Guest blog by Tin-Lup Wong, Distinguished Engineer and Executive Director, Strategic Technology and Innovation Center (STIC), PC Product Group.
Today, we announced the new YOGA 3 Pro, taking another step in advancing the 360® hinge design we pioneered in 2012 with the original YOGA convertible PC. The new six watchband hinge helps make the laptop 17 percent thinner and 14 percent lighter than its predecessor and also lets you lay it completely flat at 180 degrees.
Making a strong and durable – yet extremely flexible – hinge is something we know well. In previous YOGA models, we designed a dual-hinge system made of zinc alloy. So, you might wonder, why make a new hinge?
YOGA users and consumers told us they prioritize thin and light features, so we challenged ourselves to continue to shave millimeters off the design – and to do that, we created the new watchband hinge. Constructed from steel and aluminum, the new hinge provides the same degree of flexibility and flatness of a metallic watchband due to its six flexion points. For the full specs, you can read the press release here, and see the full functionality in action in this video.
The Hinge Lift Test
To make sure the hinge withstands the wear and tear of mobile users, we put it through the same Hinge Life test as our other YOGA models – more than 20,000 cycles of opening and shutting. But we didn’t stop there. We put it through seven more tests to make sure it withstands...
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham Alabama is an amazing destination. Located on the sprawling 830 acre motorsports park is a twisty 2.38 mile race track, and what must be the most comprehensive motorcycle museum in the world. Started in 1988, the private collection of Birmingham native, George Barber, has swollen to just over 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles. If that’s not enough, there is also an incredible display of 43 Lotus race cars and a full restoration facility in the “basement”. The operating room inspired shop boasts floors painted with white epoxy and collectible Persian rugs. I guess you know your shop is something special when you are standing on wool. You can observe the mechanics working on bikes through endless glass windows. It reminds me of the way you might watch a chef cooking a gourmet meal at a 5 star restaurant.
Johnson was keen on having his picture taken with the “Captain America” bike
I went there with my friend, and design leadership colleague, Johnson Li from the Beijing operation. I suggested we make the pilgrimage not so much to ogle motorcycles, but to immerse ourselves in design. Don’t get me wrong, I like to stare at motorcycles with the best of them. Years ago I visited the landmark exhibit The Art of the Motorcycle at New York’s fabulous Guggenheim Museum. Think of that experience as Frank Lloyd Wright meets Willie G. Davidson. Motorcycles are one of the most design...
Designing a workstation can be a seemingly daunting task; it’s full of technical constraints and functional complexities that most designers find less than glamorous. Due to the tooling investment required, the design platform also has to be designed to last for as long as 5 years. It’s a far cry from designing the fall fashion collection for the next “runway” in Milan. It’s about expressing and enhancing functionality through inspired design for a very specific and demanding audience. To develop such a targeted design takes strong understanding of their wants and needs, a robust technical knowledge of how high performance computers work and a creative spirit that can turn requirements into meaningful design. The people who buy workstations are the same kind of people who appreciate the functional ethos and aesthetic of a full bore military issue Humvee! They are not fooled by the superficial.
I personally have always found this type of design not only very challenging, but also rewarding. I enjoy solving technical problems and have always liked to analyze and create the design of utilitarian objects. During my career I’ve designed underground trenching equipment, industrial lawn mowers, camping gear and computers that have all celebrated functionality. As with any design project, you have to start somewhere. Knowing the customer is certainly crucial, but you ultimately have to synthesize a lot of information into design specifics. What I’ve learned over the years is that distilling the design...
I first met Massimo Vignelli at the International Design Conference at Aspen in 1981. I was there on a design scholarship from the University of Kansas. The theme of the conference that year was “The Italian Idea”. It sought to understand and celebrate the essence of Italian design. Every morning the scholarship students met for a breakfast discussion with iconic designers such as Saul Bass, Mario Bellini, Ivan Chermayaff, Henry Wolfe, Leo Lionni, Vico Magistretti, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Milton Glaser, Sergio Pininfarina, and of course Massimo Vignelli. I was especially excited to meet him as I had heard a lot about his work at UNIMARK International. Professor Richard Branham, one of my University of Kansas design teachers, had worked at the Chicago office in the late 1960’s and was full of fascinating real world stories to share.
In the cool morning Aspen air, with some of the world's best design talent, we gathered. We discussed and debated design philosophy, their work, tools and techniques, portfolios, and landing that all important first design job. One of the scholarship attendees awkwardly brought up what to wear to the design job interview. I think he was intimidated by the immaculate, and somewhat costly, “design wardrobe” that Massimo was sporting. Dressed in all black clothing he designed, wearing minimalist glasses and a classic watch, he cast a significant shadow. His immediate reply was “I don’t care if you are wearing...
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. You can support and pair the tablet in either a landscape or portrait orientation. Removing the smart cover is not required, just flip it around to the back. The accessory keyboard includes a collapsible support structure...
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 in public spaces reminds me of old-school press cameras. Photographers used...
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 at the expense...
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.
Remember blue eject buttons?
What I would like to call attention to in this blog is something embodied...
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 to jump...
Flex 20 is a premium AIO for the home
Framed in an attractive 20.5mm thin aluminum shell, the compact Flex 20 fits neatly into virtually any home or office yet surpasses expectations for an everyday AIO with its grand 19.5-inch frameless HD (1600X900) IPS 90° tilt display, 500 GB HD or SSHD storage and up to Intel Core i7 processors.
However, Flex 20 really surprises and delights with its special ability to convert from stand to table mode. When flat in table mode, the Aura interface, first pioneered on the Lenovo Horizon Table PC, opens for a multi-game, multi-player experience like no other. In this mode, users can challenge others to play games, including preloaded ones like Ubisoft’s Raiding Company, those available for purchase from the Lenovo App Store powered by Intel App Up and newly created custom Lenovo games including Omnitapps Media Puzzle Pack for making fun video puzzles and Omnitapps Educational Suite with a series of memory and learning games along with other Lenovo games like Fishing Joy, Air Hockey and Roulette.
The dual mode Flex 20 provides even more entertainment value with its special physical accessories (sold separately) - joysticks, strikers and e-dice – that allow up to four players to interact directly with the digital games, or players can use the 10-point multitouch screen. The Aura interface functions as a highly collaborative tool for multi-media content enhanced with its Dolby Home Theatre v4 audio. Unlike most AIO’s, Flex 20 has mobility in mind with built-in WiFi for easy...