Don’t Reinvent the Can Opener

The other day I had a funny experience – I was at a friend’s house and couldn’t figure out how to use their can opener. Yup, you read that right – can opener. It was a beautiful, minimalist design with sleek, modern curves and smooth edges. However, I couldn’t figure out how the Helvetica it worked. I twisted the knobs, fit the blades into groves…nothing. I flipped it to the other side, slide it around the can…nothing. I estimate I spent probably 15 minutes trying to figure out how it worked. Then, as a last resort, I went to the internet. And there I did the unthinkable – I went to Youtube to watch a video on how to use a can opener.

Now, besides being slightly irritated and hungry, how did this experience make me feel? Disappointed. In what? The reality that designers are making things too designy. Go on? We’re making things that look good – too good, and people can’t figure out how to use them. We cannot prioritize the aesthetics, the look and feel of something, over it’s functionality if that means masking the affordance of these products. Don’t hide functionality under smooth curves. Remember, people are trying to do things – search for hotels, pay bills, or open a can of garbanzo beans. People don’t just look at what we create – then it would be art. We are designers, we design, and we we must do so with users and consumers at the forefront of our minds.

Let’s start using our hearts and minds more – not just our eyes and hands. Think of the lives you have the possibly of impacting when you design well. You have the opportunity to help people take care of loved ones, buy their dream car, cook a delicious dinner for their neighbors, the list goes on. We have the best job in the world, so let’s create the best products in the world. Go get ’em.


Image Source: Ana Rivarola on