How to prevent useless products 

Prevent useless products by simultaneously embracing constraints and desires

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Problem: Social product design is often driven by very tough constraints. There is no inherent problem in focusing on constraints. The problem arises when user desires are completely ignored.

The poor are accidentally seen as helpless people that need to be saved who have no agency. This type of design strips humans of their dignity.

 

Solution: Embrace constraints of the developing world and merge it with the typical desires of the first world. Not only can we more frequently avoid bad products, but we can also produce very innovative and meaningful products. 

We can be utilitarian, but we must no longer attempt to address needs while ignoring desires. 

 

 

 

4 Principles of Great Design for Everyone


1. Simultaneously Embrace Desires & Constraints

Create a solution that embraces and satisfies constraints & desires. It must be simultaneous. One cannot ignore the other.

2. Minimize Resource Inefficiencies

Start with a systematic analysis of the product. Use first principles to reinvent problematic aspects.

3. Optimize Value

Provide the maximum functional, social, and emotional value for a minimum initial investment and low long-term maintenance cost.

4. Dignify Everyone

We are all human. Do not discriminate based on geography, culture, or economic status. A homeless person and the President should be treated equally. 

 

 

 

 

Examples of Great Design for Everyone

Have you ever wondered about how a homeless person on the side of the street and the leader of the free world consume the same fizzy soda drink just to have a fleeting moment of happiness? Illustration by Elliot Devries 

Have you ever wondered about how a homeless person on the side of the street and the leader of the free world consume the same fizzy soda drink just to have a fleeting moment of happiness? Illustration by Elliot Devries 

Be hopeful of the future. There are in fact countless great products that do not discriminate based on geography, culture or economic status. We just need more.

I have seen this identical type of plastic chair in photos of the Lagos, Nigeria, city dumps in the Times. A photo of a memorial gathering for a slain Al Qaeda leader in Jordan showed a row of these same chairs in a tent. I own six of these chairs myself. I believe this type of white molded-plastic chair belongs to the growing category of the world’s ubiquitous objects
— Ian Frazier

The quartz Casio brand F-91W digital wristwatch was introduced in 1991 and continues to be a popular product worldwide today. The watch is water-resistant, features a calendar, alarm, stopwatch, and has a battery that last over 7 years. 

The BIC Cristal pen is a tool of utility and creativity. It is highly reliable, stylish, and one of the most affordable ballpoint pens in the world. 

The monobloc polypropylene chair is produced by numerous manufacturers worldwide. It is the world’s most common style of chair. The chairs are very affordable, need no maintenance, can be used in any weather, and are stackable. 

 

A carbonated soft drink sold in over 200 countries worldwide.

According to Interbrand, in 2011, Coca-Cola was the world’s most valuable brand. 

 

Equitable Globalization of Gangnam Style

In the 20th century what might have taken 20 years to spread around the world takes only a few months at most in the 21st. 

In 2012, Gangnam Style took the world by storm. It went around the globe several times over becoming the first YouTube video to have over one billion views. The music video has continued to spread reaching over 1.9 billion views on YouTube – overnight becoming a globalization phenomenon. It is without a doubt a marker in history where there is now a means and interest to instantaneously distribute products, or in this case a digital product, globally to everyone without regard to social, economic, or cultural status.