Tag: Shrutin Shetty

Product Design – Bottle Necks

I recently got some (plastic 😬) bottles for home.
Not proud of it. But anyway, I noticed a small design anomaly with them.

Normally, the neck of most bottles are only slightly shorter than their lids.


Now while these bottles are fine otherwise (except, plastic!), I wonder how many people who’ve bought them have unintentionally spilled water on themselves while drinking.

When we reach out for a bottle, we unconsciously gauge the height of the neck (also the mouth diameter), and the brain magically calculates an approximate “how much to tilt”…

But with these bottles, that seems a little misleading. You expect a taller neck than the lid hides, which means water will be out at a smaller angle of tilt than one expects.

Ideally, always either match or exceed (i.e. err on the safer side of) user perception.

This bottle’s neck design is like having a negative margin of safety.
Say a product has a 100 kg payload limit. It is designed with a margin of safety, meaning it will deform or buckle above 100 kg (maybe at 110, or at 120 or even higher), not exactly at 100. But then imagine another similar product with the same 100 kg payload claim, but one that buckles at 95.
This bottle neck is that. Not always desirable.

How the Future of Text Content Should Be

Pic: source

As our attention spans go from low to almost non-existent in an increasingly noisy world, I get especially wary whenever I need to read a verbose report. Especially ones with unusually large paragraphs. You know it might be important, but just the way it is structured makes it very difficult to read to the end. Not to mention all those hours of sleep you missed over the years seems to visit you all together.

When texting friends or colleagues about topics of interest, I tend to type some longish messages myself. But what I have been doing, is structuring them in a manner that I think makes it a little easier for someone to read. I’m not exactly sure how effective it is, but in my opinion, going forward, it might be easier for people to read text content across platforms (websites, news articles, blog posts, social media posts, tweets, etc.) if you toss the traditional paragraph and format it the way I have been…

This here is a paragraph I pasted from the Creative Commons site. And below it is the same paragraph in my ‘attempt to make it more readable’ format…

Original Format:
Use Creative Commons tools to help share your work. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give your permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice. You can adopt one of our licenses by sharing on a platform, or choosing a license below.

How I think it should be to make it easier to read+understand:
Use Creative Commons tools
to help share your work.
Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses
provide a simple, standardized way
to give your permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice.
You can adopt one of our licenses
by sharing on a platform,
or choosing a license below.

While this format would be horrible to available space and formats and layouts we are familiar with, it might just help your audience better understand more complex thoughts you are trying to convey.


Product Use and Experience – Range and Layers

There is a beauty to how some products (and software) are designed.

Think scissors. If we want to cut something fast, we use the forward section of the blades (speed multiplier). Want to cut something fatter or tougher, use the rear end of the blades (effort multiplier); and cut slower, or risk breaking the scissors.

And Mixer grinders. Need to grind coffee beans to a powder? Start with the low speed, and slowly increase. Jump to the highest speed fast, and you could damage the blades or motor.

Cars (MT) and commuter bikes follow a similar rule. More torque for climbing on lower gears, and better speed on higher gears. Try climbing in a high gear, and you’ll stall. Go fast in a lower gear (or drop to a low gear at high speed), and you wear out the gear.

Think Software. I’ve always admired the MS Office suite. Layered, so novices like the teenage us got some basic fun. And as our task complexity deepened, the software opened up to keep pace.

Physical products have manuals. Tech service cos would benefit if they spelt out the expertise/ features they offered. Many of us use online services not knowing half their features; many of which could simplify our work or make things more enjoyable.
Make layers appear as the user gets ready for them.

Pic: source



Dettol Liquid Soap Refill’s Cap Seal Ring

Dettol liquid soap’s refill packs (above) have a small flaw in their cap seal rings. The tiny ring that stays on the refill pack (after breaking off from the cap), is not secured in place, and tends to fall into the soap dispenser.

Lifebuoy liquid soap refills (above) on the other hand, seemed to have designed the spout in such a manner that it arrests movement of the seal ring once broken.

