"Who are you? Why are you here? How are you unique?" Tom Peters
Part 18, the 11th "H" in Tom's "15H Theory of Everything," has as its theme "Design Is Everything." In keeping with this week's UK focus, the "H" in this case is Charles Handy (please note that he is Irish!), whom Tom names "UK's most respected management visionary."
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Time" and "Design." The section "Time" tackles multiple aspects of the subject, from milestoning to daydreaming. In "Design," Tom discusses the visceral power of design, and how it can change your life.
You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.
Erik Hansen, our Cool Friend interviewer (among the many other hats he wears), recently chatted with Joy Panos Stauber, the woman behind our beautiful banners. They covered design, being a designer, and of particular interest, the design of Tom's new book, The Little BIG Things, which Joy had a significant hand in. You can read the interview here and find out more about Joy here.
If I had a Worst Instructions & Controls award, it would have to be retired courtesy my hotel-room bedside clock radio, otherwise known as XtremeMac. The following was on the top of the clock in fine print, to guide one through the process of setting the alarm:
Of course it was virtually impossible to read all the gibberish that appeared on the clock's screen. Add the fact that while you were holding and pressing you could not simultaneously see what was on the screen. (At one point I was pushing and pressing and had the damn thing cradled in my lap so that I could at least partially see what I was doing.) The final indignity was that by the time you had twirled and pushed and pressed and then pressed and twirled and pushed, you had ... ZERO ... confidence that you had set the damn alarm correctly.
Excellence in design is on the tip of many a tongue.
That's great, and a monumental change in a decade.
We've come a long way.
We ain't there yet.
I got an email this morning [08/24/09] with this Tom Peters quote: "Design is... an understanding that all the senses were created equal."
It's true. And it's interesting to think about what that on earth that might really mean.
I was talking with a marketing colleague this morning about a potential project she has for a website aimed at moms. As a mom, I'm always very suspicious of any kind of "marketing to moms" because it's often like other marketing to women... lots of pink and cuddly photos, as if that is all it takes to be relevant to me as a female consumer.
What does any of this have to do with "Design is... an understanding that all the senses are created equal."?
It is this:
Design is not about making something look cool (or cute, or mom-like, or macho, or techie, or whatever it is you think the audience is).
Design is about making something relevant.
It is about making a connection with your audience.
Which means you have to truly understand them, and you have to have a clear communication strategy.
The messages need to be relevant to the audience.
The way in which they are delivered needs to be relevant.
Remember which senses to address. (Is the color palette friendly or serious? Is the nomenclature for website sections based on an internal organizational structure or does it support the user's needs? Does the paperstock feel rough or smooth, heavy or light? How should all of these elements, and more, feel to the user/audience?)
Designing a website for moms, like any website, requires the integration of a site architecture with a communication strategy and a careful prioritizing of messages. (Written and/or visual messages.) Then the final design and all of the details of its execution (words and images used, color palette, type styles, and so on) supports the higher communication goals, serves the end user well, and tracks back to what you figured out needed to be done in the planning stages.
I wholeheartedly agree with Tom that "Design is... an understanding that all the senses were created equal." Creators (marketers, designers, writers, technical developers, etc.) of websites or any type of communication have to remember that all of the senses truly are involved. The eyes, hands, heart, brain.. a website user or brochure reader takes in many elements and processes them via all of their senses. All of the elements require careful attention and need to be considered from a user's point of view. If the visuals are strong but the naming of website sections isn't right, the user won't respond as well as they would otherwise. If the brochure copy is great but the typesetting makes it feel like a chore to read... oh no! All of the details need to work together in a holistic, integrated way to support each other and the user experience—and thus build a relationship with your brand.
(1) Nice touch! Award-winning chef Sissy Hicks has opened a wonderful take-out, 3-meal-a-day place 5 miles from my home!! (My wife and I haven't cooked for weeks. Or, rather, I haven't cooked in the three weeks since Susan broke her leg and I "took over"!)
The food is pure "Wow" at Sissy's Kitchen, but I am always a sucker for the "little" touches—which of course aren't little at all! Above, see the wonderfully colorful ribbon Sissy ties to every bag!!!
(2) Repeat! I wrote about this one years ago, but it deserves another nod. Pictured below is the marvelous little tool that removes the outer skin from garlic when you roll the clove inside the blue rubber tube!! (Hats waaaay off to Zak Designs!) (And ... to Google for finding Zak Designs when I typed "thing to roll garlic in to remove outer skin.")
(3) Design matters! Everywhere!
See directly above. It is the "control panel" of my new Black & Decker SmartBrew coffeemaker.
I hereby declare that B&D not only wins Tom's User Friendly Grand Award—but retires the cup!!
(Some of you snobs will go on & on & on about the limitations of my Dearest Delight. And I will reply with a smirk. In a blind taste test, my coffee will be as good as yours!)
Below you'll see ye olde fashion nubby scorecard pencil—directly from Fenway Park. Doesn't get much better than that, either!
