• Cat's Cove Communications

Intentional Design: How the Little Things Really Can Make a Big Difference

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

It’s (Canadian) Thanksgiving, and everyone is posting about pumpkin pies, autumn leaves, and family. But let’s all give thanks for the true hero in our lives right now: computer printers.

Yes, seriously.

Last week, Cathy swapped out our old, persnickety printer for a new wifi-enabled gem.

Once we had it all set up, we got an expected thrill: the start-up beep is an upbeat four-note ditty. #littlejoys.

This start-up was in sharp contrast to the slow-paced two-note downbeat of the old printer. Its tune brought to mind images of a cranky of man, sitting behind a dusty desk, staring down his nose (over his glasses, of course) at me saying, “you want me to do what? I’m busy.

This new printer? He was bouncing on his toes, begging to get started, asking “do you want that in colour? In duplicate? Embossed? Right-e-o, boss!”

I know: I have an overactive imagination.

Afterall, they are just printers and the start-up chime really has nothing to do with their technological abilities.

But there is an underlying tone and my experience with the printer (and thus the company that built it).

That positive start puts me in the right frame of mind. It encourages me to like the product more, changes my mindset, makes me much more forgiving when it has a minor paper feed issue later in the day and, ultimately, inspires my brand loyalty.

It’s all about the design details. And this little tune got me thinking about all the tiny under-appreciated details that were purposefully integrated into products I use.

Here are a few, in case you think I’m off my rocker:

  1. The contrasting fabric lining the inner cuff of my jacket. No one sees it but me, but it’s so pretty.

  2. The cup holder in front of the driver’s side air vent of my car. Bizarre, right? Nope. The first time I drank an iced brew in the car on a 40-degree day, I discovered its brilliance: the blasting air conditioning kept it cold! It has the opposite, amazing effect with hot drinks in the winter.

  3. The breathing sleep light on Apple computers. So calming, I almost don’t want to check my email.

  4. Paper clips. Just paper clips. Everything about them. Simple, brilliant, the original fidget toy.

You see? Brillant design is all around us. And that cheery, well-designed printer? That one little start-up detail shifted my whole week and has put me into a Thanksgiving kind of mood.

So this year, while absorbing all the usual Thanksgiving seasonal delights, take a look around. Somewhere in your life, there’s an underappreciated inanimate object just waiting to sing you a song.

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