Revolutionary Measures

Making it real

James Dyson

Image by ciscommunity via Flickr

In an increasingly virtual world it is easy for inventors and start-ups to forget about the importance of good physical product design, and treat it as an afterthought or the packaging for the clever stuff.

And yet I think people have never been more discerning about the whole design of a product, demanding not just that it looks good but that it is intuitive to use and simple to understand. My 3 year old son quickly grasped how to navigate round my iPhone, leading to some unplanned phone calls, but providing a good example for designers to aim at. And the tools are now here that marry product design with innovation, through CAD/CAM systems and photo realistic rendering that creates stunning visual representations of a great idea.

So it is good to see James Dyson, a man who has shown the power of innovative product design to disrupt traditional markets (whether vacuum cleaners or hand dryers) putting his money where his mouth is with his own student design award. Built on a simple premise – design something that solves a problem – it runs in 18 countries and the UK winners have just been announced. What impresses me is a combination of the breadth of the ideas – from a portable room divider for hospitals to a bike seat designed to be more comfortable for women, and their real simplicity. These are products that can be easily understood and used without reading a 100 page manual or undergoing special training. And it looks like a competition worth winning – the global victor (announced on 8th November) is in line to win £10k and gain a real foot up on the ladder towards getting their idea into production.

While it is all well and good for the likes of David Cameron to push for the UK to create the next Facebook, it is vital that we don’t neglect the creation of physical products that are well-designed and fit a market need. After all, one of the key reasons that Apple has become the most valuable company on the planet is through good design across its entire product range. So I think the next generation of start-ups need to heed Dyson’s advice and design something that solves a problem rather than expecting customers to grapple with advanced, but user-unfriendly technology. Make it simple and they will buy.

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September 9, 2011 Posted by | Creative, Startup | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple, Antennagate and brand

The new Apple iPhone
Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr

The public and media storm about the iPhone 4’s antenna issues is an object lesson about changing brand perceptions and how companies need to evolve.

Like most companies, Apple has created some duff products in its time. And many of them have been down to design winning out over substance. The perfect example is the round mouse shipped with the iMac and Power Macs. Design wise it looked gorgeous and fitted in completely with the style of the product. However it was virtually impossible to use, leading to a storm of complaints and forcing customers to buy replacements.

But at the time it didn’t really matter. Macs were a niche product and users (mostly designers) weren’t going to defect to Windows over the issue.

Roll forward to the iPhone 4 and again a gorgeous design compromises the ability to actually use the product. But rather than just affecting a relatively small number of Apple fanatics, we’re talking about millions of mass market consumers. Big difference, hence Apple’s eventual issue of protective cases and heartfelt apologies.

But it took a while for Steve Jobs to stand up and admit the mistake (sort of). As it moves more and more into the mainstream Apple will need to learn to react faster if its brand is going to retain its lustre and appeal. Oh, and checking that the antenna works before shipping would also be a good idea…………

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July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment