Design

ThinkPad 8 comfortably at home in the Tablet 2 Bluetooth Keyboard

ThinkPad 8 comfortably at home in the Tablet 2 Bluetooth Keyboard

Every once in a while something happens that we didn’t plan for and it turns out to be a positive. I like to refer to this as a “happy accident”. Bob Ross, host of the popular public television series "The Joy of Painting," was also a fan of this phenomenon. He was the master of turning a seemingly misguided slip of the brush into positives like a picturesque knot-hole on a gnarly old oak tree.  The end result was usually more interesting than what he had intended. For a listing of the top 25 happy accidents click here. “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”  Bob Ross Our newly announced ThinkPad 8 tablet is a great product with accessories like the Quickshot smart cover and a forthcoming protective case. We did not, however, design an accessory keyboard specifically for the product. Keyboards have a pretty hefty development price tag and the predicted sales volumes were not so high. A Tablet 8 dedicated keyboard accessory just didn’t make the cut. Portrait or landscape, the choice is yours Interestingly enough, my design team discovered something along the lines of a happy accident for the new ThinkPad 8 tablet. It fits perfectly in the trough of the ThinkPad Tablet 2 Bluetooth Keyboard....

Continue reading “The ThinkPad 8 Happy Accident”

Selfie taken with the Quickshot feature in the Lenovo men's room mirror  : )

Selfie taken with the Quickshot feature in the Lenovo men's room mirror : )

Technical specifications are important when we develop new products. They must have the right combination of battery life, ports, memory configurations, weight, screen size/resolution, and of course processor performance. This has been true for years within the computer industry. At Lenovo there will always be lots of technical wizards working on this stuff. In a rapidly changing tech world, people also demand an emotionally satisfying user experience. When my team was creating the design of the ThinkPad 8, we expended significant energy shaping such an experience.  During the design concept phase we focused a lot of our attention on trying to develop a feature that would elicit a positive emotional response. We brainstormed for days working in small tiger teams looking for the right stuff. We talked about supporting multi-mode functionality with innovative stand, ensuring the tablet was narrow enough to be held comfortably with one hand, and the importance of overall fit and finish. After much debate and study, we ultimately decided we needed to do those things well, but we also needed something new. It was time to invent. We thought there might be a way to create something that would simplify the photo- taking experience. Due to its portability, the ThinkPad 8 actually makes a great camera. I personally hate trying to take photos with a larger tablet, they’re just too unwieldy to use quickly or discreetly. Seeing people take photos on large tablets...

Continue reading “The Thinking Behind ThinkPad 8’s Quickshot”

Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with inventing unique stands for reading

Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with inventing unique stands for reading

In the world of hardware design, tablets have traditionally been seen as a race for thin. You can’t begin to imagine how many meetings I’ve attended over the last year debating tablet thickness. It must be one of the hottest topics in the entire industry, not just Lenovo. Every effort goes into squeezing the air out of tablets in order to gain a scant fraction of a millimeter advantage in thickness. Beyond actual thickness, we also seek to taper the design toward the edges to further enhance the impression of thin. Sadly, those pesky connectors and buttons seem to always get in the way of making the sleekest form . Do we really need them? I tend to prefer wireless solutions that provide freedom and simplify my world. The Yoga tablet integrates high and low stand functionality thanks to a unique profile With all the recent publicity surrounding the design of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet , and the integration of a flip out leg for viewing and typing modes, it makes me wonder if this isn’t the wave of the future.  At Lenovo we call these positions high and low angle modes. High is typically used for viewing content such as a movie and low primarily for typing. For the Yoga tablet, these modes were uniquely enabled by the use of a row of cylindrical batteries forming an asymmetrical profile. It could be done without using that form, but it would be...

Continue reading “A Leg to Stand On”

Birdseye view of the Bento box inspired design

Birdseye view of the Bento box inspired design

Few people have ever seen the “vintage” design model created by Richard Sapper that served as the inspiration for what would become ThinkPad. The concept was imagined outside of the development community within IBM. It was born within the design group to invigorate IBM design. You should not be surprised to learn that it was a nearly perfect “box” shape with proportions and original measures very similar to a Japanese Bento box. Sapper himself has often drawn that comparison when he references ThinkPad’s origin, and the reference is well known within industry and design circles. I just read an article that once again made that connection. You can read it here. The design is still as striking today as it was in the early 1990s The intentionally “boxy” all-black concept amazingly pre-dates the invention of the TrackPoint and the introduction of color displays. For me, it’s hard to even remember a time before these two innovations occurred. Included in the design is an innovative hinge geometry, which at the time was code named the “half moon.” One look at it and you know why. It still looks cool today. All of this is of interest, but there was more to the design than just a simple black box with a unique hinge. The half moon hinge telegraphs how it opens....

Continue reading “Richard Sapper & The Origins of The ThinkPad Keyboard”

Clocks from the design center help keep things synchronized

Clocks from the design center help keep things synchronized

As many of my followers can tell, of late I’ve been conspicuously absent from the blogosphere. It’s nearly been a year since my last post about the ThinkPad Anniversary and an event we hosted at the MoMA. Some people have even speculated that I had died, gone into exile on a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific, or mysteriously left Lenovo under cover of darkness. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best with his famous quote, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The simple reality is that blogging takes significant time, especially if you want to do it right. Lately, I just haven’t had the time required. I’ve been working nearly around the clock on strategic design projects for Lenovo. Over the last year I’ve been to Italy, Germany, Japan, and of course China so many times I’ve lost count. Keeping the design trains running takes a lot of horsepower. Unfortunately, blogging had to take a back seat. I pioneered blogging at Lenovo with its inaugural blog Design Matters. It launched shortly after the landmark acquisition of IBM’s PC business. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about blogging but I quickly discovered that it was a wonderful way to have an interactive dialogue with people and get real-time feedback. It’s also a superb creative outlet for me personally. I like it. Now the time is right...

Continue reading “Time to Blog”