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David Butler Shares the Power of Design

M.AD Insighter Series

Insighter | /ˌin • site • er/

noun

1. an outstanding creative professional with tips and tricks to spare. Someone to learn from.

“the M.AD Insighter Series is free to attend on Zoom, every Wednesday at 4pm”

On July 8, 2020, David Butler (CEO of KIDS II and former VP of Innovation at Coke) joined us live over Zoom to take part in our Insighter Series: weekly conversations between creative professionals and young, aspiring creatives looking to advance.

Take a look at David’s presentation below.

Don’t have time for the full video? Check out the transcribed version of David’s presentation right here:

Video Transcript:

Introduction

Hank Richardson: David is a designer, he’s a strategist, he’s a serial entrepreneur, and he’s the chief growth officer at Kids2, where he’s responsible for product design, global marketing, consumer insights and he’s charged with scaling the brands, which include Baby Einstein. And for more than 25 years, Dave has been doing this, helping companies grow. He’s influenced and he’s guided entrepreneurs and he’s guided executives. Perhaps he first came to the stage and was first known for his role in transforming the Coca-Cola Company into really a design-driven company at a global scale. And in just a few minutes, I think you will be amazed, you’ll come away with perhaps an understanding about the, not the world of design, but the design of the world. And in the interim, you possibly could think freestyle Coke machines because that’s David. Think of red aluminum bottles because that was David.

Hank Richardson: And what do you think about Coke became the number five brand on the planet, and he was thinking about, “Well, perhaps, what does the world look like when there might not be any more Coke 25 years down the road?” That’s about innovation and entrepreneurship that he created when he was there. He moved over to Kids2, and as chief growth officer, he took over such products as Baby Einstein. Look what happened. Baby Einstein toys were just awarded this year the Cribsie Award in the play category, Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes was awarded the favorite first toy and the Baby Einstein Haptic Magic Touch Piano was awarded the most innovative toy of the year.

Hank Richardson: Why is that important in this message David would bring to us today? He’s bringing those thoughts to an audience with a, get a load of this, 1.2 trillion total consumer expenditure as opportunities. That’s huge. He’s highly involved in startup ecosystems, and he has diverse expertise, including design, brand building, strategy consulting, and business model innovation. He’s co-authored a book translated now into 25 languages, a TED talk, and he was named a Master of Design by Fast Company magazine, and to Forbes’ executive design team. His entrepreneurship and areas of venture capital extends into companies like BeCurious, it’s a firm focused on reinventing parenthood through FamTech, and to being an advisor for New Story charities, or to Simple SolutionS, or to S3, or to Freeman Company on their board run by renowned designer Bruce Mau.

Hank Richardson: And David’s going to get all of us thinking very different today, and he’s kicking it off, leading it off this quarter with I Used To Be A Designer, Now What Am I? So, ladies and gentleman, students, everyone, David Butler.

Presentation

David Butler: Thanks, Hank, and let me say, first of all, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here, Hank. And if I ever have a bad day, I’m going to get you to read that to me, so, I appreciate all those compliments. Let’s see, so, let me just share my screen, but thank you everyone. Actually, as Stephanie was saying, somebody’s watching this from Mumbai and it’s something like 1:30 in the morning. I can tell you right now, this is not going to be worth it, just to set your expectation, but, anyway, I’m going to do my best. Hank asked me to talk today, and he originally said we want it to be inspiring, so, I’m going to do my best, but really just going to tell you a story.

David Butler: So, let’s see. Let me start sharing. Okay, so, does everybody see that? We’re good? Okay, cool. Okay, let’s see, when Hank and I were talking about this, I was trying to put myself or go back in time and put myself in your shoes, sort of a student’s shoes, and I remember, whenever somebody would come and talk, do something like this, I would sit there and listen to their story, but really what I wanted to ask them was, tell me the real deal. What is it like when I’m outside of school, when I have a job, when I’m actually doing what I want to do? And in my case, it was graphic design, and I just went to the website and pulled this, and I was telling Hank, I’m really good friends with Guillermo, so it was cool to see him.

