Words You Should Know

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By James Nestor / Published by Dwell
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Charrette: An intense period of design activity in which a group collaborates to work out a solution to a specific design problem. It’s like a workshop, but sounds either more important or more pretentious.

Product Design: You’ll be the star of the next charrette by throwing around some of these words. Illustration by Andrew Holder

In situ: The state in which designed products are tested. Architects use the term differently, to describe buildings created from raw materials at the location upon which the building will be built.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: A theoretical psychology used by manufacturers to develop products that appeal to consumers. The pyramidal hierarchy begins with complex human needs at the top (creativity, morality) and ends with base needs at the bottom (food, water, air).

Open design: Like its computer programming cousin "open source," this is a process in which products are developed through publicly shared information. The open design approach is usually used for creating charitable products or new technologies.

Poka-yok: A Japanese-derived term of imbuing fail-safe devices in a product that help prevent consumers from using it incorrectly. The little tabs on cassette tapes that prevent overrecording are one example; so is the pop-up window in word-processing programs asking users if they want to save the document before shutting down.

TIMTOWTDI: Pronounced "Tim Toady," this acronym for "There is more than one way to do it" stresses that a problem can have numerous product development solutions. As for the people who use this phrase, we need only say "TDSSLTMAAMTMF" ("These dudes should spend less time making acronyms and more time making friends").