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My New Favorite Concept is--Attunement

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on April 1, 2009

Attunement is post-empathy, post-ethnography.
As in being aware and responsive to those around you, i.e. consumers, patients, students, voters, etc. As in perceiving their “unmet,” inarticulated needs.

I heard it at The New School/Parsons.

Reader Comments


April 1, 2009 4:24 AM

Just so you know, the url on your RSS feed is broken; I always have to delete the beginning and add a colon to get to your site.

Zia Khan

April 2, 2009 1:12 AM

Ditto here

Dev Patnaik

April 3, 2009 10:06 PM

Hi Bruce,

Saw your post and didn't really get it. After all, the whole point of empathy is to have an implicit, gut-level connection with other people, to be attuned to their unarticulated needs. Post ethnography? Maybe. Post empathy? I don't think so.


p.s. How about a book review? :)

Design Crux

April 5, 2009 1:18 PM

There is a very real danger of spouting ill-defined "happy talk," then dashing off to the next superficial term.

Call it terminal Tom Peterism.

It must be nice to throw out terms with no responsibility for practical design parameters or test metrics. Designers don't have that option.

Which raises the issue of what Parsons is turning out.

In the interest of distinguishing the haute monde from the hapless workaday designer toiling in the field, I call for some metrics.

Want to introduce a nice sounding word? Fine, then add the test metrics for distinguishing the well attuned design from that which is poorly attuned.

Not only does this help the designer avoid the guffaws from product engineers and brand managers. It also sidetracks the pointless "Attunement" meetings with suits seeking to become buzzword compliant.

These undefined terms make the designer's job impossible without concrete, "here's how you do the user test" practicality for designers.

And "here's what it means for your bottom line" practicality for business people.


April 7, 2009 1:58 PM

To Design Crux:
"It also sidetracks the pointless "Attunement" meetings with suits seeking to become buzzword compliant."
This is going in my on-going list of favorite quotes. Doesn't it go without saying that a product must be attuned to the market? Are today's students so ego-centric that they don't understand what makes the world go round? But what a silly question on my part - I suffered through meetings where I was told that the company was implementing "Total Quality" and the "great unwashed" employee was told about the concept in excruciating detail by some hapless retainer. Yes, and it meant doing the right thing by the people you interacted with on a daily basis. What would the "suits" ever do without buzzwords and the meetings that go with them? Apparently our system is still clogged up with this nonsense... No doubt, the current economy will flush some of this down the drain. Will buzzwords ever RIP?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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