What, are you crazy?

A contemplative moment

Sanity and design may not be such good bedmates.  How do I substantiate this statement?  Easy, that is what my clients ask me.  So it must be true.

When a client asks me for a new concept for a product, I look at what has been done, and then ask, what if a different route had been taken from the beginning.  So I pretend the product has no history at all.  Because of that I am not making an incremental change to the design, but a radically different approach all together.

The client reacts, (sometimes but not always) with, what, are you crazy?  This doesn’t look anything like what we sell now.  So I think, (but don’t say out loud) then why did you want to change it?  If you want something that looks like it used to, then paint it a different colour.  Of course sometimes the client is right, and such a radical change might take away market familiarity, and customer recognition.  But in other cases, that may be a very good thing.  If the market is mature, why would the customer buy something that looks very much the way the one that they bought looks?

Think of USB hubs, they all do the same thing, and the only difference is the shape of the box.  Lots of designers make the box radically different, tapping in on “what will look good on the desktop” market.

So don’t think outside of the box, think like there never was a box in the first place.

Filed in Design Opinion | Comments Off on What, are you crazy?

The New Year!

I am starting off the New Year with a design that I really like.  Seeing as you hold this product in your hand when you use it, there is a connection to the product that means that you feel good … Read the rest of this entry

Filed in Design Opinion, Musings | Comments Off on The New Year!

Designer's lament

My wife and I

went out looking to replace our well used 20 year old dishwasher today, and what I saw appalled me.  Has all sense gone out the window?  Does no one who designs trays for example know what dishes look like?  The racks were designed for saucers, not dinner plates.

Oh I suppose they would work for soup bowels, and most of the cutlery baskets were pretty good as well, but the main task that a dishwasher has is dishes isn’t it?

We saw a good deal on a machine that seems ok, however when we looked at the reviews, the comments included, no pot scrubber cycle, and the dish washing cycle barely cleans dishes, leaving residue even with the dishes pre-rinsed.  The layout of the tray was such that loading the dishes was difficult, and the system suffered from poor reliability.

In contrast the dishwasher that has seen its last dishes, worked well for 20 years, had a tray that would accommodate a wide range of dishes bowels and cutlery, glasses and cups.  Unfortunately, there are no parts available for this model any more, except for special order.  To repair this machine is more than a new one, by a lot.

Sigh, well I guess we just have to keep looking, I am sure that somewhere out there is the machine that we are looking for, with design features that I can look at and not say to myself, I could do way better than that.  Typically, I like to buy things that have a design that makes me say, boy, I wish I had designed that.

But that is just the grumblings of an old designer that is passionate about design.  Often my grumblings are accompanied by my family rushing to leave the room that I am in.

Posted on by Doug | Comments Off on Is it just me or appliance designers out to lunch?

AutoCad Inventor Pro Suite

A contemplative moment

I have been using inventor since its inception, and was one of the first beta testers when I had a group of cad operator designers working under me on a machine build project.  At the time we were using Mechanical Desktop and were amazed at how that product assisted us in getting fits between the various sections right.  We were sceptical about Inventor, but agreed to try two seats just to see what would it could do, and if it was better than MD.

As it turns out it wasn’t.  Well it wasn’t at that time, but mainly due to glitches, and poor performance on assemblies.  We would wait hours for a large assembly to load.  But for parts and small assemblies, it was outstanding.  The intuitive design interface just blew us away.  We griped about the lack of ability to work on curved surfaces, making a plane tangent to a curved surface wasn’t a couple of clicks it was nearly impossible.

We decided to stick with it because we all saw the potential, and because we knew that AutoDesk was committed to making this a flagship product.

Now I am using Inventor Professional Suite in my own practice, and let me tell you, it is a joy to work with.  Most things are very intuitive, and I hardly ever have to refer to documentation to do something.

The simulation tools allow you to make presentations that customers can understand and can offer feedback on progress and approvals quicker than ever. Projects move faster, and you are able to complete projects in a more timely fashion.

This design tool does not replace good design judgment and certainly does not replace the skill that is required to make good designs.  What does for a good designer though, is to enhance the skills in putting the design to paper in powerful ways that wouldn’t be possible to do by hand in the same time scale.  For today’s designer it is like a tool on steroids.

Filed in Design News, Design Opinion | Comments Off on AutoCad Inventor Pro Suite

PLC Systems Industrial Design goes Live on Twitter

Now all blogs are sent to my twitter account for notifying our followers.

Welcome to a blog and website that is dedicated to design philosophy, ideas and opinions.  Feel free to participate.

Doug Norton
Industrial Designer

Filed in Design News, Design Opinion | Comments Off on PLC Systems Industrial Design goes Live on Twitter

Cancun Talks Yield Climate Compromise: Scientific American

Cancun Talks Yield Climate Compromise: Scientific American.

Filed in Design News | Comments Off on Cancun Talks Yield Climate Compromise: Scientific American

PLC Industrial Design goes Live Via Twitter!

Well my friends and family convinced me, this is the way to go.   Make an idiot of yourself and then tell the world. (crosses his fingers and clicks on publish, and thinks, I hope this works.)

Filed in Design News | Comments Off on PLC Industrial Design goes Live Via Twitter!

Isn’t Design just another word for style?

Apart from the crowd

Is it style that sets Apple apart from the crowd, or Harley Davidson, or Porsche, for that matter?

