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Design for the Everyday

George Crichlow

As the summer comes to a close, i’ve been ramping up on my reading.

The latest book that i’ve been digging into is Designing for Everyday Objects. While the examples used may be dated the principles are as relevant as ever.

Design for this author isn’t magical. It is practical, providing simple and elegant solutions to everyday problems. One of his favorite problematic design that he mentions is the simple door.

A door is something we are all familiar with and have experience using, but hardly do we take note of the nuances that go to their design. Some doors aren’t so simple. Sometimes they ask us to pull when we are meant to pull.  These are problematic design flaws that author points out throughout the book.

While full of tidbit, these are the top 5 design principles that i’ve gleamed from the readings so far:

Design Principle 1: Self-Explanatory

One of his biggest insights is that design needs to be self-explanatory. Good design requires no instructions. A user can infer what to do.  In the case of the faulty the design of a handle is misinterpreted as something you push vs. pull.  The need to put instructions on a door is an indiction of bad design.

Thinking forward to a more present example, I look to Apple. When the iPhone first came to market no instructions were needed. People could infer what they were suppose to do aiding in the ubiquity of the product.

Design Principle 2 : Easy to Understand

With all new things, there is a learning curve. Good design can facilitate how we perceive something foreign.

The author sites the VCR instruction manual as a poorly design object of design. While the concept of video recording is easily understood, how to operate it, is not. Which takes us to principle 3

Design Principle 3: Meaningful relationship to action

What u think should be is what we should do. Design facilities this transition from thought to action. A product, service or an experience must deliver on the promise of the idea.  One must fluidly be able to do, pass through or interact with the intended design. Therefore its important to limit user options.

Design Principle 4: Give users only one option per feature

It’s important to pair down what people can do or experience. A good designed product or service has few options for interpretation.  For instance Lyft and Uber are for getting car service.  Zipcar is for renting cars on short notice.  There is no mistaking what users can do.

Design Principle 5: Provide visible clues

Knobs, color, indentations and grips are all visible clues that help move users through to an action.  In the case of an interface it can be the layout of an app or the sound of clicking on a button that provide visual clues of what is to come next. This is important.

Recently I bought a product from Quirky to hold my laptop charger.  It is a circular rubber object that I wrap my cords around.  The outside lining is a thin rubber. Because it was thin, it was a clue for me to unwrap it, which allow me to attach my laptop cords. Without reading the instructions I inferred what I was suppose to do.