Archive for the ‘FROG Design’ Category

I found this nice little list of reasons why designers rule over at Design Stamp. (Thanks, Gagan.) While the argument in and of itself is saddly not proven in the world of business (Walmart being the biggest retailer in the galaxy kind of disproves the notion to some extent), it’s hard to argue with Gagan’s points:

Read the latest headlines or examine the recent product evolutions around us and you will soon realise that all major developments have one driving force in common. Design. From gook-less mustard caps to renewable toothbrushes, the power of design is being used in unlikely places and creating competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Design has the power to change (even save) lives and create a more functional economy. Here are 10 reasons why designers rule…

1. We are curious. The best designers are those that bring knowledge to a project but gather perspective from the end-user. Designers are trained to know that they don’t know all the answers and the best solutions to problems lie in examining context and defining the target. To design for a better future, a designer must uncover how the people lead their lives today. Ask questions, uncover truths and dig to find out who they should be designing for.

2. We create brands. Don’t hire a designer who uses the words logos and brands interchangeably. Instead look for designers who think logos are only as important as lipstick on a beautiful woman. Creating a brand means adding true market value that transcends features or benefits. I paraphrase and borrow liberally from the Brand Gap but the idea is that imagine Coke without it’s brand. It would be worth half its current market value:

3. We create distinction in crowded marketplaces. Clever design and niche products have made Apple successful again. Good design has always been the cornerstone of what Apple has been known for. Everyone knows that the soon to be available iPhone has nothing amazingly new about it. But we also know that Apple will make access to the features and the shear visuals so appealing that the iPhone will make other phones look like Stone Age tablets. Apple understands and leverages the fact that design is the ultimate competitive edge.

4. Designers are excellent translators. Got business goals? Got technological constraints? Designers can uncover user goals and then find the sweet spot where business goals and user goals converge. Even better, they can ensure that technology can be leveraged to meet those goals. Designers help business dream big and beyond what exists today and also ground those dreams by presenting a set of very real, tangible user goals. Sure you want to build a flying pig but no one wants one! Good design means building products and services that are useful. Less wasted time, less bad products.

5. Design = Innovation = Design. When Business Week wanted to launch a section on design their research told them that their readers assumed that the section would be all about architecture and interior design. So they renamed that section to be called Innovation. A sign of the times we live in. Design walks around wearing a veil called Innovation. Whatever you call it, you are dead in the waters without it. Design not keeps businesses alive, it helps them float to the top and be seen as victorious over their competition.

6. Design saves lives. My Treo’s tiny buttons have caused me to have many a close-call car accidents (I know, I know, no multi-tasking while driving). That said good design has probably saved my life many a time. From my steering wheel car stereo controls to the 3 point safety belt that keeps me from kissing my windshield. ABS brakes that don’t require me to do anything different than just use a brake like I always would. Designers dare to think different and when they do; they reward us with products that work. While your badly designed website may not kill people, it may contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) or just good ol’ web rage.

7. Designers are user advocates. If you ever have the pleasure to be in a feature discussion meeting, they start to sound like a religious debate. I would never…I always…My mother has said…My girlfriend swears she would never…People use whatever anecdotes they possibly can to prove their point of view and ‘win’ the debate. A ‘good’ designer would bring good research to the table. Research based on fact, research based on user goals to validate direction. Use your designer as your stand-in for the user you should be designing for, and trust that they are the voice of the people. That’s who they want to please. That’s who makes you money and keeps you in business.

8. Designers make things pretty. Human nature: “If it looks good, it must be good”. We are highly visual creatures who make snap judgments on the basis of how things appear in that moment. This is how we survive, hunt and gather and marry people who will make use beautiful babies to carry forth our civilization. Designers understand this and use this knowledge to make us products that fit in with our idea of beauty. Beauty is not skin deep, it is the knife’s edge.

