Seth Godin is no longer entirely a big fat idiot

Originally published at:

A couple days ago, I wrote that Seth Godin is a big fat idiot. I still stand by my opinions for the topic that he flung out there with reckless abandon and a lack of respect for the real work that is needed to implement his idea. Comments that perpetrate the myth that service is free or that online services should be near free is irresponsible and robs a lot of artists, designers and skilled craftsmen of respect*. It devalues their contribution to the human experience.

Today, he wrote a blog piece that was brilliant. It was brilliant because he showed a respect for artist, designers and interface engineers. He gave them kudos for recognizing that beauty was not something that is ancillary to the human experience, but central to it. We have human experience because of beauty, not in spite of it.

Design matters. Design matters a lot. Design means the difference between a Web site that is navigated well or a frustrating “where the hell am I?” experience. A well-designed and beautiful lobby to a business sets the tone and expectation for the eventual human experience that may or may not lead to an exchange of good and services. A beautifully-designed package for something as banal as peanut butter sells the product from the shelf at retail. If beauty was not important, we’d all be driving the same car, painted the same color.

But beauty is not something someone does in their spare time when business is slow. Beauty is planned and executed by talented artists, designers and tradesmen who deserve respect for their craft. Beauty is respected by those whose vocation it is to “be in the mood.” Beauty is also protected and nurtured by those same mood-setters, away from the “slash and burn” red pens of the bean-counters and nay-sayers who gripe that beauty is too expensive and that it does not add to the bottom line.

An appreciation of the power of beauty is what sets the great apart from the average and the cheap. Nobody ever shops at WalMart for the experience, but almost everyone shops at Tiffany’s and Macy’s for it.

Mr. Godin is at his very best when he makes deep, revealing observations about stuff that a lot of us take for granted and miss in our busy lives and then examines it from a unique perspective. Where he stumbles is when he throws out an operational “you know what you oughta do!” statement to the grunts in the trenches for whom there is real money, real blood and real sweat on the line.

* Mr. Godin is not the only one doing this. The Wall Street Journal does it consistently with technology as does CNN. I’m pretty sure there are others. Heck, even bloggers do it to themselves!