Archives for category: Product Design

Problem: You’re working on a large, complicated machine made of multiple parts and functions. Something goes wrong. The machine shuts down, or it starts shaking, or a part starts making a whirring noise — something you identify as out of the ordinary. You have a manual on location, as well as an online version. You start searching for what may be wrong, but the manual isn’t labeled effectively or is not comprehensively indexed.

Solution: Barcodes are placed on each segment of the machine. Using a scanner device with access to an online manual, you scan the problem area, and the device auto-searches and locates the appropriate section of the manual.

Rough representations of a human and a tablet device.

Presenting... a human being with a tablet device (with scanning functionality and an onboard manual, or access to an online manual).

Human is confused at a complex-looking machine.

The user encounters a confusing machine, or the machine is acting in a confusing manner. ("Help!")

Human using a tablet device to scan a barcode on a machine.

The user scans a barcode (here, a QR code) physically applied to or near the problematic part of the machine.

Example machine manual page on a tablet device.

The tablet device goes to the appropriate section of the manual, based on that scanned barcode.

That’s it!

And if that part or section of that machine is used in other machines, similar barcodes may be printed on those machines. Also, sections of the manual may be updated without needing to re-apply barcodes.

The overriding goal or objective here is this: Users do not need to guess where to look in the manual to find help, and an onsite manual is not needed. However, the company would need to create an electronic version of the manual. That’s the hitch.


It’s been awhile since my last ideation!

Okay, this one’s pretty simple. The idea is: add collaborative editing to design applications, in real-time. Like collaborative whiteboards, but with the integrated tools, note-making, and granular functions.


In the image, the web app user is adding an ‘X’, the iPhone user is adding a note, and the iPad user is scribbling away. They all do this at the same time, or one after another.

In a real-life example, a user experience designer, a visual designer, and a front-end developer could all be working on a single interface for a brand-new iPad game that has a complex logical structure. They are currently trying to understand basic interactions from one screen to another but don’t have time to have the UX designer cook up several wireframe iterations, then have the visual and front-end designers take those frames and make a basic prototype. They have 10 hours left before development. Oh, and one lives in New York, the second in Minneapolis, and the third in Houston. In-person is not an option.

So they all use their favorite basic visual tool, i.e. OmniGraffle, Photoshop, Fireworks, and work from one screen to another, visually describing the interactions with boxes, arrows, text, gradients, shadows, and most importantly, immediate verbal communication and response.

Visual might ask, “Hey, how will the user add more players to the game?” and UX would add an Add Player function to the screen (maybe a button with a modal prompt). Then Dev would say, “iOS doesn’t support that sort of modal, but you could do this” and Dev redraws the button with an text box alert instead. Then Visual says, “That works, but it doesn’t conform to the game’s proposed visual style. Maybe this?” and so on and so forth.


Problem: You need to make a pizza with equal slices. But you have five kids each wanting a piece. Or seven friends. Or eleven co-workers. It’s not easy to evenly and geometrically divide a pie for these situations!

Solution: A pizza pie pan that has ruled notches on the edge, measured out to halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths, sevenths, eighths, ninths, tenths, elevenths and twelfths.

Ruled Pizza Pie Pan

No more "but he has the bigger slice!"

It’s an easy add-on. Notches: That’s all I’m suggesting!


Small text on each notch (not visible in the image) would illustrate which level of division you might want to achieve: 1/2; 1/3; 1/4; 1/5; etc. up to 1/12. It could go beyond, depending on the size of the pie. For an enormous pizza, 1/16 may be needed.

There should be a noticeable “home” notch from which the ruler starts. Maybe as the other notches are labeled, this one would not be labeled. Or maybe this would be the only white notch. Or it could be the largest notch. Or the notch could extend to the center of the pan.

Color-coding might work, too, but the constant and repetitive high heat may complicate such organization. If this were to be done, a color could be used for divisions of factor four (1/4, 1/8), three (1/3, 1/6, 1/12), five (1/5), seven (1/7) and eleven (1/11).

Another thing I would add would be a “clamp” to hold the pizza still during slicing. Anyone else hate it when the pizza slides around? I do. But I’m not sure what would be an easy way to solve this. Yet.