There is a sad, apologetic story about process innovation in The New York Times today that makes me want to cry about how one of the great Mainstream Media companies just cannot cover design and innovation. It’s under “Technology,” with the cute “Ping” word online to signify it, but the piece, “The Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward” constantly apologizes to the audience for being there.
It’s not that the article is bad—it’s a nice discussion about how back-end process innovation is often key to the success of products. The problem is the rarity of this kind of piece in the NYT. Design in the Times is still mostly about style, aesthetics and fashion. Glitzy, cool stuff with skinny models and empty, but beautiful homes. Coverage of design in the Times is a throwback to, what, the 50’s? The entire evolution of design out of simple form to process, methods, strategy and more just isn’t in the newspaper. Even the business side of fashion, which is huge, is barely covered. Ditto for architecture. The best business story of 15 Central Park West, the new Robert Stern-designed building in Manhattan that every mogul wants to get into, was best done by The New Yorker.
Part of the problem is that the business section of the Times doesn’t get innovation. Doesn’t understand the true and changing nature of innovation (beyond the speed and performance of technology). The Zachary piece in the Sunday Business section is a rare exception.
But mostly, the problem is with the editors at the Times who don’t understand the discipline of design and what kind of power it has. For example, if we really could design a better health care system from the patient up, how could we do it? If we could design a better voting system, how could we do it?
These are big questions that design can answer. But the Times has to ask them.
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