ID Thoughts

It’s Been Fun

I just wanted to take a moment and thank all those that subscribed to my blog and read my posts. It meant a lot. I won’t be posting here anymore, looking to simplify life a bit.

Thanks again for the time you took out of your day to stop by.

Wish you all the best on your industrial design endeavors.

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Find the Perfect Question

The need is not always easy to find. It could be for a product not yet created or it could be for a feature on an existing product. Either way, it’s like answering a question.

Some products fail because they answer a question that isn’t being asked. Another reason products fail is because they answer the wrong question. And finally, sometimes products fail because they answer a trivial question.

(INSERT: noise of fortune cookie opening) The only way to create the perfect product (answer), is to find the perfect need (question).

Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.
-Charles Eames

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A Sustainable Designer


The title of this post is kind of misleading. When people talk about sustainability, they are usually referring to the well being of our natural surroundings. These resources are limited, so a responsibility regarding consumption is critical.

But, what if we’re talking about a different resource altogether, specifically the unlimited supply of online information / design inspiration. Is there still a need to be responsible? Can you still consume too much? Well, there is only so many hours in a day. If you spend most your time consuming, you’ll never have enough time to create. Plus, I think it’s near impossible to do both at the same time.

We all know creating something unique takes time and a lot of effort. So, if you spend all your time consuming, all you’ll have at the end of the day is other people’s ideas. It’s very easy to “bite off” more then you can chew, there’s amazing work out there, but you’ll wear yourself out. Believe me.

So, the question is not whether you’ll deplete our open sourced collection of online knowledge. It’s, will you actually leave enough time in the day to sustain yourself as a designer?

(This post was written more for me, my Google Reader is out of control. It’s nuts! I’m committed to filtering it down… way down.)

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Don’t Forget the Past

While thinking about the future, it’s sometimes easy to forget where you’ve been. What I mean by “where you’ve been” is the history of your company, and the history of your products. All in all “your history” can be summed up by the relationship your customers have with your product, in other words your reputation.

Of course your reputation could be good or bad, but if you ignore/forget it you’ll come-off looking insincere. The consumer will usually think you don’t care. If you don’t fix the past, they will hate you back. Plus if you abandon what works, they’ll hate you for that too. They’ll leave thinking, “Why did you break it?”

We’re all anxious to chart new territory, to find some design or function that’s never been created, but building on a past reputation (bad/good) is almost more important. I think, many consumers are a little insecure about buying a new product. They wonder if it’ll work, if it’ll do the job it claims, if it’ll last, do they really need it, is it really better then the cheaper version. Building on something they know will help put those worries to rest.

It may even put a smile on their face.

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Industrial Designers Organize

(Image of Tiesto)

Industrial designers are stylists, engineers, inventors, and they’re creators, but a more uncommon label (and arguably most important) is orchestrator. An orchestrator creates music with elements, notes that existed before, yet they create something entirely unique and emotional. Designers are similar, they create objects and use materials that existed before. It’s not so much that you should create something that’s never been created, but organize something that’s never been organized.

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Fun Design

If you’re not having fun, why are you a designer?

Sure you may have engineers hating your draft angles, or management asking for a mm of change… Hello, you’re DESIGNING. You literally get to sketch the future.

If you’re not having fun, do something else! There’s plenty of other people that would love to step into your shoes.

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5 Reasons Why an Industrial Designer Should Blog

Industrial Design Blog

I bet, you’ve heard many reasons why you shouldn’t blog, maybe even some of those reasons you made up yourself. Well, here’s a few reasons why you should.

1. Every designer should be a thought leader.
Your concepts are innovative and ground breaking. You have developed processes to execute new worlds of possibilities. Why aren’t you sharing them?

2. Blogging forces you to think things out.
Putting the pen to paper has always helped you clarify a design concept. That’s how we “work things out.” Picking a blog post topic, and stringing together a few sentences does the same thing.

3. It gives you a place to vent.
No, I don’t mean rant. Being an Industrial Designer doesn’t always mean you’ll be drawing hover boards, floating cars, and toasters that check your email. Writing a design article helps alleviate pent up design aggression, much like sketching on blue-sky-portfolio-projects.

