nook leapfrogs kindle

Ok, i want one of these…there was something about the kindle, that made me wonder if I should plunk down $300, uh ok, $250 (since the intro of nook).  I was unsure when I wrote about this a while back and am now certain, that i won’t buy a kindle.

nook

For now, until i can go to Barnes and Noble to buy one, my thoughts based on what i’ve read on the web and what i can see in pics:

Look: winner Nook – ok the Nook is nice and clean, not a stunning design, the Kindle 2…pretty darn bland, i can see the braun/rams/bauhaus inspiration, but, still just too plain. And the original Kindle, well honestly, that thing was pretty ugly, I mean, look at that keyboard.

Kindle-orig

Technology: winner Nook – dual screens, gotta love it
UI: winner Nook – jury out, but the potential of, the dual screens!
Experience – Nook – bring it to a Barnes and Noble and read stuff for free. Phyigital Reality, making digital things act like real life things
Cool Factor: Nook

kindle-2

minus ten – April 1999

id-mag-apil-19981

Here’s a new series that I’m going to try and keep up with call “minus ten”.  It’s a look back 10 years to see what was going on.  I’ll pick out what I feel got Stuck in Time, good or bad design that was clearly of the moment.  Ahead of Time will be a look at something that had brought some insight to the future and finally, the Test of Time will soon be design classics, at least imho.

id-mag-april-mac-1998

Stuck in time: Apple blue G3, man those colors…

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id-mag-april-kodak-1998

Ahead of time: Give Kodak credit for going green on this recyclable camera, BUT
Stuck in time: this design got hit with the ugly stick.

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id-mag-april-knifes-1998

Test of Time: Knifes, the dots are a bit stuck, and the colors are more neutral than they look above, but I wouldn’t be unhappy pulling one of those knifes out of my pocket today.

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id-mag-april-house-1998

Ahead of time: This aesthetic for the mini home was definitely ahead.  It looks like it could have come out of Dwell magazine last year.

 

From ID Magazine, April 1999.

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.



Sgi down for the count?

In early May, SGI went chapter 11. They were definitely one of the companies that were hard driving the look and feel of the Silicon Valley boom of the 90’s. I just thought it would be appropriate to show a few of the products back in the day. Hmmm, what would be the lessons learned from this era? Don’t dress up products in plastic skirts. Plastic capes never look real, especially when molded in blue. Don’t design after watching Phantom of the Opera and while on mind altering matter.

WTF: this stinks!

Upon first sight, one might look at this say, “WTF?!” that’s what I said. Then you learn about what this does, and find out it’s a USB odor eater, then you add, NS! (No Shit). Note that Digiscent made this way done back in 2000 so this was on the leading edge of stupid USB devices, but realize that Digiscent never got this into production, for better or worse. Go to CES, or just look in the monthly Skymall and you’ll find all kinds of weird USB devices, we have beer coolers and mini fans, so is the idea of the DigiScent really that stupid? Yes it was, well the design certainly was.

Here’s how a little marketing and design might change your thinking. Check out this little device I found in a catalog. (note, the design is still pretty bad, but the new form factor may give some life to this idea) It’s a small USB device that works pretty much like one of those heated glade room fresheners. Ok, its still a little stupid especially if you’re not into weird smelling room fresheners. But this one states, “small and portable, great for any small spaces, smoky hotel rooms, offices, and cubicles. Each ScentStick lasts about 4-5 days and can be easily refilled…”. Here’s the ScentStick, it looks small, like a normal USB stick and very portable. Considering that I just back from a really smelly “non smoking” room in a hotel, hmmmm maybe.

They also describe their scents as being subtle; they claim the scent has the effect of a candle and not your standard, overpowering household sprays. And finally, they make a green claim in that there’s minimal waste. You keep the main USB Stick and recycle the refills that are aluminum CO2 like cartridges. Compared to the Digiscent, the ScentStick almost makes scents. (had to say it!) And this is mostly because of the small, portable form factor. So change your mind about a USB odor eater yet? Maybe, maybe not, but you gotta admit that this iteration does make this product a lot more palatable.

And since were on stupid USB products, lets add to the list, how about: A USB “cooling” pad to keep those hot laptops cool and prevent your thighs from burning up. Wanna look good for the meeting, get a USB nose hair trimmer combined with Apple’s mirror widget, then you can clean up your clippings with a USB vacuum, to get all the stuff out of your keyboard. Btw, the ScentStick is fake, but the DigiScent thing was real, at least in prototype form.

Ugly gets attention

Can this be a good thing? Here are two things that started out ugly upon intro, then turned into classics and created brands that still exist today. What’s the cause of this? Was it a tipping point? Or some disruptive technology? Or some designer trying to be different. Or just a component of time and dumb luck? Maybe a mix of all.

1985 Air Jordans, if these shoes were Air Quintens, would they have done so well? In Jordan’s book, Driven from Within, one passage goes something like this. Tinker (of Nike) shows prototype shoes to Michael (and I think they were the black versions, even uglier), MJ says, these shoes are ugly; I’m not wearing these on the court. Tinker convinces him to give them a try. A week or so later, MJ says, man, these shoes feel great, they’re light and provide great support, but everyone on the team are laughing at the way these shoes look, Tinker goes on to say, but MJ, they ARE looking at your shoes, right??…Michael got it and went with it. A big part of the success of Jordan I’s, they got noticed. Sure it helped that MJ went on to be the best player ever in the NBA (my opinion). Regardless, a brand is born.

1985 Suzuki GSXR 750. This bike was just not a nice looking bike. This was the same year Kawasaki came out with the Ninja and everyone wanted that bike, even the name “Ninja” and the ad campaign, samurai’s cutting things up. To bikers obsessed with speed and being fast, that was bad ass! Long story short, the GSXR cut up the circuit in the amateur ranks and quickly became THE bike to have if you were serious about riding. The bike went through some “aero” redesign in 1988, but the GSXR legend had been established and a brand was born. Yeah, one might say it’s still ugly, but take a close look at the 1996 Ducati Monster. Slightly odd sculpting and proportions, and with the GSXR fairings off, lots of similarity. I’m not saying the Italians ripped off Suzuki, but maybe were inspired by something in the past. (That is if you think the Monster is a nice looking bike)

Seems like sometimes ugly can work. But ugly can’t stand on its own. Performance, it has to be there. Oh, and strong advertising helps too, like Spike Lee said, “its gotta be the shoes”. That said in today’s world, beauty can’t stand on its own either. In a perfect world, things would start off beautiful, have the performance and/or depth to back it up AND get the right stories told about it. The world isn’t perfect but here’s something to think about. As nature proves, some things start off ugly, but reach a state of beauty, like butterflies or babies! (Come on, babies in the first few minutes, not so nice!!) So that must mean there’s always hope for things, ugly.