Dean Kamen on Good Design and Where to Begin

An excerpt from an interview with Dean Kamen in “Imagine Design Create” by Tom Wujec. Kamen suggests entrepreneurs look for outmoded perspectives preventing the use of technologies that are “available, affordable, reliable, functional.”

Good Design

Q: Speaking of good design, how do you define it?

A: Good design, I think, is the best compromise—and it’s always a compromise—between what’s currently available and the need to which it’s being applied. To me, that’s part of what’s exciting: trying to achieve that balance between all those variables of what’s available, affordable, reliable, functional.

Where To Begin

Q: How does design begin for you?

A: It starts with looking at a need or a problem and seeing a way to approach it that nobody else is doing. It may be a challenge everybody else has looked at before, perhaps for decades–but you look at it and maybe you see an opportunity at the intersection between a newly available technology and this old problem.

And suddenly you say: “Hey, maybe we can do this differently.” [..]

If we can convince ourselves that we can design a twenty-first-century solution to a problem that is currently being addressed with a nineteenth- or twentieth-century perspective—well, we’ll give it a shot.

He does not say “twentieth-century technology” but “twentieth-century perspective” and I think it’s a very interesting choice of words. Obviously technology informs perspective, but more subtly perspective can limit technology choices.

Look for outmoded perspectives constraining the use of technologies that are “available, affordable, reliable, and functional”  is also good advice for entrepreneurs.

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