This morning, emboldened by this insightful blog post written by my friend and colleague Paul Bennett, I slipped on a pair of Crocs and headed to work.
Now, my workplace is not a place where people generally sport Crocs. It's also a place where nobody really cares about what you wear (anything goes), but where they also really care about what you wear (everything matters). There's a tension there, and it makes life interesting. So, upon strolling in the door, here's what my own two feet encountered:
The photo above doesn't do them justice, but next to my injection-molded plastic foam thingies stand a proud pair of gorgeous, yellow suede bespoke wingtips, crafted with love by a British shoemaker who was undoubtedly trained a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away by the wizened creature who invented cobblery in the first place. In other words, it would be hard to put two products from the same category side by side and yet have such a gulf of experience, materials, approach, and point of view separating them. As Paul notes, my Crocs are the footwear equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle (the "New" one, methinks). In constrast, if those yellow shoes were a car, they'd be an Aston Martin DB5.
But as designed objects, they're both completely valid. One is bespoke. The other, just like the original Beetle, is happy just to "be". However, neither is better than the other; they are both high-integrity, authentic objects, not pretending or trying to be anything other than what they are. They each mean something. Both work because their designers and makers knew what was important.
Yet another example of the power of a strong point of view and why it is such an imperative to have one before you start designing anything. Points of view drive meaning.
“…they are both high-integrity”…
I might ask where your crocs were made and by who(m)… and how that might factor into the”integrity” quotient.
While some (a dwindling minority) of crocs are made in Canada, most are made in China… potentially by way of questionable labor practices. Added to that are the potential environmental implications of an all-poly shoe that can’t be repaired and — although light — shoes that are shipped from China and off-gassing in a Costco by the thousands near you*.
In the verve of “voting with my dollar”, I recently bought a pair of US-made New Balance sneakers not because of what they were, but what they meant to me. Not that I’m a rabid patriot, but because I see friends, neighbors and colleagues out of work because of the shift to take production, design and services overseas — specifically to China. My US574s also weren’t made in the thousands in hopes to be scooped up by fickle consumers, but were also “bespoke” (literally made to order)… and for a negligible amount more than the price of mass-produced imported versions. ($115 vs. $75… the difference being two/three lunches from Whole Foods).
I’m not sure if the reasoning behind purchasing the yellow wing tips had anything to do with provenance, but I’m beginning to wonder if that should begin to matter more… actually, from a strong-POV POV, there’s no wonderment — it /should/ matter more.
(* there’s obviously a debate to be had about the pros/cons of crocs and their enviro-impact… my point is more about COO and one’s cognizance of it).
A point of view is absolutely a must when designing a product or even a company! Although i have found that design can be a way to discover your point of view rather than something you must have before you start.