Must a design always be as simple as possible?

I recently read a piece on Core77 entitled The Simple Truth by Nick Fosta. In it he pushes back against the current design trend to simplify all the devices with which we interact. Think of the seamless interactions that we’ve come to expect from smart phones, computers, and appliances. He makes the point that the fundamental reason to simplify is to increase efficiency (and thus productivity).

While this is a good goal for many products, we as designers often overlook an alternative goal- instead of designing for simplicity of interface, sometimes we need to design to maximize enjoyment of interface. Often there is delight in learning to use a new device, and peeling back the layers of complexity to discover seemingly hidden truths about the product. In discovering the nuance of a product, the user develops a personal relationship with it, and thus a deeper emotional connection.

This is not to say that products should be designed to be difficult to use. Instead, we need to remember that efficiency is not the only goal. Creating products that foster mastery, and craft gives the user room to develop a personal relationship with a product.

Consider craftsman and artists. They spend years honing difficult skill sets and ultimately wield their craft with a seeming effortlessness. Behind that seeming ease, though, are years of difficult training on tools, or with tasks that are not designed with maximum simplicity. The craftsman is intimately familiar with the intricacies of his tools. The artist learns how their medium reacts differently to slightly varied techniques. The result of their years of training is not only a skill set that produces magnificent works, but perhaps more importantly a relationship with their craft that is personal, private, and that gives them an intense sense of pride.

Our job as designers is to develop products that give their users delight. Whether that delight comes from a sublimely simple interface, or from an interface deliberately developed to inspire deep interaction and learning, our job is to make users happy. Mr. Fosta’s article is a reminder that we must not become fixated on one set of design goals and try to apply them to all designs. We must always remember the most important tenant of design- remember the users, and design to delight them.

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Reson8te audio hat project live on indiegogo

Head over to indiegogo to check out our latest crowdfunded project- the ELEV8TE and DV8 series of audio hats.

Swarm has partnered with John Minihan to launch Reson8te, a high tech apparel company focused on bringing fashion, design, and technology together to enhance your life. Today we’re launching our ELEV8TE and DV8 series of audio hats- hats that replace your headphones.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to listen to music while you’re running, skateboarding, golfing, walking the dog… and still be able to hear everything that’s going on around you? Well, now you can with our ELEV8TE and DV8 Series headwear – Hats and visors with a sound system! They have low profile, high quality speakers hidden in the brim, which are virtually undetectable and are driven by an external high powered mini-AMP.

The ELEV8TE and DV8 Series offer clear immersive music WITHOUT covering your ears. Headphones and earbuds block out your surrounding making it almost impossible to hear the environment around you. That’s why we created the ELEV8TE Series (running hats and running visors) and the DV8 Series (flex fit hat and trucker hat) which have speakers in the brim, allowing your ears to be unobstructed.

Support us by going to indiegogo to pre-order, or help us spread the word by sharing our project with everybody you know.

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the GOAT Gift Guide!

Free Heel Granola has created a Telemark specific gift guide for those of us who prefer the graceful way down the mountain. Even hardcore free heelers want some lift service backcountry once in a while. For those skinless days at the resort – the GOAT is a great way to minimize your gear.
Gift Guide

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Nectar Kickstarter project wrapped up

As of today, we have officially wrapped up our inaugural Kickstarter project. This morning we shipped out the last Nectar seat clamps to our wonderful supporters. The project was quite a ride, and a ton of work, but in the end it was everything we had hoped for, and more.

The Nectar project was a great way to take one of our speculative in-house designs, and turn it into a real product for people to enjoy.  Continue reading

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Why we design

Last night I attended the final Junto meeting in SLC. It was the culmination of 6 weeks of entrepreneurship mentoring by Greg Warnock and the crew from Mercato Partners. The program focused on helping entrepreneurs build their networks, learn the core skills of sales and marketing, and put some of these lessons into practice. Last night, though, the focus was on the broader theme of using business as a vehicle of purpose.

