Thursday, 26 January 2012

Bibliophilia: Glimmer: How Design Can Transform your Life, and Maybe Even the World – Warren Berger

Glimmer: How Design Can Transform your Life, and Maybe Even the World – Warren Berger

Totally loved it. Some really great insights into design, and how design is becoming far more important to companies that want to survive and thrive in today’s world. Many companies think design is merely the packaging, the glossy veneer so to speak. But smart companies realize that design needs to extend not just to how the product looks, but everything. They need to design the whole experience, from how the product looks, but more importantly how it works, and the detailed research that goes into functionality, to how the company interacts with their existing and potential customers, via a website, phone interaction, etc.

It uses Bruce Mau’s terrific essay An Incomplete Manifesto For Growth as a starting point.

Several sections were very profound, and one I thought was especially good.

Brian Collins of the firm COLLINS states that the experience design movement is reinventing the marketing model that has been dominated by advertising for the last half century. That old model made it feasible that a large company could offer a lackluster customer experience, yet still coax people to purchase its bland offerings, thanks to the sheer power of message bombardment. But over the past decade, a flip-flop began to take place. Ads started to lose their power because of changes in media (including more fragmentation and greater audience control and participation). Meanwhile, those same changes in the media heightened the importance of providing quality customer experiences because customers now had more ways to talk to each other. Today, increasingly, the experience is the advertising.

The companies that are unable to figure out how to design and deliver that experience have little else to do but make pleas for our attention that are mostly ignored–in other words, they advertise. Collins believes we may now be reaching the point at which advertising becomes the penalty paid by companies that cannot design well. “In this new environment,” he says, “you could think of traditional advertising as a tax on laggards.” 

Glimmer p.147-148 

It also delved into the curse of a lot of designers - that they’re interested in everything - that they want to learn and try everything. I can identify. Buckminster Fuller would call it being a ‘comprehensivist’. 

“When I’m totally unqualified for a job, that’s when I do my best work. If you’re trying to find a new way to think about something to make it better, it can actually hurt you to have too much experience in that particular milieu–because you understand the expectations too well. And that can cause you to limit and edit your possibilities, based on what you already know ‘doesn’t work’. ” - Paula Scher 

Another section touched on why being creative is such a charge.

People tend to think of happiness as a goal, but it’s more of a process, according to Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the former president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman maintains that there are two activities that lead to happiness. One is what he calls “engaging” activity–the challenging and often creative activity that tends to lead to a “flow experience.”

When you’re engaged in these types of creative activities, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life, according to Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman of the department of neurology at Temple University’s School of Medicine. He noted that creative activities that you enjoy also stimulate the brain’s septal zone–the “feel good” area–and that makes you feel happy.

But the other part of the puzzle has to do with the second type of activity that can make you happy. Seligman has observed that in addition to those “engaging” or creatively stimulating activities, there are also “meaningful” activities that tend to make people happy. These, he says, involve “using what you’re best at to serve others or participate in a cause bigger than yourself.” 

If you’re doing a certain kind of design–“problem solving design”–you are combining both types of activities. You are creating and contributing to a larger cause, simultaneously. 

Through constant acts of creative design, you recreate yourself. You help propel your own growth spiral, feeding off the energy of creation. That’s not just a feeling, it’s a fact: being in that state of “design flow” raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, such as endorphins and dopamine, and that keeps you focussed and energized, according to Dr. Gabriella Corá of the Florida Neuroscience Center. Glimmer p.264-266

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