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Products Are People Too

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Image: Cloud chamber particle traces and collisions, from the Astronomy/Physics Science Fair Projects page.

Unfortunately these examples I’m showing you don’t actually make the product better. They’re about packaging, or association.

Well, perhaps…

After seeing that ad, I am more likely to go out for a night drive and enjoy the city. If I smoked, and had that package of B&H, I’d show my friends, and it would become an object of conversation for us.

Maybe what the Benson & Hedges is selling is not nicotine, but it’s selling encounters with strangers and conversations with friends. I’d buy that.

I share photos with my family now, because I encountered a product – called Foldershare – that lets us have a shared picture directory on our computers. It has provided me with shared experience.

What I mean to say is that products aren’t just designed for experiences, they create experiences. They create whole uses. These new experience come into being in complex ways: By association in advertising, by example, by showing that they afford a particular use. They communicate with us personally and socially.

You know, and we don’t just use products.

From the product design world, I’ve seen that products use us. They use us to sell themselves. They push experience into our lives, making us act different individually and with our friends.

We, and products, live in the same world, acting on each other, in a huge network of relationships. We are none of us, humans or non-humans, ‘sovereign individuals,’ to use a phrase I heard earlier today.

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June 25, 2007

This presentation puts forward an approach to product design which emphasises experience and stories, and is called Products Are People Too. It was originally delivered in June 2007 as the closing keynote to reboot 9.0.