Transparency and Faking It

Surface Media’s CEO offers his take on a current buzzword, idea, or trend.

The word transparency is tossed around in nearly every business today. I question, though, if every company that uses it actually means it, or if it’s just for optics. In the dynamic world we currently live in, transparency can be a major aspect of a brand’s success. And if it’s used incorrectly, it could be part of its demise. Ultimately, it comes down to intention. If the word is being used to gain confidence with the consumer, the company is probably doomed. If it’s being used because the company’s values are aligned with doing things for purpose—not simply profits—then the company is very likely to be in a strong place. While we don’t ingest design objects the way we ingest food, the end consumer still wants to know the same things: what types of materials are used, where they’re sourced from, and how the product is made. Here’s a good test to decide whether your company should be using the word transparency: Could you let a third party come in and look into how your product is made, from start to finish, and document the process to expose the end result to a global audience? If the answer is yes, then you pass the test. If you cringe at the idea, it means your company needs to do a thorough assessment and make immediate changes—or, at the very least, be aware of the fact that you’re actually just making a metaphorical cheap suit. At Surface, with our “How It’s Made” series, we’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the world’s best brands, taking an inside look at how their product is made. (This month we feature the furniture maker Blu Dot.) Brands such as B&B Italia, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Emeco, and Leica have granted us exclusive access to go behind the curtain, without interference, to truly be … transparent.

Is your company truly transparent or just pretending to be?

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