Animated Products?

Labotix TEST cabOften it is helpful to your sales team if your product can be animated for web presentation some way.  This may be by means of an interactive tool that allows for a 3d model of your product to be rotated by the viewer’s mouse actions so that all sides and perhaps the top and bottom of the product may be examined.

PLC Industrial Design can do that for you, and provide your web developer with files that can be imbedded into your website giving your site a reason for visitors to stay longer and order more.  As an alternative to embedding the files on your site, a link can be set up to files on a remote server that will give you the same functionality without the complexity of changing your website other than adding a hyperlink.

The model may be a simple rendering, technical drawing style or a photorealistic representation.  As an additional feature, the product may also be modelled in an exploded assembly view that may be rotated to see internal parts and how the product is assembled.

Filed in Design News | Comments Off on Animated Products?

Thoughts on Designing Complex Devices, with a SLR Camera as an example

When designing a new device a key question is what is the demographic of who will be using the device.  This is particularly important if the expected user is not particularly skilled in the use of such devices.  For example, most SLR cameras are festooned with buttons, dials, switches and levers.  In addition to that there are several ports for the connection such things as USB cable, flash drive, power connector, remote shutter control, auxiliary flash and in some cameras, a remote monitor connection via HDMI cable.  Some have audio output and microphone input.

What is the chance of a first time user picking up this digital SLR camera and using it correctly, or even successfully?  Not a chance in hell.

Even for an experienced user this can be daunting task to become familiar where all the controls are, and what each does.  This being said, this article can apply to any technological device.  The principle is the same.

So it is critically important that some controls are intuitive.  For example, the shutter control should always be in a traditional position.  The upper right surface of the camera when viewed from behind.  The power function should be located near or surrounding the shutter control and very clearly labeled.  Nearly all newer cameras have auto focus, but most also allow for manual focusing as well.  Furthermore many have several modes of controlling how the auto-focus works.  For example spot focus on the central target, or focus on what the camera considers a face.  Average auto-focus takes average distance readings and adjusts for the majority of the mid area of the picture frame.

So the focus control should be near the lens, and have a clear label with Auto Focus, Manual Focus and Focus Modes indicated by clear icons.

I would suggest that the manufacturer of such a complicated device have a designer create an interactive application that mimics the camera, and teaches the user how to use each feature.  The application would start at whatever feature the user needs to learn about.  There should be at least two ways of getting to that feature, for example from a context menu that links to the interactive model, and also by allowing the user to see a 3d representation of the camera and clicking some control in question.

The application should include all menu items that the camera would display on the virtual camera’s digital screen.

In the design process, the virtual camera, which should be created prior to the real camera, would also allow for independent virtual testing of features with feedback about the ease, or lack thereof.  This should always be an important part of the design loop.

Filed in Design Opinion | Comments Off on Thoughts on Designing Complex Devices, with a SLR Camera as an example

3Blind Mice? No 3D Mice!

Wow things only get better in the world of virtual design.  My company, PLC Systems, has just been awarded Canadian Distribution rights for the SpaceControl 3d Mouse.

3d-controller-cap(1)For those of you who are familiar with this type of controller, you can use it to manipulate your model in virtual space.  I bought one to see what all  the fuss was about, and now that I have used one, I would never go back to using keystrokes and mouse gestures again.  The increase in productivity is astounding.

Seeing as I am the Canadian distributor for these things, I can make you this amazing offer.  Take one on trial, keep it for 30 days, heck try it of 60 days.  If you are not convinced in the value of this device, put it back in the box and send it back to me collect!

I am convinced that you will not be able to part with it.

What a great design, what a great product.

You can call me at 905 409 8487 to talk about it, or email me at to.


Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 3Blind Mice? No 3D Mice!

Wow what a great camera

I recently had an opportunity to buy a camera as part of a job for one of my clients so I decided to go somewhat upscale in the quality of the camera that I would get.  After doing a lot of comparisons, and by reading a lot of reviews, I ended up getting a Pentax K-5 camera.

What really amazed with the way this camera worked and reacted to situations that I found myself in.  I am not a novice photographer, having lots of experience with a 35mm Single Lens Reflector style of camera (actually it was also a Pentax, although that didn’t really sway my decision)

*Here is a list of the key features:

Key Features

Although it might appear to be a near-clone of the K-7, the K-5 offers some significant improvements in specification. Here is a rundown of the key features:

  • 16.3Mp CMOS sensor
  • ISO sensitivity span of 80-51,200 (equivalent)
  • 1080p HD movie mode
  • Limited in-camera movie editing functionality
  • Socket for external microphone input
  • Triple-axis sensor-based shake reduction (horizontal, vertical and rotational correction)
  • New SAFOX IX+ 11-point AF system (improved over the K-7)
  • Support for older Pentax lenses with manual aperture rings
  • Magnesium alloy body shell
  • Improved handheld HDR function (JPEG mode only)
  • Continuous shooting up to 7fps
  • 100% viewfinder coverage (0.92x magnification)
  • Choice of PEF or DNG RAW files
  • 3in, 921k pixel LCD screen

*This list is from a post by By Barnaby Britton and Lars Rehm (

Right out of the box this camera was easy to use.  In the default mode you can just point and shoot.  It takes amazing pictures in dim light as well.  It has stabilization features that take most of the shake out of your hands, and built in tilt and roll indicators that let you align the camera with the horizon.