4. It’ll keep you sharp.
Even without maintaining a blog, you should be reading and scouring the web, books, and magazines for the latest trends and tech. When you do have a blog, it encourages you to stay on the leading edge even more.

5. THE MOST IMPORTANT – A blog is the perfect place to start your Personal Brand (and I don’t mean a place to post your personal logo and portfolio). Personal Brand is so much more then a logo and few pretty pictures. Stay tuned for a whole blog post on this, but your brand is how others see/know you. Besides your portfolio and skill set, this is EVERYTHING. I’m not speaking to just students, either. I believe this is true for every Industrial Designer. Blogging, brings another level of depth to who you are and how you work.

What do you think? Is blogging for every Industrial Designer? If not, why?

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9 Free Online Portfolio Sites for Industrial Designers

1. Behance Network

Behance Network - Online Portfolio

About: An unbelievable service, and the level of professionalism and quality of work is amazing. Their one-line description is, “A free platform for the world’s leading creative professionals.” Behance was started by 99% a amazing site, focused on, “Making ideas happen.”

Features:
Join groups/circles – Well formated display of portfolio – Tip Exchange from members – Job board – No limits on portfolio size.

Cost:
Free, but you have to request an invite to join.

2. Coroflot

Coroflot - Online portfolios for Industial Designers
About: Coroflot could be considered THE place to host your Industrial Design portfolio. Total users on Coroflot is over 150,000. Even though they range from textiles to architects, there are over 900 Industrial Design users. A perfect place to network with some of the top designers in the world. Coroflot also provides a job board, and employer directory.

Features:
Stats on profile and image views – Organize your portfolio into sets – Advertise on your site by creating badges – Network with friends – Job postings – Advise Blog

Cost: Free

3. Carbonmade

Carbonmade - Post your portfolio online

About: Carbonmade is a New York based company, and they know a little something about design. They offer different formats and styles to display your work.

Features: Dead simple signup – somewhat cool layouts to present your work

Cost:
Free and Paid. Free gets you 5 projects and 35 images. Paid is $12/month and you get 50 projects with 500 images and 10 videos/flash. 12 bucks also allows you to have your own domain, with no ads, and ability to call them for help (tech support).

4. DeviantART

DeviantART - Industrial Design Portfolios

About: DeviantART has over 12 million artistic members. Create a profile, upload your work, and begin networking with a whole range of people. You can even sell your artwork.

Features:
Galleries – Portfolio layout – Messaging/chatting – Critiques – Journal – Profile page (design wise, you could compare it to myspace) – Quality of work is all over the map

Cost: Free

5. Flavors.me

Flavors.me - Awesome online portfolio

About: Allows anyone to create an elegant website using personal content from around the internet. If you have a blog, flicker, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts, and would like a central hub for them, Flavors.me is for you. It takes 5 minutes to set up and looks amazing.

Features:
One place to coordinate all your online profiles.

Cost: Free

6. Facebook Profile and Fan Page

Facebook.com - Post your portfolio

About: If you haven’t thought about it yet. You can create a photo album on your Facebook profile called Portfolio, then load as many images as you want. Many people set their profile privacy settings to private, which makes their photos hidden to the public. If that’s the case you can also create a fan page just for your portfolio. By nature, fan pages are public, and indexed by search engines.

Features: Access to a network of over 400 million people (obviously many of these are in high school, but still a great place to find and network with professionals)

Cost: Free

7. Shown’d

Shown'd - Online portfolios for designers

About:
I haven’t tried Shown’d yet, but it looks great. They have a free demo, so you can try out the admin user interface without signing up. It seems easy. Although you can showcase your design projects, the ability for an Industrial Designer to network looks limited. Limited because there aren’t any id-ers using the service, or at least they don’t have a category for them.

Features: Excellent UI with drag and drop – Easy to setup – Job board – No limit to portfolio size

Cost: Free

8. Flickr

Flickr - The obvious place to post your portfolio

About: How can we forget Flickr? Or for that matter any photo sharing service. Flickr allows you to create galleries and share them as a great slideshow. Simple, straight forward, how could you possibly need anything else?

