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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 forgood television. Case in point, Lost. For almost six years, viewers have beenarguing over the possible endings and explanations behind ABC’s hit televisionshow.

Lost

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

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

And yet, after reading inEntertainment Weekly that a 30-second ad in the final episode of the serieswill cost around $900,000, I have to admire the producers. They managed to cashin on one of the most successful instances of open-ended innovation I canrecall, having ensnared a large and loyal audience in a world where plane crashsurvivors are stuck on a time-traveling tropical island inhabited by polarbears and a smoke monster.

They deliver a product thatdeliberately flaunts the rules of plausibility–a luxury that few creativeprofessionals enjoy. Essentially, Lost viewers–loyal and skeptics alike–arethe perfect clients. They pose no deadlines, no constraints; they simply tunein every Tuesday night trusting that the creative process will come to fruitionin the end.

The question still remainswhether things will come together in the end. Will the creative processdeliver, 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 polarbear 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 brandambassadors for its clients and lead to greater market share andincreased profit. SKD’s team of 25 designers,researchers, and mechanical engineers guide a product fromconceptualization through production. SKD is renowned for its medical products and its ear-centric devices, including communication headsets for Jabra and Plantronics, the Zōnhearing aid for Starkey Laboratories, and noise-cancelling ear buds forUltimate Ears. SKD’s awards include IDEA, Red Dot, iF, Good Design and the I.D. AnnualDesign 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 topfive “Design Factories” in its annual Masters of Design issue.

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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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