Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Review: The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier

The introduction argues that design can solve the "wicked" problems that businesses face currently. What is design? The author quotes Herbert Simon in response, "Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones." This broad definition can cover the six-sigma managers that are roundly denounced, but we'll ignore that for now. Neumeier says that those particularly suited to design are empathetic, intuitive, imaginative, and idealistic.

The print style of the book seems to take its design philosophy from the tips provided in the section "Lever 8: Ban Powerpoint". That section first urges editing to the bone. This book is definitely edited to the bone: great soundbites, inspiring ideas, tantalizing tidbits, but not a lot of solid implementable meat. The Ban Powerpoint tip is to have no more than ten words per slide and use a huge font size. This is echoed in the layout of the book: there's an average of just 200 words on each page, and the font must be Ariel size 16....very readable from an armlength or more away. The next Ban Powerpoint tip is to use pictures. This is implemented in the book with never more than 5 pages without a graphic, and frequently the text is interrupted with full-page reverse color diagrams that are sometimes difficult to read. The final Ban Powerpoint tip is "keep it moving" with only one idea per slide. Thus the book text is a collection of small sections. The "levers" for change in part 3 are the meatiest part of the book. Total word content of the entire book is probably somewhere along the lines of a hour-long keynote speech. In the back is a collection of snippets that are supposed to represent the content of the book, but very few of them were the sentences that I had underlined while I read. Then there are 8 pages of recommended reading, and a two page plug for Neumeier's company, Neutron LLC.

The content seems inspirational, but leaves all the details of implementation to be figured out by the reader. Or perhaps the entire book is just an artifact to make people aware of the branding consulting that Neutron is offering them.

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