Design is: Seeing
In the early pages of The Redheaded League Holmes and Watson receive a very distressed man at Baker Street. As a greeting, Holmes, with characteristic bravado, rattles off a list of intimate details describing the stranger. Both the man, and Watson are shocked that he could have known so much, but Holmes announces out that it was "Quite elementary, my dear Watson", and proceeds to explain the intricacies of his deduction, and later chides Watson good naturedly on his lack of vision -- "You look, but you do not see". As designers, the skill that sets us apart from other builders, sculptors, businesspeople, and engineers, is that we see the connections that make magical deductions like Holmes's possible. Cultivating this skill of looking for real understanding should be at the top of your list.
Design for servicability and manufacturability
In a perfect world, a machine should be easy to maintain and service, even to a novice. This will never happen of course, but there are a few guidelines and case studies that will help you.
Gotta Makea Product Service Systems
The world of product design is a world of contradictions. Often, maybe too often, we end up with products which are almost inexplicable in their scope, cost, or production of waste, realative to their function. There is, for example, an object which is one of the most engineered and reengineered products in the world. It has required ultra-precise material forming technologies to be created. Numerous scientific papers are devoted to it's composition and fabrication. Formally, it has undergone at least a dozen changes since its invention. But for all this work, thinking, and money spent in research and development, the average lifespan of a soda can is 10 minutes. Chances are, you aren't even thinking about the can when you drink the drink. This disparity of service (a drink of soda) and product (the can that holds it) got the business world and the design world thinking together: Why can't we sell just the service, rather than throwing away all this valuable stuff that helps convey our services. The concept of a Product Service System was born.
The Cultural Technology Divide
Humans had an edge from the getgo. We had to. Our kids are horribly weak when they're born, and they have to fumble around for a few years before they're even close to ready to strike out on their own. But that's where the edge comes in. It's not tools -- we were making things work long before the first clovis point or stone hammer. Humanity survived, and prospered using social technologies. Forming groups, trading favors for status, shunning outsiders. These technologies co-existed with the onset of technology, and for a while, even prospered from them; tablets make better record keepers of alliances than brains. Lately though, in our ever more technological world, we face a growing gap between the physical technologies that change our behavior, and the cultural technologies that help us deal with it. This gap is causing all kinds of trouble.
Big Things Come In Small Packages
In the 30 years since the electronic revolution, nothing in the product design world has grown faster than our desire for smaller and smaller products. This is all well and good, but the market demands that the smaller the device, the more feature packed it becomes. Inevitably, a designer's job becomes one of fitting, cramming, and folding functionality into tighter spaces. So, with that in mind, why not contort your next contraption with some of these great folding examples.
Life and Death in the Product Food Chain
Pardon us for going all 6th grade biology Captain Planet on you, but unless you slept through the 1990s Earth Day Fueled Eco-Party, you know we're in a "web of life". The natural world has evolved over billions of years to include an unbelievably complex array of interactions and dependencies, most of which are unknown, and many of which are remarkably unexpected. Intentional design, while very much different from evolution, shares a number of common solutions and themes, as we've discussed many times before. Would it be so surprising that the same sort of web of interdependency exists in the product design world?
Emergence: Stupid Parts, Smart Whole
You've seen it happen. You've even been a part of it. Every time you drive a car, walk in the city, or play a video game like Everquest, you've caused it to happen. You may not have even noticed it. "It" is emergent behavior, the force behind flocks of birds, swarms of bees, and colonies of bacteria. It could also be the cause of perfect success, or complete failure in your designs.
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Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team