The first secret of great design | Tony Fadell

In the great 1980s movie
“The Blues Brothers,” there’s a scene where John Belushi
goes to visit Dan Aykroyd in his apartment in Chicago for the very first time. It’s a cramped, tiny space and it’s just three feet away
from the train tracks. As John sits on Dan’s bed, a train goes rushing by, rattling everything in the room. John asks, “How often does
that train go by?” Dan replies, “So often, you won’t
even notice it.” And then, something falls off the wall. We all know what he’s talking about. As human beings, we get used
to everyday things really fast. As a product designer,
it’s my job to see those everyday things, to feel them, and try
to improve upon them. For example, see this piece of fruit? See this little sticker? That sticker wasn’t there
when I was a kid. But somewhere as the years passed, someone had the bright idea
to put that sticker on the fruit. Why? So it could be easier for us to check out
at the grocery counter. Well that’s great, we can get in and out of
the store quickly. But now, there’s a new problem. When we get home and we’re hungry and we see this ripe, juicy piece
of fruit on the counter, we just want to pick it up
and eat it. Except now, we have to look
for this little sticker. And dig at it with our nails,
damaging the flesh. Then rolling up that sticker — you know what I mean. And then trying to flick
it off your fingers. (Applause) It’s not fun, not at all. But something interesting happened. See the first time you did it,
you probably felt those feelings. You just wanted to eat the piece of fruit. You felt upset. You just wanted to dive in. By the 10th time, you started to become less upset and you just started peeling
the label off. By the 100th time,
at least for me, I became numb to it. I simply picked up the piece of fruit, dug at it with my nails,
tried to flick it off, and then wondered, “Was there another sticker?” So why is that? Why do we get used to everyday things? Well as human beings,
we have limited brain power. And so our brains encode the
everyday things we do into habits so we can free up space
to learn new things. It’s a process called habituation and it’s one of the most basic ways,
as humans, we learn. Now, habituation isn’t always bad. Remember learning to drive? I sure do. Your hands clenched at 10 and 2
on the wheel, looking at every single
object out there — the cars, the lights, the pedestrians. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. So much so, that I couldn’t even
talk to anyone else in the car and I couldn’t even listen to music. But then something interesting happened. As the weeks went by,
driving became easier and easier. You habituated it. It started to become
fun and second nature. And then, you could talk
to your friends again and listen to music. So there’s a good reason why
our brains habituate things. If we didn’t, we’d notice
every little detail, all the time. It would be exhausting, and we’d have no time
to learn about new things. But sometimes,
habituation isn’t good. If it stops us from noticing
the problems that are around us, well, that’s bad. And if it stops us from noticing
and fixing those problems, well, then that’s really bad. Comedians know all about this. Jerry Seinfeld’s entire career was built
on noticing those little details, those idiotic things we do every day
that we don’t even remember. He tells us about the time
he visited his friends and he just wanted to take
a comfortable shower. He’d reach out and grab the handle
and turn it slightly one way, and it was 100 degrees too hot. And then he’d turn it the other way,
and it was 100 degrees too cold. He just wanted a comfortable shower. Now, we’ve all been there, we just don’t remember it. But Jerry did, and that’s a comedian’s job. But designers, innovators
and entrepreneurs, it’s our job to not just notice
those things, but to go one step further
and try to fix them. See this, this person, this is Mary Anderson. In 1902 in New York City, she was visiting. It was a cold, wet, snowy day
and she was warm inside a streetcar. As she was going to her destination,
she noticed the driver opening the window to clean off the excess snow
so he could drive safely. When he opened the window, though,
he let all this cold, wet air inside, making all the passengers miserable. Now probably, most of those
passengers just thought, “It’s a fact of life, he’s got
to open the window to clean it. That’s just how it is.” But Mary didn’t. Mary thought, “What if the diver could actually clean
the windshield from the inside so that he could stay safe and drive and the passengers could
actually stay warm?” So she picked up her sketchbook
right then and there, and began drawing what would become
the world’s first windshield wiper. Now as a product designer,
I try to learn from people like Mary to try to see the world
the way it really is, not the way we think it is. Why? Because it’s easy to solve a problem
that almost everyone sees. But it’s hard to solve a problem
that almost no one sees. Now some people think
you’re born with this ability or you’re not, as if Mary Anderson was hardwired at birth
to see the world more clearly. That wasn’t the case for me. I had to work at it. During my years at Apple, Steve Jobs challenged us
to come into work every day, to see our products through
the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears
and possible frustrations and hopeful exhilaration that their
new technology product could work straightaway for them. He called it staying beginners, and wanted to make sure that we
focused on those tiny little details to make them faster, easier and seamless
for the new customers. So I remember this clearly
in the very earliest days of the iPod. See, back in the ’90s, being a gadget freak like I am, I would rush out to the store
for the very, very latest gadget. I’d take all the time to get to the store, I’d check out, I’d come back home,
I’d start to unbox it. And then, there was
another little sticker: the one that said, “Charge before use.” What! I can’t believe it! I just spent all this time
buying this product and now I have to charge before use. I have to wait what felt like an eternity
to use that coveted new toy. It was crazy. But you know what? Almost every product back then did that. When it had batteries in it, you had to charge it
before you used it. Well, Steve noticed that and he said, “We’re not going to let that
happen to our product.” So what did we do? Typically, when you have a product
that has a hard drive in it, you run it for about
30 minutes in the factory to make sure that hard drive’s going
to be working years later for the customer after they
pull it out of the box. What did we do instead? We ran that product for over two hours. Why? Well, first off, we could make
