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.
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?
Limitations that Empower
What would you say if your design professor, or boss walked up to your desk one day and told you "Charlie" ('cause Charlie's a good unisex name) "Charlie, I need you to remove some functionality from this product." You'd think he was a wacko right? Designers don't limit functionality, right? Actually, you might be surprised how empowering a few well placed restrictions can be.
Reworking The Everyday
Often, the design world buzzes biggest with the big ticket designs. The Segway was supposed to alter our transportation, and the very layout of our cities. Dyson's Vacuums promised a complete revolution in the way we clean. And it seems like every season, Adidas or Nike come out with an entirely new radical departure in the way footwear is made. But big talk doesn't always mean big walk; Sometimes, the most significant changes are in the most mundane items.
Design and The Long Tail
If you've been following the life of Chris Anderson (and who isn't), head editor boss man at Wired, you know he's working on a book extrapolation of an article he wrote a few months back. The Long Tail, the topic of his writing, is a new marketplace for products which is forming around the internet. His mold breaking assertion is that the thousands of niche markets created on the web are just as powerful a place to sell into as the mass market. But, even better for designers, the Long Tail may give new freedom where we were missing out before.
Permanence and Transience
Our world is made up of conflicting and balancing forces: Light and dark, airiness and substance, heat and cold... The list could be made to go on forever. All of these forces contribute to our perception and understanding of our surroundings. In our efforts to build physical objects which have meaning within our social and cultural surroundings, a crucial force balance to examine is that between permanence and transience.
Off To Toy Fair
IDFuel's going to be taking a break while we check out this year's American International Toy Fair in New York. We'll definitely have some juicy comments and tidbits when we get back, and hopefully some pictures. Until then, do a little toy-business brushing up with these posts:
The Rise and Fall of Kids
Taking The Joys Out of Toys
Siphoning Gas From Your Bottom Line
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Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team