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.