a higher quality product, be easy to test, and make sure it was great
for the customer. But most importantly, the battery came fully charged
right out of the box, ready to use. So that customer,
with all that exhilaration, could just start using the product. It was great, and it worked. People liked it. Today, almost every product
that you get that’s battery powered comes out of the box fully charged, even if it doesn’t have a hard drive. But back then, we noticed
that detail and we fixed it, and now everyone else does that as well. No more, “Charge before use.” So why am I telling you this? Well, it’s seeing the invisible problem, not just the obvious problem,
that’s important, not just for product design,
but for everything we do. You see, there are invisible problems
all around us, ones we can solve. But first we need
to see them, to feel them. So, I’m hesitant to give you any tips about neuroscience or psychology. There’s far too many experienced people
in the TED community who would know much more
about that than I ever will. But let me leave you with
a few tips that I do, that we all can do,
to fight habituation. My first tip is to look broader. You see, when you’re tackling a problem, sometimes, there are a lot of steps
that lead up to that problem. And sometimes, a lot
of steps after it. If you can take a step back
and look broader, maybe you can change some of those boxes before the problem. Maybe you can combine them. Maybe you can remove them altogether
to make that better. Take thermostats, for instance. In the 1900s when they first came out,
they were really simple to use. You could turn them up or turn them down. People understood them. But in the 1970s, the energy crisis struck, and customers started thinking about
how to save energy. So what happened? Thermostat designers decided
to add a new step. Instead of just turning up and down, you now had to program it. So you could tell it the temperature
you wanted at a certain time. Now that seemed great. Every thermostat had
started adding that feature. But it turned out that no one
saved any energy. Now, why is that? Well, people couldn’t predict the future. They just didn’t know how their weeks
would change season to season, year to year. So no one was saving energy, and what happened? Thermostat designers went back
to the drawing board and they focused on that programming step. They made better U.I.s, they made better documentation. But still, years later,
people were not saving any energy because they just couldn’t
predict the future. So what did we do? We put a machine-learning algorithm in
instead of the programming that would simply watch
when you turned it up and down, when you liked a certain temperature
when you got up, or when you went away. And you know what? It worked. People are saving energy
without any programming. So, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you take a step back
and look at all the boxes, maybe there’s a way
to remove one or combine them so that you can make
that process much simpler. So that’s my first tip: look broader. For my second tip, it’s to look closer. One of my greatest teachers
was my grandfather. He taught me all about the world. He taught me how things were built
and how they were repaired, the tools and techniques necessary
to make a successful project. I remember one story
he told me about screws, and about how you need to have
the right screw for the right job. There are many different screws: wood screws, metal screws,
anchors, concrete screws, the list went on and on. Our job is to make products
that are easy to install for all of our customs themselves
without professionals. So what did we do? I remembered that story
that my grandfather told me, and so we thought, “How many different screws
can we put in the box? Was it going to be two, three,
four, five? Because there’s so many
different wall types.” So we thought about it, we optimized it, and we came up with three different
screws to put in the box. We thought that was going
to solve the problem. But it turned out, it didn’t. So we shipped the product, and people weren’t having
a great experience. So what did we do? We went back to the drawing board just instantly after we figured out
we didn’t get it right. And we designed a special screw,
a custom screw, much to the chagrin of our investors. They were like, “Why are you spending
so much time on a little screw? Get out there and sell more!” And we said, “We will sell more
if we get this right.” And it turned out, we did. With that custom little screw,
there was just one screw in the box, that was easy to mount
and put on the wall. So if we focus on those tiny details,
the ones we may not see and we look at them as we say, “Are those important or is that the way we’ve always done it? Maybe there’s a way to get rid of those.” So my last piece of advice
is to think younger. Every day, I’m confronted with interesting
questions from my three young kids. They come up with questions like, “Why can’t cars fly around traffic?” Or, “Why don’t my shoelaces
have Velcro instead?” Sometimes, those questions are smart. My son came to me the other day
and I asked him, “Go run out to the mailbox
and check it.” He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “Why doesn’t the mailbox just check itself
and tell us when it has mail?” (Laughter) I was like, “That’s a pretty
good question.” So, they can ask tons of questions and sometimes we find out
we just don’t have the right answers. We say, “Son, that’s just the way
the world works.” So the more we’re exposed to something, the more we get used to it. But kids haven’t been around
long enough to get used to those things. And so when they run into problems, they immediately try to solve them, and sometimes they find a better way, and that way really is better. So my advice that we take to heart
is to have young people on your team, or people with young minds. Because if you have those young minds, they cause everyone in the room
to think younger. Picasso once said,
“Every child is an artist. The problem is when he or she grows up,
is how to remain an artist.” We all saw the world more clearly
when we saw it for the first time, before a lifetime of habits
got in the way. Our challenge is to get back there, to feel that frustration, to see those little details, to look broader, look closer, and to think younger so we can stay beginners. It’s not easy. It requires us pushing back against one of the most basic ways
we make sense of the world. But if we do, we could do some pretty amazing things. For me, hopefully, that’s better
product design. For you, that could mean something else,
something powerful. Our challenge is to wake up
each day and say, “How can I experience the world better?” And if we do, maybe, just maybe, we can get rid of these
dumb little stickers. Thank you very much. (Applause)


