iriver doing nice work

iriver2

Some might say they are riffing off Apple and some might say the design is so simple, its boring.  It also has a bit of mid 80’s Japanese electronics feel, think Sony back then.  I just played with the Spinn for a bit.  It’s definitely a nice product.  OLED display is awesome and the build quality is solid.

iriver1

The Visual Media is really nice as well, simple swiss grid like feel.  They are also talking about a new home screen they are calling “magazine” style on some of their other big screen products.  I think its a really fresh take on media design.  It goes beyond the Apple jelly style buttons, or any buttons for that matter, you just interact with the media itself.  But their website, ugh, in this case, Flash doesnt have anything to do with how fast you can view all of their products.  The site is really painful to navigate as well. That said, the UI on the Spinn was a little strange combining touch and physical control in a way that wasn’t naturally intuitive.

sony_walkman_1

You gotta love the original walkman, it changed the game in personal electronics. 1979…wow.

Challenger challenge

challenger_ces_og

From a previous post, I bashed the new Dodge Challenger Life After Steroids. Well I actually got to see both the original and new Challenger at CES and now can give you an in person assessment. I still like the original.  The new is nice, but doesnt have the flair of the original.

challenger_ces2

What do you think?

Which version of the Dodge Challenger do you like the best?

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Do polls matter?

polls

Designers typically hate it when people “vote” to make design decisions.

I just figured out how to add polling software to this blog…so how about this, a poll about a poll…

do you like polls? (select as many answers as you like)

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the Jenga Economy

The economy has been a like game, one where people have built up an interwoven, towering system, full of money, profit and excess. It starts with a small Tower, filled with resources. Each player takes turns, removing resources without regard to the overall system. They reinvest what they have taken, to make that tower bigger with the goal to create the biggest empire possible. Sounds fun yeah? The Tower is growing, people are making money, everyone is happy. The only thing the players see is that growing Tower of wealth, and even though its right in front of their faces, its foundation is becoming weaker and weaker. They have selfishly used all the resources without regard to the overall system. Something about the game won’t let them stop, many could walk away rich but the game entices them to keep going. In the end, it all comes crashing down. Everything was dependent on each other…and everyone is out. Remind you of Jenga? Let’s hope there wont be a Jenga Environment that comes crashing down on us as well. So what to do? Fortunately, there’s hope with President Obama in office. People on the top floor of that Tower, all now hangin’ with everyone, at the bottom. So time to band together and rebuild, collectively as one. From Barack’s inauguration, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” Thanks to Dan Clements for the conversation that led to the jenga analogy.

The successful Kindle

Below is my reply to Bruce Nussbaum’s Design blog about the Kindle titled “Amazon’s Kindle Is A Success–Hooray For Designer Bob Brunner.” I’ve modified my post below a bit so it makes sense without reading Bruce’s post and the readers comments.

Does good design make a product “successful”? Does bad design kill the chances of success? From the replies above, we have a UI and Experience professional saying the ergonomics of the Kindle are bad. Walt Mossberg also confirms this in his review. We’ve also got someone pointing out that “ecosystem” is what is making this successful. And finally, the host of this column (Bruce) says its Oprah and Bob’s great design work, which once again, some folks aren’t happy with. And now we can go back to the start and continue to debate the Kindle’s success. But let’s not.

What also makes this interesting is that we’ve got some very qualified folks speaking to the pros and cons of this device. Of course, they probably haven’t debated in person on this topic, but all present a different POV on the product’s success. So what is the missing component here in this dialog of design? According to Amazon’s figures, its the 240,000 consumers who have bought this thing. What I wonder is, how many of these consumers are “design saavy or qualified” like the blogger and the responders here? And, as Rob (a responder) points out, I’ll bet that those 240,000 people trust Oprah more than any of us qualified “designers”.

I’m a product designer as well, I know Andy and Bob and they both do great work. On a similar, yet off path…What I’ve always wondered about is the Designer/Consumer taste barometer, that is when the consumer wants something that most designers don’t. Like fake wood grain for instance, the designers fight it, “oh my god, there is no way I’ll put fake wood grain on a product”. Yet, somehow, with all those designers fighting it, that fake wood still gets out in the market!

I guess the other question is, is a commercially successful product, always well designed? Seems like, not.



wow, you cant make up stuff like this

Reading a few more articles in the WSJ, I came across this one about the Honda Fit. The article challenges Americans to see if they really need big, fat trucks and SUV’s. The article was fine, but the first post back was the entertaining bit. Here it is:

“There is no “one size fits all” auto out there. Some people need GM trucks or SUV’s because they haul something for go camping or live in areas where it’s snows. I’ve had a small car before and you are very limited on what you can do with them. If you buy something large at the mall, you have to call a friend with a GM truck or suv to pick it up from the store.

So the Fit gets 36mpg and you are forgot to say oil is trading at $46. The 15mpg SUV you must have tried is the Toyota which gets around 16mpg and uses premium gas. Stick with American autos and you get better MPG readings and better quality. Something a quality article would have mentioned.”

