Here's a quick story about unintended consequences in design, specifically when product capabilities exceed our design specifications. Voice-commands with audio feedback are becoming a more common user interface for cellphones and digital "personal assistants" like Google Home and Amazon's Alexa. Many of these devices are always on, listening for
You might consider each year's raft of new social impact design startups to be what Samuel Johnson called "the triumph of hope over experience." Unfortunately, many organizations follow a similar and discouraging trajectory: - bootstrapped "beautiful baby" prototype attracts design awards and newspaper articles - PR leads to initial
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to make a variety of useful zippered gear bags that are incredibly tough, lightweight and waterproof. This tutorial is intended for someone like me: familiar with rapid prototyping tools like 3d printers and laser cutters, reasonably competent with hand tools, but pretty clueless
We like Christopher Alexander's Notes on the Synthesis of Form for the way he takes a sledgehammer to the fetish over aesthetics and artistic pretension in design. We're often mystified by the design community's enthusiasm for uncomfortable chairs and weird-ass light fixtures. If the goal is to apply design principles
We love David Mindell's Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight. Mindell's book tells the story of "human pilots, of automated systems, and of the two working together to achieve the ultimate in flight." From our perspective, the book explains the link between what rocket scientists in the 1950s called
Great products meet the user's expectations and their circumstances. Every designer can tell you how understanding user needs requires lots of direct observations and interviews. DtM has learned that the most valuable feedback requires something more than the standard research toolkit. This short video explains why we go back to
The Kinkajou Microfilm Projector is a teaching tool for nighttime adult literacy courses in rural communities without books or electric lighting. It was DtM's very first projected, started back when the company founders were still graduate students at MIT. It's been more than a decade since the Kinkajou pilot in
We love Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble's Other Side of Innovation, specifically the second half of the book. For anyone who has ever resented being asked to write a business plan, Govindarajan and Trimble's book will at last explain the profound difference between planning and prediction. Consider that at
This is the story of how we interpreted four design principles for Firefly, and how user feedback gave us confidence that we were on the right track.
Cartoons! They carpet the walls of our studio, and they make frequent appearances in Design that Matters presentations and TED talks. In his 2009 book The Back of the Napkin, design thinker and professional doodler Dan Roam demonstrates how simple cartoons can help us to explain and visualize complex concepts,
After a series of late nights and endless hours sawing, sanding and soldering, the team finished the Otter alpha prototype. It's a huge step forward for our newborn warmer program.
David Hilbert said "a perfect formulation of a problem is already half its solution." Without a well-framed problem statement, it's easy for the industrial design and detail engineering stages of the product to move very quickly in the wrong direction.
Fabrication is always a blast, second only to field research in the hierarchy of excellent things about working in social impact design. It's an opportunity to escape our desks, and trade the abstractions of post-it notes and design frameworks for the satisfaction of creating tangible, physical things. At the
This "Design Experience that Matters" series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM's Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
3D Printed Tripod Quick Release Why buy one when you can print it yourself? Our goal was to create a fitting so that we could quickly move from tripod shots to close-ups. In a small studio with only one "fancy" camera, we
The process of prototype fabrication is really a series of problem-solving exercises. Slot A suddenly refuses to accept Tab B, the beautiful CAD model reveals monstrous qualities when it emerges from the 3D printer, the Arduino code refuses to compile. We always find ourselves doing lots of just-in-time self-education, reading
Here at Design that Matters we do a lot of 3D printing, so we've built up this collection of handy but inexpensive tools for supporting our 3D printers. They live in IKEA silverware caddies mounted next to the machines and they just make the work go easier. 1. Super
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