Apalla #16 – Design, Part 1

In this new Apalla series, we’re going to be talking about design. We’ll start off with some general basics on what design is all about, then move into the second part, design tips (general things to keep in mind) and then the third, design hacks (one-off solutions with a load of uses. Anyway, let’s get into it!

I’ll start with a number: 30,000. This is, approximately, how many readily distinguishable objects there are with the average human being — ovals, spheres, rectangles, cubes, of varying different shapes and sizes. This is what we would call the workspace. We want to work within these 30,000 objects since it means we won’t have to have the users learn something totally new… we want things to feel intuitive to them. For example, when I have a cylinder which curves in near the top, I automatically recognize it as a bottle. What kind of bottle? That’s for the designer to decide.

Generally speaking, there are three main goals of design: feasibility, viability, and desirability

Feasibility is the simplest goal, meaning: does it work? For example, does our bottle actually function as a bottle? 

For viability, we want to make sure our object can be constrained into the resources we have. For example, we probably couldn’t make a bottle made of pure gold and diamonds.

Finally, we have desirability — do people actually want this? If there’s a mass of thorns on our bottle that prick anyone who touches it, then people probably won’t want to use that bottle.

With these goals in mind, we start designing our object — beginning with the breadboard. A breadboard has all the components (object pieces) and wiring (how these pieces connect), but none of the flashy stuff (colors, aesthetics, nice-to-haves). Our bottle breadboard might be a combination of that iconic curved in cylinder, alongside a smaller hollow one that serves as a cap. Once we have that sketched out, we can begin to plan the niceties. 

An important thing to do while designing is to stick within the boundaries of simplification and detail. We don’t want to get insanely detailed, or else we won’t be able to make changes easily if we notice a part isn’t working. At the same time, we don’t want to stay super simple, or else we won’t really achieve a design that people want. A good way to keep within this boundary is to use a strategy called shaping up, also referred to as lean design. This process involves making sure you have at least a bare functioning piece at any given time. Going back to our bottle, what we’d want to do is first make a basic bottle and cap, and continue designing both simultaneously, and incrementally. We wouldn’t start with just the bottle, build on it for a bit, then do the cap — that might cause things to become incompatible!

Anyway, that summarizes the general stuff on design. Next episode, we’ll get into the tips!


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