Just before the holidays, a friend asked me:
You are always recommending and choosing the best products to buy and use, from clothes, electronic devices to travel bags and beyond. I’d like to know how you do it. How do you figure out what’s the best?
Well, to be honest I didn’t really know how to answer that question. I guess, a lot of it has to do with intuition. But when I started thinking, I realized that I do indeed have an internal process. So, I put on my thinking hat and started to breakdown my own process of object evaluation and why I like certain things and why I hate others. What do I think about when looking at a product or an object?
The answer came this morning when I was making tea in my Bodum personal tea-maker. The company calls it the Yo Yo Personal Tea Set and it comprises of a cup and a stainless steel mesh strainer. It is not cheap – about $60 from Amazon (cheaper elsewhere.) Apart from its beautiful shape, why do I like it? Here are some my reasons.
- The double glass construction is clever in keeping the outside of the cup cold but the tea itself hot. Most importantly, The cup is extremely lightweight and most importantly, I can quickly decide with a naked eye how strong the tea needs to be and time-to-brew.
- The strainer is no-nonsense and easy to clean and seems to be sturdy.
- I don’t need to think about how much water to add or worry about making too much or too little tea. Fill it to the brim, remove the filter and get a civilized amount of tea.
In other words, it is simple and very efficient at what it is supposed to do – make a great cup of tea, quickly, every morning and leave very little mess for me to clean when I am in a rush to leave my apartment.
The pinnacle of design for me comes with ruthless simplicity. It is that point when you can reduce a product to its very essence. Bodum Yo Yo Personal Tea Set is just that. Same goes for jeans for example – my favorite are dark blue, have invisible stitching, fit comfortably and have no frills designs and are sans embroidery.
For me a pair of Chelsea boots (preferably black) is a shoe reduce to its very essence: comfortable, casual, formal, elegant, simple and long lasting. A boot that is just that – utilitarian and attractive just by being discrete. I have a watch which doesn’t have too many complications or design, and it is essentially is the essence of time. A bag that is so simple that you don’t need pockets, the stitching and the logo too is near invisible. Or a Macbook.
This philosophy also extends to web and mobile services as well. Google was the essence of search in the beginning and it was why I wrote about them early and became an addict. Twitter worked because it was minimal and yet provided an intimate way to interact with my friends. Instagram clicked with me (no pun intended) because it was the essence of what was social visual communication. Lately, I have become addicted to Snapguide and Instapaper for those specific reasons. The newest Apple text editor falls in that category and so does the Reeder RSS reader.
In short, this life long quest to find that “essence” in whatever I want to own or use, defines how I choose products. Hopefully my friend has found his answer.