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Be On the Lookout!
by Bob Hambly

By giving his employees more money and more time off he was allowing them to do just that. As Ford said, “This increased consumption will require greater production than we now have. Instead of business being slowed up because the people are ‘off work,’ it will be speeded up, because the people consume more in their leisure than in their working time. This will lead to more work. And this to more profits. And this to more wages. The result of more leisure will be the exact opposite of what most people might suppose it to be.” Ford saw the beginnings of a trend, one he felt the automotive industry could benefit from and by making substantial changes in his company he capitalized on this insightful observation. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky put it best when he said, “I don’t go where the puck is, I go where I think it will be.”

Observing the world from a fresh perspective can help us discover new solutions to old problems. The emerging science of biomimicry has shown us that a close examination of nature can lead to valuable insights for humans. The Lotus plant is an excellent case in point. Researchers found that the surface of a lotus plant leaf is actually very rough—a surface made up of tiny waxy scales that minimize adhesion. Water repels from the surface, carrying dirt particles with it as it beads off the leaf. Ipso, a German company, developed a paint that has the same characteristics of the water-repelling Lotus plant. This revolutionary Lotusan paint enables surfaces to become “self-cleaning.” As a bonus, buildings covered with this paint don’t stay wet for very long thereby attracting fewer damaging microorganisms and fungi. Biomimicry reminds us that there is always something exciting to be discovered if we remain open to new opportunities. You can increase your own chance of discovery by using mind mapping, the act of plotting all of your observations and thoughts around a particular word or topic on one page. This technique enables you to make connections that otherwise, you might never have considered.

People have a tendency to take things for granted, often over-looking important details. This can result in missed opportunities. Many innovations started with simple observations. Since 2007, United Parcel Service (UPS) has implemented computer-designed delivery routes that incorporate as many right-hand turns for their vehicles as possible. This revolutionary approach was developed after drivers complained about how much time and fuel they wasted while waiting to make left-hand turns. Right-hand turns keep trucks moving and cut down on waste. Known for efficiency, this fundamental change has had a huge impact on the company’s bottom line. In just one year UPS trucks drove 28.5 million fewer miles and used three million fewer gallons of fuel. They also reduced CO2 emissions by 32,000 metric tons, the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars from the road for one year. We often ignore our observations, thinking they are trivial or insignificant. Sometimes the little things can make a big difference.

When Papillon Cakes approached our Toronto-based graphic design firm to redesign their brand, the partnership led to some surprising results. During the research phase of the project we observed a weakness in the order-taking process; potential customers were making their own notes during initial meetings. At our suggestion, clients now leave a meeting with a comprehensive Papillon Cakes order form that, along with the basic information and quoted price, outlines everything from diagrams of cake design options to a list of potential additional charges. Before the form, Papillon Cakes won 50 percent of their quotes; now with the form, they are winning 90 percent. Make no mistake, their cakes are exquisite. Nonetheless, the order form has played an important role in their improved sales. More and more designers are including “brainstorming” on their list of services. Clients are seeking objective and creative points of view to help them solve problems and identify areas for improvement.

As designers, learning to trust our ability to see things others don’t is an invaluable asset. The multi-talented Graham Chapman of the comedy group Monty Python once noted, “All ideas come about through some sort of observation.” Fine tuning our observational skills keeps us connected to this ever-changing world, and by staying aware we remain open to accepting and generating new ideas. ca Hambly
Bob Hambly’s curious mind and knack for personal service set the tone at the award-winning Toronto-based ad agency Hambly & Woolley ( Educated at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Hambly frequently speaks on graphic design and design-related topics at universities and associations throughout North America.