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Design Innovation Blog » Product design

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Archive for 'Product design'

Reminiscence therapy for Alzheimer’s disease wins Clinical Innovation Award 2013



A software reminiscence therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia called Rempad has won the Clinical Innovation Award 2013.

Rempad is a new software tool which uses multi-media content to connect carers and residents with memories from the past to enhance the overall wellbeing of nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s.

Read more at: http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2013/10/reminiscence-therapy-for-alzheimers-disease-wins-clinical-innovation-award-2013/?cat=12

Posted by: Linzi Ryan

A question of simplicity

I have always loved minimalist design. It has a beauty about its simple forms and clear lines that appeal to me. I came across this bin design by Grace Youngeun Lee and I liked it so much I began to visualize where I would put her design in my own home. That’s when I began to run into trouble. I live in your average apartment with the standard features, two bedroom, kitchen / living room combo, bathroom. Even though I thought the design was beautiful, I could not think of one place I could put such a distinctive item. It hadn’t really occurred to me before, that all the minimalistic items I love so much would struggle to work in your average home. The qualities that make the design striking cause it to sit uneasily in a mainstream context. Its clean aesthetics clash with your standard mass-produced product.

Does this mean a minimalist design can only work when surrounded by other minimalist products? Or the opposite, a lack of other products and just shear, clean space that allows it to be appreciated for its aesthetic beauty? If this is the case, where is the line drawn for its range of influence? Is the only true home of a minimal piece a modern residence, where clean lines and crisp aesthetics were at the front of the architects mind?

Perhaps the piece is intended to sit in contrast with the relative chaos of mass production? That this contrast serves to highlight its simple beauty.

I guess until I can figure out where to put my beloved Grace Youngeun Lee bin, I’ll just have to stick with my mass produced swing top. Function over form anyway, right?

Posted by: Linzi Ryan

Standardising Innovation?

Perhaps the first question should be whether “standard” and “innovation” should even be in the same sentence. However, I feel very strongly that there are certain systematic approaches to managing innovation that might not guarantee you’ll end up with a string of guaranteed innovations, but you’ll stand a much better chance of success if you apply some best practice.

Every day we hear calls to innovate our way out of the current crisis, but there is little practical, step-by-step how-to for organisations to apply. It was with great enthusiasm that I participated within a group to help the NSAI draft a National Workshop Agreement on a Guide to Good Practice in Innovation and Product Development Processes. It’s not a perfect document. How could it be after two day-long meetings? It is a start and highlights the need for a practical approach and more practical tools.


Posted by: Justin Knecht

The Joy Of Water

Here is a good example of a design which looks beyond the simple functions of the product to the emotional perceptions and requirements of the user.

The Playpump is used to pump water in schools in such places as South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia. It is essentially a windmill on its side. Unlike other pumps, the Playpump is designed to be driven by children in play, who use the wheel as a merry-go-round.

Water pumps are placed in areas of high drought and provide drinking and irrigation water. They greatly benefit the surrounding areas and are seen as something to be celebrated. Designing a pump which incorporates the play of children, takes this emotional element into account. Its design combines the function of the pump with the celebration of its installment and use.

Rather then the traditional approach of designing emotion into a product, the Playpump is a manifestation of emotion generated by its presence. It is an interesting perspective to consider when trying to design that ‘must have’ product.

Posted by: Linzi Ryan

Down on the Farm

A fantastic example of design innovation, from a pig farm in Canada!

Mary Haugh versus 3,000 pigs in a barn. Her husband indisposed though ill health and she had to herd all their pigs. Now, traditionally a “chase board” is used to a guide and angle those pigs, too heavy for her and too short to be of much effect alone. Mary needed something new to be able to manage and set about solving the problem. Her solution cuts the time required to move the hogs by 70%, has won two prestigious innovation awards and become a commercial success.

She noticed that the pigs hesitated whenever they passed by the bright red chase boards. She wondered if the colour itself affected the pigs and whether a length of red fabric could be used as a long, flexible chase board. The pigs turned every time. Prototyping the idea with her brother she developed a roller based system that weights 14kg, extends to 15m and can be hooked into a gate post to be operated by one person.

All the classic hallmarks of the design innovation process are present; observation, imagination, experimentation, prototyping and delivery of the idea as a product. The innovation process may have happened far from a design studio and Mary never attended design school but the LongArm, her trademarked invention, is a good as it gets.

Check out the National Hog Farmer article for more

Posted by: Edward Savage

Selecting the right ideas


Michael Grossman of the User Experience Arts blog recounts the presentation by Alex Lee, CEO of OXO at this year’s GEL Conference. (A personal favourite of mine from the States.) In order for a idea to become commercialised at OXO, it must be intuitive to use, obvious in function, provoke thought and inspire re-use. OXO also discounts the value of verbatim customer feedback. We’ve also found that people are often bad at articulating needs and frequently do things they would never tell you. I can only assume the insight to develop the Angled Measuring Cup came from watching people bend over to get level with traditional measuring cups.