  • Product Design Online

    Just think about this for a second… how many stickers could the audience be peeling off Apples while watching this video?

  • Jmax

    this guy solve problems ! even if there is no problems :DDDDDDD

  • Tim Titus

    @4:20, I like to visitedededed my friends too

  • Noobie747

    If charging for mobile products isn't required in future then the information of battery back up should be accurate and not say 'upto', this is one thing that must professionals want to avoid. They want accurate details on what they expect out of the product. I'm a righty and don't like the volume control on my iphone 5s.
    I feel that products sold in India should have the volume control on the right side because of neurological reasons. I don't dig the mic and speaker design and cable design either.
    Most importantly, I need ios 7 instead of ios 10

  • Alway John Rallos

    Solve a simple problem in exchange of consumers money, wow

  • K R E T H

    What I she talking about? There is no better feeling than removing the sticker before you eat an apple

  • instant lunch

    Wow. Very interesting. Thanks

  • Ghiffari Mohammad

    stickers on fruits are actually edible incase you didnt know

  • Un Disclosed


  • Abraham Wondafrash

    Habituation is a great but dangerous thing!

  • Avanish Shivpure

    1.Look broader
    2.Look closer(tiny details)
    3.Think young(curious questions)

  • Linda Hsu

    The stickers should be eatable~~

  • Meet Shah

    What's his name?

  • onee

    That sticker wasn't there for you to easily check in and out. It is used to promote the company that made these apples. That is why Chiquita banana is so well known. Thanks to those stickers and their ads. It's probably only used in the US to check out. Because where I live the cashier weighs your fruit before it has a price.

  • ThatEditingBaka

    3 years later and I'm still waiting for edible stickers on food…

  • Krupali

    All events are so fun because people from far get together to help work on something people would need.. its an amazing talk though, I loved

  • Atelier PhilippE

    @15:40 that guy in the middle having a good sleep. Nice

  • Dranco Savale

    This guy talks about problems and then about apple stickers. Maybe this guy isn't looking broad enough…

  • Suguna R


  • liddle deah

    I'm thinking of a free range design multifunction,multichoice "tab"operations post feature??

