This post is actually about a electronic product, so what does the design has to do with it? Let me start with a bit of history. I am not sure where I got interested in design. But few months of my life where my neurons would have been lit up enough that light was coming thru my ears must be when I came to US. You see I grew up in the India of middle 80s (feeling old :)) where the design must have been stuck in the five year planning commissions. There were the Ambassdor cars, Philips radios, HMT watches and Colgate tooth paste and things would remain the same till may be mid 90s. If a product was supposed to work some way it would for a very long time. Even now if you open some of the Haldiram Namkeen products readily available in US you would see how little attention is paid to usability of the product where design matters a lot.
So 1st few months in US were great from that perspective. I am a very curious person so I would notice the design in everything like how the medicine bottles can only be opened in certain ways, numerous designs of opening the wooden doors meant for gardeners, how the swimming pool chairs have stops for various angle of reclines and dual sided boxee remote etc. That was then, I still notice these design things but the aha moments have sort of reduced. But every now and then something comes up and I go wow.
Any DIYer worth their salt would have dabbled with electronic circuits. Remember when you discovered breadboards for wiring. Those Electronics for You issues for folks who grew up in India. So yesterday I had had to give a b’day present and much to my lovely wife’s discomfort I chose a geek present. It is called Snap Circuits SC100. What they have is similar to a bread board. But what I really LIKED and that’s where the design bit comes – is the way they have solved the problem of joining and creating various circuits. As is clued by the name they used the good old Snap Buttons for making the connection between various components. So a kid of 8-108 ( recommended age group on their box) won’t have to fiddle with cutting the wires, joining and soldering etc. Very nice.
Essentially you have plastic breadboard with a grid. Instead of typical holes at the intersection of lines you have little plastic projections to which various components and giant plastic wires snap onto by using the buttons. They have a nice book with lots of projects starting from a simple circuit with a switch to on-off a LED to more complicated ones. Here is picture from flickr. Note the shiny buttons at the intersections. Who would have thought the buttons for your shirts will be used to make circuits. That is why design matters.