When we begin our workshops on user-centred design, we have participants peel an apple with several different peelers (including an OXO peeler). The participants, regardless of design experience, are quickly able to list all the positive and negative attributes of each peeler, and through a few minutes of experience, have done some great design thinking around creating the perfect peeler.

Posted by: Justin Knecht

A lesson for leading with the user


The basis of our thinking around the importance of user-centred design is to lead with the user. This certainly isn’t the only approach to innovation, but it could reduce the risks of market failures like the Ifbot with Japanese elderly, where it turns out that robots turn off senior citizens.

“Most (elderly) people are not interested in robots. They see robots as overly-complicated and unpractical. They want to be able to get around their house, take a bath, get to the toilet and that’s about it,” said Ruth Campbell, a geriatric social worker at the University of Tokyo.

Posted by: Justin Knecht

Great call


Jitterbug, a newcomer to the mobile phone industry realised that their products, handsets, were only one part of the overall mobile phone experience. They applied liberal doses of design thinking, coming up with usable features and simplicity to suit extreme users, like technophobes and aging consumers.

Providing familiar touchstones to ease the mobile-phone experience became a major part of Jitterbug’s design after early research showed that older users found conventions like signal strength meters unfamiliar and confusing. Instead, when you open a Jitterbug phone it emits—get this—a dial tone. “If there’s no dial tone, you can’t make a call,” Harris says. To reach a Jitterbug operator, who can place calls or answer questions for you, dial 0.

Read the whole article

Posted by: Justin Knecht

Measuring Design’s Value

If you were hoping to discover the secret formula in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint. Our research and the research of many other organisations have demonstrated the link between design and business success. Is it the only factor? Of course not. Great businesses use every tool at their disposal to create competitive advantage, and design is a very powerful tool.

What does appear to be developing is a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics around user experience. And if you’re looking for the best way to identify and meet the needs of your customer and consumer, design is the perfect tool. The following articles broadly discuss these issues and highlight two models developed by Whirlpool (product design) and Live/Work (service design).
No Accounting For Design?
Can You Measure Design’s Value?

Posted by: Justin Knecht

iPhone iDunno

The arrival of the iPhone has been greeted with the expected euphoric reaction by all converts of the ‘Church of Macintology’. It may be the “best ever iPod” as claimed by Jobs. It may indeed! But the world’s most advanced phone? I don’t think so.

Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing at Apple, suggests that it is “the world’s most advanced phone.” Can a 2G or 2.5 G phone be described as the most advanced phone? Can a phone that has been designed to make texting difficult be called the world’s most advanced phone? Text messaging has succeeded by accident as an alternative to QWERTY where other systems have tried but failed i.e. Agenda’s Microwriter of the mid 80’s. The iPhone doesn’t have the keypad layout, predictive texting or even keys that give the sensory feedback necessary for fast texting. The automatic input techniques of expert texters who barely have to glance at either the screen or the keys have been totally overlooked. With the iPhone you need both hands as opposed to ‘the dexterous thumb’. Texting is far more important than talking to a very large percentage of people on this side of the Atlantic (Near East). It’s the language of a generation. The iPhone is too big, cumbersome and precious. It demands too much respect for what is essentially a very utilitarian tool. Phones end up in bags and pockets with keys and loose change. The iPhone won’t inspire mobile operators.

The bigger screen size combined with the touch screen finger input allows for easy typing of URLs. This is a good thing. But it is still a small screen to view a whole web page of content. It’s a compromise. On websites that you are familiar with navigation should be easy enough. But on a first hit you’re going to have a lot of zooming and panning or “pinching and scrolling” to do. Not to mention download times of ?? 30 to 60 secondzzzzzzzzzzz on the not so advanced 2.5 G networks.
The album “cover flow” mode of browsing through your record collection rocks, to use an appropriate parlance. I think they’ve really nailed the digital age version of flicking through the 12” vinyl at the record store on your way home from school. (The artwork of record sleeves was probably the first intro into, if not the only experience of the world of visual arts for a lot of people). From the demo I saw, Apple have really got something here.

It’s a techie’s dream, it’s fun, it’s a gadget. It’s sexy but it is not, as Jobs has claimed “five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” Face it Steve, it’s an iPod with phone, web, camera and email capabilities.

To quote Jonathan Ive “it’s very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.”

Oh yeah, and as for the social consequences of this device? In an ever more alienating world, some people wear their iPods all night long in bed. Now with the iPhone they can just stay plugged in 24/7 and get all their news, do all their chatting, shopping, playing, without plugging out. Matrix anyone….?

Posted by: Diarmuid Timmons