Computers are essential to new means and methods in design as everywhere else in the world today. This goes without question and I believe we need no further argument to justify their place. But we can argue about where, when and how much. As a design educator, I am very concerned by what I see in the classroom/studio. Basic sensitivities to form, material, scale and ergonomics are in decline. Students are easily and heavily seduced by the computer’s capacity to deliver images that gleam and glisten on screen, regardless of how they might one day feel and work in the hand. This phenomenon is ironically worsened by the one-two punch of CAD programs coupled with robot printers that generate 3D models. The work of the robots makes it all too easy to create something that looks shelf and market ready, with little thought, little testing, and almost none of the essential hand to mind feedback that made our species uniquely capable of dreaming and building such a complex environment for ourselves. I use the computer and I use 3D printers. But I use them in careful conjunction with traditional studio skills that I am proud to have studied and mastered and I would never give a user a designed tool that I gave to a robot for production before deeply vetting its form and function with my own two hands. I am sincerely concerned about a future wherein we find ourselves manually bankrupt and beholden to technologies that undermine the very ingenuity and self-reliance that make us human. This article in the WSJ speaks to that with interesting data.
I’m thrilled with the results and feedback so far on the work for the Svbscription V6 parcel, The Unexpected, and I’m happy that after months of biting my tongue, the secret is out and we can show the work! Everyone at Svbscription was a delight to work with and I appreciate the incredible care and attention they give to every detail of their process and product. There’s an interview with me on their blog here. (Photo courtesy of Svbscription. More photos to come.)
A gentleman named Matt Keveney launched the website, 507movements.com, with all original illustrations from the 1868 book, Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements by Henry T. Brown. Keveney has animated some of the examples very elegantly. It’s a fabulous site. Beautiful to peruse and total educative.
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.
Grilling season is here. Some of us are just a lot better and more innovative at it than others. Early tool development began with our need to compete for food. I think super primitive means of cooking outside like the one pictured above are some of the most elegant appliances we have. That thing probably does laundry too. Via the Meat Market in Great Barrington. (Heading there right now!!)
As far as I’m concerned, every third adult needs to know how to do this in a pinch, otherwise we’re all fucked.