ID Annual – Smith Brim Helmet – Jackalope

This is a nice tweener positioned product statement right between the standard bike helmet aesthetic (zoomy fast) and the “I’m a rebel” military like snowboard helmets. The cool graphic lines seem to be missing on the production version. Oh well.

Would I wear it? Probably not as i don’t like fixed ear covers. I wanna have the flexibility of having ear protection or not.

—-more thoughts.

Something bugged me about this design…it looks like the designers made an attempt to make plastic “feel” more like something soft…maybe it was the fake printed stitching or the mini bill (both which i thought were cool). Or maybe it was seeing the NYC Helmet towards the end of the review. Oh well, I still feel like its successful.

the 54th ID Design Annual is out!

The 54th Annual Design Review is out and I thought it might be interesting to do 1 minute crits of some of the products. Why 1 minute? Well that’s about all the time I have to spend on each crit and based on the fact that your average consumer spends about 2.3 seconds (Eyetrack III) on an image in the web, I thought it would be interesting to present the knee-jerk reaction/review of the winners.

Design Principles – A summary…

Below is a list of design tag lines. I’ve always been interested in how we explain what we do to design savvy folks while in elevator pitch mode. So this list is a start.

Hundreds say something like this: “NameHere is a product development consultancy focused on design, strategy, market, user interface and research, industrial design and engineering.” Some are a bit more poetic. “…user desires, business needs, design vision…” Below are the more unique entries I’ve found:


John Maeda – “Simplicity”
Ross Lovegrove – “Organic minimalism”
Santiago Calatrava – “Repetition…” (because nature often works in patterns) designer of the Chicago Spire


Ammunition – “Don’t play the game, change the game…Loaded”
Astro – “We create supercharged products and brands”
frogdesign – “form follows emotion”
Fuseproject – “Design brings stories to life”
Lunar Design – “Creativity that makes a difference”
New Deal Design – Get Real
Smart Design, 11 Design – (roughly) Making people’s lives better.
Teague – “…establishing perspective.”


Krups – “Passion, Precision, Perfection”
Philips – “Sense and Simplicity”
Porsche Design – “The Engineers of Passion. Pure, functional and technically innovative”

(ok, i’m just starting this list, if you got some interesting ones for me to add, post a reply)

mistake of judgement or lack of experience?

So when I started this blog, I thought I would be reviewing and criticizing products. Realizing that I cant really do that without having the actual product in hand…I have to rely on the same old sources…ID annual, T3, iF selections, etc. etc.

After reading the latest ID Annual and seeing that the Herman Miller Leaf lamp was selected best of category, I though to myself, “wow, this must have impressed the jurors”. I thought this because in print and pictures, this lamp really didn’t seem all that impressive. So i promptly went to the local Design Within Reach to check this thing out. Lighting design is no easy feat, especially if you’re attempting to defy gravity without utilizing some of the traditional structural elements that go with lighting, cables, pulleys, springs, etc.

The good? There’s nice detailing around the LEDs and diffuser; the fact they used LED’s is a nice progression towards efficient lighting solutions. A small detail caught my eye at the base of the lamp. A Ying-Yang like detail was sculpted into the surface…running your fingers over the surfaces acts as a dimmer for the lamp. Nice touch. Visually, it works as its a play off the lamp arms as they fold together.

The Bad? Upon first sight, I unfortunately was underwhelmed. My thoughts hadn’t changed from pictures to in person. At first touch, the lamp shakes like an inexpensive ikea lamp…maybe the shaking is part of the “leaf” metaphor…blowing in the wind? Visually, the lamp arms look similar to some of the new, modern bicycle frame components using stamped construction, only AFTER a bad wipeout or an unfortunate encounter with a car, bent and twisted. I’m not sure how this is the “21st century sequel to the Tizio.” Interesting, if you read the ID magazine review, it states…”Priestman was reticent because he hadn’t seen the lamp in person…” well how the hell do you judge something when you haven’t had the chance to experience it first hand? (topic for another post…judging books by their covers)

Interestingly, I hired Yves Behar, the designer of this lamp while I was VP of Design at Lunar Design. Yves is extremely talented and much of his work shows this. I’m just not that happy with this latest piece, I wonder if he is?

Sottsass and Miami Vice: commonalities?

Are we ready for the return of Memphis? Has the clean simple look run it’s course? Will the Apple iphone not look like an ipod with a dial pad but have big bold round shapes, oh, uh ok, the 2nd gen Imac did that…you remember, round hemisphere, rectangular display… Well whoever designed this little gem for Krups had memphis on the mind. My question, is that Sottsass frowning? Or, maybe Krups commissioned some guy, oh say Matteo Thun to do this piece. Well, just to be sure, i checked his website and didnt find this in any of his recent product design work…but I did find that he designed the nice little espresso cups for illy, modern, but playful.

Well back to original question, is Memphis making a comeback? Early 80’s, you know Miami Vice, pink and teal. 20 years old, that’s about the right time for a new take on retro. Let’s think about this, Miami Vice was remade…and pink, well pink was a big hit last year, so is Memphis ready?…you decide.

The Genious of Observation

and the power of documentation.

Was Da Vinci the grand inventor that many claim him to be or just one of the most astute observers of our time? So maybe I’m on Da Vinci overload. I recently saw the movie, then went to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (one of the best science museums I’ve been too, though I’d still say the Exploratorium in San Francisco has a richer hands on experience) Anyhow, no doubt that Da Vinci was one of the smartest and chock full of talent, but after leaving this exhibit, you’d think that Leonardo invented just about everything in the modern world. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoyed the exhibit, but seeing this exhibit made me think back to my art history classes in design school. Think of all the things that were done before Leonardo. The Parthenon, 450BC. This is a serious feat of design and engineering, 1800 years before Da Vinci.