  • liddle deah

    F man I bearly even know let alone don't care bout pickers cuming to my shhh to spy

  • liddle deah

    I want to hook up a badashh
    Comment or three

  • liddle deah

    Hit u up a major edit /comment

  • Fahad Manzoor

    Shining Eyes

  • Anonymous [26490]

    Boy it’s so hard! Trying to get that sticker off that dam apple!

  • JAN

    great talk

  • Yong Seon Lee

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  • Yoclion Precision Group

    Hey guys, watch here if you are looking for a reliable OEM manufacturer which help you make your design products to a reality ! Starting from a concept to a prototype to mass production in the end.


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  • S w i f t

    thank me later Tony 😉 Lasers are the making everything better 😀

  • 최준연

    This class gives the basic perspective that product designers should have.
    Just as a comedian made us laugh by presenting our habitual behavior in our daily lives, not only product designers but also all designers are aware of everything and make small changes.
    In order to look at the small things, I think it will take a look at everything in the world, not a general and habitual one.

  • elusiveanmol

    The charged battery is good however I just have a question: Doesn't it make shipments of tonnes of iPhones..all charged, a safety risk? What if the battery explodes?

  • Rush Aid

    love his outfit

  • Pratik jain

    He really looks frustrated n annoyed by steve job's job??

  • LiquidMocoFilms LLC

    This is probably one of the worst TEDs I've ever wasted my life on.

  • Nikita Alatyrev

    Tnx, great! I've wasted 7 minutes of my life) not-watcher-friendly)))

  • Hamza Ahmed

    Focus on small details and solve the problem no one else see.

  • MrUratox

    Just put the sticker on the Part of the apple which isn´t eatable. On the stalk

  • Nebojša Vitorović

    breed fruit with stickers in their dna n make scanners for them ez lyf mail me the monees bubbye

  • nancy jain

    Interesting… comedians notice every minute details of problem and make everyone laugh, but designers look at the problems to solve it!

  • דותן רביד וידאו

    amazing and creative

  • Braskabeast

    @4:20 “The time he visitided his friend” the little things.

  • Alex Sunderland

    He is the best indeed

  • Yousuf

    The stickers are organic and edible…you don't need to peel it off

  • Fahmi Azrol

    previously, I had experienced in hotel line…I really hate those stickers on apple idea, make my work harder and consumed alot of time to remove every stickers before serving the guests…very disturbing and u will hate ur work

  • sheikh adil

    another irritating aspect of geysers no timers

  • Blake Voorhees

    Hilarious about those damn apple stickers! Now to figure out a way to get those around me to stop selling me mealy apples!!! 😉 You're very entertaining.

  • Sikander Malik

    a million views for this mediocrity

  • Borys Vedmediuk

    Great and informative video! It inspired me to write an article about the creative briefing, which will help to inspire and get better results in the long run. Take a look if you are interested –>

  • Young Perspective Studio

    I love the way he presenting his speech. It has own rhythm and pace which is really good to absorb yet engaging.

    Overall I could say that he pay attention to little things around him well??

  • Ignis

    Young minds are often innovative before the public school system butchers them. In grade school, kids are forced to color in the lines and follow numeric patterns for "art". This causes them to use the wrong side of the brain and contributes to the overall crisis of uniformity. Cookie cutter solutions are killing us!

  • Noe Berengena

    Some stickers have one end without any adhesive so that it creates a tab that can be grabbed between fingers and easily pulled off. Then you just have to stick it on something else.
    As for useful product design, when is someone going to develop a zapper for mosquitos that sends out the scent that attracts them, drawing them in and nuking them?


    I don't like the way when this guy talking

  • Higher Imagez 4%er Supporter Midwest s4vagez

    Started off good, but I lost interest later.

  • energypuns

    yawn, why does this have so many upvotes? all he did was psychobabble, there wasn't a notable point actually made

  • intelliGENeration

    Semi-decent content, and pedestrian template presentation… TED looks diluted to me.

  • yoosuf Mughal

    Easy solution to the fruit stickers, just use a Laser to burn on the barcode. Or use edible paint.

  • sdfa asf

    We are down in humanity and technology, Application day of today become to hard but users are getting stupid Mobile industry don't understand user needs. they really don't want to listen to his users. In industry design too. In healthcare too.

  • Jake L Hughes

    Put the sticker round the stem

  • Mi chi

    This is a waste of time

  • Red Bull

    a great one!

  • Alvian Bayu P

    so, design must be facilitate human work better and eazier and make lazy habits, with those technology of mechine learning?

