Slide of Brand is Culture

Making something better is an act of compassion

One key recurring theme I got out of the 99U Conference in New York City was people. In short, you need to put them at the center; listen to them and make them feel good.

Indeed, we acknowledge our shared humanity by creating an empathetic experience. So, making something better is an act of compassion.

People want simplicity

Usually banking = boring. Or worse.

Which is why Josh Reich decided to start the new Simple bank. Can you imagine starting a new bank? The regulations? Anyway, Josh said that whenever he interacted with his bank he felt like they didn’t like him. And he didn’t like them much, either.

Look at Simple and you’ll get a different feeling than you do from your usual banking experience. One of the company’s guiding principles: people want simplicity. If banking can do it, libraries can too (I’m looking at your website, ALA).

Another recurring theme Josh talked about was the why. You need to agree on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and keep coming back to that through the years.

Go meet the people

In terms of putting the “why” (a.k.a. inspiration) into practice, Joe Gebbia of Airbnb talked about how story-boarding leads to empathy. After the first two launches of the company failed, the third was the charm because they took good advice to “Go meet the people.”

Joe explained that in talking to their early users they gained insights from real stories. It was understanding and sharing these stories that led to their exploding success. I love that.

People don’t forget how you make them feel

Finally, Michael Wolff, a designer nearing 80, said people will forget what you write or say when it comes to an experience or brand. So how do you create something memorable?

Michael said, “People don’t forget how you make them feel.” So, make people feel human.

I developed a bit of a thing for Michael. His talk was the most nuanced; I considered him a philosopher of sorts. I recommend his website, which is a lovely experience in itself. Also, this video, in which he talks about seeing:


P.S. I remember riding the Staten Island Ferry when I was a kid, which was always a great experience.


One thought on “Making something better is an act of compassion

  1. Mark Bieraugel says:

    Wolff’s comments, although directed at designers, are useful to think about when approaching a problem. Ask questions and be curious, and focus on the people involved, all simple but very necessary things.

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