Christmas Gifts and the Meaning of Design

Ben Thompson at Stratechery:

It is this lack of understanding and appreciation for the very hard work and deep thinking required to surprise and delight that leads to countless companies and Steve-Jobs-wannabes crashing-and-burning, even as they declare their fealty to design. What they don’t understand is that design is not just about looking good, or working well, or even being easy-to-use. The most fundamental part of design is truly understanding your customers at a deeper level than they even understand themselves. Moreover, to truly be design-centric is harder than being market-centric. Things like surveys and focus groups persist because, while the products that result may not inspire love, they don’t inspire hate – or worse, apathy – either.

It is wonderful to see so many new products that are beautiful and easy-to-use. But great designs are as rare as ever – just as rare as those gifts that occupy an outsized place in your memory relative to their monetary or symbolic worth simply because someone took the time and effort to truly understand you.

It’s an older, timeless post. You should read it.