Letters. Updates. Advice.

Masters of Design

In the midst of applying to grad school, I have two folders on my desktop. One is full of MBA applications, the other is for MFAs. In my mind, the two are inseparable, which is why I adore your Masters of Design issue (October). Thank you so much for this year’s well-curated compilation of reports. Your story on Paula Scher (“The Wordsmith“) was especially inspiring for me as a young woman who is determined to form a career with equal parts business savvy and uncompromising style. I applaud her bravado, range, and self-confidence. What a great role model!


Rebecca Marshall
New York, New York

Why Puma Is a Powerhouse

As the architects who worked with Puma AG to convert the corporate colors from hunter green and tan to red and white, we at Kanner Architects applaud Fast Company for recognizing the daring genius of Jochen Zeitz (“The Catalyst,” October). After creating retail experiences in more than 100 Puma stores over the past six years, we can attest to the visionary leadership that put Zeitz and his onetime shoe company at the fore of the chic sportswear-lifestyle world. Zeitz’s model has been copied, but never duplicated. And Tony Bertone’s intensely creative contribution to the direction the Puma brand has taken cannot be overstated. We know that there would be no stores to design and no opportunity to invent and create without the commitment to present well-made products in the most appropriate and dynamic setting. Kudos to Zeitz and the rest of his Puma team.

Stephen H. Kanner
Santa Monica, California


Designing Readers

I enjoyed reading your annual Masters of Design issue (October) and about the innovative products and creative designers you highlighted. It was a thorough accounting of the current state of the Design Economy, with one glaring oversight. You omitted one of the fastest-growing areas in the design space, namely how companies are applying product-design thinking and methodology to innovative service-design processes.

An innovative product can be relatively easy to duplicate and creates a fleeting advantage. The design of an exceptional service environment is much more difficult to replicate and far more lasting. When Westin Hotels & Resorts shocked the industry with–perish the thought–a bed that was supercomfortable, it delighted bleary-eyed travelers around the globe. But before long, competitors at all price points knocked off their versions of Westin’s Heavenly Bed. You can now enjoy a good night’s sleep (complete with the appropriate pillow selection, thread count, and duvet cover) at most midscale hotels. Westin, however, anticipated this development and made sure that as a brand it was equally adept at service and product design. It created a model and experience for service that ensured its guests will return because of its staff’s friendliness, efficiency, resourcefulness, responsiveness, and knowledge. Ultimately, the product becomes the expected cost of entry. But well-designed service creates the intimacy and emotional bond that drive loyalty and growth.

Rob Rush
Horsham, Pennsylvania


Your third annual Masters of Design issue was a fascinating read. As someone who has built a business based on delivering solid design, it was telling that you chose not to focus the discussion on how to “design” an organization for sustained performance or innovation. While it is one thing to develop an innovative product or service, it’s a whole other thing to capture and sustain an organization’s competitive advantage via its unique design. After all, the thirtysomething CEO of Puma was able to bring in a 21-year-old to design shoes because the organization itself was designed and structured for that type of innovation.

Mark LaScola
Phoenix, Arizona

Roger Martin’s essay (“Tough Love,” October) is the best article I’ve read on design and innovation in a while. What is missing, or maybe I missed it, is the how of running an enterprise on design thinking.


Vinay Rao
Bangalore, India

The Bicycle Thief

Puma’s “unstealable” bike, as described in “The Catalyst” (October), might win points for artistic design, but it’s a failure of functional design. As any urban dweller knows, disabling a bicycle doesn’t render it unstealable. How many times have you seen a front tire locked to a post with the rest of the bicycle stolen? A bicycle only weighs about 20 pounds; a thief presented with the unstealable bike merely has to cut the cable lock, take it home, and repair it!

Yali Friedman
Washington, DC


Halfhearted Debate

My favorite magazine (Fast Company) on my favorite subject (design) blew it by not printing the full text of Open Debate in the magazine. I’ve followed the career of Joe Duffy with admiration and sometimes envy. The title and edited text left me wondering if Joe had had a lobotomy. After reading the full text online, that’s clearly not the case. The title should have been: “RESOLVED: Great design should not be left to amateurs.”

Michael Kelly
Warsaw, Indiana

Skoll’s Moving Pictures

The efforts of Jeff Skoll (“Moving Pictures,” September) are a truly great step for Hollywood. I’m wondering whether we can step further out of the Hollywood norm. Why does the success of these movies have to be measured in box-office ticket sales? These films should be screening for free across the country–and be judged by how many people they reach. To Mr. Skoll, thank you for taking so much initiative with Participant Productions.


Jenna Boller
San Francisco, California

We need more leaders like Jeff Skoll and more companies like Participant Productions. My whole family has seen An Inconvenient Truth, and been to the Web site to start making changes. We replaced all of our lightbulbs, and we’re buying a hybrid vehicle. The film created an incredible awareness that will change many lives, and hopefully create a tipping point in the fight to stop global warming.

Melissa W. O’Mara
Tully, New York


Still Turned On by Lightbulbs

Of all of the business and product articles I have read in the past few years, none have made such an impression on me as “How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change the World?” (September) The article was not only well written but showed a way that almost everyone can make a positive impact on energy and environmental issues. After reading it, my wife and I not only switched the bulbs in our house but are also now buying CFLs as presents for everyone while providing reference to the article. These will be the gifts that keep on giving.

Adam Erickson
Overland Park, Kansas

Fast Fix

In our November 2006 article “Down the Rabbit Hole,” a sentence should have read, “In a ‘compact luxury’ category where Mercedes and BMW had tried and failed, Audi sold more than 5,000 cars in the A3’s first seven months on the market.”


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