Monday June 2, Session 1:

Desirability & Sustainability: The opportunity for brand and design
Steve Bishop, IDEO – Design firm based in Palo Alto – 8 offices, 500 people

Green Briefs readers who wanted to send me to this event: 27.3% (first place in category)


This session started off right away with a brainstorming exercise. Each table was given a product to try and make more ‘sustainable’. Right away, everyone at our table was interacting, and generating ideas for our little bottle of Jergen’s Skin Smoothing lotion. We came up with everything from a complete reformulation, to redesigning the packages to fit together better for shipping. Or, in the words of Paul Winter, a Senior Creative with Packaging for Mattel, “Ship less Chinese air.”

The session then moved to the IDEO process of addressing brands and sustainability. First of all, for them, Brand is NOT about logos, tag-lines or advertising. They look at, quite simply, the relationship between a company and a person.  They then moved to show some case studies.

For Shimano, they were tasked with re-introducing cycling to the ‘non-performance’ market. In order to give the client a feeling of the confusion these people face when entering a cycle shop, they sent the Shimano execs to buy face make-up in a high-end cosmetics store. Brilliant use of analogous, yet unfamiliar experience to make a point. The end result was ‘Cruising’, a brand approach to simplicity of design and community of ridership.

This is just wrong.Nasal Irrigation as Definition of Sustainability.

Presenter Steve Bishop then did a personal LIVE demonstration of the Neti Pot, a small teapot-like device that you use to pour water into one nostril and let it drain out the other. Equal parts disgust and curiousity in the crowd. But this he used to demonstrate the progression of sustainability:
Personal Impact | Social Impact | Environmental Impact

On the personal level, the Neti Pot works for Steve. It keeps him from getting colds and it feeld good. Apparently. The social impact he measured in terms of a reduction in non-urgent emergency room visits for medication. Environmentally, less packaging and medications enter the ecosystem.

Waste snot-water disposal issues were not discussed.

‘Eat my voltage’ – Hybrid car bumper sticker
Steve also discussed the ‘Badge of values’ that products offer customers. You should not need to tell people why something is good. They should experience it.

They then compared hybrid cars and solar power.

In a hybrid car, you see the performance directly. In fact, there is a web site where hybrid owners compete to see who is getting the best mileage. This Steve described as initiating ‘Gaming Behaviour’ in driving sustainability. (I’m sure there’s a doctorate being written as we speak)

The basig theory is, if you need an educational session to communicate the value of your green product or service, that’s a DESIGN FAILURE. You have to make it a desirable experience. If an experience is desirable, there is no sacrifice.

lornestormingAnalyzing the customer and brainstorming
In this interesting group exercise, our table was given the task of learning about a customer through a series of home and lifestyle photographs. We named our person – Rosa – we answered all sorts of questions about her habits, her family situation, her likes and dislikes and her aspirations, based on the images, (Late 20’s, puppy-parent, Filipino, family-oriented, couch-potato, New York Times-reading writer-wannabe).

Then we were asked how to make our product more sustainable FOR HER, and help her meet her needs. The results, predictably, were more insightful, creative and robust.

Our sustainable ideas:
Re-formulate the product as solid ‘leaves’ of softener that would dissolve with rubbing.
Introduce a companion softener for her dog.
Design ‘finger-pots’ of softener for readers that also remove newspaper ink.

Overall, a good start to the show, if a bit up my alley (nothing new for me in brainstorming with sticky notes), and I thought Steve sold the IDEO process and case studies a bit hard.
Extra points for the nasal irrigation demo.

Best quote of their presentation: “Sustainability is a verb, not a noun.” Beto Lopez

One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.

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