I buy large stuff at Malls like this all the time, I think I need a truck to take that roller coaster home, nuff said.

Not what I expected from Ford

or actually, maybe this is what I should have expected from one of our Triumphant Trios from Detroit.

Heres the article from the WSJ about how Ford is going to appeal to consumers with self parking cars.

In summary, Ford is using technology similar to the Lexus self parking system. They are planning to put this into nice, big Lincolns, a sedan and a Cross Over vehicle. (BTW, is the word “cross over” attempting to trick us consumers into thinking that the SUV is dead and the car companies are offering up a great new thing?) Anyhow, I guess auto parking makes sense since big ass cars are so hard to park. According to the WSJ writer, Mullaly thinks this will cast Ford in a more favorable light. Uh Ok, I see Ford in a new light now and its darker than ever.

Adding more money, more technology, for a “low on the list” feature just doesn’t seem right…give us consumers something that has meaning and value, especially in an economy that has people re-evaluating their priorities in life. Ford may have dumped their stable of private jets, but their priorities sure don’t seem aligned to what’s happening with the rest of the world.

ID Annual – B+W Zepplin

Ok, my take on this is I like the speaker itself, the detailing looks nice, I’ll take Johns word for the build quality being great, but I don’t like this pairing with the ipod. I typically don’t prescribe thinking that calls for matchy matchy, meaning “if the ipod is square, lets make the speaker system square”. (Apple did for their own speaker system) In this case, the two elements are so strong and pure individually, I believe they don’t really mix well together.

ID Annual – Belkin TuneStudio

What i like best about this is that the designers didn’t try to “celebrate” the ipod. What do I mean by that? They kept it low profile within the unit. Most devices will have your ipod waving like a flag shouting, “hey look at me, I’m an ipod stuck into this box!” For this kind of consumer, dj’s and musicians, its a great way to break both your $300 ipod and $300 mixer.

Here’s my dilemma about this product and its more about positioning and target consumers than design, which I think is right on. Here’s what the Belkin site says. “Whether you are a novice podcaster or an experienced musician, TuneStudio integrates the iPod with a full-featured, four-channel mixer, making it easy for you to create high-quality recordings.” This thing sells for $399 from Belkin. I just paid the same for this recorder from Olympus.

I’m a musician and definitely find the Belkin product really cool, BUT, I already have a mixing board, and nowadays, they come with lots of options to get your files to a PC. I bought the Olympus for recording rehearsals because of it’s ultra portability…built in mics, records straight to mp3, great battery life. The Belkin is small enough to be portable, but then I’m not sure if its the best portable option available. And its really not that portable, because it doesn’t run on batteries and you still need to bring mics. This won’t replace my mixing boards either as it doesnt have enough inputs to handle what I need. Maybe even more important, if this is a recorder…most on the fly recording boards either plug into a PC and syncs with associated software to control levels of each channel on screen. I’m not sure if this can do that…Belkin, why don’t you send me one to play with!

I do know of local radio DJ that mentioned to me that he would like a two track system to do simple voice overs onto a music tracks, but ultimately, he just wants software so he can control the fade and mix. I do like the design, but at $399, I’m not sure what audience will snap this up, maybe the podcaster more so than the experienced musician.

ID Annual – Nokia Pocketable Speakers

These are small (122 x 32 x 33.5mm) about the length of a candy bar style phone and about 2-3 times as thick (depending on which phone you’re comparing it to). Here’s what I wonder, in the ID magazine shot, the red detail looks very shiny, in the shot from Nokia above, the red accents have matte finish, are more saturated and darker in value. Personally, I like the matte finish, seems more sophisticated and if they are the functional rubber component of the driver, then it really makes sense. The glossy finish from the ID shot makes it look like a toy.

Things this small demand exquisite attention to detail and flawless execution.

The retractable cord is a very nice feature, nice detail.

ID Annual – Belkin Cable Dome


Belkin has been producing some really nice products lately. This one is probably not one of my favorites and makes me wonder what else was entered in the category. I’m sure it works well, but for example, to make this product work WITHOUT screws or “heavy” double stick would have been a real trick and worth the Distinction award.

Their Power series is nice as well a lots of other products they produce.

ID Annual – Y Water – Fuseproject

The website is more fun than the bottles! You really need to check it out here. The flavor story is really smart as it implies feeding the basic building blocks of the body and the bottles in turn respond by allowing kids to create fun molecular structures.

This won a Design Distinction award. I’m not sure if this was presented as a whole with web communications or not, but this to me could have been best of category. Maybe they just judged just the bottle itself, but the entire story here makes for a great “consumer product”.

PS. Y Water claims to be Organic, but funny that you can’t easily find the ingredients of Y Water on the website. If it’s there, its not that easy to find. Some post a link if you can find it.

Another fuseproject product, that wasn’t as impressive, yet an award winner.