Creating The Designful Library

Marty Neumeier is the President of Neutron LLC and also author of the recently published book The Designful Company: How to build a Culture of Nonstop Innovation. I just finished reading the book and I find it is helping me to sharpen my understanding of how an organization could better integrate design thinking into its practices. The book can be read quickly and it contains interesting graphics. But my intention is not to deliver a review. Rather I wanted to point you to an interview that Adaptive Path conducted with Neumeier. I hope you will take the time to read the book, but if you are too busy to get to it now this interview may give you a feel for Neumeier’s message.

I said the book was a quick read but I found myself taking quite a bit of time to get through it. That’s not because it was boring or difficult to understand. Rather Neumeier offers many different thought provoking ideas, and I found myself taking time to re-read these passages and write notes about them as a way of reflecting and better internalizing them. It’s that kind of book. Let me give you an example.

On pages 80 and 81 Neumeier writes about “designing in depth”. What does that mean? If you choose to read this book keep in mind that Newmeier doesn’t always try to explain his concepts in great detail. He tends to lay out his ideas in broader terms and supplements them with examples and diagrams that cross between multiple disciplines. On one page he may share a piece of Steve Job’s wisdom and on the next he draws an example from an ancient philosopher. I like this because it forces me to build my own interpretation and understanding of the design principles.

To explain design in depth Neumeier refers back to a company called Lord Chamberlain’s Men. You might recall they produced the plays of a fellow named William Shakespeare. Shakespeare applied the principle of deep design in his works. He gave the audience a true theatre experience and reached them across multiple levels. The plays offered both logic and emotion, the physical and the spiritual, and the serious and the humorous. The experience that Shakespeare delivered worked then as it still does today. Neumeier then follows this up by providing a chart labled deep design. I think this does a great job of connecting the importance of first developing core values, and how that builds a loyal community of users that connect with the organization’s brand and experience (chart provided with permission of M. Neumeier and Neutron LLC).

From the book "The Designful Company"
From the book "The Designful Company"
I liked this chart so much that I shared it with my colleagues. We are working together to develop a new strategic plan for our library. For me it does a great job of effectively communicating the importance of first creating a library that has a strong core which then extends out to a clearly articulated identity and culture with well-regarded products with the right brand. If we can get this right we can then begin to move our user community beyond their surface perceptions of our library and what we do (e.g., we are only about books, doing research is painful, there is no one who can help you, etc.). I think this chart says more than my words can about the value you may derive from Neumeier’s thoughts about design and how it can help improve our organizations. I hope librarians will give it a read, and think more deeply about creating a designful library.

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