why so deep?

strategic design

cultural invention

experience design

meaningful experiences

design thinking

business design

design for business

service design

world design centers, california, london, tokyo, silicon alley, etc.

design research

human centered design

humanizing technology

changing people’s behaviour

changing the way people see the world

analysis paralysis

what ever happened to the simple pleasures, passion and beauty that good old fashioned design brings?

tropicana packaging

tropicana-packaging

Arnell Group did the design of the new Tropicana package.  Seems like a lot of people hate it, so much that Tropicana are going back to the old design. Designers like it, most of my non designer friends don’t. Tropicana went back to the old packaging stating that consumers liked to see the orange with the straw, but they still paid the consultant a lot of money to make the change.

Was this a case of consultants trying to convince the client to do something that was “designed well” and to ignore consumer sentiment?  Well Tropicana agreed to change the package, at least for a while.

The clients ARE responsible for making decisions, regardless of what famous consultant is providing the advice.  That’s a big part of why I’m getting a taste of being the client…I know that I have the ultimate responsibility and accountability for decisions that get made, regardless of who might be whispering in my ear.

Google Tropicana packaging, lots of passionate dialog on this.

Which Tropicana design do you like better?

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swine flu and design

swineflu

On my way home, NPR was interviewing a psychologist about people’s fear of the unknown, in this case, Swine Flu. Basically, the Doctor was saying that people are afraid of Swine Flu because no one can connect the dots around who might get it or not, hence it seems, random. He went on to say that even though statistically, more people die from driving cars and crossing busy streets, people and the press don’t seem to obsess over this. Why? His theory was that driving cars and crossing busy streets puts the user in control, hence it feels like a normal experience, nothing noteworthy to speak of.

caraccident

So your chances of dieing are greater on the streets but since people aren’t in control of Swine Flu, it becomes a larger issue in their minds. So is it fair to say that people start to act irrationally when it comes to things unknown even though statistics prove there are larger issues at hand?  Why don’t people wear bright orange safety vests when crossing the streets?

swineflu1

So how does this connect to design? In design research, consumers are asked to comment on something really new. Ask a bunch of people about something they aren’t sure about, have no prior knowledge of and something they haven’t experienced before, basically, the unknown, how do you think they’ll respond? What is the psychology of the response? Will they be able to provide a rational answer? Will they try to tap into what they know but can’t since they are being asked to comment on the unknown and answer irrationally? People don’t want to sound stupid, yeah? So will they hide their fear of the unknown and pull a response out of their ass, hence sounding stupid?  Dooohh!

Good researchers will say that how the respondents are recruited and how research itself is conducted should prevent those irrational answers.  But does that weird psychology take over anyhow?

Design Principles – A summary…

Below is a list of design tag lines. I’ve always been interested in how we explain what we do to design savvy folks while in elevator pitch mode. So this list is a start.

Hundreds say something like this: “NameHere is a product development consultancy focused on design, strategy, market, user interface and research, industrial design and engineering.” Some are a bit more poetic. “…user desires, business needs, design vision…” Below are the more unique entries I’ve found:

DESIGNERS

John Maeda – “Simplicity”
Ross Lovegrove – “Organic minimalism”
Santiago Calatrava – “Repetition…” (because nature often works in patterns) designer of the Chicago Spire

CONSULTANCIES

Ammunition – “Don’t play the game, change the game…Loaded”
Astro – “We create supercharged products and brands”
frogdesign – “form follows emotion”
Fuseproject – “Design brings stories to life”
Lunar Design – “Creativity that makes a difference”
New Deal Design – Get Real
Smart Design, 11 Design – (roughly) Making people’s lives better.
Teague – “…establishing perspective.”

CORPORATIONS

Krups – “Passion, Precision, Perfection”
Philips – “Sense and Simplicity”
Porsche Design – “The Engineers of Passion. Pure, functional and technically innovative”

(ok, i’m just starting this list, if you got some interesting ones for me to add, post a reply)

Apple Craft: it’s the product

I just got back from the Art Center conference called Radical Craft. I wasn’t able to make the first day of the conference, which I was told seemed to be the better of the two days to attend. But I did happen to catch a talk, or more an interview given by Chee Perlman of Jonathan Ive, the VP of Design at Apple. I have to say it was a really great interview. The MC intro went sort of like this, “if Steve Jobs is the design visionary at Apple, then Jonnie Ive is the design soul”. Here are my thoughts about what I enjoyed:

1. Jon is the 100% opposite of the typical design rock star personality. Isaac Mizrahi also presented that same day, actually a really great interview as well, but his personality is huge and clearly a big part of the package. Flamboyant, loud, arms waving, running into the crowd like Jerry Springer. This is not Jon Ive. I think its great to see smart designers that don’t want to be rock stars, talk about their passions in a public venue.