What do I mean when I say that business should be a vehicle of purpose? It is simple-without a driving purpose, business is an empty pursuit. A business can be financially successful, but without purpose, that business will not be fulfilling, and isn’t that the whole point of hanging out your own shingle? People start businesses because they want to do something that matters to them. They want to spend their time doing something intrinsically meaningful, and maybe leave a small mark on the world in doing so. Without purpose, business is empty.

My purpose in life is to create. I’ve spent my life diving deep into creative pursuits. Painting, sculpting, product design, cooking, furniture building, music composition, classic car restoration, architecture, and writing have each consumed me. To me, the process of creating is art, and in that art is fulfillment. To create is to add to the human experience. Each creation adds to the colossal tapestry that we have been collectivelyweaving since the beginning of time. My purpose is to enrich this ever growing tapestry.

This is why Swarm exists. The founding partners (Devin, Wes, and I) each spent several years working for traditional companies, learning how to design, market, launch, and sell successful products. Many of these companies, though, felt empty. They were bogged down with policies that stifled creativity, and their sole focus was on profits. They lacked a greater purpose.

We founded Swarm as our vehicle of purpose. Swarm exists to channel our passion for creating. Our purpose is to spend our time creating rich, meaningful work. We have a deep knowledge of product design, production, sales, and marketing, and weshare this with our clients because our goal is to help them make their visions a reality. Nothing brings us more joy than helping a client make their mark on history with a creation of their own. This is why Swarm exists. This is Swarm’s purpose.

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Beer after biking, for your health

As many of you know, we’re running a Kickstarter campain to help launch our Nectar and Elixir- bicycle seat clamps with a built in bottle opener. As part of this, we’ve done some serious research into the health consequences of combining the two glorious past-times, biking and drinking beer.

Our empirical testing results have all pointed to the fact that drinking beer after a good ride is very important, nigh imperative. After performing some scientific research (googling), we have found solid evidence to back up our tests.

Speaking to the British newspaper, The Telegraph, Professor Manuel Garzon, who led the study, said, “the bubbles in beer can help quench thirst and the carbohydrates in the beverage can help make up for burned calories.”

Also from the same article, “Juan Antonio Corbalan, a cardiologist who has worked with Real Madrid football players and Spain’s national basketball team, told The Telegraph he has long recommended beer to professional sportsmen after exhausting activities, as the drink is optimal for rehydrating the body.”

As you can see, all evidence points to yes. Really, we have an obligation to give our body exactly what it wants after exercise- beer.

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Limited Edition Kickstarter Swag

As a way to say “thanks” to our super generous Kickstarter donors (those at the $75 level and above), we’ve designed a couple super sweet limited edition products. First, at the $75 level, you get the Kickstarter Special Edition Elixir. Check it out

Then, for the very generous donors ($125 and above), not only do you get the special edition seat clamp, but you also get a matching super sweet Team SWARM riding jersey. Behold!

Remember, these are only going to be available for Kickstarter donors. The special edition Elixir, and the riding jersey will not be available once the project ends. Head over to Kickstarter and pre-order yours today!

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Goat photoshoot

Last week we had a beautiful, sunny day in Park City. Wes, Devin, Minnie, and I decided to strap our skis on and do a little boot-pack at Parley’s Summit. We naturally strapped on The Goat, and climbed with ease. Check it out:

More after the jump. Continue reading

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Kickstarter re-launch

Those of you watching, and participating in the Nectar and Elixir project on Kickstarter will be happy to hear that we have re-launched the project! Head over to Kickstarter and check it out.

Thanks to Kickstarter, we made a bunch of new contacts, and were able to find some domestic manufacturers who are being really supportive, and helping us launch with a much lower capital investment. Because of this, we were able to cut our goal by 83%! This is huge, and we hope will ensure that this time around the project is successful. Thanks for your support!

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Look who’s on TV

It’s Wes and Devin. PCTV took some time yesterday and interviewed them about Swarm, the Nectar and Elixir project, and using Kickstarter to launch a product. Check it out:

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