The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in design (25)


A Face Is Art That Deserves A Great Frame (And Other Design Truths)


New Places To Go, Things To See

My friend, Holly, talks about how much she enjoys the "social serendipity" of discovering new websites or fresh ideas from her Facebook feed.  

Here are a few of my recent favorite discoveries, the home of interesting curators assembling original ideas. Add these to your app readers, your real time feeds, or like their Facebook pages.

Notcot offers Ideas + Aesthetics + Amusement

Design Milk and its sister site Dog Milk are online magazines dedicated to modern design

Doodlers Anonymous is the permanent home of spontaneous doodle art.



Favorite Tweets Of The Holiday Weekend

@kenradio Why Bing "Likes" Facebook, Facebook should give Microsoft an edge against search rival Google -

@bgershon Ad Execs Gaze Into 2011 Crystal Ball - Great overview.... 

Social Media in 2011: Expect a Big Dose of STFU from my pal @

Great article from @ to start the new year, Design Thinking and the courage to do things 

RT@quirkyinc The NY Times Pogies celebrates product features which are "clever twists that make life just a little bit better" 


Favorite Tweets of the Day

RT @DesignerDepot: The Dos and Do Nots of Mobile Applications Sez don’t mix mobile app and mobile web

RT @ tonyadam My thoughts on the hot topic - A resume doesn't tell the whole story - Well said.


Have You Created An Information Gap?

Despite the cartoonish example that appears to be co-opted from a children's public television show, this short video is worth a few minutes of your time.  If you are a product manager, product marketer or product designer, the simple theory about consumer behavior which is illustrated here is pretty compelling.


Balancing Work-Life Memory 

The folks over at pointed me to this double duty USB memory stick (that launched last summer), which makes it easy to separate home photos and files from work documents and spreadsheets in a single drive housing.  I don't know about you, but I always hate it when I need to transfer a slide deck to a colleague on a USB stick that has photos named "car accident" or "dog tricks." They inevitably want to open them, and I'd just as soon avoid the conversation altogether.   Thanks to the segregated, double-sided USB memory stick which works with the flick of a switch, I can keep my personal media separated from co-worker's prying eyes.


Ten Original Sites Designed to Inspire and Provoke

Some times it pays to wander off the beaten path to find your inspiration. These ten sites all deserve credit for focusing on original content, not becoming blog clones.

 Geek Alerts

Brand Flakes for Breakfast

Lost At E Minor

Holy Cool

If It's Hip It's Here

The Jailbreak

Scribe Media

Card Observer

We Heart

Information Architecture Quotes



My Blog As a Song

Code Organ turns web pages into music. It’s fun to compare the style and beat of different URLs. The Code Organ algorithm uses letters on the page to find the most used note, selects a major or minor scale, and then based on the total characters on the page, it chooses a synthesizer. There are 10 different drum loops from which one is selected, based on the percentage of characters on the page that are actually musical notes. For example, listen to CNN’s music versus the sound of Here's how the Code Organ's creators, describe the magic.

The Code Organ analyzes the ‘body’ content of any web page and translates that content into music. The Codeorgan uses a complex algorithm to define the key, synth style and drum pattern most appropriate to the page content.

Firstly, the Code Organ scans the page contents and removes all characters not found in the musical scale (A to G), and then analyzes the remaining characters to find the most commonly used “note”. If this is an even number the page is translated to the major pentatonic scale of that particular note, it becomes minor if there is an uneven number.

If my blog took a shower, this is what it would sing. Enter your favorite URL. It's very entertaining. Thanks to Lost at E Minor for discovering the Code Organ. It's a great way to feel the hidden vibe in content. And it gives added dimension to the written word.


Google Shares Nexus One Design Thinking

While this video also sits in my Vodpod collection on the right side of this page, I wanted to highlight the video not for the design secrets it reveals (there really aren't any revelations in the video) but because of how it highlights the importance of an integrated hardware and software user experience. I find that positioning most interesting in light of the UI fragmentation concerns that persist around Android.


Favorite Tweets of the Day - AKA It's Dave McClure Day

Ok, Dave seems to have hit a couple of my favorite topics over the last few days.

@HelenWaters BusinessWeek Special @davemcclure on why design matters more 2 startups than enginrng:

@davemcclure: Subscriptions are New Black


The Most Important Unboxing Day of the Year 

Boxing Day is a holiday around the world, also known in America as the day of many returns.

Presents under the tree leave an indelible first impression when the paper is gone and the box is opened. The real surprise, though, may not be the gift, but the way the product is experienced once the ribbons and bows are gone.


