April 2, 2013
The Most Advanced Yet Acceptable Difference
You can tell when a client is nervous—they start sucking air. The response is so well known among creative professionals that it has become an obvious indicator that your design proposal is too different and pushes the client’s comfort level.
February 20, 2013
"GOOD DESIGN IS GOOD BUSINESS." THE 40-YEAR PROPHECY COMES TO PASS.
Last week I was speaking at Utah State University on the subject Design as a Business Tool. I couldn’t help but quote the now famous line from IBM CEO, Thomas Watson, “Good design is good business.” Watson’s speech on the subject is required reading in my University of Utah Graphic Design History class. The only problem with the quote is that by now—it is history. He said it in 1973. To most people at that time, design had little to do with business. It was more about decorating with an avocado throw rug and orange Formica.
January 31, 2012
By Derek Boman
Recently I was on the phone with a man trying to explain my credit score. After one particular point of nonsense, I complained about the obvious complexity and backwardness of the system. He said, “I know, but that’s just the way it is.” The ridiculous conversation reminded me of a TED talk I once watched. Alan Siegel, of design firm Siegel+Gale, described a challenge issued by President Obama after signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law. The President challenged the credit card industry to create a consumer-credit agreement that everyone could understand and that took up only a single page. Siegel found the concept compelling, locked himself in a room, and designed the one-page document. He claims it has been tested and is legally sound.
May 26, 2011
Could the design of the almighty dollar affect the economy?
The mightiest trick of any print designer is to imbue the object of his creation with value beyond the paper it’s printed on. And there isn’t a more important document anywhere than paper money. Of course, at one time, the US dollar was backed by silver and gold, but now it’s literally just a piece of paper that proclaims “Believe in the brand called United States of America,” (and fortunately, most do. Thank you China.)
March 21, 2011
How our subconscious minds influence our behavior
My office has always been located in the downtown area of Salt Lake, despite my home being some 20 miles south in the suburbs. Sure, the drive is pretty familiar after 30 years, but one morning a few months ago I arrived at my office parking spot somewhat surprised. My mind had been preoccupied and I was amazed that I had driven the 20 miles without a single conscious decision about where I was going or what I was doing. In fact, I remembered absolutely nothing about my drive downtown. It was as if I had been teleported from home to my office without any effort on my part.
According to Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post science writer and author of The Hidden Brain, my story of the drive downtown is a perfect example of how our subconscious minds can manipulate us without our awareness. (more…)
November 22, 2010
How many designers does it take to change a light bulb?
When we are engaged for brand strategy, our first step is the interview — which is typically one on one, between the client and myself. We always ask to interview the CEO, the marketing department and a few others. We start right off by asking stupid questions. We’re sitting in their offices and the company name is proudly displayed in the lobby or on the door and the first thing we ask is “Who are you?”
July 19, 2010
First see, then think, then do
A few weeks ago my 4-year old grandson, Luke, picked up my point-and-shoot digital camera and decided he wanted to shoot some photos. I wasn’t there when it happened. No one needs to tell him (nor, I suspect, many others of his age) how to use buttons on electronic devices. It’s simply intuitive for them. I discovered the photos quite by accident. The next time I used the camera I asked Luke’s mom if someone had been using it. She acknowledged that Luke had been playing with the camera, but with cost-free digital photo technology, saw no harm in it. She hadn’t seen Luke’s photos.
May 14, 2010
I’ve sat through a lot of business speakers’ presentations (and some I’ve slept through). But despite a rather low-key presentation style, the speaker I heard a couple weeks ago at a Utah Technology Council industry breakfast was just short of revolutionary. The subject was “The Innovators DNA” by Dr. Jeffrey H. Dyer, professor of strategy at the BYU Marriott School of Business. (more…)
April 21, 2010
A day-long immersion in small group innovation thinking
A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in an ideation session by a Park City-based strategy and innovation-consulting group. The purpose of the all day session was to develop innovative ideas for a major manufacturer of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Together with nine other individuals, some in marketing-related businesses, some not, we gathered in small groups of three or four and brainstormed ideas about improving the product or packaging, promotional and merchandising ideas and new product possibilities. (more…)
February 17, 2010
We all think of ourselves as different, but most people think artists and designers are categorically different. If it’s not appearance issues, such as clothes or hair, then it’s a designer’s outlook, personality or the way they think.
So what are the personality traits of a designer? Michael Roller looked into that. He administered the well-known Myers Briggs personality test to a group of designers and published the result. The test compares things like introversion vs. extraversion and feeling vs. thinking. Two big trends are clear: Nearly 70% of the respondents were “judging” types and 85% were “intuiting” types. That’s exactly the opposite of the general public, who skew towards “sensing” and “perceiving”. (more…)
September 1, 2009
Innovation has been recognized as survival strategy in today’s business climate. In the newest issue of Business Week magazine, an excerpt from a book by the CEO of the design firm IDEO, points out that the need to innovate is nothing new—but how to accomplish it, is new—design thinking. When I started my design business nearly 30 years ago we didn’t talk about design thinking. (In fact, we didn’t talk about much of anything outside of the arcane methods that were required to get something created and printed at the time.) Since then, the influence of design in the business world has grown dramatically.
The methodologies of the designer: brainstorming, mock-ups, user observations, storytelling and scenario building are all useful in building innovation. Tim Brown of IDEO says it is time for this type of thinking—design thinking—to migrate outward and upward into the highest levels of corporate leadership. Business leaders seeking innovation need to adopt the methods of the designer, just as designers are broadening their scope from just creating “things”, to the shaping of services, experiences and organizations.
