The Thinking Behind ThinkPad 8’s Quickshot

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 in public spaces reminds me of old-school press cameras. Photographers used to hoist their clunky 1960’s 4x5 cameras high above the crowd trying to get the best shot. They made great photos, but it was far from ideal.

The Speed Graflex was the preferred press camera for decades

It can be hard to take a quick photo with a tablet without missing the crucial moment. First you often need to reveal the camera by either opening/dangling the smart cover awkwardly, or by folding back a fairly significant portion of the cover. And of course, you still have to launch the actual camera application before you can start shooting. All of these actions take time, and can cause you to miss the moment. The candles on the birthday cake are only blown out once.

The first model was a simple folded sheet of paper

We needed to streamline the process. Our idea was to combine the camera reveal and application launch with a simple, quick and intuitive movement. This is where it all started. It wasn’t long before we were folding sheets of paper to simulate how people would use their tablet and smart cover. Folding or bending down the smart cover corner quickly went from words, to sketches to a simple folded paper model. From there we constructed a cardboard model complete with imbedded magnets. Within about an hour or so we were holding the idea in our hand walking around the studio pretending to snap photos of fellow designers. We immediately knew we had something. Everyone we showed the idea to couldn’t help but smile.

Early sketch showing the red interior revealed

The quick cardboard study model simulated the experience nearly perfectly.

The cardboard model looks strikingly similar to the real thing. The major difference is the reversed color treatment.

It was great to be at the Consumer Electronics Show and see people’s reaction to this design- led feature. It wasn’t easy to create, or implement, but the end result is very rewarding. Every article I read about the ThinkPad 8 always mentions the Quickshot advantage. One of my favorites is this published article that was surprisingly only about Quickshot. I hope my readers found the behind- the- scenes view interesting and that people enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

David Hill