Desire & The Design Tune-Up

Pretty often when I add something to my ever expanding Amazon wish list, I put it there because I want the thing, but can’t justify spending the money. Noting the desire dulls it a bit, and scrolling back through past things, I often find the desire for possessing the object has faded almost entirely to a mild appreciation or even a void replaced by a brief “What was I thinking?” moment followed by swift deletion.

Sometimes, though, the desire is held in check not by pecuniary considerations, but by design flaws. The thing itself is great, fulfills a real need, has an elegant design… except for a small proverbial fly (or a few flies) in the proverbial ointment. If it’s a gross, giant, hairy fly, I will probably just pass on by, but a couple of tiny fruit flies? Surely that can be overcome.

As a prime example, witness the Pocket SmartString (as seen on TV!), a genius product from the minds of Pocket Workmate, LLC. Consumer laser tape measures are not accurate or reliable enough to be as useful yet, and they can’t measure circles, curves, or other complicated shapes. The Pocket SmartString can! (And yes, you can buy it through Amazon, among other places.)

Alas, though, the PSS suffers from several serious design flaws, particularly when viewed from the point of view (potential market!) of architectural measurers (before any architectural design work starts, a completely accurate measurement of the existing space must be completed—you have no idea how hard it is to get precise measurements of a room until you’ve done it, and tried to draft it up from your own measurements). First of all, from an architectural standpoint, the string needs to be considerably longer than a mere 50″. Saying you can add together multiple measurements is just asking for inaccuracies—the string itself needs to be much longer. I imagine a longer string will bring other problems with it, but you’re going to have to make it work, Pocket people.

Next, I’m a bit dubious about the end ring & plastic doo-dad. Will this interfere with accurate corner measurements? Will it wear out if you continually bend it into corners? The usefulness of that end bit, I’m pretty sure, could be improved, but the questions of durability for the entire gizmo are difficult to answer just by looking at the thing online. More research is needed!

Finally, the aesthetics of the thing are pretty dreadful. It looks like a cross between a badly designed business card and an HP scientific calculator (elegant in its own right, though dated). With a level thrown in, and some weird colors. Plus the string. The whole is, well, less than the sum of its parts. Now it’s impressive that there’s a calculator built in, which can do things like calculate the diameter of a circle that you’ve measured or convert effortlessly from inches to millimeters, but calculators can be pretty, too.  And I suspect this one could be a bit smaller without making it more difficult to use. The logo needs to be smaller and better integrated (and maybe redesigned), the colors need to be better coordinated, and the shape and proportions need to be more elegant.

If all of that happened—or even if most of it happened—I suspect that Pocket SmartStrings would start flying off the shelves. I know I’d buy one. For now, though, it’s likely to languish in my wish list.



This entry was posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 and is filed under architecture, design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Bookmark and share this...



One Response to “Desire & The Design Tune-Up”

  1. Michael Batchelor


    I really enjoyed your beautiful images of some of NY City neon. My partner and I have a hot glass studio in Montreal. We hand blown neon tubes. Think of the fusion of glass blowing and neon. Not your usual commercial neon .. These tubes can have a diameter of 1 1/2 inches and be up to 10 feet long. They can also have up to 8 colors. Here’s our website
    I hope to hear from you

    all the best

    Michael Batchelor