// BarryBlog //

A creative dumping ground for issues that interest me personally and professionally, with the thought they may interest you too. Issues such as the business of design, the design of business, the design of objects, design strategy, creative direction, innovation, creativity, thought leadership, observations, as well as recommendations, mid-century modern decorative arts and architecture, and the state of my thinking (and currently the state of my heart).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Neocon and The Big Three

: : : : : : : : : : : : R_E_P_O_S_T : : : : : :: : : : : :

Ugh...Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are kinda IN THE NEWS lately, so for those who never heard my perspective on this, here it is (again).

( Begin original post from June 11, 2008 )

So I'm in Chicago at NEOCON 2008. Everywhere I look, I'm amazed. And it made me think. People are genuinely friendly, knowledgeable, and seemingly happy to see me as I walk into their space. I'm not asked if I'm "looking for something special." I'm not immediately apprised of sale items. I am not even asked for my email. Well in a couple I am.

All that said, "The Big Three" come to mind. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But also the Furniture Big Three– Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth.

These Big Three couldn't be more different.

I'm reminded of how amazing the contract furniture market is. It is so obvious that the Furniture Three see design as THE product they sell. They are selling experience and story. Unlike Pontiac's Driving Excitement®– the Furniture Three are genuinely excited and passionate about furniture. So much so that talking to them about it is more like going to lunch with a friend than arm wrestling a car salesman would be.

The thought that keeps coming to mind is how amazing it might be if the Auto Big Three would begin to be more like the Furniture Three. As I shared before here. Even though we find ourselves in tough economic times, it is apparent the Furniture Three have not cut back. Yes, there was noticably way less printed brochures and flashy food, but the commitment to design quality seemed to have been taken up a notch. Everywhere I looked, I was blown away by the thinking, the execution, and the delivery of the products they were just then bringing to market. It was an amazing showcase of design ingenuity and commitment to high design.

I realize I have been picking on The Auto Big Three unmercifully here, some of which is unfair generalization, but the point of all this jabber is to point out one thing.

Those who see design as a function and process will lose. Those who see design as core to what they do, how they do it, what they sell, and who they are, will win.

If the automakers saw the world through the lens of design, and by design I don't mean this year's body-style, then I would likely be driving one of their products. Instead, I buy the product that promises me an experience, that I see as relevant, and that I want to see succeed.

NEOCON is amazing. It is a tangible example of why the furniture industry is a leader in so many ways. Design thinking, business strategy and marketing communication, product innovation, environmental impact, sustainability, and so much more. I maintain that the best marketing is simply doing business well, consistently and with integrity, and with the understanding that nobody cares about your marketing as much as you. Herman Miller gets this. As does Steelcase and Haworth. And each of these three companies, although they are part of a struggling economy like everyone else, rise above the rest and are able to ask a premium for their products. A fact that when you attend NEOCON you will begin to understand why this is no big mystery. It's truly a cradle to cradle way of thinking. A renewable enterprise.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are totally right -- not just about the Big Three, but any company that sees design as a good idea rather than THE idea. And, there's no way to try to get it in later (as in the SW industry) it IS, or it isn't.

2:58 PM  
Blogger studiosmith said...

Good point Liz. That's an interesting way of looking at it. Like it's an additive or something. Neocon couldn't have been more impressive from so many perspectives.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous ty wenzel said...

Hey Barry, love this post! I love the way you pit the two "worlds" together and how one could truly learn from the other - Here's hoping that the Auto Big Three will wake up and smell the java.

I am continually wondering when they are going to "get it," so that we can all begin to enjoy cars that do not steal from the planet, are affordable and when our government will make it worth while for them to make such products.

My husband and I have refused to get an SUV even though we have a son and could really use the space. But until they are available affordably as hybrids, or whatever is next (hydro?), and there are hybrid filling stations everywhere, our VW Golf that gets almost 40MPG will do just fine.

LOVE YOUR BLOG... you are an amazing writer!


1:49 AM  
Blogger studiosmith said...

Thanks Ty. –I appreciate the kind words, and share your thoughts on automakers. Remember when Saturn was first announced? How charged it made everyone feel that a company would actually care about your buying experience? I'm not saying that Saturn ever met that promise in total context since, but NO OTHER US Automaker effort has even met that bar since. Seems like there's a big hole open for someone to start a company that the common denominator was to be sensical. Good for the environment as reasonable possible considering the context of our over-use habits of automobiles; something inspiring design wise; and something affordable enough, or at least high enough quality so we would feel good about the investment. Etc.

Thanks for stopping by, and again, for the generous link backs to // BarryBlog //.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice foresight...

Do you have a stock prediction of the day?

2:25 PM  
Blogger studiosmith said...

Matt, I am currently recommending all my clients buy anti-depressants. That's all I got.

4:46 PM  

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