Reality Is Really Bad Branding

“I should buy some Apple stock, that way we can rise and fall as a team.” 14 yr old Fast Company 2007-2008 Dec-Jan
Hello? Alarm bells? Psychological counselling? Why am I seemingly the only one concerned about this? While the whole issue of a recent Fast Company covered the possibly limited amount of ooh and awe that Jobs can whip out of his Cupertino plantation, the most shocking bit of it was glossed over. The author’s 14 year old child wanted to suffer for a computer corporation and he didn’t seem to care.

Why doesn’t anyone find this alarming that a kid whose voice hasn’t even fully changed is ready to dedicate his very being, and ostensibly his future to a computer manufacturer? Instead, there will be talk about brand performance and product alignment and of course a brief analysis of the benefits of design by dictatorship. This conceit of the seeming infallibility of brand if associated with technological development I’m at once in awe of and utterly disgusted by. Brand loyalty is now paramount to goodness and a sense of superiority instilled in the followers that would give most dictators the willies.

The author’s 14 year old child wanted to suffer for a computer corporation and he didn’t seem to care.

This brings to mind a lot of questions about what interaction design and design in general is supposed to be about. What I thought it was supposed to be about was making good stuff that people want to use. Well, that’s the short form of the answer at any rate (that’s another article in itself). But the idea of the brand over reality is bad design whichever way you cut it. The notion of loyalty to an product language ideology before being loyal to your own needs is disturbing, but calls to mind what the idea of brand has today turned into. If you couldn’t tell, I’m not really happy with it. As a guy who designs for use, I like to think that person doing the using at the end of the day should put that use before the idea of something. Brands sell an idea, not reality.

Back in the day it used to be that you depended on things, or at least thought you could. You bought another GE radio because the last one lasted 15 years and you felt okay with the investment. Your trust, which is basically what we call a brand today, was developed through trying, testing and using. It wasn’t developed through viral marketing, tenuous celebrity endorsement or quasi-independent reviews. You used something because it was good, just like you go to a friend who does you right. This is of course not to say that none of this existed back in the halcyon days of gee whiz family sitting in front of a radio and liking their parents. Back then doctors were paid to endorse cigarettes we might remember. The big difference today is that now, we’re being sold the idea of it working better for us, not it actually fitting the bill.