MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Is design central to my strategy: Rob Forbes

Rob Forbes
Founder, Design Within Reach

Rob Forbes is the Founder of Design Within Reach, a company he launched in July 1999 as a San Francisco based catalog, internet retailer and resource for modern design. Over the past six years DWR has expanded to include 60 studios across the country and an online publication, Design Notes, which reaches an international audience. He is currently a member of the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) Architecture & Design Forum, and sits on the Board of Directors for San Francisco Jazz. He also serves on the San Francisco Mayors' Council for Greening and is an advisor to the National Institute of Design for Mayors.

Rob was surprisingly candid. Speaking of his recent business problems, he said he’d fired his CEO and his Chief Marketing Officer, and said, "I think my CFO is still working for us."

Rob'’s presentation was around the question "Is design central to my strategy."” He then went through several aspects of his business idea and its history.

He used the term "“design" to mean "“an artful arrangement of materials or circumstances into a plan." He speaks about the cultural content of design.

Rob is a passionate believer in cities. He says he walks a lot and takes about 5,000 photos a year. You've seen them in his newsletter, I expect. I goes out to 400,000 people per week.


This is a story that is also about your story that is about user experience. Its a small event, one that all of you have had in some similar form. What is interesting is that in this context I began to think, again, about the experience our clients have with us.

I had placed a small online order with DWR a year ago. Something--a credit card company call, I think--cued me to the horror that my $300 order was creating a $30,000 charge against my card, and it was growing as time went on. I was in crisis mode, calling DWR through every channel I could, and getting no satisfaction.

Somehow, I found a path to Rob's phone number (should I link it here?) and, with his acknowledgment that he especially did not want to hurt his "friends at Gensler," said that periodically their software acted wierdly (sorry, Rob). Rob got in touch with others and resolved my problem for me.

Any customer experience that creates anxiety is distracting, in the least, and terminal in most cases. Imagine the impact that, were this blog really public, the story I've told would have on a public company's fate. Imagine the impact that a comment one of our clients might make would have on our fortunes!