Archive for May 27th, 2008

27
May
08

Needful Design

How well do the things in your life fit your needs? For example, I know that a man designed my shower because it lacks a much-needed ledge or bench for shaving my legs. Instead, I’m forced to wedge my foot into a corner at an angle I won’t be able to achieve in a few years and pray that my foot doesn’t slip at an inopportune time, say as my razor is negotiating the tricky knee area.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of any situation that isn’t worthy of needful design. OXO has made it’s name synonymous with this concept, although they refer to is as universal design, by improving everyday items like potato peelers and salad spinners:

At OXO, living by Universal Design principles gives us an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. The goal of making products more usable forces us to first identify problems and inefficiencies of existing products (including our own), not only in terms of comfort, but performance as well. This gives us the foundation to meet our commitment of making only products that offer tangible improvements.

Tangible improvements…what would the world be like if other companies committed to the same standard? How often are our lives complicated by things that aren’t necessarily an improvement over the previous version? Our society has slowly but surely adopted the attitude that new is automatically associated with better when such is rarely the case.

Beyond the things in our lives, I also wonder how much thought we give to generating ideas that offer an improvement over the previous. Politicians are famous for touting their new ideas/plans that will make citizens’ lives better. Again, such a reality is rare. How “new” are any of the so-called solutions offered by today’s politicians versus the ones presented a generation ago?

Today, as we embrace social media and the opportunities it presents, are we making the effort to produce something that’s better than before, that offers “tangible improvements?” Or, are we so caught up in the ease of use that we’re confusing quantity with quality? I’m not exempt from this question. It’s one of the reasons my posting has been very light the last couple of months as I’ve debated my goals for this blog. So the next time you have a chance to express yourself, take a minute or two or even three and see how it contributes to the needful design of ideas.




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