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Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even the World Hardcover – October 15, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Amazon Exclusive: What Can We Learn from the World’s Greatest Designers?

The answer to the above question is "a lot." We can learn how to solve problems better. How to look at the world around us with a fresh eye. How to think more creatively, and ultimately, how to open up new possibilities in our lives.

These are the things that great designers do every day. But the premise in my new book Glimmer is: "You don't have to be a designer to think like one." There's a whole way of thinking used by designers, and a step-by-step process they follow, that really can be embraced by anyone—whether you're in business, out there trying to contribute to the world in some way, or if you're just looking to improve your own life.

What I found, in studying some of the world's most innovative designers, is that—in addition to being immensely talented and bright people, of course—they tend to have two big things they rely on. First, they have a certain mindset that enables them to be fearless and optimistic and open to all kinds of new possibilities. And second, they have a framework they use—a proven methodology that helps them to bring their ideas and plans to life, to get things done, and to be successful. I sort of dejargonize this methodology and give lots of examples of how it works in Glimmer.

One of the things designers are known for doing is questioning everything. In fact there's a joke that asks, "How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?" To which the answer is: "Does it have to be a lightbulb?"

It's a joke, but it's not: Designers all the time really do ask basic things like Does it have to be a lightbulb? The design process often begins with questioning the conventional wisdom about how we currently do things.

Of course, it's one thing to question the world around you-but it's much harder to begin to change it. As I write in Glimmer, if you just question everything without trying to improve it, you may end up being more of a whiner than a designer. Designers actually must take action in order to create new possibilities—that's their job. And so it's not surprising they've developed proven methods to help them do that.

I examine those methods in detail in the book, but they involve, for example:

  • Teaching oneself to be open to new ideas by "thinking laterally" (which is really about tricking your brain into moving in unexpected directions, instead of the usual straightforward ones).

  • Developing a better antenna for figuring out what's missing & what's really needed in the world around you—that's how designers find great opportunities.

  • Learning how to bring ideas to life, and make them real. All of us have ideas in our heads, but designers make their ideas real and tangible-by sketching, by modeling, by scotch-taping things together. It's what designers call prototyping, and it's the way you take a dream and gradually build it into a reality. And this is a technique anyone can use.

  • Another important thing designers do is, they "fail forward." Most of us are afraid to fail, but designers fail every day. What they understand is that every failure—if you know how to react to it and use it—can be a critical step that brings you closer to the end goal.

These are just a few of the basic tools and principles designers use. And what really surprised me, as I worked on the book, was to see just how accessible these tools are to anyone. And how applicable they are to just about any situation.

In today's world, with all the challenges and problems we have to grapple with—both in our daily lives and in the world at large—we can benefit from having that designer mindset and methodology. Because the truth is, we all need to become better at facing up to tough challenges and finding new solutions.

From Publishers Weekly

Humanity's problems can be designed away with ingenious products and catchy marketing, according to this giddy manifesto. Journalist Berger (Advertising Today) channels the insights of celebrity designer Bruce Mau, whose grandiose projects—he's helping the University of Arizona to reinvent higher education—yield such pensées as everything communicates. He distills Mau's wisdom into high-concept glimmer principles, including work the metaphor and design for emergence, and applies them to everything from disaster relief to personal life. Berger tries to both abstract and systematize the process of innovative design and to give it a populist spin: you don't need expertise or money to solve problems, just optimism, an attentive eye and a childlike readiness to Ask Stupid Questions. Nifty gadgets are showcased, including a nut-sheller for Third World farmers and a wheelchair that climbs stairs. But much of the book is just a retread of self-help bromides (you have to be willing to grow) and familiar business buzz concepts, one that treats a pet food company's promotion of an international holiday for dogs as a humanitarian crusade. The result is an overhyped brief for a shallow approach to the world's ills. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202339
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Glimmer is another in a line of books that capitalize on the current popular pre-occupation with "design thinking". This is the equivalent of a corporate-self-help movement to help industry (the corporate world) try to think more like designers in order to breed innovation in the workplace (and advance careers). While it provides a modestly interesting overview of design and a handful of worthwhile insights, it is ultimately reductive and lacking in depth. The author clearly is out of his depth. This becomes obvious in his near gee-whiz attitude to design and designers.

