Which view is correct?
We live in a world of subjectivity, with very few absolutes - especially when it comes to design and marketing. Everything we make lives in a shifting, nebulous world of context and interpretation. The same thing can be viewed by different people in different places, with different states of mind.
Take maps as an example. Visualize a big paper map of a city. Maybe the paper part just shows the street. Over that are layers of acetate with different information. If you're a car driver, your sheets highlight the major streets, gas stations, and strip malls. Freeways are prominent, and trails don't exist. If you're a biker, the major streets are almost invisible, while well-paved side streets, trails, bike shops, and dangerous intersections are shown. A homeless person's map of the city would show the places least likely to be harassed in, places where bathrooms are available, et cetera. What would a deer's map of the city be? A pigeon's? A wi-fi enabled laptop's? Looking at each of these channels of information separately, you'd be hard-pressed to say that you're looking at the same city.
This is a San Francisco Bike Coalition Map. Red means steep!
Car and bike maps are common in some cities, but more views are coming. Green Maps are a way to see the environmental and cultural resources of a city that aren't deemed important in your AAA map. Simply changing the focus of a map can change the meaning of a city for the reader. Instead of Berkeley being a grid built on major north-south streets, it can become a series of watersheds, with Strawberry Creek draining the middle, and more southerly creeks flowing to Oakland and Emeryville. Civic distinctions are cut across entirely different lines.
Products are just as easily redefined, when you look at them from a new perspective. BP was formerly British Petroleum, but is now "Beyond Petroleum." They were one of the first to look ahead past the oil peak and wonder what was going to happen to their corporation. Their identity was redefined from being an oil producer to an energy producer, and they are now one of the big players in the solar industry. A simple redefining of their product let them expand their horizons quite a bit.
It might be the most fruitful to take a step back when you're stuck in the design process. Can the problem you're working on be addressed from a broader viewpoint? It's easy to keep going down a design path, and getting bogged down in the design details. Sometimes you need to take a breather and ask whether your particular design solution is addressing the issue at large, or if this is just one view of Mount Fuji.
Unfortunately, most companies are concerned with making things that address problems in a way that's profitable to them, and may limit a designer's options. Instant Messaging is a current example. The ideal IM protocol would let you chat with anyone regardless of the service either of you use. However, every player in the IM service industry is forced to write their protocols to be incompatible with the rest, because as soon as a consumer has free options they don't need any brand loyalty.
We'll leave you with a bunch of examples to chew on for a while:
-Kodak works with images, not with film. Thus their forays into scanner software and other digital imaging devices.
-Action movies are full of this: Jackie Chan redefines a ladder as a weapon, a shield, a ladder, and a tool to capture the enemy's weapon all in about three seconds. Macgyver redefining just about everything. Plus, any object can be a weapon if you throw it hard enough, so play nice.
-Al Qaeda could have put their creativity to good use as engineers (Bin Laden was an engineer in his former life), but instead choose to kill: an airplane is not just transportation, it's a bomb. Nitrogen isn't just a fertilizer, it's a bomb. A cell phone isn't just a communication device, it's also a trigger for a bomb. This may be a variation on the adage that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
-Drivers in Sarajevo during the war would pile books into their cars as armor against snipers, and fit tin roofing over their windows. Extreme situations breed creativity.
-The US military has been used as a humanitarian organization at times, playing off its strengths of logistical and heirarchical coordination.
-Lip balm is a good sunscreen, but it also works to quiet squeaky bindings on cross-country ski gear. It's just the right thickness to work in cold conditions.
-Anyone who's been on a college campus at the end of the year has seen skateboards and office chairs repurposed to be freight rollers.
More ideas will probably show up in the comments. Have fun!
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team