Category Archives: Books

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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Sinner and Freedom of Speech

Just finished Dekker’s latest book, Sinner. This close (or beginning?) to the mind-bending Paradise novels was as good as ever, ranking at the top of my favorites list. While maybe not as gripping as previous books, Sinner was a breath of fresh air in contrast to Showdown‘s darker feel. It’s still suspenseful and dramatic, but it’s a celebration&a celebration of the fact that the light has come to dispel darkness. But it’s also a sobering, engaging read because the story of Sinner may soon be our own.

A world with an increasing cry for tolerance is, ironically, increasingly intolerant of those who disagree with their worldview. Dekker’s envisioned future where vocalizing one’s faith qualifies as a hate crime may be right on our doorstep. Recently, a UN bill combating the “defamation of religions” was again recently rejected, but a few manufactured events (as in Sinner) could easily change the climate of opinions. With the coming of a president who shows disdain for those clinging to their “guns and religion,” we who follow the way of Jesus must be faithful to proclaim the kingdom of light, the One who was the Word made flesh.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:1-5.

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The Bravehearted Gospel

I’m a huge fan of Eric and Leslie Ludy, and Eric’s got a new book coming out, and it looks terrific. A preview is available, and a full site is soon to come. I look forward to reading this one.

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Review: Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things

I just finished up Alex and Brett Harris’s book Do Hard Things. Here’re some thoughts.

The brothers’ site, TheRebelution.com quotes Randy Alcorn as saying “I believe [Do Hard Things] will prove to be one of the most life-changing, family-changing, church-changing and culture-changing books of this generation.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s a shocking wake-up call to a generation of teenagers and young adults who’ve slipped into following our culture’s low expectations of who they should be, what they should do, and what they can accomplish. I see way too many people around me at work, at church, and college, teens and adults alike, who see the sum total of their existence as getting up, doing only the minimum of what’s expected of them, then chillin’ in front of the TV. Alex and Brett jump into things with a startling message: this isn’t the way it’s always been, and it’s not the way it has to be. Stories, both from Alex, Brett, and many other inspiring “rebelutionaries” from the past and present make the book an easy, but eye-opening, horizon-stretching read. Stories of young people who are sick of mediocrity, who strive to be and do more, speaking to crowds for a cause like fighting for modern-day slaves, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry around the world, jumping into political campaigns, making culture-changing music, blogging, directing a film. It opened my eyes to a rising work of God in the youth of today. I’m in. Let’s change the world.

Can I give it more than five stars?

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Concerns on The Shack

William P. Young’s book The Shack seems to be growing more popular every day, but from what I gather of the book’s content, it’s far from the next Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m not trying to discount some positive things those who’ve read the book might’ve seen in it, but whether you’ve read it or have just heard about it, take a few minutes to read Tim Challies’s review at Boundless. Some of the content, dealing with everything from the cross and the nature of salvation to the Trinity, wanders dangerously close to heresy. Don’t be too hasty to jump on the bandwagon and applaud The Shack.

Some of the things mentioned in Challies’s review discus whether Christ is the only way to God, or one path of many, as well as the nature of the established church. I commend being open-minded, but not when it leads to questioning established doctrines of the faith, clear teaching of Scripture, or even the existence of absolute truth. Young’s borderline unitarian thinking feels like something of the ideas flowing from strains of the emergent church movement, on which I recommend Justin Taylor’s New Attitude message, A New Kind of Christianity. If your mind is too open your brains will fall out.

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Consequences of Ideas

I’ve recently been reading Ravi Zacharias’s book, Can Man Live Without God? It’s an excellent, thought provoking read. When man arrogantly declares that “God is dead,” yet is unable to provide a viable argument , mankind becomes nothing but an animal. Surface morality may exist, but utopia will never be reached with a worldview that preaches senselessness and chaos. When man begins to formulate his own moral code, deciding what is and isn’t permissible, society breaks down. A new up-coming documentary, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, looks at the deadly consequences of evolutionary thought. Before you declare God dead, be an honest seeker of the truth.

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