Cursory Genius

A while back a designer posted an unsolicited redesign of the American Airlines website. He wrote “I spent a couple hours redesigning your front page. This is what I settled on. Imagine what you could do with a full, totally competent design team.”

The implication of the whole project, of course, is that American Airlines, a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation, didn’t have a designer who could spend a day messing around with the buttons on their website. Of course they do. They probably have 50 of them. That is not the problem.

Naturally he missed many of the systemic issues in favor of aesthetics. For instance, the confirmation time after purchasing a ticket online from American Airlines is north of 45 minutes to an hour – a ridiculous lag for any real time transaction processor. Or, should their website even be a priority when they have old planes that could be made to feel new again with small changes to the entertainment consoles or their archaic overhead storage?

You leave the analysis struck not by its value but by the bitter, obnoxious condescension. American Airlines was never the issue, only ego. It does not come as a shock to find that the author is 22 years old.

Here’s what I’ve learned: separate yourselves from these low-level Others by resisting the temptation to assume it is all very simple and straightforward. It is not. Don’t fool yourself. The problem is rarely the fact that they didn’t have you there to think about it for two seconds. What comes to mind after a cursory glance is an illusion – your young brain baiting over-extension. Deny this impulse and the attention it may offer. Focus on real strategy. On truly understanding what you’re talking about. Leave the bullshit attitude alone because it doesn’t get you anything but alienation.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.