Anyone trying to figure out which kinds of innovation are most worth paying attention to has to come up with ways to, as Wired magazine puts it, “size up ideas and separate the truly world-changing from the merely interesting.” Here are seven things to look for.

“Forget Apple’s overpraised hardware aesthetic,” writes Wired. “Its greatest contribution to industrial design was to recognize that nobody reads user’s manuals.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user ntr23.

The terrific May Wired story “How to Spot the Future” notes that anyone trying to figure out which kinds of innovation are most worth paying attention to has to come up with ways to “size up ideas and separate the truly world-changing from the merely interesting.”

How do you that? “At Wired, where we constantly endeavor to pinpoint the inventions and trends that will define the future, we have developed our own set of rules,” writes executive editor Thomas Goetz. “We have seen some common themes emerge, patterns that have fostered the most profound innovations of our age.”

Wired lists seven rules for what to look for: Look for cross-pollinators; surf the exponentials; favor the liberators; give points for audacity; bank on openness; demand deep design; and spend time with time wasters.

Here are details on just one of the rules: #6, Demand Deep Design.

“Too often in technology, design is applied like a veneer after the hard work is done. That approach ignores how essential design is in our lives,” writes Goetz. Good design is “much, much harder than it looks,” he says, but:

Thankfully, we are on the verge of a golden age of design, where the necessary tools and skills — once such limited resources — are becoming automated and available to all of us. This timing is critical. “Too much information” has become the chorus of complaint from all quarters, and the cure is not more design but deeper design, design that filters complexity into accessible units of comprehension and utility.

Forget Apple’s overpraised hardware aesthetic; its greatest contribution to industrial design was to recognize that nobody reads user’s manuals. So it pretty much eliminated them. You can build as many stunning features into a product as you like; without a design that makes them easy to use, they may as well be Easter eggs.

Consider Facebook. The service squashed MySpace, Goetz says, because it “helped people bring design into their lives as never before.” Facebook lets us “curate our friends, categorize our family photos, and bring (at least the appearance of) continuity to our personal histories.” Pinterest, he adds, does this too, promising “to let us organize our interests and inspirations into a clear, elegant form.” Facebook and Pinterest “turn us into designers and our daily experience into a lifelong project of curation. This is deep design commoditized — the expertise of IDEO without the pricey consulting contract.”

For more details, the full story is here.

(A side note: As someone who still likes to read on paper, I love the way this article looks in the hardcopy of the magazine. Paging through the main text, clever sidebars, rich art, and zippy Wired design is a satisfying way to consume this package of material. Deep-design-wise, online suffices, but print excels.)