This is not a book for designers. This is a book for people who really know very little about design, its history, and the process of design and who would like a somewhat entertaining "can do" read about design and designers. It is a history of some interesting projects and noted designers. It is positivist and optimistic - very "feel good". It will not present any new information to most experienced designers or design mavens. It may provide some interesting reading to those who are new to design.

The book summarizes and categorizes some of the basic thought methodologies of design. It also shows, through narrative examples, how some designers work and how they consistently engage certain modes of thinking.
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Format: Hardcover
And I thought "design" meant home furnishings or a snappy cereal box.

It turns out that design is--or should be- a fundamental approach to human endeavor. Berger asks us to take step back from our assumptions of how things are and how things can be. This is not a hyper-philosophical treatise; rather, it takes real world examples and analyzes how design can improve the lot of one life or many lives. The provocative examples range from the simplest water portage "systems" in the developing world to high-tech innovation. This fascinating examination encourages one to think of the interconnectedness of design in individual terms as well as the implications for society as a whole.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a nice surprise. It takes this big question -- what is design? -- and answers it in a sweeping book written in a thoroughly entertaining and readable style. Berger pulls the reader into the subject with plenty of fascinating and compelling anecdotes and interviews with a wide-ranging group of design stars. Think Malcolm Gladwell writing about design and its many facets.

Glimmer explains designers' innovative approaches to taking on -- and solving -- such disparate problems as making a readable and useable prescription pill bottle, to getting a million teenagers to stop smoking, to accessing clean water to supply a small African village. Berger uses the design philosophy of Bruce Mau (to whom everything, including one's life, is a design project) to put in context the endless possibilities of what design can achieve, and on the way, improve our lives. This book presents a fascinating and hopeful look at design, and shows us how a "glimmer" could just maybe change the world.

(OH -- and the illustrations and graphics add a very nice touch.)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enticing look into the world of design today and it's ever evolving definition and application. The text meanders at times, but time and time again offers a taste of what is possible if we adopt design thinking into our careers, communities, and personal lives.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book and I'm recommending it to a couple of my clients who are new to design thinking. But for anyone that is familiar with how to use the thinking process of a designer in a business context then this book will be too basic. The case studies provide a nice synthesis of the current thinking on "Design Thinking" and the book goes beyond the usual suspects to collect a broad range of case studies. Berger closes the book with a checklist of key excerpts from Bruce Mau for using design thinking:

1. Forget about good (focus on better)

2. Study (get out into the world)

3. Imitate (build on what's gone before)

4. Slow down (observe and engage at a deeper level)

5. Allow events to change you (design is as much about you as it is about the product)

Overall, a good introduction to design and innovation. Not necessarily filled with new insights, but better put together than a couple of the other new books on the subject. Tuck it in your briefcase for the next medium haul flight and then lend it to a colleague who hasn't yet realized the value of thinking more like a designer.
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Format: Hardcover
There is far more in this book than a "how to" checklist. If you may work with a high level design professional that can command hundreds of thousands of dollars (including materials, staff, travel, and royalties) for their contribution for a project, I would recommend this book to help you understand why the right designer can be a bargain and impact the bottom line for decades. And, of course, there is value in having something people love rather than hate! Alternatively, there is enough in here to help the cash strapped entrepreneur rethink their product line to step it up a notch.

This was never meant to be a design book for design professionals. It is a book that translates advances and accomplishments in design for non-design professionals. So any criticism about it not being for designers is pointless. You won't be a design professional when you finish the book but you will understand and be able to explain to others what value that a professional one can add to a project. I wouldn't be surprised if some designers used the book to help promote using designers or to help their clients understand the process and benefits.

Finally, you may well find a new career interest here. If I had really understood what it could mean to be a top level designer blending innovation with engineering or another science, I probably would have seriously considered it as a career. It requires intelligence and creativity that is balanced with practicality and an understanding of human nature. If you have a bright youngster in the family, you might consider bribing them to read this book.
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