maps to pie charts, great design cuts through the clutter to help shape and direct daily experience, either by facilitating our ability to quickly absorb what we need to know, or forcing us to question the obvious. Now if only the internet would catch up.

Public Theater, poster, Paula Scher, 1995, Public Theater, US: ‘Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk’, Public Theater poster, 1995.

Bauhaus programmes, book, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, 1922 to 1931, Bauhaus, Germany: Bauhausbücher 14 by László Moholy-Nagy, 1929.

(left) 5 Finger Hat Die Hand, poster, John Heartfield, 1928, German Communist Party, Germany: Die Rote Fahne, 13 May 1928. | (right) Vanity Fair, magazine cover, Mehemed Fehmy Agha, 1929 to 1936, Condé Nast Publications, US / Vanity Fair, cover illustration by Jean Carlu, art direction by Mehemed Fehmy Agha, April 1931.

The Man of Letters, or Pierrot’s Alphabet, typeface, (designer unknown), 1794, Bowles & Carver, UK.

(left) Othello, poster, Gunter Rambow, 1999, Hessisches Staatstheater, Germany. | (right) Beethoven, poster, Josef Müller-Brockmann, 1955, Tonhalle Zürich, Switzerland; image courtesy: © Josef Müller-Brockmann Archive.

IBM, 1956–1991, identity, Paul Rand, IBM, U.S.

Nippon, magazine cover, Nihon Kobo [Japan Studio], 1934 to 1944, self- commissioned, Japan; image courtesy: Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art © Miwa Natori: Nippon, design Ayao Yamana, photograph Yoshio Watanabe, 1934.

Luchshih Sosok ne Bilo i Nyet, poster, Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1923, Rezinotrest, Russia.

Graphic: 500 Designs that Matter is published by Phaidon. All images courtesy the publisher.

from Sidebar