Features: Great organization – Slideshows – Huge database, that’s searched frequently – Simple

Cost: Free

9. Google Profile

Google profile - create your profile today

About: Even though a Google Profile could be considered one of the most important (accounts to have), to many this feature is still a secret. It’s much like Flavors.me. It allows you to link out to all of your online accounts. The main benefit comes when someone searches for your name. Bingo, you show up on the first page (although at the bottom). Setting one up is easy, if you have a Google account, you’re halfway there. Once you’re logged in, click on Settings in the top right corner. Then click Google Account Settings, and then Create a Profile (next to the crazy smiley face). Be sure to add your Flickr/Picasa portfolio, and ta-da your portfolio will show up on the first page (if anyone searches your name).

Features:
Central hub for your online accounts – Bio area – Add your portfolio via Flickr/Picasa – Show up first on SERP – Google – Google – and did I mention Google

Cost: Free

Did I miss one? Give me a suggestion for number 10.

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iPad

Maybe, you’re sick of hearing about the iPad. Me… not so much.
I’ve been debating wether or not I really need to find a place for another gadget.

My current setup looks like this:

1. iPhone

2. Macbook Pro

3. Monitor, keyboard, and mouse

It’s worked great for me, but there are a few drawbacks:

1. While it’s convenient to check email on my iPhone, I hate writing emails on it. So, most emails end up being one or two sentences.

2. Browsing the internet anywhere on my iPhone is fun, but also not ideal. It’s way too small.

3. Reading books, watching movies, and playing games is also fun on the iPhone, but it’s still too small.

4. Lugging my laptop around, although portable, is a pain.

5. My laptop is great for having some computing power in “portable mode”, but it’s still not powerful enough to work in “power-user mode” (working with large amounts of video, and high-res photos).

That’s why I could see my future setup looking more like this:

1. iPhone (maybe not, this could be a cheap flip phone)

2. iPad (still not a big fan of the name)

3. Mac Pro

I’ll have the computing power when I need it, and better usability when out-in-about.

Maybe, I just rationalized spending more money, when I really don’t need to.

How about you, do you see this product fitting in your line-up?

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Awe-Inspiring Design

Sometimes Industrial Design is all about the art of entertainment. The function of your design might be entirely focused on bringing a smile to someone’s face. Remember not all entertainment is expensive, highbrow, or opulent… So why should your product?

Sometimes entertainment is just plain awe-inspiring.

Why not shoot for that?

I love this video by the creative geniuses, OK Go. Yesterday it had been watched by 300,000. Today it’s views are over a million.

Maybe awe-inspiring works.

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Take a Break.

I’m excited to get my site up and going again. I’ve been taking a break from it for while. I’d recommend to anyone if you feel like you’re doing something for no reason… take a break. While you’re away, if you miss it, there’s a reason why. While you’re missing it, it will become apparent why you miss it. For me, I love anything that has to do with design and art… anything. This place has become somewhere I can share and talk about it. I’ve also found putting my views and opinions into words allows me to really think it out.

Try it for yourself.

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Gravity, In A Design World

Don't know what but this image has always cracked me up.

Don't know why, but this image has always cracked me up.

I can’t think of anything more deflating then an engineer or finance person telling me the design, I’ve poured my heart into, is un-manufacturable or too expensive. To get through this roadblock try comparing it to a game like tennis. You come up with a design, and send it over the “net” to be reviewed and evaluated. Your design hasn’t “scored” until the “ball” stays in their court and they agree it’s worthy of production. It’s your responsibility to not make any compromises, and maintain a level of design leadership. When your unrestrained design breaches the “box” of restrictions, you can either stand firm, or look for alternatives that meet the boundaries. If you stand firm, it requires you to resell your theme with added support and reasoning, sometimes focusing on the R.O.I. will help. If you look for alternatives, then it’s important to find those that exceed your previous concept’s level of execution.

Being a production designer is never easy, restrictions often feel like gravity pulling your ideas back down to earth, but some of the most rewarding/enjoyable designs leave us speechless. They are the ones that have some magical ability to defy gravity. I’ve always felt that our lure, as industrial designers, is to find that realistic solution for the company, yet magical-experience for the customer.