Designers typically approach problem-solving somewhat differently. They’re more intuitive and emotional, and less logical and analytical. Instead of going A > B > C > D, designers may start at Q > D > K and end up at P. The logical thinker hires market researchers to describe how the world is; design thinking describes how the world could be.
David Butler, Coca-Cola’s vice president of global design, applies design thinking way beyond the design of Coke’s brand. “I love big, giant, enormous systems, no matter what they are,” he says. “In the past, design had been focused on straight forward problems: Come up with a drinking vessel, say. But now it was being asked so solve multipronged problems: How do we get clean drinking water? We’re moving from linear problems to wicked problems.”
Brown concludes by saying, “The design thinkers I have described here are not minimalist, esoteric members of an elite priesthood. They are creative innovators who can bridge the chasm between thinking and doing because they are passionately committed.”
August 8, 2008
Years ago we were working with a marketing executive who managed to repeat the same phrase in every single meeting we attended. She would always work in the phrase “marketing-driven solution”, often in the form of a question. Was our proposal a marketing driven solution? What about the headline? It got to be a joke around the office. Does this color look marketing-driven? This paper stock? What about that typeface?
That was fifteen years ago. Today, design-driven companies are the topics of conversation. I.D. (International Design) magazine published a list of the 40 most “design-driven companies in America”. Obvious selections were on the list: Apple, Gillette, IBM, Patgonia, 3M. But as business management guru Tom Peters says, “More interesting to me, fully half the companies were service companies. Amazon.com made the list. So did Bloomberg. Also: Federal Express. CNN. Disney. Martha Stewart…even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Note to local readers: that’s the actual quote.)
Coca-Cola’s Vice-President for Design, David Butler, avoids using the word “design” as much as possible. Though he has written up a 30-page manifesto laying out a design strategy for the company, when he is meeting with manufacturing people, he’ll say, “How can we make the can feel colder, longer?” Or “How can we make the cup easier to hold?” He talks about the benefits of smart design in a language to which those he’s talking to can relate. According to Business Week magazine, this surreptitious approach seems to be working. The new Coke identity work won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions awards program in June.
Mohamed Samah, a design socio-psychologist said, “The design discipline itself is expanding beyond ‘form and look’ to include processes and business strategy in general. Organizations are using design as a tool to stimulate creativity and to foster innovation in the market”.
April 8, 2008
According to last week’s Time magazine, “a new breed of consultant is using the tools of design to solve business problems creatively.” Using the process of visually trained designers who think less in a verbal or linear manner and who instead zig-zag their way to problem solving, describes the emerging field of transformation design–a hybrid of business consulting and design.
By using the same creative process used in designing things like MP3 players or a corporate logo, transformation design is used to tackle “unwieldy intangibles like cell-phone promotions and hospital organization, transforming their effectiveness. Along the way, the field is creating some unusual teamwork between designers and business people.”
The benefit of using a design approach as opposed to pure management consulting, according to Time, is that it enables–or even requires–the team to invent new ways to solve problems. Such new ways demand creative solutions, the opposite of our natural inclination, which is to go with the group. It requires looking for what industrial designer Raymond Loewy called MAYA–the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable solution. Designers excel at MAYA. While market researchers describe how the world is, creative people describe how it could be.
September 30, 2007
When the world’s most recognizable brand, appoints a VP of Design who then engages a design firm to build a company-wide design culture, it’s clear that design is playing a new role in the corporate landscape. Coca-Cola has hired Yves Behar, founder of the San Francisco brand and product firm, fuseproject, according to the newest issue of Fast Company magazine. Behar is featured on the cover of the fourth annual “Masters of Design” issue where the publication reports on the intersection of business and design.
The power of design is recognized by companies like Apple, Target, Proctor & Gamble and Nike, who really dig in on design. The rest, according to Behar, will be left in the dust by the companies that do. A three-year study of more that 40 Fortune 500 companies found that businesses that focused on customer-experience design outperformed the S&P 500 by a 10-to-1 margin from 2000 to 2005.
Behar, who is the designer of the news-making $100 laptop, said he wants to get Coke to think across all functions of the business, from a logo to a bottle to a dispenser to a fountain. The designer offers seven axioms for companies that want to get traction by design:
1) Design is how you treat your customers. If you treat them well from an environmental, emotional and aesthetic standpoint, you’re probably doing good design.
2) Design must be integrated throughout the organization.
3) Design is not a short-term fix.
4) You must be willing to fail at the design level.
5) Design must be driven from the top.
6) With design, the solutions to a problem will be different every time
7) Never ask the consumer about the future
February 2, 2007
The business magazine Fast Company annually devotes an entire issue to design. In the most recent edition, Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Business, said, “Design, in short, is becoming an ever more important engine of corporate profit: It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, businesspeople have to outimagine the competition as well. They must begin to think–to become–more like designers.”
The article, titled “Tough Love”, acknowledges an uneasy alliance between business and design. “Many businesspeople have long regarded designers as mere stylists. More than a few designers see businesspeople as Neanderthals all too willing to forfeit quality for the sake of profit. Their mutual pique springs from a fundamental difference in the way each side thinks about creating value: Corporate types, by and large, seek to fuel growth by building from bulletproof, reproducible systems; designers generally attempt to do so by imagining something new, different, better.”
The author concludes that to prosper over the long run, companies needs to succeed at both the intuitive and experimental as well as the provable and replicable. “It must mesh the classical workings of a traditional organization with the prototypical features of a design shop.” More