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A product design blog containing unique observations, advice and ideas to improve objects from the mind of Product Tank.

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Entries in questions (4)


Bike Lock

A while ago I had a request to design a bike lock, which I have been musing about for a while and now I've reached a point where I'm willing to admit defeat.  It's not that I can't design a good bike lock, but what I can't really do is improve upon existing designs.  So, I started thinking about making the bike become the lock, something that I also think has been done, by turning the frame into a carribena.  But again, maybe I'm asking the wrong question.  All too often people approach designers and ask them to design them an object, not a solution to a problem.  It should not be about designing another bike lock or anything else that already exists, but addressing a problem, which in this instance is stopping a bike from being stolen. Maybe the idea would be to design a bike so light and foldable or compact, that you wouldn't need to lock it up.  You could just carry it into the office and store in under the desk, or put it in your bag and carry it in to the classroom.  Can it currently be done in a staisfactory way? Who knows, but asking different questions and addressing problems, not redesigning current solutions, is the best way to innovate and come up with something (hopefully) better - time to start musing again. 


Product Design a Valuable lesson #2

Anyone who thinks you are only as good as your last design project is misguided – I hear this said all the time, but the fact is, you are only as good as your next product design, because you hopefully take forward all the things you have learnt from your last.  Whilst it is important to make the lastest completed project as good as possible as this will be the most recent thing you can be judged on, I also think it is very important to be able to make mistakes and show how you have progressed. Having had quite a few product design projects in my past where the outcome, on reflection, has not been as strong as I would have liked, I now know not to be dishartened, just to analyze where to improve and come back stronger


Product design A most valuable lesson

I never know when a design is right, or when it’s finished, but I have developed a good sense of when it’s wrong and I just keep going, making it less wrong each time, until it’s as less wrong as it can be.  This doesn’t mean to say that it is, or will ever be totally right.  A design can always be improved, but you have to know when to stop.  The only way I have found to do this is to go too far and then take a few steps back.  Someone once made me take a project I thought I’d finished and redo it. Then they made me redo it again.  At that point I began to hate that person, but I have to admit, that what I learnt was that the first time I hadn’t pushed the project far enough and I came up with a much cleaner (elegant) way of solving the problem the second time around.  Trying to do it for a third time taught me I couldn’t improve on the last, as adding more wouldn’t have made it perform or look any better and taking anything away would have made it perform and look less, so I knew I’d gone far enough.  This is probably the most important lesson I was given, you have to push and push to get something right and you have to go too far to realise when you’ve gone far enough.


Product Design advice - Get a bigger net

I have recently been responding to a series of questions about my design process with Maren Fiorelli,
a design student at Columbia College, Chicago.  One of my responses was the idea that at any one time at least 7 people in the world are working on or having the same ideas as you.  I have also heard said that 'Ideas are out there floating in the ether, they are not your ideas, you just have to pick them up'. 

This interests me.  I picture a field full of ideas butterflies with people with nets running around trying to catch them.  How do you maximise your chances of being able to catch as many good ideas as possible?  Get a bigger net.  If nothing is new and everything a progression, the easiest way to catch ideas is by observing something in one area and applying its function to another.  As an example, someone using a surform to shape wood wonders how it would work on a lemon and so designs a better zester.  There are hundreds of examples of this happening (how Dyson designed his bagless vacuum cleaner), so you have to look at as many different areas as possible and then store that knowledge and apply it to a current project.  Do not just rest in your comfort zone, absorb ideas, take things apart and question everything.