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June 10, 2015

Product Style

In the Beginning, I was an Engineer

I engineered solutions to problems. I built things. By training, by aptitude, by inclination. I did the maths. I ensured bridges built did not fall in the river. Style was an alien word to me. I did not do colours. I engineered.

My First Client

I delivered a product to my first client. A tele-robotics upgrade. A robot and a fancy joystick. Great tele-presence robotics. For cutting up radioactive boxes. High end gear. Superb function and utility.

But the operators did not like it.

  1. "I have to think about it"
  2. "It is distracting"
  3. "Gets in the way"
  4. "Makes me nervous"
  5. "Too much funny business"

My first product ended in my bin. Client was annoyed. "It is about my operators and their job, not about your product".

Great engineering failed my users

Always Develop with Style

That moment, I became a stylist. A product Stylist. Styling my products for ease of use. Where the operator retains his train of thought, his flow, his focus, his concentration, his attention. My product designs must be invisible to the user, while he works.

Always style for your user, and the user's task.

Elements of Style - circa 1900

My first style lesson was - please write clearly

  • Write to and for your audience
  • Do not say more than is necessary;
    confine yourself to what the user needs, to understand what is happening
  • Omit Needless Words
    Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should have no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unncecessary sentences. Every word must tell.

To improve styling skills, practice, practice, practice

Develop a Personal Style

My favorite style is minimalism. I favour brevity. I keep things simple. I am simplicity driven. In writing, taking pictures, coding, building websites, apps or even fashion. Minimalism is a most effective style.

Nevertheless, always style with a purpose. Style for your User and his tasks

Product Style Pyramid

First rule of product style - please be useful

  1. First comes content and utility, of course,
  2. Style for readability and usability even when developing
  3. Remember the product's identity, narrative and iconography
  4. Finally, focus on the aesthetics to shape a personality, an affect, an emotion Donít open a shop unless you like to smile - Chinese Proverb

Style basics have not changed in 100 years. The human eye and the hand are a constant. Style has evolved though, check Kathy Sierra's Cognitive Seduction.