In the twilight of his career, Andy Warhol, stated, “I was always a commercial artist.” Warhol’s success had long invited criticism from design purists. The famous pop artist never saw a conflict, having said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” Today, companies are spending more time, effort and money on design. Apple, Philips, Nike, Nest, and Sonos are making the effort and investing more because it works.
Warhol’s view of business and art helps define an approach I coined called People-First Design. The goal is to make it seem that when someone experiences a product or service it feels like it has been designed for him or her alone. This means cleverly balancing utility and aesthetics. Increasingly customers are rewarding companies for products and services that just seem “to fit”.
People-First Design differs from other design constructs because it anticipates consumer needs and wants. Simply put, it delivers “what’s next”. Akio Morito, co-founder of Sony, and Steve Jobs, Apple visionary, spouted nearly identical quotes on the topic. Morito said, “The public does not know what is possible, we do.” Jobs commented, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The Sony Walkman and Apple iPod are cases in point.
People-First Design can benefit every company. Design needs to lead the product development process. Jobs noted the opportunity this represents, “We don’t have a good language to talk about this kind of thing. In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer… But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation.”