Scott Berkun Profile picture
14 Sep, 13 tweets, 6 min read
1. The product world has an odd relationship with "designing for humans". Often it's designing to sell rather than designing for actual use.

Take this clever "have a look" feature - it briefly raises toast so you can see how done it is.

Another design that solves this...
2. Is this one. By just making the toast visible you don't need a button or any extra engineering to raise the toast.

It *eliminates the need for interaction*, which is often a better experience.

But wait... what problem does all this solve? Somehow that question gets lost.
3. The implication is "making toast is unpredictable and I don't want it burned".

Really? Maybe a new toaster take a few attempts to calibrate. After that u just leave it at the right level.

These designs imply a problem u probably don't have but... helps sell the toaster!
4. Toasters, like most of our tech products, promote all sorts of cool seeming but mostly useless features we will never use. Look! A croissant warmer! (wait, wha?)
5. Or.. have trouble removing hot toast from the top? No worries!

"CONVENIENT: Toast slides through the bottom onto tray - ready to serve!" (wow! but wait a second... and also, that's a crazy amount of butter, yo).
6. I'm sure all the #toastophiles will be up in arms about this thread so far, as they take toasting seriously and that's OK.

My point is "design for sale" wants you to think, at the point of purchase, that you need something you probably don't.
7. In How Design Makes The World there's a whole chapter about toasters and how we get distracted by features instead of quality.

Marketers know it's easier for us to evaluate QUANTITY of features, rather than QUALITY of solving our problems. So that's what they emphasize!
8. Of course if watching your toast get toasted, or having a toaster with a touch screen, or that burns in a smiley emoji makes you happy 4ever, that's lovely.

But many features r quick hit sugar by design. Sounds cool! Gets you excited to pay $$! But r used once & rarely again.
9. In the end, what makes a product sell the best isn't necessarily *the best* design for actual use. Often far from it.

This means "best selling" is often taken to mean "the best in most ways for most people" and that's often not true.
10. Designing for humans in truth means starting with people first. What can we observe in how they toast to see what the real problems are?

Products are often engineered the other way "I have this cool technology!" "I have this cool idea!" which is feature first thinking.
11. Example: this Kitchen Aid Pro automatically and gently reheats toast if it sits there too long. No button. No interaction needed. It just quietly does what is probably the right thing without bothering you.

12. The Kitchen Aid Pro cost $500!

Good design is a kind of quality. It's fair to pay more for quality. But not this much more for a simple appliance for most people.

Yet: when u deal with a "bad design" in a product you bought based on low price, why are u surprised?
13. I confess I'm toaster obsessed - it's a way to think on design, marketing, culture and how weird humans are.

If you want a reco: this multi-review by @GebAndrew is fantastic and has the thoughtful and #toastnerd details you're hoping for.… #designmtw

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More from @berkun

9 Sep
1. The breakthrough for people with ideas is the day they realize even the best idea does little on its own.

An idea often depends on a system for it to have value. That system could be an organization, a community or a technology. This is shocking because…
2. The mythology around ideas is that they are magical. That obtaining an idea is rare, but once you have it you've done the hard part. This is the *myth of epiphany* - most epiphany stories skip the real work that happened. Myths are fun after all!…
3. We know Edison for the light bulb, but others did much of that. His real achievement was *the system*: the power grid, power plants, wiring, city regulations… a light bulb was useless otherwise.

A great designer thinks beyond ideas to the systems needed to makes ideas real.
Read 8 tweets
5 Aug
1. One of my big memories from design school was when the prof (Dan Boyarski) told us to start our big project not by sketching or brainstorming.

Instead he told us to leave the studio and GO WATCH PEOPLE. Watch ppl do whatever it was our design was supposed to make better.
2. It seemed somehow like a violation - what?! I can't just use my MIND? And he was like, no. Your mind sucks.

Even the best imaginations are ego prone. Are you designing for yourself or to solve a problem for someone? If it's the later, how can you NOT start by observing 1st?
3. Observation is the killer tool in the designer's toolbox. To go watch, to go listen, to keep your ego out of it for awhile and just study people.

That's where big insight's come from. It's cheap and potent and transformative. User researchers know this. They'll help you.
Read 6 tweets
8 Jun
1. Have you ever seen or used a Super Soaker? It was invented by Lonnie Johnson, a former rocket scientist. It's a story of design, innovation, culture & racism and more...
2. He was born in Mobile, Alabama. His Dad taught him to fix electronics and build with his hands. Senior yr of high school (1968) he built a propane powered robot with a tape recorder for memory, at the University of Alabama. He won. But there was no interest from the school.
3. This was just 5 years after Alabama state governor Wallace refused to let black students into a school. JFK had to call the national guard to let them in (and enforce the Brown v. Board of Education decision).
Read 17 tweets
8 May
1. Ok. So I'm watching the "chair design" documentary (Chair Times). These are beautiful chairs! But one early chair explains the whole problem in a nutshell.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Chair for Johnson Wax, 1936.

Looks innocent enough. But hold on to your butts.. this gets wild.
2. The original design (shown) only had 3 legs. Why? Wright "believed: it would encourage better posture."

Why? Because you'd have to keep your feet on the ground to sit in it. Sound like a bad idea? It WAS.
3. Henry Dreyfuss or Ray/Charles Eames would never build a chair based on "a belief." They'd make prototypes and try them with real people. But not Wright.

He insisted on these chairs until... a fateful day.
Read 11 tweets
30 Mar
1. Good design depends on understanding constraints.

But when constraints change, like a 6 feet of distance requirement, what "good" means suddenly changes.

Elevators, escalators and urban markets are being redesigned on the fly. As is culture for how they're used.
2. We know the maxim "make the right thing easy" but sometimes that's impossible to do.

Not getting on an elevator or bus, even though there's room, will never feel easy. The design challenge is much harder.…
3. We know from UX design putting up signs/instructions has low value: easy to ignore.

Last time I was at the market they had signs 6 ft apart. Few noticed or used them. Why? Signs aren't enough.

At diff market an employee enforced it. Eventually ppl followed. Social proof.
Read 7 tweets
27 Mar
1. One big trap in moving to #remote work is it forces you to notice team behavior that is dysfunctional that you never noticed before.

The trap is to blame it on being remote - but in truth the issues were there all along. They're just harder to ignore now.
2. For example, “These Zoom meetings aren’t working, everyone seems distracted or bored."

And what - you think your non-remote meetings were exciting intellectual salons, packed with epiphanies and infinite engagement? I think not.
3. Most meetings are dominated by the boss. In all cases, if the meeting isn't working for everyone there, it's their fault.

Trap #1: Most bosses have a better sense of if the meeting is working for them, than if it's actually helping anyone else be productive.
Read 11 tweets

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