Sunday, May 10, 2009

Data vs. Design - Google vs. Apple - Where does LM stand?

Happy Mother's Day Vision Readers. I got this in from the Twitter network via @wroush, and it has really got me to thinking that we need to provide some clarity.....

On May 9, in the PING column in the NYT, Miguel Helft wrote a column, "Data, Not Design, Is King in the Age of Google". An incisive report of the defecting of Google designer, Doug Bowman, from Google to Twitter - this article harshly exposes Bowman's bias against Google's method of trusting data above design in all decisions of product.

So what... you say? Do I know Bowman, do I care about his career moves? Well the difference is actually quite important and fundamental. Take this simplistic hypothetical.... (it is incredibly simplistic, but humor me if I gloss over subtleties... it is to get the point across.)

You want have a portrait painted that you really want the crowd to LOVE, and you can do it in 2 ways:

A) Hire many artists, each to paint their own version of you (independent of any feedback during the painting). Then show each to the crowd and buy their favorite.

B) Hire one artist, have him paint the portrait, show it to the crowd, get feedback, repaint according to feedback,
show it to the crowd, get more feedback, repaint according to additional feedback, show it to the crowd, get even more feedback, repaint according to even more feedback....and so on and so forth, and ..... buy the one when the feedback stops.

Let's take a brief moment and poll this very question:

In point of fact, there is probably no right answer, but rather this may be the essential chicken-and-egg of the modern design age. If you are one of the died-in-the-wool Page/Brin Googlers then your "right" answer is clearly "B", yet if you are a Jobs-ian Apple-a-holic then your "right"answer is most definitely "A".

Again, globally, there is probably not one right answer if you consider profit any judge. Many Companies (these two chiefly among them) have made huge success on either side of the coin.

I merely want to take the time to say that Local Motors has built itself to land on the side of "A". Every Day we talk about design and improve upon what we have, but at the most basic level, we respect an individual vision. Early on, people chided us for pursing a Homer Simpson car (a reference to a Simpson's episode where Homer puts all of the individual items that he would like cobbled together on a car in order to make the "perfect" car only to find out that he creates Frankenstein).

(Homer's own design,

Again, simplistic, but the analogy made us think at Local Motors and we chose. In our world, a singular designer choses the theme, the placement, and the design language for each of the vehicles we build, and within the realm of buildability, affordability, and safety, we build that vision. Sure, we consult the crowd when there is a decision to be made, but we employ an artistic vision to develop independent concepts before we profer those choices.

When the dust settles and the road has cleared, Local Motors wants to be there standing with a remarkable statement of design vision, not an incremental improvement on the status quo.

Hope this clears up any questions you might have about LM and perhaps makes you think about how you approach design in your own life.

(Local Motors Rally Fighter, by Sangho Kim)

1 comment:

Ari said...

Local Motors seems to abide by C.) Lots of designs, choose favorite, iterate based on preferences. This seems to be more efficient than either 'A' or 'B', since LM starts with a design the community desires then iterates based on preferences.