Find elements, get inspired, and build great things.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration is sometimes hard to come by. Stress can get in the way. Monotonous cubicles and austere workspaces seem to eradicate inspiration. Sometimes a certain space is inspiring. Other times reading something completely unrelated to work helps rest a weary brain. Sometimes seeing the out-of-the-ordinary helps feed creativity.

If one is trapped in the workplace and needs a quick dose of raw creativity and ideas, where do they go or do? No time for a walk. No chance for a field-trip to a museum. Just stuck. This might be a good use for Elements.

What is Elements?

Elements lets one explore one image or quote at a time. It can be used to Elements has been described as a “visual twitter”. Even though it looks like twitter on the surface, it is nothing like it. Twitter lets one choose to read everything or search for specific things. It can be used as a research tool or as an asynchronous messaging service. It is a swiss army knife of communication. It really is what one makes it. In Elements, what is visible changes as one uses it. Twitter remains constant in what one can see. This article will explain the concepts behind it, but exploring Elements is really the best way to figure out what it is. You can find your elements at

The formula for elements is roughly:

Elements = Images and Quotes + Special Japanese Magic + Twitter Like Interface

When I met with Hideshi Hamaguchi, COO of, he told me more about the origins of Elements and its main difference from twitter. He drew a few diagrams in his notebook to help clarify the concepts and never thought to ask for those pages. However, I took the liberty to remake the diagrams from memory and include them here.

The systems have very different conceptual designs. In twitter anyone can send 140 Unicode characters to everyone on the system. Anyone can see everything (except private time lines) if they chose to. In Elements, what one sees is principally determined by relationships (who you follow and who follows you) and what you have liked in the past. Visually, what happens can be represented by these two diagrams:


In twitter, one’s actions cannot influence how the system interacts with you: what messages you can see or the order you see them is constant. This is represented by the circle and the arrow directions not crossing over. In Elements, what one does (following people, having followers, liking an item, or casting an item) influences how the system interacts with them — what pictures end up in their queue and what order they appear. This is represented by the figure eight and the arrows crossing over.

Each person has a queue of items they will be shown which is influenced by their relationships. Actions of people who one follows will effect what one sees more than the actions of their followers.

The concept behind Elements was inspired by the attitude of the Japanese tea ceremony, the concept of ichi-go, ichi-e (“one-time, one-meeting” commonly: “one chance in a lifetime”). There is only one time to inspire and one chance present a gift. Each of these gifts can be elements inspiring great things.

How Elements Came Into Being

Elements was inspired by the lack of methodologies to manage, harness, and inspire creativity. Hideshi says there are three distinct stages to the creation of an information/knowledge worker’s (read: creative’s) product: Collecting Disparate Elements of Inspiration/Information, Organizing and Pruning those Elements, and Creating the Final Deliverable. Here’s how it looks visually:
Elements fits into the picture on the far left at the beginning of conceptualization. One could say it is a product to fill the need for tools to begin managing creativity.

Typically, companies focus on bringing things to market more than they focus on creating ideas. In fact, the relative amounts of resources put into different parts of the creative cycle looks like this:
On the other side, when it comes to possibilities and creative license — or technically, degrees of freedom — the curve is just the opposite:
The upper diagram shows why companies seem to come up with unoriginal and non-paradigm shifting ideas. It’s not that they can’t afford the potential risk involved, it’s the undesirability to allocate resources for a creative process that they don’t know how to manage. Elements is the first step in managing the inspirational aspect. It may eventually become feasible for companies to manage the creative process in a resourceful manner.


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