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Glimmer : how design can transform your…

Glimmer : how design can transform your business, your life, and maybe… (edition 2009)

by Warren Berger

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Title:Glimmer : how design can transform your business, your life, and maybe even the world
Authors:Warren Berger
Info:London : Random House, 2011, c2009.
Collections:Your library
Tags:"Design, Design, Ideas, Bookcase 2, "

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Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even the World by Warren Berger



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This is one of those books that has been written by a non-expert who has turned himself into an expert by interviewing multiple experts in the field. He even attended design school to better understand the field. I guess, that coming as an intelligent and observant outsider, actually has its advantages. He doesn't come with too many pre-conceived ideas and can be open to new experiences.
I found the book quite fascinating. A large part of it focuses on Bruce Mau....a design consultant ...who agreed to work with the author. The premise of the book is that design is applicable to just about any challenge and its principles are accessible to anyone. There is a "glimmer" movement which includes all sorts of input from outside and inside the design profession . What makes them all designers is that they just don't think about the things that are ripe of reinvention ....they act on it.
The book is built around ten principles of design which seem to be fairly common to all different kinds of design challenges. There are divided into four separate categories: Universal, Business, Social, and personal.
And the principles are:
Universal....Ask stupid questions, Jump fences, Make hope visible
Business: ....Go Deep, Work the metaphor, Design what you do
Social:.....Face consequences, Embrace constraints
Personal:.....Design for emergence, Begin anywhere.
the best designers are T shaped people...deep knowledge of one skill (the vertical bar) then they branch out into many different areas of knowledge.
By relying on the ability to think about and picture what might be, designers can glimpse the possibilities that lie on the other side of the fence. They also connect ideas from one real with another, entirely separate realm. What if I take the sensor technology from a Segway and use in for a prosthetic arm socket?
Speculate first (wild ideas, scenarios, possible solutions)...and research later.
There is quite a long section on the $100 computer. Initially dismissed as a total pipe dream ....the first model came in at $188. Not what was aimed at but remarkable nevertheless. And later models pushed the price down further...to $75?. It's interesting that just recently, I've read the the kids who had the computers haven't really outperformed the other kids at maths and academic subjects. (mainly because cheap computers get used ...like all other computers....mainly for games, social media, and watching porn). But really, the design company who developed this $100 computer changed the game.
Design, for some, is hope made visible...and sketching is a great tool to make it visible. It can be easier to show relationships (visually) than to describe them.
Bruce Mau curated a design show in Vancouver titled "the Massive Change exhibit"....With the idea that business, culture and nature were actually embraced by design...a kind of subset of design rather than the other way around. There were strong reactions (positive and negative) to the show but it seemed to resonate beyond the art museum world to city-design and business.
It's actually pretty useless asking people what they want because they usually just don't know. So design groups have been taking "deep dives" into the client's world and watching what they actually DO. In one case, adding a psychologist to the design team. (Just lost about an hour's work because I didn't save the review....this is really annoying with Library Thing that it doesn't have some sort of auto-save). A Chicago based consultancy firm has come up with a map for a single compelling human experience. There are five phases: attraction, entry, engagement, exit and extension. And, overlaying these there are six intensity based attributes which can be adjusted to make the experience more compelling: defined, fresh, immersive, accessible, significant, and transformative. They claim it can be applied to everything from visiting a hospital to building an educational class.
There is an interesting digression about the relationship between advertising and design. An example is given of Alex Bogusky who designed an anti-smoking campaign for teenagers in Florida. Basically they were not responding to ads like "Smoking kills" so Bogusky tried to find what the kids actually responded to. His answer: "Truth". So he designed a kind of movement ...with kids invading tobacco companies etc ....and it took on a life of its own. Smoking dropped by 38% in the target group.The claim is that if advertising is a promise: design is performance.