If I had $50,000 to spend on the design of a new home—or smallish professional office building, here's how I'd spend it:
Interior designer: $25,000.
Landscape designer: $15,000.
Logic: We live and work and play inside the dwelling (mostly) and outside the dwelling (some to a lot, depending on the climate). The skin that divides in from out, the architect's work, is a third-order concern.
Interior designer: $30,000.
Landscape designer: $12,000.
Logic is pretty much the same, with a little added emphasis on the interior.
If this makes sense from a use perspective (and "use" is what we do), why is the architect typically treated like God, and the interior designer and landscaper as second-stringers ... if we use them at all?
I suppose because "we" like pictures of the places we live and work better than the places themselves? (Ever notice that in architectural magazines, there are never people?) (Okay, I'll be fair, there are rarely people pix in interior design mags either—again, alas, we design for a good picture rather than livability.)
My wife is a tapestry artist and home furnishings designer-entrepreneur.
My hobby is landscaping.
I despise most Frank Gehry buildings as extravagant ego-exercises.*
[*There is one architect I love. Christopher Alexander—coauthor of the magnificent Pattern Language. He focuses on living in/using a space—inside and out—rather than the sexiness of the skin.]
At 6 p.m. Monday, I was out brushcutting. I apparently woke up a yellowjacket neighborhood buried in the mud. In short order, I was stung perhaps a dozen times—one YJ got stuck under my shirt. Luckily, I didn't go into anaphylactic shock. But, in a few hours the reaction was body-wide. I went to an ER the next morning after a truly crappy night. The doc said I should have come at the time—because I had some wheezing, which meant I'd moved in the direction of impeded breathing.
The good news was that I was on the mend in 12 hours courtesy an elephant-sized Benadryl injection and prednisone—courtesy the latter, I'd definitely test positive on an Olympic doping test. The bad news: once stung so badly, my predilection for full-blast anaphylaxis in the future soared. The additional good news: if prepared, one can handle the bad stuff—hence an EpiPen was prescribed. (The EpiPen, to be carried with you at all appropriate times, lets you self-administer a blast of Epinephrine, usually adequate protection-against-disaster until you can hustle to an ER.)
That's all prelude to my design story. The EpiPen, upon being wanged into your thigh, through clothing, if necessary, ejects a needle that in turn injects the Epinephrine. The package includes two locked-and-loaded doses. Now the best part: There is a third dispenser—which is for practice administration. Upon being yellowjacketed again, God help me, there is no time to read the directions! So the practice pen, sans needle and Epinephrine, lets you pull the pin as you actually would, and if you smack your thigh hard enough, it indicates that you've passed the practice test—the practice pen is infinitely reusable.
As all of us know, manuals are almost always (99%+) infuriating. This was the exception, to say the least. There was a mini-manual, but the practice injector went above and beyond. Trust me, I have a couple of testers for this and that (e.g., blood sugar measurement), and the directions merit the standard D- grade if I'm in a generous mood.
So hats off to the EpiPen designers—winner of the Tom2008 user-friendly-design award.
(Now all I have to do is pray I'm not stung again—and if so, pray that the Epinephrine was not made in China out of anti-freeze.)
On the non-yellowjacket side of the balance, a couple of pictures from the farm last evening.
Recall that last week I was the featured speaker, along with the visionary and inspiring Mayor of Seoul, at Korea Design Forum 2008. For that event, I created a list of "random" thoughts on design—that is, I excavated my brain to extract the main design ideas I've been shouting about off and on for the last 15 years. After the fact, on the long trip home, I began to mess with the list. The product (of the moment) is presented below:
**"Great things" are more valuable than not-so-great things. (The "duh" "epiphany.")
**"It" [Design] is everything-ubiquitous.
**Everybody's doin' it.
**If "everybody's doin' it," then how do we do it differently-sustainably?
**Everybody will do "it" differently. (But "design zealots" in Japan are about the same as design zealots in Italy.)
**"It" works only if it is "a way of life." (Apple. BMW. Cirque du Soleil. Starbucks.)
**Consider my term-of-choice: "Design-mindfulness." (Design-mindfulness is a universally shared attitude.)
**"It" does not work if it is a "program"!
**"It" is not about "cut and paste," not about sticky-noting a rock star designer—this may, in fact, be counterproductive.
**Designers must become a cherished "part of the family," not "those weird creatives."
**Designers as "dreamers with deadlines"—creative & loose ... with hardass deliverables.
**It's already faddish. (To say it is not to do it.)
**Don't try to "engineer it"—there is an essential "spontaneity" dimension. (Southwest Airlines.)
**"It" starts with the vendors and the vendors' vendors—and especially includes packaging and delivery folks. (And parking lot attendants. Think Disney and the gum-free Orlando airport.)
**In the long run, the "Mittelstand" will make the difference! (National-regional design prowess is powered and sustained by middle-sized companies headed by fanatics.)
