Can We Use Consumer Power to Make Good Design Count?


How do we make Good Design so important to companies that they ensure that it is a component part of the product or service they are taking to market?

Part of the fallout from World Usability Day was a question raised by Jared Spool – Is World Usability Day Harmful for Practitioners? Part of this question was the relationship between design and usability and the importance of promoting good design and not alienating the business who might engage us to help them create good design.

In a subsequent comment conversation I got to wondering, again, about what we can do to make good design more of a priority. How can we change business processes and product development cycles so that rather than design being an afterthought, the quest for good design moves up the food chain and becomes more of an imperative, a requirement than a potential differentiator.

Jared is concerned that the focus on usability (which in isolation from design, does tend to take an almost disciplinarian approach to how things work) has the potential to alienate companies who might otherwise be inspired to engage with good design practices.

I think he has a point… for a moment I’d forgotten that for some, usability DOES exist in isolation from design (where people specialise in finding things that are broken and rousing on the designers who designed it that way).

Jared says we should just keep doing good design work and that eventually, the balance will shift and good design methodologies will become part of the overall business process for more companies.

(how many times can I say ‘good design’ in one post?!)

But, and tell me if I’ve being overly optimistic and idealistic here…

I think that there might be other things that we can do to help turn the tide.

What if we spent less time talking to each other about how important good design is, and spent a bit of energy evangalising the power and importance of good design to the end user, the consumer, the man and woman on the street, the people who open their wallets to buy the goods and services designed by the companies who may or may not care about good design.

Can we help educate and inspire people who buy mobile phones and who catch trains and who buy their groceries online to expect good design, to DEMAND good design? And can we do this in way that likewise inspires businesses to see good design as an opportunity, rather than alientating them, shaming them, putting them in the corner like a bad student?

Can we harness consumer power to promote the benefits of good design? To make good design culturally entrenched? Just part of our every day life?

I reckon we can. Although I’m not quite sure just now.

What do you think? Is it worth working on a plan?

Image Credit: Don Norman, of course :)

links for 21 November 2006 – Is IA dying? Kick butt on panels. But wait, there’s more!

It’s been a while between links, so here’s a big list for you to enjoy!

20×2 London


Just for the record, if Kevin ever sends you an email out of the blue and asks you to participate in 20×2. You must say yes.

20×2 is an ongoing project that exists to showcase the creativity that lurks in each of us. Writers, musicians, filmmakers, web geeks and other bon vivants are asked to take two minutes each to answer the question of the day. The results can be as varied as the emotions and reactions they evoke.

Of course, it’s quite terrifying in the lead up, trying to come up with something vaguely interesting that answers a question like ‘Where Am I?’, but you’ll be well rewarded by all the thought processes you go through in the run up, and you get to have a great night out and meet lots of great people, and see some really creative and interesting responses to the question.

I really love this format. I’m thinking of how I can borrow it for other uses!

(I probably should have told you about this BEFORE the event (sorry Kevin!) but I wasn’t quite brave enough).

Technorati Tags:

Image Credit: agsystems @ Flickr

angry, angry, angry…


A friend told me this morning that apparently anger is the difference between those who survive and those who don’t. That sounded kind of profound. The more I think about it, the more I think she might be right.

I’m not really an angry person… in fact, when I’m angry it’s more than likely I’m just frustrated… but the symptom is anger, so I’ll go with that.

So, why am I angry?

  • Networks – I’m angry at the power of networks. I know… sounds crazy, but when you’re not IN a network, networks can be very intimidating and not particularly inclusive. Networks can be hard to break into. Networks are powerful only for those who are a part of them, and part of their power can be keeping people out – although not necessarily deliberately the effect is the same.
  • Perception – I’m angry that people who are important and clever seem to look a certain way or have a certain energy about them. God knows what this look or energy might be, but there must be something that makes it so easy for people to pass others over as being obviously not important.
  • Self Promotion – I’m angry that self promotion, or the promotion/visibility that someone receives is not necessarily related to the quality or value of work that they do. It’s more often related to how shameless and loud their voice, with amplication effects via networks (see above).

OK. So the world’s not a fair place, and perhaps I should be louder and braver and more self assured… but sometimes I feel as though if these are the rules of the game, then perhaps I’d rather start a whole other game to play.

Image Credit: Maureen Fischinger @ Flickr