Nike Plus – The Creative Edition (v.1.0)


@capricey: In 11 days, I will be landing on the other side of the world, in Hong Kong. An entire lifetime of work has to happen before this…

@Le_Professional: Someone should develop the equivalent of the Nike Plus system for creatives, & playlists to keep you going in times like these…

@capricey:  ha. love it! i noticed that at 3am, other creatives & a great playlist is the only thing that keeps me going.

@marcreisen: can we get on this guys?! Onto something here!!

@Le_Professional: just what I thought as soon as I finished writing it…maybe we do a collaborative Knot Collective post about it…

@capricey:  maybe knot’s working… the whole idea of us all influencing each other. Seriously call it happenstance, or creative transference we are all sharing the same wavelength……

@Le_Professional: What you just read above is part of a recent Twitter discussion between a few of us from The Knot Collective. It should come as no surprise that conversations like these happen daily, if not hourly, among creative types but we often laugh it off (or simply come up with a better idea) and move on. However this time around a couple of interesting things happened. Firstly the idea clicked as crisply as a new ball point pen and we knew right away it was something that had to go beyond a blue-sky chat, and that the theory behind Knot Collective was already starting to prove itself. Secondly, the conversation happened to coincide with Steve’s poignant Knot piece, referencing Nike Plus as the epitome of the Digital Platform.

The idea we started formulating, simply put, would allow transparency and support on a project, whether it be a late night fast burn or several week process. As Caprice put it, it is often other passionate creatives that can give you that extra burst you need toward the end of a project, or to help you launch into a new one with the right momentum. In a studio environment this kind of support is usually readily available, making a good studio operate more like a singular yet multi-faceted ball of energy capable of just about anything. Yet in the dynamic and decentralized system that many of us operate in these days, this physical connection isn’t always possible. Even as I write this those of us from Knot are sprinkled across the globe, converging from time to time and then scattering like metallic particles under a magnet with constantly alternating polarity.

So what would the system be, what would it look like and how would it function, that would allow a Nike Plus-esque system of shared goals, support, inspiration, kicks-in-the-ass, and visibility to enable real-time collaborations in the creative realm? The Nike system offers a supreme layering of platform, interface and product, even though the product itself is the weakest link in that equation. The simplest version of this would be an app, and the most complex an entire ecosystem and dedicated product. Since this is the beginning of an open discussion I’m going to throw out a first stab and picture this as a web based shared ‘desktop’ of sorts, a virtual surface or studio space where you can throw what you’re working on down on the ‘table’, get instant feedback via either chat or simple rating system, and share real-time music playlists – because music is often the glue that binds and the motivator that can get people on the same page faster than you can say ‘offsite team-building exercise’.  To reference the Nike Plus system, maybe there would then be some way to store information from various sessions and track progress over time…or maybe this goes against the way creatives work? Twitter already has some of this possible functionality built into it: sharing links, images, music and conversation/ideas on a real-time basis. Skype has screen sharing and video chatting, and Posterous allows you to blog anything from anywhere. Basecamp offers secure file sharing and project management. Pinterest creates a pinboard allowing you to easily grab images and share with a larger audience. There are bits and pieces of enablers everywhere but nothing that currently consolidates this with dedicated features, angled toward a creative process.

Mapping collaborations, left, and Microsoft's Surface table, right

Before I get too carried away on what is only really the introduction to a big picture,  I’m going to pass the baton onto the next collaborator as well as leaving this open to comments and inspired input.

Here’s to tying a Knot.

Article Info
Posted by: Leon Fitzpatrick
Thinking About: Collaboration / Creativity / Culture / Design / Interactive / Platforms / Product / Technology
Location: Chicago
Twitter: le_professional
  1. Caprice Yu

    Ah, progress! Great to see this up as a post. Thanks Leon. So here’s what I’m thinking:

    A dashboard seems to be the most natural way to go, at least at this stage.

