The job of a designer may not always be as it seems.
The most well designed products are barely noticeable in our day-to-day. One example is the humble paperclip; it’s reusable, elegant and easy to mass produce.
In the context of user experience design, the word ‘innovative’ is often associated with a trendy new product or feature. In order to improve the lives of users, designing an innovative experience may simply mean removing a step in a process or improving the time it takes to complete a task. One example is the ability to check-in for a flight online versus at the airport; online check-in saves time, effort and reduces stress. Efficiency isn’t exactly an innovative idea, but it can produce life changing results.
“The temptation is always there for manufacturers to add functionality to things — since conventional logic suggests that more must be better. What takes real genius is to leave things out” — Rory Sutherland.
Some of the most popular products we use everyday have a single value proposition. Trello helps us get things done. Slack helps us communicate in teams. Uber gets us places. Ultimately, simple solutions to everyday problems enable us to be better. Creative solutions by definition are disruptive and don’t adhere to existing muscle memory. Refining an idea to the point of simplicity is no easy feat – creativity is part of the process, but it’s not the solution. Like any creative process, it’s a cycle of failure and iteration.
“Making the solution seem so completely inevitable and obvious, so uncontrived and natural – it’s so hard!” - Jony Ive
Introducing new features to a product may also mean introducing new pain points. Purchasing a smartphone with wireless charging may feel like an upgrade, but now the user is faced with the problem of not being able to use their phone to its full extent because it has to sit on a charging pad. While the idea may seem innovative, it changes a day-to-day habit for the user without improving the experience.
In this day and age, innovative design is about making small parts of our lives better. It’s the collective effort of small working parts that improves the experience. As we become more preoccupied with the day-to-day, human nature reminds us that convenience is king.