A small design element, but saves you from having seal rings in your soap dispenser. =)

All We Need is Somebody to Lean On

Random woman (not the one from the story). Pic: source

Sometime before lockdown, I was in another city, attending a wedding. The reception was in this beautiful open ground. I’m no fan of wedding ceremonies, so once I was done admiring the place, I was a little bored. After some time at the bar, I caught up with a few people, and was back to getting a bit bored. That’s when I noticed one elegantly dressed woman who seemed to have dropped one of her earrings in the grass. Three or four of her family members spent a minute or two trying to spot the earring in the grass in the dark, before giving up.

With absolutely nothing better to do, I thought this might make for a nice social experiment, and jumped right in. I walked up to them, offered to help, asking to see the other earring so I knew what I’d be looking for. I switched on my phone light, and started searching. Glancing upward, I noticed 2 of that family joined in the search again. Another 20 seconds or so, and all of them were back to searching for the earring too. About 5-10 minutes later, we had covered a reasonable area around where she thought she had dropped it, but with no luck. I could hear her tell one of her family members something about when she got them or who gifted them to her, or something to that effect. She clearly had some sentimental value for the earrings. However, she also seemed practical enough to know when to stop searching for it in the dark, at a wedding reception.

But I had nothing better to do, and wanted to see what happens when a stranger is willing to look for something that’s lost, when its owner (and family) have long given up. So I continued looking. Two or three times, the family told me to let it be, and stopped looking for it themselves. But the moment I’d say let me just look for another minute or so, they’d join back in.
Probably about 15 minutes in, one of them found the earring. They were all thrilled. The woman thanked me, and I was back to getting bored.

But I had seen something interesting as a result of that little social experiment.
Many a times in a work or social setting, a group tends to quit something soon after the first person gives up. It’s almost like everyone is waiting for someone to call quits, so they can (without suffering the shame of being the first to).
And yet, in some situations, it is possible to reverse that effect, to get the group back in the game after it has quit.

Of course, I’d doubt it would work multiple times in a similar setting. So any corporate bosses or parents getting smart ideas for your team or kids: don’t!

About the cheesy sounding title for the post, I happened to be listening to the CRNKN remix of Lean On (below) when editing the post. 😛

Even Flow

Image: source

In the past few months, I happened to come across some books and a lot of articles around habits.
What at least some of us who struggle to build a good habit (or get rid of a bad one) assume, is that habits are like finding a nice, quiet spot somewhere (at a beach, in the bus, or at the park). That once it’s done, it’s done.

What happens sometimes though, is that once you’ve found that spot, it suddenly gets noisy or crowded. Could be a group of people speaking loudly. Or someone on the phone, who forgets it is the phone’s job to transfer their voice to the person at the other end of the call, and instead they take it upon themselves to. Sometimes you can ask people to be quiet or more away, sometimes you can’t. So then you need to consider finding another ‘nice, quiet’ spot. And if you do, that spot might present its own set of distractions. So what started as a clear, single objective of finding a nice quiet spot, turns into a journey of staying in a nice quiet spot. I’d assume that’s how attempting to create habits is.

And I recently read the book ‘Flow’, where the author talks of something similar in the pursuit of flow – that it is not a destination that one arrives at, but rather a state that one must put effort into maintaining, despite internal distractions and worries, and despite changing and uncontrollable external environments.

About regular corrections or adjustments needed to stay on course. Like that saying, “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.” Those of us who manage to roll with the punches, succeed with our habit or attaining flow. And those of us who don’t, are still assuming it is a destination rather than a journey.
[Random musings]

We Need Better Staplers

Pic: source

It took a nice bleeding cut, thanks to a tough staple pin that held some car mats together, for me to realize how hostile the world was for animals.

Staple-less staplers exist, but are far from commonplace. Got to wonder why they are so expensive. A cursory look on Amazon showed the cheapest (mini) stapler available for INR 80, while staple-less staplers seemed to cost around 17x more!

To elaborate a little, while we could get away with folding corners of a few unimportant sheets to keep them together, important documents could risk tearing or getting misplaced.

So, how does one hold larger documents together; fastened with a material that when disposed, does not pose a risk to (external injury to, or if accidentally consumed by) animals?

What Might Automotive Lights Look Like in Future?

When it comes to automotive light designs, a few occasionally catch your eye.
Like the sweeping indicator lights from some years ago. Those still are impressive. I think Audi SUVs were among the first to have them.

And you occasionally see some very strange designs. Like those on the Toyota Innova Crysta. What I call vampire taillights.

