By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)
Over the last year, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Depomed have each dealt with product recalls of musty-smelling drugs. The smell was caused by tribomoanisole, a chemical used to keep wood preserved and flame-retardant, leaching through the bottles when they were stored packed on treated wooden pallets. The pharmaceutical industrys manufacturing processes, guidelines and rules are some of the most detailed and strict in the world, but not even they caught this before it happened, and happened repeatedly.
This spate of product recalls can certainly tell us many things. As just one example, all pallets – 1.2 billion of them in the U.S. alone – may move entirely from wood to plastic. But we, here at Pixels & Pills, are not the authors of Good Manufacturing Practices or Quality Assurance offices. Our work includes websites, games, apps, and the like. Can we still learn anything from some musty wood?
Indeed, I think the lesson they offer is just as important for us as for anyone else. We and our industry colleagues are very careful about our own work. We pride ourselves on our individual creativity and on our groundbreaking ideas. But we must take care that our focus and pride doesnt make us insular and forget about all of the other work upon which ours builds.
For instance, the security and privacy of operating systems and social sites are obvious areas of concern. But even less frightening issues may also concern us. Are we keeping abreast of the changes that go on behind the scenes for Facebook applications? Come on, you know what we’re talking about: you design a beautiful interface for a client and all of a sudden, Facebook changes the max-width so that all of a sudden, your beautiful design looks as if it’s being viewed through a kaleidoscope. Have you been downloading all the updates to your design software? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Sometimes even I (by no means a designer, mind you) automatically gravitate to the “No Thanks, Maybe Later” button on that annoying pop-up screen that asks if I want the latest Flash player.
We need to remember that being creative doesn’t just involve a concept, but it embodies the tool that we use to bring that concept to fruition. This detail is often neglected in practice, and only considered when something goes wrong. When we talk about disclosure, we automatically default to talking about adverse effects and product warnings, since we’re in the Pharma industry. But when we’re working with clients on those groundbreaking, innovative projects, another kind of disclosure needs to be practiced: we need to be honest about the software (and hardware) that we use to execute those projects.