Design Subject Matter

The path of least resistance I recently listened to the user-advocate Don Norman give a talk about complexity and how it relates to design. If you're not aware, Don wrote an interesting book on this topic last year called  Living with Complexity. Don suggests that complexity is good and that simplicity is often misleading. Life is complex, rich, and rewarding—but only if it is understandable, sensible, and meaningful. Being a designer at Lenovo, I struggle on a daily basis trying to make complexity more understandable, and hopefully, enjoyable. It's always good to hear from others who share this vision. In the talk, Norman also talked a lot about what he calls "desire lines". These are lines, or paths, that suggest what people really want to do, rather than what designers want them to do. The best real world example of this phenomena is probably the design of sidewalks. Landscape architects are forever making  sidewalks with aesthetic rigidity that mirrors the strict geometry of the adjacent building. People, however, are keen to take the path of least resistance that is usually in conflict with the aesthetic goal or vision created by the designers. What emerges are paths, or informal solutions, to the problem. Sometimes the...

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Alluring design, or best kept in the tackle box ? Lately there seems to be two schools of thought concerning the design of notebook computers. One is the modernist approach of simplification, proportion, quality materials, authenticity of form, and an aesthetic that supports rather than dominates your world. Dieter Rams, of Braun fame, has talked often about this minimalist approach.  In his 1985 "ten commandments" of design, this ideal of recessive aesthetics is clearly referenced. "Good design is as little design as possible" Dieter Rams Ten Commandments of Design: Good design is innovative Good design makes a product useful Good design is aesthetic Good design makes a product understandable Good design is unobtrusive Good design is honest Good design is long-lasting Good design is thorough down to the last detail Good design is environmentally friendly Good design is as little design as possible Rams' design work has dominated the minds of generations of designers who admired and sought to emulate the purity of expression that he achieved during his productive and successful career at Braun. I certainly was, and continue to be,  one of them. As a entry level designer fresh out of college, I often...

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For many, the Lucigraph earned the nick name "Lazy Lucy" Having worked in the design field for well over 25 years, I've seen many design tools come and go. When I first started my career most of the design work was done with devices and gizmos that many people today would not even recognize. Except of course for pencils and paper. It's possible that most would not even be able to guess what many of these tools did. The stat camera, proportional wheel, pica rule, Lucigraph, ruling pen, waxer, rubylith film, color-aid paper, Acu-Arc, and of course the rotary lead pointer are just a few of the relics I remember from another era. There are hundreds more that I haven't mentioned, or perhaps can't recall so easily. In most cases the computer has replaced these historical tools with software applications that make the design process so much easier. Pointing and clicking is certainly a bit easier than running a waxer. One thing, however, that has not been replaced is drawing. In my mind, drawing is an essential design tool that will never become obsolete. I'm talking about good old fashioned paper and pencil drawings. Nothing fancy here, just basic drawing. Man has made drawings like this since we lived in caves. Many are quite beautiful in their own right.

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The Heuer Microsplit meets my ThinkPad T400s Nearly 20 years before Richard Sapper created the simple black box that would become ThinkPad, he had already made design magic with a very similar idea. It too was a simple black box, but for a totally different company and product category. The design was created for Jack Heuer back in 1974 for their classic Microsplit digital stopwatch. The Heuer company felt that the time had come for them to enter the digital age. Digital clocks and watches were just starting to emerge, but nobody thought to produce a digital stopwatch. Most early digital wrist watches were more of a technology novelty than a stunning revolution in design. Heuer wisely avoided sticking a glowing red digital display in the center of a traditional round watch case and calling it a day. Instead he selected Sapper to create a design concept because he wanted something special. It was an amazing corporate decision, design and market success. No longer in production, the best place to see one today is at the MoMA. In 1972 Pulsar introduced the first digital LED watch  Here is a excerpt from a great  interview conducted by Stephan Ott, that was published by the Goethe-Institut, where Richard talks about his Heuer design experience: "I designed the...

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Shokado Lunch Boxes The story is famous enough to be introduced in ThinkPad - Wikipedia, but did you know that ThinkPad draws inspiration from the Shokado Bento, lunch boxes of Japan? The concept of the ThinkPad has consistently reflected the experience of eating a Shokado lunch box. When closed, the Shokado lunch box is a simple lacquered black box, but opening it reveals an orderly and beautiful arrangement of delectable foods (like the functions of a ThinkPad). When the brand was first launched, Richard Sapper and in-house design team created this concept. Our design consultant, "Maestro" Sapper loves Japan with all his heart. When he came to Japan to review the design, he said "I want to visit the Katsura Imperial Villa." Under a very tight schedule, he made time to visit Kyoto and had only the highest praise for what he found there. Now, let's get back to lunch boxes. At that time, there were no other black computers. In an era when the rule was that "all computers are off-white," the extreme opposite was proposed, and this met with virulent opposition within the company. However, we made an appeal within the company to shoot for something that had never been done before, and the first notebook PC with a black chassis was...

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