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Great minds and business ideas of 2006

January 04, 2007 10:13 IST

Starting with our Social Capitalist issue in January, we featured Joanne Ooi, creative director at luxury brand Shanghai Tang.

As globalization thrives and China continues to offer competitive products and services, it was just a matter of time until someone came along and showed the world that Chinese-made doesn't mean crappy knock-off. The look in Ooi's eyes challenges the world to prove her company wrong, as she guns to make Shangai TangChina's first great luxury brand by embarking on an ambitious expansion plan that will see it launching five stores a year in the world's toniest markets.

One reader, Josef Blumenfeld, commented, "Kudos to Linda Tischler for giving Fast Companyreaders a glimpse into the future and demonstrating your commitment to exploring business innovation wherever it may be."

Our 10th Anniversary Issue, issue 103 followed, honoring the Fast 50, our annual search for innovative companies. These companies are innovators in technology, work, and the world. There were the usual suspects, like Yahoo's Terry Semel and former president Bill Clinton. But there were also unexpected choices such as synthetic diamond growers Apollo Diamond and the computer imagery wizards at 1st Avenue Machine.

The cover calls out nine of the fifty, including Joe Duffy of Duffy & Partners, the Minneapolis design firm that created the look of products such as Diet Coke and Minute Maid orange juice, as well as Toyota trucks' muscular insignia. For the past five years, Duffy has been trekking to China with a small team from the One Club, the international organization of advertising professionals to teach aspiring ad executives. "Over the next 10 years, these kids will help bridge the cultural gap between the East and West," said Duffy.

April brought us this year's most controversial cover--Al Jazeera. Many felt the image of host and spokesman Josh Rushing was too bold, seemingly endorsing the Arabic news network--as reader K.W.

Hein said, "Your story on the traitor Josh Rushing causes me great concern. I, for one, am not interested in trying to understand those who would attack our country. They have earned no quarter and that is what we will give them."

Five years after 911, animosity toward Arabs clearly remained with certain readers. The article exposed the inner-workings of the news channel and the global perspective it provides. But, could an attempt to convince Americans that the brand isn't the dangerous entity they think it is work? In our increasingly decisive country it seemed unlikely.

With the words "Eat This!" large and red, we debuted our food issue in May. Culinary innovation isn't a usual subject for a business magazine, but as we revealed, it is a big industry with great things unfolding at the fringes.

From organic farming to wine, opportunity for innovative and profitable products can be found. An example is the subject of the cover photograph, chef Homaro Cantu, standing amidst the silvers of hi-tech science. Using science, Cantu offers a dining experience unlike any other at Moto in Chicago.

His own food company, possibly featuring synthetic champagne injected into your glass with a giant black medical syringe, will soon bring mind-bending eats to a market near you.

Issue 106 was the only one to feature two people on the same cover this year, both the subject of praise--"It's great to see how Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague are encouraging all kinds of creative expression at JWT," wrote reader Jimmie Stone.

In a new era of advertising, how do you revitalize a traditional advertising company that has grown too big? Start with selecting two innovative leaders who are willing to change the status quo and go against the grain. With the belief that "good campaigns shatter a narrative into a million pieces, then scatter the fragments across TV, print, the Web, the street, anywhere," the new JWT was able to land the JetBlue account.

What happened at JWT serves as a blueprint for many organizations. And calling out those responsible by putting them front and center really can't be a bad thing.

Proclaiming her "Design's Next Diva," we featured Design Miami Basel director Ambra Medda on our July/August cover. With her responsibility of promoting design to the art world, Medda has delivered a stunning show that offers a glimpse into the future of design.

As she sits on an Amanda Levete sofa, we view a sampling of the types of products that will affect businesses for years to come. The illusory three-dimensionality of the image gives it additional weight, letting the world know we are serious about design also.

For our Customers First Awards package, Lewis Black served as our customer-service curmudgeon. His fuming smirk typified the collective feeling of public dissatisfaction. The comedian shared stories about the various things that make him angry, drive him nuts, and fuel his comedic act.

From tech support over the phone to airport travel, he delves into the problems many face daily as they interact with businesses. Some would say putting a comedian on our cover was a stunt. But, wouldn't you consider most customer service a joke?

Puma, the sneakers and athletic wear company, was facing bankruptcy after years of loss. Then Jochen Zeitz, our "Masters of Design" cover subject, came aboard and brought design to the forefront, changing every aspect of the way the company conducts business. Zeitz's vision, as one of Puma's partners, Stephen H. Kanner of Kanner Architects, describes it, is: "the daring genius of Jochen Zeitz."

From choice of clothing -- a high-powered suit, to footwear -- a bright yellow pair of running shoes, Zeitz's cover embodies the true nature of design. One wonders what designer he'll hire for the next premier product from Puma.

Call it futurism as a niche--lifelogging utilizes technologies that give people the first sense of what it might be like to have a computer function as part of your head--as our cover image indicated.

Microsoft's Gordon Bell is the prototype of a person from the future, with every piece of information he interacts with stored for future use--from email, to photos, to phone calls, to conversations in hallways. Does such a future lie in store for all of us? And how would it change our work life? Bell uncovered a brave new world in the making.

They say the clothes make the man, and then perhaps a cover image defines a magazine. So of course, the cover story is the best articulator of a periodical's mission.

Looking back at 2006, one wonderful headshot at a time, we learned there was an innovative and creative world out there changing the face of business for years to come -- and we will continue to cover it.

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Kevin Ohannessian, FastCompany.com