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 product design (13)


Five Great Product Management Books

1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products is a great book that delves into the relationship between behavior and product adoption.

Nir Eyal distilled years of research, consulting and practical experience to write Hooked. Who doesn't want to design a product that becomes part of the daily fabric of consumers' lives? Businesses know that habits are hard to give up, and marketing alone can not convince people to take up a new one.

Nir's model to create the "hook" is simple enough to understand, even though the psychology of human behavior is not.

2. Creativity, Inc Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way of True Inspiration  is not strictly a product management book in the traditional sense. However, the book hits on some of the key traits that product managers need to be successful, including inspiring creativity in others, the importance of storytelling, and the value of a candid, yet sensitive culture. Written by Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, this book will help most product managers elevate their leadership game.

3. The Four Steps to the Epiphany launched the Lean Startup approach to new ventures. Author Steve Blank currently teaches entrepreneurship and customer development at Stanford University School of Engineering and at U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Often spoken about in the same breadth as another product management classic, Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm, The Four Steps to the Epiphany  introduces the notion of customer development as a critical component of the product development process, encouraging entrepreneurs to go to market with minimally featured products, to attract early customers, and to validate market theories. The iterative process is an essential part of agile product development.

4. Making Things Happen, Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun is an essential book for product managers, not just program or project management leads. Are you a product leader who labors without a strong PMO to support them? Making Things Happen covers the fundamentals of planning, tracking and managing teams to deliver enterprise class technology projects, and provides a framework for handling the communications and relationships across a complex matrixed organization. 

5. Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience  helps product designers and product managers rapidly experiment with design ideas, validate them with real users, and continually adjust your design based on what you learn. Keeping designers engaged in the agile development process can be a challenge, but this books helps bring the designers toolkit into the process of defining the Minimum Viable Product.

In the late 1990's while at Visio Corp, the Visio Enterprise product team I led won a Jolt Award from Dr. Dobbs. Lean UX received the 2013 Jolt Award from Dr. Dobb's Journal as the best book of the year, so maybe that's my bias towards this quick and easy guidebook. At a brief 152 pages, it can easily be read on a cross country flight, which is just what I did. 


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


Passion, Presentation and Partnership - Tony Fadell on Building Great Products


Quirky & Make - DIY Meets The Science Guy

When I was a kid, I loved to pass the crummy Philadelphia winters making things. From Rube Goldberg-style contraptions to pinhole cameras, our attic was filled with my "inventions."  Professionally, while I eventually channeled this urge to create into filmmaking and then product design, a few of those ideas still rattle around in my head as I lie awake at night. 

But now, thanks to Quirky and MakeProjects, I have two new sites to scratch that creative itch.  MakeProjects is a "collaborative resource for people who like to make things," and there are some clever, wacky, and creative projects already highlighted on the site to spur the inventor in you. The site also has a companion magazine, and this month's issue focuses on - wait for it - GADGETS! One of my favorite highlights is "the Most Useless Machine," a tautological invention if there ever was one.


Quirky is a social product development site which combines crowdsourcing and commerce together and enables would-be inventors access to a community of designers and consumers who help bring the idea to fruition. Quirky provides ideas a home to be nurtured, refined and built, and then offers those winning ideas to the public on their website.  Quirky's staff builds prototypes and based on forecasted popularity (that is pre-sales), Quirky will take the product to production.  If there is a community who'd love your product, but you don't have the resources to get it into the market, then Quirky is your answer.

Thanks to online creative communities like Quirky and MakeProjects, you needn't be a borrower or find a lender to realize being an inventor any more.





Creating Brands Through Experiences

Thanks to @kristianindy for the permission to embed this slideshow I discovered on Slideshare.  By way of complete disclosure, I can't vouch for the capabilities of  Kristian Anderson + Associates, and the presentation, I presume, is intended to represent the capabilities of his agency.  Nonetheless, I do appreciate the point of view it shares around the intersection of customer experience and brand, so I include it more for how it concisely and aesthetically sums up what I believe. Enjoy.




[Video] Innovation, Storytelling, and Keeping Up with Steve Jobs

This is a very graphical and visual four and a half minute video summary of an article in the California Management Review Fall 2007 issue, "Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking". The link to the full article is below the video reference in italics.

Innovation as a Learning Process from Roger Shealy on Vimeo.

"Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedded Design Thinking"

The portion of the article that continues to be timely, especially in tough economic times, is buried on page 48.

Many engineering-driven organizations start with solutions and then  in classic technology push-fashion, place those solutions in the market to see whether or not there is a need. Today, in fact, it has become quite popular to engage in the “express test cycle”, iterating rapidly between observation and solutions, but remaining in the concrete realm of the innovation process. Unfortunately, while this approach may well uncover many use and usability needs, it often fails to discover the higher level meaning-based needs that can be crucial to the success of an innovation.

The authors go on to point out that innovation doesn't only have to be born with the launch of new products and services. Simplifying the complex process a consumer must go through to execute a desired outcome may be the most important innovation for a business. Process innovation may ultimately revolutionize the way a consumer behaves such that new profit or revenue opportunities may be enabled.  This video and the full article are great reminders of what power lies in innovation of an enterprise's existing businesses and customer touchpoints.



