Communications as Experience Design: Coffee edition, or People over pixels.

I like to play with conventions and expectations. It’s great to have rules — we need rules to know what to expect, make plans and feel a sense of progress. Rules frame our lives, so we can focus on living. For the moment, I’d like to focus on conventions and meaning.

According to What?

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei mastered the art of questioning conventions and frames of reference. He literally goes and breaks vases that are thousands upon thousands years old. He wants to provoke and shift our collective paradigms, question our values: how much do we value people over objects?

Page by José Luis Galiano — The artist drops and breaks a vase from the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AC)

Going against the grain and breaking our own precious vases has meaning. There’s a certain gravity to corporate communications; a kind of unspoken rule not to smile too much at meetings. No wonder so many brands take themselves so seriously, they become a precious Han Dynasty vase.

Experience design is not about you.

What value are you adding to the world? Steve Jobs famously wanted to “make a dent in the universe”; his concern, arguably, was never to protect Apple. The day Apple becomes about Apple, they are finished. When you protect something, anything — you put yourself on a defensive. That’s no way to grow and move forward.

Make a coffee foam heart.

At some point, and the earlier the better, you’ll start to have fun with your brand and product, and really care about people. You will care enough to make sure your website is usable and accessible, your ads aren’t misleading, marketing isn’t annoying. You’ll care enough to break your own Han Dynasty vase and make coffee foam hearts.

Remember that everything changes. You’re big on Facebook? Facebook is not forever.Whatever tools you have at your disposal, you can choose your own focus. And it better not be “getting more likes”. What if “likes” are the “Facebook pokes” of tomorrow? Would you do communications differently?

“When things get complicated, we simplify by saying ‘what’s best for the customer?’” — Jeff Bezos

Focus on creating value. Focus on people over pixels.


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