Relate, Translate, Surprise

May 24, 2024

As John Maeda writes in "The Laws of Simplicity," to make a great product, education about the product is needed.

The principle of relate-translate-surprise helps in leveraging existing human instincts when crafting new products.

At its heart, you should design new products by relating to the existing products in your users' lives. Referencing this as a metaphor in designing and translating it to your context makes it more intuitive for users to understand.

The metaphor of a desktop and folders from one's personal desk for personal computers made it easy for people to understand how to organize files. It related to something we know: folders. And then it translated into the new product context, a computer.

This is good, but if you want to excel, an element of surprise is needed. Something unexpectedly useful that gives a reward to a user. Like the ability to search through all folders and files easily - something that wasn't possible before in the offline metaphor.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, reference the existing world around you when designing new products.