We all lie. Imagine that.


With Lance Armstrong’s public confession, the idea of lying is getting a lot of coverage. Clearly the guy is no paragon of virtue. But the truth is, we all lie.

Doubt it? Here’s a quote from an article in the LA Times:

“People do it because it works,” said Robert Feldman, dean of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and a leading researcher on the psychology of lying. “We get away with lies all the time. Usually they’re minor: ‘I love your tie.’ ‘You did a great job.’ But in some cases they’re bigger.”

According to Feldman’s 2002 study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, during a short conversation between two strangers 60% lied at least once, and the average was 2-3 lies per liar. In 10 minutes!

We rationalize, we feel guilty, we justify it, but we all do it. A lot. Men tend to lie to make themselves feel more comfortable during social interaction. Women do it, too, but often their purpose is to make the person they’re conversing with more comfortable.

The biggest liars

Perhaps shockingly to us designers and writers, you know who lies most? Creative people. It turns out that the more creative you are, the easier it is to lie. And “regular” people who are simply urged to be creative also increase their propensity and ability to lie. It’s directly related.

Why? Because imagination and lying are basically the same function of the human psyche.

When small children tell a lie, they’ll often convince themselves that what they are saying is real. Teaching them the difference between what’s made up and what’s not is a challenge parents know well. But kids’ prevarication is a way of exercising their imagination in order to try to change their parents’ minds and get them to look at a subject a different way. Which is essentially what we do in  design, advertising and marketing.

That flexibility and creativity is exactly what marketers seek. We want to present the “facts” in the best light possible to have our audience look favorably upon our client’s products or services. It’s kind of manipulative and controlling. But it’s also completely natural and human.

And there’s a huge upside to all this: envisioning a better future and creating something wonderful.

When Steve Jobs imagined a world where computers were friendly and usable, it was a lie that he told himself — until he and everyone around  his “reality distortion field” believed it. When Thomas Edison imagined motion pictures, it was a lie. There was no such thing. At least, not yet. Movies themselves are lies. Novels are lies. Beautiful photographs are lies. And so are ugly ones.

Everyone imagines first

We are strange creatures who live largely in our thoughts and our imaginations. We envision things and then we create them. Even people who aren’t “creative” do that. It’s the only way anything ever happens. It’s how a piece of wood and a rope turn into a swing. It’s how sugar and flour become a cake.

It seems that we are natural “liars”. And, like almost anything we humans do, lying can be a force for good. So go tell yourself a lie. A great big, beautiful, visionary one. But pay attention to when and why you’re doing it. With great power comes great responsibility.

Lie well.

Form follows function — or fancy?

Kube2 MP3 playerI’m reading the Walter Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs, and it leads me to wonder about the new Kube2 MP3 player from Bluetree Electronics.  (And what the heck is going on with all the “blue” company names? Maybe that’s another post.) The device, dubbed the world’s smallest touch MP3 player, will be introduced at CES in January. It’s a tiny cube-shaped block that can have a custom skin wrapped around it. It definitely has a certain coolness level. But you have to wonder about using it.

Personally, the last thing I want to carry in my pocket is a chunk of metal and glass in the shape of a cube. It sounds uncomfortable. I think my keys or coins would trash it before I finished the first playlist. With a surface area so small, how big a pain is it to select a song or a podcast? How hard is it to read the name of what you’re trying to play?

Needless to say, Apple has been making its tiny iPod Shuffle for years, and I know many people who find the experience of using it frustrating just because of its small size. If that’s true, then what’s the Kube2 going to feel like?

Plus, the Shuffle and the Nano are both flat. Which means you can clip them to your clothing, wear them as a watch, or slip them comfortably into a pocket. What do you do with the Kube2? Drop it into your purse?

Steve Jobs obsessed over designing his NeXT computer as a perfect cube —  to the point of making it almost impossible to manufacturer. It was a tragic case of form ignoring function and helping to drive its price into the stratosphere.This little gadget isn’t a perfect cube and doesn’t look like the product of obsession. But it does look like a cute visual trick that will get a little notice — and disappear.

I’d love to know what  you think about it. Leave a comment, and let’s talk.


Apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steven P. Jobs (Image by Jonathan Mak)

How can I be a designer and not be moved by the death of one of the most brilliant designers of the modern age?

No, Steve Jobs wasn’t a graphic designer or an industrial designer or an interior designer or an architect or a fashion designer. But he was unequivocally a designer.

He envisioned not just products, but a new way of being in the world. A new way of working, and of playing. And he brought that vision to life.

He was the guy who decided things needed to be simple and beautiful. He was the one who dictated removing the clutter and enhancing the experience. He used the hands and hearts and brilliant minds of a huge team of stellar creators to sculpt a company — one that could create objects and adventures so beautifully designed that millions and millions of people wanted them. And wanted to be a part of his new vision of the world as well.

Was that world perfect? Not even close. But designed? Absolutely.

Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh in 1984

What a moment to have captured on video. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this was the single defining event that established our new world of technology. Suddenly the power to create and disseminate one’s creation was in the hands of everyone. Onscreen design and desktop publishing became reality, and enabled our entire business. All the basic ideas that have become Facebook, YouTube, WordPress (not to mention Windows, Word and PowerPoint)  were already right there — inside this little beige box.