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Matthew E. May

Quality Insider

Elegant Solutions Part 2

More of my favorite things

Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 15:57

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of Matthew May’s “Elegant Solutions.” Read Part 1 here.

I’ve written before about traditional “specs.” How they’re old school. How they rarely help define and describe what we judge our satisfaction by: the experience.

Now comes routehappy.com, which is an intuitive, user-friendly travel site with a simple goal: help you find the “happiest” flight at the lowest price.

I travel quite a bit. More than I’d like. More and more, traveling is becoming a nightmare experience. I’ve often thought, “If I knew then what I know now about that flight, I’d never have booked it.”

Uber has made ground transportation delightful. But what about air travel?

Routehappy to the rescue. It’s brilliant. (Someone should do this for cars and car buying!)

Oru Kayak

Big shout out to friend (and Laws of Subtraction contributor) Dan Markovitz for turning me on to this.

You don’t have to be a kayaker to appreciate the Oru Kayak, just like you don’t have to know how to do origami to appreciate the art of it. Oru Kayak is like that.

In fact, it’s billed as “the origami kayak,” and it’s enough to tempt me to preorder one. When I was going to school at Wharton in Philly, I learned to scull on the Schuykill River. Crewing is a big preppy sport, and a great workout.

Now I live on a lake, and have often thought of buying a kayak, but they are expensive, and you need storage/docking amenities. The Oru Kayak solves these problems, for $850.

From the Oru Kayak website: “The origami skin has creases permanently molded in, so it folds easily between boat and case. There is only one seam—above the water line, on top of the boat. It closes tight with a watertight rubber gasket. Solid plastic ribs keep the cross-sectional shape. A rigid floorboard (which also becomes the lid of the case) reinforces the cockpit. Simple straps and buckles hold everything together, making assembly quick and intuitive.”

Preorder now and you’ll have it in four months.

WTHR: weather dial

Most weather apps I’ve tried are complicated and bloated, giving me too much information.

WTHR is an iPhone weather app ($1.99) designed by David Elgena that shrinks the entire experience of weather down to a single screen experience. There are no settings screens, no ads, no weather radars, no chances of rain (which are never on the mark), and eliminating the need to push any buttons.

A simple dial spins to the forecast of the day, showing an icon of clouds, sun, or rain. Simple typography says the forecast in as few words as possible: “Sunny & 85°” or “Cloudy & 77°.” Below that, you can see the seven-day forecast. And below that, a few simple toggles: like F° to C°.

Dieter Rams would love it; it follows his 10 principles of design: innovative, useful, aesthetic, and, of course (principle No. 10) has as little design as possible. As Elgena’s site says, “We may have stumbled upon the digital version of what Einstein and George Clooney’s baby would have looked like.”

Minimalist wallet

I invested $45 in this project when it was on Kickstarter, because, like the Capsule wallet designers of the Minimalist wallet, I’ve never been entirely happy with previous wallets. The closest I’ve come before this one is one my daughter made for me out of duct tape.

It was billed as “A reimagined super-thin card-case style wallet crafted for the design conscious minimalist.” Perfect.

This is my current wallet. I love it. The innovation is the leather strap to slip cash into. It holds just the right number of cards, and the single slit on the reverse side holds my go-to debit card. It comes in black, brown, gray, and blue.

Here’s the skinny. (Pardon the pun.)

Faraday Porteur

Another Kickstarter project, the Faraday Porteur was originally a joint project of IDEO designers and the frame-builder Rock Lobster for the Oregon Manifest Challenge, where it won the People’s Choice award.

Faraday Bicycles is a new company dedicated to revolutionary bicycle innovation and design who believe that better bikes make a better world: “Bicycles trim our waistlines, brighten our commutes, help make our cities cleaner and more vibrant, and bring a smile to our faces. So we’ve designed this bike with one simple goal: Give more people more to smile about.”

This bike reimagines the rider experience in an around-town, all-utility bike. It’s electric! For many people, this solves many problems. Like hills. Like carrying stuff. Like not sweating. Like not needing skin tight Lycra cycling clothes.

As the site says: “Inspired by the classic European delivery bikes of the 1940s and 50s, and updated with state-of-the-art components and construction techniques, the award-winning Faraday Porteur allows novice and experienced riders alike to go farther, faster, with ease. It’s impossible to tell it’s electric until you ride it—and then it’s impossible to imagine riding anything else.”

It’s not cheap ($3,500), but if you pre-order it now, you’ll have it by Christmas. Check out the video!


About The Author

Matthew E. May’s picture

Matthew E. May

Matthew E. May counsels executives and teams through custom designed facilitation, coaching, and training using four basic ingredients: strategy, ideation, experimentation, and lean. He’s been counseling for 30 years, a third of it as a full-time advisor to Toyota. He is the author of four books, the latest The Laws of Subtraction (McGraw-Hill, 2013), and is working on his fifth book. His work has been appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and many other publications. May holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.