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I am not a slave to design. I have an embarrassingly low tech cell phone. Carry a functional, non-designer handbag. Do not wear cool, Kazuo Kawasaki glasses. But I'm in love with my cleverly-designed water bottle. It's the envy of the office. A sleek, cool beach-glass blue, non-BPA number with a top you can pop off with a flick of the thumb and a funny little message ("Laugh often!") under the lid, it's an artifact I take to meetings with pride. No clunky bottle that looks like I just wandered in from hiking the Appalachian Trail for me!

My KOR ONE bottle was designed by RKS, a savvy crew of designers on the West Coast, led by Ravi Sawhney, one of the industry's leading thinkers. According to Ravi, a design succeeds or fails based on how it makes people feel not about the thing itself, but about themselves. This week, he'll be discussing that topic on his blog, Design Reach.

Ravi Sawheny
I first saw Ravi onstage last fall in Phoenix at the annual IDSA meeting. He was talking about the organization's Catalyst competition, a contest he originated to recognize excellence not just in design, but in the marketplace as well. In Arizona, he was announcing a new iteration of the program. Catalyst now will now also factor a product or service's impact on our lives and world into the equation. What's more, best cases are being collected so that others can learn from their peers' triumphs—and mistakes. The database will be "a living breathing organism of knowledge," Ravi told me later.

Ravi has always been ahead of the curve. In his first job, at Xerox, he worked with a team of cognitive scientists to develop the first touch-screen interface years before computers entered the mainstream. There he created an information hierarchy that is still seen in our computers today.More recently, he invented the popular Psycho-Aesthetics® design strategy—a process by which companies can quantify sources of emotional demand in the marketplace. Harvard liked it so much they made it a B-School case study.

But Ravi's no hair-shirt guy. He and his team have that genius for uniquely Southern California innovation, cranking out designs for such disparate products as a next gen tattoo machine that's light weight, travel-friendly, and hurts less for Neuma; sexy little iPod speakers for Vestalife that open like Faberge eggs; the Smart Touch Salad Spinner for Zyliss; and a line of guitars, RKS Guitars, that are the favorites of folks like Dave Mason, Ron Wood, Moby and Rick Springfield.

Here are a few of RKS's products:

The KOR ONE water bottle:

Ravi Sawheny. KOR_Sequence

The Neuma Tattoo Machine

Ravi Sawheny tattoo

The Vestalife iPod Dock Station

Ravi Sawheny iPod speaker

Check out Ravi's blog, Design Reach.

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