November 9th, 2011
John Gruber has it partially right: When companies release these futuristic videos (like Microsoft and RIM), they are doing it for PR. And I agree with Gruber that if those companies don’t have a current experience that matches the awesomeness of the videos, then they are sending mixed messages.
However, where I think Mr. Gruber gets it wrong is the value to the internal design team. The Apple Knowledge Navigator created a ton of discussion internally and set the company off on a 23-year journey that now brings us some amazing technology, which was impossible to imagine back in 1987 when the video first came out.
When an experience vision, like the Knowledge Navigator video, works, it gives the teams a chance to ask the question, “Am I getting closer to that design?” with every decision they make. It helps the team, as a whole, understand where it’s trying to go.
When teams don’t have a vision like that, each person is walking around with a different understanding of what the end of the journey should look like. When there’s no common understanding on what that end point looks like, each decisions is evaluated on a different criteria and the resulting products end up looking like crap.
I think the Microsoft and RIM videos are interesting. However, there’s too much in there. Apple’s Knowledge Navigator was simple in its delivery, covering only a few concepts. There are so many concepts in each of these new videos that I find it hard to believe the design teams can talk about what they are really trying to say.
I’m also betting that Microsoft and RIM have made classic mistakes: the visions represented in these videos are not put together by the teams that will be working towards them. They were likely created by marketing folks (and, even more likely, by outside agencies with no connection to the internal product development and design teams). It’s possible that the developers and designers at these companies saw the videos at the same time we did.
Unless the design and development teams have a voice in what their future is, they are unlikely to buy into it and will probably take their designs in a different direction. Team collaboration on the vision is critical for success.
I don’t think these visions need to be publicized to be useful. And, as Mr. Gruber asserts, it’s brings into focus the failings of the current products when they do.
However, there is real gold in having a solid vision and these videos can be a great way to represent that vision within the organization.Tweet