Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can we eliminate “Compromised Design” in this world?

I was forwarded this (old) stirring article by Andy Rutledge, titled “Compromised Design” recently. I’ve heard this before – from an agency head, from stubborn designers/visualizers, from client servicing people and even from some “clients”. This is a topic that is close to everyone’s heart, particularly people who are in design agencies or people who are churning out the “creative” work.

From the article: “Compromise is the refuge of the inept and weak–minded. It can be described in sugarcoated terms and even associated with lofty ideals for the purpose of misdirection, but compromise is nothing less than failure.”

This I agree with – compromises, or reaching middle ground on design or copy is a failure. It’s either a failure of the person giving the brief to articulate his/her needs, or the failure of the designer in understanding the brief, or a failure of the designer to execute his or her idea well.

But, isn’t this an intrinsic part of people working together? Isn’t this conflict bound to happen because of people’s differences in exposure, education, backgrounds and work experience? So then why do designers/visualizers/client servicing people moan and groan when their work is not immediately liked, approved and shot off to production? Why do clients insist on unfathomable, sometimes even idiotic changes and then go and ruin everything?

Visit Andy's site - He's got a lot of very interesting articles!

Sure, there are times when no compromise is needed at all – when it all clicks into place instantly. No, this isn’t an unachievable utopia - it has happened to me a few times. I either delivered something that was approved and shot off to production with zero modifications, or I received something from an agency that worked so well that I didn’t want to change a thing.

“Compromised Design” happens to us. Everyday, if you’re involved in communication. How do you try and avoid it? Get or give a detailed, articulate brief. Understand the unwritten/unspoken brief as well – the true purpose of creating what you’ve been assigned. Calibrate the client’s expectations with your own delivery capability. Follow a bunch of best practices.

Sure, there are all these ways to avoid design compromise all the time, and be like Howard Roark and “stay true” to your creation. In a perfect world, maybe doing all that for every single assignment would be possible. But its not a perfect world, it happens to the best of us, and it can be frustrating. Just keep reminding yourself: Conflict is good, and a lot of times the result of compromised design is actually pretty good.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The “Profound Truth” about the Global Information Revolution – Part 2

I think the answer to "why can’t businesses understand that the world has changed so much in the past decade (regarding the freedom of information) that they need to evolve drastically to survive?" is simple – with the advent of this new scale of information sharing on the internet, these “information-age” corporations are simply confused. They’re still hung up on lost opportunities. They don’t have the time to wonder about how they can survive in a world that doesn’t want to pay as much as before (or anything at all!) for information/media/ideas/content. And they don’t seem to realize they’re facing a losing battle.

Everybody wants to Change: Yahoo, Sony, Apple, Universal... Is it too late?

So what are the answers? If a company’s copyrighted content is being “pirated” on the internet, what can it do? Should it just turn around and give it away? Should it consider reducing the amount that’s charged for the content in the hope that people will buy it? Should it take a cynical view and get out of business while it’s still profitable? How does one monetize “free”?

The answers are difficult and complex – and haven’t been figured out yet. Human greed is just as powerful an emotion for us as the need to share and communicate. Everybody wants to be rich and have a comfortable life, and will take a beating to protect anything they create. So the disadvantages seem to overrule the advantages of “free” to a content creator. Take the open source movement as an example – we don’t hear of any billionaires who made their fortunes writing open source software.

Examples of leaked software source code, stolen databases of people’s personal information, and IP violations happen all over the world, everyday. If we make laws to prevent this, are these laws enforceable? Should we even bother? Should society take a VERY serious look at copyright law and discuss a more modern framework to protect authors? The world doesn't seem to want to care about this right now.

But, have you noticed? The information revolution is already taking place. Individuals and their small businesses have already figured out ways to get noticed, give away content for free AND earn money on related products and services. To me, online comics are the best example of this, with certain open source software coming in a close second. The biggest names in the media industry have announced that they’re dropping DRM too. Where will this go? How will the information economy evolve? I’m still searching for answers.

The “Profound Truth” about the Global Information Revolution – Part 1

The problem with “profound truths” in this world that is that very few people really know about them. As technology and human desires move along the circumference of the wheel of time, some people understand these “profound truths” - about their existence, their business, their quality of life or even daily habits and then adapt and evolve accordingly to ensure longevity.

So why, then, does it take so long for corporations in the digital age who rely on business from information or content to understand these profound truths about their business?

  • The age of “closely guarded” information/media/ideas is slowly dying out – as with the printing of books, the internet has changed forever the way society creates and consumes content

  • One cannot rely on a sole business model of content creation and distribution any longer – your “proprietary and copyrighted” content will get distributed to millions on the internet sooner or later

  • It is impossible to “guard” information completely – whether it’s DRM or Encryption or Anti-piracy measures – these get cracked within a few hours, if not days

If you haven’t seen “Steal this Film”, Part 1 and Part 2 yet, I highly recommend you download it and watch it ASAP. It basically encapsulates the thoughts of millions of people in the world today, who have been brought up and are living in the Internet era, where boundaries don’t exist and freedom is mandatory. The films might be Europe-centric, but they reflect the sentiments of people around the world. There are a lot of “profound truths” in those two films – I can’t recommend them highly enough.

So why can’t businesses understand that the world has changed so much in the past decade (regarding the freedom of information) that they need to evolve drastically to survive? How come millions of people in the world agree that “pirating” content is alright? Why are so many businesses still in denial mode, whining to the world’s legal systems and trying to enforce profit-making copyrights and trying to control the distribution of content?