A Zen View is what author Christopher Alexander named his architectural pattern 134, in the book A Pattern Language. 134 Zen View says:
If there is a beautiful view, don’t spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition- along paths, in hallways, in entry ways, on stairs, between rooms. If the view window is correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as they come up to the window or pass it: but the view is never visible from the places where people stay.
This concept comes from a parable of a Buddhist monk who lived on a mountain with a beautiful view. The monk built his house so that the beautiful view could only be seen during the brief walk up to his hut. This way the view would not become something that was seen so often that it became common and unappreciated to him.
This reminds me of a humorous theory that has been running around the office at HD for over a year now. We speculate that Apple has the technology to bring us an iPhone that is beyond our imagination, but the secrets are locked away in some Sector C, high security vault in the basement of Steve Jobs’ house. At specific timetabled dates Steve opens up the vault to present the next “iDevice at the Apple keynote, spoon-feeding us with tiny systematic upgrades to keep us engaged.
Although our theory is a little farfetched, there is some truth to it. R&D is an ongoing process, especially with a high-tech company like Apple. There’s no doubt that Apple’s got a few aces up their sleeve.
But is the answer to building in a Zen View into a product or company brand found in minor adjustments and upgrades? I believe it could be one option, but that is not the only way.
Arm & Hammer, for example, saved baking soda from near extinction by coming up with new ways for consumers to use the old product, which over time had become an ingredient rarely needed for cooking. Today there are literally thousands of books on numerous ways in which Baking Soda can be used.
What other ways can you think of for designing a Zen View into your products, company, and brand?