    For me, a system that can replicate a real life studio/creative environment as closely as possible would be the most helpful. So if I was to break down the elements that work best in a face to face environment, it would be:

    1. The ability to talk and sketch in real time:

    Being able to have real time, back and forth banter is the key to building an idea. Also, I often need to draw something out to get my point across. There should be a way for the system to chat and share sketches, images, refs. Sure, you can do this through iChat now or hold a pic up to a webcam, but it would be great if the conversation and refs were archived in order so all participants can go back into it if they want to.

    2. Presence:

    I love the feeling of being in a space with other creatives where we’re not necessarily talking or actively concepting together, but where I know that they’re there should an idea strike. It’s the random ‘hey, what do you think of this?’ that gives me the extra boost when I need it – especially late at night. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘you guys have to listen to this track’. This also goes back to the age old truth that you can’t schedule creative thinking. Let’s make this less of a brainstorm (*shutter*) and more of an open studio space.

    What if there was a way for participants to sign on during a session, let others know they’re there, then choose to do their own thing quietly and chat as they need to? It’s the virtual version of coming into work, saying what’s up to co-workers, then putting your headphones on until you feel like saying something. It’s up to the participants to decide how they organize their people to ‘show up to work’. I personally have Tweetdeck and Gmail open on all day long but I’m not always on it. I just like knowing that others are there.

    3. Building a circle of trust:

    In any office or studio environment, there’s certain people you always go to for an opinion. The best part about doing this virtually is that the studio space is suddenly cross disciplinary. Perhaps each session is set up like a studio where users can only join as a friend or friend of a friend to the initiator. (Might solve for rights/copyrights issues too if you know everyone in your studio.) The best feeling at work is when you know you have a tight group of other trusted creatives; the worst is when you feel like someone is in it for shady reasons. So let’s replicate the good parts.

    4. Progress:

    This is where we can borrow a page from Nike+. Steve made a good point about fear of the blank space on a chart – it means ‘no progress has been made’ and for me that endless spinning is the biggest enemy of finishing a project. Having foreseeable goals and mile markers on any project keeps the momentum going. Maybe there’s a chart or progress bar that each participant can set at the beginning of their project, with mile markers along the way. The bar stays there for as long as the project is active. At the end of each session, the participant logs their progress and it’s reflected in the chart. Everyone in the ‘studio’ can see it. Should you find someone in your studio ‘passed out on the side of the road’, pick them up and give them a boost!

    5. A notebook:

    I archive everything, from sketches to references to final files. I often find it useful to go through old notebooks or project folders and sometimes pull assets from previous projects. Each studio should have their own virtual notebook which can be seen by everyone in the group, where all conversations, inspiration, music tracks, files, are collected. It helps to see others’ thought processes too should you get stuck running around in a circle. Even if I’m working in advertising and I check out, say, Ben’s notebook about an architecture project, it help wake my brain up.

    Ok. Baton pass. Who’s next?

    • Steve Peck

      Really cool stuff. I like Caprice’s build on the ‘Notebook’ feature. I also keep process books for my projects and it’s really interesting to see how the idea grows and changes from inception through production. Implementing a utility feature of a process for people’s own recordkeeping purposes as well as making it social would be pretty awesome.

  2. Leon Fitzpatrick

    I definitely agree on the notebook idea, hence the Moleskine image at the top. It sucks that Microsoft’s Courier was canceled because it would have been the product to handle a lot of these ideas.

    That aside, I think from Caprice’s thoughts there’s some seriouly solid areas to look at. Points 1&2 : the sharing, collaborating and real-time presence element, creating a virtual space via chat, music & some kind of shared ambience. Points 4&5: Then there’s the progress tracking, storing & comparing, as well as the sharing aspect of the notebook which can be viewed/referenced at any time.

