October 16th, 2014
The Fast Company Innovation By Design Awards and Conference brings together creative minds from various industries to explore how design ideas in everything from apps to architecture are innovating the business.

The event showcases how design is fueling innovation across a wide variety of industries, providing a forum to discuss and share ideas and a platform to create awareness for projects from both students and global brands. From the announcement of Coca-Cola's new global startup initiative to the winners of the 2014 Innovation By Design Awards, we've compiled our highlights from the event.

Read on for Part 1 of the highlights:

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#1 Disruptive Innovation at Coke and Target

The biggest news from this segment was the announcement of the Coca-Cola Founders program from David Butler, VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Coca-Cola. The program introduces a new model for creating startups that gives independent entrepreneurs around the globe access to the relationships, resources, and reach of one of the largest brands in the world.

Coca-Cola will begin as a strategic partner for the entrepeneurs and then transition to a minority stakeholder once a successful business model is established. The co-founder network gives Coca-Cola early access to new, fast-growing markets including Berlin's Home Eat Home, Buenos Aires Tobuy, Mexico City's TruuMobile, Rio de Janeiro's Winnin, and more.

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#2 Can Algorithms Be Designers?

The panel brought together Karin Fong, a founding member of Imaginary Forces and President of Wonderland Sound & Vision, and designer, illustrator and letterer Jessica Hische to debate the polarizing issue of using algorithms in modern design. Both panelists brought a unique perspective from their respective fields, with Fong's background in filmmaking, animation and VFX providing a positive experience with algorithms and Hische leaning towards a more traditional view of the craft.

Examples of design projects that incorporate algorithms were presented with each artist weighing in. Squarespace's Logo Generator is one such project that has produced polarizing reactions from the design community with claims that it "devalues and seeks to replace the designer." The project was described as a "Betty Crocker cake mix set" for logo design, meaning that it simplifies the process for a business/individual that would not have otherwise invested in a designer, but will generally produce mediocre, generic results.

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Fong also provided insight from her experience with film and commercials, pointing out that VFX and animation industries regularly use algorithms in the creation process with an artist controlling and modifying the output. Fong explained, "It's important to educate around digital craftsmanship. Just because it's computer made, you're still designing. Technology is a tool. It cannot replace what we do. It can enhance the final product."

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We were excited to see that Fong showcased the Mill+ created OFFF St. Petersburg Title Sequence: SKAZKA during the event. Mill+ art director Christopher Palazzo gave us some insight into how the team incorporated both analog processes and digital tools for the piece, "The motion [in the sequence] is based off real dancers' movements, but we created particle systems to be emitted from that motion. It’s really a combination. That’s the heart of the piece. What happens when you combine human motion with procedural techniques? Every particle system we built was in a sense an algorithm or a set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations." [Find out more about Skazka]

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The takeaway from the discussion is that algorithms are not a replacement for designers but can serve as avaluable tool to test, explore, enhance and scale projects. Similar to the contrast between painting and photography, the artist determines the creative vision and process, and as a result, the results and quality of the work are in their hands.

#3 How Pharrell Williams's 'Happy' Inspired the World

From nine rejected songs to a global movement, Mimi Valdés, i am OTHER VP and creative director, revealed the success story behind Pharrell Williams's 'Happy'. Pharrell was enlisted to create the song for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. After months of trying to come up with the right song for a scene featuring the lead character Gru and nine rejected songs, Pharrell decided to write a song that would communicate what happy feels like. 'Happy' is featured in the film and soundtrack, both released in the summer of 2013, with the song not receiving much attention or radio play.

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The team went to work creating a music video for the song, enlisting french directing-duo We are from LA to come up with a concept for the video. Valdés realized that the video should show Pharrell's sillier-side by simply dancing down the street like the scene in the film that featured the song. We are from LA took this idea and proposed that they create a 24-hour music video, presenting the idea with a mood-video featuring a succession of cuts with people strutting towards a camera from iconic films like Saturday Night Fever and Zoolander. Valdés was blown away by the concept, realizing that the interactive 24-hour video concept would be disruptive and unique.

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The film featured a family-friendly cast including Pharrell, Despicable Me characters, celebrities, a diverse cast of "real people" and even Valdés in a chicken suit, dancing down the street. The dance moves are each performer's creation, with the directors' only requirement being "HIGH ENERGY!" Using just one Steadicam, the film was shot in LA in 12-hours with only one take for each performer. 

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One tweet from Pharrell linking to the project and the 'Happy' revolution began, resulting in 11 million copies sold worldwide, 461 million views on Youtube, an Academy Award nomination and tribute videos from all over the globe. A website to showcase the tribute videos was even created by fans, currently featuring 1,953 videos from 153 countries.

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Pharrell also partnered with the UN to support their International Day of Happiness initiative, with plans to use the song again next year for the event. Valdés closed her presentation by encouraging everyone to keep the 'Happiness' movement going, attributing their success to our universal pursuit of happiness.

Check out Part 2 of our highlights from the Fast Company Innovation by Design covering the closing panel on 'The World's Most Dangerous Design' and a wrap-up of our favorite finalists and award winners.