The power of design

How does the customer fit in with design these days? From the annual Fast Company article, Masters of Design, here are some notables from their featured designer, Yves Behar, followed by how it could apply to design in your neighborhood.

– Companies that focused on customer-experience design outperformed the standard (S&P 500) by 10 to 1 from 2000 to 2005. Yves, founder of Fuseproject and arguably the ‘LeBron James of design’ states, The simplest definition of design is how you treat your customer.” Maybe cities would outperform others by the same margin if they did the same.

– Yves and Fuseproject designed the XO-1 (pictured), aka the $100 laptop, a genius of design and execution. For school kids in Nigeria, the colors reflect the country’s flag, with built-in bumpers for toughness, an extra-wide trackpad for drawing and a handle. Yet kids wouldn’t trade it for a $1000 laptop, they don’t even want to send it in for repairs for fear of never seeing it again. So… let’s see if we can inspire the same passion for an attainable alternative to the luxury loft.

– Of the 368 board members of the 30 Dow Jones Industrials, only one has a design background, Steve Jobs. Think it shows? Who’s on your city council? The partners of the leading developers in your city?

Here are his seven axioms of design (think of Apple as the benchmark):

1. “Design is how you treat your customers.”
2. “Design must be integrated throughout the organization.”
3. “Design is not a short-term fix.”
4. “You must be willing to fail at the design level.”
5. “Design must be driven from the top.”
6. “With design, the solution to a problem will be different every time.”
7. “Never ask the consumer about the future. You can ask them what their aspirations are, but you will not get an answer about what you should do. Design will bring those stories to life.”

Crowdsourcing is about bringing those individual stories to life at once, and without the seven axioms there’s a good chance people won’t be engaged with the result.

  • Hi Neil,

    I’m a bit puzzled by your link to crowdsourcing. How do you think the seven Axioms could be used by crowds? In my eyes axioms 5 and 7 contradict the democratics of crowdsourcing. How do you see this?

  • Great question.

    #5 – Crowdsourcing can’t happen unless there’s someone at the top who understands good design and is willing to implement their ideas, that’s all. For instance, for a group to crowdsource the warehouse in Syracuse into an artist/musician destination, there needed to be a building owner to host them, and with a good design eye because…

    #7 – This is kind of like the iPod/iPhone story – they’re not co-designed by customers. However, Apple is able to interpret people’s aspirations, stories (ie devices that are small, light, beautiful, convenient, and insanely easy to use) and bring them to life. Just the same, in the crowdsourcing meetings, we don’t get a lot of energetic feedback when we ask what the design of the building/space should look like in the future, but more so when we ask what kinds of spaces they’ve already experienced really excite or inspire them. It’s then up to a good designer to come up with examples that do the same, and beyond.