    All this I feel is bound by Point #3 which is the circle of trust. If we’re going out from our own studios to seek feedback/inspiration then we won’t always be able to share specific details, images etc. But there’s a chance here to somehow break some of these walls down without violating NDAs. Of course there’s always side projects (of which I have many) and it would help to have goals to aim at in order to get some traction on little ideas that could become bigger with a little support and inspiration.

    • Caprice Yu

      Agreed that this system would be great- perhaps better – for the numerous side projects we all have going. In a work environment, there are other systems in place that keep you on track – project managers, clients, deadlines to deliver to. It’s the side projects that often get what’s left of our energy at the end of the day that need the extra boost.

      Here’s another add – what if there’s a how-to section or archive of tutorials and tips? Those random skills and pointers that you learn along the way that would be really helpful to other people in your group. Learn something new about CSS? Find a trick on photoshop? Share and archive it. It would eventually become a book of online tutorials from insiders.

  3. Ciaran McCarthy

    This is a great idea.

    I always find that my side projects get neglected because of the lack of agency structure, and the support of fellow creatives. Having a virtual agency that provides these things, where I can “come into work” sounds great!

    I think your idea Caprice, of talking and sketching in real time is particularly useful. One reason being because I’m an art director and explanation through image has always come easier to me. The second being I’ve found that rapid prototyping an idea always leads to ideas that are more original and unique. Real time talking and drawing won’t allow over-thinking, or getting bogged down in unnecessary detail.

    I like the tutorial section too. It could also be used a place for asking real time technical questions. So when the pathfinder tool is up to it’s usual tricks, or you accidentally lose all of your menus by hitting “tab”, you have people there to help you out straight away.

    Again, great idea. It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad to be contributing to the knot collective.

    • Caprice Yu

      Ciaran – adding some of your techniques about staying focused would be great for this too. I was thinking about Belsky’s steps and how they could apply to the ‘virtual studio’, so really cool to see how you’ve applied it to your day. Maybe there’s some kind of automated project manager that keeps us all on track…

  4. Ciaran McCarthy

    Caprice – it’s funny, I was thinking that while I read this post and busily composed my own. The action method is very similar to the the Nike + progress approach to personal projects you described earlier. An automated project manager would be a great way of tracking your own projects and helping everyone else keep up with theirs.

    The progress of the projects should definitely be visualised. What’s interesting about this, is that seeing the positive progress of everyone elses projects would encourage you to work harder on your own. To return to the Nike + analogy, when someone passes you on the street your natural instinct is to pick up the pace and keep up with them. Because personal projects are more often than not reliant on personal motifation, opening them up to a forum of fellow creatives could make a huge difference in actually completing them.

    • Leon Fitzpatrick

      This is cool. My brain is heavily weighed towards generating and executing ideas but I’m not so good at the timelines, progress tracking, organization element. The last thing you want is a project manager who can’t understand or empathize with your creative process (if you want to call it a process).
      Having some automated features like Caprice mentioned would be excellent…sort of how Excel understands what you’re doing and fills in some of the blanks. That being said I hate Excel with every fiber of my being, it’s like the Segway of the software world; highly functional yet lame at the same time.

      The tutorials section; an equally good idea as all this stuff floats around but is not filtered and consolidated into a trustworthy location. Also key if you’re moving into new media or trying different ways to tell a story or communicate an idea.

      Ciaran’s tie in with the growing need to focus in a world of distractions is timely…as what’s missing from my personal projects is always a matter of focus first and foremost.

      Speaking of which perhaps I should filter some of this new thinking into a revised post (v.2.0) and take a stab at preliminary visualizations of what this might look like.

      If I can focus that is. We need this system in order to design this system!

  5. Caprice Yu

    I could’ve used this system several times since we’ve started talking about it for sure and it seems like many other creatives agree. All the more motivation to make it a reality. A v.2.0 post would be a great next step. Let me know if you need help with visualizations. Thanks for keeping the momentum going guys!

  6. Ciaran McCarthy

    I’m also here to help with any visualisations you need. And wit the different time zones I can literally work while you sleep!!

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