Product design

A couple of great quotes from a NYT Magazine article on the iPod that has been heavily linked already.

Jonathan Ive on the genesis of the iPod:

”Steve” — that would be Steve Jobs — ”made some very interesting observations very early on about how this was about navigating content,” Ive says. ”It was about being very focused and not trying to do too much with the device — which would have been its complication and, therefore, its demise. The enabling features aren’t obvious and evident, because the key was getting rid of stuff.”

Later he said: ”What’s interesting is that out of that simplicity, and almost that unashamed sense of simplicity, and expressing it, came a very different product. But difference wasn’t the goal. It’s actually very easy to create a different thing. What was exciting is starting to realize that its difference was really a consequence of this quest to make it a very simple thing.”

“Trying to not to do too much with the device” – coming back to scenario and persona-driven design again. If in the design process one tries to take the scenarios as they stand and create something that supports every need, every moment in the scenario or persona; then the simplicity Ive describes will be lost. Identifying the one key need or moment and honing the design without compromise is key. Victor’s ‘value-complexity’ matrix is a tool i’ve always liked – but I think there’s more intuition involved in a designer or team knowing what the one, focal moment or need is. I would love to be corrected and pointed to tools or processes that can assist…

Steve Jobs on design:

“‘Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”


» New York Times: The Guts of a New Machine By ROB WALKER [Reg. Reqd]

“This is the point. Detail and nuance and texture and a sense of how users actually feel, what makes them smile, what makes the experience worthy and positive and sensual instead of necessary and drab and evil.

These are the things that are nearly dead in our mass-consumer culture, things normally reserved for elitist niche markets and swanky boutiques and upscale yuppie Euro spas and maybe cool insider mags like I-D and Metropolis and dwell. They are most definitely not to be expected of mass-market gadget makers. This is why it matters. This is why it’s important.”

» SFGate: Lick Me, I’m A Macintosh: What the hell is wrong with Apple that they still give a damn about design and packaging and ‘feel’?

The outboard-brain hits paydirt again. Paul Mison comes up with the goods this time – pointing me to the liquid and pipes simulation of the national economy that I was struggling to find:

“Take a pile of Perspex tubes, a few levers and pulleys and the windscreen-wiper pumps from an old wartime bomber. Add a brilliantly ingenious kind, as bucketful of water, and what do you have/? A computer that can model the flow of money around the nation. If the government raises taxes or the public goes on a spending spree, then this bizarre bit of plumbing shows what happens to the country’s savings and investments. At a quick flick of a switch the strange contraption can reveal the wisdom of increasing government spending or the folly of cutting interest rates. This huge machine, knocked up in a barrage by one-time crocodile hunter Bill Phillips, is now on display at the Science Museum in London. But in the 1950s, the computer model that ran on water was streets ahead of its electronic contemporaries. “

» Megabyte: A liquid computer

…I love your products, especially my secret workshop weapon, the giant post-it. However, please could you devote the energies of your research department to devising some whay to make post-it notes stay in the correct positions that they were put in by workshop participants on flipcharts, at least until you have to try and turn them into diagrams.

  • a fixitive spray that would make the post-its grab the paper with a vice like grip until you sprayed it again.
  • a special electromagnetizing wand that activated tiny alloy rods in each note achieving the same effect.
  • make each note secrete a distinct chemical marking on impact with the flipchart: a territorial-pissing that if dislodged, the transplanted motive power and instinct of seacucumber-derived fibres of the displaced post-it can home back in on.

C’mon guys – think brand-extension! New revenue streams! I’m doing your gruddam work for you!!!

Some genome-hacking excerpts from the latest, fantastic entry to Bruce Sterling’s Virdian Robot Dog Competition:

FAQ– Does the Ictadopac dog use open source code?
A– Surely the source-code DNA of our dogs is accessible to anyone who follows our dogs with a pooper-scooper. But, No, we don’t offer permission– via Open Source License– to fiddle with our proprietary genome. Our lawyers will pounce on any pirated clones. And we can’t stop you from gene-tweaking or your dog. But doing so violates your Dog License, and voids your Warranty.

FAQ– Why do you recommend only OEM methods and parts?
A—-Don’t tell me you going to let just anyone DNA-hack a dog frequently left unattended in the care of your children?!!?? Such modifications are simply unnecessary. Our 4idog already possess the traits commonly defined as loyalty and fidelity–toward your family ‘pack’ (including your other pets). Ictadopac uses a tendency naturally occurring in domesticated canines to accept people, and even other animals, into their social group. (Non-domesticated wolves, hyenas & dingos lack such depth of interspecies social capacity.) What does this mean for you? Your Ictadopac is predisposed to accept your authority as alpha-leader.

FAQ– But isn’t Open Source License access necessary to fix a broken 4idog?
A– With over a 150,000 years of field testing, the domesticated two-eyed dog genome is a robust, stable platform. Subsequently, problems at the source code DNA level are rare. That’s exactly why we base our product on this time-tested standard. This means that you’ll be able to take your 4idog to any accredited veterinarian for service. Moreover, our product is based on a model so deeply integrated into the human environment (we’ve co-evolved together!) that, in the case of minor physical problems, 4idogs respond positively to many forms of folk-medicine and home remedies.

FAQ– “Co-evolved”? Am I going to get four eyes?
A– No, this characteristic is no more contagious than a wet nose or dog breath. Rather, ‘co-evolved’ refers to scientist’s recent discovery, in analyzing the genome of two-eyed dog mitochondria, that humans and canines have been working and playing in concert even before we reached our anatomically modern forms……. So, in the past, both people and dogs have gone through both cultural and physical changes–TOGETHER. And the changes have been quite positive.

FAQ– So I won’t get 4 eyes then?
A–No. But, your 4idog will bring about changes to your constitution and psyche at a much quicker rate than that of biological evolution. Around your contagiously lovable 4idog you’re likely to experience a heart beat altered for the better, an understanding of nature’s intricate plan and soothing metabolic optimization

Absolutely fantastic. Gets my vote to win, even though I entered and would dearly love an AIBO. Lots of intriguing ideas in there – I like especially the idea of genome hackers wandering around with plasticbags to warscoop the faeces of exotic, expensive chimera…


Just spent a couple of hours hacking together my entry in the Viridian BioFuture Robot Dog Contest, based on some doodles and sketches that have been mounting up over the last month. Here he is below, along with some of the sales-blurb that goes along with the entry…

“Introducing Von Neumanns best friend.

A self-replicating, self-structuring nanodog system designed to be fun for all the posthuman family. Advanced ‘stinky-sneaker-simulant’ tail-bonds ensure structural integrity whatever the game – from chasing a stick to digging tunnels through gas-giants.

Von Neumann’s best friend is a canine companion that will last you from now until way after the singularity. He’ll be your pal no matter what scale or how distributed your consciousness is.”

» BioFuture Robot Dog Contest: Von Neumann’s Best Friend


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