As technology becomes all-pervasive, the need for good design is growing. And by good design, I am talking about more than improving usability to remove friction from an interaction. In the same way that quality and function were once table stakes for products, so too will be aesthetics and usability. Good design — the process of connecting products to the larger contexts of our lives — is about making meaning.

As we can see from the proliferation of new things in our lives, bringing products to market is easy. Creating meaningful products — ones that embody empathy toward people —…


First published for the IDSA Spring Issue of the Innovation Magazine. May 25 2019

You could say design has finally arrived. It’s now taken seri­ously by big business, leading companies have included designers at their executive levels, and design has become the driving force for innovation behind some of the leading companies in existence today. For those of us in the design field, there is much to look forward to, because the profes­sion is booming. Unfortunately, not everyone is feeling the love. Those who think of themselves as traditional industrial designers have reason to be concerned.

According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which Core77 reported on last summer, 1,800…


When Pixels Dominate Design, Your Hardware is the Brand

First Published in FastCo. March 26 2013

A major takeaway of the Samsung/Apple patent dispute last year: Physical objects have retained their power in the digital age. The battle wasn’t centered so much on technical innovations but design patents — specifically, the physical look of the iPad versus that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Smartphones, laptops, and tablets are very much like ships from the colonial days of the past. Then, the countries with the best merchant navies dominated the seas and, as a result, became the richest and most powerful…


Getting Seated and Feeling Settled When Work-at-Home is the Only Option

I think everyone working from home has a chair story during these strange times. A story of finding that the seating options at hand are now having to do quadruple duty — used for dining, working, lounging and even exercising. Maybe just one or two household chairs have to do the work of multiple purposes.

As we move less and sit more, our household seating choices become even more important to our physical and mental health, something I continue to discover firsthand. …


Contemplating the effects of personalization

In Don Norman’s 2013 updated introduction to his seminal book The Design of Everyday Things(1988), he points out that the original edition was badly outdated because “technology has undergone massive change.”

He says how new technologies have deeply influenced the principles of design, in particular the human-centered design process, and how “the total experience of a product covers much more than its usability: aesthetics, pleasure, and fun play critically important roles.”

In the intervening five years since he wrote the new introduction, technology has shifted yet again, providing one more critical design consideration: personalization.

The…


Last September, global design and innovation consultancy Fjord and its parent firm Accenture acquired Matter. A fast-growing product design consultancy based in San Francisco, Matter focused on the design of connected physical products including the PlayBase for Sonos and the Carnival Medallion for the Carnival Cruise Company. Fjord made the strategic decision to bring Matter into the fold based on the direction they see industry heading.

Digital’s role in our physical world

Fjord understands that software and technology is being increasingly blended into our physical world. That’s because technology is becoming distributed — a term used to describe intelligent systems…


How architects and product designers are teaming up to create digital-physical experiences that are distinctly human

With so much news over the past 18 months focused on how our digital data is being compromised and how our social media feeds are being cluttered with false information, one could be forgiven for not noticing how digital technologies are starting to transform our physical spaces as well. And I’m not just talking about learning thermostats and voice-enabled TVs (though smart-home devices do play a role). …


In my 30-year career as a designer, I have witnessed incredible change in what it means to be a designer and how that applies to the types of product I design. The first products I created were fairly straightforward. In fact it was possible for me to design, prototype and engineer a product entirely on my own, say for example the OXO ice cream scoop. Fast-forward to today and technology has changed everything. …


How connected technologies are changing the cities of tomorrow

The fundamentals of what defines a city and how it works are being challenged to the core. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and by 2050, it is anticipated to increase to two thirds. This urbanization trend combined with a global population growth of 2% a year means that our cities will be stretched to a breaking point.

More people, demanding more services and amenities, are rushing into already densely-populated spaces. With increasing density comes a limited supply of clean drinking water and power, as…

Maximillian Philip Burton

Founder and Creative Director of Industrial Craft

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