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Definition: Eliminate the most essential component or attribute, potentially replacing it with a contextual feature.

Arguably the most difficult pattern to work with, Subtraction not only requires creative thinking, but also a great deal of discipline. An example of this pattern at work is the iPod shuffle. The display screen component of the iPod is eliminated, and the result is essentially a very small portable walkman packing comparably large memory space.

The key here is thinking of a creative way to use the product, with an emphasis on use.  Substraction is not going to directly translate into a new product.  It facilitates thinking creatively, challenging institutionalized assumptions about design, application, etc.  Subtraction generates creative potential uses for a hypothetical product, and these uses channeled into new product development.

The result is an entirely new product, with a new function, use, or consumer benefit.  This implies the existence of a new and untapped market as well…


1. It’s OK to Blackout « The Inventive Thinking Project - August 14, 2007

[…] Subtraction […]

2. Happy Hour « The Inventive Thinking Project - October 19, 2007

[…] Subtraction […]

3. Viva la Revolucion « The Inventive Thinking Project - November 29, 2007

[…] Subtraction […]

4. Free Air « The Inventive Thinking Project - January 9, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

5. An Apple TV Remote? « The Inventive Thinking Project - January 22, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

6. Simple As Possible, But Not Simple « The Inventive Thinking Project - January 23, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

7. A New Garfield Spin Off « The Inventive Thinking Project - February 28, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

8. More Hands-Free Technology « The Inventive Thinking Project - June 17, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

9. Restaurant For Rent « The Inventive Thinking Project - July 2, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

10. A Better Direct Connect « The Inventive Thinking Project - August 4, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

11. Weather Reports, Streamlined « The Inventive Thinking Project - October 14, 2008

[…] Subtraction […]

12. Keeper HD « Hubapps Blog - May 12, 2010

[…] Rather than as an addition of user interface metaphors, the correct way to think about the touch interface is as the removal of antiquated habits and conventions.  The subtraction of this layer is a modern, profoundly irrefutable example of the application of one of the classic templates of innovation, not coincidentally called Subtraction (the other 4 are Task Unification, Multiplication, Division, and Attribute Dependency.  Read more). […]

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