Category: Design


A collection of stimulating (I hope) design quotes ...

We don’t have a good language to talk about this kind of thing. In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. … DESIGN IS THE FUNDAMENTAL SOUL OF A MAN-MADE CREATION.” Steve Jobs

Expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you are doing.” Steve Jobs

Huge degree of care.” Ian Parker, New Yorker, on Apple design

In some way, by caring, we are actually serving humanity. People might think it’s a stupid belief, but it’s a goal—it’s a contribution that we hope we can make, in some small way, to culture.” Jony Ives, design chief, Apple


But that day, in that experience, the thing that really gave me comfort was a tiny mirror [on the machine enabling patient eye contact with the tech and nurse] about as big as a Band-Aid.” Janet Dugan, healthcare architect undergoing an MRI exam, in Tim Leberecht's, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing,and Create Something Greater Than Yourself

Every business school in the world would flunk you if you came out with a business plan that said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to design and fabricate our own screws at an exponentially higher cost than it would cost to buy them.’ BUT THESE AREN’T JUST SCREWS. LIKE THE THERMOMETER ITSELF, THEY’RE BETTER SCREWS, EPIC SCREWS, SCREWS WITH, DARE I SAY IT, DEEPER MEANING.” Tony Fadell, founder, Nest

He said for him the craft of building a boat was like a religion. It wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.” On the world’s premier racing shell builder, George Yeoman Pocock, in Daniel Brown's, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it." Thomas Merton

It is fair to say that almost no new vehicle in recent memory has provoked more smiles.” Review of the MINI Cooper S, reported in Donald Norman's, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things

“For every engineer and marketer on the “Experience Design & Development Team,” you need an artist, psychologist, musician, theaterdirector—and perhaps a shaman.” Tom Peters

“I believe that emotion eats reason for breakfast. I am not a daydreamer, idealist, or social activist. I am a business romantic.” Tim Lebrecht, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself


Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
, by Donald Norman
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Heart, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki
Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, by Kevin Roberts
The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself, by Tim Leberecht

MOAP #18

Part 18 of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations" (MOAP) is now live at You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We are releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.

Part 18, the 11th "H" in Tom's "15H Theory of Everything," has as its theme "Design Is Everything." In keeping with this week's UK focus, the "H" in this case is Charles Handy (please note that he is Irish!), whom Tom names "UK's most respected management visionary."

The Little BIG Things
Synopsis Series
#36 Time
#37 Design

It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Time" and "Design." The section "Time" tackles multiple aspects of the subject, from milestoning to daydreaming. In "Design," Tom discusses the visceral power of design, and how it can change your life.

You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:

#36 Time
#37 Design

*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.

Cool Friend #147: Joy Panos Stauber

Erik Hansen, our Cool Friend interviewer (among the many other hats he wears), recently chatted with Joy Panos Stauber, the woman behind our beautiful banners. They covered design, being a designer, and of particular interest, the design of Tom's new book, The Little BIG Things, which Joy had a significant hand in. You can read the interview here and find out more about Joy here.


If I had a Worst Instructions & Controls award, it would have to be retired courtesy my hotel-room bedside clock radio, otherwise known as XtremeMac. The following was on the top of the clock in fine print, to guide one through the process of setting the alarm:

  1. Press and hold the "Alarm 1" or "Alarm 2" button until "Alarm Time" appears on the display. Press the "Settings" knob and the alarm hour will blink.
  2. Rotate the "Settings" knob to change the hour and press to set.
  3. Rotate the "Settings" knob to change the minutes and press to set.
  4. Rotate the "Settings" knob until "Source" appears on the display and press to select iPod, buzzer, FM or AM and press to set.
  5. Rotate the "Settings" knob until "Exit" appears on the display and press to exit.

Of course it was virtually impossible to read all the gibberish that appeared on the clock's screen. Add the fact that while you were holding and pressing you could not simultaneously see what was on the screen. (At one point I was pushing and pressing and had the damn thing cradled in my lap so that I could at least partially see what I was doing.) The final indignity was that by the time you had twirled and pushed and pressed and then pressed and twirled and pushed, you had ... ZERO ... confidence that you had set the damn alarm correctly.

Excellence in design is on the tip of many a tongue.
That's great, and a monumental change in a decade.
We've come a long way.
We ain't there yet.

Design is…

[Joy Stauber is the designer of our gorgeous banners (see more here) and one of our favorite people. Learn more about her at her site.]

I got an email this morning [08/24/09] with this Tom Peters quote: "Design is... an understanding that all the senses were created equal."

It's true. And it's interesting to think about what that on earth that might really mean.

