Creative urges

Everyday I wake up in a badly designed world. Like most designers, I have a strong urge to improve things which I see as badly designed. Most of our complaints during the day revolve around bad design. Just listen to your colleagues and friends talk about printers, or coffee machines, or parking. But it is not just about inconvenience.

Poorly designed car seats and office chairs cause back pain in one in five adults. Unfortunately, budget and style often take priority over good design. The form of a chair may not have changed in centuries, but our lifestyle has. Try a standing desk. Volvo, always leading in design, is introducing external airbags to protect pedestrians. So great design can save lives too. For some, design is still considered a luxury, not least the Irish Government. But look at the brands who have come to define great design. Volvo, Apple and Dyson realise design can be their differentiator.

And it permeates all levels of the brand into their company culture and eventually into popular culture. Surely a winning formula but it needs vision to be brought into an organisation. And it needs talent. Not everyone is a designer but we can contribute.

We can all choose to design the world. Giving customer feedback is one easy way.

Think of the number of products we encounter on a daily basis. However, a lot of feedback forms need design themselves. Responses are poor – surveys are becoming the new banner ads. Apparently we are 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash (see Solve Media’s presentation on this) than to click on a banner ad.

As marketers and buyers of creative services we have a choice in everything we commission, produce or approve. Do we just repeat what we did last time, or do we try to improve? As consumers, family and friends we also have everyday design choices to make, Where do we choose to meet? How to get there? What do we consume?

The more we choose good design the better it will get. Look at how An Post have followed in the footsteps of Parcel Motel for ecommerce delivery convenience.

The world is filled with badly designed products and services. Cash, posted letters, keys, fossil fuels, public procurement, signage (especially Irish road signage) are some examples.

The recent Census (itself badly designed and offline) is one of the data sources which eventually goes towards the design of public services. It is probably the single biggest opportunity the average member of the population gets to make on design. Elections only potentially change things for five years until decisions are reversed.

Sugru is a prime example of a Product Design in Ireland which is taking the world by storm. It is the world’s first flexible glue that turns into rubber. It is not by chance that Finland has the highest rate of product patents per head of population. In Ireland we work hard but unfortunately that is often at the expense of innovation.

Design thinking – and doing – needs to be introduced properly in schools for us to create a design culture. Everyone starting work and school at the same time. Check-in at airports. Some of these badly designed services really affect our quality of life but the status quo is assumed. We end up with blame games rather than innovative solutions. We all hate too much packaging yet the volume seems to be increasing. When services are badly designed (IW) it can even affect a country’s government or lack thereof.

But good news for everyone, James Dyson has designed a new hair dryer. While I’m not entirely sure if it will be on my Christmas bucket list, it is good to see the design of a hairdryer making mainstream news – and a snip at just €399.00

Dyson is said to have spent €60 million over four years in developing and investigating “the science of hair”. Over 100 engineers tested it on over 1,000 miles of human of human hair and created 600 prototypes. It’s diminutive V9 digital motor is said to operate eight times faster than other hairdryer motors and is half the weight.

The dryer has controlled air flow and heat which does not exceed 150 degrees, while current models can reach a damaging 230 degrees. Other hairdryers are heavy and the distribution of air is all wrong, so the hair is blasted with little heat control. The Porsche of hairdryers has magnetic nozzle attachments so they don’t fall off.

In road-tests Irish Independent reporter Victoria Moss, a brunette with long and thick hair, found the Dyson Supersonic did the job in 10 minutes, while her hair would normally take up 15-20 minutes to dry. It would appear as though Dyson is more than a little serious about taking a sizeable cut of Europe’s €1.3 billion haircare industry.

This article was first published in during May 2016.