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.


Favorite Tweet(s) of the Day

It was a good day on Twitter for looking at my world from different angles...

Disruptive #innovation seals emotional connection @dailygalaxy:How Warner Bros Introduced Sound and Forever Changed Film ...

The power of brand proximity @fastcompany: Mac to be displayed alongside Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo. #Apple opens at Louvre

Interesting look at the Voice of Your Customer RT @technorati @EileenOBrien @emarketer 70% of bloggers polled talked about products/brands & those they love or hate

RT @thinkBIG_blog: Designers have always known this. Glad to see others are catching up...

RT @timleberecht: Thirty conversations on design


Favorite Tweet of the Day

I heart the last paragraph! RT@timleberecht: RT @SocialMedia411 For The Future Of Media Industry, Look In The App Store (via Tech Crunch)


What is Design Thinking? 10 Ideas to Consider  

What is Design Thinking? 10 Ideas to Consider Browsing on the Design Thinking Exchange, I found a list of 7 explanations of Design Thinking. I took the liberty of adjusting them with my editorial red marker (shown in CAPS for visual speed in identifying my own thoughts). I also added 3 more for an even 10. Please get out your best copy editing tools, and comment or re-word my "clarifications" below. I'll follow up with a post amending these with your best ideas. Design Thinking...

Click to read more ...



7 Tech Product Features I Want Now! Are They Yours?

Maybe some of these are already in the works, which would make me delighted, as long as I don't need to pay for the upgrade, of course. It's possible some of these things are possible today but I just can't discover them. In that case, my title meant to read: '7 Tech Product Features I Want to Find Now!'. Finally, I am sure a bright teenager has already mashed up some of these for themselves. Sorry, dude, I always ask the folks who make the product to do it for me, before it gets to that. I invite you add to my list by posting a comment; and you product managers can check back and get the insights for free.

  1. I’d like to be able to rotate from landscape to portrait any photo in my gallery on my iPhone, so when I post or send the photo its orientation is correct on the viewer’s PC. Otherwise TwitPic posts and email attachments require viewer intervention.
  2. Why isn’t there a job search agent on LinkedIn? Or a Job Alert Feed? Why is there only one aggregated status feed?
  3. Someone should invent a collapsible hood or clip-on cover for people to use on their phones while texting in a theater or photographing at a concert to shield others from the brightness.
  4. I need user ratings to rate users who comment on the Android marketplace apps so I can tell when it’s a developer’s friends writing all the positive comments.
  5. I’d like to be able to upload my Flip videos without having to use my laptop to tether it to the Internet. Wifi, please.
  6. I wish that Apple would use their cloud to make it easy for me to re-download the music or video file to any of my authorized devices after I purchase it.
  7. Tivo should include "Transfer to Mac/PC" as a "Record options" feature. It should be able to transcode and push it over my LAN to my computer.

A Baker's Dozen of What I Believe

Products have stories.

Companies build products.

Companies create experiences.

Consumers live stories.

Consumers experience products.

Consumers define your brand.


To deliver the whole product experience that defines the brand you want to be:

Be an empathetic listener  

Design a simple and elegant response.

Make and keep all your commitments.

Stand for something, not everything.

Build an ‘ah-ha’ moment into the system.


Customers require value.

How you deliver value is your brand promise.


Recipes for Product Bakers

As a product design and development professional, I think about the ingredients that make a great product with each roadmap and requirements document. As a customer, I'd rather not know. That gap made me realize something about the some of the flaws in the ingredients I've utilized for gaining customer insight for my product recipe. As a consumer, I may read reviews from strangers on Amazon or Yelp, and over time I may discover individuals that share my taste in restaurants or books. But the biggest influencers in my decisionmaking are folks in my various professional and social and family groups, or as the social media gurus call them, "tribes". People I actually know.

So why do market researchers interview individuals in quantitative surveys or invite strangers to gather and share focus groups? When unprepared for a series of survey questions, I may answer the questions in isolation of the expertise or opinions I'll seek when actually confronted with seeking a product. In a room with other strangers being asked to talk about my lifestyle or product usage, I am reticent to reveal my answers, if the group's answers indicate I'm old or out-of-touch.

Predicting customer behavior is the goal of market research, and most customer-centric product managers would tell you their users' insights are represented if they use qualitative and quantitative research tools to prioritize feature lists. In a new book - the size of a children's book, admittedly - by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor called "Baked In", this approach to developing and marketing great products is considered "old school." They maintain that by integrating your marketing strategy into a product's design from the concept and prototype phase, you close the gap between what you build and the story you tell about it.  The authors maintain that gap creates the undifferentiated oblivion into which many mass marketed, mainstream products fade. Click here to watch a video Q&A with Alex and John in which they explain how they've used their own recipes with the creation of this book. Let me know what you learn that you didn't already know, or if there was a recipe you really liked.