David Butler: But it’s this thing, when you’re in school, you want to know what it’s like on the other side, and when you’re on the other side, you kind of forget all that stuff that happened in school. But one thing I remember as I was going through this was I was never told how big design could be, and that’s what I want to talk about today, and the way I want to do that or the way I’m planning to do that is just walk you through my story, sort of when I was in school, and then bring you sort of quickly up to where I am today, and just show you how this idea of design getting bigger, or design being big, really unfolded in my life.

David Butler: And then after that, I’ve got five quick things that I’m just going to suggest you to think about in terms of making design bigger or thinking about design in a bigger way. And when I say design, it’s the practice of design, and it is the design industry and different types of design, but it’s the parts of design in whatever context you are. So, okay, cool. I’ll just get started then.

David Butler: All right. So, first of all, when I was in school, I wanted to be a graphic designer, and actually for me, personally, I went to a high school where they offered graphic design classes, which I can’t even believe they did that, but I was lucky enough to take some. And I knew, immediately, at that point, that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I wanted to be a designer. And, so, I went to school and did everything that if you’re a graphic designer at Miami Ad School, you already know this, but understanding typography, understanding concepting, photography, color theory, all these things to go into what it takes to be a graphic designer.

David Butler: So, that was me. I got out of school, first job was at an advertising agency, and I don’t know how I got into that firm, but it was a really good step for me. So, I was an art director, actually, in this advertising agency, and for some reason, all the new projects that came to the agency involving corporate identity or logo design came my way. And so, for me, it was okay, because I loved designing logos, and by the way I didn’t design that logo, that’s Paul Rand, but just to give you a sense. But, anyway, so, for me, I was obsessed with designing logos and that was kind of my thing, and that was great, because I was trained to do that and I felt very comfortable doing that.

David Butler: Then I jumped to another firm, and that firm was actually working on the identity system for the Olympic Games that were hosted in Atlanta in 1996. And so I joined that firm, and immediately was part of that team to design this identity system. And, for me, the light came on and I really saw that identity systems were the way that companies or any organization could actually control the narrative, and create a cohesive, integrated communications around whatever they were trying to communicate. And that, I was all about that, so then that led me into this whole idea of understanding systems and how that worked in terms of communication.

David Butler: The firm that I was with, we turned the project that we did for the Olympic Games and really sold that idea into other companies. So, we ended up doing large identity systems for Delta and AT&T and a lot of other Fortune 500 companies. So, anyway, that was where I was and I really enjoyed that. Then the internet happened, and this will show you how old I am, but in 1996, ’97, the internet happened, and for me personally, it was something that I had no idea could actually happen, but right when I was exposed to the internet, it really sort of came full circle around what I had studied in college.

David Butler: And if you know Hank or spend much time with Hank, I’m sure you’ve heard his stories around Marshall McLuhan, and he and I have talked a lot about Marshall McLuhan, but for me, I’d studied Marshall McLuhan, and he’s the guy that coined, he was a futurist theorist, a guy in the ’60s, and he’s the guy that coined, “The medium is the message”, or, “Global village”, that whole concept. And so, for me, I thought the internet was the key, and so I wanted nothing but to design for internet applications. So, immediately started designing websites and learning everything I could about HTML and that kind of thing.

David Butler: And, again, this is back in the day, this is dial up modem, so the user experience was horrible, and, by the way, I didn’t design that Apple site either but just to show you, that was one of the best designed sites on the internet at that time. And it’s super clunky, but that’s what it was.

The firm, the agency that I was with, I went to the owner of the agency and I said, this is a new thing, we need to get all over this and create a new offering around web design and I really think we can take this a long way. And he pulled me aside and he said, ‘David, don’t worry about it, this is a fad, internet will go away, we’ll go back to print, don’t worry about it.’

David Butler: So, actually, I quit about a week after that and started my own firm and another guy that was working at that company, he and I co-founded a company, a design firm, to do just that, to design for the internet. So, whether they were websites or applications, that’s what we did. One of the first clients that we got was CNN, and, again, I can’t believe we got that client, but it was great, and CNN asked us to design the first streaming video and audio applications. And, again, I’m talking 1998, this is way before smartphones or there’s an app for that and all that.

