Have you ever wondered why we like what we like? Why do some designs, products, and ideas become wildly popular while others fall flat? According to industrial designer Raymond Loewy, it all comes down to a simple principle: MAYA, or “Most advanced yet acceptable.”
Loewy was a 20th-century design icon responsible for creating some of the most recognizable products and designs of his time. He worked on everything from the Coca-Cola fountain to the first NASA spaceship, from the Lucky Strike pack to the Greyhound bus. But Loewy stood out because he understood what consumers wanted, even in vastly different areas of life.
Loewy’s “grand theory of popularity,” called MAYA, rests on the idea that humans are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a love of new things, and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. Hits, according to Loewy, live at the perfect intersection of novelty and familiarity. They are “familiar surprises” that offers something new and exciting but not so new that they feel alienating.
MAYA has been validated by hundreds of years of research, a principle that still holds today. We see it in successful products like the iPhone, which introduced new features and technologies but maintained a familiar interface. We see it in successful marketing campaigns that offer a fresh take on a familiar idea or concept.
So why does MAYA matter, and what can we learn from it? As designers, we must create products and experiences that balance novelty and familiarity. We need to push the boundaries of what’s possible while still meeting the needs and expectations of our users. For marketers, it means finding ways to create a buzz around new products and ideas while still making them relatable and approachable.
And for all of us, it means embracing the power of MAYA in our own lives. We should seek new experiences and ideas but boldly hold onto the familiar and comforting things. We should be open to change and innovation, but not at the expense of the things that make us feel grounded and secure.
Raymond Loewy may not be a household name, but his legacy lives on in the products and designs that continue to captivate and inspire us. And his MAYA principle offers a valuable lesson for anyone who wants to create something new, fresh, and exciting while still connecting with the needs and desires of their audience.
I wrote this after watching this Ted Talk
And after research on the internet, including Wikipedia and multiple other websites. I found it fascinating all the different projects he was involved in. I’d encourage you to watch the TED Talk and do some further research of your own!
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