Maeda Talks Design With Wired

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by: C. Sven Johnson

Nice interview with John Maeda over on Wired (Link). I particularly liked this exchange because he’s saying the same thing I’ve been saying elsewhere:

Maeda: Yeah, I think the process is simple: Just put Steve Jobs in charge of your company. Seriously. Look at all the consumer electronics companies. They want to make an iPod, but they don’t know how. That’s because people who make objects function on the object-based model. Like if I’m at Sony or some big company, when I make something big and heavy and I sell a lot of them, people get psyched. Because the manager says, Oh wow, that’s big and heavy and you sold lots of them. That’s great. But if you’re making software, even if you ship a million of it, no one really cares because they really can’t see it. That is, unless the management recognizes the value of the intangibles.

Intangibles include not just software but also design. In that sense, Apple’s a wonderful company because its management structure is built around software.

WN: But Apple is making physical objects, too.

Maeda: Exactly, but it’s making physical objects that are accessories to the software world. Whereas other companies are making the opposite, and they’re stuck. Apple also gets it right because Steve Jobs has really good taste and that taste permeates the company in some Draconian way that is hard to duplicate.

When tangible goods become so commonplace that cost is not a barrier to ownership – when there is no such thing as “premium” – and participation in the larger Experience is not restricted to the privileged but available to all (see my previous blog entry and the example of Indian farmers – reLink), than it is the intangibilities that will drive Design. To paraphrase from the quote above: Physical objects will only be accessories to Experience.

It starts now because of China’s awesome manufacturing power. It accelerates because rapid manufacturing and home fabrication technologies distribute capabilities in unprecendented ways.

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