Yesterday, the design world lost a champion and a sage: Linda Tischler. She was a great collaborator and friend, and I will miss her dearly. For anyone unfamiliar with her work over the last decade, Linda catalyzed and chronicled a fundamental evolution in the way design and business interact. The fact that designers occupy the C-suite more often now than in the past, and that the design process is built into the earliest stages of a business plan, instead of being an afterthought, is in large part thanks to her writing.
Just a month after I arrived at Fast Company in 2008, and before we hatched the plan to start Co.Design, Linda pitched me a story that was brilliant and unique. The annual Consumer Electronics Show was a few weeks out, and we needed a way to cover all those gadgets that would stand out from the tech blogs, with their huge staffs and comprehensive coverage. Here's the idea she sent me:
Noah — this just hit me: since my gig at CES is around designing consumer electronics for women, how about if I tap the Femme Den chicks as my eyes and ears and deploy them around the show to come up with the stuff they think is best designed for those of us harboring a pair of X’s?
I’d love to be able to see the show through their eyes, and it would give me a lens thru which to report on this vast show. Of course, the question then is: who represents the Y’s?
The result was a two-part series headlined "Sex And Electronics" that was both widely read and copied.
I dearly love the first two sentences of this story. Linda wrote a lot of beautiful prose over the years, but she also had a piss and vinegar side that came out when called on.
"For me, the lingering memory of CES 2009 is not just a new appreciation for the vastness of the consumer electronics technology universe, but its crushing virility. I’ve never been in an environment that was so overwhelmingly male that didn’t involve the U.S. Military."
When Linda reached out and grabbed your lapels that way, there was no choice but to read on. And the result was usually a deeper understanding of purpose-driven design, an explanation of why the intent of the designer matters, and recognition of the often invisible ways that design changes us along with the world we live in.
Goodbye, Linda. Thank you for opening my eyes and heart to everything possible in design.
If you have a story about Linda that you'd like to share on Co.Design, drop me a line: noah at fastcodesign dot com.