Reflecting on Product Design

As a student of Design Lab’s UX Academy, learning about, understanding and looking for good design in every day life is at the crux of what we do.

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for good design

What better thought to start with than one from Dieter Rams’ Principles of Design?

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.

What makes a product good? What makes a product great?

A good product is one that understands a user’s basic needs and fulfills them. It’s easy and intuitive to use. A good product will quickly become a part of a user’s routine. A good product does something better (and hopefully cheaper) than its competitors (or if not, has another way to prove its value).

A great product on the other hand does all that and more. It instills a feeling in users and has an intangible quality to it. If a product makes the user feel like more (faster, stronger, smarter, cooler, better looking, richer, creative etc), the product has elevated itself beyond just filling a need. A great product will hit the mark with Dieter Rams’ 10 Principals. Not only will it look good, it will be honest, long-lasting, unobtrusive, thorough down to the last detail, etc.

What personally attracts you to Product Design?

I think when product design is at its purest (i.e., filling a need, not just for a business strategy), it is most bound to be successful. Obviously an investment needs to make money at the end of the day to continue fueling the company, but there is something that can verge on altruistic when a product really seeks to make a positive change to a user’s life. In the end, the well-designed product stops reducing those using it to “users” and elevates them once more to “humans.”

What is a digital product that you can’t live without? What problems does it solve for you?

For me, cell phones are a digital product I can’t live without. In my hand, I hold a tool that can be a flashlight, a level, a navigator, a camera, a reference librarian, a means to communicate with friends (and even strangers) and so much more. I can use my phone to capture a moment, kill time by surfing social media sites or reading articles, find a new restaurant or look up a fact I don’t know. The possibilities with the uses for a cell phone are nearly limitless.

What is a digital product that you consider innovative? Why is it so?

I think that Google Maps is a very innovative digital product. It takes navigation and brings it one step further. You can find restaurants/bars nearby, gas stations (and check their price), you can see business ratings, hours of operation, read reviews and then find the best route to get there. The app anticipates a need and makes itself more than just a means to get around.

What’s a product you feel “addicted to,” or otherwise feel negatively habituated?

As is the way of much of social media, Facebook is definitely a digital product that is quite addicting. The need to constantly be in the loop on other friend’s (polished) lives and get the instant gratification of ‘likes’ for the things we post means that checking one’s Facebook is a constant habit. Additionally, it’s become so hard for people to be ok with being just with themselves, sitting doing nothing, in silence, that we have to fill any empty time with mindless social media check-ins and endless scrolling. It’s easy to feel like social media is fulfilling the need for human interaction, when really it is a pretty shoddy substitute.

From the 7 Telltale Signs of Facebook Addiction

To sum, we end with a quote from Don Norman:

It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives