Whitespace in Music


Fender telecaster thinlineSome of my favorite guitar players are not what many would think of as tradtional guitar heros. They have all played in famous groups.  But one of the things that distinguishes them from so many other great guitar players is what the don’t play rather than what they do.  All three of them recognized what I like to call the white space in the music.

Andy Summers is well know as the guitarist of The Police. [ Perhaps not as well know was that he was also a member of Eric Burden in the Animals in one of their incarnations.] He played short reggae riffs and let the other instruments fill in some of the voids. He created tonal layers instead of trying to overwhelm the music with rapid fire insertion of notes to impress.

Johnny Marr was the lead guitarist of The Smiths. In some songs his notes were so sparse you wondered if he was playing.  In my opinion a perfect example of this is in the song “Half a Person“.  The entire song is made up of chords played in a slow appagio like format and then he would have the most unbelievable little hook that made the entire song.

One of thing most distinguishable sounds of U2 is the minimal guitar playing by the Edge.  While he may overlay tracks of sound or heavy use of echo and time delay – the actual notes he plays are relatively minimal to the overall sounds that he produces.

Like great design sometimes it comes down to what you leave out rather then put in that makes something so special.

UX meets common tools

I have always been fascinated with the User Experience, regardless of the medium. In retail stores or on the web. I have loved the store designs at Apple for instance on how they encourage you to touch and play and ask questions. Creating a good experience on the web is very important and there are many ways to do this. But you really need to learn to leverage the tools well and that can be a full time job in itself. I usually work from paper to get my ideas out, and then transfer them to a wire frame product (currently I am using iMockup) and then hand them off to a real designer to bring them to life.

While searching around for a clean straightforward social media monitoring tool I came across Swix. I loved the design and ease of the site so I dug into their blog and came across this great post from Craig Fitzpatrick – Vice
President of Products. He uses Keynote to do all his work and then transfers it to iWeb.

Disposable Culture

Almost 20 years ago I bought a John Deere lawn tractor for my yard.  I had been envying one for a long time.  We had one growing up and I knew as soon as I had enough land I would but one.  At the time I think I paid $1,500 which was and is still a lot of money.  My friends told me I was crazy when I could get another brand for less than half of that.  I thought about it but knew about the quality and reputation.  I could get parts, it was easy to work on and there was a local dealer nearby if I needed one for something above my repair skills.
My friends all purchased other various brands and let me know how much money they saved.  Two years goes by and the first one dies, engine not to be revived.  New purchase.  The following year 2 others ended their life as lawn mowers and had to be replace.  This cycle continued on for the last 19 years.  To date – the three friends have bought more then 12 new tractors.  The have spent much more than I have.  In addition there are a lot more tractors that made it to the landfills creating an even greater problem.

My question is this… are we a disposable culture now, have manufactures stopped designing for the long term?

Substitution Customer Service

Tonight on the way home I stopped at a fast food chain and ordered a simple request.  I got my meal and something told me to check it tonight.  It was wrong.  I backed up to the window and told the gentleman who took my order.  He told me they were out of what I wanted so they just gave me what he thought I would like.  I was not notified that they were out of my choice, I was not notified of other choices that I might be interested in. I was given what ever he had at his discretion.  So instead of going the extra distance to talk to me they substituted my meal with bad customer service.

What does your product do?

When I look at products I always ask myself the following:

What does your product do?
Does it make my life easier?
Is it new and unique and fills a niche?
Does it remove an everyday aggravation from my life?
Does your product do something better then another product?
Is your product aesthetically beautiful?
Does your product inspire imagination?
Does your product create a visceral effect?
Does your product conversation worthy?
Does it create a buzz?

So ask yourself, what does your product do? If it does not do several
of these its just another product.

Is Starbucks the new Cheers?

If you have ever spent more than two hours with me you will know I am a fan of Starbucks coffee.

I go there twice a day – different stores depending on my location. Starbucks has made a reputation for quality products. It has also been called the “third space”, not home or work. The third place to hang out or work. But they have also exceed that in so many areas. Customer service is a prime component of the equation. When I go to the stores they know my name, ask me how I am, let me know about specials and usually when I walk in someone recognizes me and starts my drink while I am in line. Is all that necessary to deliver a good product? No. Is it necessary to make people feel like they are part of something bigger? Yes. Like Cheers Bar when Norm walked in everyone said “How’s it going Norm?” and in typical Norm fashion “It’s a dog eat dog world and I am wearing milkbone underwear ! “