The 4 ingredients John Maeda says all the best products share

4 min read
Eli Woolery
  •  Oct 27, 2020
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According to John Maeda, the best products from the most innovative tech companies all have four things in common. No, it’s not that they’re designed with human-emotions in mind or tell a great story to the user. Instead, they LEAD, says the renowned designer, technologist, author, and teacher.

This, of course, doesn’t refer to digital products acquiring managerial skills, but instead John’s easy-to-remember acronym standing for the four pillars that he make for a good product experience: Light, Ethical, Accessible, and Dataful.

John, the author of several celebrated books including The Laws of Simplicity and Redesigning Leadership, stopped by The Design Better Podcast this season to chat about LEAD, which he also features in his latest CX report. Inspired by cook Samin Nosrat’s New York Times-bestselling book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, John thinks of LEAD as the four essential ingredients for good products. The idea is that, in addition to providing a compelling narrative, the product better be fast; it better be easy to use; ideally it’s ethcial and keeps privacy in mind; and it should use data to iterate.

“LEAD came out as a way to talk about the other suite of weapons that help make great design occur,” says John, whose TEDtalks on the intersections on business, design, and technology have garnered million of views.

These principles aren’t necessarily new, he says. Apple invested in its privacy campaign, for instance. And Google isolated speed as a secret ingredient.

“I don’t think of LEAD as a framework,” he says. “To me, it’s just four facts of what make for great product experiences.”

Want to hear more of John’s ideas, like how algorithms have the potential to narrow our viewpoints and why “shipping your org chart” may not be a negative thing?

Listen to the full episode here

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