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


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.

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.