November 20, 2012
"It’s okay to be imperfect, to embrace Williamsburg."

So says Melody Roberts, senior director, experience design innovation at McDonald’s, in this Fast Company piece, 3 Big Insights From Today’s Top Design Thinkers. Her insight is actually right on, that one extra-large size no longer fits all, but mainly I love this funny way of putting it, as if Williamsburg hipsters are actually representative of a genuine counter-culture. Here’s the thing: it’s more than likely that in midwest-headquartered McDonald’s, they really are. That’s not to meant to sound snobby—god knows, I’m the furthest thing from any kind of hipster you’re ever likely to find. What’s useful is that this neatly helps to explain the real challenge for Roberts and designers in such ginormous companies, especially those looking to tap into the slippery “yoof” market. Given that company leaders are inevitably far removed from any kind of actual “edge,” how far do designers push things? How can they be careful not to clutch desperately at the tail of an ever-elusive cultural animal that is forever changing its shape—and thus always appear one step behind? How can they not terrify their own internal audience with fuzzy tales of an amorphous society that is too unformed to have any true sense of its own identity? The answer: don’t even try. Grab onto the safe side of grit, instead. And thus: hello, Williamsburg.