Mobilize 2010: Down With Feature Creep, Says Yves Behar


Beware of feature creep! That’s the unfortunate situation when a consumer device crams way too many features into a limited space, and ends up being overly complex, unwieldly and doesn’t do any one thing all that well. According to Yves Behar, President and Creative Director of fuseproject, the vast majority of cell phones and gadgets out there are still bogged down by feature creep.

“Good design uses the process of elimination,” said Behar, who’s design firm has worked on the Jawbone headset, GE’s electric vehicle charging WattStation, Puma and One Laptop Per Child. Instead of focusing on what the device is missing or what needs to be integrated into the device, Behar says he tries to tackle the problem by asking, “what is the idea, what is the feeling, what is the experience? Who do you want to be as a business?”

After Behar builds a relationship with the manufacturer, he drills in on the primary features of the device, and maybe secondary ones, but then insists that the rest of the features are taken out. “Delight in an experience that is simple and clear,” Behar tells his customers.

Apple (s APPL), of course, is the shining example of how design should be used as a guiding process throughout the production, says Behar. Herman Miller is another of Behar’s American design favorites.

On top of simplicity, sustainability is also fundamentally changing products and design. Sustainability is going to change every process, from designing the packaging to designing the hardware, to communicating with the customer, says Behar. It’s not enough to just market that your product uses less energy and water, but the consumer has to feel like they are participating in the effort to make things better, says Behar.

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Vinay Rao

Such an old tired notion. I think smart people have moved beyond talking about features, simply because they have moved beyond talking about product, service, consumer, brand, market, from which were derived specifications, and so on – and features were a part of that framework.

Features and functions are simply a tangible outcome of catering to people’s motivations, and their economic (not monetary alone) priorities and tradeoffs with time, money, energy and attention. As an example, too much clutter on a simple product requires an unnecessary amount of attention, a trade-off. On the other hand, a DSLR camera has a large number of ‘features’ and you don’t hear the users complaining, because the results are worthy of the attention and energy required to use them.


I live in New York, and count several professional photographers in my social circle. Actually, I hear them complaining about the technical complexity of their cameras all the time. Everyone wishes they could just press a button and get a great picture when they see it. Because for them it isn’t about the camera, it’s about the photographer.

I also know a lot of techies who have DSLRs and love to fiddle with buttons and exposure settings. They also have HDTVs and DAWs. They are neither photographers nor audio-video engineers. They are often counted on to connect cables and components for their less techie friends.

Both provide useful case studies in the market for “high-end” cameras.

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