Kathy Ryan's job is cool. In fact, she's vice president of cool at America Online, where she heads a five-member Cool Team that works with in-house producers and outside content providers to create new AOL sites. So what's the definition of cool? Ryan ponders for a moment. "It's instinctive. I know it when I see it."
Name: Kathy Ryan
Title: Vice President of Cool, America Online
Has Held Title For: 18 months
With AOL For: 8 years
Degree: Interface Design
Are you especially cool?
No, I'm not cool at all. The word is really symbolic more than anything — symbolic of creating customer delight and taking a different twist on things.
How is "cool" used at AOL?
It's not always spelled c-o-o-l. Often you'll see it spelled k-e-w-e-l. It's used when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: when interesting graphics, low prices, innovative concepts, and interactivity all come together. That's kewel.
What are some cool places on AOL? Give us some keywords.
Netgirl, Roadtrips, Desktop Cinema, Hecklers. They all have unique personalities, and that's pretty cool.
Do you get tired of the "C" word?
I hear it constantly, but I don't get tired of it. It's part of the culture here. Occasionally I'll hear synonyms for cool, like clutch and tasty.
A version of this article appeared in the November 1995 issue of Fast Company magazine.