The Smallest Thing...
Most often, design problems are proportional to the size of the design mistake. A large design error -- like the complex, laborious, and ugly design and engineering of the Aztec truck -- makes for a large performance disappointment. A small design error -- like an unfortunate screw placement in a VCR remote control housing -- might make things inconvenient every once in a while, but mostly they are small issues. However, when designers begin dealing with complex systems with many interrelated parts, a little design decision can lead to the utter failure of the design.
Technology eats itself
Designers put a whole lot of work into the technical details of the functioning of their products. Yet the world as we know it is so darn complex, problems can arise easily, especially when your product has to interface with other parts of the built environment.
More Team, More Fuel
You may have noticed some new faces in the IDFuel fold recently. That's because we're always on the lookout for great new writing talent, and we are lucky to have three newbies with on the team, all with different interests and concentrations. So come on down, and meet the new guys.
Hinges, both living and dead
Here's a chance to check out two materials that seem pretty unrelated at first glance: Leather and polypropylene. While they are engineered from very different processes, some of the applications are pretty similar.
Yes, viral marketing is a great way to get your product known. Write a funny tag line joke, make a great T-Shirt, or put together one of those E-Mails with dancing...whatevers. Viruses, though, are far more tricky than even the most pernicious spam e-mail. And in our ever smaller looking, more globally connected, more globally infectable world, understanding, controlling, and treating viruses, and the people who contract them is going to be an enormous job.
The Human-World Interface
People are fantastic synthesizers. We take a bunch of signals from thousands of sensors, probably millions of sensors, vision, sound, touch, taste, smell, gravitational and inertial information, temperature, even humidity and static charge, and build a model of the world in our brains based on it. But that "reality" is only a model. It's as real as things get for us, sure, but there is so much more information in the world waiting to be incorporated into that model. And designers have the opportunity to make the sensors and output devices that help us get at it.
Blue Collar Design
Since most industrial designers work in the realm of mass-production, it might be a good idea to introduce some different avenues of design thought. What are the differences in design mentality for people like carpenters, plumbers, and even landscapers? Can your work in CAD benefit from the lessons of the construction industry?
Limitation and Inspiration
For every project a designer embarks upon, there's a part of the process where the constraints are defined. It has to fit inside a car trunk, it can't be wireless, or the marketing team has found that fuchsia just won't work this season. Often these limitations can be frustrating, but a good designer can see it as an inspiration, not just something to work around.
Idea Value VS Remix World
Ever since the invention of the printing press knocked book making from it's high parapet of elitism in king's courts and monasteries, the progress of technology has been bent on freeing information for as many people as will have it. The progression of lithographs, photographs, photo-copies, reel-to-reel audio, VCRs, and now computers, file sharing programs, and media authoring technologies like DVD-burning and CD burning has lead us to an age where anyone can easily twist information into any form they want. We are in the remix culture.
Sometimes, design is about fixing old things; Updating products that fell behind the times, or addressing problems in rev 1 so rev 2 will work better. And sometimes, design is about explosions of creativity; Entirely new user paradigms dreamed up in a flaming burst of muse-driven box-leaving stratospheric glory. The first is easiest, done the most, and pays the most consistently. It is the bread and butter of the design consulting world. The second is tricky, inconsistently solvent at best, and the lucky claim of only a small portion of practicing designers. But, like so many things, there is a middle ground. Simple changes that produce a difference, subtle at first glance, which in reality, alter completely the effectiveness of a product. This is the black art of the Tweak.
Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team