Will there ever be a place for ‘flavor’ when designing tech products?

Think of flavor as a unique interpretation of something, like a new music genre or a different take on an indie movie. This variety makes culture vibrant but is not commonly associated with technology. Instead, tech products are often seen as necessities, like plumbing.

When I say plumbing, I mean that technology is an essential service that fulfills our basic needs. However, thinking about technology only in those terms can be limiting. Life is about more than just fulfilling basic needs.

We are approaching a point where technology can move beyond necessities and incorporate 'flavor.’ This will become a differentiating factor in products. For instance, there could be a rock and roll version of calendar software, which is what Jason Fried is doing with Hey Calendar or Karri Saarinen is doing with Linear. Calendars and issue tracking may seem like plumbing and might even be offered for free. But flavor is now their competitive advantage.

Flavor does NOT mean not solving a meaningful problem. It means you’re solving with panache, and people will like you more for it.

So, how can you infuse a tech product with flavor? It starts with asking questions that go beyond the “job to be done” of a product and instead go deeper into their cultural life:

  • How do they communicate with themselves, others, and the wider world?
  • What are the various media they are exposed to that could shape their perspective, such as art, music, movies, and books?
  • What other products do they use that may not compete with your product, but will coexist with it? Keep in mind that learned behaviors and preferences can transfer across products.

In the future, designers will need to consider not only whether they're solving a meaningful problem but also whether the way they're solving it is culturally appealing for the moment we live in.

I've been thinking about this lately, and it might become a longer article. Let me know what you would like to read on this theme.

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