Image Copyright Ford Motor Company
unnecessary, esp. through being more than enough.
You’re on Pinterest looking at product designs. The kind of design that makes it onto Pinterest is usually the eye candy—the stuff that looks really intriguing at first glance. But when you go down to the local box store, you suddenly have an epiphany: “Nothing even close to what I just saw online is on these shelves.”
There’s a huge gap between the concept design and what actually ends up in the marketplace. This used to bother me when I was younger. I would think, “How come I can’t buy all this cool stuff?” Now I understand, and agree with, why these often bizarre concepts never make it to shelves.
Design is not all about “looking good” as much as people want to make it that way. Good design has to serve a genuine purpose; it has to be an actual solution for an actual problem. Making an attractively designed light bulb that emits the exact same amount of light in much the same way as the average light bulb isn’t a good design solution. The only real “problem” it solves is commonality. Only minimally innovative. It steps outside the box, but only in appearance, and with substantial extra cost. These sorts of things belong in the houses of those who can afford to appreciate appearance over function; and that equates to the smallest percentile of consumers.
There’s a reason why, when you see an epic sketch of a concept car creating a lot of buzz in the media, 90% of that car will be whittled away and a mere 10% will be left to purchase by the consumer (assuming any part of it survives). It’s because 90% of that car was totally unnecessary, the manufacturer did not want to invest money in useless features and the price tag—were it to reach dealers’ lots—would be exorbitant!
Good design is a delicate balance between what’s aesthetically pleasing (yes, that is definitely a consideration) and what’s realistic and genuinely practical.
That’s why there’s a difference between being an artist and being a designer. Artists make the sorts of things that are hung as decorations on people’s walls. There is essentially no utility to wall art, sculptures and the like, and that’s completely fine if you just want something nice to look at. But with design, in all fields, there is the need to solve problems: inventing things that work and adding the beautifying elements wherever they complement the functioning elements.
Needless to say, in order for me to truly appreciate a product design at this point in my life, I have to be able to see its function right away, or at least be led in a short time to see how it can be of good use. Some things aren’t as self-explanatory and that’s alright, as long as their functions are evident within a few seconds of explanation.
Life’s too short and dollars too fleeting for buying things that really don’t serve a useful purpose.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of considering Deiter Rams’ list of 10 principles of good design. If you’re a designer in any area, take the time to see how these things can apply to your field; you may be surprised what you can learn from an industrial designer.