Design is the first of the six Concept Age
that we’re going to explore. Dan Pink
quotes John Heskett when describing design as “a combination of utility and

Utility is something that is prevalent in
the market today.  Unless you’re on the bleeding edge, most products do
what they say they’re supposed to do with reasonable consistency.  Utility
is not how to differentiate a product.  Significance is. 

I went to a friend’s house last weekend
and she had the neatest
measuring cup
(yes, I used “neatest” and “measuring cup” in the same
sentence – that’s significant right there!). 

Unlike the hundreds of measuring cups you
may have seen before, this cup did the job of measuring (utility) but in an
unusual way (significance).  The bottom of the cup angled up so that you
could read the numbers without holding it up or bending down for a better
view.  I already have a couple of measuring cups, but this cup’s great
design makes it worth buying. 

Design makes use of holistic thinking,
focused on solving a problem, in a way that is significant to the
customer.  According to Dan, “Design is a high concept aptitude that is
difficult to outsource or automate – and that increasingly confers a
competitive advantage in business”.

Design sense is not limited to product
developers and marketers either.  Everything we use or produce is
designed.  This blog has a design, as does a business case, a request for
proposal, your office, and a presentation you need to make to a client.
The list is infinite.

Dan offers several suggestions for
strengthening your design sense.   “Channel Your Annoyance” is an
exercise where you find a product that bothers you and, with nothing but a pad
and pencil, you redesign it.  Another neat exercise is “Put it on a Table”
where you take something that you “connect with” on some emotional level and
answer a series of questions to determine why.  He also includes a list of
design magazines and museums you can explore. 

Good design is “giving the world something
it didn’t know it was missing” – did you think you were missing a great
measuring cup?

I didn’t!

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