Henry Dreyfuss: The Godfather of Inside-Out Design

When we were first talking about what the philosophy was behind how Kicker would design products, one of the terms we came up with was Inside-Out Design. Meaning that we care as much about how the product works as we do about how it looks or feels. In fact, we start there, working from the inside (the behavior) to the outside (the form).

Well, imagine our surprise to find that one of our design heroes, Henry Dreyfuss, said the same thing back in 1955 in his classic book Designing for People!

To whit:

An honest job of design should flow from the inside out, not from the outside in…Some manufacturers were reluctant to accept this point of view. They considered the industrial designer merely a decorator, to be called upon when the product was finished.

Ah, how much things have changed. And yet, so little too! Too many products still bring in the designers as decorators at the end of the project, often to put (in a now politicized phrase) “lipstick on a pig” when really the job of design starts earlier, making sure the inside of the product works as well as the outside. There are many beautiful devices that are a nightmare to use (and some horribly ugly devices that are actually pretty useful).

The trick is to start not with the mechanics/technology/engineering, or with the form or visuals. Instead, start with the behavior, the interaction design. What do the users need to do? What are the activities this product needs to support? Let the answers to those questions drive (and be influenced by) the technology, brand, business needs, materials, and shape. Design from the inside out.