Posts Tagged ‘design’

Design Time

1 July 2009

Dear J-

There’s a few things that are universally recognizeable — the McDonald’s arches, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse (I would also add Hello Kitty but that may be an artifact of my upbringing).  Product design, handled well, sells merchandise; the prospect of the Golden Arches on the horizon signals filling, if not particularly nutritious, fare.  With the advent of digital image capture, cameras which were once constrained by film cartridge size to a certain shape are now free to play with form; I’d say that we have the shapes we have because of product perception.  A camera should look like a camera — protruding cylindrical lens, body roughly in 3:5 proportions.

In the 80s and 90s camera designers started moving away from the brick school of design (Luigi Colani, with Canon’s T90; Giugiaro with Nikon’s F4) and those willing to go out on a real limb (Olympus ECRU and O-Product, which were the Twentieth-Anniversary Mac of their day;  high style and collectability) — there were cameras with retro features and “classical” lines (Leica Minilux, Nikon 35/28Ti, Minolta TC-1), but save for the hard points dictated by functionality (prism/porro viewfinder, film plane, takeup and rewind), cameras were starting to look interesting.  What’s happened?  Where’s my digital high-style camera?

I suppose that some designs are dictated by useability (handgrip and a body big enough to wrap two hands around), and others, by legacy requirements (again, that prism/porro viewfinder).  Panasonic and Olympus present two interesting contrasts — the first two 4/3rds system cameras were the E-1 (intriguing because there is no traditional “left side” — camera body left of the viewfinder), which was needed for the film chamber in 35mm cameras) and the E-300 (complicated light path and side-swinging mirror allowing for a flat top, faithful in concept and execution to the pioneering Pen F), both from Olympus.  On the other hand, freed from the mirror box and its mandate of a prism/viewfinder hump, the Panasonic micro-4/3rds G1 and GH1 resemble nothing so much as shrunken SLRs, even though there’s nothing but tradition (and that huge articulated LCD on the back) dictating the camera’s design.  You would think that a consumer electronics company wouldn’t skew conservative with camera design, but perhaps it’s just in comparison with one of the innovators in the camera world.



Alarming News

13 May 2009

Dear J-

I’ve actually been waking up on time this week; I chalk part of it up to having a clock I can actually read in the dark, and the rest to having a new control scheme to get used to. I now have a snooze button I can use — trying to limit myself to one ten-minute snooze — and a ridiculously easy snooze at that, as some magic circuits have made the rim of the clock entirely touch-sensitive. It worries me, though. If it becomes too easy to turn off, or snooze, then impending disaster awaits. Perhaps I should leave both radios plugged in and turn on one at random for the next morning.

I develop a pretty good muscle memory over time — the old radio required that I pick out one quarter-inch knob and turn it precisely ninety degrees clockwise to shut the alarm off; the snooze bar was broken, and the clock backlight was a burned cinder of a thing — and still I managed to regularly shut the radio off without coming fully awake. Maybe the touch-sensitive snooze will be good for me, then; if I fumble at the controls, it won’t shut off, it’ll only snooze. On the other hand, you could always go with something like a clocky, which goes off and then runs around the room to hide.

Here’s a final shot at clock-radio design, then; we wouldn’t have counted on such excellent multi-touch screens and controls had Apple not come out with the iPhone, and Microsoft not pioneered in their Surface software — throw one of those in, let it rotate through at least seven control schemes throughout the week. Heck, let the user design their own control scheme and add it to the list; when I say control scheme, let’s say it’s something as easy as tapping and dragging a button into a box — or throw winding a knob through 900 degrees along with it. Point is, make the rotation random and make each day different, with no hint of which shut-the-alarm-off control will pop up at the waking time; break the habit of muscle memory, and make sure you need to be awake to use the controls. Hmm; it might work as an iPhone OS application …


High School (Aren’t We Joe Cool Yet?)

5 November 2006

I’m not convinced I got the most out of high school. But at least I got out.


To be honest, things didn’t change much in high school. The hair of the student body didn’t pose the fire hazard that it used to, but we stayed in the groups that we’d split into as junior high people. I don’t condemn it because it just happens and seems as natural as plate tectonics: huge masses rushing towards each other and one would inevitably grind the other down, but not without rumbling and trembling. It’s not always a wasteland, though; sometimes you find genuinely honest and wonderful people, like some of my neighboring locker-owners. We all had to deal with the peculiar quirks of the school, such as how it was designed for southern California weather (and hence was a series of disconnected buildings) while experiencing a snow-belt reality. I still like almost all of the people who graduated with me, but it was difficult to reach across the group borders afterwards; I have yet to contact probably 90% of my graduating class with something stronger than a rumor.