- By Henry Petroski

Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design

  • Title: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design
  • Author: Henry Petroski
  • ISBN: 9781400032938
  • Page: 276
  • Format: Paperback
  • Small Things Considered Why There Is No Perfect Design Why has the durable paper shopping bag been largely replaced by its flimsy plastic counterpart What circuitous chain of improvements led to such innovations as the automobile cup holder and the swivel

    Why has the durable paper shopping bag been largely replaced by its flimsy plastic counterpart What circuitous chain of improvements led to such innovations as the automobile cup holder and the swiveling vegetable peeler With the same relentless curiosity and lucid, witty prose he brought to his earlier books, Henry Petroski looks at some of our most familiar objects andWhy has the durable paper shopping bag been largely replaced by its flimsy plastic counterpart What circuitous chain of improvements led to such innovations as the automobile cup holder and the swiveling vegetable peeler With the same relentless curiosity and lucid, witty prose he brought to his earlier books, Henry Petroski looks at some of our most familiar objects and reveals that they are, in fact, works in progress For there can never be an end to the quest for the perfect design To illustrate his thesis, Petroski tells the story of the paper drinking cup, which owes its popularity to the discovery that water glasses could carry germs He pays tribute to the little plastic tripod that keeps pizza from sticking to the box and analyzes the numerical layouts of telephones and handheld calculators Small Things Considered is Petroski at his most trenchant and provocative, casting his eye not only on everyday artifacts but on their users as well.

    1 thought on “Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design

    1. Bleah. I'm not a student of design, but still I am familiar with almost every example discussed. And the constraints he harps on are obvious; for example of course a toothbrush isn't one size fits all, but yet it wouldn't be practical to sell them in sizes, either.I did not know that, at least in some rewired houses, "all upper receptacles are controlled by the room's light switch, so that lamps plugged into them can all be turned on with the single flick. lower receptacles are hot-wired." Maybe [...]

    2. I learned about:--The development of bottled water.--The invention of the paper bag.--The development of duct tape.I skimmed:--Everything else.I am not joking: at one point, Petroski gives a long-winded account of ordering dinner from a design perspective. He talks about "designing" your dessert."To Engineer is Human" was a good book; this is not.

    3. Some good examples, buried amidst infuriating piles of repetition. Design faces constraints; I know. I get it. Stop telling me. Seriously, move on. Enough already!I really liked learning about the history of the mix tap (the lack thereof being a peeve of mine, from living in England), but I actually found myself skimming the ends of the chapters, when he'd move from the specific to the general. Yes, designers face limitsl me again, I dare you.Honestly, I've read other books by this author that w [...]

    4. Overall this was an interesting book and a topic I had not previously read about at length. There were many fascinating stories of inventions and improvements to products we use and take for granted every day. At times he was very repetitive, taking longer than necessary to hammer home a point that had already been successfully delivered. And a few of the things he talks about are now dated and have moved far beyond the version he references, but the principals remain the same and it did make me [...]

    5. An exploration of design in real life, this book addresses a bunch of commonplace objects (e.g. paper cups, paper bags, calculators) and discusses their evolution. Since so many items are addressed, it's not terribly comprehensive, but it's a nice compendium of the flotsam and jetsam of trivial knowledge I enjoy so well, like where Dixie cups got their name.

    6. Makes me seriously reconsider my anti-book-burning stance.I made it 32 pages in. This book is so mind numbing that it's condescending. I'm going to quote a "paragraph" verbatim. When you liberally want to die, skip to the end of this review.(Context: Henry is describing a glass of water)"With imperfections of manufacture, however subtle, detected in its bottom, I am now looking even more closely at the glass that just yesterday I had so admired for its seeming perfection of form. With the glass [...]

    7. Good read on how common things in life have been designed and continue to evolve in design with improvements. The author states that all things created are designed, but designed with constraints and therefore require compromise. It is an easy reade stories flow well. Picked this book up at a small bookstore on Emerald Isle while we were on vacation!

    8. Less Than PerfectDesigning real things inevitably creates flawsReviewed by Stephen CassIEEE Spectrum, March 2004, pp. 56I own an Oral-B toothbrush. I like it, especially its fat, curving handle, which fits my hand much better than the narrow straight handles of normal toothbrushes do. But there's a problem with the Oral-B: its distinctive handle is too big to fit into the holes of the toothbrush holder above my sink, so I end up balancing the toothbrush across the holder and regularly knock it i [...]

