Form and Function
"Kudos on breaking down design-speak," wrote one fan of our Masters of Design issue, adding: "It really does come down to selling more stuff." Pragmatism was a theme of the October issue correspondence. Although we drew some fire for our focus on a soft-drink company, no one quibbled with Coca-Cola design guru David Butler's work or his taste. "I admire David Butler," one reader said, "for making the cover of Fast Company with a $100 Casio watch on his wrist."
Masters of Design
Each year, I carve out time to focus on the Masters of Design issue (October). It shines a bright light on Fast Company's commitment to the coverage of design as a critical business discipline. I always find inspiration for my work with retailers and consumer-goods companies. I also use it in my classes at Columbus College of Art & Design, teaching students to understand the importance of art, design, and creativity in the business world today and tomorrow.
Rarely am I driven to write a letter to the editor, but I just couldn't resist. Your latest issue on Masters of Design is great — on the inside. But as soon as I put this latest issue on the table after reading awhile, both sides of the split cover popped up like a tent. I wanted to tear it off, thinking that there must be a real unmolested cover residing below, but no such luck. I love this magazine; please don't give in to gimmicks that may make an advertiser and sales staff happy at the expense of a loyal reader's enjoyment.
Santa Barbara, California
I enjoyed reading about David Butler, the vice president of design at Coke ("Pop Artist," October), and how a "steady personality" could effect a large change within a large company.
You missed the mark on your Masters of Design by featuring Coke's Butler. Coke's biggest goal is to beat Pepsi. Wow! I'm a firm believer in good design, but please give us something tangible and valuable: someone who is doing something differently with cars, houses built from concrete, long-lasting bridges — you get the idea.
Anthony J. German
Doyenne of Data
The very opening of your article on Lisa Strausfeld captivated me ("Infomaniac," October). Her idea of establishing a "coolness" to drilling into data of such significance as the cost of Medicare — and of making such an activity a spectator sport — speaks to my long-term interests and research that have percolated to the top of my priorities list.
Design for the 50% ...
You summed it up when you said, "Equality doesn't mean sameness" ("Separate. And Equal," October). I'll quote you the next time I'm asked to talk about the many mistakes brands make when marketing to women. Consider this: As you pointed out, women make 80% of all consumer purchase decisions, yet 70% of women feel marketers "don't get them" and 35% are actually offended by the advertising that seeks to entice them. Why is most advertising failing so miserably with the world's most powerful consumer? Could it have something to do with the fact that only 3% of the creative directors at ad agencies are women?
One of the most harmful results is that the client gets shortchanged. This, over time, has contributed to the distrust many clients have for agencies in general and the creative department in particular. Righting this situation will take more than honest conversation, but smart articles like this one sure do raise the level of dialogue.
Your article on the Femme Den is right on the mark. Being in the business of marketing beer to women, I see many parallels with what the Smart Design think tank is working on and dealing with. When I was in the hardware industry, it was always infuriating and completely mystifying to try to sell pink tool sets during the holidays. Are you kidding? Insulting, inferior, and inappropriate. Obviously not developed by women or for women. At its core, marketing to women (not girls or chicks or babes) is all about a business opportunity. More than 50% of the population is female. If that isn't a majority to pursue, you tell me what is.
... And the 10%
The next frontier will be designs that consider the 10% of the population that are left-handed. Right-handers have no idea how many household items, tools, even office supplies are designed for them alone. These are extremely awkward, if not outright dangerous, for use by left-handers. I don't expect products uniquely designed for left-handers — although I really appreciate my left-handed scissors. But it would be nice to see a little more neutrality in the form of controls that can be adapted to either hand.
Manhattan Beach, California
The Next Nike?
Thank you for the great article on Li Ning and Ziba Design ("Retail Therapy," October). It is a pleasure to see someone other than me defend the Li Ning slogan.
I first came across Li Ning in January of 2005 when I saw a small AP article that reported China's largest athletic footwear and apparel company had just signed an agreement with the NBA. I became a stock-holder and have been fortunate to develop many great relationships within the company. My friends on Li Ning's sports marketing team display the same passion for sport and pride in the brand as they do for their country. It is this passion and pride that will help propel the company toward its goal of becoming one of the top five sports brands in the world.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed "Retail Therapy," particularly the insights into the Chinese business culture. As we continually progress along the journey of developing a world economy, culture plays a critical role.
What's All the Buzz About?
I am mystified by Nancy Lublin's conclusions in her Do Something column ("Stinking It Up," October). How can you possibly be successful when you define success only in terms of buzz? It's how you begin the task that defines the outcome. By seemingly not being interested in anything other than buzz, she sets a "failed" event in motion.
By the way, raising half a million dollars is an admirable goal. To consider that result a "PR failure" is not to understand what PR is — or what it's supposed to do. My two cents. Spend it wisely.
San Rafael, California
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A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.