Chindogu-Inspired Interfaces: Designing Un-Useless Interactions
I recently learned about a brilliant art form on the podcast 99% Invisible: Chindogu.
As described in 99% Invisible’s blog post, Chindogu “is the the art of inventing everyday gadgets that appear to solve a particular problem… but are in reality pretty useless.” Chindogu was conceived by Japanese inventor Kenji Kawakami in the early 1990s and led to the creation of hundreds of Chindogu by Kawakami and other inventors.
Chindogu are typically in the realm of physical inventions, ranging from a solar-powered flashlight to shoe umbrellas. But, what if you created digital interfaces using the principles of Chindogu? I decided to take on the challenge.
There are ten tenets of the art form:
- A Chindogu cannot be for real use.
- A Chindogu must exist.
- Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy.
- Chindogu are tools for everyday life.
- Chindogu are not for sale.
- Humor must not be the sole reason for creating a Chindogu.
- Chindogu is not propaganda.
- Chindogu are never taboo.
- Chindogu cannot be patented.
- Chindogu are without prejudice.
Admittedly, I’m cheating with regard to the second tenet, but in the spirit of rapid prototyping, I created low-fidelity mockups in lieu of a finished product.
Instant Email Declutter-er
With so many newsletters, family email threads, and pesky work emails cluttering your inbox, it’s time to take control and reach the Holy Grail: inbox zero. This invention will snooze all but five emails at random for you, as often as you like. Which emails are urgent? Who knows! You might as well snooze them all and make your inbox squeaky clean.
Favorite Song Mashup
Days are short, but songs are long. How can you possibly listen to all your favorite songs efficiently? The answer is to cut them down to a manageable length. With this invention, every time you thumbs up a song you like, it gets cut down and mashed up with all your other favorite songs. In no time, you’ll be listening to all your favorite songs in 10-second chunks!
One-Tap Food Delivery
Companies strive for checkout experiences that involve as few clicks or taps as possible. This invention delivers a true one-tap experience to order food from local restaurants. After your payment and address have been set up, all orders are placed with a single tap. You take care of the tap, we’ll take care of choosing the food and charging your credit card as soon as possible. You’ll save a few minutes ordering your food, and hopefully get something you like when it arrives.
What I Learned
Coming up with Chindogu-inspired interfaces turned out to be an unexpectedly challenging and rewarding exercise. The goal was to design interactions that were not completely useful, but also not completely useless, and that were equally charming and frustrating. I had to stretch my thinking to fit these seemingly contradictory constraints and I generated a lot of interesting ideas in only a few minutes of brainstorming.
Thinking up Chindogu-inspired interfaces (or actual Chindogu) on your own or with your team could be a valuable creative exercise to break out of familiar thought patterns. Try adjusting constraints to generate more ideas, or build something un-useless related to a feature you’re already working on. After all, many Chindogu are only a few steps away from becoming useful products.
Let me know what you think about creating Chindogu-inspired interfaces as a creative exercise and happy Chindogu-making!