Masters of Design
The Masters of Design issue (October) was so inspiring, I literally could not sleep. I was tantalized by Sam Lucente's "design attitude" strategy, teased by the Paola Antonelli story, and bowled over by Yves Béhar's sheer passion to embody a product with a human print, package it, and deliver it for each brand. Nice! More important, all of the designers you've featured illustrate a promise of open-mindedness and optimism that breathes fresh air. It's just what we as designers all need but sometimes lose sight of: food for creativity.
I was disappointed by the Masters of Design issue. You took the easy route. It's easy, relatively speaking, to design things. But the majority of us do not produce things, we produce hows. I hope in the future you will include a Master of Design of Process, for those of us in the services industry. What are the newest designs in customer service, financial organization, decision making, promotions, or marketing?
Bruce A. Hurwitz
Cliffside Park, New Jersey
The October MOD issue was really super . . . except for the fact that graphic design was pretty much ignored. Hot, newly designed products, ads, and companies always require innovative logos, Web sites, packaging, and advertising; you don't show any of this.
Linda Cooper Bowen
Jersey City, New Jersey
I was glad to see the article "Time to Get Trigger Happy" (October) in an issue focused on design, since there is a connection to be made. Scientists are generating abundant evidence that prove our brains and our environments are aspects of one system. There is continual adaptation in both directions: We respond to our environments as much as we influence them. Knowing this, we can be strategic in how we design our surroundings so that they trigger much more than just product associations. We can trigger moods, abilities, knowledge, behaviors, or any other aspect of who we are.
Marketers understand this; so do designers of office space and public areas. I would like to see ordinary people become aware that all of the environments we live in affect who we are. We can be intentional in how we create and choose our external environments to design our internal experience and bring different aspects of ourselves into being.
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
I use FAST COMPANY for my fire company. Without fail, I find useful ideas to make our fire department a better organized, more efficient, and more effective emergency-services provider. You'd think that in an industry in which we pretty much "enjoy" 100% market share, we would want for nothing. But many if not most of the fire departments in our area and across the nation are habitually underappreciated, understaffed, and underfunded.
FAST COMPANY provides me with a seemingly endless supply of ideas to better promote everything our fire department does and the opportunities we offer to be a part of our volunteer team.
Your article "Time to Get Trigger Happy" touched on how we live, learn, digest, and understand messages. It inspired me to create some trigger statements that we can use in the recruitment of volunteer firefighters, which is critical to the safety of our communities: "The next time you hear the wail of a fire engine's siren, make the call. Volunteer today." "The next time you see the flashing lights of an ambulance, make the call. Volunteer today."
And, for the record, I put this magazine by the front door to remember to bring it with me to the office today. It really works!
Evans, New York
An Overnight Lesson
I just finished reading the great September cover story "He Sold His Soul to Wal-Mart." Today, when I got home, there was a UPS package on my doorstep, shipped next-day air from a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, from my mortgage holder. My heart raced: Did I pay last month's mortgage? Is my house about to be repossessed for some minor unpaid fees or taxes? Did I pay my property taxes? No, it was nothing so serious. Instead, having flown on an airplane and traveled by truck from Missouri, a single sheet of paper was inside: a flyer letting me know that if I ever wanted to refinance, my bank would match the price or I'd get a $100 gift card.
I drive a nonhybrid car. I still occasionally drink bottled water (though less often). I've even tossed an aluminum can in the trash instead of the recycling bin once or twice. So I'm not a tree hugger by any stretch. But I am stunned that my bank would waste the time, money, and fuel to overnight me a sales pitch when other companies are trying to save fuel and resources. Has it never heard of email?
Sure, I opened the package—but I'm so disappointed in it that I would never consider refinancing with that institution. So the ad had the exact opposite effect. I was so angry, I called and left a message for the senior vice president. After only my first issue as a new subscriber, your article had an impact on me and my way of looking at the junk mail that arrives on my doorstep via overnight delivery.
Does Not Compute
I was sorry to read Elizabeth Spiers's column (Not So Fast, October)—not about her love of Apple's designs, because I am smitten by them as well, but about her challenges with malfunctioning Apple products. I too have used Apple's computers and products since day one and, fortunately, have not had those items break down as Spiers has. Apple CEO Steve Jobs's ways of the world are as seductive as his Apple's products, from the way he dresses to his self-confidence to how he carries himself. It all resonates with the intelligence and simplicity that rule Apple designs and its operating system. Those only keep me wanting to own one of everything he makes.
As a longtime user of Apple products, I can assure you and other readers of FAST COMPANY, Apple computers are not prone to falling apart or crashing in a "spectacular yet horrifying fashion." I am writing this on my fifth Apple laptop computer; I've subjected each one to a minimum of two years of use and thousands of miles of travel around the United States. While I have on occasion had minor problems—which were quickly fixed at the Genius Bar in an Apple store—I have never had anything fall apart. In addition to Apple laptops, we use Apple desktops in our office, and I travel with an iPod—my second. That iPod has been my constant traveling companion for the past several years.
While design is an important part of Apple's sales success, the functionality and reliability of the company's products are far more important and valuable to users such as myself.
If there is one company that embodies the fast track in American product design and function—and business—Apple is it. History has amply proven that Apple without Jobs is rudderless. The typical conservative corporate mentality that even to this day has failed to respond to Asian (and European) ingenuity would do well to look at what Steve Jobs has done in competing with both the American and Asian tech worlds: He has made Dell, IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba, etc., look like dinosaurs when it comes to both function and form.
Although my design-studio desktop is up to date, at home I am still using a seven-year-old Apple 22-inch CinemaScreen LCD monitor that looks and functions like new, hooked up to a souped-up G4 Cube that is dead silent—and with 1.5 GB of RAM, plus a new 160-GB hard drive and Superdrive DVD burner, is eminently functional. And with OSX installed, it is still remarkably fast.
If the rest of the U.S. manufacturing world were as creatively solid and innovative as Apple—particularly the automotive industry—the American economy would be booming.
Santa Rosa, California
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A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.