Do you find yourself compromising the original design intent often? How do you stay positive, innovative, and motivated while facing certain manufacturing restrictions?

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Registering Your Industrial Design

copyright2A lot of money and time can be spent researching and designing the look and function of a product, it’s very important to keep this investment safe. David Canton, a business lawyer, has a great post back in June regarding how to keep your designs safe from copycats.

Industrial designs are often thought of as being like a utility patent, which protects useful inventions. Indeed, in the United States, registered industrial designs are known as design patents and are registered within the patent registry.

In reality, industrial designs are more akin to a cross between copyrights and trademarks. A trademark protects words or images used to brand products or services, while copyright prevents the copying of artistic works.

So how does one go about obtaining an industrial design?

Thanks David for this great post.

Click here to read David’s full article on registering a creative industrial design.

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Here’s to the Creative

With so much destruction in the world it’s great to celebrate the creatives, and the builders.

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Finding an Industrial Design Sollution

Industrial Design FocusWhen I’m faced with an industrial design challenge sometimes I spend too much time focusing on project restraints. This can cause a major problem by diverting your attention away from the true needs of a customer. It can be especially troublesome during the early stages of development. While working through the initial ideating and sketching, look for ways to set aside the looming budget and manufacturing restraints. Allow yourself the freedom to have uninhibited fun finding product solutions. Ironically, many solutions won’t wander that far “out of the box.”

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Quote: Paul Rand

paul-randTo understand the meaning of design is… to understand the part form and content play… and to realize that design is also commentary, opinion, a point of view, and social responsibility. To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.

Design is both a verb and a noun. It is the beginning as well as the end, the process and product of imagination.

-Paul Rand Graphic designer.

From his book Design, Form, and Chaos, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993.

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Perfecting Your Craft

perfectingI thought this was a great video! I was totally blown away by how well this guy, Danny, rides a bike! I ride, we all do, but I would never even try to ride across a fence. He probably has some natural talent, but I’m sure he has spent more time riding then we have. Along with that he’s probably fallen off a bike more then all of us combined. Then I thought about design, and how this applies. Your abilities may stand out to non designers, because of the extra time you’ve dedicated to sketching, modeling, and problem solving, but what makes your work standout among other designers or even designs? Simple, it’s how well you ride the bike. Just like the video, you need a little natural talent, and a whole lot of time “riding.” Don’t forget the failures either (you can’t be afraid to fail). People will watch you try different solutions and designs, maybe even laugh, but when you succeed you’ll look like a genius. The reason why, because you’re willing to try things others won’t, and due to the amount of time you put in you’ll find the solution.

  1.  A little natural talent
  2. Amazing courage
  3. Hours, and hours of “riding”
  4. Persistence after failure

              = Perfected Craft

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Land Your ID Job

I recently had a fellow design friend ask me what he could do, while in school, that could help land an I.D. job. I had a couple ideas, and thought this would make a great post. This is not meant to be a sure formula and guarantee for hire, just my opinion on what may help.

To me there are 5 main areas:

1.Great sketching (not necessarily #1, but somewhere at the top)

2.Awesome model building (with company specific software)

3.Inspiring presentations (that tells a story about the product – more importantly about your abilities)

4.Offer something unique (this could be a skill, the way you solve problems, or something else) 

5.Well-established industry relationships

 

1Great sketching will always play a major role in your job opportunities. An I.D-er is responsible for finding product design solutions and communicating them to the customer/employer. Sketch quality is directly related to inspiring project teams with confidence to invest. The inspiration can come from style and clarity. While in school competition to be the #1 artist is stiff. It’s important to always benchmark your work, be honest with yourself and ask “Where does my work rank?” You should not only do this with your immediate classmates, but with students from other schools. Aim for #1, but know that there will always be someone better. That’s not meant to be negative, just a statement to keep you humble and always looking to learn.

 

2Awesome model building is especially important in today’s economy. With every company reducing headcount, the demand for multi-faceted/cross-trained employees grows. Naturally with workers doing more then before there’s less time to train. Students that come out of school with high-level training in all company used software increases their chances 10 fold. They have become “soldiers ready for battle.”

