The Power of Design

joe gebbia


“We’re drones…. accepting these design flaws that don’t improve our lives.”

I got the chance to listen to a podcast that didn’t sound all that fascinating at first. It’s called “The Power of Design” by TED Radio Hour, and it details three important aspects of design in the modern world and their importance in all of our lives. Before the podcast, I sort of thought that the world of design was kind of just one thing, which is ironic since I want my future career to be based somewhat around design. But there are so many different aspects to design, so many that everything that’s ever been man-made, has an aspect of design to it. The podcast details a couple different aspects of the design world, including electronics and architecture, and a very popular travel website. The podcast overall was funny, insightful and entertaining. There was music playing in the background, and there were multiple interviewed guests so as to keep your interest. With a subject only a certain number of people have immense interest in, they manage to keep your interest with new and interesting points made every couple of minutes. I never truly lost interest when listening, and there was always something to take note of.

As for the ads, some of them were relevant, some of them not. The first was American Express, a credit card company, which I didn’t think was totally related. Then again, this podcast is by TED Talks, and American Express could come from Technology category of the name TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). The second sponsor was the Michigan Lottery, which is NOT related to NPR, probably only sponsoring the podcast due to the big name it’s attached to. One of the last advertisements was for an Amazon Prime Original Series called “Lore” which is a horror series that allegedly explores different myths and legends. I love reading about the supernatural and different ghost stories and such, but the fact that this ad was attached to this specific podcast episode and I just happened to hear it must have been a coincidence. Myths and legends doesn’t have a lot to do with the power of design. This podcast was anything BUT creepy, so this ad doesn’t really fit. Possibly including ads for NPR itself or detailing TED talks more for people who are listening to the podcast but unfamiliar with them would go a longer way for the station trying to include advertisements in their episodes.

The podcast detailed different fields of design as was aforementioned, and there were several people interviewed. The two that stood out to me the most was first, a man named Tony Fadell, who is probably most known for being a major player in the design of a *little* device called the iPod, and he mentions that everyone has the potential to transform the world around them just through the power of design. A man by the name of Joe Gebbia was also interviewed, who’s name isn’t super recognizable, but his company definitely is. Gebbia revolutionized the modern way of travel when he and two of his friends founded Airbnb, a company who’s success makes sense now, but once Gebbia breaks down the logistics of the company and what he originally pitched to investors, you think, “Yeah, why did this company take off the way it did?” And the company took off because Gebbia and his friends asked themselves one question: is it possible to design for trust? Because he points out that a fundamental belief that most of us had instilled in us from early childhood is the notion of “stranger danger”, and how they had to build their company on the foundation of people letting complete strangers into their homes. Once they were able to create a well-designed reputation system that they pointed out was the key for building trust, then they were able to see the company flourish.

Good design is a need for any company trying to make it big or trying to stay big. Good design is founded in trying to capture a viewer’s attention and keep it, either in a good way or a bad, and these days, the line that divides those is very thin. Personalization is a key part of design, but how do you make something that seems personal to millions of people? Design is not only an art, but a philosophy, and the best designers and most successful people have realized this and capitalized on it. Design has a power nothing else does, and the more people realize this, the more understanding there will be of this abstract concept.

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