In his book, The Shape of Design, Frank Chimero writes about asking “Why questions”:
Henry Ford famously said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Of course, we know that the faster horse is a testament to the limited imagination of customers, but I’d suggest that it’s more representational of not reassessing the objectives of the work in light of new opportunities. The faster horse is a recombination of the three levers in a predictable way: the customer’s answer is staunchly loyal to the horse, the already established format of transportation. They are inside of the adjacent possible, and ask a How question: How can horses be better?
Asking a Why question leads us to a different conclusion: Why are horses important? Because they quickly and reliably get us from one place to another. A Why question defines our need and uses an objective to create a satisfactory outcome for the work.
This makes me think about the why questions of reading and magazines — the field in which I operate. Why do we read and flip through magazines?
Obviously, we read to learn. And we read to be entertained. To stay up to date with new ideas, and to come up with some of our own.
But as all of these goals can be achieved through video just as well as magazines or books, there must be something else about reading that keeps us doing it. This brings me to the question I’m thinking about today: Why do we still read in the world of Netflix, Youtube, online radio, and all other similar services?
Is it because we haven’t fully adopted these technologies yet? Or is there something about reading that still makes it special?
I don’t have the answer yet, just a few hunches (and a strong feeling that this question is one that needs to be asked many times as we work on figuring out the future of publishing). Maybe you can help?