I first saw the ad made by Austin Texas' Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (censored, but still kinda NSFW) because it's a pretty funny viral video. It's an actual voicemail left by a customer who was kicked out because she was texting during a movie - and she's ticked off and probably pretty drunk. But then Mark Hurst pointed out that kicking out bad customers is a great way to demonstrate how much a business cares about good customers. As a good customer, this evidence makes you feel special, even "VIP", and in turn makes you respect the business for valuing your experience over additional profit. It's a well-designed policy - which can make as much difference as a product, to the user.
Not being a Ford driver myself, this one has completely gone under my radar until now - but apparently, since 2008, Ford cars have had no gas cap! Their Easy Fuel System seems like it has all kinds of things going for it: the fueling process is quicker and easier with two fewer steps, there's no possibility of putting the cap on incorrectly (which makes the system environmentally better), and the system "rejects" incorrect diesel pumps. This is one of those cases where engineering rules, and the user experience comes in second - but Ford's found a way to make it better on all counts. I can only assume that other auto makers can't use this because it's patented like crazy - but in that case, Ford should be shouting from mountaintops about this unique feature! The fact that I haven't heard of a great design feature until now sounds like a bit of a marketing failure...
As I've said before, good product design doesn't only apply to products you buy - they can be systems or rules that positively impact your behavior as a "user." And here's one that fits that bill: Lunch It, Punch It cards are printable rewards cards for yourself - that is, punch the card each time you pack a lunch, and then "earn" the reward of going out for lunch (or some other reward you may want). It uses marketing techniques developed by and for business, but for personal improvement: you'll save money, eat healthier, and get more done at work. It's amazing what you can do when you're willing to trick your brain into doing it!
Lots of packaging is designed to be opened with your bare hands - and though those design intentions are good, sometimes the execution just plain fails. So, from an online store appropriately called Useful Things, here's the 6-in-1 Multi Opener tool for all those packages that are supposed to be tool-free. Jar tops and twist-off bottle caps, those tiny tabs on safety seals, pull-tab cans, and a blade for sealed bags and packets - this will handle them all, a backup plan for bad design (or just poor manufacturing tolerances). I also like the title of Core77's post about this product: "Theoretically Unnecessary, Actually Necessary Tool Design." Yep, sounds about right!
When you get your coffee from the 'bucks, it's up to you to add milk and sugar yourself. You'd think that half-awake pre-coffee customers would be treated to no-brainer intuitive labels for this feat, but no - this photo is the typical situation. The labels for the three types of creamer (all in identical containers, of course) are facing away, and those big black handles mean you can't easily spin the carafes to quickly check which is which. You might say it's just bad luck that the labels are on the "back" side, but I'd say that this way is statistically wrong: most right-handed people will pour with their right hand, leaving the label facing away as shown here. My suggestion: labels that go all the way around the container, so you can identify it no matter how it's oriented. Good design can make it tasteful, too; instead of all-text (though text should still be used somewhere on the label, for infrequent customers), a different pattern or color could indicate nonfat, lowfat, and half'n'half. This is a small design choice that doesn't cost any more than the current method, and it could make mornings easier for millions of customers. If there's a bigger no-brainer, I haven't found it!
I've always been a little fascinated with alarm clocks - the tension between what you need and what you want, the game of negotiating with (or just plain tricking) your irresponsible future self, it's a rich area for clever design. And designer Ki Hyun Kim certainly has something clever here: the Alternative Alarm Clock, which simply turns on a power outlet when it's time to wake up. What you plug into that outlet is up to you: a fan to blow in your face? A coffee maker (or grill loaded with bacon a la Michael Scott) for an olefactory cue? A sun-simulating light? It's anything you want - and since there may be as many ways to wake up as people who need to, that's the genius of it. Here's hoping this one makes it to store shelves soon!