Context Isn’t Easy or: if you wouldn’t complain to your surgeon about taking her time, don’t complain to your design team

Products are more than they seem. This is true for both marketing and design. Many of us have largely been taught to focus on functional goals and actions, and to be fair there are many good reasons to understand functional needs. Unfortunately, the approach, which is rekindled every few years under a different guise (e.g. […]

Reveling in BBQ: Dining Out and Ritual

I am in smoked meat paradise this week. Kansas City is perhaps the focal point of this marvelous cuisine – whether you’re a fan of Carolina or Texas styles, KC is a defining setting in the near-religious sects that defined American BBQ. There are places where it is served by waiters in white jackets and […]

Brands and Self-Creation

The old brand model advocated the creation of an external brand image to influence consumers. It talked about benefits, it talked about the company, it promised to give you sex appeal. Those times are long past. This is partly due to the sheer number of channels in which people interact, but I believe there is […]

Storytelling, Presenting and Getting Past the Stick in Your Bum

The other day I was thinking about how to present findings to a client about what was, frankly, a seemingly dry subject. Numerous stakeholders would be involved and would range from the CMO down to brand managers, product engineers, etc. So, knowing I had a dry subject and a conservative audience, I decided to rethink […]

Metaphor and Design

“Metaphor is for most people device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish–a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We […]

Stories, Invention and the Bottom Line

The power of a good story, or even a rather mundane one, is truly phenomenal.  In it are wrapped up the hopes, dreams, symbols, and significances that shed light on who we are as individuals and as members of a culture.  But the real power comes not from the explicit statements that emerge during, say, […]

Symbolism of Color and Web Design

When thinking about how the study of symbols and signs can factor into interface design (whether for the traditional web or a mobile environment) two questions come to mind.  First, up to which level of a semiotic sign – iconic, index, and symbolic sign – should symbolic meaning be dealt with in eBranding?  Second, how […]

Doing Rapid Ethnography

The hallmark of ethnographic research is field work done in natural settings, where it can yield a broad picture and provide a more complete context of activity. But, ethnography can, at times, scare our clients.  Because of this depth, it is often seen as slow, expensive and inclined to produce more information than can easily […]

Metaphor as a Design Tool

“Metaphor is for most people device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish–a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We […]

Metaphor and Design Ideation

Psychologists have been big believers in using metaphors in therapy. Beginning with Freud and Jung, they were interested in dreams because they believed dreams could serve as metaphors for issues that people were trying to work out in their waking lives. And over time psychotherapists, from the fathers of the movement to today, have often […]