Blog  Design4Impact

Is the Kindle Destined for SkyMall?

The hype around the iTablet is reaching a fever pitch with the Kindle increasingly looking like yet another example of Apple roadkill. If Apple can consume 32% of the profits in the mobile phone biz in less than three years, it should be no problem to swallow the nascent e-reader business in one quick bite. No sooner had Jeff Bezos graced the cover of Fast Company than the Kindle was pronounced dead by the digiterati (actually, it was "Kindle in Danger of Becoming E-books' Betamax," according to Brett Arends in the Wall Street Journal). With competition for e-readers heating up, will Jeff be able to defend his walled garden from rivals inside and outside the category that he built?

Blog  Design4Impact

Is Innovation at a Crossroads?

Over the last few years the traditional thinking about innovation has been turned on its head. We used to assume that innovation was driven by access to the most advanced tools and resources. But the emphasis has shifted more recently to the role that scarcity plays in driving innovation. This change has inspired a newfound belief that innovation will emerge from the bottom up, out of developing markets, as opposed to being exported by rich nations like the U.S. and Japan. But is that really the case?

Blog  Design4Impact

As Consumers' Demands Change, Designers Are All in the Behavior Business (Fast Company)

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.

Blog  Design4Impact

Kindle DX: Why Size Matters (from Fast Company)

People have a lot of expectations for the new, larger-sized Kindle DX [0]. 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.

Blog  Design4Impact

Re-Kindling your Brand (from Fast Company)

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.

Blog  Design4Impact

The Innovator's Dilemma

Nice to be included in Fast Company's (FC) Top Ten list of the “Most Innovative Design Firms.” Some great company there. Not just IDEO, but Pentagram, Rockwell, and Smart, to name a few. That said, the list seemed to emphasize companies that make cool shiny things. Where were Doblin, Stone Yamashita or Jump Associates? Perhaps they don’t fit FC's definition of 'design' any longer. In fact, given that rationale, I was surprised to see Smart at the bottom of the list. The FlipHD has to be the best new shiny object of the year. Just ask my kids.

But you have to ask yourself: what is so 'innovative' about design firms creating great new products (or interfaces or environments)? Isn't that what we have always done? Many of us have made a significant effort to extend our impact beyond the tangible and visible to transforming services and systems. Makes it much harder to get on the next FC hotlist, I guess. The fact is, to most businesses 'innovation' just means 'new': new products, new services, new revenue streams, new markets...which is really nothing NEW at all! Helps to explain why 'innovation' is facing a severe identity crisis right now.

Blog  Design4Impact

Open Studios & Network Effects

Perhaps the most remarkable talent that Jan Chipchase showcased in his talk last week (I promise this is my last post on the subject) was his ability to create powerful community-based organizations on the fly in some of the least likely environments - urban slums in Ghana for example. While this started out as a SWAT activity to support rapid immersion and research, with Open Studios he is making his pop-up organizations much more visible in the community (which raising some interesting branding questions which I will cover in a later post).

If you havent checked out Open Studios, the basic idea is that Chipchase and team turn their SWAT ethnography into a  design lab - reaching out to the community in a very visible way to gather ideas as part of a competition. The samples he showed last week centered around a competition to design your dream mobile handset. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the topic. Seemed like they got alot of cheesy hardware design. Jan was clear the real value was not the designs themselves, but the needs and desires implicit in those designs. But I think he may be missing an even bigger opportunity to create value.