Category Archives: Business

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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