Inside the Design Studio: ThinkVision X24 Monitor

Monitor technology and design has come a long way in recent years. In the late 90’s monitors were finally getting larger screens with better resolution, but they were also enormously bloated objects dwarfing even the biggest desk. They were beasts to design and consumed vast amounts of costly plastic to encase the bulky electronics within. We often sat in meetings with calculator-armed procurement engineers debating how to squeeze every last gram of plastic out of the design. More painful than procurement meetings was the arduous task of trying to create a compelling design out of some very awkward looking electronics. Imagine trying to stuff an elephant into a slinky evening gown. Our CRT’s looked quite nice and often won many international design awards, but by today’s standards they are antiquities.

Shocking comparison of todays X24 and an IBM CRT of the late 90’s

Fast forward to today’s ThinkVision X24 monitor and we are suddenly in designer heaven. The electronics are highly miniaturized, the display panel is razor thin, the panel is nearly borderless and the entire assembly weighs next to nothing. People also have an increased appetite for elegant design! Sounds like a winning combination to me. Finally we were presented with an opportunity to break new ground in monitor design.

The X24 design is a celebration of thin. We did everything imaginable to emphasize that attribute in the design. We even went so far as to not use a traditional plastic enclosure. The back of the monitor is actually the metal back of the display assembly. We painted and exposed it to reduce thickness by a single layer of plastic. This must be a first in the industry. My old IBM procurement friends would have loved the plastic material reduction this enabled. We also placed the electronics package as low as possible in the enclosure using a form which tapers towards the edges. These decisions combine to create a dramatically thin impression.

Fine tuning the details took a lot of time and experimentation

The resulting monitor head was so thin and light that we felt there was also a opportunity to rethink the design of the stand. We certainly didn’t want a big “clunker” stand supporting such a thin and elegant monitor head. Our goal was to make the stand nearly disappear. After a lot of concept sketches and study models, we ultimately landed on a design based on a slender and elegantly bent steel rod. It looked stunning even on the earliest low-fidelity models. The concept reminded me of a delicate flower stem supporting a delicate and vibrantly colored blossom; think orchid. Our biggest fear was that our dream might not be technically feasible. What if it wasn’t strong enough to hold up the head, or if it wobbled too much? Fortunately the Lenovo engineering team stepped in to build a functional prototype. Early engineering testing quickly proved our design vision worked. We were elated, but not done.

We specified a beautiful polished chrome plated finish to add important luster to the stem and importantly reflect the surrounding environment. This trick really supports the “disappearing act”  we had in mind. Snapped to the rod is a nice juicy red clip to help tidy up the few cables. Of course, even something as simple as a cable clip deserved a design deep dive.

3D printing allowed us to study many clip ideas quickly

I think the final product looks great and it continues to receive a lot of industry accolades. Here are two of my favorite media quotes that specifically call out the design impression.

“You could practically cut an onion with the edge of this monitor.” Chris Stobing, Digitaltrends.com

“A sexy display that you would want in your office where people will actually see it.” Bob Buskirk, Think computers.org

The final design is slim, elegant and gorgeous from all angles

I hope my blog followers have enjoyed another look inside the design studio and have a deeper understanding about how we developed the ThinkVision X24 monitor. Creating compelling design starts with an inspired idea and ultimately becomes a real product. It’s always rewarding when a product like the X24 so closely mirrors our original design intent. Look for more blogs like this in the future.

David Hill