Gas Lighter & The Design Of Everyday things

In India, it is difficult to see different variations & designs of some common stuff that we use daily. Though FMCG sector has seen many innovations & creativity in the last decade, the mundane daily items such as gas lighter remain mostly the same. Most of them use a piezo-electric crystal, and rather hard-to-press trigger/button to generate a spark. Recently I had a minor thumb injury that made it very difficult for me to use a regular gas lighter (the chrome plated one that you see in the photo). That’s when I started looking for a new gas lighter that we had some 6-7 years ago but it stopped working about a year ago or so. We were using the regular one since. This thumb injury prompted me to look for this again with renewed vigour & purpose. I’ll skip the long story of search for this lighter. I thought increased purchasing power of people might have triggered more sale for this gas lighter, but as it turned out 99% of the shops that I visited (in Pune) were not even aware that one such gas lighter was being manufactured. Finally, I managed to get it one shop. I guess, this was the same shop where we had purchased it for the first time. (The grey one that you see in the photo)

Gas Lighter

Gas Lighters

I was quite relived as it allowed me to use the gas lighter without much pain to my injured thumb. Moreover, it was much more convenient for our old cook as well. She found it difficult to use the regular one. This actually prompted more thinking about the design – design of this gas lighter. Slowly, I observed that it was difficult for older people to use the regular gas lighter primarily because of the hard-to-press trigger/button. The gas lighter that I purchased has a switch similar to a simple push-button, making it extremely easy to use. It uses a single AAA sized battery and the gas lighter itself lasted for 5+ years as we had experienced with our first one. The finish and look of this lighter is much better than the regular one as well. It’s a simple device – but well designed and makes it extremely convenient for everybody.

The design of everyday things

The Design Of Everyday Things

In his book The Design Of Everyday Things Donald Norman talks about this – thoughtful design. Understanding user’s real requirements beyond all the conventions and perceived user demands could really take the product to a different level. Designs that understand this psychopathology of everyday things and follow intuitive, easy to use approaches for their products are most likely to have greater user acceptance. During my short course at IDC, IIT Bombay, we had an opportunity to design few such everyday things – from a simple refrigerator switch to making toys for kids, followed by some thought-provoking discussion with our professor Anirudha Joshi. There are some invaluable insights about design that we have gained in the process. It is fascinating to see how design has its own subtle yet powerful language that speaks to us without words. Imagine how would you open a door that has a short vertical handle? Imagine how would you open a door that has a large horizontal handle? In both cases, assume that there are no words, no PUSH/PULL written on the doors. Just try doing it in the air right now and you’d realize how we respond to such simple design elements. The more you learn those design nuances, the more intuitive & useful your products would be – be it software or any other device such as this gas lighter. Design is lot more than making stuff look good!

If it hadn’t been for my injured thumb and all those observations that followed afterwards with older people and their use of a gas lighter; I think I wouldn’t have ever appreciated this product design properly. Despite its high cost (close to ₹ 300 as compared to ₹ 70 to ₹ 125 for a regular gas lighter), I believe this gas lighter has a potential to sell lot more units if it is marketed and distributed with little more efforts. I hope the manufacturers will do it!

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated with the manufacturer of this gas lighter in any way. :-)

Update: 27 Oct 2014

Found this apt quote by Steve Jobs – Perrrrrrrrrfect!!

Crossword – Why I think the end is near…

Went to Crossword on Saturday as I wanted to gift a book to someone. I had two books in mind and both of them are easily available in most online stores. But that would have taken 3-4 days to arrive and I wanted a book immediately.

I couldn’t find them easily there so asked the guy on “Help” counter to see if he had them. He said both were not available, though I could see some quantities for the second book in their system. I gently pointed it out to him. Reluctantly he started looking for that book in the philosophy section. He pretended to search for it for 10-15 minutes and meanwhile asked me the name of the book & author thrice. Obviously, he had not heard of either of them before, and it was not even one of those lesser known books. After 15 minutes, I found him elsewhere and asked him about the book – he said he couldn’t find it! He lost an opportunity to sell something he already had in his store and his apathy was appalling. You can’t just put a person with some retail experience in bookstore or music store. They need to know the product(s) that they are selling. I walked out, and this is not the first time I walked out of Crossword recently.

Can’t help but recall a young & enthusiastic guy (a Surd) that Landmark, Pune had few years ago as one of the sales guys in the store. You just need to have a brief talk with him for 2 mins and he used procure the book from some corner of his relatively huge store within few minutes. I really miss that personal touch now in the real stores. Obviously, this was before Flipkart was born and Amazon India was nowhere in the picture…Anyway!

BTW, Crossword still does not offer any discount unless you have their loyalty card and interestingly they print 2 payment receipts with a new carbon paper for each sale. The start-up entrepreneur inside me was shocked to see this blatant wastage & associated overhead costs. I think they have a brilliant chance here to ask customer for his/her email ID and offer to send him an e-receipt on the e-mail. In the process they will not only save the ridiculous overhead costs of those duplicate receipts, but also grab an opportunity to capture a customer lead in their system.

Dear crossword, you are already losing your sales to online stores like Flipkart & Amazon. And I can very well imagine the kind of costs involved in the huge inventory and those large real estates in the prime areas. So when you actually have a customer walking in your retail store to buy something, treat him/her well enough to make sure that footfall gets converted into sales. And yeah, please hire people interested in books & music rather than hiring people from those nearby retail stores selling grocery and clothes. And I also hope that you read ‘Have Breakfast… or…Be Breakfast!‘ if you haven’t read it already!

Unless it is urgent, I really doubt if I would want to buy a book/CD/DVD from Crossword next time given the experiences I’ve had in the recent times. Unless they drastically change the way they do their business, I think the end is near for their physical stores!

Find My Phone : About tiny android apps

Do you often keep your phone on silent and then forget where you have kept it? Maybe it is under those files in the office or in the some nook of  your home? Or maybe your kid has hidden it among all those innumerable toys.  How you wish your phone itself can ring aloud and flash its flashlight to let you know where it is! But alas….it is on silent mode!

Does it happen on a busy morning when you rush to your office only to find out that you are not carrying  your mobile and then you wonder if you have left it a home, or did you forget it in your car or if  your kid has taken it from your bag and put it in those toys or carried it to his/her school instead! Or you worry if it was snatched quietly by some pickpocket while you were on that crowded bus or local train.  How you wish your phone itself could somehow let you know its location?

Find My Phone

Find My Phone

Well, I (Orisys Software) have launched an app Find My Phone that could fulfill both these wishes and take care of the situations such as those mentioned above. Find My Phone is a simple, free android app that offers just these two features -

  • If you have kept your android phone/device on silent/vibration only, and can’t locate it in the room, you can easily locate it in the room by sending a command SMS text from another phone and your phone will start ringing (even if it is on silent) and if the device has a flashlight, it will be turned on as well. You can then pick up your phone, and turn off the sound & flashlight (if available) by clicking the “OK” button that will pop up in the dialog box.
  • You can also find location (either address or co-ordinates on the map) of your android device/phone by sending it another command SMS text from a different phone. The app will try to find address of the phone/device and will send an SMS to the phone from which the command SMS was sent. If it cannot find the address, it will send SMS with co-ordinates (latitude/longitude) of the phone/device along with map link.

The app is intentionally kept simple and it allows you to customize both these SMS command texts so that they are as easy or as complex as you want them. You can customize the SMS text when you install the app and change them whenever you want. The app will respond accordingly to your customized commands. This app is absolutely FREE! No advertisements either!!! :-)

You can download & install it from Google Play, and feel free to share it with your friends as well!

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