Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Steve Jobs mattered to us.

Steve Jobs' death is being mourned worldwide because he changed the world.  He democratized technology.  He liberated it to do good.  Most importatnly, he brought optimism, creativity and joy to the lives of ordinary people.

His passing is particularly saddening for people in creative professions, and within the agency world in particular.  His impact upon people in our industry extended well beyond the power of his products to inspire and enable creative expression.  Steve meant more to us than that.

On the surface, we admired his creative instincts - in the design of his products and in the campaigns he approved.

Perhaps we looked up to him as the archetypal client.  Those who worked with Steve say he was tough and demanding, but always in pursuit of greatness.

And, maybe, just maybe, on a deeper and more personal level, we wanted to see a bit of ourselves in Steve Jobs and identify with him as a kindred spirit - one of the dreamers; the crazy ones; the few people in corporate America who dared to think different.

We can honor Steve Jobs' legacy by honoring his standards.  Don't accept anything less than great, because life is too short to be merely average.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Design as a competitive advantage.

Fast Company's cover story on design ("The United States of Design") is a must-read for any business leader looking to find a sustainable source of differentiation.  Its central point is that design's strategic value is not just in improving the product offering but in rethinking the entire way businesses operate.

I've written on several occasions about the value of embracing design thinking as a business discipline, not as an aesthetic process.  Design thinking forces executives to view the world from the customer's standpoint. It focuses on the overall experience and not just the tangible product. It requires reductive thinking. All of which are extremely healthy business practices, not design practices.

Design as a business strategy and source of differentiation was embraced years ago by early adopters like Hermann Miller, Apple, Kohler and Target.  Now companies as diverse as McDonalds, 3M, Black and Decker, Jawbone and Method are following suit.

As Fast Company points out, the value and power of design is misunderstood in many companies.  In fact, David Butler, coke's head of global design, jettisoned the squishy D-word and instead talked about how his team can "make stuff better."

Fahrenheit 212's Mark Payne notes that "design is differentiation made visible, visceral and experiential."  Well put.