Looking for a compelling experience? The thrill of climbing a mountain, the power of listening to beautiful music, the joy of reading a love letter can be yours — in a box of blocks. "Zounds" is the latest business-culture artifact to come out of the Chicago-based strategic design firm, Doblin Group: a box of nine 2-inch birch blocks exquisitely papered with antique images and verse fragments. The goal? "To embody everything we know about what causes people to spend time on something voluntarily," says Doblin President Larry Keeley. And that's a priority for any company in a world of scarce time and shrinking attention spans.
The brainchild of visionary craftsperson Nana Naisbitt (email@example.com), the blocks mirror the three stages of any compelling experience: attraction (it calls to you), engagement (you forget time with it); and extension (you want to share it and relive it).
Zounds is part fetish object, part strategic planning tool for marketing the business of the future. Use the blocks to tell a story, cast a mood, create a picture. Think Lincoln Logs with an MBA-PhD. Produced in a limited first run for the executives and technology stars who flock to the annual Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) conference, the blocks feature several layers of aesthetic refinement. For Keeley, the application is immediate: "They show serious businesspeople that any product, service, or environment that isn't a compelling experience will be at a competitive disadvantage."
Elizabeth Weil (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes on business culture from Chicago. For more information, visit the Doblin Group on the Web http://www.doblin.com .
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.