Design Critique: Products for PeopleAuthor: Timothy Keirnan
18 Jan 2019

Design Critique: Products for People

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Encouraging usable designs for a better customer experience.

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    DC132 Critique: Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower

    Ben Woods joins Tim Keirnan for a single point perspective on the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower. Needing neither gasoline nor electricity, this lawnmower is completely powered by the user to cut the lawn.

    Ben discusses the values that led to his wanting this mower and his experience with it over several summer months of use. As usual we follow the critique structure to learn his experience with

    • Encounter
    • Decision
    • Purchase
    • Out of the Box
    • Longitudinal Use

    Ben can be found at


  • Posted on 16 Dec 2018

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    DC131 Interview: Fire Engine Design with Chief Dan Phillips

    Fire Department Chief Dan Phillips joins Tim Keirnan for a discussion about designing the new fire engine for Plymouth Township, Michigan. How does a fire department decide which features are most needed, most wanted, and affordable for a given budget and for the the engine's coverage area?

    Unlike most passenger cars, a new fire engine is custom built and takes ten months to deliver. Their cost is over half a million US$. The pressure is on a department to get it right, because the service life of a fire engine is 15 years active duty and 5 additional years in reserve. The new engine balances several values:
    * Provide safety for the local citizens and their property
    * Provide safety of the firefighters who use the truck every day
    * Provide good financial stewardship of limited public resources to get the best solution for the budget.

    You can see our Public Safety Committee's short documentary videos on the obsolete current fire engines at

    Our first new fire engine is a Pierce Enforcer. Check out Pierce's website for the Enforcer and other models they make:

    Thank you to the men and women working in fire departments everywhere.

  • Posted on 28 Oct 2018

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    DC130 Interview: Giles Colborne, Author of Simple and Usable 2nd Edition

    Author Giles Colborne returns to Design Critique to talk with Tim Keirnan about the new second edition of Simple and Usable: Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design.

    Simple and Usable is one of the best books on UX we've owned in our careers. The contents are simple and usable just as the title promises, and this is one book that both practitioners and stakeholders will benefit from reading.

    Giles and Tim talk for 40 minutes about various topics including

    • Giles' career having progressed along with the UX profession across the decades, moving from basic website design to service design to organizational design.
    • The physical design of the book reflects the theme, and the publisher did not stray from the successful book design of the first edition.
    • How "get out of the office" is still of prime importance today and the crucial importance of field research with our users.
    • Types of users Giles has observed in his career: experts, willing adopters, mainstreamers.
    • The seductive danger of relying on expert users in our designs.
    • How Alan Cooper's method of Personas has been undermined by some practitioners' use of person-less personas when they haven't even talked with or observed actual users. How this risks the integrity of the design profession as much as a user-less usability test would.
    • Working with stakeholders on design projects. Being teacher or facilitator as opposed to "persuader".
    • Don't rush into design. Understanding what's core takes time.

    Simple and Usable can be found at its entry on publisher Pearson/NewRiders site.

  • Posted on 20 Aug 2018

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    DC129 Critique: Milwaukee Vertical Toolbox

    Mike Velasco joins Tim Keirnan for a critique of the Milwaukee 13" Jobsite Work Box. This tool box is oriented vertically in contrast with conventional tool box designs, which provides both advantages and disadvantages. While Mike enjoys the design and uses his tool box regularly, Tim has not been as impressed despite the numerous positives of the product's design and construction. This is why we do the show! Good designs of even "simple" products like a tool box cannot always please every user; people are so different.

    As usual, we structure our critique around the following points:
    * Encounter
    * Decision
    * Purchase
    * Initial Impression (out of the box)
    * Longitudinal review

    You can find the tool box at Milwaukee's site here:

    Note that product photography usually involves very bright lighting, and in this case Tim was not expecting the interior to be as dark as  the product photos appeared. The photo on the Design Critique blog page is not using a flash for a more accurate representation of what a user sees when looking into the box for tools along the bottom.

  • Posted on 10 Jun 2018

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    DC128 Interview: Gene Duarte, Industrial Designer at Mychanic

    Industrial designer Gene Duarte joins Tim Keirnan for a discussion about the Pod Light and the Blade Multi Light, two of Gene's designs for Mychanic. As Head of Product Development, Gene tells the story behind the designs of these two creative and usable reinterpretations of the shop light. Tim has used them successfully for ten months and explains why they serve his needs in the garage and the house so well. Well done, Mychanic

    You can find Gene's Pod Light and Blade MultiLight at

    In the photo above, the magnetic base of the Pod Light is shown with the paint-safe sticker showing. Also, note the packaging of the Pod Light with the included batteries clearly obvious.

  • Posted on 25 Apr 2018


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