Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Before Creating the Car, Ford Designs the Driver "

From the New York Times an article on Ford's design for users:

Antonella was the guiding personality for the Ford Verve, a design study that served as the basis for the latest-generation Fiesta. A character invented by Ford designers to help them imagine cars better tailored to their intended customers, she embodies a philosophy that guides the company’s design studios these days: to design the car, first design the driver.

Antonella is the personification of a profile created from demographic research about the Fiesta’s target customer, said Moray Callum, executive director of Ford Americas design.

Ford is using characters like Antonella to bring a human element to the dry statistical research drawn from polls and interviews. Based on psychological profiles, these characters are a more modern version of the “theme boards” that designers once covered with snapshots and swatches of material to inspire a design. They are also like avatars, those invented characters used in online games and forums to symbolize a participant’s personality.

“Invented characters get everyone on the same page,” Mr. Callum said. “Personalizing gives context to the information we have. Sometimes the target demographics are difficult to relate to by, say, a 35-year-old male designer.

“We found in the past that if they didn’t understand the buyer, designers would just go off and design something for themselves,” he added.

See the article at:

[Thanks Patrik!]

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

See Peter Norvig's classic: The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

See also

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Off Target

Target tries to use design to distinguish itself from Wal-Mart and K-Mart, but good design is more than stocking flashy products. It also means figuring out how to deal with customers in an intelligent manner.

Last December I was picking up a few Christmas gifts at Target, including a bottle of wine. At the checkout, the cashier asked for my ID to show proof of age. I sighed and opened my wallet to show her my license. Why the sigh? For those who don't know me, I'm almost 50 years old and my beard has more white than black in it. It's been decades since anyone could possibly mistake me for being under 21. Anyway, she needed to see identification, so I showed it to her.

But that wasn't sufficient. She told me I needed to remove my ID from the holder. I complied & held up my license.

Still no good.

The cashier needed to take my driver's license and scan it through her computer. I did a slow burn and considered abandoning my selections right there. Why the criminalization of a perfectly legal product? Security theater has trickled down from the TSA to your local discount store.

The difference is that there's no alternative to the TSA if you want to fly. Target, on the other hand, isn't the only place to shop. Wal-Mart, Meijer's, World Market and my neighborhood liquor store have all figured out systems to allow their cashiers to sell me a bottle of wine without recording my personal details. So my frequent trips to Target stopped. It wasn't a conscious boycott, but every time I thought about it I got cranky & decided I didn't need to go to Target.

Today was the first time in over 6 months that I shopped at Target (my daughter needed soccer shorts & we were in a hurry) and I guess I'm still cranky.