David Butler: And when we were asked if we could do that project, of course, we lied and said we could. And we had no idea how to do it, but we figured it out, and that was the first version of streaming anything on the internet for CNN. And for me, again, I lit up around that because for the first time, I saw that you could stream online and get this immersive experience, again, in this sort of global village and so, anyway, I was all about designing the applications.

David Butler: And then I moved to another company called Sapient, I’m sure you’ve heard of them, but Sapient, and, again, this is 1998, 1999, so, still early days of the internet. And we were asked to design… So, at the time, ups.com didn’t exist. So, UPS had asked the firm, Sapient, to design, and basically replicate, UPS, their functionality, online. And, again, had no idea how to do that, but we rode around on trucks and figured out how to actually recreate or create a way to ship online. And that involved 12 different applications and we had a huge team of 50 designers, huge team.

David Butler: But, anyway, for me, that experience really connected this sort of offline world and online world into this integrated experience. And then I was all about that, so, from that point on, I wanted to design experiences and we worked with other clients and other companies to do just that, so. Around the same time, there were other new companies being started, and at the time they were called dot-coms, today we’d call them startups, but, again, entrepreneur led, BC backed companies were obviously starting at the same time.

What I saw was the opportunity was to build brands around those products. So, a lot of new companies, a lot of new products were hitting the market, but they didn’t have an emotional connection to people, they were missing that sort of foundation, that brand foundation.

David Butler: So, the company, again I was with Sapient, I was with, I actually went to the CEO and said I wanted to start a brand strategy team dedicated to dot-coms and helping call it brick and mortar companies transform into this new space, and so I did that. So, I walked away completely from design as a title in my title, to be a brand strategist, and I’ll come back to that, but that was key for me to embrace other ideas of what my career could be to enable to do what I wanted to do.

David Butler: About that same time, like I said before, there were companies, call them brick and mortar companies, that wanted to transform and become digital. At the time, they were called e-businesses, and, again, today we’d call it e-commerce, but this was back in the day. A company would try to figure out how they could operate online, and at that time, they would separate the two companies, so they would have a brick and mortar company and then they called it a e-business. And the company I was with, Sapient, was sort of a leader in helping companies do that and get through that.

David Butler: And so, for me personally, I wanted to design nothing but that, I wanted to design digital companies and I just thought that was amazing. So, I did that for a few years. And then 2004, I got a call from a headhunter to ask about a job that had come up with Coke, and they were looking for someone to lead design at Coca-Cola. And my first response to the headhunter was whoever wants to hire me, how do they define design? Because if you just look at the screen, this is how I thought about design, very holistic and multidimensional. And what I didn’t want to do is go to any company and sort of just do packaging design. Nothing wrong with that, I just didn’t want to do that or just do graphic design or name another sort of area of design.

David Butler: I wanted to think much bigger around that, and, anyway, I went through the interview process, talked to 10 people, and two of the people that I spoke to, very senior level people in the company, really started to think about or talk about design in the way that I thought could be super valuable for a company at that scale, Coca-Cola. So, I decided to take the job, again, had no idea how to do this inside of a large scale company, but took the job anyway. And, for me, that was the pull to Coke.

So, it wasn’t about necessarily working for Coke, it’s a great company and all that, but for me it was this idea of working at global scale. The idea of designing something that people in over 200 countries could experience, I didn’t see that coming my way any time soon, so I took that opportunity and that worked out really well for me personally and everyone involved.

David Butler: While at Coke, and I’ll come back to this a little bit later, but while at Coke, again, things went really well, to Hank’s point, my whole goal was to really, hopefully, create a design driven company at Coke. And, again, that means a lot of things to different people, but, for me, that was about connecting design to the business strategy and growing the business through design. So, anyway, that went really well, we doubled the stock price in less than 10 years when I was there, which is huge for a company like that, and it wasn’t just because of design, but that was just a part of it, and, anyway, towards the end of that time, around the 10 year mark, which is a super long time, I never saw myself there that long but that’s how it worked out, the CEO actually asked me if I could help them.