I purchased a zoom lens with automatic focus that went from 18mm to 55mm.  This is a great all purpose lens that allowed me to use the camera in most situations without changing lenses.

For production pictures I used the 16.3MP setting which, if I understand things correctly, gives your greater resolution than using a high speed 35mm film.  Pretty amazing.  Depending on how well you focus, you can zoom into the resulting picture a long way before things start to become blurry.

Now this can’t be a great review, because I have not used competitive cameras, but from my standpoint as a designer, this is a great product that fits your hand well, works intuitively and results in consistently great shots.

The menu for finding and turning on and off features is not so great, at least from the point of view of intuitive use, but then there are a lot of tools that require time to learn.  I believe it could be designed in a more user friendly way in my opinion.

Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Wow what a great camera

What do people know about Industrial Designers

Well not much it seems.  I am working with a client, GMR Marketing who have a contract with Telus and indirectly the Canadian Football League.  During the execution of the contract I had the occasion to talk to a good number of people who where not familiar with the practice of Industrial Design.  This especially happened at the launch of the program for the public.

The program was a very interesting idea, the idea of putting the fans first, with the creation of a trophy for the memorialisation of the fans who support Candadian Football by having every one who participates in the program leave their name.  The name is to be engraved onto the troply which will ultimately reside in the Candian Football Hall of Fame!

So what was my part in all of this?  My client is Press a Penny, the company that makes the Press a Penny token machine.  This machine takes a penny and by means of rollers with an image on it, presses the penny through opposing rollers to press a new image onto the metal.  In this case one side of the pressed penny will have an image of the Grey Cup, and the other side will have an image of the sponsor for the program, Telus, the cell phone company.

I was invited to attend the opening event at the Terry Fox plaza outside of Gate H at BC Place, home of the BC Lions.  That lead to meeting lots of people who where milling about the Telus tent and the display set up to promote the Fan Appreciation Cup and the Penny Press that I had designed for the event.  Every one that I talked to, when I told them that I was an Industrial Designer, looked at me in a puzzled way and said “what is that” or “what does an industrial designer do?”

Filed in Design Opinion | Comments Off on What do people know about Industrial Designers

Inventor’s show in Lindsay Ontario, resurrected post from last year

There was an inventors show, part show and part seminar held in the bucolic town of Lindsay Ontario in 2011 The Great Canadian Inventions Show

Just for review, I resurrected this old post so that you could get a flavour about what the show was like last year.  This is an important event because some new invention at this show may lead to future employment and greater prosperity here in Canada.  It is a long shot, but so are all things new and unproven.  


The purpose of this event was to allow inventors to show off their ideas to potential beneficial parties in an effort to advance their ideas into economic opportunities.  Organized by Otto Schmit, the event was well organized, and had a country trade show feeling.  Tables were undraped, and placed randomly about the parade square of the local armoury.

I had met Otto once before at a small gathering held by the Ontario Government to promote innovation and getting idea to the market place.  He is gave a very spirited speech about the need to support inventors, and to help them develop ideas and business savvy.  He was so committed to the topic that he started an Inventor’s College.  Now that is commitment.

Back to the show.  So my impression when I walked in, after I had signed the requisite non disclosure agreement, was of a flee market.  Most table tops had prototypes scattered about, with little or no marketing material, and no real information about what the invention was, or why someone should invest in, or buy the idea.  As I worked my way around the hall, the overwhelming impression was that most inventors had no idea about what an investor would be looking for.  It seems to me that most investors want to see a business case for the idea.  What is the market for this, who is in it now, why would your idea be able to capture part of that market. You know, the stuff that makes a business operate and make money.

Here is a suggestion, watch the Dragon’s den and pay attention not to the sarcasm and cutting remarks, but to the fundamental questions that the investors ask.  You have to be prepared to ask those questions, without looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

I met one gentleman that had several patents to his name, but not any commercial successes.  Most of his inventions were very clever, and took new approaches to solving old problems.  This is what I call the better mousetrap invention.  Just a word of caution about this type of invention, build a better mousetrap and all you may get is more mice.  Beware a more complicated invention that does virtually the same thing as a simple earlier invention.

