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Will the Open-Ended Innovation of “Lost” Ultimately Deliver for Its Audience?

There’s no better day than April Fools to discuss the practical joke that one show plays on its viewers week after week. If only product designers had such luxuries.

Lost

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Good design is polarizing. You could argue the same is true for
good television. Case in point, Lost. For almost six years, viewers have been
arguing over the possible endings and explanations behind ABC’s hit television
show.

In my experience, most fans are
divided into two camps. On one end of the couch are the die-hard devotees like
my wife, who maintain that the writers have planned everything from the
beginning and have faith that the show will wrap up in a coherent and
satisfying way. The other group, which includes myself,
insists the show has become so convoluted that there is no chance for a
reasonable resolution, and harbors mounting resentment over this perceived
manipulation by the writers. I can’t help but wonder if this all an
elaborate practical joke six seasons in the making.

And yet, after reading in
Entertainment Weekly that a 30-second ad in the final episode of the series
will cost around $900,000, I have to admire the producers. They managed to cash
in on one of the most successful instances of open-ended innovation I can
recall, having ensnared a large and loyal audience in a world where plane crash
survivors are stuck on a time-traveling tropical island inhabited by polar
bears and a smoke monster.

They deliver a product that
deliberately flaunts the rules of plausibility–a luxury that few creative
professionals enjoy. Essentially, Lost viewers–loyal and skeptics alike–are
the perfect clients. They pose no deadlines, no constraints; they simply tune
in every Tuesday night trusting that the creative process will come to fruition
in the end.

The question still remains
whether things will come together in the end. Will the creative process
deliver, or will the lack of constraints lead to disappointment? At this point,
it’s not hard for me to imagine the series ending with Hurley riding a polar
bear off into the sunset. Happy April Fools Day.

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Read more of Stuart Karten’s Dear
Stuart blog

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For 25 years, Stuart Karten Design
(SKD) has designed products that serve as brand
ambassadors for its clients and lead to greater market share and
increased profit. SKD’s team of 25 designers,
researchers, and mechanical engineers guide a product from
conceptualization through production. SKD is renowned for its medical
products and its ear-centric devices, including communication headsets
for Jabra and Plantronics, the Zōn
hearing aid for Starkey Laboratories, and noise-cancelling ear buds for
Ultimate Ears. SKD’s awards include IDEA, Red Dot, iF, Good Design and
the I.D. Annual
Design Review. Conceptual “Epidermits Interactive Pet” was a part of
MOMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition.
In 2008,
Fast Company named SKD among America’s top
five “Design Factories” in its annual Masters of Design issue.

 

About the author

Stuart Karten is the Founder and President of Los Angeles-based product innovation consultancy [url=http://kartendesign.com/]Karten Design[/url]. Since 1984, he has partnered with medical device, digital health, and consumer product manufacturers to build their businesses through design.

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