The persuasive power of simple at This happened #9

Monday evening I attended This happened again in the Akademie Theater in Utrecht. The ninth edition already, as ever a very fine mix of talks gives lots of inspiration for thoughts. From mo

Let’s start with the last presentation. Diederiekje Bok en Hein Mevissen of John Doe Amsterdam told the story of John’s Phone, the mobile telephone made simple. I have stated some doubts on their choice of simple as you can read in an earlier post, and that topic was not really addressed. In the end they wanted to make a simple phone that should appeal to the hipsters more than to the mobile phone laggards. That is something they succeeded in for sure, the phone is a big success, especially by people who find the concept cute.

It is good to see how they have made a simple idea into reality. The road to realisation was not easy, it took over 4 years learning. The way they told about it gave the impression they went with the flow of their original idea, more than that they really where aiming for a certain result. The choices in the making and the hurdles of the production process in China were just slightly touched. However some of the anecdotes like the urge of the Chinese to put in extra features like radios and blue lighting are hilarious.

Before the story of the John’s phone Hedwig Heinsman of Dus Architects shared the poetic story of the creation of the remember moon jewels Worldmoon. They created a story that only architects can build. With some strange diverts and unrealistic projections of the future. But that did not really matter. The whole thing was something between a joke and a research project to the consequences of globalization.

It was by the way the project with the umbrellas she mentioned in her introduction that strike me even more by its simple idea and concept.

Before the break we had the story of Roel Wouters on the production of the crowdsourced videoclip for C-Mon & Kypski, One Frame of Fame. It was very nice to hear how the idea was born out of a pictures of people who used flash light while making a picture in the mirror. The concept for the clip was simplication in a way. Very well executed; the upload of pictures taken by the webcams of people was well composed and used some interesting persuasive tricks like the direct sharing of the frame to friends. In the end there were more than 3000 pics of which only 1500 could be used in clip. We also learned that people are focused on their moves and not on the setting, and that there was hardly any abuse, maybe also due to the creativity they have to put into it. And we learned that the use of Mechanical Turk for the filtering of the pictures triggers some ethical discussions. Something I did not really noticed was the story that is told in the clip, I was probably ‘disctracted’ by all the pictures.

Besides the clip they are working on a new iPhone app that will be released during Crossing Border in a few weeks. In this app the original idea of the flash pictures will come to a product. Of course you can add your own image to the cloud of images. The light will be playable in the app. Sounds great.

The first presentation of the evening kicked off very strong. Jan Willem Nijman and Rami Ismail of Vlambeer created a very strong game that gets is power out of the simpleness of the gameplay and rules: Super Crate Box. Endless to play. The simple the game looks, the work in shaping all the elements exact right took a lot work. Fixing a perfect gameplay is real crafting.

Jan Willem made some very truthful quotes, like: To make it simple is very hard, and hard games are not hard, they are just short. And: To be able to be successful with a hard game you need to make it free. Or: People get angry when they pay for a game that is hard to play.

And in this quotes is some resemblance to find between the speakers. If any, my theme of the evening would be the persuasive power of simpleness. Because the simple phone appeals to all unless the relatively uselessness, and because of the strong simple persuasive power of being part of a video with one simple gesture. And above all because of the ultimate addictive simpleness of Super Crate Box. And Worldmoon proves it with doing the contrary. How sweet and simple the idea was in the beginning, making it more complex makes it clearly less persuasive.

So another great This happened full of unexpected and probably unplanned learnings. We will see what the 10th edition will bring, very soon already during the Tweetakt Festival on March 17.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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