I recently purchased a new pair of stereo in-ear headphones with a microphone for my iPhone made by VModa. I like to listen to music on my iPhone but my stereo headphones didn't have a microphone, so this product seemed like a great solution. Once I got them home and tried to unwrap them, I found the unboxing experience made me want to reconsider the choice. The packaging was  aggravating. I am completely aware that retailers require packaging that prevents loss from theft by customers or employees. But this design defied reason. The amount of time it took to figure out how to set the headphones free was at least 15 minutes. And the experience was complicated by the fact the packaging made it really difficult to guess where the safest place was to cut it open. The cord was black, the packaging was black and there was black tape holding the cord to the plastic. There were instructions, but they were buried under a corner of the plastic you had to fold back to read. I sliced my finger pulling back the tab to read them. I am certain the product managers and designers didn't mean to leave me with such a sour attitude by the time I started using the headphones 20 minutes later.

Every part of the customer experience tells you something about what matters most to the company behind the brand. Does the company put their processes ahead of yours? In this case, was theft prevention the prevailing design goal? Does the set of business rules around the company's service department give the consumer the benefit of the doubt? Does the company empower front line sales and support people to solve problems for customers? How much does a customer have to adapt to the company, and how far does the company go to ensure not only their products but their processes align with their consumers' needs and goals? Acquiring the product and then getting the product to the first use can be as important to the whole product experience as features, price and durability. As Oprah says, "Love is in the details," although, admittedly, I believe she was speaking about a more macro-global level of love.  The companies that seem to "get" that the total consumer experience matters are the ones that build relationships with their customers from the first interaction. They think about their customers' entire journey from consideration to purchase to out of the box experiences and support over the product's lifetime, and are especially prepared when problems unexpectedly arise.

We always hope to make great Christmas memories each year in our house. Often, though, the memories that are most unforgettable are the ones least expected - the dropped turkey or the present we received that cost us some bandages just to get it out of the box.


Is This a Real Good Experiment? [Video]

It seems the easiest way to create a viral video, like this one from Blu Dot, is to use a hidden camera to film someone doing something when they think no one is watching. America's Funniest Home Videos, You Tube and Facebook have made a cottage industry out of laughing at other people's secret single behaviors.

Innovation firms like Ideo also consider this "consumer anthropology", or ethnography, essential in their market studies, and critical to develop their point of view in the fuzzy front end of new product development.

I question the actionable insights in the above embedded video, and am curious to understand if anything about this story sells more Blu Dot product. Maybe it's meant to be just entertainment, but in this economy, how do you build a brand your consumer doesn't understand? Uncovering a new behavior, like curb scavenging, is intriguing, but it's only useful as fuel for innovation if it drives a business agenda. What's the business agenda of building your brand on a story about people who "co-opt" anything from the curb, not just Blu Dot chairs?


Can An Open OS Ever Really Be Mainstream?

Nexus One via TwitpicThe recent announcement that Google plans to deliver an unlocked mobile phone into the market sometime next year has been an encouraging sign for fans of the open operating system that finally wireless carriers won't be able to control what phones their service customers can use. Many feel as the Wall Street Journal technology columnist, Walt Mossberg does that carriers have been acting like "soviet ministries" as they intermediate between the consumer and the providers of the handsets they use to connect to the carrier networks.

Having launched the T-Mobile G1 as an executive with the company, I have a great affinity for the open Android platform. I appreciate that the Android marketplace enables garage developers to create magic as moonlighting inventors, and brings innovation to the masses through the power of the open programming interfaces and developer tools Google provides online.  But I also saw first hand the customers who, after downloading 10 random apps, wondered why their battery life halved or the screen seemed no longer responsive.

The open developer model has given anyone who can code access to consumers without an accompanying process to ensure they put quality product on the shelves, and as a result more developers step in and create solutions like Astro, an Android task manager to help manage processes, tasks and files that may impact your Android device's performance. Much like on my Windows PC, I find I am delighted to have such a tool and aggravated when I have to use it. It seems I rarely find myself on my iMac, iPod or iPhone worrying about multi-threaded processes or unresponsive programs. And for most consumers, that's one more thing to love about the Apple OS. Sure, it comes with the cost that I can't have apps running in the background on my iPhone, but my iPhone rarely hangs, crashes or has a radical change in the battery life with each new app I might download to it.

