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Weekly inspirations: February 13th, 2015

Here are the things that I think are worth reading and checking out this week:


The Brilliant Air Vents You Never Knew You Needed

Nest created a whole class of copycat smart thermostats. But the vents that actually crank out all that finely tuned air still remain largely in the shadows. It’s easy to see why—air vents are designed to be camouflaged, by clinging discreetly to the ceiling—but that might be set to change. Keen Home’s inaugural product is the Smart Vent, which could do for individual rooms what smart thermostats do for the house. Keen’s Smart Vents make it possible for homeowners to do this with an app, rather than a bulky stepladder. The vents are rigged with sensors for temperature and pressure. Once installed, you tell the vent, via the app, what room it’s in (the bedroom, the home office, the den) and it goes about building a profile for that room. If the vent gets assigned to the home office, for instance, it comes pre-programmed with the knowledge that the room will be occupied from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. The Smart Vents stay open during those hours, and closed during the rest. Should the home office worker need to log a few extra hours one night, he’ll just adjust the occupancy settings manually in the Keen app. Like other smart gadgets, Keen will also remember user habits and intelligently open and close vents accordingly. Initial studies show this cuts down the run time on air vents by an average of 22%. Read the article here.


Coda: A Bold Experiment In Rethinking Global News

I’ll admit to feeling lost. Katrina, Ferguson, the crisis in Ukraine—in times of war, disaster, and social conflict, stories unfold over months and even years. And as soon as you skip a chapter of the news cycle, you have a hard time finding your place again. Coda is an upcoming news platform that’s designed specifically to track long-term crises. Designed by a team of journalists (hailing from places like the BBC and the New York Times) and San Francisco design firm Method, it’s being built, not like a CNN that publishes news on every story happening in the world, but as a site that publishes deep dives on just a few conflicts in the world. So instead of digging through a deluge of cross-topic headlines, when you arrive at Coda, you’ll come to a specific page, like the Ukraine conflict. That page has all of the stories Coda journalists have written and filmed on the topic. They’re organized with splash graphics on top of the page, but more importantly, they’re broken down in a series of timelines—what the team calls the main UI feature of the site. I love the idea and can’t wait to check it out. Read the article here.


How To Redesign An Iconic Typeface For Arabic

Hermann Zapf, the designer behind popular typefaces such as Palatino and Optima, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, almost 100 years ago. The typeface that bears his name, Zapfino, is in many ways his most personal design. A calligraphic font with the elegant loops and strokes worthy of a dandy, Zapfino is based on a sample of Zapf’s own handwriting from 1944, which was then turned into a typeface almost 40 years later. But what if Hermann Zapf had been born in the Arab world, instead of Germany? What would his most personal typeface look like then? Released today, Zapfino Arabic is an addition to Monotype’s Zapfino family that answers that question. Created by Arabic typeface designer and Fast Company‘s Most Creative People 2012 winner Nadine Chahine in consultation with Zapf himself, Zapfino Arabic aims to translate the distinctive elegance and dapper grace of Zapfino into a Arabic counterpart that still feels harmonious with the Latin version. Read the article and see the work here.


Adobe Kickbox Makes Innovation Easily Accessible For All Companies

What would happen if you funded every idea your employees come up with sight unseen? Adobe decided to find out. They believed anyone can be an innovator and you never know when—or where—creativity will strike. So, in late 2012, they developed a new approach that supports innovation by just saying “yes.” They call it Kickbox and it aligns passion with purpose by arming potential innovators with the tools they need to make their ideas a reality. Among the Kickbox starter kit materials that guides participants from idea inception and beyond is a $1,000 pre-paid credit card to fund experiments free of expense reports and approval. Read more about it here.

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