9. A design process is a good process. You don’t develop a brand, you design a brand. You don’t develop a software application, you design a software application. Having a user experience focused design approach means that the entire production cycle should have design validation at key points throughout the entire process. This keeps the focus where it should be. On the paying customer.

10. Designers love constraints. Tell a designer that they have complete freedom to do what they want, there is no target market and there are no financial or technical constraints. They go crazy. They literally go nuts. They become artists creating for themselves. Designers are defined by constraints and embrace them with open arms. After all, to design for a fixed target, to design for a set of rules and goals is what defines design. It’s what we do.

So I propose to you, get designers to rule the world and we will be happier, waste less by building products and services that we actually want to buy and use well. Fire your local self-serving politician, hire a designer and we will live in closer harmony with the planet which we happen to inhabit.

Yep. You’ll get no argument from me. Have a great Friday, everyone. 🙂

Read Full Post »

A little over a year ago Ernie Mosteller wrote this, over on Tangelo Ideas‘ blog. (I never grow tired of Purple Cow thinking.) Here’s the skinny:

Family resemblances are a good thing. For families. But for agencies, it can get you into trouble. When the stuff you create for your boat manufacturer client starts to look or sound or feel just like the stuff you’re making for that software startup, oh, and the athletic-shoe retailer, and maybe the fast-food restaurant, too; you have to ask: Are you doing what speaks best to the audience? What’s best for the client? Or are you doing what you personally think is cool? Worse yet, are you doing what the competition is doing, too?”


I was flipping through some old issues of Fast Company this morning, when I found this very cool little article by Christine Canabou entitled Fast Ideas For Slow Times (May 2003). In it, Christine makes the argument for the fact that offering something different/unique is now a crucial part of any company’s success.

Creativity is no longer exclusive to the ad agency world. Likewise, innovation is no longer exclusive to the design world. In order for businesses to thrive, creativity has to become part of their product operational DNA. In order for agencies to keep doing exceptional work for an ever-growing list of quality clients, they have to breed curiosity, exploration and innovation into their DNA.

It isn’t change. It’s evolution.

Here’s the thing: If you keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing, nothing new is going to happen to you. Your sales aren’t suddenly going to double. Your market share isn’t going to enjoy a sudden increase. Nobody is going to really notice you. If you’ve been growing at 6% per year for the past ten years, it’s probably safe to say that you’ll keep seeing 6% growth for a while longer.

A little while.

As Christine puts it: “Do nothing new, and you won’t make a mistake. But do nothing new for too long, and you risk making the biggest mistake of all.”

Yep. It’s easy to let your successes pigeon-hole you into Sisyphean repetition. Before you know it, companies come to you with requests to do for them what you did for your other client(s): “That thing you did for Spalookaboo, Inc… the thing with the talking cow and the karate-chopping mongoose… can you do something like that for us?”

Look. The last thing the world needs is another subservient chicken. More to the point, the last thing Crispin Porter + Bogusky needs is another subservient chicken project.

Something is only original once. Something is only creative once. After that, everything becomes derivative and stale. Copies of copies of copies are just what Seth Godin would call brown cows. (No matter how good and cool they are, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.)

It’s completely natural to see a competitor’s latest product or ad and think “Doh! Why didn’t we think of that?” It’s also natural to want to jump on the bandwaggon by doing something similar. (The reasoning being that if it works for your competitor, it’ll work for you too.)


Copying for the sake of not being left behind is an expensive and terribly ineffective business strategy. (And it’s lame.) 1) You’ll come across as an “also in”. 2) You’ll back yourself into a price comparison corner (kiss your revenue goodbye). 3) You’ll be turning your back on your biggest competitive advantage – the practical application of your creative power: Innovation.

At best, being a brown cow guarantees stagnation.

At best.

It also guarantees that you will have to spend huge amounts of resources to promote yourself over and over and over again. That’s time, money, people… all of which could be better spent actually doing something rewarding and relevant that will help your business grow.

