Stefan Sagmeister, Khoi Vinh, Ji Lee

In any con­ver­sa­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, lis­ten­ing and under­stand­ing the oth­er side are the first steps to a tru­ly mean­ing­ful exchange. — Ji Lee
Can design help people adapt to change?

Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter: If your pri­ma­ry goal is to imple­ment change, the most effi­cient pro­fes­sion to achieve this is pol­i­tics, not design. When the Bel­gium gov­ern­ment taxed plas­tic bags, usage decreased by 90% overnight. It would be impos­si­ble to achieve such impres­sive results with design.

Khoi Vinh: Absolute­ly. When good design is put to the ser­vice of engi­neer­ing change, peo­ple respond to it pos­i­tive­ly — because if it’s tru­ly good design it will be large­ly trans­par­ent.

Ji Lee: Peo­ple in gen­er­al don’t like change. We like things to con­tin­ue the way they are because change brings the unknown and we don’t like what is unknown. Design­ers can make the tran­si­tion from the old sys­tem to a new sys­tem a lot eas­ier and even desir­able. Here’s an exam­ple of how design can make the change desir­able. Think about Apple vs. Microsoft. When Microsoft makes a change, a new OS, a new fea­ture in their pro­duct, most people’s reac­tion tends to be neg­a­tive and bur­den­some. Now you have to painful­ly learn and adapt to new changes. When Apple makes a change, a new OS, a new fea­ture in their prod­ucts, peo­ple rush to learn about them and share them with their friends. Now you can joy­ful­ly dis­cov­er and play with new changes. The dif­fer­ence is in design and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

What would you like to see happen in NYC in the next ten years?

Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter:New leg­is­la­tion offer­ing prop­er­ly con­struct­ed 3 ply win­dows to all New York­ers at a steep dis­count. An over­all change of the AC and heat­ing sys­tems for homes and busi­ness­es, mak­ing them the respon­si­bil­i­ty of ten­ants, not land­lords.
 A 24 hour fer­ry sys­tem around Man­hat­tan, Brook­lyn and Queens.

When good design is put to the ser­vice of engi­neer­ing change, peo­ple respond to it pos­i­tive­ly. — Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh: I’d like to see the MTA get their house in order and give us a pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem that’s a decade’s worth of pro­gress bet­ter than it is today. That’s not what hap­pened in the past decade: the bus and rail sys­tem that we have today in 2011 is not ten years’ worth of pro­gress bet­ter than it was in 2001, and that’s dis­ap­point­ing.

Ji Lee: I would love NYC to be the most bicy­cle friend­ly city in the world, with lots of bike lanes.

How can designers learn from the public, as to how to communicate ideas to the public?

Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter: Com­mu­ni­cate like peo­ple, not like com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als: Be sub­jec­tive, open, hon­est and per­son­al.

Khoi Vinh: I wish I knew a bet­ter answer to this oth­er than: try some­thing, see what hap­pens, try some­thing else, repeat until suc­cess­ful.

Ji Lee: I believe that in any con­ver­sa­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, lis­ten­ing and under­stand­ing the oth­er side are the first steps to a tru­ly mean­ing­ful exchange. If I real­ly want to make a point to a friend, a fam­i­ly mem­ber or a col­league, I must also lis­ten to what they have to say and under­stand their issues and their points. By lis­ten­ing, I’m acknowl­edg­ing them and once I acknowl­edge and under­stand them, they will also be open to lis­ten to me. I believe this is true in any kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: Between hus­band and wife, between two coun­tries, and between design­ers and the pub­lic. Lis­ten­ing and under­stand­ing the pub­lic are the first steps to a tru­ly mean­ing­ful and effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion.


Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter runs his own design firm by the same name. His work can be found in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions and the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art. Much of his inspi­ra­tion comes from projects that he ini­ti­ates him­self out of pure pas­sion for the sub­ject mat­ter.

Khoi Vinh was the Design Direc­tor at NYTimes​.com. He is known in the design world for his exper­tise in user expe­ri­ence and grid design. He recent­ly pub­lished a book called Order­ing Dis­or­der: Grid Prin­ci­ples for Web Design. His blog on design and oth­er sub­jects can be found under sub​trac​tion​.com

Ji Lee is Cre­ative Direc­tor at Face­book, and was for­mer­ly Cre­ative Direc­tor at the Google Cre­ative Lab. He also con­tributes illus­tra­tions to the NY Times and oth­er peri­od­i­cals. His per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al work can be seen at pleaseen​joy​.com. He too believes in the impor­tance of pas­sion projects.