David Butler: He said something like, “Can you do for innovation what you’ve done for design here at the company?” And whenever a CEO asks you to do something like that, it’s not really a question, it’s sort of a you will do this. So, I took that job, so then my next role at Coke was to lead innovation for the company. And what I quickly figured out is that really what the push was was to be able to do what startups were doing. And, again, this was around 2012, I think, something like that. And at that time, Twitter was flying, Airbnb was flying and Uber was flying and big companies were sort of stepping back and looking at how these companies were able to come out of nowhere and grow that fast and become that profitable and so forth.

David Butler: So, really, the task was to try to figure out how to do what startups do inside of Coca-Cola. I had no idea how to do that, but as soon as that became my role, I learned everything I could about startups, investing in startups, creating startups, scaling startups, anything to do with startups was my life and I loved it. And that became what I wanted to design, design new business models, design new ways of doing business through that method.

David Butler: Towards the end of that ride at Coke, I was actually on the board of a company called Kids2, and the CEO came to me and asked me if I wanted to change an industry. And I said, okay, what does that mean? And he had said, “Having a baby is one of the hardest things that happens in anyone’s life, and the whole industry around having babies or becoming parents hasn’t changed for decades”, and the opportunity was to actually redesign the industry, the entire industry, through the brands with this one company that I was on the board of, Kids2.

David Butler: So, left Coke, joined Kids2 and really, looking back, if you had asked me as a student way back when if I wanted to design developmental toys or what you need as a parent, I’d probably say no, but, again, having been through what I’ve been through, this is an opportunity to change an industry and to make it actually easier to be a parent. So, anyways, that’s what my focus is right now.

David Butler: So, anyway, I’ll pause there. Again, this is sort of visually my entire experience, and as you can see, I started off as a designer, but if you go all the way to the end, I don’t know what to call that, that’s why I called this talk what I did, because I’m not sure exactly what I am, but I do think that the whole journey here has been about design. It’s just designing different things in different contexts.

David Butler: So, actually, Hank, I don’t even know if you know I had this slide in here, but I love this quote, and this sort of sets up the next piece of what I want to talk about. And my good friend Bruce Mau has written many books, he actually just wrote a book that just came out, everyone should buy it, but, anyway, I love this quote:

“It’s not about the world of design, it’s about the design of the world.”

David Butler: And so that would be my thing I would ask you to consider if you haven’t already, just how you think about design or whatever your focus is at the school, or what you want to do going forward, just think about how big it can be and how it can apply to the world that we live in, not trying to get your head around the sort of smaller world of the sort of quote “design world”, or “writer world”, or whatever you do. Just think about how you can write to actually change the bigger world.

David Butler: Okay, so how do you do that? I thought about it, and there are five things that I’d probably call them things I’ve learned over the past, the experience, I’ll sort of just walk through. But, again, these are five things I’m just going to focus on and sort of talk through them, I would ask you to consider them, but it’s really just based on my experience.

David Butler: Okay, the first one is focus on the problem. And I wrote some language there, but for me, it’s always been about asking myself or the team that I’m on, what’s the problem we’re trying to solve? Because often you’re given a design brief or you’re asked to do something which isn’t actually the core of the problem, isn’t the issue, it’s just a symptom of the problem or the issue.

So, I would suggest that in order to think sort of bigger about design or the opportunity that design has, it’s to really focus on the problem and keep focusing on the problem.

David Butler: And to make it even bigger, once you get into the problem, understand the connected problems. How that problem is connected to other problems. Let me give you an example. So, a couple of Coke projects here at the beginning, the first one, Hank mentioned this, but the first one was the thing on the left. So, everyone’s seen that, if you’ve been to any kind of fast food restaurant in your life, you’ve seen one of those, but this is what Coca-Cola calls their fountain business. And about half their business in the US is made from this business, and so it’s super important to the company.

David Butler: So, back in the day, we were asked as sort of a design brief from the business was to figure out how we could add more flavors to that unit. So, if you look at that, it has eight different products there that you can choose from. So, Coke at the time had about 4,000 products, so they were looking at how we could actually expand the choice given to consumers on that fountain machine. So, that was the design brief. So, as we started to dig into that, what we found are, again, other connected problems.

