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Posts Tagged ‘Seth Godin’

Practical Elegance by Seth Godin

March 11th, 2021 COMMENTS
Symphony Portable Display Elegance

Two Words

Seth Godin

Throughout the design and engineering process for the Symphony Portable System, we focused on several guiding principles: relevance, ease-of-use, adaptability, and beauty. In short, practicality and elegance. Those can be challenging concepts to communicate… but not for Seth Godin.

Every morning, I receive an email with Seth Godin wisdom. Today, he perfectly explained “practical elegance.” Thank you Seth! You are the master! The blog post is below and on his website.

Practical Elegance | March 11, 2021

The 16-foot canvas Prospector canoe made by the Chestnut Canoe Company is not the fastest or the lightest or the cheapest canoe but it is an elegant canoe.

Practical elegance is something that is available to all of us. If we choose, it can become the cornerstone of our work.

Some of us make a thing and many of us make a system. What makes something practically elegant is that it’s better, smoother, cleaner, more understandable, kinder, more efficient, friendlier or more approachable than it needs to be.

Microsoft Windows was never particularly elegant, as you could see the nuts and bolts underneath it. It was clunky, but it got the job done.

On the other hand, the Macintosh-for at least 20 years-was surprisingly elegant. When it broke, it broke in an elegant way. It knew things before it asked us to type them in, it had a smile on its face–it seemed to have a sense of humor.

When we create something with practical elegance, we are investing time and energy in a user experience that satisfies the user more than it helps the bottom line of the company that made it. Ironically, in the long run, satisfying the user is the single best way to help the bottom line of a company that doesn’t have monopoly power.

When a designer combines functionality with delight, we’re drawn to whatever she’s produced. That’s the elegance we’re searching for in our built world.

An enemy of practical elegance is persistent complexity, often caused by competing demands, network effects and the status quo. The latest operating system of the Mac is without elegance. When it crashes, and mine has been every few hours for the last week, it crashes poorly. The kernel panic reports are unreadable, by me and by their support folks. The dialogue boxes aren’t consistent, the information flow is uneven and nothing about the experience shows any commitment to polish, to delight or to the user.

Practical elegance doesn’t mean that the canoe will never capsize. It means that the thing we built was worth building, and it left the user feeling better, not worse, about their choice.

Too often, “customer service” has come to mean “answer the phone and give a refund.” But customer service begins long before something breaks. It’s about a commitment to the experience. Creating delight before it’s expected. Building empathy and insight into the interactions that people will choose to have with you.

Of course this takes effort. So do all the other things that go into a product or service. Apparently, though, this effort is perceived as optional by some.

As soon as a product or system creator starts acting like the user has no choice, elegance begins to disappear.

Show Your Work | Perfection vs. Good Enough

April 8th, 2016 COMMENTS

Helpful Hand

We all have our comfortable work routines, particularly in the morning. For me, there’s the mandatory cup of black tea and reading Seth Godin’s daily post. His ability to communicate timely, relevant advice in an engaging and digestible email is always inspirational.

A couple of weeks ago, he wrote Show Your Work, and I’ve found myself revisiting it again and again. I suspect that you struggle, as do we, with the challenge of perfection vs. good enough. How much longer do you finesse the design? When are the setup instructions clear and logical? Is the packaging more than sufficient but perhaps not a “work of art”? At some point, it’s time. You need to hear from your customers.

Over the years, we’ve learned that it’s OK to “release” if you’ve done your best under the circumstances. The mistake is not listening to feedback and making adjustments. And honestly, that can be so much harder for people and organizations because then it’s no longer about perfection. It’s about ego. I’ll spare you my rant about ego in the workplace. That’s a separate (and much longer) rant.

Anyway… Seth says it so much better than me. Enjoy.

Show Your Work (Seth Godin)

welcomeIt’s tempting to sit in the corner and then, voila, to amaze us all with your perfect answer.

But of course, that’s not what ever works.

What works is evolving in public, with the team. Showing your work. Thinking out loud. Failing on the way to succeeding, imperfecting on your way to better than good enough.

Do people want to be stuck with the first version of the iPhone, the Ford, the Chanel dress? Do they want to read the first draft of that novel, see the rough cut of that film? Of course not.

Ship before you’re ready, because you will never be ready. Ready implies you know it’s going to work, and you can’t know that. You should ship when you’re prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later.

The purpose isn’t to please the critics. The purpose is to make your work better.

Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or



Trust Me!

August 6th, 2015 2 COMMENTS


I receive Seth Godin’s daily blog post. To say “I receive” his posts doesn’t do them justice. They’re always the first or second email I read in the morning. This one was especially relevant.

Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world:

  • Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.
  • Say yes. Bend the rules. Show up on time. Keep your promises.
  • Don’t exert power merely because you can.
  • Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.

Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone. — Seth Godin

Two weeks ago, I visited five Classic Exhibits Distributors on the East Coast. Good visits, all in all. But during the visits, I heard something I hadn’t heard before. Actually, that’s not true. I’m sure I’d “heard” it before, but this was the first time, it resonated with me. During our meetings, the word “trust” (or variations of trust) was used again and again.

