A good lesson by Sir Dyson

Posted on Thursday 13 December 2012

Most of the reading that I’ve done on inventions always seem to involve past events and inventors long dead or retired. It was with great joy that I read an article in Wired about the British inventor James Dyson.

First off I had a vision that Dyson’s company might be run with edicts on high by the great genius with hordes of technologist to follow through building something from one if his detailed drawings. The article was quite fresh in that Dyson believes in many of the things that great inventors of the past have believed in.

Perspiration as well as inspiration; Dyson made several thousand tries at his first vacuum before having success, this tracks well with greats like Edison. Patents are important for protecting innovators; without protection there is less incentive to dream big and take risks. The article is short but my favorite part is where Dyson believes in the engineers building what they design, going through the process of actually making it with their hands, rolling over the parts to see and feel how it functions or does not. I was so encouraged by Dyson being at his core forever a Maker.

The article is short but worth a read for anyone trying to make something yet to be imagined, it points the way by someone who has walked the path.


flashicon @ 9:15 pm
Filed under: Inspiration
Fitbit exercise sensor design

Posted on Thursday 14 July 2011

Design of Fitbit seems redundant

Cloths pin fitness sensor

I must admit I like the promise of new products that use data capture to help me in my quest to improve my fitness.

Enter the “Fitbit”, a small clip-on sensor that captures all activity through out the day and night and uploads it to a web site for analysis. My first couple of weeks using the Fitbit sensor went pretty well, there is a docking stand and the charge capacity is good enough to last a few days and night of data capture.

I was amazed at how sedentary I was and just the act of looking at my total activity was a good motivator to get out and exercise. I have only good things to say about the Fitbit website and the functioning of the devise.

This is one case where the function takes the lead over form. The small devise is shaped like a small cloths pin and is made entirely of plastic, the design looks quite beautiful but it seems to have a flaw of functional duplicity.

Let me explain my take on product design and the interaction between visual affordance and consumer behavior. Some of my favorite designs are ones that need no manual or explanation; the visual appearance leads us to use the product as it appears and as our experience with other objects throughout our life prepares us for.

The appearance of the Fitbit says, “I am a clip, I am ready to be clipped on and used”, so why did this product come with an additional clip that clips to your cloths with the Fitbit clipped inside? I couldn’t really make out the reason for this duplication of design, so I sort of ignored the extra accessory. So why would an industrial designer design something might look as strange as the image I’ve put together below, I call this the “uncertain cloths pin”:

The Uncertain Cloths Pin

So the question of why would they design a product like this is the obvious one, why make something look and function like a clip then add what amounts to another clip to the product. All I’ve got is the possibility of design as after-thought. If the clip falls off, don’t redesign the clip; just add another clip along with it. Perhaps the plastic design loses it’s shape through wear and stress, or maybe it’s the smooth inner surface that has poor gripping properties…

It’s really too bad and something that I can see being addressed in future design, user and consumer testing might have prevented this design flaw but many companies don’t see the need to test before delivering to the public, and at about a hundred a pop there are destined to be a lot of Fitbits getting lost.

flashicon @ 6:47 am
Filed under: SoapBox