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Pricing is an interface:

In Defense of the $50 Mango

Situated on the island of Kyushu in Southern Japan, the Miyazaki prefecture’s tropical climate and heavy rainfall make it an ideal place to grow fruit. Farmers on the island originally made their money selling specialized citrus, such as the Satsume mandarin orange or the hebesu, which is a local delicacy. When other regions within Japan also began growing oranges, the market was flooded and the price fell out. By the 1980s it was clear, the farmers had to pivot and find a new niche market. Enter the mango.

The perfect mango isn’t just a matter of the right conditions—it’s all about timing. Miyazaki Mangos are ready to harvest when a net catches the perfectly ripe fruit as it falls off the stem. A reflector underneath the fruit helps the mango develop a consistent, bright red color.

Only mangos that fall off the tree are harvested. The harvested mangos are then sorted by sugar content and barcoded. Mangos with the highest sugar content weighing at least 350 grams with perfect, unblemished skin are sold exclusively at department stores as gifts.

Interface is connective tissue
Interface is the connective tissue between two systems. In software engineering, an interface specifies how two systems interact. For instance, in Java an interface describes how a particular object is created so that it works within the structure of a particular project, or program. Navigating and designing where these boundaries are is the work of design.

Today when we speak about interface design we’re usually focused on interface in the technology world and how humans interact with technology. But unwrapping a present or turning a door knob are interface use cases as well. Interface does the work of pointing to a context of use.

Interface does the work of pointing to a context of use
Where and when we encounter objects also determines how we value them. An object, or artifact, is an “interface” between that object and its surrounding environment. When the object or its environment change, so does its meaning.

A red fruit dropping out of a mango tree is nature’s way of signalling that it’s ready to eat. A wrapped pear becomes elevated as a holiday treat because of intent. The pear is special. It wasn’t just picked up from the supermarket. It was carefully wrapped, put in a box and sent just for you by someone who wanted to celebrate your birthday or congratulate you on a promotion.

Pricing is an interface
Pricing is an interface. Pricing points to a context of meaning and determines how someone out in the world will value what you’re making (or growing). Pricing will determine where someone will find something. Online, people often shop by price. Given the impact price clearly has on customers’ actions, why is it something we often don’t even consider?

The $50 mango starts its life from the same seed as any other red mango. Then a farmer comes along and selects a few of these seeds to be treated specially. They get extra attention, sunlight, and are heated and pruned to perfection. Every action and the amount of care given to each fruit is what imbues the Miyazaki mango with its meaning. When you select that mango and give it to someone special—the interaction of two systems—the Miyazaki mango realizes its $50 value.

Written Jan 25, 2019

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Synthesis: n. the combination of ideas to form a theory or system.

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