Monday Design Tip: Slash and Burn
posted ago by baron
No, we haven’t evolved into Monday Farming Tips, at least not yet. As an agricultural term, “slash and burn” refers to the technique of clearing brush and woodland growth to make room for new fields. However, the phrase can be applied quite effectively to the design world as well. See, in the same manner as plants, every design concept has a life cycle, and at a certain point, existing technology must be discarded to make way for the new. Of course, such an act should not be approached rashly: discard an old feature too soon, and you may ostracize a still-lucrative market. However, clinging to obsolete tech after its time can put a serious damper on innovation. While you may feel that packing a product with generation after generation of functions will help it appeal to the widest possible market, it is often wiser to discard those niche markets in favor of a greater leap forward. In short: don’t wait for a design concept or technology to die on its own, retire it at the time of your choosing.
Several companies have made a point of embracing this philosophy, but none so wholeheartedly as Apple. In 1998, Apple’s team chose to omit a floppy drive from the new iMac G3, stirring up controversy at first. No one really missed it. More recently, Apple made the decision to omit an optical disc drive from the Macbook Air, enabling it to take on its remarkably slim form. Paired with hardware like the Apple TV, and new services like iCloud and iTunes Match (in addition to iTunes), Apple thus positioned itself as the frontrunner in the race towards purely digital media. Apple’s slash-and-burn mantra even applies to software, as in Steve Jobs’ decision to no longer support Adobe Flash: “Sometimes when we get rid of things, people call us crazy ,” said Jobs. “But sometimes you just have to pick the things that are going to be the right horse to ride forward . And Flash has had its day.”
So long ODD. Thanks for the memories.
So what does this mean for the everyday inventor? In short, it means that you shouldn’t be afraid to shed an outdated piece of tech if you feel it stands in the way of true innovation in your product. Should you immediately discard a feature as soon as a replacement is previewed on Gizmodo? Certainly not. However, if you want your product to embrace a new technology head-on, or to shed an old component in favor of a new level of compactness, then move forward with confidence. We guarantee you, six months later, you won’t even remember why it was such a big deal in the first place.