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Welcome to The Octopus

Apr 28 2016

by Shoshana Berger

Our blog needed a name. Like millions who’ve started blogs before us, we sat around a table and tossed around ideas, most with “design” tacked on, like a fake mustache. Exasperated after many false starts, someone blurted, “Let’s just call it The Octopus.”

Laughter erupted. Who in their right mind names their blog after an invertebrate?

A few days later: Headlines pour in about a spunky boneless creature, affectionately named Inky, who’d popped the lid of his tank in the National Aquarium of New Zealand and escaped down a drain hole to the Pacific Ocean. The soccer-ball-sized cephalopod was instantly exalted by the Internets for his smarts, curiosity, and, it must be said, insistence on being free. One commenter crowned him the “world's greatest hero.” Inky now has 280 followers on Twitter.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that octopuses are the designers of the deep sea. They collect coconut shells as mobile homes, assemble the perfect number of rocks to narrow the opening to their dens, and use their water jets to clean their lairs, like 8-legged Marie Kondos.

Indeed, they’ve been observed doing all the things we prize here at IDEO: "Octopuses engage in play, the deliberate, repeated, outwardly useless activity through which smarter animals explore their world and refine their skills...." They’re supremely multidisciplinary, big-brained and emotional, and they may even be possessed of a soul.

A mollusc that designs its environs, can change color and shape, and sprays ink like an old-fashioned pen? What more suitable mascot for IDEO’s blog, we thought. And so we let Inky take over our masthead forevermore.

The Octopus is intended to be a drive-thru for quick hits of inspiration. Our designers will share their thoughts on craft—how that shows up in their Moleskines and Instagrams and blogs and fonts and posters. They’ll offer how-tos and hot tips and other occupational obsessions.

Last week's obsession was Inky, so we had Greg, a designer in our Tokyo office, draw him, and Derek, a developer in our Chicago office, set him afloat (watch this space—Inky will be reimagined by guest artists). 

“He is such a curious boy,” Rob Yarrell, the manager of New Zealand'a national aquarium told the Guardian. “He would want to know what’s happening on the outside. That’s just his personality.” We want to know what’s happening on the outside, too. And we hope you’ll follow along as we squiggle out of our tank, pour our baggy bodies into a narrow opening, and seek out a better-designed world. 

Header image courtesy of National Aquarium of New Zealand

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