The Binder Clip: Design for Versatility?

Lifehacker has a (very old) ode to the  standard binder clip as an office omnitool,  lauding its ability to adapt to an impressive number of uses.  And that brings up an interesting design goal, which might be called "design for versatility."  With this goal, it's not about optimizing a single use, but keeping the design so basic - that is, free from application-specific features - that its few general features can be used in many situations.  An analogue would be the paper clip: it may be possible to improve the design of the traditional wire paperclip.  But would it then lose the ability to be used as a general-purpose wire, a pin to eject stuck optical drives and iPhone SIM cards, and MacGyver's multitool.  Sometimes it's better to design several "products" pretty well than a single product perfectly?

When User Experience is Down the List...

This blog is dedicated to the user experience - but user experience is hardly the only factor in product design.  So what happens when it's a little farther down on the list of priorities?  Mark Hurst posted this message from an anonymous employee of Blackberry maker RIM, sent to the heads of that company:  "We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice -- the end user doesn't care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren't hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work."  It's true - the user doesn't care about your strategic alignments, partnerships, or IT-friendliness.  User experience trumps it all, and results in something even better than demand for your product - love for your product!

Concept: See What You Print

Printing has always been a sketchy area of interaction design:  for some reason, there's a deep chasm and a leap of faith between what you see on screen and what comes out of the printer.  To bring printing, finally, to the 21st century, Artefact Group designed a concept called  See What You Print.  The printer has a display that matches the 8.5x11" paper, and shows exactly what to expect on the page after you print.  It even "slides" the paper out of the display and into the tray as it's printed.  It makes sense, and is something that's only recently become feasible with lower-cost LCDs.  Now that the technology is there, it's time for design to catch up!

Butter, better?

We've all used those little single-serving (or for me, single-slice-of-toast) butter pads, and designer Yeongkeun Jeong thinks he can one-up the existing packaging.  The photo of his "Butter! Better!" design speaks for itself, showing how the lid doubles as a spreading knife.  The question is, do we really need this?  More plastic used for an (arguably) inferior usage experience?  Making things convenient but disposable isn't always "better" - but for this one, I suppose each user can decide on his own...
[via Core77]