I admire people with clever ideas.  Those who notice what doesn’t work, who come up with a solution to make our lives easier and better, and then make it happen.   I appreciate smart design.


Here are five smart designs that I encountered in one week…


1. Packaging from LEGO
I ordered additional tracks for our son’s LEGO train set.  When the box arrived, I didn’t think anything of it.  Until I opened it up and saw this message…

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.39.07 AM.png

Smart!  I quickly looked on the outside of the box and there was no mention that the parcel was even from LEGO – nothing in the mailing address, on the box… no child or adult would ever know that a fun, colourful gift was inside.  Even when the delivery man handed me the parcel, he spelled out L-E-G-O.  “Never want to ruin a surprise!”  Apparently keeping LEGO a secret is a thing…

2. Online Chat Help

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.39.16 AM.png

I was teaching an online course and a candidate was having difficulties using a mind mapping tool.  I was in our son’s room, waiting to see if he’d nap in his crib, when I decided to look on their web page to check out their FAQs.   A customer service chat box appeared.

After typing in one sentence, within seconds I was offered a solution.  Not only is this great customer service, but an example of smart design.  A solution that provides access to support that might be helpful to people with hearing impairments, a Mom in a quiet room, or someone in the middle of a meeting.  It meets the needs of many.


3. Poke-A-Dot

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.39.26 AM.png

Our son LOVES this book!  From the moment I showed it to him in Chapters, he carried it around all day.  It’s a counting book where each animal has a “bubble” to pop.  As he gets older, it will encourage him to touch objects as he counts and he’ll know which animals he’s already counted.  Smart design.  A fun book that teaches early number concepts.

4. Jamie Bell Adventure Playground

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.39.35 AM.png

As soon as I saw this park, I loved it.  It looks and feels magical.  Imagination is the word that comes to mind.  So when I read the sign near the park, it totally made sense.  

This is a very special playground.  Children contributed to the design by drawing their ideas of a dream playground.  Then in the spring of 1998, children worked alongside parents, teachers and volunteers to build the Adventure Playground.  

It was designed by kids!  It also explains why every kid who approached the park that day, did so with screams of excitement.  Kids creating for kids.  Smart design.

5. Booking Appointments Online

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.39.42 AM.png

My new favourite.  I’m so glad that more travel clinics, dentist offices, and medical offices are beginning to adopt online booking of appointments.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being on hold for 20 minutes just to book an appointment, when I can sign in, choose my location, date, and time in less than five minutes amongst the chaos in our house. Smart design.


What I love about smart design is that it doesn’t need to come from engineers or a research and development department.   It can come from kids, from moms with simple ideas that become million dollar companies, or grandfathers with solutions to everyday problems.  This is probably the reason why I love watching shows like Dragon’s Den.

Smart design is about people who understand the principles of human-centred design. They recognize a challenge / problem.  They come up with a solution in hopes of making things easier or better for others.  They prototype, get feedback from their target audience to help make their product/service better, actually use the feedback and make changes, and in the end have a solution that is tailor made to meet unique needs.  
No degree or training required.  To use or facilitate a human-centred design process,  you just need to observe everyday life, have a desire to do good, and be open to what others have to say.