Design is a way of thinking, a way of looking at things and trying to understand them and to find a different, better way of achieving something. Not everyone is a designer but everyone would benefit from having a design perspective, a sort of disruptive approach to the world, a non-conformed state of mind. It’s about being critical and brave enough to do things differently. There are a lot of examples of amazing people that despite not being designers, got some huge success by taking a ‘design’ approach to things, by thinking about the users/clients/fans experience. I’d like to talk about 2 artists that are an inspiration to me for the way they really focus on their fans, give them the best experience they possibly can and really shine through because of their ‘design approach’ to their craft and their product.

Jack White

Jack’s new album “Lazaretto” in vinyl is nothing like the usual vinyl records you ever heard before. It’s called “The Ultra LP” and it offers a set of new features that really create a new experience for vinyl lovers to make them feel really special. Among other beautiful hidden gems, the vinyl plays from the inside out, it has a song with 2 different intros (acoustic and electric) that will ‘merge’ and play exactly the same music after a few seconds and it even displays a floating angel hologram when the light reflects on the record, handmade by Tristan Duke. Also, you can play the LP at 3 different speeds.

The result was quite amazing: it broke the Soundscan record for first-week vinyl sales with over 40,000 vinyl albums sold in the US.

What we can take from this example is the mindset that led to such original design, as Jack showed a perfect comprehension of what vinyl lovers… love about vinyl. He understands that they make a sacred ritual about listening to music, conveyed by the physical interaction with the album that makes it more intimate and personal. What Jack and his team did was to create an ultra experience for them, by removing almost all the automated parts of the process, hiding special features and almost creating a game where the owner of the record is challenged to discover all the fancy stuff they added to it.

Jack understands his niche of die-hard fans, he knows that they expect innovative, disruptive ideas from him and this will resonate with their wish to show their friends that they are the real deal. It’s like he’s empowering them with ‘magic’ tricks, to show-off when they have guests. He designed the LP in a way that his fans will feel absolutely proud of owning it and will want to brag about it to the world.

It is a bold move to spend so much time and money creating such a unique music piece in the age of services like Spotify or Rdio where people consume music for free. But Jack showed that he knows his target-audience perfectly and that if he made it that special, his fans would definitely go out of their way to buy the vinyl record to embrace this new experience in a more personal, intimate way.

Louis CK

Louis is probably one of the most straight-forward, no bullshit guys in the comedy business. He has an amazing ability to deconstruct the way people experience things and to understand how they feel about it. He does it in his craft, as a stand-up comedian, but that skill also allows him to shine in other areas, like being able to communicate really clearly to his target, cutting off the bullshit and just coming out completely honest and caring. Louis is known for producing and editing his own shows and when he decided to sell them online, he went on to create his own website to sell the shows for $5 a piece. Why $5 and not $4,99? In his own words: “$4,99 is just a lie, it’s just unfair. Don’t be a dick, just say it’s 5 bucks”. This is just Louis being absolutely transparent and honest with his fans, which gives him the credibility and the empathy from people that feel related to this pure, open communication. He wrote everything on the website from the big text blocks to the ‘microcopy’ on the buttons, with the same tone of voice and manner of speaking that makes us feel like he’s just there talking to us, without the ‘star’ attitude. This is an example of this honest approach, it’s a chunk of text that goes on the bottom of the page where you buy a show and it’s titled “To those who might wish to ‘torrent’ these shows:”

“Look, I don't really get the whole "torrent" thing. I don't know enough about it to judge either way. But I'd just like you to consider this: I made these files extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without "corporate" restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I'm just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can't stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the show, and let other people find it in the same way.

Sincerely, Louis C.K.”

But what really makes me admire him is his approach to the way you actually buy his shows online and the user experience behind it. You get into his website and you see a list of his shows, all available for $5. You choose one and there’s a description and 3 options to buy (PayPal, Amazon, Dwolla). You choose one payment method and you get redirected to the download page so you can get the show as fast as possible. It’s that simple.

“I don’t want them to pay and then get an email later and you feel like you lost the thing?”

He gets it. He gets the fact that the experience of paying for something online and then getting an email feels wrong, sort of like you just got ripped off or something. He’s not a designer but he look at the experience like a designer and really focused on creating a great, intuitive user experience.

The result was a tremendous success that netted over $1M in only 12 days, which means that over 200,000 people bought his stuff.

These are two great examples of why you should care about design, even if you’re not a designer. Because design is about giving our users/fans/clients the best possible experience to do something, to delight them and to empower them with what we do, from downloading a show to designing a registration form.

It’s about working hard, being considerate, thoughtful and showing that you care. It will shine through the small details and people can spot it miles away.