Product Design Resources

Below is a collection of product design resources that I find particularly interesting. Most are gathered from the TED Conference. Each provides a take on design that is unique and perhaps controversial. All are extremely interesting.

  • Piano Stairs: Making Design Motivational

    In his blog, Freakonomics, Stephen J. Dubner talked about product design as a motivational force. He described a musical stairs that encouraged the commuters to walk up and down as opposed to taking the escalator. The video is below and this is the link to the blog post: Who Will Climb the Piano Stairs?

  • Jan Chipchase: Street Use of Cell Phones

    Here’s a bit of additional data on what people carry with them: A statistical look at the things South by Southwest goer carries.

  • Robert Sapolsky: The Uniqueness of Humans

  • David Kelley: Human-Centered Design

  • Don Norman: Design for Happiness

  • David Carson: Design, Discovery, & Humor

  • Philippe Starck: Why Design?

  • Paul Bennett: Design is in the Details

  • Seth Godin: Sliced Bread & Other Marketing Delights

  • Scott McCloud: Understanding Comics

  • Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

  • Rory Sutherland: Sweat the Small Stuff

  • Joyce Thomas: Empathic Design

  • David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve

    David Byrnes gives a very interesting take on how environmental conditions shape product design and how product design shapes its environment.

  • John Underkoffler: The Future of UI

    John Underkoffler was a consultant on the Minority Report UI.

  • Nicholas Christakis: The Hidden Influence of Social Networks

    Nicholas Christakis conducted research on the spread of obesity. He found that our friends not only influence our behavior, they redefine “what’s normal.”

  • Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index

    Nic Mark discusses how we currently measure the society’s well-being and how we should be thinking about it. The Happy Planet Graph is an interesting visual summary of his ideas.

  • Clay Shirky: Cognitive Surplus

    Clay Shirky introduces the concept of Cognitive Surplus—the ability of people of the world to volunteer (have enough spear time after providing for life necessities) on large-scale problems and products and the availability of technology to link those individuals into cooperative work groups. Both conditions have to be satisfied to create Cognitive Surplus. Shirky goes on to give examples: the birth of Ushahidi and crisis mapping, Wikipedia, open source software.

  • Aditi Shankardass: A Second Opinion on Learning Disorders

    Dr. Shankardass presents a case for consistent misdiagnosis of the cause of cognitive impairment in children.

  • Ross Lovegrove: The Power and Beauty of Organic Design

    Ross Lovegrove talks about his design process—examining nature’s forms, using polymers, the minimal form necessary for the design of the product.

  • Will Wright: Toys That Make Worlds

    Will Wright is the designer of SPORE, and in this video he talks about designing this game.

  • David Perry: Will Videogames Become Better than Life?

    David Perry put together the coolest video of games evolution!

  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page: Inside the Google Machine

    Sergey Brin and Larry Page talked about how new products are developed at Google.

  • Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice

    Barry Schwartz talks about how having a multitude of choices and increased expectations change how we live our lives. Interesting implications to product design: “It all looks so good, I can’t wait to be disappointed.” Barry’s secret to happiness: “Low expectations.” When a person makes a choice among many options, he is at fault if he’s disappointed in his selection. But if there’s only one choice, then the fault is with the maker of that product.

  • Hans Rosling: No More Boring Data

    Hans Rosling shows how good presentation of data can change how we think about the world. Interestingly, it’s the stories he tells about the data that make the graphs come to life.

  • Clifford Stoll: 18 Minutes with an Agile Mind

    Clifford Stoll: The first time you do something, you’re a scientist. The second time, you’re an engineer. The third, you’re a technologist.

  • Michael Shermer: Why People Believe Strange Things

    Michael Shermer runs the Skeptics.

  • Julian Treasure: The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us

    Julian Treasure talks about sound & brand and sound’s affects on our emotional and cognitive responses to our surroundings.

  • Niels Diffrient: Rethinking the Way We Sit Down

    Niels Diffrient describes his design approach to creating an office chair. The main point of the video starts about 7 minutes into it.

  • Steven Pinker: The Stuff of Thought

    Steven Pinker talks about language, communication, thoughts, and miscommunication. He touches on indirect and direct linguistic styles, vagueness of language, and the use of metaphors

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, Fulfillment and Flow

    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses how he came upon the idea of flow and we can try to encourage it among people involved in certain activities.

  • Larry Lessig: How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law

    Larry Lessig talks about the changing culture from consumption of content to production of content, making these producers of this new mush-up content into “pirates” by the very nature of their work in relation to our current copy right laws.

  • Daniel Pink: The Surprising Science of Motivation

    Daniel Pink talks about rewards and how they narrow the focus, making them counter-productive to complex problem solving.

  • RSA Animate: Daniel Pink’s Surprising Science of Motivation

    One more time with feelings!

  • Malcolm Gladwell: What We Can Learn from Spaghetti Sauce

    Malcolm Gladwell explains how to think about product design, using the spaghetti sauce as an example. This is the best explanation of how not to use usability studies!

  • Tom Chatfield: 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

    Tom Chatfield how to keep players engaged in the product/game through the reward schedule:

    1. Experience bars measuring progress
    2. Multiple long and short-term aims
    3. Rewards for effort (don’t punish failure)
    4. Rapid, frequent, and clear feedback
    5. An element of uncertainty (see cognitive science behind gambling)
    6. Windows of enhanced attention—moments when people are more likely to learn based on context & environmental conditions
    7. Other people: people want to do things with other people—social component

  • Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on Top of the World

    Seth Priebatsch talks about game dynamics and how they can be used to create successful products:

    1. Appointment Dynamic—to succeed gamers have to do something by a certain time (e.g. happy hour)
    2. Influence and Status (e.g. levels and badges to distinguish members and membership levels)
    3. Progression Dynamics (e.g. progress bar and % of completeness toward some reward—think of LinkedIn progress bar on profile completion)
    4. Communal Discovery—leverage network to solve problem (e.g. get members to source the best news or best stores)

  • Derek Sivers: Keep Your Goals to Yourself

    Derek Sivers talks about how disclosing one’s goals can trick the mind into thinking that they have already been achieved!

  • Jesse Schell: When Games Invade Real Life

    Jesse Schell describes life driven by game theory, disposable technology, and game designers.

  • Timothy Prestero: Design for People, Not Awards

    Timothy Prestero describes his work in product design. The main point is that when creating a product, one has to consider manufacturing, distribution, and actual use scenarios. Otherwise, the work remains at the “inspirational” prototype stage and never sees real world use, no matter how good it is or how much good it can do.