How about the Mayans? They were around from about 250 to 900 CE. They were claimed to be one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of all pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas.

How about Archimedes? The Chicago exhibit shows the water screw and does give credit to Archimedes, but one part of the exhibit claims that Da Vinci invented the death ray made of mirrors to fend off attacking ships. If my facts are right, Archimedes gets to claim this one too, though the folks at MIT and the Mythbusters have busted this one.

One could go on and on about what was invented first and when, but here’s where I think Leonardo was genius, he documented everything he saw. And yes, he had his share of inventions and improvements on ideas that he had seen.

So here is something for all us inventor/designers to think about, you could be first with the idea, maybe even get it in the public domain, but if you don’t claim that you did it without some kind of documentation, well you may be shit out of luck. (Note, this isn’t an endorsement for the Patent Lawyers Association either) Here’s something else to think about, maybe our famed inventor didn’t care to claim to be the originator. Maybe he was just creating a vast, detailed visual dictionary, but since he’s not around to tell the story, the press and media tell it for us. And finally, maybe all Da Vinci was doing was trying to be the best, most creative and curious problem solver he could possibly be, no fame, no fortune, just the love of exploration and invention. No PR, no stories, just pure passion. 500 years later, he’s got his fame, I wonder if his family got the fortune!

Apple Craft: it’s the product

I just got back from the Art Center conference called Radical Craft. I wasn’t able to make the first day of the conference, which I was told seemed to be the better of the two days to attend. But I did happen to catch a talk, or more an interview given by Chee Perlman of Jonathan Ive, the VP of Design at Apple. I have to say it was a really great interview. The MC intro went sort of like this, “if Steve Jobs is the design visionary at Apple, then Jonnie Ive is the design soul”. Here are my thoughts about what I enjoyed:

1. Jon is the 100% opposite of the typical design rock star personality. Isaac Mizrahi also presented that same day, actually a really great interview as well, but his personality is huge and clearly a big part of the package. Flamboyant, loud, arms waving, running into the crowd like Jerry Springer. This is not Jon Ive. I think its great to see smart designers that don’t want to be rock stars, talk about their passions in a public venue.

2. He’s clearly focused on one thing, making the product as great as it can be. When asked about what the goals of Apple are, he states that creating and producing the best product possible, is more important than making money. I’m sure some of the business guys would choke hearing this, but I’m of the same belief, that if you really get the product right, the chances of it and the company doing well are much higher. Additionally, you get the benefit of a company with a reputation that delivers quality.

3. Following on about the utter importance of the “product” itself, he states that getting this right, has a much more lasting, positive impact than marketing and sales. Once again, I’m in complete agreement here. Yes the Apple ad campaign creates a grand sense of style and aspiration for us consumers, the itunes store offers a great online experience, but the proof is in the pudding, if the product pleases, it just makes you smile and reinforces the message, but if it disappoints, you’re crying and the message turns into a joke. If the product is done right and delivers, then that creates repeat customers boosting sales.

4. He is a design freak, passionate and fanatical about the details and getting it right. It’s fortunate that he’s in an organization that cares as much as he does.

5. Continuing on design, he states that Apple design is NOT about self expression and more about taking complex problems and making them appear simple. This was said in the context of comparing Apple Design to other designers, like Mizrahi, who would profess to say that the design he produces, IS self expression. On this note, I can’t say I agree with Jon. Yes the current Apple design language is the epitome of simplicity. One could argue that the current line is almost expressionless in its character. But what about the “candy colored” phase of Apple design? Or the jelly fish like Apple/Harmon speakers? Quite expressive if you ask me. What designers produce or at least intend to produce, in my mind, is a clear statement of self expression, whether that expression is simplicity or intricacy or excitement or whatever appropriate thought fits. That product expression is also a direct reflection of where that particular company is at the time as well. Often the reflection can get watered down to a murky blur by too many participants trying leave their own mark, but that’s another blog topic.

It’s clear that Jonathan and his team are in pursuit of excellence. It’s also clear that Apple at large is willing to pay for this and do what it takes to produce great product (poor engineers, they must go through hell!). There is another interesting blog about the cost of innovation from Noise Between Stations which I actually found on Bruce Nussbaum’s Business Week blog who also has some nice thoughts on design. The NBS blog talks about how much Apple pays for innovation and puts it up against sales, good stuff. This all said, as someone traditionally trained in Industrial Design, and now an expert in Experience, Strategic, Brand, Feeling, Styling, Innovation Design 😉 I quite enjoyed Jon’s ability to stay focused on one thing, the product.

Design Jargon: Experience Design

What is this??? Every designer is claiming to do this. When I think of Experience Design, the first thing that comes to mind is Disney. They were one of the first to truly create an “experience” that was differentiating. They created an environment that changed your state of being. Go there and get pure fun, escapism, and fantasy.

In the world of design, what experiences are we “designing” for people? Opening the package your scissors came in (with scissors because you can’t open the package without scissors), using the business center at the Courtyard Marriot, using your new XM portable radio. Can using a product be an experience? Sure it can, what if something goes wrong, like the interface is so bad, you can’t use it. Bad experience. What if it works just the way you thought it would, all the time? Great experience.

Here’s what I wonder, is Experience Design any different from what architects, industrial designers, amusement park designers and engineers have been doing forever? I think this jargon was created to help non designers understand the importance of design. That’s a good thing. In the end, the “experience” is really a sum of all the parts. Final product, UI, business practices and philosophy, retail, advertising, etc. etc. Great companies know how to execute on all these.