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I’ve never attended the actual TED Conference, but I’ve become a big fan of the TED website and their outstanding collection of conference presenter videos. Two friends have recommended the video of Jacek Utko, the Polish designer who reenergized newspapers in countries throughout eastern and central Europe with his bold, dynamic graphic design.

On the surface, this story could be taken as another example of a classic “before/after,” where the “before” is so outrageously bad that the designer couldn’t help but make an impressive improvement by comparison. What sets this example apart is that Utko’s redesigns led to sharp increases in circulation for these newspapers, making this one of those rare case studies with a clear correlation between communication design and business success.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, the connection may also be obscured, but I see the Jacek Utko story as illuminating for entrepreneurial communication designers. In the newspaper industry, Utko has found a business category that is grossly void of fresh, engaging design. This is exactly the experience Lisa and I had with the healthcare industry during our daughter’s diabetes diagnosis, which led to our business HealthSimple. In both cases—and in those of many other business successes—the lack of good design became a business opportunity for designers.

Here a link to an interview with Jacek Utko on the TED blog.

A couple other TED videos I’ve really enjoyed:
Paula Scher, Designer and Pentagram partner
Elizabeth Gilbert, Author of Eat, Pray, Love

Thanks to Andy Thompson and Jeff Johnson for the Jacek Utko tip.

I had no idea what to expect when I unveiled Merge a week ago, and I’ve been thrilled and humbled by the response. With well over 500 views to the blog and over 100 members of the Merge Facebook Group, there seems to be plenty of interest in the topic of design and entrepreneurship. I plan to enter future posts on roughly a Mon-Wed-Fri basis, and I will continue to announce them through Twitter and the FB group. Of course, you can subscribe to the RSS feed to get the latest as it rolls out.

Your story ideas have been extremely helpful—keep them coming. As always, join the conversation and tell your friends!

—Doug

ca1Designers interested in entrepreneurship would be wise to get familiar with Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. In 2004 Anderson coined the phrase “The Long Tail” which describes the niche strategy of businesses that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. The Long Tail phenomenon is being played out a million times over by ambitious entrepreneurs on the web. Related to this, Anderson is a proponent of online advertising as a way for web-based start-up businesses to generate revenue, become viable, and find their place in the “tail.”

The Long Tail actually stems from some pretty complex economic and statistical theories from the mid-twentieth century. Wikipedia has a good overview.

But the best way I’ve found to get a quick primer on Long Tail economics as it pertains to entrepreneurs today is this short video:

This short clip of Chris Anderson at a MediaBistro conference gives a preview of his thinking and energy. lt1

Anderson writes a popular and informative blog called (of course) The Long Tail, which I’ll place in the Merge Blogroll. Also here’s a link to his book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

In fairness, there is much debate about how and whether Anderson’s vision will materialize given the light-speed evolution of social networking and the potential ramifications this will bring, but if you are a designer looking for ways to launch a new venture, don’t ignore this guy.

hat_21Here are two items that show the strength and apparent durability of the online social media space as an entrepreneurial frontier:

First, this Fast Company list gives snapshots of 11 top women entrepreneurs in the technology sector (Issue 132, February, 2009). I found this to be a great way to get a feel for where the buzz is in this business category that is evolving at warp speed. Not surprisingly, social media is where it’s at. Designers, check out Rashmi Sinha, founder of SlideShare, the online community for (hold your breath) Powerpoint users…with over a million registered users!

Second, the excellent blog, Groundswell, recently sited a study that found that 95% of interactive marketers plan to maintain or increase their current level of investment in social technology. The study was conducted last December when the economic outlook was at least as gloomy as it is now, demonstrating that the strong growth of social media might carry it through the recession (or at least the next year).

Obviously this is good news for designers who are active in this space, and a big hint for those who are not.

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