Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary: Different Design Philosophies

Yakima Button Down Ski Rack - Concept Sketch

When it comes to designing products, a designer can choose to take an evolutionary or revolutionary approach. Evolution is easy - you're evolving a concept through iterations until you have something better than before, but still the same general idea as before. An excellent example of evolutionary design is easily seen in the tech industry, as new iterations in computer hardware are designed and released each year.

Revolutionary design, on the other hand, takes imagination, vision, and creativity. A designer seeking a revolutionary concept draws from many different potential sources to find inspiration for new ways to solve problems. Apple's introduction of the iPhone was a revolutionary design, removing a phone's most ubiquitous feature: the buttons. My first ever design project out of school, the button down rack, is another example of a design that ended up being revolutionary: It solved a problem in a way that hadn't been used before.

Previously, car racks had a scissor closing system that would clamp the skis on top of a car, but would have to compress them extremely tightly in order to secure the load. The button down rack took cycling technology and added teeth and a ratchet mechanism to dramatically simplify rooftop ski rack technology, changing the way rack mounts worked in the outdoor industry from that point on.

Revolutionary design is multidisciplinary. A designer seeking revolutionary designs frequently finds applications and ideas from seemingly unrelated fields which experience synergy in ways that haven't been exploited previously.

Yakima Button Down Ski Rack - Production Model

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