Monthly Archives: July 2009

A Health Care Smackdown

So President Obama makes a desperate push to see his vision for nationalized healthcare realized. More and more people are waking up to the reality of what this means. This will be one more, large and intimidating step, building on many smaller steps before it, to allow the government a firmer hold on your life. Before, it sounded like a whacked-out conspiracy theory. No longer. It means people who may begin in the national plan or seek to switch from an old provider will be locked into it, unable to decide for themselves if they want higher quality coverage. It hasn’t worked in Europe. England knows it. People hate it. It means, as is being much hyped, the old man afflicted with cancer may just be handed a pain pill because the government—not you—will have the right to say, “You’re old, and we don’t feel like spending our limited funds to keep you alive. Have a nice day.” Isn’t it nice to know how much your government loves protecting your rights? Obama is getting hasty, he’s noticing his polls are dropping, and even some democrats are fidgeting over jumping on the bandwagon. More and more, Americans are making their voices heard. If we don’t speak up and make an attempt to save our rights, what will we say to the next generation?

Visit Sean Hannity’s site to download lists of representatives and senators. It’s time for a health “care” smackdown.

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Think Before You Speak

“I am the master of my unspoken words, and the slave to those which should’ve remained unsaid.”

—James MacDonald, “The Foolish Family, 2

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Review: Do You Matter?

Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery’s book Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company shouts its message loud and clear: design matters, it must be all-encompassing, and authentic emotional connections and fulfilling customer experiences are vital to the heartbeat of a successful business. My reaction? “Duh, that’s obvious.” Despite the fact that this beautiful orange volume could’ve been cut down by at least 50 pages, I think it’s great for more business-minded individuals who need to be torn away from penny-pinching in Excel and be plopped in the shoes of the consumer who wants to be treated to a design experience that puts them first, from beginning to end.

The oft-repeated emphasis throughout is on crafting that beginning-to-end experience, dubbed the “customer experience supply chain.” The most helpful parts of the book, the parts that make trudging through the filler worth it, are the case studies of businesses who win or fail. Author Robert Brunner having formerly served as Director of Industrial Design for Apple, you’ll see the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone come up more than you can count, but not without reason. “We know we are beating the Apple example to death, but it drives home the point” (p. 192). Yes, they do. But Apple does provide a great example of a company who emphasizes making products that are easy to use and memorable, while making them a gateway to a fuller customer experience (think iPod+iTunes). When the authors can break away from the Apple obsession, they’re probably talking about BMW or IKEA, but they also delve into other examples like Jones Soda, Virgin Airlines, Samsung, and OXO cookware. They also spend some time ripping design failures by the likes of Motorola, Home Depot, Walmart, and others. The problem is that while there are many insightful examples, there obviously isn’t a clear answer, as crafting a good design experience and building good emotions with customers isn’t a clear-cut path to be trod. Like any design issue, it must be embraced by the whole team and solved by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Sometimes the tone came across disturbingly materialistic, lauding the magic of companies like BMW or W Hotels that cater to customers seeking a hi-end, pampered, ego-boosting experience. I’m torn between acknowledging that the modern world begs crafting a great experience for survival, while remembering the truth in the words of Jesus: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15, ESV). The pursuit of ultimate luxury, walking home with the shiniest new toy after being catered to like a king during a perfectly tailored shopping experience, results in an empty, wasted life. And it seems incredibly foolish when we remember Jesus’ call to sell what we have and give to the poor, and watch the plight of those who would just like to have clean water. I think far too many designers don’t recognize that they fail in social responsibility by promoting materialism. Remembering the importance of design and customer experience is important, but let’s be careful to remember it isn’t the key to a life well-lived.

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Review: How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

I recently finished Adrian Shaughnessy’s book How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul. I can’t recommend it enough to any aspiring designer, especially those of us in or just out of school. Previously the head of the design studio Intro, Adrian opens up and provides a savory array of real-world, down-to-earth advice on the ins and outs of daily life as a designer. I also recently read Debbie Millman’s How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, and while reading interviews with the likes of Paula Scher, Michael Bierut, and Milton Glaser provided something of an energy shot to my creative juices, Adrian’s book is both inspirational and practical.

Adrian paints a realistic picture of what life is like in a design studio, an in-house department, or going solo as a freelancer, giving a little shot of reality to the design student who wanders from a creative stupor in a studio classroom to face the working world. He tackles many of the business issues we design folks would like to forget about, like finding an accountant, finding a lawyer and taking care of legal issues. He describes having an interview at a design firm, and gives advice such as how to package and present your portfolio. He explores in the importance of good relationships within a design firm, how studio heads can find and take care of good designers, and ways to foster a creative environment.

In short, it’s a beautiful book, and immensely helpful. Don’t pass it up.

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Stories of the King

So I discovered the Rabbit Room, home to singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson and friends, and subscribed to the podcast. And I listened, captivated, by Pastor Russ Ramsey speak on the passion week of Christ. Then I visited Oak Hills Presbyterian’s site for more, albeit old, sermons. There isn’t a ton there, but what is there, from what I’ve heard, is well worth checking out. Russ has a down-to-earth authenticity coupled with passion for God and the ability of a great storyteller. Especially listen to the passion week series, and let it change you.

Incidentally, Andrew’s new release Appendix C: Live With the Captains Courageous is amazing, beautiful Christian music, well worth a few bucks. We need more Christian musicians like this.

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A Calvinistic Tightrope

Today is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin‘s birth. In many Christian circles, it’s quite the celebration. Books on Calvin have been multiplying as of late, as many seek to capitalize on this theological bandwagon.

Though some label Calvin’s teachings as heretical (see article, “Election and Free Will”), many today have come to laud him as the great recoverer of the doctrines of God’s sovereignty in salvation. To me, it’s definitely good to see a recovery of Calvin’s view of God’s sovereignty and election, and we can learn much from him. In a description of a new biography on Calvin, John Piper calls him the most influential theologian of the last 500 years. Ligonier even themed their entire recent catalogue around Calvin. While I’m not at all arguing against the influence of Calvin, I’m calling for caution as many discover the truths this hero of faith proclaimed. Calvin’s doctrine was rich, and God-centered. But Calvin was merely a man, a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ, and his life was lived to point us to him. Many fellow reformed believers would heartily agree, but when we walk around proudly sporting our John Calvin threads, shoulders back, haughtily ripping those who don’t share our views, how are we a picture of Christ? Paul warned us of division resulting from labeling ourselves by our favorite teachers in I Corinthians 1:10-17. I think if we mainly label ourselves as “Calvinists” it can easily cause a superiority complex, as well as further the danger of letting Calvin’s teaching on election become the sum total of our Christian focus when the Gospel only begins there. We must be careful when glorying in God’s election that we don’t ignore the simple call to man’s responsibility.

While I see the benefits of using a label such as “Calvinist” to explain our theological positions, I think it’s better to say we are disciples of Jesus Christ, and we agree with John Calvin’s theological understandings. In the end, be a kinder Calvinist.

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Fear This!

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

— Ronald Reagan

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