David Butler: So, if you look on the right, that’s actually what you have to store if you own one of those fountain machines. So, literally, on the other side of that wall of that fountain machine, there’s all that other stuff. So, that’s concentrate, that’s liquid in boxes, in those cardboard boxes there, and that’s CO2 in the containers there. All that stuff comes together and flows through that machine on the left to give you your Fanta or whatever you want, right? So, the challenge of this was not only to add more choice but actually make it easier to operate if you’re a convenience store owner or a restaurant.

David Butler: So, that became a bigger brief. So, the solution that we came up with was this thing called Coca-Cola Freestyle, that’s what we ended up calling it, and, Hank, you mentioned that before, thanks for that. But, anyway, the solution, I’ll just sort of break it down, if you look on the right, we redesigned the concentrate. So, again, the concentrate is the liquid, the stuff that you mix together with water and other stuff to actually create the product coming out of the fountain. Look at the size of the cartridge, we ended up calling it a cartridge because it’s almost like a printer cartridge. So, we used microdosing and other things to reduce down the size of that concentrate.

David Butler: If you look in the middle of the slide, you can see where they just sort of slot in, just like a printer cartridge, and by doing that, we were able to mix and match. So, we were able to come up with over 100 different products or flavors inside of that one space, which is super important, because if you go down below that, none of the people who had these machines in their businesses, convenience centers or store owners or restaurants, have more space, right? So, they have that old, funky machine I showed you before, they don’t have any more space than that, so we had to design in the same footprint, more choice, more offerings, so that’s what we did. So, through this microdosing and sort of solving that, we were able to stay within the same footprint of the retailer.

David Butler: If you look to the right of that, that’s the new storage, so, if you look before at the previous slide, that’s the sort of crap you have to put in storage before, and then these are just simple cartridges, that’s all you have to put on the shelf after that, so. And then we designed an app so that consumers, people, could actually mix and match on their phone. That was cool because we could capture the data that would mix Vanilla Coke and orange, and then if there were a lot of people that kept requesting that, that could lead to new product innovation and we could release that as a ready made drink. So, anyway, we tried to solve the whole problem, rather than just one piece of it, which was the adding more flavors. Hopefully that makes sense.

David Butler: Okay, the second one, just called follow the money. And as a student, I doubt you talk a lot about this in classes, but in reality when you get out, this will be your new reality. So, most design problems are ultimately about making money or saving money. And this is every company, every non-profit, every profitable company, is there to make money or save money.

Now, I’m sure there are other goals and other aspirations and purpose driven and all that, but to remain a business, you have to make money and save money at the same time.

So, again, coming back to design, if you can think about how to do that, do both of those at the same time, that’s the win-win. So, anyway, that’s another way just to sort of think bigger about design.

David Butler: Another Coke example just to bring this to life. So, on the left, if you can just see that poster down at the bottom, I know it sounds old school, but Coke depends on point of sale communications like posters like that to remind people to buy a Coke and not buy something else around the world. And, again, they’re in 207 countries around the world, essentially every city on the planet sells some kind of Coke product, so this is at scale. The challenge was, or call it design brief, was to create more consistency across how the company did that.

David Butler: And I pulled some pretty extreme examples just to show you, but these are posters from different countries offering the same exact product. In this case, Coca-Cola Vanilla, and you can see how there was no consistency, and just going to the principle I laid out, think about the cost. So, all those had to be shot by someone, the photography is shot by someone, someone designed each of those, just think about the compounded costs around these simple posters around the world.

David Butler: So, the opportunity became how do we continue to do what we were doing but do it better? But also save money in the process. What we designed was an application, a simple application that we called Design Machine. And Design Machine, what Design Machine was was it just created standards and templates around how people designed those types of communications, posters and that kind of thing. It sounds super simple, but that alone created, all of a sudden we could create consistency, if you look on the left you can see a little bit of that, behind where that girl’s looking in the window.

David Butler: We created consistency, but at the same time, it allowed two other things. One, it allowed the customer, the customer of the Coca-Cola company, to design their own poster. So, in other words, if a 7-Eleven owner wanted to design a poster and put it on his glass, he could do that through Design Machine. That saved time and money for that person and it created more value for Coca-Cola to that store owner and so forth, but the big number at the bottom is we saved almost a billion dollars, took that off the bottom line, at Coca-Cola, just by doing this.