  • Coley Amos

    Why don't they put the sticker on the portion of the fruit that your not eating? On the plumb's leaf for example….??‍♂️

  • Kelly Gramajo

    "Think younger" – thank you.

  • UM Art

    Hi, I'm Creating My Website with Wix, if you're about to skip, dont worry you can….

    Me: Shut the Wix Up, SKIPPED

  • Jaideep Spal


  • Go Drive

    Its hard to solve a problem noone sees

  • Sharat Chandra

    tl;dr please

  • •o•kåɮᎥƦ ƙu̾ϻa̾Я•o•

    Best Platform to Learn UX Design : HFI or IDF..

  • Yaato Hage

    This guy is so good at product designing that he can work with Alien Tech also. I saw him building high tech guns and suits. He is the Vulture from Spider-Man : Homecoming

  • Bryant Ortiz

    Great video Ted team.
    Our MorphoMFG team is well recognized and recommended by Kickstarter and Indiegogo for the go-to manufacturer for innovative brands. Check out our group to see how we are building projects and businesses. We could benefit from your inputs and possibly collaborate on new projects.

  • Fatih Akuzun

    what iz the name of that screw? 🙂

  • Shakil Khan

    One of the best video on this topic.

  • feanoR

    Too bad dying children all around the world seem to be an invisible problem for most people. They too busy thinking about evil stickers.

  • afro symphony

    bite the sticker part out nd throw it away

  • Camren Browne

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  • Carl Heaton

    Boring, un-useful and stale

  • Eric Vauwee

    Just laser engrave the apples. That was easy.
    Phones are not charged as lifespan of Li-Ion batterys is highest if stored with 50%.
    For the Mailbox; hinge the bottom and balance it with a pulley so when mail gets in there it is out of balance and shows a flag.

  • Homer Perez

    Wow, just wow!!!


    The secret of great design is not listening to everyone and do what customer is asking you to do. Other way you will just waste your time. Bye!

  • Gregoire Bessette

    This is called User experience and there is some in every product, service, digital things not only app and website. Product designer are trained to it before modern UX appear.

  • The Melting Pot

    join this group all about manufacturing products in China…the right way! Join the discussion.

  • ivo zört

    Ted talks r bullshit

  • Dz Moh

    Why can't people just say briefly what they want to say? What really made you think people have enough time to listen to you telling them your stupid story about stickers and about what Steve jobs said?

  • Dz Moh

    Here we go again, Another stupid boring Ted talk.

  • Burnout Gang

    Ever heard of plant snap? Self checkouts already have cameras for shoplifters, just install that. Get rid of the stickers.

  • Eric Pham

    If we use a water jet and pressurized air for windshield cleaning we need no replacing blade for windshield wiper and save car driver approximately 20 billion dollar per year.

  • Intelos

    You make the world a better place, Tony.

  • Ayrton S

    This that kid from General Magic a true OG from Silicon Valley!

  • Rens Breur

    Connect to iTunes before use. – all iPhones and iPads before iOS 5. And then good luck charging it with our 50cm long charging cable ?

  • Desimere

    He doesn't wash the apple? :/ We don't have those stickers though.

  • Saul Garcia

    What if he’s misleading like Arnold was to the bodybuilders

  • Kallisti Babylon

    sounds like lsd.

  • Raden Mulyadi

    He just can’t remove that dumb apple logo and designed in california thing

  • Ilias Kouvas

    9:15 is that Chris Do from thefutur?

  • Kunal Kanase


  • Krystal Ma

    What's the point of mentioning the sticker? Just to say that people get used to it? And what's the point of mentioning not-charged batteries? Just to say they found an opportunity? What does that do with "habituation"? Lastly, what's the point of mentioning the thermostat? I don't see how it's "look broader". Someone help me understand this talk plz

  • Daniel Bromilow

    The Apple magic mouse contradicts his whole speech on Apple. "no more charge before use" is now "no more use until charged"

  • Thomas Kinkade

    So many modern products have blatant problems ESPECIALLY Apple products. Solving the problems might be somewhat less profitable though. It would be better for the customer if screens were replaceable but if a screen breaks you have to buy a whole new EXPENSIVE design.

  • ali67888

    Pretty useless Ted talk! Been a while seen I have watched one that didn't offer any actionable insight! Very disorganized and trivial presentation


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