In the business and marketing world there is a known principle named: the Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule. According to this rule, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For example: 80 percent of the sales are generated by 20 percent of its customers, 80 percent of the inventory value is tied up in 20 percent of the items, 80 percent of problems are caused by 20 percent of reasons and 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time (wow! What does that say of the other 80% of our time…?).
Years ago I attended a lecture given by a well-known business coach. He insisted that every one of the business owners in the audience should review its customer list and "fire" 80% of its customers, if it wants to be profitable. At the time I was not yet familiar with this principle and his words were shocking to me. Over the years I came to realize that he had a point. Many times we end up spending a lot of time and energy on things that have proportionally less value to us. Value is a subjective term. You could decide how you define and measure "value". In the business world the most common measure is $$$ but you can definitely add other measures such as fulfillment, satisfaction, pleasure, experience, reputation and so on. You could use any measure as long as it is truly valuable in your life.
The other day, as I was reading another business related article, suggesting an interesting implementation of this rule, I had an idea. What if we applied this rule to the world of design? I thought this through and checked it out on several examples and here is my conclusion:
Roughly, 80% of the design effect and value is determined by 20% of the components.
Imagine you are renovating your kitchen. Boy, you've dreamt of this for a long time and now after years of cooking in a really shvach kitchen you are about to build the kitchen of your dreams. The list is all prepared (you've been putting it together for years); the most highly recommended oven, the state-of-the-art faucet, those new induction burners (that Derorit loves writing about 😛 ), pretty wood cabinet doors or perhaps painted ones- those will go great with that exquisite piece of granite you saw in last year's design exhibition, of course everything needs to be super practical, all pull outs of the latest technology. If you are reading these sentences cynically- change the tone because I am serious. We all want the perfect kitchen. So do I, as a designer, desire the best kitchen for my clients. So write it all down, everything that is important to you, everything that you ever dreamt of, do not skip any item as far-fetched as it may be. Now let's take a look at that list with the 80-20 eyeglasses. What few elements will combine together to give your kitchen that design pizazz, that unique beautiful look?The floor tiles and the cabinet doors? The backsplash with the granite countertop? Choose those few elements that will attract 80% of the attention and create that special effect. All the rest combined will only contribute 20% to the total look, treat them accordingly. Give them thought as they need to blend in with the rest, do not overdo them, do not lose sleep over them and budget them accordingly. How about functionality? Every detail is important and paying attention to the smallest of details will give you an exact result. Examine your work habits in the kitchen; what details will affect that conduct and improve it immensely. Those are the details you want to focus on. For those details you will make the necessary compromises in the planning and in the design, and for them you will set aside a significant part of your budget. All the rest? only as important as a 20% value.
Now, you understand this is not a very scientific rule but rather a heuristics principle. Therefore if you expect to get a clear set of rules out of this post you are about to be disappointed. However this principle puts things in their right proportion and helps us focus our investment of money, time and energy in order to reach a beneficial outcome.
When we set out to build or renovate our home, the lists of wishes, needs and assignments are endless. We are confused. Everything seems so crucial and how will we know what will really have a long lasting effect?You notice the sofas and I have my eye on the floors, you think lighting is a waste of money and I think it is the source of livelihood. I, for example, have a soft spot for faucets, the first thing I did in any house I rented was change the faucets. It may sound absurd to you- why would such a small item have so much value? You see, the faucets, for me, are a part of those 20% of the components that contribute to 80% of the effect. What are those components that although being only 20% of the items have an 80% effect on your home?You must isolate those few elements from the long list and keep them as your top priority. How much energy/ attention/ money are you investing in the rest? Is it proportionate? Every so often take a step back and take a look at your conduct. Are you focused on the 20% "profitable", most contributing items or are you being so commonly sidetracked and sucked up, as this rule demonstrates, by the less contributing items.
How do you go about this? Start off with the "big rocks"– those are the main objectives and elements that will make the home. These will be your anchor in the planning process. All the other things on your list will get their attention as far as they fit in between those "big rocks". (for example: "I want a big laundry room even if it means giving up a den", "I want this beautiful marble and I am willing to choose cheaper cabinet doors to enable it but both are not worth compromising on pull outs").
During the building process I guarantee some things will not go according to plan, maybe even go wrong. How upset should you be? How insistent on getting it right? Use this principle: 80% of your energies will be channeled to 20% of the problems. Please make sure you choose those wisely- according to your values. Remember the measuring of values is subjective and you will decide what is important to you.
I am intrigued by all the ways this rule can be implemented in so many common life experiences (how about: 80% of the time we are wearing only 20% of our clothes, hence we stand in front of a full closet and cry "I have nothing to wear!").
I am still examining how far this can be implemented in design. Let me know if you have good ideas of your own!
Creating spaces people want to live in