Here is another suggestion, please don’t tell potential investors you life story, along with a litany of reasons why you haven’t taken your idea further.  It is quite enough to tell them this is as far as you have progressed to this date.  The investor will decide whether or not it is worth going further.

So was the show worth while?

Of course.  There were several ideas that I though had merit and were almost ready for market.  In fact, one invention was already at the market place having been bought by an investor and presented at the show.  Because of the confidentiality agreement that I signed, I really can’t say much about it, but it was for the ceramic tile trade, and was well presented and had marketing material prepared.  It should do well.  There was an electric automobile that was a concept platform for the well funded inventor to illustrate the potential for development in the field of hybrid  vehicles.  The inventor had no illusions about the further development of the car that he made.  It would never see the light of day as a production vehicle.  The design was a test platform for specialty utility vehicles, a niche market approach. To me it seemed that he was here at the show to spur on fellow inventors, to show that it can be done, and success is not always measured in the commercialization of one particular idea.  For him, this was in part research for something else to follow.

Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Inventor’s show in Lindsay Ontario, resurrected post from last year

Great Canadian Invention Show (Part 1)

Great Canadian Invention Show

This quirky yet vital show is the focul point of many small Canadian inventors who are working towards making their invention a commercial success.  There was a quote by Edison who said ““Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly,  a  ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”  and this is never so true as in Canada.  Another quote says a similar thing about invention “Invention is 10% insiration and 90% perspiration”.  In any case, I think you get the ideal.  It is not just a thunderbolt of thought that lands a great idea in the stores of the nation, it is a lot of hard work to get the idea to the point where someone with resources, be they manufacturing, financial or marketing, will be interested enough to do something with the idea.

Wonderbra WonderModel, Maja Latinovic, a Canadian invention, the bra, not the model.

All of you, I am sure, have watched on occasion the Canadian investment “reality” show called Dragon’s Den.  That show epitomizes the thinking process of investors, and those with the power and resources to get something done.


Here it is in a nutshell, “You have done some great stuff here, it has potential, and now that you have invested your money, your friend’s money, your family’s money, and god knows how much in time and effort, we want you to take a back seat and sell us controlling interest in your company/invention for a song.”  It is not very often that the investors are actually interested the the potential of the idea per se, no, they are interested more in the business that you have developed to market the idea.  The “valuation” is based almost entirely on the business model.

Don’t believe me?  Go to the Dragon’s Den website and review a few past shows and see what they talk about. Some inventor’s come to the show only to be told, “You don’t have a business here, go sell your idea to Coleman, or Colgate or Channel, whoever, but they are not interested in inventions.

This says a lot about the mindset of people who have money to invest.  They know how to grow a business.  They do not know how to take an idea and make it into a business.  Or at least they are risk adverse to that step.  That step may take a while to mature, and it involves the greatest risk. A lot of effort may be expended with NO returns or so little in returns that it isn’t worth while.

Well what of value has been invented by Canadians?

There is some disbute about this, but it is believed that Alexander Bell invented the Telephone here in Canada.

And if you want to see more, go to Wikipedia and look up the list of Canadian Inventions, there are lots more.

Filed in Design News | Comments Off on Great Canadian Invention Show (Part 1)

The Great Canadian Inventor Show (Part 2)


Great Canadian Inventor’s Show (Part Two)

Just a quick aside,  Light Bulb

Light Bulb Patent
Patent for Woodward & Evans’ Electric Light, July 24, 1874

Thought it was Edison’s bright idea? Nope. Two Canadians, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans, patented the light bulb in 1875. Unfortunately, the duo didn’t have the funds to produce and sell the light bulbs, so they sold their idea to good ole Thomas Edison.

French-Canadian dish, Poutine

Poutine is a great Canadian Invention!

This is a wonderful, if small, event put on each year but a group of people dedicated to helping inventors develop and market their invention.  You may attend the event by invitation only, and only if you sign the appropriat non-disclosure agreement.

Here is a direct quote from the web page of the show site.

“THIS IS A CLOSED EXHIBITION and not open to the public! Only inventors with inventions and innovations that are not being sold in the marketplace and Business Team Associates may register and attend.  Investors are also invited.  No spectators.  We want real inventors, real companies in need and real people who can realistically take real inventions into the real marketplace.”

How do you get invited? Well you will only be invited if you fall into, or would fall into or potentialy fall, into one of these catagories of pot

Business Team Associates

a) Directly-involved people:  a small or large company owner/buyer, company product buyer, entrepreneur starting a new business, manufacturer, a person who wants or needs new inventions for their company/business/corporation e.g. prototyper, injection molding company owner, machining & tooling companies, office/kitchen or furniture maker, giftware manufacturer, sporting goods manufacturer, machine shop owner, independent retailer, etc.

b) investors, financiers, financial investing groups with money for developing new products/services

c) graduated or graduating business, technology, university students looking to start a business with a new product/service,

d) career changers, downsized but with resources to try something new.

e) legal professionals in position to be of direct support to inventors and those investing in them – patent lawyers, trademark experts, paralegals, bankers, etc.

