by Abbie Lundberg

What Does Innovation Look Like?

Aug 15, 20063 mins

Does innovation have a look and feel? How about growth? And how does that jibe with the look and feel of technology and business?

These were the questions we pondered as we set out to design the cover of this year’s CIO 100 issue. Innovation, we thought, had to have energy and color and motion. It had to be fresh and somewhat surprising.

When we talked about growth, we focused on the organic. That brought to mind images of plants, children, flowers. Technology and business, on the other hand, inspired more mechanical, electrical and even urban icons.

The challenge was to marry these things that didn’t seem to go together and present them in a beautiful way. But in the end, isn’t this what innovation is all about: the combination of disparate elements in a way that hasn’t been thought of before to create something of unique value?

Here’s what didn’t make it to the cover:

A flower growing out of an egg. Simple, elegant, surprising…but not a lot of energy.

An acorn with a mechanical top. That combined the mechanical and the organic…but again, no energy or motion.

A lightbulb growing in a flowerpot, being watered. Says ideas, says growth…but could cause electrocution. (Don’t try this at home!)

There were others, some pretty wack. In the end, we opted to look for a style we liked, then told the illustrator what we were thinking and turned him loose. The result is something we never would have come up with on our own.

The transmission tower in the foreground is bursting with flowers. The cityscape is both organic and futuristic. Even the current radiating from the tower combines the sharp edges of electricity with the round organic lines of nature. The formation of birds flying from right to left adds to the sense of movement and energy.

The issue is filled with its own interesting imagery from the CIO 100 enterprises’ winning initiatives—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s underwater lab, Monsanto’s seed-breeding program, Capital One’s untethered workers, Discover Financial’s cell phone wallet, Ohio State University Medical Center’s servant robots—all of which involved the focused creativity of CIOs and their information systems groups.

Similarly, this year’s CIO 100 project is the product of a talented team, led by an extremely dedicated individual. Starting in the fall of 2005, Executive Editor Elana Varon drove this project—from the creation of our new awards application through judging, idea development, story assignment and the final packaging of the whole. It truly wouldn’t have happened without her. And it wouldn’t look and read so well without the work of Associate Art Director Matt Goebel, who served as lead designer.

This is what innovation looks like to us. What does it look like to you?