Doing so engages your creativity and allows you to approach a problem from a different direction – what Rutter calls “lateral thinking.”
“It’s a potent way to go through and search out different ideas, instead of falling in love with one certain direction early on,” he said. “That’s what you’re in search of – where does everything work well together?”
Build to Learn
Rutter encouraged attendees to build multiple prototypes using whatever is available, including “duct tape and Popsicle sticks.”
“Make it up as quick as you can,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Doing so enables the designer to test ideas and quickly eliminate those that don’t work. Rutter provided examples, showing how physical prototypes enabled medical designers to build instruments that offered better dexterity and control to users. He also showed how the approach later enabled designers to shrink those same medical instruments.
“The message is, iterate, iterate, iterate,” he said. “Build and test. It’s not that complicated.”
Every Detail Matters
Consumers can sense the details, whether or not they are conscious of them, Rutter said.
He cited examples of products featuring details that communicate varying messages to the users. Laptop computers, for examples, use plastic, aluminum and steel to create brushed, satin and slick surface finishes. All of those finishes communicate different qualities, ranging from cheap to expensive to sophisticated. Different colors similarly convey different qualities and emotions, he said.
“There’s an emotion that’s important to pay attention to, whether you’re designing a surgical instrument, a bulldozer cab, or a race car foot pedal,” he said.
The bottom line is that seemingly-insignificant features can have profound effects. “You have to fuss over the details,” Rutter said.
Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.