There is an interesting anecdote about a kid getting up at a Coca Cola conference and asking why (if coke is bad for health and bad for the environment) why don't they stop producing? Bruce Mau's response...I found vaguely unsatisfying: "You can't stop people doing what they like and I happen to like Coca Cola". That's the answer we have heard from the Tobacco Companies...who are now moving into different businesses. I think, maybe the kid had a point and Coca Cola does need to start thinking of health and environmental issues. With Pedigree dog food and Procter and Gamble, the design transformation was about changing the corporate culture ...making Pedigree a really dog focussed company and P&G more open and creative.
There is also an interesting segment on design for the developing world; Cheap housing, water purifiers etc. Design Activism...which seems to be taking off. However, there are some skeptics who have pointed out that previous utopian designer cities have not ended well. But there is also a recognition that it's not just sufficient to design a thing...you have to also figure out how to produce it, distribute it who pays for it, how to get people to use it etc.
Some of the constraints relate to the design cycle...whereby a product is designed, used and then junked...thus adding to the trash problem. Mau is pushing for a more integrated approach whereby the object instead of being junked is recycled as raw materials for the next iteration. An interesting design principle is to look at what the natural world has already developed via evolution.
Nor does one's personal life escape the designer's attention. After a health scare Mau looked at his life as a designer and redesigned his travel schedule and doesn't own a car. Designing for emergence is designing for the possibilities by also allowing for surprises along the way. In designing better lives for us the importance of social intersections has been recognised....this is a kind of US (or developed world) issue because many less developed societies have really strong and well developed villages and social life...even though they may not have great wealth in material possessions.
It is claimed the in terms of designing for happiness there needs to be a match between challenges and our creative skills...and if we are operating in the sweet spot here we will be engaged in meaningful activities which tend to keep us happy.
One of Mau's other principles about design is it doesn't really matter where you start: Start anywhere. Just start.
There are many other design methodologies. Warren Berger talks a little about the Stanford model: gaining expertise via empathy, 2. Framing the challenge, 3. generating options or ideas, 4. creating prototypes to test those ideas, 5. iterating or refining those prototypes based on feedback.
There is a lot of content in this book. And maybe it suffers from the fact that it's based a a series of interviews and then Bergen has had to try and pull all these disparate anecdotes into a coherent narrative. He does reasonably well at this but there is still the feeling that one is jumping around a lot. Nevertheless a fascinating book and one which has made me think a lot more about the place of design in our world. ( )
  booktsunami | Aug 14, 2019 |
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Read Warren Berger's posts on the Penguin Blog. The first book to reveal how thinking like a designer can help solve the greatest challenges we face in business, society, and our daily lives. What can we learn from the ways great designers think--and how can it improve our world? In this highly original book by journalist Warren Berger, in collaboration with celebrated designer Bruce Mau, ten groundbreaking principles of design are shown in action--addressing business, social, and personal challenges and improving the way we think, work, and live. Glimmer takes readers on a journey through today's fascinating world of design, where the formerly distinct disciplines of graphic, product, and social design are undergoing "smart recombinations." In the cutting-edge studios of Mau and other visionaries, everything is ripe for reinvention--including the ways businesses function, children learn, and communities thrive. Designers are solving problems at an unprecedented pace today by using improved technology and the highly practical design principles described in this book, such as "Ask stupid questions," "Make hope visible," "Work the metaphor," "Embrace constraints," and "Begin anywhere." Glimmer inspires readers to apply these same principles to their own life challenges. While celebrated designers work on re-creating the world, Berger reveals the growing grassroots "glimmer movement" in which everyday people are emerging as designers and problem solvers. Readers will be fascinated by how "transformation design" is reinventing companies and addressing thorny social problems. Berger shares stories of how burned fingers, wrenched backs, and mixed-up pills all led to ingenious new product designs. In a time of anxiety and retrenchment, this hopeful yet hardheaded book illuminates "the glimmer of possibility and potential--that first spark of an innovative idea or a life-changing plan." According to Berger, "This faint light is all around us and also within us, if we can learn to recognize and nurture it." The best designers already know how to transform that glimmer of possibility into the steady glow of creation and innovation --and with the inspiration of Glimmer, we're now all able to do the same.… (more)

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