As is often the case when seeking examples of beauty, elegance, and sophistication, the students are lured toward high cost products. Certainly such qualities are to be found in many (not all) luxury items. But I am always pleased when they find examples of utilitarian articles that display such characteristics. The photos show three that I happen to think qualify —an airplane propeller, a small incredibly low-priced Japanese garden tool, and a human femur.
The femur is not manufactured in a factory, and therefore does not directly qualify for the course (although were I a student I might submit it just to "enrich" the discussion), but it is certainly elegant and sophisticated and you can be proud of owning one in your very own leg.
The class also continued to review the student discovery videos and talk about product quality in general. But the speaker of the week unknowingly did an excellent job of bringing up the topic of chapter 8 In my book— Symbolism and Cultural Values— which I will say a few words about in my next post. His name is Michael Topolovac, a Stanford graduate who has spoken to the class several times and become a good friend of Dave Beach. He calls himself a serial entrepreneur, and certainly deserves the title. He first founded and served as CEO of Light and Motion, a company that produced underwater photo equipment. It was motivated by his interest in diving and in photography. But having developed software for handling the materials and scheduling of this company, he became co-founder and CEO of Arena Solutions, a company developing product lifecycle management( PLM) solutions for manufacturers and their global supply chains. He told the story of both of these companies, including not only what he did right, but also in hindsight what he did wrong—a rare and valuable input from people who speak to classes about their accomplishments.
But as to culture, he is now co-founder of Crave (his co-founder being Ti Chang, an industrial designer with a history of designing products for women). The Crave websight is here. It will tell you something of the company and something of Michael. Its first products are vibrators for women, sex toys if you would, but what sex toys. They are based on serious market research, a great deal of prototyping and testing, and are designed and manufactured with an eye toward elegance and beauty. The goal of the company is to facilitate women’s pleasure in a way that is 180 degrees removed from present day vibrators, the seamy image they portray, and the tacky environment in which they are sold. The company is, if you would, going for extreme quality.
I truly enjoyed watching the class response to Michael, because he was talking of a topic that was awkward in the typical Stanford classroom culture. They students were interested, but not totally involved in his discussion of the first two companies. But they definitely woke up when he turned to Crave. One of the women in the class described the phenomenon well. She claimed than when he began his discussion of Crave, every woman in the class blushed and looked away from him. But by the middle of the class, all of the students, women and men, were highly interested, because Michael is an extraordinarily bright person, and with his co-founder, is serious about his mission. The Duet, the initial product of the company, might also be considered a luxury item, but I would bet that even though it was not his reason for talking to the class, he might have sold a few of them. And he definitely gets my award for guest lecture bravery above and beyond the call of duty.