PSFK conference, part 1

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Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the PSFK conference. Held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, the event consisted of panel discussions on topics ranging from technology, design and innovation. In attendance were a lot of creative and agency types, mostly from the NYC area. Overall I thought the day was fun and pretty inspiring. Most of the speakers had either founded a start-up or were leaders in agencies that are creating some of the best work I can think of to date. I also had a chance to meet a lot of like-minded young people who are budding entrepreneurs, designers and developers.

The first speaker of the day was Graham Hill, who heads the start-up Treehugger. He spoke a lot about green products and how the idea of sustainability is big in the media, but not so much in reality. I really responded to his comment that, “Anything that’s going to last has got to be loved by multiple generations. Beautiful and well designed things are inately sustainable.” He spoke with a mix of humor “If you haven’t heard, our oceans are f*cked,” and potential “we need to start growing food in our cities.”

The next panel was Colin Nagy (Attention), Richard Find (Help Remedies) and Sean Kozin & Jay Parkinson of Hello Health. They did an overview of their respective brands, as well as provided insight on the healthcare industry as a whole. Hello Health’s business model is particularly interesting, in that it cuts out the middle man and provides an arena for practitioners and patients to communicate directly. Every visit to HH reads and functions like a blog post, and your profile page is populated by the doctor. They eventually are going to expand the social networking platform and build API. The idea of virtual healthcare is interesting, as the American public seemingly grows more frustrated with the lack of affordable options. HH takes 7% of each transaction, like Etsy, and patients are free to “visit” with any doctor, regardless of insurance restrictions. I’ve actually worked on web applications in healthcare before, and a big issue that comes up is privacy. It really didn’t come up as a barrier to their business model, but I was curious as to how that works. When we were prototyping a mobile device for Johnson and Johnson, a huge issue for potential users was the idea that they were transmitting really personal data over the internet. I love the idea of patients forming healthcare communities that share their personal research, but when it comes to actually visiting with a doctor, I know I would much prefer a physical meet-up in a confined room.

The third speaker, Kevin Slavin was one of my favorites of the day. He co-founded Area/Code, and spoke of his findings in mobile technology, and it’s influence in our cultural landscape. He touched on trends in architecture, and how adaptability and changing environments are becoming crucial when constructing built environments. Slavin also focused a lot on how entities are having both a physical and digital presences, and how the lines between the two are becoming blurred. Mobile phones are amplifying our daily experience and affecting the spaces around us. Objects are becoming communication drivers and often having predefined brand personalities.

The last panel of the morning was moderated by friend Dave Pinter, who is a NY based design consultant working in retail design. He led a discussion with Sarah Beatty (Green Depot), Simon Collions (Dean of Fashion at Parsons), Ryan Jacoby (IDEO) and Matthew Lusk (Hecho). Their discussion was a bit all over, but mostly focused on the nature of the fashion industry and it’s inherent nature of mass consumption. Basically the tenor was that if we create and deliver high quality goods, then fashion can be somewhat sustainable. Simon Collins said he encourages his students to constantly think of blue jeans, and designing something that is meant to be worn and lasting. It seemed a bit off for me, since fashion is really about evolving and reinventing itself. Someone on the panel also discussed taking away the luxury packaging in retail, but I always consider that to be an essential part of the high end brand experience.

More to come.