National Industrial Design Day 2017

Experience Design and the chasm separating Service and Hospitality

We live in a world of radically differing user experiences. For example, awkwardly squeezing your two-foot wide body through the one-foot wide opening between your parked car and another, as opposed to magically backing your vehicle into a tight spot while standing outside your new 5 Series. Or pairing your generic Bluetooth headset to your generic smartphone verses the sublime iPhone AirPod digital handshake, and perpetual tango. We steadfastly suffer through those negative user experiences with our chins up, while reflexively smiling and laughing in surprise and delight of those thoughtfully considered and masterfully executed.

Restaurateur, entrepreneur, experience design conductor extraordinaire, Danny Meyers opened our collective eyes with his seminal work titled “Setting The Table”, which effectively drives a permanent wedge between the ideas of service (fast enough, hot enough, large enough?) and hospitality (how does our restaurant, product, service or experience make you feel?). In 2017, we hope to witness more companies see the light and appreciate the value of not aiming to merely satisfy their beloved customer but rather honor them with surprise and delight and through that process grow the value of their brand.

Automating Human Centered Design?

The tide of understanding Human Centered Design (HCD) methods and tools continue to rise. While this is a positive trend, there are also obvious downsides – not the least of which is the pervasiveness of HCD-speak throughout Fortune 500 companies. This trend is reminiscent of the early days of desktop publishing when, overnight, everybody became a “qualified graphic designer” due to the access of hundreds of fonts in hundreds of colors. Not really.

Books like “101 Methods of Design Thinking” are useful encyclopedias of options, but while none of the content is inherently wrong, HCD is not a “check the box”, fast, linear, no-brainer, fix-all, automatic insight finding, and money-making tool of absolutes. The data and insights generated by the HCD process can be powerful tools when wielded by sensitive, thoughtful and professional creators and curators of future experiences, products and services, but it’s far from automatic.

Imagination gets its day in the sun

All the talk is about getting to the finish line of innovation, while none of the talk approaches the starting line — imagination. Thankfully, there is “some” chatter about the mid-race milestone of creativity. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said, “Creativity cannot be taught…it can only be untaught.” He implies that creativity is innate, as is imagination, and can be both starved and fed to wilt or flourish. What are we doing in our schools to promote the essence of the big bang moment of innovation…imagination? What are we doing in our organizations to promote the awareness, methods and value of original thinking? The unfortunate answer is not enough. But fortunately, by acknowledging a problem, we can make the first step toward its solution.

I recall an epiphany moment 30 years ago while opening a humble fortune cookie. It said, “Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or nation.” I remember pondering it and slipping it into my pocket. When I got home that night I taped it to my bathroom mirror where it remained for over a year. If you ever want to remember something, tape it to your mirror and think about it twice a day while you brush. It will be indelibly seared into your mind for eternity. Fast forward 2017… I’m still discontent with the state of how we collectively value human imagination and its potential contributions to society thru Product, Service and Experience Design. Too many have aimed too low for too long. Sure there are some bright spots, some things to celebrate, but then… there’s the other 99%. We can do better. We just need to be discontent with superficial design and demand more of ourselves, our teams, our clients and have more respect for end users.



If you thought Green Tea was good for you…try Eye Oh Tea (IoT)!

We have been imagining, creating and launching Internet of Things (IoT) products, services and experiences for over 10 years. We used to call them “digital ecosystems”, “M2M platforms”, and some other forgotten acronyms, but IoT seems to have become the stickiest of headlines. The potential of this space seems limitless. In years past, our firm enabled the safe driving of three-ton lift trucks via a remote glove, obtained live metrics and trained Olympic athletes underwater, and perpetually verified the status of 15,000 LED light fixtures in our nation’s capital. We are working on a wide range of horizon projects that aim to usher traditional hardware companies into the information age. It is our belief that any company not actively engaged in imagining the opportunities for their company in this rapidly evolving space dozes at their own peril.

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