16 February 2009
15 February 2009
Good design is Innovative
It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all of a functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.
Good design makes a product useful
A product is bought in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose – in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.
Good design is aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product – and the fascination it inspires – is an integral part of the its utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality, for two reasons.
Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have a different meaning for different people.
Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.
Good design helps a product to be understood
It clarifies the structure of the product. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory and saves you the long, tedious perusal of the operating manual.
Good design is unobtrusive
Products that satisfy this criterion are tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained leaving room for the user’s self-expression.
Good design is honest
An honestly-designed product must not claim features it does not have – being more innovative, more efficient, of higher value. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.
Good design is durable
It is nothing trendy that might be out-of-date tomorrow. This is one of the major differences between well-designed products and trivial objects for a waste-producing society. Waste must no longer be tolerated.
Good design is thorough to the last detail
Thoroughness and accuracy of design are synonymous with the product and its functions, as seen through the eyes of the user.
Good design is concerned with the environment
Design must contribute towards a stable environment and a sensible use of raw materials. This means considering not only actual pollution, but also the visual pollution and destruction of our environment.
Good design is as little design as possible
Back to purity, back to simplicity.
1. It’s about DOING. Innovation is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s not about flow charts, clever Venn diagrams, hypothesizing and numerous rounds of discussion in the conference room. Innovation is about doing stuff. It’s about looking (with your own eyes) for gaps, needs, holes and business opportunities – and then creating, designing and making real solutions to them.
2. Innovation is about PEOPLE. Actual people. Not the ones in focus group suites who answer questions about you and your products. It’s the ones whose homes you go into, the ones that you listen to, the ones that you quietly watch preparing their breakfast and going about their day that generate ideas for you and your team. These are the people that you should ask for feedback, and these are the people you should credit for helping you get there when you do.
3. FAILURE is important too. You are going to get it wrong a whole lot before you get it right. These days we live in a ‘beta’ culture, where nothing is absolute any more; where the next, improved version is waiting for our feedback before it gets improved and iterated upon. The same is true of innovation. Spending years (and a fortune) perfecting it probably means that someone else will beat you to it. Prototype it fast and cheaply, put it out there and ask for feedback. When you get it, add it to the mix, iterate again and keep on going until it works. 85% is the new 100% when it comes to perfection.
4. COLLABORATION is key. It’s about everyone chipping in and doing their bit, building things together and all getting the credit for the whole. Mashing together skill-sets and interests makes for a more interesting team dynamic, and for a better end result. From my experience, the grumpy guy in R&D is usually grumpy because no one ever asks him to play.
5. In the end, innovation simply comes down to BRAVERY. You’re either going to leap into the void or you’re not. There are no guarantees, no sure-wins and no secret Celestine Prophecy ways to add up the numbers to create a sure-win formula. You just have to be brave. Try it.
14 February 2009
Yesterday morning we were at the continental breakfast at the Hotel and the room was full of about 50 teenage boys who were in town participating in comp soccer and baseball tournaments. Ari stated ti freak out because her hair was a mess! She whined so much that we finally left and went to a restaurant. I can hardly wait until she is a teenager (not)
13 February 2009
You can create a good design, do it once and do it well, and have a nice object. That doesn’t mean it will be a great product or a good business. It might be mildly successful, it might win some awards, and it might even get some buzz on the blogs. The difference between a great product and a merely good product, however, is that a great product embodies an idea that people can understand and learn about—an idea that grows in their minds, one they emotionally engage with. Right now, you could design a product that looks like an iPhone, has really nice details and materials, and becomes an object of lust. However, this doesn’t mean that it will ultimately be successful. Unless you have a strong idea that pervades the way it looks, the way it operates, what it does, how it’s communicated to people, how it’s branded, and how people identify with the brand, your product is not complete, because these are all things that go into making a great product which becomes a good business.
Do You Matter?
Ask yourself questions such as “Who are you?” (which most people can answer) or “What do you do?” (you will probably get this one wrong). You might answer that you’re a manufacturer of computers. Well, we say you’re not merely a manufacturer of computers; you’re creating systems to help people get work done. In light of this, why does what you do matter to people? Better yet, why do you matter at all? This is the deep soul-searching question we want you to ask yourself. Does your company matter to your customers and constituents? Really, honestly, answer this. Are you a positive force in their lives? If you disappeared, would their lives be diminished in some way? I think if you tell yourself the truth, you might even conclude, “Well, probably not.” Will we shed any tears if Cheer laundry detergent is not on the shelves anymore? No, probably not. Will we shed some tears if BMW suddenly ceased to exist? Yeah, we might. If Apple ceased to exist? Probably.
