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Steven Chen, CSUF Mihaylo College of Bus/Econ  

Click here for Steven Chen's Bio

Friday, January 15, 2010
Is nature good or bad for us?
Friday, March 19, 2010
Five everyday problems I seek to fix
Do infomercial products fix anything?
One measure to gauge the success of a product design is whether the product design solves a problem or not. The harder the problem solved, the greater the design.

Many problem-solving designs are found in infomercials. We hate them. We love them. We love to hate them. Infomercials are the sell-center for many creative inventors who develop products that help people improve their everyday lives. We have rotisserie grills that can cook a gourmet dinner for a medium-size army platoon in a simple device that is as small as your toaster. We have food processors that can slice and dice vegetables into an assortment of shapes and sizes. We have magic towels, sold by a desperate-looking fellow named Vince, which can soak up all the fluids in your body by a mere touch.

Today, I will be burning on two infamous infomercial products that purportedly solve soft problems. In other words, bad design.

One problem with the world today is that Americans do not have time to workout. That is a real issue. According to a recent study, Americans are the most productive people on earth (followed by the Irish, FYI). But because Americans are more productive, they are also the most out of shape. Some marketers have taken this as a call to design products that help Americans stay in shape during the course of their busy lives.

We don’t have time to workout because we are always at work. So would it not be wonderful for us to have a product that allowed us to workout while we worked? Enter the Hawaii Chair. The chair provides an abdominal workout while you are on the job! Incredible! Not really: Watch the video. One must be insane to think that any work could be accomplished while the mechanized seat rotates and jerks the body violently in circular motions! Not to mention one would look absolutely mad sitting in one these things.

Sometimes, one does have time to workout, but this can be grueling. Repeated reps from curling irons can impact joints in negative ways. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a product that did the hard stuff for us without us having to move? Enter the Shake Weight. It is a vibrating weight that a person holds in a stationary position (as opposed to curling). The workout emerges from the "challenge" of holding the weight still, while it furiously vibrates. And the kicker is that it now comes in a model built especially for men.

Besides being easy fodder for late-night talk shows, these products are epic fails for another reason. They fail because they do not properly define, or solve, the problem. With its ungainly motions, the Hawaii chair causes more problems than it solves. The only workout given is trying to stay on the chair. The Shake Weight doesn’t save Americans more time, because the time holding the Shake Weight can easily be spent curling a traditional iron. Overall, the products here speak more to the laziness of a small segment of Americans more than it does to real problems of working out.