Monday, May 31, 2010

[Book] a fine line

a fine line
how design strategies are shaping the future of business
by hartmut esslinger.

This book was distributed to all employees of my company when the (newly appointed) VP in-charge of design visited Indian R&D Center .This is single major reason why I started reading this book apart from fact that this book itself was beautifully designed :).

True to my expectations it proved to be a page turner during the initial chapters . Hartmut Esslinger seems to be design guru of recent times. Initially he speaks of his childhood experience in West Germany and incidents following second world war.It continues to be a biography where he explains his startup design studio frog and his encounters with some industry leaders such as Apple , Sony etc. He is associated with the "snow white design style" of Apple Mac , Sony's flat monitor , Windows XP's Logo , louis vuitton , Lufthansa etc.Pretty interesting list. He warns initially that this is not a text book for design. Basically he explains the importance of design with examples from his own history which help us to articulate with the facts he trying to explain. His standpoint is that "design" being the first in the product life cycle ,any mistakes made here is hard to correct ,if at all there is a chance to correct. Hence designers should be given complete freedom , free from inter departmental politics etc ..

So far so good . During the last couple of chapters he morphs into a crusader for employees in developed nations. He starts to blame outsourcing to that 3rd world countries ( China ,India , Taiwan etc ) as the main reason for the growing problems for the world leaders such as USA , Germany , or for that matter to the entire world itself . He sounds more of a paranoid senator . He reiterates his view , coming down heavily on outsourcing stating it as a reason for a number of problems facing mankind such as "not so great product development in recent times" , "unemployment in US" , "environmental pollution" ,"brain drain from western countries" and what not. Oh God the list is so lengthy that at times we feel lucky he didn't blame China and India for few other global problems left out such Gaza strip deadlocks , Taliban etc. Who knows in his next edition he might propose theories to claim that too are caused by outsourcing .

Inspite of his sarcastic view on outsourcing , he terms Apple contract product manufacturing in China as "smart sourcing" where the contractors are involved very early in product life cycle so as to have collaborative development. God only knows what level of collaboration will Steve Jobs will allow Apple to have with his contractors. Later he advocates a strategy called local sourcing where all stages of the of product's life cycle should be performed in a single place so as to articulate the product with the culture of the place. Hope he will not come back to the 3rd world countries to market his product. Epitome of his philosophy is his discovery of desktop production where every one can create what they want in their home . Its good for engineering students to learn about a machinery ,but how the hell will it scale up .

Clearly the book looses its intention towards the end , might be the author is emotionally affected by the recent financial crisis in US.

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