**"Design hegemony" applies to the 3-person accounting shop.
**Acquiring design firms is (very) tricky; "they" don't readily fit into ordinary bureaucracies.
**There are no "exempts"—"it" applies as much, albeit in a different way, in purchasing as in product development.
**IT IS NOT ABOUT "MARKETING"! (Though marketing is a piece of it—like everything else.)
**The entire "supply chain" must be on board.
**As always, "MBWA" [Managing By Wandering Around] rules—embedding something new in a culture is a "walkabout" affair.
**"It" is about the way every individual conducts himself or herself. (E.g., the hotel housekeeper, restaurant busboy.)
**We [most of us] live in a "service economy." Design achievement, design dogmatism, applies as much to service "products" as to goods-lumpy objects.
**Design applies as much to a "PSF" [Professional Service Firm] as to a bank or car wash. (From dress code to calling card to flowers in reception to the look & feel of Client reports—to religiously capitalizing the "C" in Client whenever the word is printed to referring to you & the Client as "We.")
**Aesthetics and usability are equally important—with perhaps a slight edge to usability. ("'It won a prize' is the ultimate criticism."—Don Norman. The burning question: "Is the building livable?" Not, "Gosh, it's pretty-in-plan.")
**There is a "bet the farm" element at play—Dubai, Apple, China's Olympics.
**Great design does no less than "change the way we experience the world."
**Design is about "love" and "hate," not "like" and "dislike"—and hence the key to emotional bonding, internally as well as externally.
**When it comes to shaping behavior, there are few tools comparable to interior design and office arrangement—e.g., putting marketing and new product development next door to one another.
**There must be a far higher than normal dose of autonomy-accountability—love of the odd and oddball throughout the enterprise—in the end "it" is about perpetually renewing "value-added through creativity-freshness-spontaneity."
**Since we are dealing with artistic expression and open-endedness, a restless ethos of "trying a lot of stuff, fast" and then "trying again, fast" is of paramount importance.
**"It" must show up in the schools by age 5.
**"It" becomes the chief organizing principle for education.
**When it comes to aesthetics, you get most of "it" from the genes you were dealt. (You can "train in" appreciation, but not artistic flair.)
**As a result of the inescapable need to start the reconstruction process that will underlie a self-regenerating "soft economy" by reinventing-revolutionizing our schools, the transition to a "new [soft] economy" will likely be about 25 years.
**The cataclysmic shift described above—autonomy, creativity, the arts front and center—demands a "Jefferson" (powerful artist-visionary-politician) as national-regional-urban leader.
**Beware of engineers! (Said with affection—I am one.) They (we!) are reductionists—design is about wholes.
**Beware of MBAs (Said with no affection, even though I am one.) Analysis is imperative—but also reductionist. In "real life," emotion rules—but not at the B-schools!
**The education bit is less about aesthetics and more about encouraging individualism—to take a risk on design, you must have a burning desire (to the point of willingness to suffer) to do things differently. (Schools—ours, yours, everyone's—are brilliant at suppressing creativity and "excessive" shows of passion.)
**Capturing "best practice" only goes so far.
**"Six Sigma" can be a deadly enemy. (Tighten down too hard—bye bye creativity-spontaneity.)
**In "design world": Gender differences are ... enormous.
**Women buy most stuff, hence women must design most stuff. (And be very amply represented in management ranks—for reasons of profit, not social justice.)
**Think: "Success through design."
**If you are interested in selling to Europe and the U.S. and Japan (etc.), then you must explicitly (!!!) focus on the over-50 market. (For example, think "7/13"—Americans buy 13 cars in a lifetime on average, 7 when they are 50 or older.)
**If you are serious, the Chief Design Officer [and/or Chief Experience Officer or, per Kevin Roberts, Chief Lovemark Officer] must sit at the same level as the CFO. So, too, the Chief People Officer!
**"It" must be on every (literally) agenda; in project reviews of every type "it" must hold its own with, say, the budget discussion. (Every = every.)
**You'll never be able to explain "it" to the analysts in so many words—hence it will always be to some extent an act of faith.
**Steve Jobs is god. Alas, Steve Jobs is too abnormal to learn from. (Apple is a great example of design primacy, but SJ is "10-sigma man.")
**Design competitions at all levels of society-business must be very big deals.
**Community—small as well as large—investment in the arts (festivals, museums, etc.) is imperative.
**Buy art. (All businesses of all sizes.)
**In the public sector, "it" starts at the airport for foreign visitors especially—an experience that includes signage, traffic management, cop courtesy, air quality, etc.
**You can do a lot for 2 cents! (Think Singapore—details to follow.)
**And don't ignore the subway map. (Think London.)
**Or the public toilets. (Think Paris.)
**Be merciless about urban trash—spend yourself poor if necessary on the removal thereof. The political leadership must be directly involved.
