Monday Design Tip: Be Water, My Friend
posted ago by baron
Let me start by saying that, contrary to what you might think, this is not a shameless attempt to work Bruce Lee into a Quirky blog post. At least, that wasn’t my ONLY motivation when planning this week’s design tip.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the title of this blog post refers to a famous quote written by Lee during the height of his martial arts fame:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now, you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
In telling the listener to be like water, Lee refers to the benefits of adaptability when facing a foe: a fighter who adapts to an opponent’s fighting style will always have the advantage over someone who adheres to a rigid, unchanging technique. These are words for all martial artists to live by, but this advice can also help anyone who encounters conflict on a regular basis, with product designers being a notable example.
You see, in the unpredictable world of product development, a product’s form and function will always be in a state of flux. More often than not, the first solution a designer thinks up will be quashed by one obstacle or another, whether it’s a higher-than-expected production cost, an unviable mechanism, or a favorite feature of the designer’s that consumers simply don’t like. So, to ensure that the final product is as effective and efficient as possible, a good designer should always be willing to make changes and drop features if the evidence suggests it will be an improvement. This doesn’t apply in every case, as there will always be times when you should stick to your guns, but if you find yourself cutting corners and burning the midnight oil just to fit an awkward feature into your design, it may be best to start searching for an alternate solution. The same can be said when dealing with critical feedback: you don’t need to heed every suggestion or complaint in your ideation’s comment section, but you shouldn’t ignore a reasonable, well-backed critique just because it doesn’t fit your vision of the product.
The development process for Quirky’s Pen Zen is a good example of how adaptable design can result in a better finished product. In his initial submission, inventor Edwin van de Bospoort envisioned a pen and pencil organizer that would work in a similar fashion to a McDonalds straw dispenser. However, when QDS began working with Edwin’s initial design, this method was found to be unviable, as it would restrict access to the pens, and would only allow the device to be compatible with a limited range of writing instruments. Instead of toiling to make a flawed concept work, Edwin and the design staff chose to pursue the “Magic Fingers” feature suggested by member chaosplan in a Community Design Phase, which addressed the issues with Edwin’s original design while maintaining his goal of simplifying pen/pencil organization. You can judge the results for yourself in the Quirky Shop.
So remember, be water my friend. No idea is too good to be improved.