Last week we had another client tell us our job is to make their product cool. A lot of people think this is what they want, but most of them aren’t sure exactly what they mean by it.

Here’s what I think they mean: Cool is what people call something when it is interesting and desirable, but they’re not sure why.

A few years ago, I came across the best working definition of cool I’ve ever seen, in the February 2004 issue of Automobile. The piece was written by, of all people, Jerry Seinfeld, and he was talking about his ride in the Porsche Carrera GT:

If we’re going to talk about the Carrera GT, we’ve got to talk about cool. Cool is what sells sports cars. And Porsche cool is a particular type of cool. My personal definition of cool is how much you are about what you’re about. That’s not just the coolest thing, it’s really the only thing that’s cool. Having your hair messed up just right isn’t cool. Stephen Hawking is cool. His hair’s messed up just right for the right reason.

“How much you are about what you’re about” is, if you think about it, the heart of what makes anything interesting and worthwhile. When you’re looking for the best sports car, you want the one from the people who are all about sports cars. When you’re looking for the best radio, you want it built by people who create the quintessential radio. We want our products and services to come from people who are passionate about that thing, because we can then trust them to get it right.

This is the idea at the heart of our Core Value process. Every worthwhile thing is there for a reason. If we build that reason implicitly into everything we design and everything we write about that thing, we are on our way to people seeing it as worthwhile. And worthwhile is what people mean when they call something cool. “That thing is worth investigating. They know what they’re doing.” Cool.

Next up: Tell the truth