David Butler: And, again, the brief was to create more consistency, sell more Coke and other products, through posters, and we did that, created more consistency and all that, but we also saved a lot of money. And so, anyway, this is just another way of illustrating the point.

If you get into a situation and you’re asked to do something, look at how the company can both make money and save money at the same time, and try to design for that. 

David Butler: Okay, number three. It’s always about we, never about me. I can’t stress this enough, and it’s not just a sort of push to be humble, it’s not about that, it’s really about being, really focusing on co-creation. And, again, I could talk about this all day, but when you get out of school, I would encourage you to look for a team where this is displayed, where you can co-create with others. I would say when you get out of school, the worst thing you could do is freelance, is work on your own, the best thing you could do is get on a very strong team. And so, for me personally, my whole career I look to build teams of people that were much better at what they did around me than I was, so it wasn’t about directing them but it was around getting people that you could co-create with to make whatever you do bigger and better.

David Butler: The other piece of this is to actually co-create or design with the client, with people around you. Again, you don’t have to have the word designer in your title to be able to design things or be creative, so that’s what we did at Coke. First of all, let me speak to this, I forgot about this slide. So, this is Karim Rashid, a industrial designer, and actually I’ve used this photograph around the world, and someday I think he’ll probably have me assassinated. But, anyway, I use this example a lot. This is what most people think of when they think of the word designer or creative person, and this becomes a challenge.

David Butler: When people think that to be a designer you have to have sleeves of tattoos and cool watches and cool glasses and all that, it really diminishes the power and the sort of bigness of design. What we did at Coke was the opposite, so we would bring in just normal people, business people, just different people at Coke and have these design workshops and work with them to actually get to the solution. And what that does is not only gives you a lot more ideas to work with, but it creates buy in. So, if those people, pick one of the pictures, but if those people help design the thing, you know they’re going to use the thing, and that’s one of the challenges when you get outside into the real world, to actually get people to adopt or do what you’ve designed or you’ve worked on.

David Butler: I put that magazine cover on the right not to show that I was on the front of a magazine, but just to show that when they did this story, it was about five years after I’d started at Coke, and I’d taken very deliberately this approach to co-creation across the company, I just couldn’t think of another way to do that. How do you change a million people inside of a company, across 200 countries? You can’t sort of tell them to do what you want to do, you have to work with them. So, anyway, when they did this story, of course they interviewed me, but they interviewed 15 other people across the company and truly the whole company was represented inside that magazine. So, I know my face is on the cover, but Coke, the company, was in there, and we were on this journey to become a design driven company and everyone was involved, so, and in my experience, that’s the only way to do this. And, again, if you want to operate, sort of think about design at this sort of level.

David Butler: Okay, number four, learn by doing. I’m sure everyone in this call has heard that phrase, learn by doing, but in my case, I would apply that to my career path. So, I would encourage you to sort of think about, rather than think about fear of failing or failing in general, think about it as a process of learning, and always take on more on projects that, in my case, you have no idea how to do, and just approach it as fast learning, not winning or failing, it’s really just learning. And when you take that mindset, you can kind of go into anything, because it’s really about learning, you just want to learn as fast as possible, which means you want to dig in, talk to as many people as possible, you’re inclusive and all that, so.

David Butler: Anyway, fourth principle. The way I’d apply this is, to that example I gave earlier about being asked to lead innovation at The Coca-Cola Company, and I chose this slide, this is off Google, and you can’t even read it, and it’s by design because it’s super complicated, but this is what innovation looks like in most large corporations. It’s completely complicated, political, complex, this is why most large corporations have a hard time actually innovating, getting something out. Because it’s so complicated. So, it feels like this.

David Butler: But that was my job, so, again, CEO going back into the talk, the CEO asked me to lead innovation, so I had to figure it out. So, what do you do? Again, like what I said, I had got a small team together and we started learning everything we could about startups, how they were designed, how they were made, how they were funded, how they scaled, and how they died, teams, everything about it. And we actually designed this new model at the time, and we called it a co-creation model, by the way, well, we called the platform… What we did was Coca-Cola Founders, but this was the model, this was the idea.

