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Design Is How It Works

How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons

Jay Greene


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"It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."-Steve Jobs
There's a new race in business to embrace "design thinking." Yet most executives have no clue what to make of the recent buzz about design. It's rarely the subject of business retreats. It's not easily measurable. To many, design is simply a crapshoot.
Drawing on interviews with top executives such as Virgin's Richard Branson and Nike's Mark Parker, Jay Greene illuminates the methods of companies that rely on design to stand out in their industries. From the experiences of those at companies from Porsche to REI to Lego, we learn that design isn't merely about style and form. The heart of design is rethinking the way products and services work for customers in real life. Greene explains how:
-Porsche pit its designers against each other to create its bestselling Cayenne SUV
-Clif listened intently to customers, resulting in the industry-changing Luna energy bar
-OXO paid meticulous attention to the details, turned its LiquiSeal mug from an abysmal failure into one of its greatest successes
-LEGO started saying no to its designers-saving its brick business in the process
Greene shows how important it is to build a culture in which design is more than an after-the-fact concern-it's part of your company's DNA. Design matters at every stage of the process. It isn't easy, and it increases costs, but it also boosts profits, sometimes to a massive extent. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, design represents the best chance you have of transcending your competitors.

Praise For Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons

"Design in the twenty-first century is about creating experiences that consumers cannot get elsewhere and satisfying needs they never knew they had. A design culture starts with the CEO, who must allow the organization to rethink its innovation process and perhaps even its business processes. It requires experimenting, making mistakes, revisiting decisions, testing and trying different ideas - without worrying about quantifying risk, cost overruns, and other basics in a numbers-oriented business. Greene introduces us to eight companies (Porsche; Nike; LEGO; OXO, design-centric kitchenware; REI, outdoor outfitter; energy-food company Clif Bar; Ace Hotels; and Virgin Atlantic) of different sizes, in different industries and locations, new and old, publicly traded and privately held to show that design is something in which any company can succeed. Greene provides valuable information and insight for companies in all businesses as he explains the importance of design thinking. He quotes Apple's Steve Jobs in discussing the iPod, "It's [design's] not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."


"In an era of globalization when traditional product advantages are commoditized in a heartbeat, design thinking provides one of the brightest hopes for creating sustainable competitive advantage, not by pasting it on but by building it in. Designs in this new era must be thoughtful, respectful, and deeply communal, and Jay Greene's book shows us all by example how these things can come to be. Design is not just how it works-it is going to be how we work. Read this book to see your future."
-Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Dealing with Darwin

"Everybody agrees that design is crucial, but just how a company builds functional, beautiful, desirable products has been a mystery. Now, Jay Greene has finally explained how it works. In a series of smart, revealing case studies, we learn not only how great design is done, but why it matters."
-Steven Levy, author of Hackers, The Perfect Thing, and Searching for Google

"Design is a global creative discipline, a kind of industrial art. If only more companies could learn to open their doors to human creativity the way the ones in this book have, we could transform the world. Greene makes it clear how."
-Alberto Alessi, president and director of marketing strategies and design management at Alessi s.p.a.

"Jay Greene gets to the heart of the matter. Design is not just about how things look, it is about how they work. Follow his fascinating journey through some of the world's most significant design-led companies, and learn how they have made design central to their endeavors. Design Is How It Works offers ideas and inspiration to anyone seeking to build a business that makes a difference."
-Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change by Design

Portfolio Hardcover, 9781591843221, 240pp.

Publication Date: July 29, 2010

About the Author

Jay Greene, former Seattle bureau chief for "BusinessWeek" and an award-winning journalist, has written about business and technology for more than two decades. He has also written for the "Seattle Times," the "Orange Country Register," the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," and "Variety." He lives in Seattle.