🗑 The Shopify trash can

One of our common themes is that design matters.

  • Design is something everyone does.

  • Design benefits from experimentation.

  • Design is about effectiveness and appearance.

One story Tobi Lütke, a co-founder of Shopify tells, is the lunchroom trash can.

Shopify started as the backend for Lütke and his partners to sell snowboard. More people wanted their software than their snowboards and (yada yada yada) Shopify was born.

As the company grew to forty employees, Lütke decided to cater lunch. It went well. At first.

"By month two the novelty had worn off and Dan (Weinand) and I had to clean the kitchen area. We said, this is interesting, let's try something. First we posted a new policy: everyone has to clean up. That worked for a little while. Then we tried social nudging. We posted a picture of Daniel being really sad doing dishes to see if we could shame people into doing it. That worked for a little while.

“Eventually what we realized was that instead of getting people to change their mind we made it simpler to do the thing we wanted. Every exit now has a place for the tray and cutlery, and it's always empty and we've never had a problem. We are now six thousand people, we serve millions of lunches a year and it's never been an issue."

That’s good design.

Physical design, like trash cans, is often the easiest to see but design opportunities exist anywhere an action is taken. What procedures do your co-workers follow? What sequence do steps follow? What buttons do we click, tap, or slide? These questions are why design matters.