the design icon | Juicy Salif by Philippe Stark for Alessi

Well I have to start somewhere. I have two of these, both gifts from students (they know by now). The one pictured sits atop a 'display' shelf in my office. The other, used, surprisingly, in my kitchen.

Interestingly, the one residing in my home kitchen does see use. And that brings me onto why the Salif is an example of good design. It works. That is, it fulfills its expected function as a lemon squeezer. In fact, it surpasses it in that now a don't have to pour the juice from the squeezer to the cup. Instead the cup slots under the squeezer.

embodied/rich interactions

I saw this as we scooted past on our electric scooters and had to turn back.

There's always something to be said about rich or embodied interactions - especially as tonic against the all ubiquitous touch-screen display.

And I can't talk about that without mentioning Joep Frens and his still relevant thesis exploring and promoting a richer, more embodied interactive experience.

I love the physicality of the operation. The coordination between hand and eye as the vender feels through the action of squeezing the orange. The form of the product is perfected over many generations (utilizing the same or similar squeezing action) to be harmonious with function. In this I find a certain elegance. 

It reminded me of the Ojex Manual Citrus Juicer featured in the classic text on product design process: Design Secrets: 50 Real-life Projects Uncovered. Products, Volume 1

The harmony between interaction, function and form makes this beautiful design...

bad design: the invisible cupboard

So i'm in a hotel for a conference in Dubrovnic, Croatia run by the Design society. I encounter this sticker pasted to one of the bathroom mirrors. My initial reaction, 'what cupboard?!'

Well, I'm all for the minimalist, but when it completely ignores functional necessities we run into the unaccetable. Something of the reverse of Gibbson's affordance theory, furthered and developed by Don Norman more specifically within the design context.

Would make a better hiding place than bathroom cabinet. And that's the point. Good design must satisfy functional requirements derived from expectations towards use. In this case, its initial inability to function as required necessitates a sign to uncover the truth. Well, some of my Korean speaking friends would still struggle...

This breaks the 'must have need' described by Kano in his taxonomy of customer needs. A bathroom cupboard must be visible and accessible. Its not enough, in this context, to cry 'for the aesthetic', as evidenced by the requirement to add-in the sticker (no doubt a result of continuous questions to reception/housekeeping on the whereabouts of the room's hairdryer).

Good design always considers form and function.

incremental innovation?

I remember, with some vaguely distorting nostalgia, enjoying the pogo-stick as a child. So, when my daughter spotted the Zoingo Boingo Flexible Pogo Stick by Australian toy innovators Tucker Toys, I was drawn into her heart-felt request.

My own preconceptions of what a real pogo-stick should look and work-like provided the foregrounding for my skepticism upon seeing an object that had little in common with the pogo-sticks of my past. That is, the acceptability of this Zoinggo Boingo was immediately tempered by its departure from the form and material factors I saw as necessary to pogo-sticks. This then resulted in my questioning of its functional ability, 'that thing will never work'. 

However, my daughter's persuasive optimism (lacking the reference anchor of pogo-stick acceptability that I commanded) won out and we took it home.

After a few false starts, we were soon both bouncing. And, I was proven wrong. The variation on the origional bouncer both looked and felt different, but worked very well. 

This is an interesting example of interactions between Raymond Loewy's MAYA (most advanced yet acceptable) principle and Robert Verganti's model of innovation as incremental vs. radical. The radical difference in form factors and materials made the hopper unacceptably different for my own idiosyncratic understanding of Pogo-stickness, and thus skeptical of its potential to meet functional expectations. However, the product's function is not radically different from the original pogo stick design. Instead, Tucker Toys were able to provide radical difference in form and materials, while maintaining original functionality. That is to say, products can be more or less radical and/or acceptable at different dimension and on various levels. The point is to provide products that work well as well as look great...

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful'


On my daily drive between my home on the beaches of Busan to my office at UNIST, I often use the time listening to BBC 4 radio programmes and pod casts. This morning a caught an addition of In Our Time, entitled Milliam Morris, one of England's foremost designers associated to the Arts and Crafts Movement

The programme itself was more about the man and his life than the design philosophies, approaches and practices he championed. Still, an interesting encounter.

This post is not so much about the pod cast, or the man. One quote, that I confess I had not heard before, stuck in my mind:

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'

This got me thinking again about the role and interaction between use and aesthetic in product design. On the one hand, the necessity for products to fulfill functional requirements. On the other, for them to be aesthetically desirable. Context-of-use, personal preferences and product purpose will implicate the extent of necessity along the two dimensions. The designer's role is to navigate a solution that is appropriately positioned in its response to the two, considering user(s) needs within context.


Everyday Design


I wanted to add a post on Everyday design. That is the ways in which 'non-designers' appropriate and reapply objects in their environments to solve often use related issues and challenges in their day-to-day lives. 

I graduate student at our institute here in Korea introduced the image above. I like it in its contrast between the original function and the re-purposed - the utilitarian, ruggedness of the boot, to a vessel for planting and holding flowers.

My interest is sparked most by re-purposing that provides a radically different use. In this case a shift from use-function to decoration. At the same time the re-purposed product (wellington boot) is appropriate for the new function because of its functional ability to hold in place the plant. This then, in Everyday design speak, is called product re-use (compared to re-make and re-manufacture).

For those interested Hyangah Kim and Woohun Lee of ID KAIST, introduce the topic well in their paper for the International Journal of Design entitled: Everyday Design as a Design Resource

Metaphoric design

I come across this in an otherwise unremarkable washroom on a coastal road I often cycle near Haeundae, Busan, Korea….


Theory on design metaphor indicates two broad constructs: a target and a source (see Nazli Cila's text on the subject from TU Delft). Broardly speaking, the source (stone) and target (wash basin) must in some way (use, function, form aesthetic), relate in order to provide grounds for successful metaphoric design. This then is no easy task.


Layered on top of this, in the case of the example above, is the material experience. Here I use material and experience to describe an emotional response to materials. Again Elvin Karana as written extensively on interactions between materials and the user-product experience. In this sense we may consider the meaning of the stone material.

In both cases (the source of a hollowed rock) and the material used (stone) does not have strong enough relation to the target (wash basin).

Aesthetically and functionally, when was the last time anyone hollowed a rock to hold water? That is, the source has very little to do with the target in terms function. A large shell perhaps, or shell-like form? 

In contrast the MUJI CD player by Naoto Fukasawa. although Fukasawa appears unsure as to why his design became an icon, the relation between (source: wall-mounted fan) and target (CD player) runs through the design, from form, to function to user-interaction. In this sense the Muji fan succeeds where the sink fails.