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Social Designing

If you haven’t embraced a social network yet, then you, my friend, are a member of the silent minority.  And if Facebook isn’t your vehicle of choice to reach out to the world, you might want to think about giving it a plunge.  It’s not just for maintaining contact with loved ones and colleagues, it’s also a means to reach out to long lost friends, high school and college buddies, military comrades and anyone else you lost touch with over the years.  My wife used FB logoFacebook to find a side of her family that she didn’t know existed and they met in the real world for a family reunion with over 40 people, most of whom didn’t know about the others. Soon Facebook will make big news when it goes public making the founders including the young, enigmatic CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, billionaires.

This post is not about Mark’s billions or how social media is changing the world, it’s about design and while FB looks about as un-designed as it gets, they employ 90 designers to help get that look.  They are one of the few Silicon Valley companies that understand starting with the CEO on down, that design is a sustainable competitive advantage.  The designers are not just responsible for the pixels; they are responsible for a lot of the core ideas on how Facebook works. Design at Facebook is so important that one of their design superstars, Nicholas Felton, sits just 15 feet away from CEO Zuckerberg.  Felton, known for his lavish layouts chronicling his life that got an exhibition at MoMA, was hired last year to oversee the new Timeline feature that has become the profile page of each FB member.  Other star designers include a former Spotify employee and a designer who worked on the original iPhone at Apple.

The mantra for the designers is to get the product out of the way and to concentrate on the human to human experience.  This is different than at most other companies who concentrate on the human to computer interface.  Facebook’s goal is to make the experience of using it as seamless and easy as talking to people in real life.  They don’t want people to remember their interactions with Facebook; they want them to remember the interactions with family and friends.  They call this social design and they equate it with designing a restaurant or plaza, a place where people connect.  More than just allowing a connection, however, they want to be a catalyst for emotion.  They want you to have the same feelings – hopefully positive – that you get from interacting in real life with family and friends.  They even have a shorthand for this emotional response, “serotonin”, the neurotransmitter that sparks feelings of happiness.  It’s their term for the little moments of delight you can experience connecting on Facebook.

So next time you open up Facebook to see who has been doing what and where and to catch-up with friends, remember the designers who work to make Facebook a seamless and “serotonin” enhancing experience.

‘til next time, take care.


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check this out

Here is the link to the original story about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in one of my favorite zines, Fast Company.


Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis of Facebook including some history of origin.


This is one of the most comprehensive sites on how to navigate and use Facebook brought to you by Mashable. Great for the user just getting their feet wet in social media.


Here is a very interesting article in the Huffington Post by Senator Al Franken on privacy issues with Facebook and Google.


This site will give you an idea just how big and important Facebook has become. Computerworld has a page with over 100 articles all relating in some way to Facebook and social media.


Facebook has spawned an industry of sites to help you get the most out of the site. This on is called allFacebook, the unofficial Facebook blog.


Need a good laugh? Well here are some of the funniest Facebook jokes being told on the late night shows.
Here is a sample that tickled my bone:

"Yesterday Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had his own Facebook fan page hacked into. Zuckerberg immediately ordered the hacker to be tracked down, seized, and hired." –Conan O'Brien