Who gives a crap?

Published:  June 4, 2012
Charlie Rose
Who gives a crap?

Who gives a crap? – new design thinking creates business and social solutions

It’s a very exciting time to be a designer… well it’s always an exciting time to be a designer but there is a business revolution taking place in the most progressive companies worldwide. We are the sought-after commodity. Innovation and design thinking are becoming the cornerstones of technology and social start-ups and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of industry catches up.  Business is constantly looking for innovation and IDEO have been preaching ‘Human Centered Design’ business practices that innovate and create avenues for market growth. ‘Design Thinking’ is at the core of this. The idea is that innovation is powered by observation and understanding what people need in their lives. Recently, there have been various articles preaching that clean, intuitive design is now at the core of US tech start-ups. In the last five years, consumers have grown accustomed to user interfaces that work intuitively such that it’s now a desirable commodity in its own right. People accept the smart design of an iPhone and will not accept the clunkiness of past technology. There is a design boom in Silicon Valley and this is our modern day design gold rush.

‘Design Thinking’ is when the user/consumer is central to how the product or service is developed and implemented. It creates innovation by placing emphasis on the individual and their experience by approaching decision based on how they would interact intuitively with the product. Traditionally, a designer would be asked to make products aesthetically attractive and therefore more desirable to potential consumers, or to create a fun advertising campaign to enhance the brand and increase sales. ‘Design Thinking’ sets new levels of value. The designer is used at every stage of the process. They are optimistic about potential solutions, they analyse issues from alternating perspectives and collaborate with other creative minds to find unique products.

IDEO has released the ‘Human Centered Design’ Toolkit

Recently IDEO has released the ‘Human Centered Design’ Toolkit to be downloaded for free here. Business design thinking is at its most innovative when confronted with absolute restrictions and boundaries in developing nations in Africa and the sub-continent. This is the battleground for smart solutions to serious problems and IDEO have recognised that we all have a part to play in helping our fellow people. Like most people, designers can sometimes be focused on the next buck, ignoring projects that don’t promise the traditional economic rewards.  However, ‘corporate social responsibility’ is no longer just a buzz phrase. It is now commonplace in some Australian industries that five to 10 percent of one’s time should be dedicated to philanthropic projects. How many of us actually practice what we like to preach?

These human centered design models encourage you to think creatively about how design can be applied to sectors outside of the usual commercial ventures. Design the way things operate not how they appear. By designing every step of the way you are progressively innovating and evolving. New solutions are needed for old problems.

Simon Griffiths from 'Who Gives A Crap?'

One such business owner that is combining both business, design and philanthropy with his start-up project ‘Who Gives A Crap’ is Simon Griffiths. WGAC (as we shall now call it) is a business with a social conscience. It’s a toilet paper company in which a large portion of its profits fund the construction of toilets in developing nations. WGAC embodies Griffiths’s theory of consumer driven philanthropy and design has been a key element in each step of the progression of WGAC.

WGAC is a unique brand that is financially competitive and socially responsible. It’s a highly marketable concept that is founded on the principal that we can consume and give simultaneously. That if we take a little of the greed out of business we can all give a little, all of the time. WGAC will appeal to individuals in new ways. It’s edgy, it’s responsible, it’s green and it’s necessary.

I interviewed Simon Griffiths about how he designed his business. Here is a selection of his thoughts on designing a start up.

Simon Says you can reinvent the roll
“Toilet paper is a terrible product as there has been almost no innovation of it in the last 50 years besides perceived softness. You have this quite rare intimate moment with a product, in which somebody is solely focused for that period of time. It’s this untapped experience that you can do a lot of things with, if you think a little bit outside of the box.”

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries


Simon on The Lean Startup
The Lean Startup is a philosophy that Simon follows. “The Lean Startup proposes launching products through a process of continuous innovation and consultation with potential consumers, shaping products into exactly what a customer wants. It has become the start-up bible over the last 24 months. Everyone from Dropbox to Dollar Shave Club has used this to shape their methodologies.”

Simon on Human Centered Design
“We are using the IDEO ‘Human Centered Design’ process to solve problems, our problem is working out how we start a business that meets the demands of our customers the best way we can. It is a design thinking approach. We talked about where else we could innovate. Breaking it down like a design process, we challenged the perception of the user experience and what you can change as a part of that experience.”

Simon on Australia playing ‘catch up’
“People are at least talking about design thinking business models (in Australia). Which is good, which is the first step. I imagine there are a lot of people who are using it. But there are very few products out there that we have seen that have come from that background. I think there will be more coming on the market in the next few years. Which would make sense because it is happening a lot in the US and we typically lag behind, that’s how our market works. I think it’s something that’s about to happen.”

Simon on business design
“All we do is literally design the business, it’s the whole process. You have to create a small piece of what you think the form would be and use function to test whether it works. It’s a constant process where function follows form and form follows function. Bad design is something that nobody responds to.”

Keep in an eye on ‘Who Gives a Crap?’ and have a think on how you can help design a better world.


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