I have seen Skype take all sorts of advertising directions in the past, none as human, honest and refreshing as this project by photographer John Clang. The Singaporean native continues the tradition of family portraiture by putting together Skype-assisted composite portraits of relatives separated by distance. The execution is beautifully simple, the benefit instantly evident, and the storytelling potential is limitless. Planning hats off.
A lot of what I do for a living is dedicated to creating appropriate, relevant and profitable user experiences. The prevailing logic in experience design (or at least in the wild west that is digital experience design) is that friction is bad. The most effective user experiences are those which present the least obstacles between the end user and the task we want them to achieve. I have always found this to be too neat for the real world and too dogmatic to fit the pace of technology and the behaviours it creates.
User experiences which simply work are rare, but rarely enough. Interactions which win have to be meaningful and remembered, they need to have texture and context, which brings me to the subject of friction and how the right kind of challenges, hurdles and stories can deliver user experience magic.
The most recent People’s Planning nominee – molecular gastronomy pioneer Heston Blumenthal – has proven that he can be as counterintuitive in thinking about the experience as he is in the kitchen (or lab.) What’s more , he has managed to flip the issue of usability friction right on its head.
High customer demand and the amount of work required to meet it means that the fabled Fat Duck has a two-month advance booking policy, which poses a considerable user experience barrier for bookings. Rather than issuing desperate apologies for it Mr Blumenthal has turned it this two-month waiting period from a user experience hurdle into a virtue by creating an entire time-coded interactive narrative around it. The story is fantastic, and best described by the man himself:
I have always been amazed by the courage, imagination and persistence that are required to run a successful restaurant. Being presented with the opportunity to plan, produce, deliver and assess the effectiveness of your product on a very tight timescale and within a tight feedback loop is the very definition of ‘lean.‘ What’s best is that this happens in the real world and not on navel-gazing industry blogs. And on that note…
Islington institution Tommy Miah’s Raj Hotel recently tickled my planning fancy with this genius re-framing of what would otherwise be a rather stale proposition (free Wi-Fi.) Planning hats off to Mr. Miah!
Ever cared to look closely at your Pret porridge lid? Look now. Did you know that the mark on the 11:00 indicates the expiry time of the porridge? An idea that’s useful for the team members, reassuring for the customer, and low-fi enough to earn that coveted PPA. This is just one example of Pret’s masterful application of small thinking on a large scale. More importantly, though, it emphasises the power of detail in setting customer expectations. If that’s the amount of attention a mere lid receives, then I can completely trust them with my porridge. And I truly do.
It’s been ages since I generated some pixels on this blog, so what better way to get back into the game than to celebrate another example of planning excellence. While it might appear grandiose compared to your average PPA, Loius CK’s recent self-publishing experiment has earned my dubious commendation because its generosity and commercial success runs so diametrically counter to the miserable, SOPA-enamoured entertainment industry.
The story’s all over the net: the rabblerousing comedian wrote, promoted, produced, recorded and distributed his most recent stand-up without the ‘help’ of any industry intermediaries. He decided to charge a rather nominal $5 per download — 15 bucks less than what you’d pay for a traditionally distributed DVD after all parties involved name their fee. Best of all it’s DRM-free, internationally available, and ‘humanely’ distributed (read: a well-designed and stable online experience.)
Yesterday (12 days after the experiment went live) it reached a gross $1,000,000 in revenue – more than enough to cover the $170k production cost. Were he not the top man he is he would have pocketed nearly 600k in profit. He decided to donate most of it to charity and give his team a ‘big fat bonus.’
While his entrepreneurial zeal can appear naive, it is ultimately a winning move, not least because of the exposure it has generated. Even if this publicity doesn’t entirely obviate the need for an intermediary with a fat marketing budget, it gives Louis a strong negotiating position, were he ever to face one. More importantly, it is a valuable asset when dealing with those who claim that fame (and the costs associated with building it) is a necessary pre-condition for the disintermediated (and unmitigated) success, that Radiohead and NIN recently enjoyed. Prove them wrong – buy the thing.
The Dead Kennedys knew what engagement meant in the 1980s better than the entire ad industry put together does now. They deserve all the credit they can get and of course a People’s Planning Award.
This neat little prototype gets a People’s Planning Award for really bringing to life the consequences of snoozing. If the prospect of physically destroying $100 is somehow not enough of a nudge, then perhaps the legal ramifications of doing so should do the job. What is great is that you can conveniently adjust the quantity or denomination of currency depending on the value you place on your time. Oh, and make sure you get rid of all that Scotch tape.
I walk by this piece of genius on a daily basis along Regents Canal and can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way of celebrating its interior despite its humble exterior and menial purpose.
Well I have now walked by it enough times to conclude that there isn’t. What’s more, a portable loo powered by the Eye of Harmony is probably second to none in quality, features and reliability. A piece of cultural re-engineering wholly deserving of a People’s Planning Award. For the unconvinced or unfamiliar with the metaphysics of Doctor Who – please to refer to the TARDIS Wiki and make a note of this next time you require a portable loo of intergalactic calibre.
If that’s not the most excellent name for a moving company I don’t know what is. More than worthy of a People’s Planning Award for consumer insight and execution.