I’ve been reading a book called Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company. The thesis of this book is that good design improves people lives.
The authors have fudged a little bit, perhaps, by redefining everything as a design issue. The way things not only look and function, but also the way they sound and feel, the attitude of a worker, the language used — all design.
But they make some interesting points. Starbucks, for example, was able to get people to spend way more on coffee than its competitors because it was special. The smell, the language they used, the feeling in the coffee shops, the machines they used, the barristas, all combined to create an experience that people were willing to pay for, and then they threw in some good coffee, too.
Now there’s a Starbucks on every corner, they’re not special any more, other places have copied and commoditized their experience, and Starbucks is suffering. This is a simple example, and many of the ones they give are much more complex, but once you read the book, you start to see it everywhere.
I spend a lot of time dealing with design issues, of course, for work. I tell people about the design problems at their websites. Then they either make the changes and see results or don’t make any changes and don’t see as much in the way of results.
My business website reminds people of chocolate (I mentioned this to The Computer Guy yesterday, foolishly imagining that he’d be as surprised as I was, but that was the plan) and then as my clients they get taken care of and often have a fairy godmother effect in their businesses, so if I follow the business advice of this book, I’d carefully craft every bit of the experience to reflect a pampering and luxurious feeling. Then my clients would not want to leave the luxurious chocolaty ambience of my services for someone else’s, even if they were cheaper.
Which, let’s face it, it rarely would be. Except at oDesk. I could try to figure out how to make that a more luxurious experience, but people don’t go to oDesk for luxury. They go for human beings as a commodity. Do You Matter? warns frequently about commoditizing. Once you become a commodity, anyone can replace you.
So today I’m going to teach my class and then go down and fix up a client’s website. Going to the client’s office to fix up her website is pretty luxe. It’s part of the whole “Don’t worry, I’m taking care of you” feeling that I offer clients. Possibly I should also take her some chocolate.
But is my Comp I class a commodity? It’s different from Freshman Comp classes I’ve taught before because I make the point that I’m a professional writer, that writing is a valuable skill in the world, that we’re turning out an excellent product. None of those ideas has been part of any basic writing class I’ve seen or taught before. But where’s the design in the experience? I have to think about that.
Or what about our homes? Designing them well, if the authors of this book are right, should mean the difference between constant nagging irritations and a smooth and joyful life.
I’m going to work on this.
Yesterday I had a couple of meetings, a bunch of blog posts, book reviews, the Wednesday evening marathon, and the grading of papers. Today I have class, time in the client’s workplace, and then a haircut for me and #1 son. Rehearsal tonight.
I did get to the gym and the grocery store yesterday. I dont know that either of those things has to do with design, but both are very good things.