The “O-Level,” or Operator-Level, is the lowest level in the production-to-use track of a product. The O-Level is the user level at which the product is deployed in it’s intended capacity. The end user, or operator, is the person who actually puts the product to real-world use.
Many products on the market today are designed by architects, engineers, or product designers who will never have to use the products which they design. This is inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the designers avoid an insidious pitfall: developing a product without O-level input. Every useful product requires O-level input—design input from the people who will ultimately use it.
Unfortunately, some products on the market are produced with little, if any, O-level input. The result of this design/production practice is products that look fashionable but have severe practical flaws. Operators should have no tolerance for products that are produced with this substandard design philosophy.
Because different people have different needs based on either personal preference or the manner in which they will use a given product, there will be some disagreement on what constitutes ideal product design. Nevertheless, we can make a good start in product design by eliminating absurdities. Every so often, a seemingly good idea bubbles to the surface and is incorporated into product design without vetting the idea through O-Level input. This is what we call “planning in a vacuum.” When someone—especially someone who is several levels removed from the end user—makes a design decision without O-Level input, the result will usually be equipment that is impractical to the point of being absurd. Too often, absurdities in design are retained for far too long. Absurd design features are actually “bugs” that should be immediately eliminated.
Ultimately, products must suit the needs of the users for whom they are designed. At DEFIANT, our products are designed, rigorously tested, and refined by people at the O-Level. Our concept space is the outdoors. Our design lab is the mountains. Our workshop is the trail. Every endeavor is guided by user experience, and user feedback is our fuel. Stay tuned for updates on our upcoming line of practically designed outdoor equipment.