Making Great Products that People Love Is Simple. It All Comes Down to Three Things: a Simple User Experience, Design around the Socialability of a Product and the Uncovering of Memories and Pleasure Associated with a Product.

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by: Idris Mootee

Product designers are becoming marketers. Introducing the Baby Blackberry by Leapfrog. It’s time that kids of high flying executives need their own Blackberry. The good news is that while your kid can type messages on the Baby Blackberry, it’s not actually hooked up to anything.

If I were the designer, I would have the thing to play Dad’s or Mom’s voices every time they press a keypad. Dad can remotely play bedtime stories while on a business trip. That would be cool.

Making great products that people love is pretty simple. It all comes down to three things: A simple user experience, design the product around its socialability of uncovering memories and pleasure of a product. Designers are often putting too much energy doing task analysis on the basic features, and missed the three most important elements of product design.

What a product designer needs to to create things that people desire. Things that jump out from the sea of sameness and justify a premium price? Can design change the elasticity of products and shape the demand curve? If yes, then what’s the use of conducting quantitative research when consumers are not inspired by possibilities? You can ask 500 moms if they want to buy a video game console (and the answers is no) versus if they want to have a Wii. The problem with market research is the misapplication, that way it often produces misleading data. Worst than not having any at all.

What makes product desirable? What makes them desirable to an extent that people are attached to it (like the Blackberry, iPod or Birkin)? What is the basis of those emotional bonding? Are they based on the brand or the product or a combination of both? They would go to the extreme of repair it or even keeping it while also buying an updated version, it affects multiple ownerships.

To extend the psychological life span of products could be instrumental to reduce the demand for scarce resources and many sustainable challenges. Up to now, the role of the product and its design in stimulating the degree of attachment experienced toward this object remains quite obscure. As the product is under the designer’s direct control, understanding these issues is valuable for designers. Industrial designs have a strong technical rationality and that sometimes limiting them to be reflective.

Donald Schön’s book The Reflective Practitioner (1983) discusses the crisis for professional practice. This crisis relates mainly to the fact that professions such as architecture, and design but also medicine and psychology are strongly dominated by technical rationality and its positivist epistemology of practice. The problem is that PE cannot solve the dilemma of “rigor versus relevance” professionals are confronted with. This is because PE is based on analytical, empirical and logical propositions of truth within an objective world. However, professional knowledge involves experiences, feelings and subjective evaluations, which are non-existent for PE.

The "fuzzy front end" is usually what matters and makes the most difference. This early stage of product development are often given the wrong start when too much emphasis on the cost and volume trade-off. Not enough thinking around hot to turn any products into a personal tool.  A tool to get work done or too to tell other who you are. A forklift, a cell phone or a toaster, you should not start with how to produce the most number of units for the lowest price while getting them into the hands of the most people. This should come from the sales people, not the product design team. What people value most is the way that they interact with a product and what meanings it carry and this goes beyond price. The visual form, the way that they handle it, and how it makes them feel and think are all part of the design strategy. At the end, product design is simple. It is all about three things:

– Understand the core feature that a user wants and then relentlessly reduce complexity and unnecessarily elements until you get to a simple user experience.
– Map out the product’s socialability – its affiliation with social groups and any product or its category and how it is connected to different social groups or product group.
– Look hard to find memories that are related to the product and pleasure that are directly and indirectly associated by using the product. Hire an anthropologist to help.

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