Lesson 79: 🐴 Product is the horse

It does the service no harm for the product to be put together or taken apart

Nature takes substance and makes a horse. Like a sculptor with wax. And then melts it down and uses the material for a tree. Then for a person. Then for something else. Each existing only briefly.

It does the container no harm to be put together, and none to be taken apart.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7, part 23

🐴 Product is the horse
☕ Service is the container

You must remember that you are not in the business of product, you are in the business of providing a service. The product is the tool that facilitates that service.

For many of us, our design work is wrapped-up in the discovery and delivery of the tool our organizations use to provide users a valuable service, so it’s no surprise that we conflate and even worship the thing. We put everything into the product, all of our skill, all of our thinking. We sacrifice dearly to it.

But would you worship a hammer?

The product is a thing. And even if a living thing, the product is killable. It is recylcable. The product is only as good as it is an effective facilitator of the service. Over-emphasizing product prevents us from seriously considering the opportunities that might arise if, say, the product were no longer there.

What might be? It’s often sacrilegious to wonder aloud, because companies think they sell products, and so think think they are inseparable from the products. What is Slack the company if not Slack the product, right?

The product is the horse. Remember Sun Microsystems: the clock starts ticking as soon as the thing’s conceived. Whether the organization fails when the time of its product is up is determined only by how capable the org is to facilitate a valuable service in some other way. Its success is determed by whether it does facilitate a service, not how, or with what.

Stoic designers are service designers, because it does the service no harm for the product to be put together or taken apart.

Craft virtuously.


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Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield

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