Oh, I See.

As part of the evolution of writing this blog I have given a lot of thought to messaging. The way we choose to explain things. To say things. As a creator, it cannot be argued that the message is everything. And that it is everywhere. In the stories we tell and the experiences our creations activate.

Having been educated by Sinclair Smith, a mind-bending, passionate, inspirational teacher and outstanding industrial designer, I am a firm believer that a product should not carry instructions. Our product should be able to be placed in anyones hands and they should be able to use it intuitively. Form should inform function. Holding our end-users hand, step by step, along our journey. However, as suggested by Edmund Mcmillen (the designer of Super Meat Boy - one of my favorite games), it is important to do so in such a way that the user or player does not feel patronized. Unlike the latest Zelda's, you cannot direct someone repeat an action or behavior 100 times - it kills the joy of the whole thing.

As expressed by Jonathan Blow, famous video-game designer and programmer behind Braid, the whole thing that made Zelda so powerful was the mechanism was imbedded into the game. There were minimal, if any, instructions. The users had to explore and figure things out for themselves. They had to get it. It wasn't 'complicated' and it wasn't entirely obvious either. But it was definetly intuitive and the sensation of discovery gave the user a energetic-kick. A remarkable sense of pride that they could share with their friends. Let's call this Oh, I See.

Oh, I See can be achieved in many ways. From short videos, like those shared by Apple, to inform the user on new behaviors, through to simple, down to earth form-factors that inform the users through delightful feedback.

The latter is more accessible and requires more time than money. It requires attention, people and listening. Placing the creation in people's hands and observing while pretending that you are not there. Only without explanation nor guidance can you truly know if your product works as intended. This will take several iterations where you must take your learnings and implement them into the product. Once developed, you must go back to previous users and find new users to see, and ideally validate, the fruits of your efforts. Previous users will tell you if the development helped solve the previous problem but are less valuable than fresh users. This is because they have 'drank the coolaid.' They are cursed with knowledge of how the product works and thus, will not allow you to truly gauge if the message is clear and strong.

This notion, the Curse of Knowledge, was introduced to my life by Chip and Dan Heath through their book Made to Stick. The Curse of Knowledge refers to the moment when we know something and it is hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has cursed us. And as a result, it makes it hard for an individual to see what it was like without it. Essentially, rendering our 'Oh, I See' useless.

This does raise a question: How can we trigger the sensation provided by Oh, I See after one has discovered it. How can we give it a touch of remarkability that will spark delight in our users?

The way I achieved this with my Illusion Spinner, was by making the gift or result come from the Oh, I See. Upon gazing at the Illusion, the average joe would say that its a beautiful, ceramic piece but So What? Allured to the design the would approach it. When placing their hand on it, they would notice its delightful tactile touch that arises from the coarse ceramic piece. "That's lovely." Then as they begin to feel the Illusion, they notice that it moves and in this moment, they spin it. Oh, I See. The result provides both an audible and visual delight through an ocean-sounding, mesmerizing spiral that captures and engages the user. An effect that is replicated every time they perform the Oh I See. A phenomenon that has raised the sales of the Illusion by ambassadors that share its effect. Its function. Its purpose.

A separate example is far more mundane and is that of Shiseido's lipstick casing. They're lipstick casing design incorporates a set of magnets that hold the two-pieces of the lipstick together, making sure that things don't fall apart. But what is magical about this small addition is the addictive effect that the sound of the magnets provides when the user closes the casing. Seriously, you should have seen how people fidget with this thing. Pure delight. A perfect example on how to make a product shareable through what one could consider a stupid feature.

Please let me know if any of you have more examples you'd like to share. I would love to add it to the post.

All thoughts welcome, O.