Today Kathi and Daniel from the Product & Design department tell us what design means. We philosophize about well-known design projects, talk about what pretty actually means and do away with common clichés.
What is design in a corporate context?
Design, like many professional directions, is a very broad field with many subcategories. For example, there is visual communication or product design. Daniel gives us a first overview:
D: More generally, design is always a product that serves the user. In our case, it is particularly about the interaction with a machine. We design the interface between man and machine , so to speak, and make it user-friendly across all areas. Starting with the packaging, through the operating instructions (that falls under visual communication), the quick start guide, the software and of course the product itself, which should be designed in an appealing and easy-to-understand manner.
Why is design so important for a product?
The two tell me that on the one hand it is about the aesthetics of a product, "everyone prefers to put an aesthetically valuable product on their desk", but on the other hand it is also about the interaction with the product :
D: With Mr Beam, for example, we deliberately avoided installing a display because many people don't get along with it directly. Therefore, the operation of the device is reduced to the essentials with one button and is very simple. Everything else takes place via the software on the PC. Of course, you have other options there. You have much more screen space, you can interact differently than on a small, confusing display. This is the case, for example, with many 3D printers, where you first have to drag a file from your PC to your USB stick. The PC then probably has a USBC interface and the printer does not, which is the first hurdle. Then you have to go to the menu with a small button on the display, etc. This is a negative example of good usability.
So design also uses psychological aspects, because you always have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, their way of thinking and their needs.
Now that we know what falls under design, let's examine the raison d'être of the most common clichés.
As in every industry, the Product & Design Department cannot avoid prejudices and clichés. I once researched the most well-known clichés and let Daniel and Kathi explain to me what they are really all about:
The genius rules the chaos - Creative minds often have chaotic jobs?
K: I like the quote from Albert Einstein :
"If a messy desk represents a messy mind, what does an empty desk say about the person using it?"
There are different systems of order.
D: In addition, there is also the fact that we work with hardware, e.g. with flyers, laser examples, filter tests, etc. That is why the clean desk principle doesn’t work for us, because we simply have materials for which we need space and that’s all there is to it messy around.
Completes Daniel with a smile.
Do you have to have studied design to work in this direction? Or is creativity a gift?
This question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Our two design experts disagree here:
D: I don't think you have to have studied it, but you have to have learned it. Design is not a gift.
Kathi also adds to my desperate childhood memories of painting a beautiful picture, which just didn't work:
K: Nobody can do it easily. That gift or talent is just a kickstart, a core enthusiasm that then makes you more willing to put in the work necessary to be able to do it. Everything can be learned, even without talent.
D: Although I do believe that there is a talent that is beneficial as a designer. There are simply people, for example some scientists or chemists, who may not have this approach to design. Such people have learned to think quite differently.
Perhaps the following distinction will bring some clarity to this discussion:
Is there a difference between art and creative work?
So maybe creative work and design can be learned, whereas art is encouraged by a certain talent?
D: Exactly, as designers we are a long way from art.
K: In most cases, art does not have the limitation of a use. Design has a strict and purposeful utility. It's there for a reason, a problem it's designed to solve. Art is an expression.
D: There is a nice anecdote that applies to many areas: art tends to ask questions, design answers questions.
Designs are just pretty and have no meaning?
Neither of them agree. A good example of what is behind a design is provided by the Mr Beam lettering. There's a reason he looks like that. The ornate font was designed to be coherent so that no letters fall out when the lettering is lasered. It should look like a signature overall, namely that of Mr. Beam, represented by the goggles and moustache to the left, a mad lab technician/scientist. At the end of the lettering you can see the symbol of a laser beam, so Mr Beam could have signed with the help of a laser. The inclination to the right symbolizes progressiveness, one moves forward, is curious and always evolving.
A design not only has to look pretty, it also has to have a message.
D: Above all, pretty is the wrong word when it comes to design.
K: There is no basic definition of pretty. There is no norm that says this is pretty and that isn't. It has a very subjective part. In design, on the other hand, there are a few basic rules that simply have to be there, a principle of hygiene . For example, it's not really noticeable when it's there, but it's noticeable when it's not there.
D: Pretty is also more of a private term. You can find any objects or people pretty, but that's debatable. In design, we talk about aesthetics and there are basics that make things appear a little more aesthetic.
In comparison to art, design is less a matter of taste.
K: The most beautiful design is useless if it doesn't support any function, if the user can't operate it, if it doesn't lead to anything.
Our next cliché fits in well with this:
A product only has to function and not look good?
Or as we could also ask ourselves with the following product: Some products only look good, but have completely lost sight of the basic function of the product, right?
GB: One of the products on which this question is most often discussed is Philippe Starck's “Juicy Salif” lemon squeezer. While it may be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, it lacks important, basic elements like a handle and the ability to collect cores.
K: Another prominent example is Apple, which is based on Sullivan's principle “form follows function” but got stuck on it themselves. They have designed a magic mouse where you have to plug in the charging cable on the underside so that the round design is not disturbed. But now you can't use that mouse while it's loading. This is a beautiful example of tripping over your own design principles.
When I asked if they would like to add anything to the topic, smiling at both of them:
"Apple isn't perfect, either."
Product & Design work at Mr Beam
What are your tasks at Mr Beam?
D: In principle, we do everything that the user interacts with in some way. This includes the design of the packaging, the operating instructions, the quick start guide, the Mr Beam itself, but also the software and user interface.
Another product that our colleague Daniel is responsible for is customer education. On the one hand, this is done via the Knowledge Base, in which our customers can read everything with texts and images at their leisure. On the other hand, via our YouTube channel, where there are not only instructions for lasers and maintenance but also many ideas for creative laser projects.
In addition, we also work together with the Sales & Marketing team to complete the product world around the Mr Beam. This results in things such as the cleaning kit and the cutting mat. This allows us to offer our users everything they need to work with Mr Beam or to make work easier.
Thank you, Kathi and Daniel for these interesting insights into the Product & Design team at Mr Beam!