How to Matter
The crucial point of the evolving iPod story is that if you want to transform your brand to the point where you matter, you have to start with design that’s “designed in” not “added on.” It can’t be a veneer. Design is not an event or a process you apply to physical and mechanical reality. You are designing a customer experience supply chain. If you are the CEO and this is something you really want to do, it’s not just a matter of getting together your executive staff and saying, “Go design some good stuff.” You have to look at your business from beginning to end and see how it all relates to your customer; then you must decide how you will design all the pieces of a customer experience solar system and go about accomplishing true organizational change.
Being Design Driven
Design is everybody’s business. And if a CEO is going to do it right, he or she needs to understand this. As you think about becoming a more design-driven company, you can use baby steps and big steps. But if you want to know in a nutshell, what do you need to do; you must build a development process that centers on people and an experience. You must give everyone an incentive to be an active part of this process. You must build a marketing process that can characterize and communicate those design ideas to people emphasizing design as an integral part of it all. You need to build an engineering system that understands that the people driving design sensibility and values are, at the same time, part of the marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and delivery equations.
Your Brand is Not Your Logo
Another way to look at brand is that it is like an individual’s character. That’s really what a brand is, the embodiment of a company’s character. When you think of the character of people, you find things about them that encourage you to like or dislike them. When you first meet someone, you might draw a few conclusions based on how they dress and style their hair, and few more of their mannerisms. A lot of times you’re right, and a lot of times you’re not. But then, as you gain real insight into their ethics and values and how they treat others, you begin to understand the person’s character. That’s how you really start to define how you feel about somebody. It’s the same way with a company. You can dress up people in cool clothes, and give them a hip new hairstyle, and create some ideas about, “Wow, maybe they’re really pretty cool and hip,” but as you really start to get to know them, you realize that, “No, they’re really moving violations of the truth in packaging laws.” All this is a veneer. You start to wonder about them. It’s the same thing with companies.
Products As Portals
That was how Howard Schultz’s head was working when he visited Milan and said, “This is an experience coffee customers would be willing to pay a little more to share.” Both Alice Waters and Howard Schultz were CEOs of their companies in the sense that they were chief experience officers in the conception of their businesses. Schultz arrived at the Starbucks experience. How brilliant was that? Well, in retrospect it seems one of those things that’s incredibly obvious, but what a few other people probably realized, namely that the coffee shop was about more than getting coffee, Schultz and Starbucks implemented brilliantly. Schultz didn’t think he was in the coffee business, he was in the experience business, and the portal into that experience was a better cup of coffee in a carefully designed atmosphere. We are reminded of our favorite Mae West line here; “I used to be Snow White and then I drifted.” Starbucks has drifted. It remains to be seen if they can rebuild the experience and survive commoditization.
Your Products and Services are Talking to People
So you start thinking about which companies have product lines with design integrity, authority, and self-confidence showing through every aspect of their design, and now you are beginning to understand about design communication and why it matters. It’s about a story— you see, the thing that is hard for most business people to grasp, is that the design language is there to tell a story. It takes a customer’s need or desire and spins its story all the way to an expected fulfillment. Any writing class will tell you too that it is always better to “show” instead of just “tell.” That’s the exact function of design language. It shows. For that shopper at the BMW lot, the scenario playing through the mind might involve a drive up a winding Pennsylvania road in late spring, cornering the switchbacks with tight accuracy while the sound system fills the slick cockpit interior, finally pulling up to a country inn for brunch and being recognized as one of the “Bimmer” elite by fellow patrons.
Building a Design Driven Culture
When you seek to balance risk and research on the path to originality, it’s no easy feat. Many companies employ a management technique where with every project, they set up the boundary conditions, usually around cost and schedule, and there will also be technology conditions. But there is a problem if the development teams see these as hard boundaries. At Apple, we used to say to the team “it’s all right to play in this field; if you cross one of these boundaries, a red flag goes up and we just need to review it and understand it.” This didn’t mean you couldn’t cross a boundary. You just need to know when you have crossed one. More than risk mitigation, you need a program for risk support. If you are going to be design driven to create original products and services, your favorite new mantra needs to be: “Risk is not a four-letter word.”
Go Forth and Matter
Over the years, we have found ourselves in conversations organized around the question, “what is it that people really want out of life?.” Marketers ask this question and promote their answers. So do psychologists. Theologians of course claim to know. And more than a few of the rest of us seek our own answers every day. It is a complex question, pondered for centuries by individuals and groups more qualified to offer answers than the authors of this book. This said, however, we do think we know the answer to that question. Or at least an answer that matters to your business. This answer has been given thematically throughout this book. It has been implicit, but now we would now like to explicitly propose it: People are seeking a great experience of being alive.
Ari after a day of shopping!
Ari with Elder and Sister Abbott. They were with us in Samoa and had not seen her since she was 3 months old.
Ari at the Wildlife Museum.
Ari and Daddy.
Ari on Safari.