Subtle Design

“Wow, how did they do that?!” This is something that I exclaim quite often. The first time my wife heard me say it she was startled and excited, until she realized that I was trying to figure out how a manufacturer hid a parting line so well, or put a texture on an undercut and still pulled it from a mold. She has learned to ignore these outbursts, but I’m not able to overlook minute details on just about every product I interact with on a daily basis.

More than simply molding details, there are myriad decisions and details that adorn our things, and I am left to wonder, am I the only one who noticed this? Of course, the answer is no, I am not. A quick survey at work will be met with many interested responses from other designers, many of whom had the same thoughts previously. So sure, other people, especially industrial designers and mechanical engineers notice these things, but are they noticed by the general public? I would argue that the answer to that question is trivial.

Whether or not someone notices the interesting parting line strategy on their television remote, subtle texture change on their marker cap or clever placement of an audio port on their headphones is moot. These fine details, that designers painstakingly perfect, add to the overall feel of quality instilled in a product. Even if it’s a subconscious experience, quality is always felt. I hope there are some geeks like me out there that appreciate the attention to detail I obsess about when working on my designs, but I’ll settle for a general appreciation of a quality product.