There they were again. In the “tactics” section of the strategic brief for my client's new project were two headings I'd seen many times before. User-friendly and intuitive. They're common enough goals. No one could blame the company for pursuing these noble ambitions as a way to help the product become successful. But what the team didn't know was that it would never achieve them. It couldn't. Not with guidelines like these.
Imagine it’s 1997 and you’re sitting in a small room in Los Gatos, California. You’ve decided that you are going to get into the movie rental business. That’s right, you want to dethrone a huge entrenched competitor that has been dominating the industry for years, Blockbuster. How would you design the next big idea to disrupt the industry?
Today, many lament that the United States used to make great things but seldom does any longer, believing it’s no longer a major source of manufacturing and creation. One need only open the October issue of Fast Company, titled “The United States of Design” for a reality check. While manufacturing’s decline has been significant over the last two decades, I believe the emerging narrative that manufacturing in the U.S.A. is dying or dead is both misleading and overblown.
Whether they’re dealing in cars or cookies or computers, companies typically struggle with how to effectively and reliably create innovative products and services. Often, they discover that the greatest challenges aren’t in coming up with big ideas but in the organizational and management issues that these new ideas present.
[This is the first in a series of posts drawn from a sprawling survey we conducted about the state of American design.—Ed.]
This question has been troubling me for some time. Have we lost our edge at a particularly dynamic (and economically troubling) moment in our nation's history? I look around at the aging leadership at the leading American design firms—organizations like frog, IDEO, Continuum and Smart—with some concern. This group has accomplished a huge amount in the last few decades, to be sure, providing design leadership on a global scale.
Earlier this year, Co.Design published a provocative, sometimes comical, and overall insightful infographic by Jessica Hische, “Designers, Should You Work for Free?” The dizzyingly intricate flowchart immediately went viral among designers, as it perfectly encapsulated the ambivalence and frustration so many feel about being repeatedly asked to do friends a solid without any compensation, at best, and without any consideration as to how much time and energy good design actually takes, at worst.
I’ve lived about a mile from Apple campus in Silicon Valley for over 20 years. In my early design life, I even helped design some Apple products and advanced concepts. From that time until now, whether it was via my neighbors or friends that worked at Apple or from industry buzz in the Valley, I've developed a picture of “Steve” (you just say “Steve,” and people in the Valley know which Steve you mean). My favorite wink-and-nod rumor was that Steve was really a robot that Wozniak created to rule the world. At a distance, that seems plausible.
[This is the fourth post in a series by Smart Design. Click here to read the introduction. — Ed.]
Last week, I wrote about how to evoke personality through design to help satisfy the contradictory, natural preferences in each gender. Another method to designing transparently is to understand a woman’s unique priorities regarding the people in her life. Women are motivated to spend time and effort on people.
My colleague and I are from Denmark. We, along with much of the world, admire the United States’ relentless pursuit of the Next Big Thing, its inherent optimism, and its go-getter attitude. Other parts of the world should learn to embrace change the way America does, be inspired by its perpetual freshness of spirit, and, most important, replicate just a fraction of the country’s innovation capability. Only in America could brand innovators like Google, Nike, and Starbucks emerge.