No, it is not style, although style plays an integral part in all of those examples.  It is emotional attachment.  Why would you pay double for a motorcycle over what the competition can sell you.

A Honda is roughly half the price of a Harley Davidson for a very similar motorcycle.  And Apple products are not exactly the lowest price in town either.  But through design, not just the design of the product, but design of the product and the experience of ownership, there is an attachment to the product that transcends a commercial exchange of goods for money.


What makes buying a car so exciting?  It’s the emotional excitement of the look and feel and aroma of the new car.  You feel part of that is an extension of yourself, a statement. That new car smell, that is really off-gassing of rubber, paint and carpet adhesives that we smell, but we have come to associate that with sleek, new and excitement.  The automobile industry misses the target by a mile with their approach to customer relations by the way, by not designing the experience of the purchase of the car to be a pleasant experience as well.  One of the companies will get it someday.  Watch what happens if one of the companies ever gets a visionary designer to look at the whole ownership process.  That company will knock the socks off the market.

But I digress.

Design has at least as much to do with process as style.  It is establishing the contact with the end user, and setting the stage for the development of a relationship between the user and the product.  One that develops brand loyalty.  There is nothing wrong with hiring a designer to design a product, and then once that product is in production, waving good bye to the designer and thinking, thank heavens that’s over.  Except what you have just done is focused on the product and thinking of design as a coat of paint.  Something that is applied to the product to make it more palatable, and maybe sell more that you would have if design had not been involve at all.  Maybe used an in house committee to do product design. There is an old saying that a camel is a race horse designed by a committee.  The result is a lot of compromises and pet ideas that might be alright, but they serve only to make bland and unemotionally attached product.  Let me know if you can think of an example of a huge success for a committee designed product, I would really like to know about that.


While I believe that there should be a design team that involves all interested parties (oh how I hate the word stakeholder) there should be a design leader who has a vision but not an over riding ego. That is a tough act, you have to be committed to the vision but not let ego get in the way of good suggestion and rational thinking.  What I am saying is that a good designer, the person with that discipline must also be a great leader.  That great design is not just product focused but rather a vision of product to ownership experience.  When both product and experience are done well, that is what great design is all about.

So to sum it all up.

That is what design is all about, not just the way something looks, but the way a person feels about the ownership of the product.

Filed in Design Opinion, Musings | Comments Off on Isn’t Design just another word for style?

Why is the Meeting in Cancun so important to Industrial Designers?

And what is Environmental Stewardship anyway?

The world has limited resources, and some of them are finite in nature.  There is only so much gold for example.  There is no more being created (at least unless the sun goes nova), so once it is all dug up, that is the end of it.  The good thing about gold is that it is so precious to us that it almost always gets recycled.  Too bad the area that surrounds gold mines is not nearly so precious.  The record that mankind has left in mine tailings, some of which are toxic to life for decades is dismal.

Now that is one type of resource that I am referring to.  Space on the planet is finite.  There is only so much.  And only so much of it is arable; useful for the growing of food.  Another is the air that we breath, there is only so much of it, and we dump mega tonnes of waste into that resource, then later, we breath it.  Got a house way out in the country away from the pollution? Isn’t that the same as having a pool party and asking everyone to only pee in one end of the pool?  Your safe in the “non-peeing” end of the pool.

Well what does this have to do with Industrial Design?

Industrial Designers hold a special place in the manufacture of products that we all use, and the resulting use of materials that may be finite, or renewable.  We are in a strong position to influence the choice of materials, the way that they are used, and the end of life disposition of the product.  When you are making material decisions, think of what does it mean to the environment if you make a choice of one material over another.  When considering cost, think too of the cost to the environment of your design decisions.  Can we save the environment from catastrophe?   Not by ourselves, but we can make a difference and if enough of us take this challenge seriously, then there will be a significant difference.  Furthermore, if we can influence others in other disciplines to do the same, then the effect is multiplied, and maybe there will be a chance for this old planet after all.

And that is why the environmental summit meeting in Cancun is so important.  The leaders of our nations have to send a clear message to us all that they take this seriously, and that we should do the same. In a way, it gives us a mandate.  Personally, I am not waiting for that mandate, because I got that from my children and family, not to mention friends and fellow inhabitants of the Earth.

Filed in Design News, Design Opinion | Comments Off on Why is the Meeting in Cancun so important to Industrial Designers?

Design and the 3 R’s

With the advent of a looming energy crunch (not the shortage, the price!) designers are facing new challenges all the time. What material to choose, which resin will give the strength, colour and surface finish that is desired?  What about shrinkage and embrittlement over time?

Well here are some new questions.  Questions to ask the client before the design process actually starts.  What about the 3 R’s?  Repair, Reuse, Recycle. (some might say reduce is one of the R’s but that is a primary design function anyway.)  Consumers are finally becoming more away of these issues because of some incentives such as community “blue box” efforts and the every increasing cost of items, despite Walmart’s efforts to lower the price on everything.  Perhaps it is time to look at how can this item be repaired to extend serviceable life.  At the end of the life, the items that can be recycled should be easily disassembled into recycling streams, reducing the amount of labour required to separate the constituent components.

It is up to designers to bring these questions to the forefront, because our work is where it all begins, and where the biggest change in attitude can be fostered.  In the end it is the client’s decision, but, we can be a force for the better use of our finite resources.

Filed in Design Opinion | Comments Off on Design and the 3 R’s