David Butler: So, we stepped back and we thought about the fact that Coca-Cola had all this stuff, they had tremendous resources, think about the money, the people that the company had, the reach that they had. So, anywhere on the planet, if you mention the word Coca-Cola, most people would obviously know about it. And then relationships, so they had relationships with heads of state, all the way from heads of state to sports figures to retailers, all this stuff, so if you think about that, most entrepreneurs have none of that, have no way of getting that. One of the hardest things to do is actually to raise funding to fund your startup and then reach, you have no reach because you have no brand, you have nothing. And relationships, you’re just starting.

David Butler: So, could we find a way to actually connect both of those together and create new companies together? That was the goal. What we did, the sort of secret in that, was we tried to do that but focus it on a big problem that The Coca-Cola Company had, and the idea there was that if a startup could actually solve a problem that Coke had, Coke could be their first customer. So, in this case, they would be their first investor and first customer, which is super hard. So, like I said, if you’re starting a startup and if you have on the call, you already know this, but if you start a startup, one of the first things to do is to raise money.

David Butler: You have to get money from somewhere. And then after that, once you have a product, the biggest thing after that is to get a customer, to actually get someone to pay you to actually use your product. And in this case, we did that from the beginning, so because the startup was actually designed to actually focus on a problem at Coke, and I’ll give you the example here. So, one of the biggest challenges that Coke has, or any company kind of like Coke, is called out of stocks. And it’s a very basic concept, but if you look at that whole in the shelf, whatever’s sat beside Sprite on the shelf there is a problem. It’s a problem for the consumer, if you wanted to buy whatever was there, Fanta, and it wasn’t there, then you have to go to another store which is kind of a hassle.

David Butler: For the retailer that sells the product, Publix or whatever, they can’t sell that product so they miss out on some sales and then ultimately Coke misses out on that sale as well, so out of stocks is a big problem. And then if you think about how many shelves there are that stock Coke around the world, this is a massive problem. So, we had them, or they wanted to, focus on this problem, and, again, to design a product and then a company around that. And what they came up with was, or the solution that they designed around, was if, in this case, Publix, whoever at Publix, could walk by and see that that shelf was empty, if they could ping somebody or ask somebody to come fill that shelf as soon as possible, that would solve that problem.

David Butler: The challenge of that was that Coke delivers the products into the backroom of the Publix in their sort of warehouse space, and restocks the shelf twice a week. So, the product is there, but there’s no one to actually put it on the shelf and the Publix people don’t do that, the individual companies do that. So, that was the challenge, so what these guys did was they figured out if they could create an app and actually if you needed some part time work, you could join the app, the platform, and you could get pinged to come do two hours worth of work to restock that shelf or something else, then that would solve your problem with having a job, getting a job and getting paid, and as a business, that would solve that problem too because you’d have this instant workforce as large as they could make it.

David Butler: So, essentially, it was sort of like a TaskRabbit for corporations, for companies. In this case, they called it Wonolo, W-O-N-O-L-O, Wonolo. And I didn’t name it, so don’t blame me, but, anyway, they called it Wonolo and they really built this company up based on that problem they were solving for Coke. Today, you can Google it, but Wonolo is a great company that have hundreds of employees, they’ve raised three rounds of funding, it’s one of the best companies out there that does this sort of gig economy. They’re based in San Francisco.

David Butler: So, what we did, we used that model to actually launch 12 different startups around the world, and call it naïve, but I thought, Coke’s a global company, we should be working with the global startup community. So, we launched several companies actually in England, India, across South America, Mexico, so, around the world. Asia, Thailand. Anyway, so, and the model worked, and honestly we weren’t doing it for a intellectual exercise, but this model really worked and created some great companies out of it.

David Butler: Okay, so, I’ll keep going here, so last one, last sort of principle, thinking big, is forget the D word. And when I say D word, I mean design, the actual word design. Let me go into that a little bit.

So, what I encourage you to do is, especially coming out of school, whenever you do your thing, whenever you get out, I wouldn’t get too hung up on just what I would call sort of surface level things. And what I mean by that is your title, or where you work, or your salary or that kind of thing. I would just really encourage you to look at the impact or the opportunity to create impact and, again, the reason why I’m bringing this up as a sort of principle is that often the case is the opposite.

