Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning from a napkin

Anyone familiar with the birth of Lovemarks knows that my core idea about the future of brands was to add love to respect, and how this relationship could work was first drawn on a restaurant table napkin. A sign of the sensual promise of Lovemarks is that it was a linen napkin, not a paper one! Working out an idea on a napkin has become part of creative tradition. People so excited by the speed and clarity of their thoughts at that moment, they simply seize whatever is closest at hand. Who is surprised that so often it happens over good food, good wine and good company?

When Dassault Systèmes wanted to celebrate the introduction of their new CATIA V5R14 package (they need to do something about that name!), they teamed up with design connectors Core77 and invited designers from around the world to explore ideas of form that deal with a fundamental element: Water. And this is where the table napkins come in. Plain white paper napkins were dispatched to leading designers and 750 napkin sketches from more than 65 countries were the response. Entries ranged from quick ideas to complicated fantasies on the theme of “imagine and shape”. The organizers summed up that “the medium of ink on paper napkin provided unstructured foundations on which to play". To check out the best of the entries and to see who won prizes, go here.

There’s another angle to this that Dassault might explore the next time round. I spoke at their Annual Leadership Convention earlier this year and of course the shift in power from manufacturers to consumers inspired my remarks. Every project always raises the same question for me: where are consumers in this? While consumers don’t want to take over the design process – why would they want to? – they are immensely important to it, particularly in the early stages. The idea-on-a-napkin stage in fact. So here’s a thought. How about extending the competition next year to the people who have a profound understanding of water – the people who drink it?

1 comment:

Susan956 said...

Heh. If I was being playful with you Kevin I would ask what the thread count of the napkin was. I'm not sure I've ever dined in a place with linen napkins. However, I have seen ordinary paper napkins made into the most extraordinary objects via origami - or lovely poetry and prose scribbled down..aren't these sensual activities? :)

On plain ground sometimes the most wondrous gardens can appear..if you believe..and look for them.

Ahh..and now we see paper napkins applied to water design...paper of course mops up [ideas] so quickly :)

The suggestion is put why would people want to take over the design process? I would debate that 'take over' is a problematic phrase here. Allow me to gently insert "contribute to" design. I believe many people do in fact want to contribute to design and they do so either by way of unique invention or by recommending adapations. Often ideas spring from a need that is not met with anything currently on the market and an individual or group wish to give a 'heads up' to industry. Or, a design sets out to improve energy usage and so on.

The suggestion of extending the competition is of course asking for contributions. Aren't those designers water drinkers? Interestingly, sometimes designers professional knowledge - and artistry - can get in the way of functionality. Interior architectural design in a classic example here.

I believe there is much merit to taking the competition to 'the people' however, I would urge that various sectors of society are encouraged to be involved. The rural community deal with water in an entirely different manner to cityfolk (who on this blog aside from me has been on tank water and has had to prime a water pump?). Then again certain cities are now faces water crises against others.

The napkin designs idea (even in the broader sense) would make for a great coffee table book I believe.