  • “I trust Bob to respond to my quotes usually within a day or two”
  • “I can count on Katina whenever I have a challenging design request.”
  • “I’m never concerned about the quality of the displays from Classic. It’s reassuring not to have to preview them at our facility every time.”

TrustNow, to be fair, not every comment was glowing. There were concerns. Those were usually along the lines of “I almost always get an immediate response from XYZ, but about two months ago, it took several emails before I heard back. That made me nervous about working with XYZ, but I haven’t had any issues since then.”

Anyone who has visited us knows we are a process-driven company, which means there are clear expectations about how quickly we respond, what you should expect, and how the final product should arrive. We try hard not to let process to dictate our communication with you, but we live in a world of process wrapped in customer service and design. So, we focus on data, response times, delivery dates, etc. That’s what I’m trained to hear during distributor visits — not fuzzy concepts like “trust.’

Yet, trust is the bottom line. We all conduct transactions based solely on price, but our business transactions, those that allow our businesses to thrive, are about mutual trust and relationships. Can I trust you to do what you say, delivery it when you promise, and ensure it arrives as designed? It’s that simple. Consider the professional relationships in your life — your doctor, dentist, general contractor, even your barber or stylist. If you made a change, was it because of price or because you no longer trusted them?

Think about the history of our industry. We can all name at least six companies that lost the trust of distributors. In many cases, their products were good, even best in class for several, but that didn’t ensure they survived.

Let’s not kid ourselves. You know trust can strengthen or undermine a relationship. In fact, you bank on it. So what advice can I offer? Don’t assume others understand or share your commitment to building trusting relationships. What goes unsaid remains unsaid. You need to hear yourself say it. Others need to hear you say it too. Trust me on this.

Agree or disagree, please share your comments and experiences.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


The Experts at the Table: Word on the Street — March 31st thru April 4th

April 5th, 2014 1 COMMENT

Experts at the Table

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

So, forgive me if you’ve seen this video after Seth Godin posted it. It quickly went viral. But, it’s just too good not to share in my weekly WOTS.

Have you ever been in this meeting before? And if you have, should I ask, “Have you ever been any of the ‘non-engineers’ depicted in this video?”

I HAVE! More than I like to admit. Our Designers, Project Managers, and Production Manager all are nodding their heads right now and yelling, “Yes He Has!”

Anyway, it’s a bit long. But it’s hilarious. And it points out the need to sometimes take a step back from those brilliant 2 am, sleep-deprived epiphanies and join the real world. 🙂

Hope you enjoy.

FYI — I have dreams that one day a red line can be drawn with a blue pen. Is that so wrong?

Be well.



Polishing Perfection: Word on the Street — June 24th thru June 28th

June 30th, 2013 COMMENTS

Who are We Trying to Impress?: Word on the Street -- June 24th thru June 28th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

This has been on my mind for some time so I am going to share a little more “Seth-Wisdom” with you. Seth Godin that is. Only because he nails this conundrum.

First, the issue. We design, manufacture and sell tradeshow exhibits. We depend on you to find new clients or to work with your existing clients to develop their tradeshow program. But there is, at times, a fly in the ointment or a pink elephant in the room. It’s YOU!

Whether it’s in design, build, or even in the final review, we sometimes find ourselves tweaking and revising the salesperson’s wishes rather than what the customer wants. Especially in design. I am amazed at how many times a designer has participated in a design meeting(s) with the end-user, then comes up with a great design for the client only to have it incessantly revised based upon what the salesperson wants — not what the client wants. And, of course, we make the changes, but 100 percent of the time once the design lands on the client’s desk, we end up changing it back to the original design.

This is not a complaint . . .  but it kinda is. No one questions your wisdom or your knowledge of exhibit marketing gleaned from years and years of working with exhibitors. It’s invaluable. It’s indispensable. Your guidance ensures that your client makes smart decisions about trade show marketing.

Ours is a specialized business, a knowledge that comes primarily from working with hundreds of clients.  However, and far too often, the account executive makes decisions based on their preferences, not their client’s preferences. You hear statements like, “I’m doing this for the client’s best interests.” Which is fine . . . kinda . . . but not when there’s a laundry list of “best interests” that the client never hears about and then discovers at the preview or the show site.

What really impacts the project is when we are in the final staging of an exhibit and then have to make last minute production changes based on what the account executive wanted only to find out later that the client was not expecting the changes. But I digress.

This came from my daily Seth email.

Polishing Perfect

Perfect doesn’t mean flawless. Perfect means it does exactly what I need it to do. A vacation can be perfect even if the nuts on the plane weren’t warmed before serving.

Any project that’s held up in revisions and meetings and general fear-based polishing is the victim of a crime. It’s a crime because you’re stealing that perfect work from a customer who will benefit from it. You’re holding back the good stuff from the people who need it, afraid of what the people who don’t will say.

Stop polishing and ship instead. Polished perfect isn’t better than perfect, it’s merely shinier. And late.

Now I am not saying that we don’t strive to be perfect. We most certainly do! But in the end, our goal is perfection per the end-user’s expectations. Not my expectations. Not the account executives.

If you take exception to my comments, please share your thoughts.

Hope you have big plans this coming week for the 4th of July holiday. Have a great time with your family and friends.

Kevin (not yet perfect) Carty