VisCom 3 :: Blog Post #5 :: Start with Why

This is a piece written for Vis Com 3 at Seattle Pacific University. We’ll be discussing the first six minutes or so of Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk, Start With Why.


In Summary

As designers, it’s our duty to go beyond the artifact and the what. Simon Sinek’s talk, Start with Why, does a good job of explaining a real world example of thinking beyond ‘what,’ and he does it by discussing Apple Computers. It’s important for us as designers to look at real world examples that don’t necessarily cross over with our industry in order to gain valuable insight into how to improve our own practice.

Sinek begins by explaining the Golden Circle, a technique used by orators and leaders with international acclaim.

Sinek describes how most people know what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. This can be illustrated as a circle with ‘why’ in the center, ‘how’ a rung up, and ‘what’ on the exterior, with most people thinking inwards from ‘what’ to ‘why.’

This way of looking of the Golden Circle, he claims, of artifact oriented process that focuses on the results of one’s actions. As he explains, this line of thought can be illustrated in a corporate mode: Apple could market their computers thusly:

We make fine computers. They are designed robustly, simply, and are a joy to use. We make them for consumers like you, who should by them.

Note the what, how, and why. Sounds like a reasonable pitch, right?

Sinek turns this on its head by asking why Apple is so successful in its sales of iPods and other devices, rather than Dell or another computer manufacturer. They’re all qualified to make high quality hardware, right?

This is where Sinek’s construction of the Golden Circle comes into play. Rather than going from ‘what’ to ‘why,’ great orators, companies, and charismatic people start with why and move outwards in the Golden Circle. Instead of the above pitch, the pitch becomes this:

We that in everything we do we should strive for simplicity and challenge the status quo. We design our computers and products simply, and if you believe what we do, you should buy one.

Sinek reveals the importance of framing your business or cause in this way:

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

What to take away from this

Instead of presenting the ‘what’ of our conference, we should make sure we’re presenting the why. I wrote up a draft of what my project needs to aim for:

At Graphogrammetry, we believe that in the changing design landscape, it’s no longer possible for those in the design industry to sit in their box and tackle their problems. To work better together, designers, developers, creatives, and technical people need to look up from their desk and branch out. That’s why we’ve organized a conference that allows people to get a top-down view on what’s going on in their industry and in their office. We believe that those in the industry need to gain new skills. At Graphogrammetry, you will get insight on graphic design and design (“GRAPHO-” – Graphic design) and get the top down view on what’s going on at large in the design industry (“-GRAMMETRY” – From ‘Photogrammetry,’ aerial reconnaissance). Get on board with the bigger picture.