Industrial design mag Core 77 has an amazing interview with Rob Walker. I’ll admit it–even before his star turn with the NYT Mag’s Consumed column, I was a Rob Walker fanboy. Back when he was doing the ad report card for Slate, I emailed him a couple of times and he wrote nice, thoughtful replies.
I find his writing sync eerily with what my firm is working on and talking about. Eerie as in like, “Is there a bug in someone’s office?!?” I’m not sure if the bug would be in his, or ours. Probably his, but only if he reads aloud while typing. [My pondering this is precisely how you know I’m a fanboy.] I guess it’s best just to autocongratulate all around by saying that great minds really must think alike. But this interview is no different… he talks about one of our biggest recent projects:
When I look at the Lance Armstrong bracelet, I start at the other end and ask, “What did the consumer respond to?” It could be the design, but it could be any number of other things. I don’t know that that bracelet is going to be studied in design schools as a beautiful object. (I could be wrong about that.)
The product should speak for itself, but it’s more interesting to me to discover what consumers are actually listening to. I truly think that the Lance Armstrong bracelet is a useless object, but for all the things that could become a craze, it’s certainly more positive for society than the pet rockâ€”not that I have anything against the pet rock.
Compare the Lance Armstrong bracelet to another current hit product, the iPod. The iPod and the bracelet are so different; you can see so many functional reasons for buying the iPod. For me, I thought it was expensive, but cool, and it took me three months to decide to buy one. I rationalized it by thinking about how much travel I do and how useful it is on the plane and in the gym. You can come up with all these reasons. There may be counterarguments for each and every one, but at least there are many arguments to make.
Anyway, if anyone is hunting a gift for me any time soon, I would love one of these. Or this. And if you’re into this kind of conversation, remind me to tell you when and if I get any more issues of his sporadic but entirely amazing “Journal of Murketing.”