David Butler: We go to design school or go to a school like Miami Ad School, and you walk out and you know the right words to say as a creative person, you know what to wear, and you’re part of this sort of creative club, and if you stay in that mindset, you’ll never make the kind of impact that you can I would suggest, and if you sort of let that go and just look at the biggest opportunity and the impact you can make in that opportunity. And just to illustrate that, so, again, I mentioned this a few minutes ago, but when the CEO of Kids2 asked me to join Kids2, I really looked at the opportunity to change an industry, and actually to make it easier to be a parent.

David Butler: So, it really wasn’t about designing toys or anything like that, it was actually trying to make it easier to be a parent. Half the population of the world becomes parents, and so if you can actually do that at scale, that would be an amazing thing, so, that’s what I’m currently focused on and just to, again, illustrate the point. So, I actually didn’t even care what my title was or what they wanted to call me or that kind of thing at Kids2, I was really just going after the opportunity.

David Butler: Hank mentioned this, but I’ll hit it pretty quick, just as an example. So, one of the brands inside of Kids2 is called Baby Einstein, and what we did is we repositioned Baby Einstein around a big idea, and we took some guidance from Albert Einstein, he was the sort of DNA of Baby Einstein. And I love this quote, “I have no special talents, I’m only passionately curious.” And I love that quote, because if you think about what Einstein did, and he says he has no talent, that’s amazing. Of course he did. He had an amazing talent. But what this speaks to is the power of curiosity.

So, what we did is we sort of stepped back and thought, what if we could create a more curious world? Again, this wasn’t about selling more product, it was about making a better world. So, what if we could create a more curious world? And that is what drives that brand and everything we do inside of that brand today

David Butler: And so Hank actually reference this product that won toy of the year, and that’s the thing on the left. But really what’s cool about that is that if you look at those keys across the front there, we put sensors underneath the word there so that, the same sensors in your iPhone or whatever phone you have, so that you don’t actually have to touch the glass of your phone to activate it, you can come off it because there’s sensors underneath that glass.

David Butler: Those were the same sensors we put underneath that piano so that when a child, a baby, actually goes to play the piano, it’s very easy, very easy to play the piano, again, to encourage them to be more curious and to learn about music. That’s just one aspect of that, but we also developed new content, new, we call it edutainment, but educational shows for kids, zero to three, and that’s one example. And all these shows are really built around being more curious, so, learning empathy, learning how to be a friend, that kind of thing is super important when it comes to curiosity.

David Butler: And then across the bottom there, we created all kinds of content on our social channels to encourage parents to help their kids learn to try new foods or, again, you can read but learn sign language or anything to do with art, at a very early age. And then from sort of a message standpoint, from the brand, we embrace diversity and it’s not just because we’re cool and what’s going on right now, but we started this three years ago and embracing diversity and inclusivity is key to being more curious. If you want to be a more curious person or live in a more curious world, you have to be inclusive, it’s required. So, everything we do in terms of brand communication is really to emphasize that, and this is, I’m not going to play a video here, but it’s a great example of two lesbian moms really talking about their desire, their hope for a more curious world for their children and for a different world when their children grow up.

David Butler: And that’s the kind of idea that we support and are behind with this brand. Okay, so, wrapping up here, again, I love to end any kind of talk like this because if you just sort of step back and think about how big that could be for you, whatever you do at Miami Ad School, or whatever your focus is, if you’re, again, a writer, designer, whatever you are, just think about how this, if you were to think bigger about that opportunity, and really go for it, what that could mean for you. And then think about, collectively, all of us on this call, everyone at Miami Ad School, if that school produced people that thought about design or, when I say design, I mean broadly, if you could think about it that way, what kind of force could that create on the planet itself?

David Butler: So, anyway, that’s how I think about it, and hopefully I brought a little inspiration to you.

About the M.AD Insighters Series

Each week, we host a different practicing creative professional as they share insights and inspiration from their career. In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting famous names like Jayanta Jenkins, David Butler, Steven Heller, and more. We take pride in sharing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of creatives from a variety of industries (and with a wide variety of viewpoints). It’s all part of our commitment to developing and encouraging young, creative minds.

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