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What do you love about IBM software?
Whatever you think when you read that question, be assured that Phil Gilbert is working to change your answer—for the better. Because you are the focus of his plans.
As the general manager of IBM Design and chief evangelist for the design-development renaissance, Gilbert is listening for what you do and don’t love about IBM products, and what you’ll appreciate about them going forward. He understands your frustration with products built to satisfy a feature list at the expense of usability. And he’s well aware of the resistance that comes with any kind of change, even for the positive.
Design and IBM
Before IBM, Gilbert was president of Lombardi Software (yes, in tribute to Coach Vince), and two other startups. Over the years, his expertise in software and strategy grew, as did his patent portfolio1. He arrived at IBM in 2010 with a strong sense of design—not just the fonts-and-colors type, but human-centered design. The kind that involves a person’s interaction with a product or service and, when done right, turns a user into a fan.
By now you’re probably thinking "iPhone" and that’s a reasonable comparison, but the iPhone didn’t come first.
“IBM has a phenomenal design heritage, and we’ve drawn on that heritage as a big inspiration for our efforts today,” Gilbert explains. “Starting in 1956, when Thomas J. Watson Jr. asked renowned New York architect Eliot Noyes to become the first head of design at IBM. Noyes gathered an unparalleled group of designers—Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Paul Rand—who worked at IBM in the 1950s and ’60s through the ’80s.”
The IBM Selectric: that was Noyes. Rand created the IBM logo that’s in use today and inspired a young Steve Jobs. The Eames’ influence is too extensive to list in a paragraph.