Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company

by Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery with Russ Hall


In September of last year, we had Adam Nielsen on the show for a recommended book list, where we talked about books we liked and were looking forward to. After the recording was done, I checked my email and saw Robert Brunner had just released his first book. Great, a guy we had on our previous podcast, that changed my way of thinking, was once again telling me I was wrong and should try harder. I should have picked his book. I ordered it just minutes later, and when it arrived, it sat on the shelf with the others waiting to be read. It sat there for two months at least. Then, I started reading it. Just a few pages, maybe a chapter at most – a week or more between readings. Three chapters in and I started to think this book wasn’t written for me, but for some big CEO to tell them how design can change their business. Not for how I should be changing my business. Not for how I should be thinking about design.

He talks about designing a new grill. Not to just design a better grill, but to design the grilling experience. Take a step back – you realize the issue isn’t with how the grill works, it’s that the person running it has his back to the other people. The grill isn’t the problem, the experience is. The cook is not engaged in the dialog. The problem is that the hood gets in the way of the experience.

I almost didn’t write anything about this book because I was afraid maybe I didn’t ‘get it’, that it wasn’t fun enough for me, that it wasn’t what I assumed it was going to be, or should have been. I couldn’t give Robert Brunner’s book a bad review, could I? It was best to write nothing. Weeks later it’s finally starting to set in and I’ve been constantly referring to parts of it when talking about design. I find myself quoting it all the time.

I’ll be honest, this was a hard read for me. I spent two or three months getting through this book, and not because it wasn’t good, but because it was great, and it took me another two weeks just to come up with that conclusion. I find myself realizing that the mentality to tackle problems is to take a step back and think about what the actual problem is, and not just follow. And then take a step back from that.

The last book to completely change the way I thought about looking at problems and how design can solve them was the last year of school. I was at the University library looking through the shelf of design books and found a book called Graphic Design Made Difficult by Bob Gill. The title cracked me up, so I started to flip through it. I remember reading over half of it before I was able to leave this row of books. It struck a cord. The hot design of the time was heavily into grunge and making things look cool for no reason. From what I remember twelve years later, this book was all about figuring out what you were selling, and just focusing on that. Does it need to be more difficult? I got it. My designs for class instantly changed.

I’ve had books since then make me think, and change some ideas about the profession, but nothing like this one seems to be doing weeks afterwards.

Look, go get a copy of The Brand Gap, read it, trust me. It’ll get you fired up, and you’ll feel like you know the answers. Then after a month, read Do You Matter? (hey, don’t worry if it takes you a while to decipher it, I didn’t read it in one sitting, not even close). Nate described after reading just a few chapters of Do You Matter? like “if The Brand Gap punched you in the face”. I was punched, and I liked it.