**Good design transforms healthcare facilities (especially hospitals)—and abets healing.
**Good design in eldercare facilities extends life and enhances quality of life—critical as the elder population soars.
**Small things are often (usually?) more important than big things.
**"Design Is Free" is closer to the mark than you would think.
**Process design excellence is a matchless tool—emphasizing aesthetics (!) as much as practicality.
**Throwing money at problems is almost always a dumb thing to do—Design Excellence included.
**Training in "service excellence" is often a better "design investment" than capital spending.
**This ain't limited to global enterprises.
**The overall quality and effectiveness of SMEs contributes more to the GDP and tenor-character of a nation-region than that of big ("famous") firms.
**Gandhi and Mandela and Churchill and JFK and Reagan and Thatcher and Sarkozy and Franklin and Washington set the tone to an incredible degree—their "personal style" was their "brand." ("It" starts with personal style of the tip-top leadership team. Sorry to be politically insensitive, but who would give a hoot about Tibet if it weren't for the look and style of the Dalai Lama?) Boss at any level: You're either on the "it" boat—or not.
Over to you ...
Steve Jobs offers us this definition of terrific design: "You know a design is good when you want to lick it." (From Design: Intelligence Made Visible, Stephen Bayley & Terence Conran)
My "lick-worthy" candidate: my Western Digital 160 gigabyte external hard drive. It is sleek and black and austere—and though I haven't licked it, I have indeed fondled it.
(And hats off to Mr Jobs and company for stupendous earnings reported the day before yesterday. The company has been loved for "cool" and excoriated for not doing as well financially as Microsoft, a direct result of Steve's often unpleasant "I want it my way" mantra. Now Microsoft and Dell have a bushel of problems—and no obvious solutions since innovative leaps have not been their forte. Apple has stuck to their absurdly high new-product standard for decades, except in Jobs' absence, and, despite barbs and arrows and bad spells, it has paid off. Moreover, if innovation is your forte, when trouble arises your "fallback" is your forte.)
(Is my tribute to Jobs-innovation contrary to my tribute to Coach Schembechler-execution? Sure. So what? Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Bob Waterman found that one, and we used it as a chapter epigraph in In Search of Excellence. In Thriving on Chaos, I claimed that the #1 trait of a successful leader is "managing paradox.")
Hats off ... again. Target's print ad: "Smart. Simple. Surprising. Great design from A to Z." (Literally, an illustration of an object—Ziploc is "Z," God bless them—for each letter in the alphabet.)
I've been writing pretty voluminously about Design for some 20 years. I have slowed down recently as it has become "in" and my work as prod-provocateur is largely done. While my ego would like me to take some credit for Design's march up the priority scale, the truth is that the accolades go mostly to the likes of China and Wal*Mart, the Mighty Duo. As the market for low cost stuff turned one thing after another into a commodity, Design won the "only thing left" to differentiate product after product.
(The recent overuse of the term "experience" has at once supported Design consciousness—and hurt it. I'm among the lot that frequently uses "experience" rather than "design." "Experience" is cool—and, indeed, potent as a differentiator. "Design," per my peculiar definition, comes directly from the genes—it's very basic, hence very, very potent.)
To skip steps, I was at one of my favorite bookstores (i.e., specialist in great stuff and weird stuff—The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts) in the world, Ariel, at The Rocks in Sydney. Through jet-lagged eyes, I stumbled upon Design: Intelligence Made Visible, by Stephen Bayley and Terence Conran.
Oh, what a wonder!!
I'm hooked on design all over again!!
My mushy head took me back to my first trip to Beijing, in 1986, not that long after China began its (short) march to capitalist powerhouse. I was immediately struck by the bright clothing—very, very bright. The older (45+??) generation was still a sea of gray Mao jackets—but, oh, the youngsters!
It struck me, not a novel observation, I'm sure, that, given the chance, people universally moved to "stuff" that was energetic, and had a touch of style. Of course, 20 years later, China is home to a burgeoning set of the very cool.
And it strikes me again—with Bayley and Conran—that Design is, in the most fundamental terms, what makes us human! (Yikes, a potent assertion—did I write that?) You may not agree, but think about it. In fact, for one thing, I've noted that design-insensitive guys (like me) spend as much time in hardware stores deciding on which hammer will grace their garage or basement wall as many women might spend selecting a sweater. (Sexist? Tough.)
So, we're "doing" design more—and that's good. But, are we really using it strategically—has it gotten into the culture and soul of the enterprise, Sony style, Apple style, Deere style, OXO style, FedEx style? That's what I'm going to start yapping about. It's a bit like the "women's stuff" I'm obsessed about. It ever so rarely gets beyond "program"—and becomes a (very profitable) "way of life." (And "way of life," to be crude, is "where the loot is.")
My favorite three quotes from Bayley-Conran so far:
"You know a design is good when you want to lick it."—Steve Jobs
"Design is first and foremost an attitude."—Roger Tallon
"It's futile to pretend that industrial design or styling has any other function than to support marketing."—Ford executive*
(*I still own a small office building in Palo Alto. My tenant is BMW. I think I'll run this last one by them the next time I'm in the Bay Area.)
