Spammed to Death

Well how about that.  I have had to turn off comments temporarily due to someone using my blog as a launch pin for their spam.  How frustrating and how damn arrogant.  Oh well, lets lay wait in the bushes for … Read the rest of this entry

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Some easy things are extrordinarily difficult to improve

Have you noticed that there are some very simple devices that work quite well but that should somehow be better.  For example my sail boat Southern Cross has several cleats that are used to fasten dock lines and ropes for various purposes. There are some pretty fundamental design problems with the standard design of a central hub with two horizontal horns that sweep slightly up at each end.

One clear problem is that of safety.  Not only are these cleats a tripping hazard, but also a place were you can snag anything that passes nearby.   One design modification is to have the central hub arranged so that the hub and horns fold flat to the deck when not in use.  This is not so simple to implement because it requires a prepared pocket, or suitable hole for the whole assembly to fit into.

The point that this post is making, is that sometimes a simple design, for a fundamentally simple task is often easy to envision, but when the needs start to take into account other aspects of the effects that design may impose when not in use, or for events that may happen because of the design’s existence, the the process is not so simple any more.  In fact, some requirements of the fundamental requirement, and other requirements, such as safety, may be somewhat exclusive.  A virtual catch 22.  This is where the industrial designer earns the right to be considered a professional.  An industrial designer has to take competing and conflicting aspects of a design into consideration when designing a product.  And in today’s environment, safety and liability for the manufacture have to rank high on the designer’s agenda for things that must be addressed when coming up with a design that remains at its core, simple.

Here is a compact, non flush solution fo the clear problem.  The assembly has a built in pocket for the storage of the cleat when not in use.  I think I will buy a few.

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For those of you who are not Canadian and do not know about current Canadian politics, Jack Layton is the leader of the party in opposition to the Government.  The governing party, the one with the most elected members of parliament, is the Conservative Party, lead by Stephen Harper.  The official opposition is the New Democratic Party, and was, up until today, lead by Jack Layton.

One thing that probably sets him apart is that no one is glad that he is gone.  That can’t be said of a lot of politicians. Why is this important, and why am I writing about it?  I really don’t know the answer to that question.  One of the things maaybe that makes it important to me was the person that Jack was.  First of all I didn’t know him personally, nor had I ever met him, so there was no personal attachment of any sort.  But what there was, is a link to what an example that he was in the way that he lived, and what he stood for personally.  He was a man of integrity, empathy and action.  He was a leader, a visionary and a family man.  He was also a politician, and usually when a man becomes a polatician, they loose most of the qualities that made them want to ba a politician in the first place.  Something for the rest of the politicians to think about, in reflection and for the future.

Not Jack, in fact if anything these things seemed to mature and bloom. There, I guess that is why.  There is no need for me to explain who else he was, there are thousands of articles and newstories about him so enought said.  Jack will be missed, dearly and deeply.

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Hang ups!

Well, it has been a while since my last post, but here I am again.

What has my goat this time?  Hooks, cord hangers, places to wrap cord and retainer designs that just don’t work.

Now I am not sure that this is an actual design issue, but instinct tells me that some of it must be.  On the other hand, some of this is poor execution of the design, when somewhere down the manufacturing process, someone gets the bright idea that the power cord needs to be longer that the original design called for.

What am I going on about?  You have all experienced it at one time or another, that pesky power cord on an appliance or device that just doesn’tfit where it  is supposed to fit.  See the hose on the illustration below, I have circled in red, the cord is overflowing the hook capacity.  Just a little hostling, and it becomes partially unwound and tangled.  Not nice. If you look at the top hook, the cord is piled higher than the hook. Also just waiting for the right situation to really annoy and frustrate the owner.

So… how does this happen.  I can only guess, but here are a couple of likely scenarios.

Senario one, the designer designs the cord hooks without knowing what the cord will look like, but is assured that that will be considered in a later phase, but that consideration never happens and in production an existing cord is just slapped into the design.

Senario two.  The designer does the whole design including the cord, and then marketing decides that it will never sell unless the cord is 3 feet longer.

Senario three.  The production team decided that the hooks are too large for Packagin (tooling, handling, etc) and reduces the size of them.

Senario four.  The accuonting department looks for cost saving in the product, and elimitates the hooks as being not cost effective.

A pox upon all people who don’t know a think about design but make changes because it seemed like a good idea at the time at the cost of the user who must deal with this problem every time they use the product!

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-14

  • I like celery in my salads and sometimes just to munch on… what?.. oh Salary, sorry. Nevermind. #
  • Snapper, Ahh yes, but I did say improvement as well. This post is unique so unique things are not all that rare… #
  • Snapper, well sort of…. Making something may or may not be creative. Making widgets on a production line… #
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Never mind a better mouse trap, what about the mouse?

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Here is an interview with a young industrial designer that truly reflects the design experience and what an Industrial Designer goes through. Industrial design changes your experience in the things that you do, improving the user experience, and here is … Read the rest of this entry

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-20

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Here is a post that is worth a look

Strategy >> Design is dead, long live design thinking

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Vision or Obsession that is the question!

Doug Norton, Industrial Designer

When someone has an idea for a product, they may dwell on it for weeks, maybe even years.  When does the vision for the product become an obsession and how can you tell the difference? I watch the Dragon’s Den, a popular show where inventors and entrepreneurs show their stuff to investors with deep pockets.  Sometimes you see an idea who’s time has past, yet the dream of success, and the vision of that product is so seductive for the inventor that they can’t seem to hear what everyone is telling them.  The idea has no legs, there are too many competitors, the design is flawed or whatever the negative feedback is.

Most times I agree with the Dragons, but occasionally I disagree.  They don’t really care what I think, and why should they, its their money and their show.  Still sometimes I see what is presented is really visionary, and the person promoting it is visionary as well.  That in spite of the tide flowing against them.

Yet for other, the obsession has drained the family coffers, used up some financial support and goodwill of friends, and perhaps racked up a debt that will not soon be repaid, and never forgotten.  Is this a foible of humanity that some people become so locked into a way of thinking that no amount of logic, nor scorn will convince them of the error they are making?  I think that is the case.

Some people become so invested in an idea, and so afraid of admitting such a huge lapse in judgment that admitting the idea was deficient and loosing face is worse than carrying on.  Everyone else is wrong.  The terrible fact is that in some cases that is true, every one is wrong.  But in those cases, the person defending the idea had some very rational reason for thinking that everyone else was wrong.  More than I just think so, or instinct tells me so, or I just know that I am right.

Look at the idea objectively as possible.  Think about how others see it, think about concrete reasons that the idea is right.  Think about the chances of making the idea work.  If you don’t have the resources to make the idea work, then it is a moot point whether you are right on not.  For example, Babbage was right about computers, he build one to prove it, but didn’t have the right resources to actually make it work.  The mechanical technology of the day didn’t support such a complicated and precise construction, so it became Babage’s folly.

The IPod became a huge success because Apple we a very successful marketing company, and could take a good idea, and deliver it into the market place in an effective way.  Many good ideas run out of steam because they don’t make it to market successfully.

So the point of this blog is, don’t let an idea, even a good one become an obsession.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-13

  • @mcadguy Hey you need help with unfolding a part. Can I have a look at the part? @plcsys #
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