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10 More Design Principles for Better Products

In 2019 we launched  ‘Design Defined’ with a batch of ten videos defining individual design principles, and an ebook to collect them all. This year, our team kept up the momentum — even through a pandemic! — to share ten more of our favorite design principles.

This post collects the ten design principles we featured in volume 2, with plenty of links out to more info and, hopefully, a whole lot of inspiration. Like volume 1, it represents the span of our disciplines, from user research and design strategy to electrical and software engineering.

Without further ado, we present Design Defined, volume 2!:

01. Brand Consistency
02. Forecasting and Backcasting
03. Hick’s Law
04. Over-the-Air Updates (OTAU)
05. Radical Innovation
07. Tell, Don’t Ask
08. Design for Misuse
09. Art of Moderating
10. Accessible Technology


In product design, brand consistency is as much about usability and user experience as it is about look and feel.

What does Brand Consistency mean for physical products?

People often think of brand consistency as it relates to the colors, logos, terminology, and tone used in advertising and communications, but it’s just as important for designers of physical products to consider brand consistency as it relates to form, finish, usability, and user experience.

Three things to know about Brand Consistency:

  • Consistent user experiences build confidence and trust
  • Brand Consistency is a key driver behind purchasing decisions. When user experience remains similar, it’s easier and more appealing for users to stick with the same brand
  • Everyone on your team should be involved in creating branded user experiences and interactions

Find out more about Brand Consistency:


Forecasting and Backcasting are two techniques that provide a framework for disruptive innovation — the kind of innovation that requires vision and direction.

How do Forecasting and Backcasting work?

Forecasting predicts probable future scenarios based on trend analysis and helps companies determine their ideal outcome. Backcasting works in reverse to plan the steps it will take to get there.

Three things to know about Forecasting and Backcasting:

  • Forecasting and Backcasting provide a solid structure to support big, strategic thinking
  • Forecasting and Backcasting help companies move forward in leaps and bounds, rather than steps
  • At Bresslergroup, we monitor global consumer trends, industry-specific shifts, and emerging technologies to envision future scenarios

Find out more about Forecasting and Backcasting:


Hick’s Law, or the Hick-Hyman Law, predicts that the time and effort it takes to make a decision increases with the number of options.

What does Hick’s Law have to do with your TV remote?

The law explains why having too many options negatively impacts a user’s experience and makes it harder to complete a task. It’s a reminder not to overload a user with choices, and it’s one reason that well-designed remotes have fewer buttons.

Three things to know about Hick’s Law:

  • The law best applies to simple, direct tasks, as opposed to complex ones
  • The principle is especially important when it comes to time-sensitive tasks, like pressing a panic button
  • Hick’s Law can make medical devices safer for caregivers and patients

Find out more about Hick’s Law:


Over-the-Air Updates, also known as OTAU, are software updates sent through a wireless connection to upgrade the program that’s running on a device.

What do Over-the-Air-Updates mean for electrical engineers?

Devices capable of OTAU require more work upfront. Electrical engineers have to build devices to be smart enough to detect firmware versions, safely download, update, and go back to work.

Three things to know about Over-the-Air Updates:

  • OTAU are a pathway for manufacturers to update a product digitally, without having to mess with the hardware
  • Wireless software updates can add new features, fix bugs, and upgrade security
  • During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Tesla shipped an update to drivers in Florida to unlock their full battery capacity, giving them another 30 to 40 miles of driving range to help them escape the storm

Find out more about OTAU:


Radical innovation is the kind of innovation that creates completely novel ideas and products by blowing up the system and replacing it with something entirely new.

How can designers tell if an innovation is radical enough?

If your design isn’t pushing the limits of what’s possible or challenging conventional wisdom about what a product can be, it’s not radical innovation. To get there, sometimes you need to break your process, throw away your plans, and acquire a counterintuitive mindset.

Three things to know about Radical Innovation:

  • Radical Innovation requires curiosity, analytical skills, experience, faith, and perseverance
  • Startups are better at this than established companies because they don’t have the burden of conventional wisdom
  • Radical Innovation is a delicate balance of science, business, and imagination

Find out more about Radical Innovation:

Blooper Break:


STEEPLE is a framework that helps design strategists analyze the market in order to help clients figure out what the future will look like.

How can design strategists use STEEPLE?

STEEPLE stands for social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical. The framework pushes us to consider how each factor will impact society — and how products and services will fit into future scenarios.

Three things to know about STEEPLE Analysis:

  • Humans have a tendency to believe the future will be much like the present. STEEPLE helps us see changes as they’re emerging
  • For maximum benefit, it helps to combine STEEPLE with tools like “scenario mapping”
  • STEEPLE encourages an outward-oriented perspective that surveys the broader socio-cultural context of your industry, rather than what’s happening with your product alone

Find out more about STEEPLE:


Tell, Don’t Ask (TDA) is a programming framework that believes objects (not the application at large) should be responsible for their own data and decision making.

Why should programmers use Tell, Don’t Ask?

Tell, Don’t Ask is a modular approach, which makes it easier to test and maintain embedded devices.

Three things to know about Tell, Don’t Ask:

  • TDA is especially well-suited for IoT devices
  • By embedding the decision-making in the power subsystem, Tell, Don’t Ask makes it less likely that those values will be inadvertently modified or left out of future maintenance
  • This approach can free the designer to focus on elegant and stable top-level design

Find out more about Tell, Don’t Ask:


For a number of reasons, users often misuse products. Design for Misuse prepares for that.

How does misuse influence product design?

No matter how capable users are most of the time, mistakes happen. By predicting why a user might misuse a product (e.g. a sleep deprived doctor using a medical device), designers can add safeguards and workflows to minimize the chance of failure.

Three things to know about Design for Misuse:

  • The more difficult it is to use a product, the greater the chance of error. Keep it simple
  • Designers can conduct user research to discover how people are likely to misuse a product
  • Design for misuse is less about modifying users’ behavior and more about allowing a tool to continue to be functional, given the likelihood of certain behavior

Find out more about Design for Misuse:


Moderating becomes an art when the moderator can alter his or her approach in order to acquire as much knowledge as possible from potential users while considering the research phase, research methodology, and type of product.

How does the research phase influence moderation?

In the generative research phase, moderators seek insights to drive key design decisions. In the evaluative research phase, moderators are looking to learn what users think of the product before “design freeze” sets in.

Three things to know about the Art of Moderating:

  • A successful moderator breaks down barriers between them and their participants so they’re no longer seen as a moderator but as someone who’s easy to talk to
  • Allow for “awkward silences.” These pauses provide space for participants to think and provide more productive feedback
  • Focus on what people do, not necessarily what they say. The former is typically more telling

Find out more about the Art of Moderating:


Accessible Technology is designed to be used without limitation by as many groups of people as possible.

When should designers consider Accessibility?

Designers should begin thinking about accessibility on day one. Mobile, voice, and “interface-less” applications should consider accessibility before the first line of code is written or the first wireframe is constructed.

Three things to know about Accessible Technology:

  • Products designed with accessibility in mind provide benefits to all users
  • It’s important to include people with disabilities in your user personas and testing
  • Although the legal definition is currently focused on the web, accessible tech does not stop there

Find out more about Accessible Technology:

Learn more about these product design principles when you download our free eBook, Design Defined, vol 2.