O Danny Boy

Never confuse activity
   with action. —Ben Franklin

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December 27, 2004

Design on 34th Street

My favorite holiday movie of all time is Miracle on 34th Street. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and do so. It's a Christmas movie that's got some great performances, is light on the treacle and very smart. What's smart about it is that it shows why people, businesses, and governments do the right thing: because it's good for them. Mr. Macy starts encouraging people to go to other stores to find exactly what they want because it'll improve his store's sales. As does his rival Mr. Gimble. The judge rules there is a Santa Claus because otherwise his re-election chances are nil. And, of course, mother and daughter realists Doris and Susan learn to believe in the spirit of Christmas, bringing some magic in their lives.

Miracle demonstrates something designers should remember when selling their services: it's not enough to discuss the goodness of something (like design). It has to make something better, affect it in a positive way. It has to be personal. Few organizations do things because they want to; they do things because they have to, because it would be bad for them to do otherwise.

Designers get too bogged down in talking about process and deliverables and the other minutia of the trade. With my wireframe fetish, I'm as guilty as anyone of this. What we need to focus on is the effect of design on the organization. The results, in other words. Thankfully, we've got some examples now: Apple, Samsung, Nissan, and OXO to name a few.

And, lest we forget, like the holidays, design is also about the intangibles: joy and happiness and especially, delight. What we do and the things we create should delight. Design should be about that little something extra: the way a well-crafted product fits in the hand, the beauty of the correct response to an action, the pleasure of use. It's not only about being usable and useful. In the words of Miracle's Fred Gailey, "...don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile."

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Posted at 11:07 AM | Link

Good News at Year's End

I got some good news that two posters and a presentation about my thesis paper were accepted to the IA Summit this year. Woo. Hope to see some of you there.

Posted at 11:06 AM | Link


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