Saturday, September 28, 2013

Iconic and yet invisible--the perfect product!

Dear Designers:

I went back and rediscovered a quote I'd read a couple of years ago:
“You can read a J. Crew catalog, visit their website, store, or social media site, and have a consistent experience that allows you take off the logo and still know you’re at J. Crew,” -- Jim Joseph, President and Partner of Lippe Taylor Brand Communications 
I’m a technical guy, a business guy.  I'm anything BUT a marketing guy.  And I am a user-guy.   I see we’re missing that one-ness shared by J. Crew in many, many of the products that are released today.   

If I think about the first time I held an iPod 1 with the wheel, the design was so simple that I just knew how to work it intuitively.  We’re missing that intuitiveness in products, even the latest iPhone.  Yes I know it’s very difficult to build products this way, but we need it!

Like many others, I'm flabbergasted when I have different experiences with different products from the same company.  Often, they all have radically different out-of-the-box experience.  Not just the different UIs, but the initial configuration procedures are different, startup/configuration is different, default usernames & passwords often vary.   I guess I’m looking for the feeling of a product that is simple, straightforward to start; with powerful flexibility under the covers.  When I learn how something works, please don't make me relearn it just because it's new.  (Think about the disappearing Windows Start button.) 

Few products I see have that innovative design, that Xerox PARC feel.  Even from Apple, we're not seeing that Apple classic design—where all the elements work together to produce an item that elegantly achieves its purpose.  One of the best things about the Polycom RPX Immersive Telepresence room is that the technology is invisible.  The best products have the technology functions embedded into the form.  

They have to be iconic and yet invisible like a red double-decker bus in London, a yellow taxi in New York City, or the PolycomSoundstation speaker phone.

Dear Designers, please go watch the video IBM 100 x 100  or learn about the IBM Grand Challenge.  Think about what John E. Kelly says – it’s either incremental innovation or it’s a leap forward.  Be inspirational and take that leap.  

But this product has to fit together.  It has to hold the above contradictions or disparate pieces in one form.   Please designers, keep these thoughts in mind when you design the next generation of: 

Golden Gate Bridge   IBM Selectric typewriter  
VW Beetle 

Your users thank you.

n.b. It was correctly pointed out that in the original version of this post, I used an image of the Polycom VTX1000.  I've replaced the image it with an actual Polycom SoundStation.  Thanks for the comment!

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