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Newsletter #1019: The “Solve a Problem” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Solving a problem can be much easier than marketing something new. When you start with a problem, you start with a need. You’re not trying to create a market for what you’ve got, you’re filling a void.

Here are three remarkable ways to do it:

1. Solve problems no one thinks about
2. Solve problems for a group
3. Solve the problems everyone else is afraid to
4. Check it out: What color is it?

1. Solve problems no one thinks about

Tattly, a temporary tattoo company focuses on one thing: beautifully designed temporary tattoos. The owner says the idea came from seeing her daughter come home with too many ugly temporary tattoos from other kids’ birthday parties. An odd problem to fix, but one that’s obviously resonated with a lot of other people. The small company’s grown completely from word of mouth and now sells their temporary tattoos at major retailers.

The lesson: There are lots of little problems like these that will make most people say “who cares?” But if you find a solution to these problems — like Tattly did — you might find that a lot of people care.

Learn more: HOW Design

2. Solve problems for a group

Most fonts are designed so that letters are patterned very similar to one another. It’s aesthetically pleasing, but for people with dyslexia, it’s hard to read. Christian Boer, a Dutch designer, created a font called Dyslexie that helps emphasize the differences between each letter to make it harder for the brain to confuse them or swap them around. Then, he made this font open-sourced so that anyone can download and use it and included a list of books and e-books that use Dyslexie. (And over 12,000 people have downloaded it this year.)

The lesson: Word of mouth travels faster in groups. By solving a problem for the dyslexic community, Christian created a word of mouth topic for that group to spread.

Learn more: Slate

3. Solve the problems everyone else is afraid to

Better is an app backed by the Mayo Clinic that connects people with “Professional Health Assistants.” The PHAs give personalized advice on health insurance benefits, resolving medical bills, and finding the right doctors and specialists. The people behind Better took on one of the toughest challenges a startup could do: modernizing the technical, highly regulated, and extremely complex healthcare industry. It’s a huge task — but it’s working. And the more progress they make, the harder it’ll be for anyone else to catch up.

The lesson: Solving the problems that most people are too afraid to try to solve is where amazing things can happen. Richard Branson did it with Virgin Airlines, Elon Musk did it with Tesla, and now, maybe, Better can do it with healthcare.

4. Check it out: What color is it?

We found this cool site from Tattly founder Tina Roth Eisenberg’s design blog, Swiss Miss. It shows the time, down to the second, in hex color values.

Check it out: What color is it?

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