 

3An inspiring presentation is your ability to tell stories and sell ideas. While in school this becomes a double edge sword, because it also describes your skills as a designer. I’m sure you’ve heard before, that your presentations should speak for themselves. The story should be clear and visible with or without your presence. I’d like to add, that your abilities as a designer are very clear and present in every presentation you create, so ask yourself what messages are you sending about yourself?

 

4Offering something unique is self explanatory, yet probably one of the most important areas. At this moment there are fewer jobs being offered, yet the same amount (if not more) students looking for jobs. How are you going to set yourself apart from them? How will you become memorable after being the 50th interviewee?

 

5Well-established industry relationships build easy to cross bridges. In a way it’s a lot like marriage, would you marry someone you didn’t know? Of course not. Why would a company hire some one they don’t know? Sure this happens, but they risk a lot. I would look now for opportunities to start conversations with prospect companies, even if this is your first year. Ask for job insights, share your work, and invite critiques. When the time comes to interview you’ll have allies and referrals, people willing to put their reputation on the line to recommend you.

 

I hope this gives a little help to those in school currently or even those looking for jobs now. Of course I’d love to hear insight you may have.

 

 

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Designing Visual Cues

push-pullIf you’ve been in product design for a while you’re probably very familiar with the concept of visual cues. If not, I thought I’d take a moment to explain.

In a nutshell, visual cues are elements of a design that communicate its purpose and method of use. Common cues have developed over time out of repetitive use, natural association with other cues, and common sense (or the minds natural processes).

These cues are vital to the success of a product. If a person is confused by the cues he/she is left to read pages of instructions. If the cues are wrong he/she will feel betrayed and put-off. If they are obvious, descriptive, and accurate the individual will enjoy their natural like experience.

Have you ever entered a public building and pushed on a door, then realize after your face smacks the glass you were suppose to pull? Usually, you feel kind of dumb and look around to make sure no one noticed, but most likely this could have been a result of poor cues. This happened to me recently, going into Office Max. The first set of doors had a large flat area, perfect for pushing, yet it was meant to pull. The second set had the exact same handle, yet it was a push. Sure, I could have read the large print which described the appropriate action, but my point still stands. Better visual cues = better customer experience.

I’m interested in your experiences, what have you done to design better descriptive cues?

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From the Side Table

chairs

I’m sure most of you have your own side projects. It’s always good to have some going. I sometimes use them as therapy. When you constantly design for clients, customers, managers, and more, it can be a great outlet for personal creativity. You can be the sole contributor and critic. This week I gathered all my random napkin sketches and found a common theme: chairs, furniture, and such, nothing revolutionary just having some fun. Thought I might build a few in AutoStudio, stay tuned.

Do you ever find yourself needing a design outlet? If so, what do you use to creatively “vent?”

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Experiencing Our Environment

environmentWe are people experiencing our environments through products. As designers we are always looking to bring new, better, and rewarding experiences to people. Please post a link in the comments section of something/someone  you feel is dramatically changing our experiences.

Video referenced from http://www.wallpaper.com/video

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The Bilingual Designer

OldTo some of you this may be old news, but I’ve been noticing a change in designer skill sets required by companies. The old way relied on a designer that had great sketching, innovation processes, and communication/presentation skills. This individual would spend most of their time sketching. Then, once a direction was picked, the designer would spend the rest of their time guiding a digital/traditional model maker. As you can see this relies on two people who each know one and a half “languages.” The designer is proficient in the language of 2D and somewhat familiar with 3D. The modeler, on the other hand, is well versed in 3D and lacking in 2D. Together they battle back and forth trying to communicate, eventually producing the final product.

NewToday’s valued designer is bilingual, well equipped in both 2D and 3D languages. This has two benefits.

1. It produces a cost savings by reducing head-count.

2. It shortens the translation time between languages.

If you’re still in school and find yourself gravitating towards one language, be sure to dedicate some of your time to the other. If you are a design professional, look for opportunities to gain other languages. Maybe you’re already proficient in 2D and 3D, looking for a third skill could only make you more valuable. What other languages have you picked up, and how have the benefited you? Feel free to share.

