Naruth Kongurai

Tony Fadell's talk titled "The First Secret of Design is … Noticing"

Here are some of the best moments from the presentation by Tony Fadell, designer of the iPod, that I can’t help but to rant a little bit about in this blog post.


Note: This presentation was from 2015. I wished I found out about this one rather sooner.


We do a lot of brain-processing every day. But our brain does a really good job at making sure there’s always room to learn something new.

How does it do so? Fadell points out that the brain does so by encoding repeated tasks into a habit that we can become an expert of. That process is called habituation.

Think about the time you have to peel off the sticker on a fruit you want to eat. It’s sticky, tough to peel off, and a waste of time to spend before eating your fruit. But after doing so all the time, you get used to it. You get comfortable, and it has become a habit.


Steve Job said, “Staying Beginner”

During Fadell’s time at Apple, his boss Steve Jobs always wanted a product’s design to be intuitive, easy to use, and simple.

He wanted his employees to “stay beginner”. This means making sure to not overly complicate things and ensuring that customers can easily pick up any Apple’s products and intuitively know how to use them right away.

Seeing the Invisible Problems

Fadell mentioned that it’s easy to solve a problem that everyone sees, but hard to solve a problem that no one sees.

Read the next section to understand what he means!


Fully-charged batteries

Notice how all new Apple products you purchase are fully charged and ready to use as soon as you turn on the device. That’s Steve Jobs trying to replace the old with the new.

What’s old? Back then, when you buy an electronic appliance (small ones, like a phone), it comes with uncharged batteries. Jobs wanted to fix that problem.

So what’s new? Jobs ensured all Apple products come right out of the box fully charged and ready to go. That’s a way to keep the customers happy and excited.


How To Fight Against Habituation

Fadell listed down three simple steps:

  1. Look broader
  2. Look closer
  3. Think younger

Look broader

Sometimes it’s crucial to take a step back and see beyond the original scope of the problem that you see. If a process is too complicated, maybe remove all components. Break down to individual parts. See where each part fits. Maybe there’s a way to get rid of those.

Look closer

Maybe the design of a product is already great, but what’s missing is one tiny little thing to complete the puzzle. If we look closer and analyze individual components, we can figure out what’s missing. Maybe it’s because back then, mounting a TV to the wall required at least 3 screws, but some years ago a group of smart folks was able to reduce from using 3 to just 1. That made the process easier and faster!

Think younger

Fadell’s kids asked him, “Why can’t cars fly around traffic?” When he asked his kid to see if there’s mail in the mailbox. His kid told him, “Why can’t the mailbox just let us know when there’s mail?”

I hope you enjoy this overview of Tony Fadell’s presentation. There’s a lot of parts I left out, so please make sure to watch the presentation either on Ted or Youtube.


This post was published on 12 Feb 2018

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