(Proof, of sorts, of the power of this book: Though available at amazon.co.uk, I'm going to drag it from Sydney to Brisbane to Sydney to LA to VT in the next 6 days. Why? I need to lick it a little, Steve.)
As many-most of you well know, I'm no fan (understatement) of "built to last." I do not see longevity as an achievement of note. (Yup, I'm an Orioles fan, but Cal Ripken's "iron man" record is pale by comparison with, say, Ted Williams' "last .400 hitter" achievement, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, or Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA.) My mantra is clear: "Built to rock the world" rules! Google may well be on the scrapheap just a dozen years from now—but it has surely "rocked the world" in a way that will indeed be remembered in biz history headlines 50 or 150 years from now. To be sure, if you "keep on rockin' the world," I'm delighted if you last—think, at the moment, Apple. But longevity for longevity's sake??
But, perversely, this Post is about "built to last" in a traditional and admiring way. We're burying about a mile of power line on our VT farm. Though the pros (electricians, excavators) are in charge, our 1985 John Deere 2350 with 245 bucket loader time and again has been indispensable—and at age 22 it's as perky as ever. Sure there's been a replacement part or two along the way, but the solidity and durability of the machine rolls on like the Mississippi.
And its superb design—Deere's longtime hallmark, so unexpected in "farm machinery"—makes it a work of art as well as a piece of work.
Hats waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off to John Deere!
Design, speaking of which, may be "in" right now and correctly so (and I do, I admit, crow for having "gotten there" 20 years ago), but it ain't easy, especially the "usability" part. I have bought two coffeemakers of late, a Cuisinart and a Krups, and the design in both cases stinks up the kitchen—in particular, the Krups pot pours poorly and the water-loading process in the Cuisinart is a bad joke. Reminds me to "stick with Braun." Also reminds me of the difficulty of getting so-called little things right, such as pouring effectiveness of a pot or, God knows, the quality and durability and usability of zippers!
(More "hoorays" re design and durability—I'm doing a lot of brutal brush clearing at the moment, and I am in love with my work-hiking boots, bought for our New Zealand trek 4 months ago. They come from Jack Wolfskin, a German company, I believe—at any rate I bought them in and hauled them home from Frankfurt.)
[Photo credit Luc Gallopin.—CM]
As many of you know, Edward Tufte is a leading expert on visual presentation of information. I attended his one-day course last week. A couple of highlights:
"There is no such thing as information overload, just bad design."
"Clutter is not an attribute of information, it is an illness of design."
"To simplify, add detail."
"Pitching out corrupts within."
Thoughts on those comments, or any other thoughts on Tufte?
U.S. News & World Report has a feature story about the design firm IDEO. It's definitely worth reading as it includes some fascinating examples of how IDEO has approached finding solutions to various complex problems, most notably the re-design of an emergency room. We've been watching the progress of IDEO with amazement for years. Founder David Kelley was interviewed about the company as one of our Cool Friends back in 2000. His brother Tom, the general manager of IDEO and who is quoted in the U.S. News article, has appeared as a Cool Friend twice (2001 and 2005). Be careful, though. If you read all four pieces in one sitting, you may catch innovation fever and find yourself compelled to camp out in the yurt in IDEO's lobby.
Amidst my 34-hour trip home from Singapore on Friday-Saturday I came across this charmer in the International Herald. On Ford, GM, and Chrysler: "Ford, GM and Chrysler do not just make cars expensively ... they make bad cars expensively." An Investec analyst called the Big Three's design as "awful," And added, "Outside the U.S. and Canada, nobody buys a U.S. Car or design."
I'd love to passionately disagree, but ...
"The beat goes on." So, these days, does ... "the glow." All homes-habitats these days are "aglow"—24/7. Every damn device known to mankind (mousekind?) including sonic mouse fender-offers has a glowing light of some sort. Yesterday I bought a $29.95 Cuisinart toaster. (I bought it solely for the color—cherry red!) Upon plugging it in I discovered ... MORE GLOW. The "degree of toasting" indicator—1 to 9—has a "60/60/24/7" lit up number.
For gawd's sake ...
(The next two Posts are oldies—about 10 days old—that just turned up on my Desktop ...)
It's all about a certain book in a certain place, according to our friends at Coudal Partners who've just posted another batch of this year's Field-Tested Books. Book review and Baedeker all in one. It's just one example of all the wild, wonderful, and wacky stuff put up for our pleasure by the Coudal gang.
The same issue of B2.0 offers "Bottom Line Design Awards." There is some great stuff, but my favorite (because it's so unexpected) is Target's "ClearRX Bottle"—a wonderfully clear and attractive and user-friendly pill package (no small deal, given that studies show that 60% of prescriptions are "taken improperly").
