I recently participated in a Design Roundtable at Fast Company on the incredible impact of cellphones as well as some thoughts on how they might evolve in the future.
Over the past few months, I've been busy challenging the design community with a theory that designers are now in the "behavior business." Many of the challenges that businesses are facing cannot be addressed without a strategy for influencing consumer behavior in a positive and sustained manner, in areas like personal finance and preventative care. For example, I have spent significant time with head of disease management for a major U.S. insurance company who can't do his job, and manage the ballooning costs of chronic illnesses, if his members don't get their annual checkup (which is free BTW).
Even as behavior emerges as a central theme to many businesses, design is generally not at the top of the agenda. Yet times like these require creative thinking more than ever: if you feel that things are under control, then you are not moving fast enough. The design community needs to help businesses not just understand how we think, but how we fit in.
People have a lot of expectations for the new, larger-sized Kindle DX . Interesting how a shift in size / form factor can hold the fate of an entire industry (newspapers in this case) in its hand. Wow, the power of industrial design! I wish a larger screen could save the Boston Globe. But I doubt that is the case, at least not in the way people are hoping.
It's such a relief to have a new cause celebre in the world of product design--particularly something not made by Apple. I am talking about the new Kindle, of course. I can finally take the iPhone out of every one of my presentation decks. Like the Wii, the Kindle seems to be breaking new ground, appealing to people (like my wife, an editor at a women's magazine) who are not Luddites (she has used a smartphone for email for years) but don't fetishize their gizmos at all. The Kindle is a different story.
It is particularly exciting for anyone in the product design community when a major consumer brand makes the leap to hardware. Unfortunately, this usually takes the form of "logo slapping," by the likes of Disney and others. The results are superficial at best. But they can also do real damage to the brand.
At frog, we talk a lot about "brand-led innovation," a concept that is becoming core to any brand or marketing strategy. But innovation cannot be delivered through conventional marketing media alone. It requires new products or services of some kind, like Hulu. And I would argue that innovation has a different impact when the product is something you can hold and love.
I want to thank you all for the great response to my original post. It lead to a number of interesting follow-up discussions with new stories emerging from all over. I hit critical mass over the weekend in a conversation with the editor or a leading business magazine. So here is a second crop of Fringe Economic Indicators (thank you to Paul Rodda for the new & improved title). Please keep them coming. Also, check out UnCommon Indicators at WNYC for some local (as in NYC) stories.
1. Cash for Candy: There have a been a couple of interesting stories that have hit the front page of the New York Times. This one concerns a dramatic rise in the sale of penny candy, particularly nostalgic brands like Necco Wafers. Business has jumped 80% (!) at Candyality in Chicago where the proprietor is "struggling to keep up with the demand for Bit-O-Honeys, Swedish Fish and Sour Balls." I love this quote from the proprietor of Candy Store in SF where "Many of her customers tell her that even though they are living on less, they’re setting aside cash for candy." Candy futures anyone?