“Lovely to look at, delightful to hold, and heaven to kiss,” is a line from an old song. More than that, it is a fair characterization of how we form opinions. In the initial three seconds of meeting someone, or some thing, we form a first impression that’s almost impossible to dispel. If somebody is lovely to look at, we will then give them a chance to become delightful to hold, and investigate whether they’d be heaven to kiss. In that order. We don’t usually hold them or kiss them first and look at them later.
That’s why makeup artists, wardrobe consultants, cosmetic surgeons, teeth whiteners, hairdressers, and fashions exist. But it�s also why product designers should be in the forefront of any product. Not industrial engineers, or product engineers, who I think are the ones who have the final say on how many familiar products look.
Most kids become aware of how we base impressions on appearances somewhere in elementary school. They beg their parents for brand name jeans, backpacks, and lunchboxes. They want the same haircut as the next kid. And they decorate their rooms to reflect their own ideas of beauty.
So why, when they grow up and become product engineers, do they totally forget all of this (unless they happen to work for Apple) and concern themselves only with utlity?
The number of products that work well but look ugly is legendary — from the Volvo and the Saab (better recently, but with very ugly duckling origins) to the PC, to almost any piece of electronic equipment not designed by Apple or Bose. When I first laid eyes on a Bose cordless telephone (in Europe) I nearly cried because I couldn�t bring it home to the US.
And then we get to the product I’ve been using for the past week: the “grabber.” The grabber is a cross between a claw and a giant tweezers. It is about three feet long, and is designed to help people who have limited mobility pick things up off the floor — like their cell phones and glasses–in the weeks following their titanium hip implants.
The top of my �Grabber� is bright yellow plastic, and functions as a hand grip from which I can control the bottom, which is metal and plastic, or metal and rubber, or something. The dual shaft is metallic.
You may have seen one of these in another color (red) on the infomercial for mobility carts that is currently being shown everywhere.
Never mind that the �Grabber� is downright ugly. It also looks unfriendly, like it would take time to learn to use. Although that�s not true, because it is not lovely to look at, I don�t find it delightful to hold. And then there�s the real problem. Where do you put the �Grabber.� when you are not using it? If you are recovering from surgery, as I am, wouldn�t you like to stand it next to your night table, so when you knock your glasses to the floor you can get them? Well, it kind of does, unless you brush up against it with, say, a pillow. And then who picks up the �Grabber�? I�ve finally figured out that the reason you need someone with you after surgery is just to pick up the �Grabber.�
Another truly ugly tool is the one that helps you put on the embolism-preventing socks. It is bright blue plastic, with a wide spot where you gather the sock (which comes up to your thigh), then slide your foot into the plastic piece, pull up the handles, and supposedly release the sock up your leg. This is a device into which no one has put a single moment of design attention. In fact, the inventor must have been anti-design.
And much like the PC, the sock tool continues to surprise the user. Every day it works a little differently.
When you consider that millions of Baby Boomers are approaching their hip replacements (I am just an early adopter), there will be a major market for these tools, because everyone goes home from the hospital with either one or both. Add to that the people who can�t put on their own socks for other reasons, or live alone and have high cupboards they can�t reach to put away their groceries, and a designed version of either tool would sell like hotcakes. Somebody out there read this and get on it!!!!
Monthly Archives: November 2006
Great story, told in Lon’s own words, of how he invented the first computer software for the disabled.
While you were having Thanksgiving dinner and starting the Christmas shopping, I snuck into Scottsdale Healthcare North and had my left hip replaced. I went in Monday morning at 6 AM, had the surgery at 8 AM, and on Thursday at 2 PM, I was home. There are photos of me recovering at Flickr, and there’s an entire blow-by-blow blog at Francine’s Hip Replacement Blog.
The surgery itself is surprisingly easy, because they have it down to a science for the hospital. Phyicians admitted about a dozen patients a day just to the floor I was on, and I don’t think we were the only hips and knees. And it was right before Thanksgiving. The routines and protocols are established.
The device itself it also pretty much perfected. The new joint I have is titanium and ceramic and plastic. It lasts up to 30 years. It’s really a robotic part, as I could see from the X-ray the surgeon brought to my room after I came out of recovery.
The patient, however, is still the same old imperfect human being. I went into the surgery with a certain amount of trepidation, and when it was over and I couldn’t really move, I felt vulnerable and out of control. At moments like these, it’s all about the nursing care, and that varies. Every eight to twelve hours, another team comes on, and in four days there was only one duplicate on the nursing roster. The most consistent caregiver was the physical "terrorist," who returned every day.
A friend of mine whose wife died after a successful surgery suggested to me that I write down the name of everyone who came into my room and what they did. Instead, I decided to start a blog. I began blogging with the pre-admission process to the hospital, and kept it up all through the stay.
Once the hospital people dicovered the blog, they began making all sorts of conciliatory gestures to me, like asking if they could use it as a tea teaching tool. I immediately realized that this blogging gig could guarantee me better care, and I think I would encourage anyone going to the hospital to keep a blog.
And in case you ever have to go through this procedure, here are the most annoying and enervating parts:
1) the socks you have to wear for a month to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Called "TED" socks, they are long, white stretchy things that are difficult to put on and take off without assistance.
2) Not being able to bend over to pick things up. I had to buy a "grabbing" tool.
3) Giving yourself shots of blood thinner, which you have to inject into the fatty tissue of your own adbdomen.
4)getting up out of bed for physical therapy when you are sore, swollen, and stiff
5) ambulating around the floor dripping IVs with your butt hanging out
6)Being on narcotics and having that unreal feeling that you’re in an Indie film.
Happy Holiday everyone. The bag lady with the walker in your neighborhood Starbucks is probably me!
Michael Gerber’s new site, “In the Dreaming Room” is going to be a great place for all entrepreneurs to become involved with, because he really wants to introduce the concept of “The Age of the Entrepreneur.” He’s a wonderful man, and this makes things better for all of us.