I have been surrounded by products my entire life, but little did I ever pay attention to its importance. Is it easy to use? Did it create a good or bad experience? And most important does it work? Look at this design of an old record player.
Dieter Rams, Braun phonosuper (SK 4), 1956; design: Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams
This record player is simple, clean, and elegant. In my opinion, it looks like a great product. It looks great enough to show it to my friends and not be embarrassed by it, making it a part of my social life. It’s delivery of just a few key features, creates less friction for the user to figure out making it an easy to use product. Have I ever used one? No. Would I feel intimidated if I tried to use one? No, because it does not look intimidating, it is not surrounded by hundreds of useless buttons. Instead from the looks of it, it only has 4 buttons and 4 knobs, most likely with simple labels such as play, pause, stop, etc. This record player is in example of a tangible product, something you can use out in the open for your pleasure or the entertainment of your visitors.
But what makes a product intangible in terms of a digital design? An application, tool, or site of course. If we were to be thinking of the modern record player today, would it be mobile applications such as iTunes, Spotify, and iHeartRadio? I would think so.
I have personally used every single one of these digital products, and they are all amazing. In the order displayed I have discovered these products throughout history. Starting with iTunes, I use to buy my music for either $0.99 cents, or buy an entire album from prices ranging from $8.99 to $11.99, in some rare cases I would pay even more money because it came with limited edition tracks and/or exclusive videos. Those were the old times, before Spotify blew up through the roof providing new users with their free one month subscription of unlimited music, before committing to a subscription of $9.99 monthly. Then eventually iTunes caught up with the same idea, unlimited music for $14.99, a little more expensive but those loyal to the Apple product would switch to iTunes without reasonable doubt, I am absolutely guilty of that. iHeartRadio, I haven’t tinkered with that much but from the looks of it, it is the ultimate resource of the most popular songs on demand. I can see why people love this product, even though iTunes and Spotify are within the reach of every smart phone user. If it’s one thing I have a hard time doing is keeping up with the norm, having to figure out what is in or out. But this music app makes it clear that they know whats up, they do the work for you by creating playlists that are hot! Regardless what service is being provided through these apps, they all have one thing in common and that’s delivering music at the tip of your finger. Just like that old record player, doing that one most important thing, playing your records.
Product design is everywhere, whether its within a physical reach or provided through a digital medium. Music is only one category of a product, there are many categories yet to be discovered and designed. I personally want to design solutions, focus on the goal, and reach a community of people going through a similar problem. Product is what keeps this community moving, product is what kept me moving through many years.
As I grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s, I saw many products rise from the ground up. Things such as Creepy Crawlers and Socker Boppers, to digital mediums like Tamagotchi’s to the first Game Boy.
Products like these are what got me into the industry. Innovative ideas that gained people’s interest (some more successful than others), and became a part a kid’s social experience. Growing up I didn’t get a chance to create my own Creepy Crawler monster, but I did have a Nintendo and the Nintendo Game Boy. These two gaming articles are what changed my life completely, and what got me into the product industry subconsciously.
Now as a young adult, I see the importance and value of a product and what it can do and mean to people at any age. I see kids now with Smart Phones, I didn’t get my first flip phone until I was 19 years old. I see young adults using Tinder to get themselves a hot date, when I had to build the sweating courage to walk up to someone at school and ask them out. In this love story instead of getting rejected by the girl swiping left I got the good old fashion, “Nahh I’m too busy.”
Products are an essential part of a person’s life, its what creates an experience for that individual either good or bad. My personal experiences so far have been mostly good, some have been bad. If anything these different moments in time are what got me into the business of products.