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McDonald’s, Good Ideas and Experience Design – Recommended Reads

Unfortunately I have less time right now than I’d like to write at greater length about each of these three items I’ve recently read. I think each is worth taking the time to read so I’m recommending them here with just a few quick thoughts.

It’s “Masters of Design” special issue time again over at Fast Company. One of the articles was a standout for me – the one about the big McMakeover at McDonald’s. A few years back it seemed the trend was to apply the term “mcdonaldization” to suggest that a fast food model was taking over a particular process, organization or industry. It was a put down, meaning that creativity and innovation were replaced by rote, soulless routines that reduced the quality of service in favor of speed, efficiency and convenience. I even recall an article from College & Research Libraries, the peer-reviewed library journal, that used the term in its title, and it’s been used fairly regularly in higher education to refer to the big business approach taken by for-profit online higher education programs. What’s interesting about all this is that the Fast Company article is high praise for how McDonald’s is using design to re-invent itself – and be anything but McDonaldized (Ok, they’re not exactly breaking the fast food mold). The article highlights the work of Denis Weil, the designer leading the makeover, who says that “Design is doing something with intent.” The article inspires me to think that when it comes to re-invention and mass change, if McDonald’s can do it, why can’t libraries. Well, if we had a designer like Denis Weil (and some of McDonald’s cash), I think we could.

Just yesterday I downloaded Steven Johnson’s TED Talk on “good ideas”, and I’m looking forward to watching it soon. (NOTE: if you weren’t aware of how easy it is to download a selected TT to iTunes – it is easy – give it a try). So today I came across a WSJ article written by Johnson about the origins of good ideas and the importance of being a tinkerer. I now realize he is coming out with a new book on this exact topic. The article provides a taste of the book, which makes the point that real innovation isn’t the work of a lone creative genius sitting alone in a room when a light-bulb idea pops out. That may happen occasionally, but Johnson uses real world examples to demonstrate that good ideas emerge when different ideas, products or processes that already exist come together in new or different ways. In the past much innovation has happened in closed environments, such as corporate R&D shops, and intellectual property laws have kept it competitive and private. Johnson believes that open innovation may create an environment in which many more good ideas can emerge. Read the article, watch the TT – and perhaps you may be inspired to be the “tinkerer” for your library.

From the “user experience backlash” department – sort of – comes this blog post titled “Can Experience be Designed?” from Oliver Reichenstein at iA. While the language suggests that Reichenstein has a problem with the validity of user experience designers, what he basically asks is if the idea of experience design is bullshit. Can you really design an experience for people when everyone achieves a slightly different experience from any particular design which he or she encounters? He asks “Do experience designers shape how users feel or do they shape with respect to how users feel?” Can an architect design a house that delivers a certain type of experience or does the house’s design lead to a spectrum of experiences – based on the lives of the inhabitants and what they bring to the experience? Reichenstein then proceeds to give the reader much to think about the concept and practice of user experience design. I like these types of articles because they force me to question some of my beliefs about design thinking and user experiences. It also helps me to clarify what, in a library, can be improved through user experience design, and how it might be accomplished. I’ll be further reflecting on this one.

Comments

Comment from Jim Nichols
Posted: September 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Reichenstein appears ready to apply post-structuralism to design. Structuralism maintains that the structure of a poem, for example, determines the one true meaning of that poem. It is obvious in the case of poetry that what one brings to a poem will lead to the meaning that one takes from the poem and there is no one true meaning.

The idea that we can design an experience for someone else does run the danger of profound disrespect for that someone. All we can do when faced with a patron with free will and a mind of her own is to invite her into relationships and processes that are likely to produce valuable outcomes for everybody. We can design physical, online and organizational environments that patrons will find inviting in those ways

Comment from Steve Ehrmann
Posted: September 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the tip about Johnson’s TED talk! Very entertaining and with useful implications not just for fostering discovery and invention (who’s the first in the world to…?), but also for learning (stimulating people to insights and reconceptualization as they go from novice toward their own flavor of expertise).
PS I also loved the incubator built from car parts – a lovely meme.

Pingback from The Evolving Hyperlinked Library «
Posted: February 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm

[...] design, but also the design of its materials and use. There is a great article about the topic of “Experience Design” that I think you’ll enjoy. Hyperlinked libraries can certainly increase the effectiveness and [...]

Pingback from Information Needs & Opportunities « Librarian Diva
Posted: March 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm

[...] design, but also the design of its materials and use. There is a great article about the topic of “Experience Design” that I think you’ll enjoy. Hyperlinked libraries can certainly increase the effectiveness and [...]

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