    9. This is an entertaining book, even though I thought Petroski's point was made some distance before the end of the book, and that he goes on a little too long. His point is that even the most mundane of human activities involves design, at least after a fashion, because design is about decisions. And decisions are about trade-offs, constraints, & compromise, and this is why no design is--or ever can be--perfect. Mr. Petroski is always the charming representative of engineering culture to thos [...]

    10. I greatly enjoyed the concept, something that has constantly fascinated me for years (things in our world do not exist by accident or simply occur in nature, someone had to have had an idea, someone had to approve that idea, and so on until the seemingly mundane thing before you existed.d why does it even need to exist?)However, the execution was lacking. A few chapters were fabulous, I particularly enjoyed a later one about toothbrushes and the tale of home remodeling, but it was rather repetit [...]

    11. Not my favorite Petroski book, quite possibly my least favorite, because the author beats you over the head with his theme that design is about compromise. Not that his theme isn't a good one to build a collection of essays around but Petroski isn't subtle about what he is trying to explain and the repeated emphasis throughout the book does get annoying. The chapters themselves aren't bad but there's also lots of fluff mixed in with real design analyses, such as how cooking dinner is a good demo [...]

    12. Every time I read a Henry Petroski book I never see the world the same way again. If you find the natural world exciting and enjoy reading about the wonders of our planet, you should try reading Henry’s books. He does the same for those unimportant items (pencils, paper cups and door knobs) lying around your home or office as the nature writers do for eagles, flowers and mountains. Henry can make you see the beauty and drama in a toothbrush! Just as studying nature gives us a glimpse into the [...]

    13. The first chapter of this non-fiction work did a great job of explaining why there are no perfect designs of anything invented. It does make me look at everything I utilize with a way different view now. If you have an interest in the emergence of objects around you, this book will hold your interest. As I scanned the titles of the author's other books, I see others that would be of interest. Although I did skip some of the diatribes on subjects I wasn't interested in, the book as a total was a [...]

    14. Design involves tradeoffs. I already knew that, but there are lots of examples herein. I didn't like it as much as his earlier books on pencils and bookshelves, but it had some interesting bits of info, such as why phone and calculator keypads are different. People who enjoyed this may also enjoy books by Donald Norman and John McPhee.

    15. This could have been done in half the number of pages. Design involves compromise. I know. That's what you told me on the book jacket. Many cool examples interwoven with a thousand reminders that design involves compromise. I liked learning about Brita filters and OXO Good Grips kitchen tools. But I got tired of "learning" that design involves compromise. So I stopped reading with two chapters left to go. I bet I missed the part about design involving compromise.

    16. A good idea for a book, poorly executed. It offers precious little in the way of actual design advice beyond "good design always requires compromise". It is long on ponderous theorizing, which I didn't find it very enlightening. If you like the idea of this book, I recommend "Designing Design" by Kenya Hara, which I found inspiring. It's twice as kong as those book, and it will go twice as fast.

    17. It is fun to get a handle on how things are the way they are. Like why did we end up with cup holders in our cars, paper or plastic, or the paper cup. Lots of things one never thinks about but just know about, maybe.

    18. "Small things" is a small pleasure. Well done if inconsequential look at design compromises in everyday things like toothbrushes and doorknob/light switch placement. Fun look at these little things leads to serious consideration of "big" design issues.

    19. A wide-ranging exploration of the history and design of the everyday technologies like supermarket aisles and telephone keypads that are practically invisible in their ubiquity.Read at February 2007 by the Book

    20. This sort of gets a little sluggish as you keep reading it, but it's still pretty interesting. He dissects and gives you fairly in depth histories on everyday small objects like the paper cup or paper clips. The author is a guy you've come across on NPR.

    21. I'm willing to admit that this has been lost somewhere on my husband's bookshelves, and if I ever find it again I would probably put it on our bedside table and read a chapter a week until it's done in a couple of months. But I didn't like it enough to go hunting for it.

    22. Petroski has the ability to take mundane things, like drinking glasses and doorknobs, and break apart their design challenges in such a way that you're always left wanting to know more. As an engineer, I love his work. As a curious reader, I can't get enough.

    23. I got this from my new job's Christmas party "white elephant" swap. Still in the shrink wrap, but when I get time to read, it's 1st on my list.

    24. The book gives an insight to the science of design in the things we see in our everyday lives. Interesting read.

    25. The author has some great ideas, but the way he was writing them its kind of boring. As mentioned earlier your thinking will change after reading this book and understand the deep meaning.

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