You could be creating WOM-worthy work for smaller clients, for example. For non-profits. For NGO’s. For niche markets.

You could be broadening your horizons… meeting new people, immersing yourself in cool new subcultures. You could be making every day a learning experience. An exercise in curiosity. A creative harvest. (By the way, the cross-polination of ideas and disciplines is the lifeblood of innovation. Ask IDEO and FROG Design, how it’s worked for them.)

Yeah, Hybrid Thinking. That’s where it starts.

By default, you would also be broadening your reach across a wider range of industries than any other agency in your sphere of influence (not just because it makes great business sense, but because it’s fun.)

Fun feeds creativity at least as much as new experiences.

Think about it. What if instead of chasing big clients, you focused on helping great little companies grow into extraordinary ones? What if you only worked with clients that you want to work with? What if you turned away work that didn’t interest you? What if you did what every innovator has done since the beginning of time: What if you changed the rules, one client at a time, one project at a time?

Would you rub a few people the wrong way? You bet. But they’d get over it.

There are also other options beyond simply increasing the breadth of your playing field. The very nature of the way you approach your work, your services and the way that you market them doesn’t have to be set in stone. Don’t sell yourself short.

Tom Peters, for example, makes a good argument for agencies to evolve into more deep-reaching Professional Services Firms (see his downloadable ‘PSF Manifesto’). After all, if creatives can come up with great advertising ideas, they can surely come up with insightful ways to improve a company’s customer service call center, design unforgetable retail spaces and help create groundbreaking new products, for starters.

This kind of transition won’t happen on its own. Client companies certainly won’t be the first to suggest it. (“Hey um… you guys make great ads, but… do you also do product design?”) It’s one of those build it and they will come things. Create the service. Create the market. Become a purple cow all over again.

More importantly, help your clients become purple cows in their own fields. (Ultimately, that will be the key to your success.)

Trust me on this, many of them wish they had access to this kind of insightful innovation for hire. Not everyone can afford to keep top-notch designers on staff. Or brand strategists. Or marketing communications specialists. Or graphic artists. As for consultants… well, they can be terribly expensive and often too narrow in their approach.

Similarly, not everyone can afford a PR firm and an ad agency and a product design studio and a retail design consultant. (Assuming that, even if you could, all of the pieces would fit together properly… which is pretty unlikely.)

Enter the fully-integrated PSF/Agency: Cost-effective, versatile, nimble, responsive, insightful, completely immersed in their client’s culture. One-stop shopping for all of your innovative needs. Beyond its core team, imagine a network composed of the most brilliant minds and creative talent in the world, just a mouse-click away. A phone-call away.

Imagine if a PSF/Agency like the one I just described suddenly opened shop in your town. What if it were courting your clients? What if it had more talent than you could hire in a lifetime? What if they were a lot cheaper than you are?

What if, although advertising were only one of their revenue streams, their work still blew yours away?

What would you do?

What if they cut your revenue in half inside of two years? What would you do to stay alive?

Advertise more? Lower your prices? Work for free?

Purple cows don’t have to shake their baby rattles to be noticed. They don’t have to put up billboards all over town. They don’t have to engage in price wars. All they have to do is be purple cows.

Pistachio cows.

Tangelo cows.

Here’s a fresh little bit of Set Godin insight:

“Ad agencies have been backed into a corner and mostly do rattling. It’s the
high-cost, high-profile, high-risk part of marketing, and the kind that
rarely works. What a shame that some of the smartest people in our field
aren’t allowed (by their clients and by their industry’s structure) to get
behind the scenes and change the product, the strategy and the approach
instead of just annoying more people with ever louder junk.”

Yesterday’s purple cows are today’s brown cows.

Tomorrow’s purple cows won’t look or feel or sound anything like you.

The question is, what are you doing about it?

Have a great weekend, everyone. 🙂

Read Full Post »