That brings to mind a wonderful and compelling book, Thomas Hine's The Total Package. E.g.: "Packages are about containing and labeling and informing and celebrating. They are about power and flattery and trying to win people's trust. They are about beauty and craftsmanship and comfort. They are about color, protection, survival."
Go back to Bloomberg: Sure it's an odd couple, but Space Design and Packaging are two of the most under-utilized, powerful tools for organization change and branding success respectively.
Design! Damn it!
"Design" is "in." Hot. A done deal.
Not quite so fast. Susan and I bought a new high-definition TV for our Boston house, and an accompanying DVD player. Problem: It/they come/s with three (count 'em) controllers—sporting (count 'em) 117 buttons. Okay, subtract the 0 through 9 on each of the three ... and you're still left with 87 buttons.
87 = A lot. (87 = Useless. For me.) (To be fair, my 8-year-old niece, Honor Sargent, mastered the whole thing in minutes.)
Design, thou art the fairest of maidens—but please, for us Boomers-Geezers with the $$$, get the "usability" right!
Ok, I'm risking jabs for being one of those ex-Windows-Macophiles, but hey, what can I say? I deserve it!
Did a major office cleaning the other day, muttering a mantra of "get rid of it" as I tossed just about everything in sight. Old client files, articles, extra pens—you name it, I threw it out.
Despite this urge to purge, two things survived that seemingly shouldn't have: The box to my iBook and a plastic shopping bag from the Apple Store. I found myself identifying future functions for them so they wouldn't have to go. They're so pretty!
McDonald's is saying that the goal of the new uniforms they plan to develop is that crew members will wear them outside of the office. Is it possible?
Point/0705 (an AdvertisingAge supplement): "Lafley's Love Affair With Design." Seems as though the CEO of P&G has just discovered the Power of Design.
(Ditto: If there's any hope for GM, most agree it's from the belated arrival of Car Guy & Design Fanatic Bob Lutz's seriously cool new products.)
I was thinking about canned tuna today and decided the packaging really stinks. I would love to know what other women think about it—because for me, it's a very unpleasant business to open a can, end up with a razor-sharp lid in my sink, squeeze the can to remove the stinky fish water or oil, getting it invariably all over my fingers, and then finally managing to turn it into tuna salad. I always fear my son will grab for something on my kitchen counter while I'm in the midst of preparing it and get cut on one of the cans. Should making lunch be full of danger?
It reminded me of the other loathsome product experience I have to endure on a regular basis—an unpleasant product experience men do not experience as unpleasant (I can only guess). Pumping gas—I absolutely hate that big heavy gas nozzle, which is hard to manage. And I'm a tall, strong woman, with relatively big hands, so I can't imagine what petite women go through. And then there's the spillage problem—not only does it get on my hands, but it seems to always end up on my shoes—especially high heels when I'm going out—great, so I arrive at a fancy restaurant smelling like the Texaco Man!
Did I mention it feels (and often is) dangerous for us to get out of our cars and pump our own gas in many places? And even if not dangerous, it's uncomfortable, as you always have strangers checking you out?
Has anyone ever really asked women how they feel about these product experiences or watched us going through them?
The worst part of it all is my sneaking suspicion that women have grown so accustomed to gritting their teeth through unpleasant experiences—pumping gas, giving birth, making tuna fish salad, having their periods—they don't have the inclination to say, "Hey, wait a minute, this stinks. I'm not putting up with this!"
Do we women live in a world that simply does not welcome us and we've grown so used to that, we don't even ask for improvements?
Don't even get me started on parking garages.
I don't want to sound like a complete brownnoser, but let's get real here, and let me state for the record something that should be no news to anyone, I am obviously a BIG Tom Peters fan.
Lately, nearly every business magazine I pick up has a big splashy "late-breaking news" type cover article about a subject Tom has been writing about for YEARS, if not DECADES! This issue of BusinessWeek about Design is just one more drop in this familiar bucket.
Is it just me, or do you get this "déjà vu all over again" feeling reading the business press as well?
I've been reading all sorts of articles about Wal-Mart recently, as well as some of the recent blogging you all have been doing on our site. They sure do take a beating. I'm actually not a big fan of the all-mighty giant. I'm a Target lover. I can't seem to walk out of that place for less than $100, even if I'm just going for toilet paper. Anyone else have that problem?
In an effort to try to understand this phenomenon, I ponder my fascination, and I realize it comes down to design, pure and simple. Usually it's the people who resonate in our minds when we think about service, but not at Target. As a matter of fact, I've never given it one iota of thought. Clearly, I've never had a bad experience, but has it been great? Nope. As a matter of fact, it's not even worth mentioning.
Wow! That's amazing! A retail store where service is practically irrelevant. How could that be? Is it because Target's stores are so well designed, clean, and well merchandised? Is it because their merchandise is produced with a focus on design? Is design the difference between Wal-Mart and Target?