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Don’t Push on the Wall

lineup

A fellow designer, Paul, inspired this post. He recently left his consulting job, to take a direct position as a designer with one of his clients. He realized that design-leadership is not always the company’s priority. I think most of us can say, at on time or another, that we have seen our company take a path contrary to our vision (wither that’s to cost-save, wrong target customer, or just plain safe).

The Wall

Now hopefully that moment of disagreement quickly passes and everyone returns to the same page, but that’s not always the case. Some of us might belong to a huge company, or one that simply has an extremely small design team. In most cases this means the I.D. department takes a “back seat” regarding major decisions pertaining to the company’s products.  A designer’s first reaction may be frustration. If frustration is allowed to remain, then relationships within the working product development team can turn combative.  

 Leadership

Along with practicing patience and persistence, here are a few suggestions for removing and/or working around these barriers:

  1. Visually explain your side. We’re designers, use it to your advantage. Look for new ways to visually excite team members about your product goals.
  2. Become the resident expert on your product. Strive to learn all aspects of the business, i.e. engineering, marketing, and finance. The more you know, the better you’ll become at discussing your goals; you’ll possibly help them see your alternate solutions.
  3. If you are demanding design leadership, then be a design leader. To quote from “Zag,” “people like change, they don’t like to be changed.” Look to build relationships between coworkers. It’s easier to ask your best friend to follow you, then a complete stranger. (Wow, sorry that sounded like a fortune cookie)
  4. Pump out the work. To search for an innovative solution means you’re not satisfied with the initial result. It may be your best solution, but you can’t know if you don’t explore the alternatives. As you set a high standard work ethic, you’ll influence others to do the same. 

The walls we find in our company may be big our small, but there is always a solution to remove and/or work around them. Please, feel free to share with us what has worked for you.

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Adding a Little Magic

magic

Why do some products need instructions and some don’t? (That sounds like a dumb question, but think about it) One of my pet peeves, of purchasing a new product, is opening the box and finding instructions. Seriously, am I the only one who hates reading a book of complicated directions before using my latest high-tech purchase? On the other hand, there is sheer joy that enters my life when I open a product and no instructions are found. Then on top of that, I’m even more excited to realize the product truly doesn’t need them.

Now, I’m not sure you could eliminate the need for instructions on every product (maybe you could), but many could use an extra dose of innovation and simplifying. I believe most of those overcomplicated products are actually the industrial designers fault. Yes, there are other causes, but may I suggest a few reasons due to designers:

1. Lazy/bored designers (this is obvious, but I’m sure we’ve all fought this). If a designer is not happy with their project or job they most likely lack vision to create truly innovative products.
2. Lack of research. This can be caused by small budgets, but usually from a neglectful designer not willing to perform due diligence.
3. Lack of innovation. Once all the data from customers, finance, engineering, etc. is collected, the designer translates and styles them seamlessly into a product. This is one of his/her main responsibilities. Some lack talent, but usually this is a result of simply not spending enough time.

If we spend more time in the innovation stage we can minimize or even eliminate the need for instructions. Let’s also look for ways to integrate them into the product or use cues such as color and placement to suggest things like direction and purpose. As designers, lets commit to spend more time innovating, staying motivated, and most importantly keeping the customer first. Always ask yourself, “Is this something I could use?” If it’s too complicated for you, it’s probably too complicated for the customer.

Short story before I go – I just returned from a trip to Columbus, OH where I took my wife and three-year-old son to Cosi, a children’s science museum. The place was huge and had several exhibits displaying natural phenomenon. It was great to watch my son, as he would push a button and trigger some “magical” event like waves forming in a pool. It reminded me of a customer’s relationship to our products. How many times have you interacted with a product and delighted in its “magical” function, simultaneously thinking, “How did they do that?” On the other hand, how many times have you been disappointed and thought, “That’s it?!” When we truly eliminate the need for instructions and design naturally usable products we also create “magic.” If customers are greeted by this during their first interaction, they’ll keep coming back for more.

What do you think, could and every product be designed so well that instructions would never be needed again? Feel free to leave a comments.

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