Super normal product design

I like this idea by Dave Morin: Super Normal:

“When you set out to create a new product, you usually do not start by trying to think of something completely new. You think of a product or concept that is already “normal” to the world, and then try to make it better. You make it Super Normal.”

This is classic product design…but the term “super normal” helps in understanding that most innovations are just improvements to normal things. That’s what’s often lost in product design…people are so excited to make something new that they don’t base their new product on the current normal way of doing things. They don’t take the time to really research the current practice and simply jump to an ideal practice.

Here is how Morin applies product design thinking (super normal thinking) to the design of a bucket.

“To apply Super Normal thinking we start by looking at what is normal and then ask the question: What are the key problems? In the case of our basic metal bucket we can find a few. First, the metal handle cuts into your hand when carrying a bucket full of cold water. Second, when picking up a bucket of cold water the metal is freezing to the touch. Third, when pouring the water out, it’s hard to control the stream of water, causing you to lose water.

In thinking through these problems we can come up with some simple innovations that would make the bucket better. First, we can add a wood or plastic wrap to the metal handle, creating more surface area and thus a more comfortable carry. Second, we can wrap the entire bucket in a thin layer of plastic creating insulation when carrying hot or cold water. Third, we can add a spout to the side, making it easy to control the pour, causing you to lose less water.”

Again, this is pretty straight-forward product design…but is illustrative nonetheless. It echoes the same sentiment I wrote about in relation to product positioning in: How to redefine a product category. In general we spend way too much time focused on the new and not focused on the now.

Published: April 1st, 2014

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