AND you must apply though the website to be invited. No entrance to those not regerstered prior to the event.


Filed in Design News | Comments Off on The Great Canadian Inventor Show (Part 2)

I am back in the designer’s seat after a wonderful and restful vacation with my family in Mexico.  I have a son, daughter in law and grand daughter in Mexico, and they warmly shared their house with us during our visit.  We had a great time.

While I was there, I paid particular notice to the design of shops and business.  I was very impressed with the use of space.  Most shops are very limited in space, and in general, the shop proprietor has to do much more with the available space.  The amount of inventory is impressive, considering it doesn’t look overly crowded.

Store clerks can be a little aggressive, especially in the touristy 5th ave of Playa del Carmen where they practically tackle you to drag you into the store.  Most are very polite in spite of being aggressive in the sales pitch.  You will be accosted by those luring you into tours and time share presentations.  A friendly “no gracious” will usually end the pitch thankfully.  Mexicans in the areas that I visited work hard for their money, and I have to give them high marks for perseverance and effort in making a living.  I doubt that I would be able to do the same.

Not all shops are small, and some big box stores are evident as well.  Home Depot is just the same as everywhere else (but not found in Playa del Carmen, you have to go to Cancun for that)

Other stores where distinctly Mexican, for example some stores such as the grocery chain Chedraui have underground indoor parking.  Not paid parking mind you, free to the visitor.

Here is the Wiki info on Chedraui:

Chedraui was founded in 1927 in Xalapa, Veracruz by Lázaro Chedraui Chaya and his wife.[3] In 1971 it opened the first supermarket in Xalapa, Veracruz. In 2005 it bought 29 supermarkets from Carrefour.[4] Chedraui’s primary competition includes large grocers and hypermarkets such as Soriana, Wal-Mart and H-E-B.

According to Hoover’s, it is “Mexico’s fourth-largest retailer, the supermarket giant sells groceries, apparel, and non-perishable items in 183 stores, being 136 Tienda Chedraui, 40 Súper Chedraui, 2 warehouse Chedraui and 5 Selecto Chedraui.

Now all of this would be boring unless there was a good connection to design, and, in my opinion, there is!  The store is well laid out with isles that allow for grocery carts to pass one another freely.  The items are arranged in a manner that makes sense for the way that people flow through the store.  My experience shopping there was enjoyable, with design elements on store fixtures and walls that where pleasing to the eye.  I have never commented on store design before, but, well I thought this was so well done it deserved a mention.

Just a final note, I have heard a lot of news about Canadian tourists being robbed, beaten or killed, and I must say that during this visit, and previous visits, I heard nothing about anything remotely like this occurring.  My son said that in the years that he has lived there, he has only witnessed one fight, and that was between two drunk tourists.  Sometime the news organizations are just too quick to sensationalize events, and do not portray them in the correct background.  One house fire is not the same as a city burning down.

Posted on by Doug | Comments Off on Just back from Mexico and what a trip it was!

Back to Normal

The blog has returned to normal operation.  My sincere apologies to anyone who may have tried to post a comment, but I had to do something to stop the flood of spam.

Doug Norton, Industrial Designer

More on design, and the need of clients to feel that the right decisions are made.  Most clients are betting a significant resource in time and money on a product redesign.  If that redesign is not received well by their customers, it is a disaster.  So there is pressure from several fronts on being right, and because of that, the designer is constantly second guessed.  It is a constant battle to fend off people that think the fenders should be more flared, or that the corners should be more rounded, or less rounded.  That the item should be made so that it can’t be swallowed, or it should be a more pleasing colour.  The list is endless.

Above all, a designer has to have confidence in the design.  So much confidence that the designer can confidently speak about the design in such a way as to instill that confidence in the person responsible for hiring the designer in the first place.  Lord knows that there will be enough people taking credit for the product if the design is successful, but the line will be non existent if the design is not received well.  In fact the only person in that line will be the designer.  No one will come forward and say, gosh, the designer was right!  We should have listened.  Noooooo…  What will be said is that the they knew the design was wrong, and that particular designer should have listened.  In some cases where the design is very successful, you might not have even needed a designer, because nearly everyone in the company was “the designer” and the designer only carried out their ideas.

Maybe the forgoing is a little exaggerated, but you get the idea.  Unless it is obvious that the work you are proposing has problems, stick to your vision, and above all, be persuasive in your promotion of the design.  Easier said than done, but nevertheless, a requirement if you are a designer, and value your sanity, and your creative abilities.  That is what they are paying you for.

Filed in Design Opinion, Musings | Comments Off on Back to Normal