The lobster, the cat and the wardrobe
A lobster walks into a bar. The landlord sees him, and shouts above the crowd: "Hey, you. Out. You're barred." The lobster replies: "Eh? Why? What have I done?" The landlord responds: "You come in 'ere, givin' it all that..." This was described to me as the best visual joke ever for radio. It's funny when you see it, but it's more funny when you hear it (or, hopefully, when you read it), because the humour is in the visualisation.
Of course whether this particular joke is funny may say much about my own peculiarly warped sense of humour, but there is no doubt that humans, as a race, are highly visual creatures, and engineers, as a breed, tend to be some of the most visual of all. As a product designer this is something of an advantage. As a product marketeer, it's something you absolutely have to be aware of, because there are as many opportunities to get it wrong as to get it right.
Which brings me to the cat, and a particular radio advert which asks me whether I could make an origami cat, using only one hand - my non-dominant hand - against the clock, while being watched by my boss. This is a measure implemented at a manufacturer of premium, high value cars to help boost the levels of craftsmanship. Having heard this advert on the radio a number of times, I went to the web to look it up - just to reassure myself that it wasn't as sinister as it sounded. Because hearing it, even when being told that this was a measure the craftsmen had themselves implemented to improve their own workmanship, I still found it just a little bit disturbing. What I was visualising was, I suspect, a million miles from the message the marketeers thought they were putting across.
And so, pseudo CS Lewis style, we come to the wardrobe, and to the company I would argue has the best understanding of the importance of visualisation. At the weekend, I assembled an Ikea Pax wardrobe - four individual units with sliding, panelled doors. Now of course this is conceptually simple; two sides, a back panel and a door. But it's actually quite a technical product, with myriad parts spread across umpteen boxes, presenting an assembly challenge that could quite feasibly make a decent episode of Mission Impossible.
If the 22-page instruction manual for the wardrobe's assembly had been a list of written instructions, I'd have given up there and then. Instead, you get a sequence of pictures to follow and, because we are visual creatures, that makes assembly actually pretty straightforward.
So my thought is this; anything that aids with visualisation - whether it is for the designer, the operator, the customer or anyone else in the logistics chain - can only be a good thing. Embrace the lobster, beware of the origami cat, and celebrate the wardrobe. That's either an important lesson in engineering, or the premise for a fantastic episode of Yonderland.
Industrial Technology - NEWS