The Power of Popsicles

On the recommendation of a friend, I started reading “The Power of Moments” (Heath and Heath, 2017). It’s a book, as you can guess, about how certain moments have big impacts on our lives. We remember the good ones, we forget or compress the bad ones. That sort of thing. I have a sinking feeling that it would start bleeding quickly into the realms of how to “delight customers” and instil overwhelming awe and bring people to their knees with consumer confidence, but that’s another issue.

However, there is an anecdote about The Magic Castle hotel in Los Angeles. This particular hotel apparently has five star ratings across the board, despite being nothing more than a nondescript, mid-century motel and decidedly not The Four Seasons and all the other big names you will never go to or think of being able to afford. This place is positively rammed with all sorts of fun and quirky bits of “delight,” one of which is a hotline, that’s right red phone and everything, by the pool where you can order popsicles.

The real question is not just how much weed it took to come up with the idea (that’s easy, about four joints), but how it became a reality. That’s the really interesting thing to ponder. Moments are a thing for sure, and something designers never think of. That is because we typically aren’t given time to ponder and actually be creative with the moments that spew all this “delight” we’re supposed to be chucking at people. This mythical delight, as rare as a designer without anxiety issues, is the thing you can’t really pin down. It’s hard to put on a spreadsheet and you sure as hell can’t put it in a slide deck because there’s no way to quantify it. If you really want to look like an asshole, please do try putting, “increased delight by 13% this past quarter.” Please, I dare you. Yet, the Internet is chock full of founders and whoever else demanding this and others saying it’s imperative. Yet, we all know it’s not.

Like the US Supreme Court once said about pornography, delight is something you know when you see it. It’s packed in these moments with a giggle or a slight sigh when it’s there. Which is next to never. This is sadly because well designed moments and intentional delight (yeah I just wrote that) is something just about any good designer can create. But their bosses are scared because it is scary. You have to go out on a limb. You have to be a bit four joints in to do something off the cuff and whacky enough to be remembered. You have to do the exact opposite of basically every superhero film that comes out of Hollywood these days and do something different.