Ratings and reviews of apps in the open market are meant to help consumers, but I often wonder which reviewers to trust and whether one app offers the complete solution I need or a more usable interaction model for my tastes. In the case of Astro, several apps purport to do some or all of the capabilities. Some charge. I then wonder, will the quality be the same for the developer who isn't getting paid?Courtesy of Gizmodo Will they maintain the app? Will they support me if I have trouble? Will they care if the application doesn't work well with other applications I may download? And how will I know if they conflict until I download them. A reviewer of the application may not have the same things on their phone that I do, or want to use their phone as I do.

In a world where there are infinite ways to configure a phone with settings and application combos that meet any user's specific needs, the best solution a service rep can offer when a customer complains about their device's performance is to wipe it clean and start over. But facing that experience when you need to place a call and your phone is frozen is daunting. As an example, last night, my home screen theme application was corrupted and the home screen displayed a message compelling me to force it to close. After five times of doing that and not being able to break the cycle, I removed the battery and I removed the SIM. Neither action, both typically offered as the first cure by carrier care reps who don't know what apps I may have downloaded and configured, repaired the problem. The device seemed completely inaccessible and unusable. After a trip to the T-Mobile Forums and a hard reset, which removed all settings and personalizations,  I was able to make a call more than twenty minutes later. But now, which apps to re-load? How do I know what was the offending piece of code?

As geeky as I am, I still want things to just work, and I get frustrated when I use applications that allow me to do things I really shouldn't or require me to understand arcane technical jargon. And I don't have the time to fuss with bad design to engage and interact with a solution. The challenge with open is that everyone can play, but maybe for consumers that isn't always going to be a simple way to have compelling experiences.


Favorite Tweet(s) of the Day

Interesting reading today from the Twitterverse

@brandchannelhub The Ten Brands That Will Disappear in 2010

@timoreilly Google Android:on Inevitability the Dawn of Mobile,& the Missing Leg

@thinkbig_blog Consumers are more discerning, critical & design-centric than ever. Brands must be as well – or face irrelevance.

@julespieri Funny little indirect jab at consumer culture. via @TheOnion - New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable


[Video] Bad design decisions as economic stimulus

I have an iPhone TED application and I have, as you can see in the siderail of this site, a number of videos from TED, a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. What could be more closely aligned to the intersection of my passions, eh?

Some of the talks are timeless and riveting from the first frame. Some are actually a little dense and challenging to track to a key takeaway. I try to select the videos in my Vodpod Vodspot that are most accessible to the broadest group of readers. But occasionally I want to highlight some of the more arcane videos I love, and here's one I'd encourage you to watch, even though the set up to the key takeaway requires a little investment.

As you can see, during the early days of the Internet, people had not really envisioned all the implications of the design decisions engineers made. What innovators can contribute to the economy can occasionally be the necessity of continued support of a bad design decision.



The Middle Class of Products

What has become of the middle class of products? You know, the dependable ones that weren't luxury brands or disposable discounts? I have been lamenting with my friends lately how the stuff for sale looks like junk and how that appears to be even more frighteningly true as we approach the Christmas shopping season.There seems to be a chasm developing with high end luxury goods on one cliff and cheaply-made value products on the other.  The idea of getting what you pay for is more about what you expect you are paying for. Is it the name on the label or the utility and durability of the product? As a consumer, what matter most to you is what you'll fork over your hard earned dollars for, and if that is quality you might be disappointed.

A middle class American works hard for a day's pay. And as an employee they are likely being asked to do more work with less benefits or resources. Margins are being cut everyhere in the supply chain, and nowhere more than in manufacturing and industrial design. Mass produced items that just hint at artisan craftsmanship pass as luxury goods these days because people yearn for even the appearance of qualty. No place is this more true than in consumer electronics. A pretty face can carry a cheap imitator into a consumer's home easily these days. And like a wolf in sheep's clothing, it can mask as a shiny new cell phone, digital camera or GPS device that could change your life.

But before long the wolf reveals, through the headset jack jiggling or the speaker crackling or dropped signals or the paint chips off the shiny finish. And then you wonder, is the aggravation to buy cheaper products worth the savings? This is where my friends and I ended our rant tonight - agreeing that sometimes it is worth it to pay for the luxury brand just for the peace of mind that quality brings when you know you can depend on it. Pride of craftsmanship, especially pushing against the prevailing tide of economic downsizing, is getting harder and harder to find. Just like the middle class.


The Power of Emotion in Design

reprinted from


Photo sources: Http://


I love books. And libraries. And bookstores. I love the idea I can own thoughts, and I can see them physically on a shelf. My mother was an English professor and I have a lot of memories around the smell of books, libraries and bookstores. I spent a lot of my childhood buried in stacks of books.  I own a lot of books.  Memories are a powerful thing. They frame so many choices we make – from the media we consume, to our favorite foods, even to the places we live. We also create new “memories” all the time.

