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Be Functional, Not Creative – Mantra for a Timeless Product Design

Remember those erasers we were crazy over back in school days? The ones that came in the shapes of burgers, french fries, fruits, or sometimes dolls? Those products may pass with flying colours regarding creativity and aesthetic appeal, but what about their functionality? Acquiring those erasers was a dream for many; using them was a struggle. Regarding product design, we unknowingly or sometimes intentionally overlook this important concept of functionality. Those aesthetics that pleased our childhood minds now raise questions if those non-functional erasers were even worth the hype.

Every product has a life cycle that ends with its user decline. But some products live on for ages by delaying their declining stage and consistently proving their relevancy and functionality from generation to generation. There is no rule for a timeless product design but to be relevant and functional, above all else. But defining functionality and achieving it takes work, too. So here’s how you can nail your product designing game by keeping it simple


Be user-centric

Believe it or not, there’s a specific change in perspective regarding product developers and customers. While product developers like to brag about their products’ distinctive specifications, consumers search for a definite answer, ‘which of my problems will this product solve?’ And that is where product designers need to focus on. Users make a product successful, so it is crucial to address the pain points of the target users and show them how your product can be the solution. User experience is a massive part of product design and product sustainability. Be user-centric, and you will get the first step done.


Be simple

Simplicity in product design is yet another point that caters to maximum consumer needs. Being simplistic in design promotes efficiency in user experiences. Even an existing product can be made efficient and successful by looking at its pain points and solving them. One such example of simplicities lies with the famous Sony Walkmans. Before the Walkmans, Sony already had a product that could play cassettes. The only problem, from a designer’s perspective, was the cassette player’s immobility. The solution? A portable cassette player is known as a Walkman. By only looking at one pain point and creating a simple solution, Sony made a revolution. That’s where simplicity becomes relevant to your product design.


Be mindful of the ergonomics

The ergonomics of a product refers to the arrangement of a product for maximising efficiency and usability. It points out the level of functionality, comfort, and ease of usage a product requires to cater to its target group of consumers. For example, suppose an IoT ( Internet of Things) based product is pitched to a rural area where internet access is still challenging. In that case, the product needs better ergonomics in its design. The ergonomics of a product can be divided into three types – Physical, Cognitive, and Organisational. Physical ergonomics plays out for a chair if the chair design helps its customer with good posture and seating arrangement. At the same time, the cognitive part plays out if the chair can be linked to increased productivity by giving comfort and ease. And lastly, organisational ergonomics looks after the integration of the product with the user’s overall ambience, meaning if the chair is compatible with the desk’s height or if it is too big or small.


Be flexible

A simple product design does not mean there will be no upgrade in the coming days. As users start receiving and adapting the product, there will be feedback, new trends, new technologies, and more design challenges to overcome. And for a timeless design,  the users’ feedback needs to be applied and considered. So the product design must be flexible enough to improve, develop and upgrade. The product must be adaptive and flexible in different contexts. Smartphones are one such product where the design allows product developers to modify features continuously.


Be mindful of the quality

No matter how functional a product is, consumers invest in those that they find worth the price in terms of quality. Although quality cannot be defined easily, consumers measure the quality of a product from its performance and monetary worth. So quality materials and procedures should be used in manufacturing and developing any product. Being mindful of quality is essential for customer retention and better business practices.

Do you need to remember the aesthetics?

In a rack full of products of the same functionalities, your hand reaches out to the one that looks a little unique. No matter how much we deny it, our eyes find pleasure in desired aesthetics; for some, it may be the colours, while for others, the deal-breaker may be the pattern. Although functionality is an important term for any product’s success, aesthetics make the journey from market shelves to consumers’ bags possible. Leaving out this vital point might cost you a fortune.

Prioritising practicality above creativity is the mantra in enduring product design. While beauty and uniqueness might draw attention, the ultimate worth of a product is found in its functionality and relevance to users. Understanding the pain spots and creating solutions that satisfy their requirements is critical. Design simplicity boosts efficiency and improves user experiences. Taking a cue from Sony’s Walkman, finding simple answers to problems might result in groundbreaking innovation. Ergonomics is essential in assuring the target customers’ usability and comfort. The product design should adapt to consumer input, new trends, and technological advances. Quality is essential for gaining consumer confidence and retention. Finally, while functioning is critical, aesthetics should not be disregarded because they add desirability and appeal to the product. By striking a balance between functionality and aesthetics, a timeless product design can be achieved.

Author- Subeh Tarek

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