I really do love my new Radley handbag! The reason I love it is not because of the cute little leather Scottie dog icon that is attached to every bag. Very sweet, and very collectible! It's also not because of the stylish look and subtle contrast piping (mine is black leather with very restrained dark purple contrast).
No, the reason I am in love with my bag (see it here) is that Radley designers must have been walking several miles in my shoes. They've introduced a fabulous innovation, called the slip pocket. This is a pocket that sits on the outside of the bag and is just big enough to slip in a rail ticket, membership card, hotel door key ... etc. ... etc. So, no more scrabbling around inside your bag just at the moment of truth when you need your ticket ...... It has changed my life, in a small but very helpful way!
What is it that you really love about the products that you can't live without? Is it the little things that matter to you?
Last night, while strolling through Sears en route to the paint department, I spotted a design phenomenon that combines a number of my favorite things. Picture the Aeron mesh seat attached to a stationary bike, all in basic black. I detoured to take a test drive. This NordicTrack-designed toy was pure Heaven. Now, if they can attach a laptop and headphones for my iPod, I will be all set.
This is a beautiful example of design excellence and Frank Lloyd Wright's "form follows function":
Tom's in New Zealand, kicking off a three-day national design boot camp.
Off to North Island New Zealand with Susan for some "mud season" R & R ... and a really cool conference. The latter is "Better By Design 2005." The Kiwis seem to know better than we do that the old jig is up! This is a partially gov't-supported Konference on Kool, as I call it. They are determined to push the already exciting nation farther & farther up the value-added chain ... with my ... Beloved DESIGN ... as Lead Dog. Can't wait to participate—slides will be posted on 29 & 30 March.
Having just toasted Mass, let me now throw Brickbats. Was drivin' to town Sunday, talkin' on the phone, distracted, and made a wrong turn—even after making the same turn 200 times. It reminded me how critical ... SIGNAGE ... is. Not this case particularly, but in general.
These guides ought to be ... Works of Art!
All of us in Enterprise provide directions every day. And a lot of our SIGNAGE ... sucks! It's not "glorious"!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's less than helpful! So ... I want you to fix that!
House & Garden (January 2005) devotes an entire issue to "The New Tastemakers: 50 For The Future Of Design."
70% are ... Men.
(How stupid??? This is about ... the home, no??? Men are irrelevant, the stats show, right??? Am I missing something???)
90% of the Ms, or Fs for that matter, I'd not let within miles of my house. H & G seems to be catering to some Client with whom I find it impossible to identify (or, probably, even like)—but then I actually, I'm gonna say it out loud, prefer to ... GET COMFORTABLE & COZY... in the place/s I live; you know, put on Sweats, or even Pajamas, early in the evening before settling in for West Wing or Sopranos or Seinfeld reruns—I never imagine for a moment that the Editor of Vogue (or House & Garden) might "drop in" ... at least I hope not.
What are they thinking about?
Samsung has become about the first non-Japanese Asian company to create a stop-you-in-tracks-global-brand, according to me and premier Asia-hand KIenichi Ohmae. Near or at the top of the "causes" list: DESIGN!
Consider this cover headline in BusinessWeek (11.29):
"SAMSUNG DESIGN: THE KOREAN GIANT MAKES SOME OF THE COOLEST GADGETS ON EARTH. NOW IT'S REINVENTING ITSELF TO GET EVEN COOLER."
In 1993, Samsung's boss was wandering in LA, and became annoyed that Sony products were always in the front of the store, while his, equally well engineered, were tossed about in the back. Hence, an epiphany that launched the remaking of Samsung.
Today, the Korean giant boasts a design staff of 470 (120 added in the last 12 months), a design budget jumping 20% to 30% a year, and Design Centers in LA, SF, London and Tokyo. In 2004, Samsung won 5 IDEA awards (Industrial Design Excellence Awards), making it the 1st Asian company to take the annual top spot traditionally reserved for U.S. and European firms.
As at firms like Sony, Samsung has now reached the point that the designers dictate to the engineers, not vice versa!
Samsung Rules ... By Design!
I hate those endless gray highway barrier walls.
They needn't be so awful!
Welcome to Arizona!
(I'm in Scottsdale.)
Barrier walls around here are exquisite, excitingly designed Southwest-style stone sculptures!
New Color = F.A.I.*
(*Fundamentally Altered Identity.)
(It's soooooo gooooood that I want to start using DHL ... just because of the Coolness-Makeover.) (How Weird! How utterly Human!)
Hats off to MLtea!
Silk tea bags ... not paper!
My first slide today in Milan reads:
25 Meters: $1000.
500 Meters: Amex rejected.
I am not a "clothes horse." In fact I am routinely considered a slob. The only part of my wardrobe I obsess on is sweatpants, sweatshirts, hiking boots, and baseball caps. (And I do "obsess" on those Essential Items.) Nonetheless, I went a little berserk in the Fashion Capital of Europe. Europe? Why not "The World"?
