The Band Aid Box

I was recently reading several books on branding when I came across The Brand Bible – a lush edition edited by Debbie Millman, focused on making branding a little less foggy. I’m a page flipper rather than a cover-to-cover reader sometimes, and that day was one of those days. However, my fingers stopped on lovely full color spread of photos of the Band-Aid brand tins throughout history. Something that now feels so completely obvious dawned on me in that moment of poring over the tins: education design is the 1921 Band-Aid of today. You can see a lot of that history here at the Johnson & Johnson museum.

Now, I’m not saying that education design = band aids. Actually, I’m saying something far from that: “in 1921 when the Johnson brothers brought their temporary bandage idea to market, no one was using plastic bandages for treating wounds. Today, no one is using the term education design” to solve problems, but I believe it’s going to become the “band-aid” of sorts for the entire instructional, marketing, and transactional economy. Here’s why:

  1. You would never search online for “education design” for anything today – as the solution to a problem, as an idea, or as a field. No one would have walked into a corner store and asked for a “band-aid” in the 1920’s.
  2. People would not have thought to use a temporary bandage with stick-um to cover wounds in the early 20th century. Nor so do businesses automatically think of education design as a solution-driven process for their service and product delivery today.
  3. Introducing a brand-new idea into the market requires precise language (Band-Aids used to describe themselves as adhesive bandages for minor wounds) that eventually levels out to more vague language (now it’s just adhesive bandage, or temporary bandage, but everyone knows what it is, really.)

Multiple examples of this phenomenon exist, actually. Consider Xerox (now everyone calls a photocopier a Xerox – the company actually took out ads recently telling people not to use the company name as a common noun or verb). Google is the same way – people now automatically use the company name to describe searching on the internet (for anything.) Ideo proves that design thinking and human centered design aren’t just fringe aspects of product and service creation. These examples provide proof that inventing a new idea, name, or concept can actually become economically and socially mainstream – so much so that the company essence dictates people’s usage and thought process of the concept.

Education design marries the best of human centered design, the lean methodology, instructional design, experience design, and other pedagogies to produce ideas, processes, and solutions that are focused on real, applicable learning in thousands of different arenas.

The pattern here is one that with a little luck and time will catapult education design to society’s front door. That pattern, exemplified by Band-Aid, Xerox, Google, Ideo and many others, is that concepts successfully make it into social consciousness by persistence, relevance, and results. I think you’ll see that education design will prove to be such a concept.

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Posted by Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher
Kristen Gallagher is an organizational strategies and learning designer. Specializing in onboarding systems, manager development, and knowledge management, Gallagher delivers programs that are designed to evolve and scale with rapid changes. She is the founder and CEO of Edify and has architected and delivered onboarding programs for companies bringing on just one person a quarter to 50+ people a quarter.

She brings over eight years of learning design, business development, and program operations and strategy to Edify. She guides growing tech companies to create amazing people systems, learning programs, and cultures that scale. Kristen speaks on human resources, human centered design, learning & development in technical environments, and integrated people operations across the country. Informed by her interests in technical product design, art history, contemporary Southeast Asian art, and museums, Kristen brings an iconoclastic approach to designing and implementing learning programs in tech environments.

She's spoken and taught at Learning Dev Camp, ATD Cascadia, ACTW, Refresh Portland, Product Tank, PHRMA, and dozens of other conferences. Effective, efficient programs, events, and strategies are what motivate her, and in every project, she engages teams to understand trade-off’s, make data-driven decisions, and design evolvable solutions.