Focus

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In large organizations, my experience has been that having too many ongoing projects at the same time for the same product leads to a messy outcome. The ideal scenario involves everyone having a single vision and general focus area.

Imagine you’re designing a sushi restaurant. There are 3 different leaders of this sushi restaurant. One of them wants to focus on sashimi, one wants to diversify the palette with western food and one wants to serve regular sushi. While they all have unique strengths that they can bring to the table (no pun intended), the marketing ad and menu for that restaurant will start to get really confusing.

Here’s a real life example. Public transit in the bay area is managed by multiple agencies. CalTrain runs north/south of the peninsula, Muni serves San Francisco and Bart connects the northern half of the peninsula to East Bay. Additionally, VTA serves San Jose and South Bay cities and AC transit serves East Bay towns. I’ve run into more confused tourists in San Francisco than anywhere else, because no one knows which bus/tram/train to take. When I first arrived in the city, I was dumbfounded by how nonsensical the system was. In contrast, Boston’s MBTA is responsible for the commuter rail, subway system and buses.

 

Above: San Francisco transit systems

I feel that the same applies to tech products as well. Vurb was an app that helped you figure out what to do in your spare time. You could plan an event with friends, whether it was concerts, music or theatre. They had a lot of interesting concepts – especially that of collaborating with other folks on getting together, but it was hard to figure out when exactly I would need this app. They couldn’t gain mass traction and sold to Snapchat for $110 million+. However, apps like Instagram have remained resilient in today’s mature app market because it does one thing really, really well. It allows people to share a moment through a photo and for other people to see that photo. Its simplicity is what allows it to work.

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To create a product that people will use, its purpose must be clear and intentional. It seems obvious, but often we try to stack too many features on top of a product, which makes it less desirable in the end.

That’s probably a sign for me to give this blog a focus. Until next time!

 

 

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6 Fun Product Designs for This Week

 

This foot hammock.

This honey packaging

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This clock, where the frame also moves with the hands

This dynamic piece of furniture

Terraced Bowls. Who knew soy sauce could be so beautiful.

The PIPO chair. (by Alejandro Estrada) Probably the most elegant chair I’ve ever seen.

Transparency in Product Design

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It’s the Christmas season again, and the expectation to get something great for the folks back home is set high above my frame. I decide to get my parents a kayak, the inflatable kind that fits inside the car. They’ve always talked about getting one, but never have because they had worries about transporting one from our home to X destination. So I was pretty happy when I made the purchase. It was a big one, that’s for sure. 

When it was delivered to me earlier to week, I found a warning label on the box that says “This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm.” Now, I know that Prop 65 demands that this warning label is placed on many products that may not even have any dangerous chemicals in them, but I wanted to check with the company anyway to see what was up with the label. 

 

I decided to call the Sea Eagle customer support number yesterday. “Hi, I have a question about the warning label on the Kayak I just bought”…”Ok.” I ask what parts of the product contain the chemicals mentioned on the label, and the lady on the other end replies, “I have no idea.” “Is there anyone I could talk to who might know?”…”No.” “There’s no one on your staff who might know?”…

 

Needless to say, this conversation was not very fruitful. I knew that I wasn’t getting anywhere, but I wanted to know if the company cared at all about customer concerns like mine. If there’s lead in the PVC material used to make the kayak, I want to know if exposure to it is going to harm the people using it. I want to know what’s in the things that I buy. I want to know when companies are going to start being open with their customers. I want some transparency, and yesterday, I didn’t find it.