I was talking with a marketing colleague this morning about a potential project she has for a website aimed at moms. As a mom, I'm always very suspicious of any kind of "marketing to moms" because it's often like other marketing to women... lots of pink and cuddly photos, as if that is all it takes to be relevant to me as a female consumer.

What does any of this have to do with "Design is... an understanding that all the senses are created equal."?

It is this:

Design is not about making something look cool (or cute, or mom-like, or macho, or techie, or whatever it is you think the audience is).

Design is about making something relevant.
It is about making a connection with your audience.
Which means you have to truly understand them, and you have to have a clear communication strategy.
The messages need to be relevant to the audience.
The way in which they are delivered needs to be relevant.
Remember which senses to address. (Is the color palette friendly or serious? Is the nomenclature for website sections based on an internal organizational structure or does it support the user's needs? Does the paperstock feel rough or smooth, heavy or light? How should all of these elements, and more, feel to the user/audience?)

Designing a website for moms, like any website, requires the integration of a site architecture with a communication strategy and a careful prioritizing of messages. (Written and/or visual messages.) Then the final design and all of the details of its execution (words and images used, color palette, type styles, and so on) supports the higher communication goals, serves the end user well, and tracks back to what you figured out needed to be done in the planning stages.

I wholeheartedly agree with Tom that "Design is... an understanding that all the senses were created equal." Creators (marketers, designers, writers, technical developers, etc.) of websites or any type of communication have to remember that all of the senses truly are involved. The eyes, hands, heart, brain.. a website user or brochure reader takes in many elements and processes them via all of their senses. All of the elements require careful attention and need to be considered from a user's point of view. If the visuals are strong but the naming of website sections isn't right, the user won't respond as well as they would otherwise. If the brochure copy is great but the typesetting makes it feel like a chore to read... oh no! All of the details need to work together in a holistic, integrated way to support each other and the user experience—and thus build a relationship with your brand.



(1) Nice touch! Award-winning chef Sissy Hicks has opened a wonderful take-out, 3-meal-a-day place 5 miles from my home!! (My wife and I haven't cooked for weeks. Or, rather, I haven't cooked in the three weeks since Susan broke her leg and I "took over"!)

The food is pure "Wow" at Sissy's Kitchen, but I am always a sucker for the "little" touches—which of course aren't little at all! Above, see the wonderfully colorful ribbon Sissy ties to every bag!!!

(2) Repeat! I wrote about this one years ago, but it deserves another nod. Pictured below is the marvelous little tool that removes the outer skin from garlic when you roll the clove inside the blue rubber tube!! (Hats waaaay off to Zak Designs!) (And ... to Google for finding Zak Designs when I typed "thing to roll garlic in to remove outer skin.")

(3) Design matters! Everywhere!


May All the Gods Smile Upon Them!

Coffeemaker on-off button

See directly above. It is the "control panel" of my new Black & Decker SmartBrew coffeemaker.

One switch.
Two positions.

I hereby declare that B&D not only wins Tom's User Friendly Grand Award—but retires the cup!!

(Some of you snobs will go on & on & on about the limitations of my Dearest Delight. And I will reply with a smirk. In a blind taste test, my coffee will be as good as yours!)

Speaking of Superb User-friendly Design (and Simplicity) …

Below you'll see ye olde fashion nubby scorecard pencil—directly from Fenway Park. Doesn't get much better than that, either!

Stubby red pencil with Boston Red Sox printed on the side

Speaking of Design:
How to Spend $50,000

If I had $50,000 to spend on the design of a new home—or smallish professional office building, here's how I'd spend it:


Interior designer: $25,000.
Landscape designer: $15,000.
Architect: $10,000.

Logic: We live and work and play inside the dwelling (mostly) and outside the dwelling (some to a lot, depending on the climate). The skin that divides in from out, the architect's work, is a third-order concern.


Interior designer: $30,000.
Landscape designer: $12,000.
Architect: $8,000.

Logic is pretty much the same, with a little added emphasis on the interior.

If this makes sense from a use perspective (and "use" is what we do), why is the architect typically treated like God, and the interior designer and landscaper as second-stringers ... if we use them at all?

I suppose because "we" like pictures of the places we live and work better than the places themselves? (Ever notice that in architectural magazines, there are never people?) (Okay, I'll be fair, there are rarely people pix in interior design mags either—again, alas, we design for a good picture rather than livability.)

Full disclosure:

My wife is a tapestry artist and home furnishings designer-entrepreneur.
My hobby is landscaping.
I despise most Frank Gehry buildings as extravagant ego-exercises.*
[*There is one architect I love. Christopher Alexander—coauthor of the magnificent Pattern Language. He focuses on living in/using a space—inside and out—rather than the sexiness of the skin.]