2. He’s clearly focused on one thing, making the product as great as it can be. When asked about what the goals of Apple are, he states that creating and producing the best product possible, is more important than making money. I’m sure some of the business guys would choke hearing this, but I’m of the same belief, that if you really get the product right, the chances of it and the company doing well are much higher. Additionally, you get the benefit of a company with a reputation that delivers quality.

3. Following on about the utter importance of the “product” itself, he states that getting this right, has a much more lasting, positive impact than marketing and sales. Once again, I’m in complete agreement here. Yes the Apple ad campaign creates a grand sense of style and aspiration for us consumers, the itunes store offers a great online experience, but the proof is in the pudding, if the product pleases, it just makes you smile and reinforces the message, but if it disappoints, you’re crying and the message turns into a joke. If the product is done right and delivers, then that creates repeat customers boosting sales.

4. He is a design freak, passionate and fanatical about the details and getting it right. It’s fortunate that he’s in an organization that cares as much as he does.

5. Continuing on design, he states that Apple design is NOT about self expression and more about taking complex problems and making them appear simple. This was said in the context of comparing Apple Design to other designers, like Mizrahi, who would profess to say that the design he produces, IS self expression. On this note, I can’t say I agree with Jon. Yes the current Apple design language is the epitome of simplicity. One could argue that the current line is almost expressionless in its character. But what about the “candy colored” phase of Apple design? Or the jelly fish like Apple/Harmon speakers? Quite expressive if you ask me. What designers produce or at least intend to produce, in my mind, is a clear statement of self expression, whether that expression is simplicity or intricacy or excitement or whatever appropriate thought fits. That product expression is also a direct reflection of where that particular company is at the time as well. Often the reflection can get watered down to a murky blur by too many participants trying leave their own mark, but that’s another blog topic.

It’s clear that Jonathan and his team are in pursuit of excellence. It’s also clear that Apple at large is willing to pay for this and do what it takes to produce great product (poor engineers, they must go through hell!). There is another interesting blog about the cost of innovation from Noise Between Stations which I actually found on Bruce Nussbaum’s Business Week blog who also has some nice thoughts on design. The NBS blog talks about how much Apple pays for innovation and puts it up against sales, good stuff. This all said, as someone traditionally trained in Industrial Design, and now an expert in Experience, Strategic, Brand, Feeling, Styling, Innovation Design 😉 I quite enjoyed Jon’s ability to stay focused on one thing, the product.

Portfolio

What does this image have in common: all are vehicles, all have 4 wheels, all can get you from A to B? The answer for this exercise is “Honda”.

I’m writing this mostly because I read some of the funniest reviews at places like CNet and Gizmodo. “…this video media player would be better if it could also take pictures and send them wirelessly to my grandma…” Wait a second, do the reviewers have a concept of what a “portfolio” is? Automotive companies usually do a pretty good job at developing this. Reviews tend to be myopic, try to look at products individually AND have consideration for the big picture. Every company should have a Strategy that takes into account people’s needs, the brand, ability to produce, market size and many, many other components. This Strategy, is usually reflected in the portfolio.

Does Brand Matter? Honey I shrunk the Hummer

The new H3 looks like a shrunken version of the H2. Can you tell which one is a 2 or 3? Doesn’t this go against what Hummer is all about, BIG, BOLD, MILITARY? If people want a small hummer, I guess that’s cool, but could GM have done something different? They had to retool most of the exterior body panels right? Why not make some good design changes? Was this the easy thing to do? “Jim, scale the CAD files down to 70%.” Was this what “consumers” wanted? “I want a small hummer, ooh that would be cute!” If so, maybe consumers don’t care about what all the brand experts develop and communicate. Do consumers want their personal version of whatever is they think is hot? Maybe GM did this because Apple seems to keep shrinking ipods and it seems to work for them!

Stick to you guns. From my brand point of view, what GM just did would be analogous to using the same design for the current Mini and blowing it up into a “mid sized” station wagon. Would that still be a Mini? I guess they could rename it “Midi”, but that might confuse all the people out there in the music world.

Oh, the image on the bottom is the H3.