MEREDITH Strategy + Design

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

Zero percent arugula

I haven't posted in a while. As a way of getting things flowing again, I thought I'd offer a simple digest of some of the things we found interesting this week.

God help the auto industry

We probably didn't need to be told this, but a new study has found that Millennials don't like car salesmen. I am not sure why this is unique to this generation. The study implies that Millennials more than Gen-Xers and Boomers hate the car buying experience when it involves the dealership, but this may also be a growing trend of resistance to the change-resistant dealership model.

According to the study, after the online search phase, Millennials want to avoid dealer salespeople contact. They apparently assume that the laid back Apple store experience is a universal retail experience. Then, when they get exposed to a car salesman, they do not want to go back to the dealership.

Most of the groupthink in the press these days has been about a diminishing car ownership trend among Millennials. Perhaps the buying experience is part of the problem, and the trend to urban living may be another. But perhaps there has been a structural change to the economy and to society.

Considering "Unsolved Mysteries," Ed at Gin and Tacos offers this –

The labor force has been radically restructured (by the Boomers, not insignificantly) so that we work, when we can find work at all, longer hours for less money with no job security. How does one save up for a car or mortgage down payment on the kind of salaries most people who weren't born into wealth earn in their 20s? How are young people expected to make a 5 year auto loan commitment (or 30 for a mortgage) when their employment is "at will" or when people spend years working as "permanent temps"? As I've said before, even the people in my age group I know personally who are doing well – and as someone with full-time employment and health insurance, I consider myself fortunate to be in that group – have tremendous insecurity about the future. In other words, even those of us who might be able to afford a new car now refuse to buy simply because we don't know if our job will still exist (or who will be doing it) in a couple of years.
It is amusing to see how far analysts and journalists will go to avoid grappling with the relatively obvious fact that young people aren't buying what they're "supposed to" be buying because we, as an economy, are not paying them much. Or employing them at all. Or giving them any kind of long-term security necessary to induce them to make financial commitments to homes, cars, or other expensive purchases. This kind of denial of the obvious is becoming a trademark of Boomer-led journalism and financial analysis, the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the failure of consumers to rescue the economy by buying the things they're supposed to be buying. Yet rarely do they consider the simplest solution, that younger people do not make these kinds of economic commitments because this society is now structured to make doing so impossible. God help the auto industry when this wave of retirees dies out.

Going off the grid

An America writer searches for places to start over. Confronting both history and personal experience, he finds the grid everywhere.

But their past was not mine. It weighed them all down, whereas I, being an American, whose memories were therefore featherlight, possessed no past, or at least no past to which I confessed. So where could an American go? It needed to be to a gridless place, and by some measurements there never had been any. Perhaps that is why I may stay an American until I die, even if Homeland Security gets positively monstrous.
There never was anyplace to go, except for transients or for conquerors who extended the grids they came from. If we see the other, then we must see his past, which now rules him. So careful, my fellow Americans! Fall into his orbit, and his obligations may become yours. Again, what's an American to do?


Maybe all you need is a garden. This writer seeks comfort and escape, a place to read and please the senses, and connection to the larger world.  

Now I live surrounded by the garden my husband grew up in: without a car or much alternative entertainment, this garden was his world. As he works now on the paths and hedges, on reinstating beds and lines of view, he knows that he is digging down into those memories. He laughs that he spent his childhood being nagged by his mother to help her; yet now that he is free to make the garden entirely to his own pleasing, he has unconsciously set about recreating a more pristine version of hers. This is very far from the square of paving I grew up with, but my response to it is governed by the yearnings first kindled back then. If not quite Arcadia, it has in muddy patches hints of bliss that go far beyond the sterile perfectionism of the show garden.

Eggs and bacon

I just got back from a week away at my favorite vacation spot. Among the significant life pattern changes that take place while in vacation is that I actually eat breakfast. So this manifesto on breakfast was fun to find, especially for these rules for breakfast –

1. Breakfast must be consumed with coffee or tea. Tea means black tea: green tea doesn’t count. Orange juice may be served in addition to but never instead of a hot beverage.
2. The breakfast food pyramid is the inverse of whatever the actual food pyramid is. Your plate should be about fifty percent carbohydrates, fifty percent protein, one hundred percent grease, and zero percent arugula. If the First Lady would disapprove, then you are doing it correctly. Go all in or go home: If you look at your plate and there is already a carbohydrate — pancakes, say — then double down with toast, and treble down with hash browns.
3. Tomatoes, orange slices, or other fruit may be added, for color only.

Hype Cycle

I think the Gartner Hype Cycle report is always a fascinating read. Using the standard graph of technology adoption, Gartner tracks several technologies and their positions in the cycle on the way to successful, practical, valuable and adopted plateaus.  

Gartner's 2013 Hype Cycle

Gartner's 2013 Hype Cycle

Experience design

Finally, we look forward cautiously but optimistically to the Internet of Things and all of its possibilities. Wired magazine now points to a new golden age of experience design enabled by sensor-laden objects and environments. (Maybe this will get us past the car dealers?)

This represents a new frontier for design. Over the past 30 years, as every facet of our lives, from our shopping to our schooling, has migrated onto computer screens, designers have focused on perfecting user interfaces—placing a button in just the right place for a camera trigger or collapsing the entire payment process into a series of swipes and taps. But in the coming era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturized mobile computing, our digital interactions won’t take place simply on screens. As the new Disney World suggests, they will happen all around us, constantly, as we go about our day. Designers will be creating not products or interfaces but experiences, a million invisible transactions.