Nest Protect: 4 Things Designers Can Learn From This Stroke of Brilliant Design

So I read this great article on Fast Company about the new Nest Protect smoke/carbon monoxide detector and I’m feeling incredibly inspired.

As I read through the article and really thought about the product, I realized that as a designer there were 4 key points that really resonated with me about the design, and I thought I’d share them with the rest of the community.

#1 You can make ANYTHING beautiful.

You know what’s hideous? A smoke detector. They’re ugly and rarely work properly, and are required by law. The creators of Nest Protect saw this awful ugly thing they had to have in their homes, and decided they wanted to make it beautiful. And you know what? They did.

The next time you’re working on a functional design thinking “wow, this is ugly,” focus on adding beauty to the mix!

#2 Just because it works doesn’t mean it works well.

Changing the batteries in a smoke detector is a pain, and you never know if it’s really necessary or not. They go off accidentally more often than they go off because they should, and they’re an absolutely huge pain in the neck to turn off in false alarm situations. The reset button is tiny and difficult to reach. Do they save lives sometimes when they work properly? Absolutely. But how often do you take the battery out because you can’t get the thing to turn off in a false alarm situation, and forget to put it back in?

The Nest Protect creators made turning it off as simple as waving your arm. They also made it change color if it needs to be maintained.

Look at your designs from an innovators point of view. It works? Great! But does it work well? Is it intuitive? Is your user going to have a fabulous experience using your product?

#3 Innovation doesn’t have to mean creating something brand new, it can mean making something that already exists extraordinary.

As designers I think that sometimes we get caught up in creating the next next, when there are tons of things surrounding us every day that could be greatly improved. It sounds really strange, but the Nest Protect design has inspired me to look at the designs I work on in a new way. I want to make the designs I touch come to life in an extraordinary way.

Research which parts of your product need some love, and take them from drab to fab!

#4 Don’t let yourself get caught up in how things are “supposed” to work, let yourself envision how they COULD work.

Who the heck looks at a smoke detector and goes, “Wow, that thing sucks. We should make it talk, make it easier to turn off, and make it a night light. Oh, and make it change colors to let people know it’s working properly, and give a visual clue if something is wrong.”

An incredibly creative team of people, that’s who. Always think outside the box!

Want one? You can order them here!

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4 thoughts on “Nest Protect: 4 Things Designers Can Learn From This Stroke of Brilliant Design

  1. Andy Cowin says:

    A timely reminder that we should never settle for ordinary when EXTRAordinary is more fulfilling. This pst has inspired me to go back to my current project and look at it with a new eye!

    • jma245 says:

      Thank you so much for commenting Andy! You made my entire day! :)

      • A not quite random act of kindness makes all the difference :0) You make a seriously good point about not settling for what everyone expects. I know it’s an old saw but Apple turned the world on it’s head with the idea that personal computers could be graphical, then a different shape, then colourful! Do you think it’s because industrial design has been dominated by functional designers or maybe that asthetics aren’t valued?

      • jma245 says:

        I think it’s kind of a combination of the two! Industrial design has really had a solid function over form foundation for a very very long time. The web is constantly changing at an incredibly rapid pace, so there has been a quicker progression into focusing more on aesthetics. With industrial design, until fairly recently, buyers didn’t really care what most industrial goods looked like, as long as they worked well. I feel like the focus on function is so deeply rooted that companies are taking a bit longer to progress into the realization that functional items can also be beautiful, (as evidenced by Nest thermostats and Nest Protect) and that people will start trending toward purchasing the beautiful items. It’ll be interesting to see if other companies begin to shift focus to aesthetics as well!

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