"Fat-Free" Design - 4 Things Startups Can Learn from Lovegrove

Ross Lovegrove is an industrial designer who has crafted a storied career all his own. Inspired by the logic and beauty of nature, his philosophy of "fat-free design" is based on natural evolution of organic structures - spare, lean, agile.

Here are 4 things that startups can learn from his work philosophy while building their products:

Obsess about defining your purpose: What problem are you solving? Who's problem is it? Zero in on that from the get-go and keep that front and centre as you build. Any product feature that does not directly address the problem, is dead-weight, no matter how shiny it looks.

Focus on your product's "essential elements": Lovegrove's design famously offers minimal forms of maximum beauty. (Watch his TED talk about paring down forms as part of design)

Look at each feature on your build list and ask yourself - what would you lose if you axed it? Would your customer really care? Be ruthless in this questioning and do away with everything but the essentials that contribute directly to the solution.

User experience should be minimally intrusive: The aim for HU, a watch Lovegrove designed for Issey Miyaki, was to create a timepiece that works with the human form - like a prosthetic extension of the body.

Great design feels like an extension of what we are used to doing, just better. Aim for simplicity. Get rid of false detours that don't contribute to the shortest path to the solution for your problem. Cull, cull, cull.

Establish the "joy factor" in what you're building:  Lovegrove's Ty Nant bottle fuses the 'unexpected' attributes of art with the 'expected' functionality of design. It not only looks like a twist of running water, but can also be crushed for more efficient disposal and is easier for children and the elderly to grasp than regular bottles. Holding it is pure joy because the design fights neither the aesthetic of water nor the users' fragility. Evaluate the user experience for what you're building. What does it fight?

Sticking to these principles takes incredible self-discipline; but as a bonus, a superbly targeted marketing strategy will naturally flow right alongside the build. After all, you will know who you're looking to benefit and how.  And that is what differentiates the few products that stay from the many that disappear.