A new age for design

Another First!

Today reviewanew brings you my first book review, and it’s one with a story. Over recent years, I’ve become more interested in using new media, both in my life generally, and in my day job in urban planning. One of the names I’ve picked up through this journey is Steve Mouzon.

20130924-211719.jpgSteve is a man of many parts, including an architect, designer and urbanist, an author and something of a whizz with new media, so it is not that surprising that he has written an electronic book called New Media for Designers + Builders, which will be released on 27 September.

What did surprise me (pleasantly!) is his email invitation to receive a free copy of the book to review, on the sole condition that I write a review of it for the release date. Sounded interesting, so I put up my hand with, as it turns out, over 200 others! Actually, this isn’t surprising once you read the book, which I hope will become obvious through this review.

So here I am, doing my first book review. I must say, I expected it would be of Catch 22, as the second in my occasional series of favourite things, but there you go…

As a final lead in, I just wanted to say I thought I knew a bit about new media – after all, I have this blog, I’m a very regular user of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, my firm has a website, and its own social media strategy, I’ve used email for 20 years, and I seem to be considered social media savvy, some would say obsessed, by many friends and colleagues. Well, after reading (perhaps experiencing is a better word) this e-book, I actually felt more like a novice. I certainly learnt plenty!

The big things to know

The first big thing to know about New Media for Designers + Builders is that it is written to be used in new media. It is electronic of course, but in the iBook form, comes with a rich tapestry of embedded links (“a game changer”!) and other natty ways of finding out more about the ideas and techniques being discussed, the people mentioned and sources used. So the author suggests that the first read just be straight through without using these, to get the gist of it; and then to go through it again using the links etc to find out more on the things you want to. I found that a good suggestion for two reasons: firstly, the range of information, ideas and suggestions is already huge without following the links, and secondly because following the links does send you into more detail than necessary for starters.

The second big thing is that this book really is for those involved in design, planning and development. Much of the content would be useful for anyone wanting to know more about using new media, but the context for the book is squarely for those in this industry.

The third big thing to know is its key themes:
1. That the age of the company has passed, and we are now in the age of ideas.
2. That the mantra of the age of the company to do things better, faster, cheaper, has been replaced in the age of the idea by doing things with patience, generosity and connectedness.

These really are big ideas. Each is well thought out and explained, and for me, they were compelling. Each is used consistently throughout the book. They resonated with me, and helped me understand a lot about why many aspects of new media are used like they are. I have a personal philosophy of acting from abundance rather than scarcity, which amounts to the something like generosity I guess.

The book is certainly a living tribute to the generosity theme, with the author sharing a huge range of experiences, techniques and “secrets”, and also ensuring the contributions and ideas of others are recognised and appreciated. Indeed, the whole idea of the release and these reviews demonstrates both the generosity and connectedness themes.

Breaking it down

The book uses a neat structure, starting with the “Why” (there is no going back to the old ways), then the “How” to use the new media, then the “Who” – best-of accolades for practitioners of several of the New Media nodes, and finally the “What” resources chapter of bibliography, links etc.

The “how” is described as the “meat of the book” and it is. It takes you “through the twelve New Media nodes in detail, describing how to put each one of them in place”. I read this and thought twelve? How could there be twelve! But it turns out there are, according to Steve: blogging, micro-blogging (essentially Twitter), website, speaking, ideas cards, discussions, emails, mailing list, images, publishing, communities and videos.

At first glance, some of these don’t seem to belong – email and video are not new and speaking has been around forever. But in the context described and as part of the full deck of interconnected parts, they do make sense. I just found them a bit overwhelming and almost exhausting to go through all at once, even though I am probably already using 8-10 of them in some form. I think I’ll concentrate on building a few more carefully first, then move on to the others of time. I guess that’s being patient.

But that quibble is small cheese in the overall context of this work. It is extraordinary in its depth, thoughtfulness, and (yes) generosity of knowledge and ideas. There are so many good ideas and tips in here that it seems inadequate to single some out, but to demonstrate, here are a few, not necessarily the best or in any particular order: speak with a human voice (that is, be yourself, don’t use “corporatespeak”), use a great title, have a call to action, and for Twitter leave room for people to add their take on retweets!

The only other misgiving I had about this book is that in some ways it is a recipe for self promotion. It is cleary aimed at giving businesses and individuals new tools to help them be successful. That’s all good and well – I just thought that most people get into this game like I did, to make our own (humble) contribution to helping make the world a better place. But then again, the essential strategies the book advocates are all about working together, sharing ideas, being generous, and making a difference, so I guess it ends up where I want to be. I just start from the other end of wanting to make a difference, and using my contribution in our business and as an individual in the urban planning profession to that end.

Putting it together again

This e-book is a belter. Highly recommended for anyone in our game, whether you are a novice or an old hand, tech savvy or a dinosaur.

It contains great insights into the context of design and building based businesses today, through the big changes that have taken place essentially with the advent and effect of the internet. It provides incredible depth on how to go about using these new tools.

The only real criticism I would have is that it has too much to absorb, even without using the links and other e-tricks. So I’d recommend a general read, maybe skate over some bits that don’t grab you at first, and go hard on the bits that do. Then use it as a reference text, a “how-to” touchstone, when you get a bit lost in what you’re doing when you’re up to your virtual ears in new media and need some direction and tips to get you going again.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

Greg Vann
(I’m going to start signing off on all my blogs – good suggestion Steve!)


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  1. Steve Mouzon says:

    Greg, New Media for Designers + Builders has gone live on iTunes: bit.ly/NM4DBiTunes and there’s a Kindle version as well: bit.ly/NM4DBKindle Anyone who has an iPad should get the iTunes version because the iPad interactive books are far more fun than regular e-books could ever be. Also, please feel free to leave a review there if you like.

    • vanndemon says:

      Thanks Steve. Tried to leave a review on iTunes but not sure it registered. Will check & follow through. Couldn’t do so on Amazon as (surprisingly to me) it turns out I’ve never bought anything on there!

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