Great article by Brian Miller in the Guardian.
I saw Fast Company’s blurb on the new Leica that Jony Ive and friends designed for charity. It’s pretty, but as with most things that come from Ive, it occupies a realm of digital and surface idealism that doesn’t necessarily translate realistically into functionally ergonomic form. I love Apple products, and Ive’s post-Dieter Rams geometric forms work well for Apple, but computer interfaces don’t always require the tactile relationship that many other products do. I wrote about this once for Core77. And so I was going to write something about that on here relating to this camera. Meanwhile I sent the link to photographer, Custom Photo Lab owner and Leica aficionado, Stuart Richardson. (Full disclosure, the fine man is also my brother in law.) Stuart sent back his own take, doing the work for me:
I think it is terrible! It takes away every last vestige of ergonomics from the camera, and the design has totally crippled it from a functional standpoint. A number of components of the camera have been removed entirely in order to make it a cleaner, smoother design. There is no hotshoe; no EVF port; no cable release threading; no movie button on the top plate; no microphone and no possible opportunity for one, since the hotshoe is gone; and they have gone so far as to remove the main click wheel from the rear of the camera. Consequently, it will be much more difficult to navigate the images, menus or do any exposure compensation. It has non-standard strap lugs, so you would need a special strap to use it…one does not appear to be included. The lens has had the focusing tab removed, so there is no tactile differentiation between the aperture setting and the focusing. The lens appears to lack a lens hood, or even any filter threads that would allow the use of an add-on hood or filter. The shutter speed dial and on-off switch appear to be very difficult to use without looking at them directly from above. Again, they seem to have removed any tactility from them…they do not appear to be usable with the camera held up to one’s eye, which is their basic function.
As a whole, there does not appear to be a good way to keep the camera in the hand. Since everything has been smoothed, flattened and rounded, there is nowhere for the hand to rest. The lack of a grippy texture or moulding suggests that it will be either slippery and/or fatiguing to hold. If those are really holes in the aluminum, they would quickly clog with dust, dirt and grime…the last things you want near a camera sensor. The materials choice also seems questionable — aluminum is a very good conductor heat, which means this camera will be brutally cold to hold onto in cold weather. This is a problem, as there is no way that any of those buttons, dials or rings are going to turn by someone wearing gloves.
I know this camera is for charity, and will likely never be used, but it really bothers me as it seems to be the exact OPPOSITE purpose that design should strive for. It has taken a functional design and made it dramatically less functional to suit a particular aesthetic. It offers no new utility for the camera, and all it proves is that the designers can make a Leica look like a Mac Pro. So what? I think it diminishes the brand, the designers and the camera.
Well there you have it. I’ll stand by that.
An article in the Atlantic tonight about mounting protests in Turkey featured this photo of a man in a makeshift gas mask. It’s a pretty amazing assembly. The whole story of why he had to make it is another issue entirely, which I hate to gloss over but sometimes that’s what happens on here.
I wrote my master’s thesis on the historical relationship between product design and social class and I really wish I’d found this advertisement in time to have included it. I’ve never seen an historical document spell out in more brutal terms the extent to which product innovation has changed the means and behaviors of menial labor to render the working class more “presentable” and the leisure class more able bodied. Whether they were on their way up or on their way down, families at the beginning of the 20th century who found themselves members of a new middle class were suddenly forced to maintain house and composure simultaneously; and mass produced consumer products filled the gap left by unaffordable servants, creating a huge market saturated by what have come to be known as labor saving devices. I was searching for something else when I found this ad in an early 20th Cent Brooklyn Blue Book here.
Watching the fire on TV around Christmas Time is a seasonal favorite. When I was a kid my sister and I thought we were very clever and postmodern to put our little TV in the fireplace of our livingroom as some kind of meta statement on how best to view the yule log channel. Well, the above wood burning stove is not a joke, and takes the yule log channel to a whole other level by modeling the fireplace itself on the design of contemporary flat screen TVs. So let’s hear it for the folks behind the Scan 57 for their free standing wood burning stove, though I’m not exactly sure where to begin.
This Saturday Night Live Digital Short is a great little critique of design absurdity and malfunction. The attention to dysfunctional details across the Starbuck’s experience, i.e. condiments table, is excellent. And the line extension with a “larger, non-functioning machine” is genius. It’s funny, if also pretty racist in a 1980′s kind of way. Speaking of 1980′s, I like the nod to Knight Rider— note that the Verismo’s illuminated voice indicator is taken from KIT.
This prototype from Portland based Ryno Motors really is super cool and pushes the blah blah blah boundaries of personal transportation and blah blah innovation and engineering but what really interests me is the developers quote in the film: “This is a personal transportation product that’s in between the cracks of urban transportation so I can ride it on the sidewalk. I can go through a lobby. I can go into an elevator. I can go on the train. I can go anywhere a pedestrian wants to go.” I disagree. The measured footprint and agility of a machine should not be the sole criteria that we use to judge whether it is fit to occupy the same outdoor spaces as pedestrians. This is a growing issue with the increased presence of electric bicycles. And as the market grows I think we will see increased regulation and licensing of these innovative modes of personal transportation that counter the utopian free wheeling visions of their innovators.