That said, indicator lights on a lot of vehicles seem a bit too small to be safely spotted at a distance.

And in general, most headlights and taillights are beginning to look boring and similar now.
Got me wondering if designers were close to exhausting shape/ design possibilities with the current technology?
They seem to have tried most imaginable possibilities in triangular, circular and trapezoidal.

If I were to predict what might be next in automotive light design, I’d imagine they will be light modules covered by the vehicle body, allowing designers to play with more shapes/ patterns by cutting out the body itself, without being limited by the available lighting tech and shapes, or ending up looking similar to the competition.

Pic: source

There have been aftermarket products like this chrome-effect, ABS Plastic cover above, that addresses this need. But perhaps going forward, it will become an integrated part of the manufacturing process itself, making use of the car body to create more unique light cluster designs.

Do you feel there’s room for improvement in the existing vehicle lights cluster?

A 2020 Hyundai Sonata here with interesting but not completely unique taillights.
Pic: AutoGuide

Where Should Laptop Charging Lights be, and Why are Laptop Keyboards so Small?

Firstly, should laptop charging lights be put on the side the charger plugs in?
That is where the charger plugs in, but not where we sit. Which means many a times, it would be an effort to confirm charging.

How about on the front? Better, since most often, many of us (remember to) charge the laptop only when using. Still not the greatest place since it might require a slight head movement to check.

Or should it be placed someplace else?
Of course, there’s also the flip-side, that of prominently placed lights being a subtle distraction to the user.

Till date, Apple’s indicator on the charger end logically seems to be one of the best spots.
Though surely there are other spots or angles that might be more easily visible to the user.

Where do you think the charging lights should be?

And, on the topic of laptops..their keyboard sizes in particular… guess most of us assume what we buy is all we get…

I stumbled upon a clip of a 1995 IBM ThinkPad 701. Surely pricey at $1500-3200 a laptop, but look at that keyboard!
Incredible! Why isn’t this feature standard in laptops now?

Makes you wonder why the most useful of technology never seems to survive time.



Counterintuitiveness – Psyched vs Calm

Pic: source

Counterintuitive Series: Psyched vs Calm

Counterintuitiveness makes life more interesting. It also briefly reveals gaps or lags in our understanding or mindsets.

From time to time, life demands that we get charged for something. Could be the commencement of a big project, a project with a tight deadline, a school or college assignment due the next morning, a job interview, and so on. And we feel the need to get psyched about it. Get in the zone, get charged up, and whatever other phrases there are for it.

And there seem to ways to do it to. The most common of course, being chugging down an energy drink or copious amounts of coffee.

The only problem with many of these methods, is there is a guaranteed crash after the initial ‘charge’. And sometimes, that can be worse than not having consumed or performed whatever ‘charge-up’ action. Like staying up all night working on the assignment and falling asleep in the morning and ending missing class itself. Or worse.

Calming down seems to have more than the same benefits that ‘charging up’ options offer, but without the subsequent crash.

But that’s the tough bit at least I often grapple with. The calming down. Most people suggest meditation, though that is sometimes easier said than done.

A few things that work for me, include standing against a wall or cupboard for a minute. Or lying down in a reclined position with arms stretched out and closing eyes for a minute or two.

And of course, brain dumps really work. Writing down each and every thought and to-do that comes to mind.

Before complex or creative projects, even a short nap helps clear the head and even make sense of some of the complexity.

Compared to the psych-you-up options, calmer ways to get in the zone often provide similar (or better) results, are more efficient, make you expend less energy, and are effective longer.

Leaving you with my favourite counterintuitive trivia question for some years now:

Q: Fighter jets normally take-off off aircraft carriers at a speed of around 270 km/hr.
What might be the approximate speed at which they approach the aircraft carrier to land?+

A: Most of us would imagine they would approach to land on an aircraft carrier at a much lower speed, given the short runway on the carrier. However, they approach at take-off speeds (~270 km/hr) or higher, because if they miss all of usually four arresting cables on the carrier that help it stop, they would need to take-off before they reach the end.

For more posts on ‘counterintuitiveness‘.

And remember, as US Marines probably say..

‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’

+ except aircraft like the Harrier, Osprey, some F-35s and such of course.

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