It should follow, therefore, that deep connections to the products we buy are informed by those memories as well as the emotions they conjure up. It doesn’t take a lot to do that. The look, sound, smell and taste of an experience can telegraph how we should “feel” about a product or service.  Emotional bonds with products are also created from the perfect marriage of utility and appeal.  I have recently discovered a set of cases that look like miniaturized eyeglass cases, made from “eco-leather” in bright, candy colors.  They are palm sized, smooth and polished. I carry a big tote bag when I travel with all sorts of little odds and ends I toss inside. I have bought a lot of cases of all shapes and materials to try to help me stay organized, but I adore these. Why? Because the colors make me happy. They’re easy to spot and even when they are closed, they communicate to me. My stereo earbuds are white, and fit inside the white case. My Jawbone Prime is candy apple red, so it resides in the red case. The material is durable, so when it bangs around in the bottom of my bag it stays glossy and bright, and the hinge stays closed. They are stylish and functional at the same time, and because I love to use them, I find I want to carry them even when I don’t travel.



Leslie's Patent Fedon Eco-Leather Mini Cases

Online shopping has made it dramatically harder to sense everything about a product, and predict if or how you might emotionally attach to it, since comparing and purchasing have become mostly visual experiences in a digital world.   Don’t get me wrong, online shopping has been a huge innovation that has changed my behavior around shopping dramatically. The accessibility of world goods from local craftspeople and the convenience of 24/7 purchasing are windfall benefits. But they come at a cost.  You don’t always evaluate products by touch or interaction as much as our parents and grandparents did. Manufacturers and retailers seem to worry less about our “out of the box” experience, since a product may come in cellophane wrap within a cardboard box or appear drowning in a sea of Styrofoam peanuts.

amazon-kindleProducts communicate to consumers through design, and design makes products useful.  In a digital world, though, it is only getting harder for us to connect with the things we buy, and product designers must be even more inventive to create emotional attachment. If it’s impossible to assess the physical form and substance of a product prior to buying it, the design will have to work harder to convey the product value.  I still love physical books and the smell of pulp, so I thought I’d never buy an e-Reader, but I have to admit I have got a crush on my Kindle.  As someone who chooses what I read based on my mood, the big win for me is that I no longer have to decide what to pack in my carry-on bag or drag to the beach.  In fact, my Kindle will let me carry 1,500 books with me everywhere I go, and I can read a book review and own the book within seconds.  All of those books I adore are now with me all the time, any time. What’s not to love about that? Technology will never supplant the power of products to connect a consumer to their emotions or memories.  But great product design can seal those connections with customers that will last a lifetime.


First Citizen Journalists, and Now Citizen Designers

The power of social media to enable news to spread quickly is something we have understood for a while now. Breaking news headlines that race across Twitter and Facebook and status screens on your phone today are instrumental in saving lives, avoiding disasters and catalyzing change.

Should that same power be applied to improving the quality and agenda of product designers? For years, I have worked with designers who have tried to keep a mystique about what they do, separating themselves from the common Dilbert-cube masses through their discerning eye and high brow approach to the process of design evoution.  But with the emergence of design thinking as a viable business approach to creating sustainable innovation and differentiation for companies, there is a burning need for empathy for design processes among the cube crowd. courtesy of

In a non-corporate world, consumers also are fed up with low quality products that don't work as merchandised. They've taken to their social media soapboxes to catalog their woes, their bitterness and their disappointment with design for design's sake. Without formal design training they can tell you where you've missed their expectations, and show you how they have to work around the flaws designed into their product to produce a better outcome for themselves. More importantly they advise their circle of friends how to solve their problems with technology, too.

In his new book, ""Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life and Maybe Even the World", Warren Berger describes this phenomenon of "citizen designers". He asserts that the power of the individual consumer to influence product design through accessible technologies and tools has dramatically increased in just a few years. This direct connection to the products which consumers love and hate creates new and diverse interactions for manufacturers, which can and should inform design.

Read more about the book in an interview with the author on, or check out the book in my Favorite Reads section on the sidebar.



Font Cultivated In eColi Bacteria

Spotted on Fast Company

It changes color and size with the bacteria shelf life and it shows that people can invent new ways to communicate - imagine assembling bacteria that formulate into coded messages? Is this the next innovation in germ warfare? Or will everyone stop Twittering and just pass bacteria back and forth?

Last week, Jelte van Abbema won the Dutch Design Awards' €10,000 Rado Prize, which goes to a promising young designer. One work that caught the judges' attention is Symbiosis, a font printed in bacteria