Jonathan Brun

More on smart design

Lower costs and save lives, as mentioned in my brief book review of In Pursuit of Elegance. Road intersection design today is terrible and there is much opportunity to make it smarter, safer and lower cost. The 5 minute TED talk below proposes an interesting idea – replace stop signs with yield signs. By doing so, you force people to pay attention to other cars and potentially increase the flow of traffic, when no one is around, you can simply drive through the intersection – reducing your fuel consumption.

Published on July 26, 2010

Design down, making more with less

In the continuing series of blog posts concerning detail driven decision-making. I read the book, In Pursuit of Elegance – Why the Best Ideas have Something Missing by Matthew E. May. It is a short little book with some great examples of design that saves time and money.

A few of the neat designs he discusses include:

A refrigeration system using clay pots that costs about 2$ to make and allows rural Africans to store food safely. The design is extremely simple, you place one clay pot inside the other and fill the gab with wet sand. As the water evaporates, the interior pot cools, very basic thermodynamics. More info on Wikipedia

Another neat design is small houses that feel big. Sara Susanka is the author of The Not so Vig House: A blueprint for the way we really live. Her architectural approach focuses on using all the space in a house, as opposed to wasting it on a fancy sitting room and dining room you use twice a year. By reducing the unused space and properly designing the rest, you can build a 2000 square foot house that feels like a 3500 foot home.

The book also discusses Lance Armstrong’s training methods, fractal geometry and Eat-N-Go burger joints (that have 4 things on the menu). All of these examples tie back to a concept of removing as much as possible from a design until there is nothing left to remove. Basically, Matt May tangibly demonstrates how to apply Occam’s Razor, which states, “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem)”

Published on July 19, 2010

Knives, Santropol Roulant and Happiness

Last year, I spent a couple of mornings working at Santropol Roulant, a non-profit group in Montreal that prepares meals for elderly people. Every morning they prepare hundreds of delicious meals that are then delivered by bike and car throughout Montreal.

As a volunteer, I cut, chopped and prepped the food. It was a lot of cutting. As an amateur chef, I was amazed at the dullness of their knives. Any chef worth his Michelin stars will tell you that knives are your best friend and dull knives, your worst.

Santropol Roulant’s entire organization is centred around food, which is prepared by volunteers. Keeping the volunteers happy and efficient seems like the most important thing there, yet their most basic tool was horrible. They all complained, but no one did anything – not the head chef, the volunteers, or the management!

So, instead of donating money to the very good organization, I went out and bought a set of new, sharp, high quality knives. For about 60$, the knives made volunteers ecstatic. Efficiency, safety and happiness increased for a tiny cost.

Too often, we overlook the most basic elements, but when those elements are part of the core work – they really, really matter. On top of that, keeping your staff, or volunteers happy should always be your priority. Constantly ask yourself, how can I make my colleagues happier and more efficient; often, it takes very little.

Sharp knifes make volunteers happy.

To volunteer at Santropol Rouland, click here.

Published on July 15, 2010

Relaxing when late for a flight

Flying out of Hong Kong is an amazing experience. You hop on a bullet train downtown and before you know it, you are whisking past rice paddies to the airport. Travelling is stressful, especially when you are a bit late. Waiting for a train to take you to your flight has a certain element of unknown to it – When will the train arrive? How long will it take? Will I make my flight?

Coming down the escalators at the train station, you see an amazing sign that truly does comfort you. The sign reminds you to relax, a train will be there in a couple of minutes. All airports should have some equivalent sign – for example, at the security check-in where lines can stretch quite long.  Brilliant!

Published on July 9, 2010

Keep urinals clean on the cheap

In light of my promise to show some great design that has a big impact, here is a urinal.

I took this photo in the Copenhagen Airport (I think). Basically, the urinal has a little fly printed at the exact spot that, if peed on, leads to the least amount of spillage. This makes cleaning up much easier and less frequent – saving money and improving sanitation. Brilliant design that costs absolutely nothing. Of course, men being the simple beasts that we are, always aim for the fly.

Published on July 6, 2010