By "repatriation" (on the slide) I mean that the Italians, whose balance-of-trade will take a little hit when they finish paying for today's speakers—Giuliani, Welch, Porter, and me, got at least some of it back in the shops. I was down $1,000 by the time I got across the narrow street from my hotel. $1,000 ... all on ties! Another couple of hundred yards, and couple of stops, and my American Express card was being rejected for serial-purchases. (The one that took me over the top was, at least, for Susan!)
Broke but happy, I needed to work on my Soul. Eureka! Piazza Duomo and Il Duomo! What word/s do I use? "Breathtaking" does not do the central Milan Cathedral justice! It sneaks into view from the narrow streets, and one is drawn to it like a Magnet for the Spirit.
135 glorious spires suck the Heavens down to earth! Construction began in 1386 ... just a little before the Pilgrims popped over to Red Sox Nation! While never "finished," the main construction was done in 1774. Yup, 388 years! (And speaking of Red Sox Nation ... that's even longer than the Big Dig construction project in Boston is taking!)
I spent 90 minutes walking slowly around the church—and could easily have spent hours more. Each door is a magnificent masterpiece, for one thing. The interior, even with a raft of tourists (like me), is ... again ... Magnificent!
Alas, the only less-than-satisfactory part of this story is my Canyon Ranch diet, which keeps me from the Full Glory of Italian food.
A day in Milano! What a lucky kid am I!
(Fall is here! Off to my Morning Jog/Speed Walk on the streets ... pitch dark at 7:05 a.m.)
(Hint: What follows could be Suck-up City. I don't think it is. My Mega-conference in Milan today—3,000 delegates—is produced by HSM. The Sao Paulo-based Management Services Conglomerate, founded by my tireless pal Jose Salibi Neto, is simply the best management event producer in the world—and has been for 2 decades. They Wowed the likes of me and Peter Drucker and Alvin Toffler in Brazil years and years ago—and were the subject of a glowing one-to-one marketing case study long before there even was "one-to-one marketing"! HSM then expanded through the Latin world—Argentina, Mexico City, Madrid, etc. This past Spring they took the Great Leap ... and Made It in Manhattan, with a crowd of almost 5,000 management delegates to hear Da Mayor, Jack Welch, Tommy Franks, Bill Clinton, et al. Now I'm part of their next round of expansion: Frankfurt and Milan. As usual: Marketing brilliant! Execution awe-inspiring! How about: the Cirque du Soleil of Management Experiences? I think such outrageous praise is warranted, even if I am prejudiced. Incidentally, next up are Chicago and L.A.)
A reporter asked me what made for Sustaining Entrepreneurship in a company as it grows. I said, "Beats me," then offered 17 ideas. You'll find posted today my "SE17: Origins of Sustainable Entrepreneurship" (just 4 slides). Feedback welcomed!! (Make that "begged for.")
Will be talking about Design more than I normally do at a couple of upcoming events. Reread this weekend Virginia Postrel's masterful 2003 contribution: The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness. Hence, you'll find a 8-slide presentation consisting of excellent Virginia-isms [download the PPT here]; VirginiaP is also the subject of a Cool Friends interview posted on 13 February of this year. Message: DESIGN IS INEVITABLE! DESIGN IS THE DIFFERENCE! DESIGN RULES! (Dan Pink's forthcoming A Whole New Mind: "The MFA is the new MBA." Yes!)
A colleague and I are signed up for an adult education course to learn Adobe InDesign software, which we'll be using when we work with Tom's publisher, Dorling Kindersley, on a set of spin offs (the Brits say "spin downs") of Re-imagine! Show up at the computer lab last evening. 12 students. 10 females. 2 males (me and my colleague). Teacher a female as well. It gets you thinking. Our friend Dan Pink (Free Agent Nation) is working on a new book titled A Whole New Mind (coming in February from Riverhead Books) and one of his points is that the M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) is the new M.B.A. People who are learning the design technologies are the ones who will be creating the visual images (thus stories) of our culture. And I realize I'm basing this on a ridiculously small (statistically irrelevant) sample, but, still, you gotta wonder.
One other thing. The teacher told us how glad she was to be teaching people who really wanted to be there. Because her day job is as a corporate trainer where she'll ask her students why they're there and she's actually heard people respond, "I don't know, my manager told me to show up."
Talk about not-Wow.
As the home of WOW!Projects, and loving design the way we do, we urge you all to visit Tolleson Design. Steve Tolleson, the founder of this San Francisco-based creative firm, is also the author of Soak Wash Rinse Spin. This book makes the design of Tom's Re-imagine! look downright staid. However, better than the design is the message—about what guides Tolleson's work for such clients as Nike, AOL, and Mattell's licensing program for Barbie (including the clothing line).
It had its supporters and detractors, but it was a bold design crafted during the birth of the space age. Now, the last of the Concordes perches flightless at the National Museum of Scotland. Will we ever see a passenger aircraft with such verve again?
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.