A Rat’s Nest

Nest - HAL - Google

I was disappointed by the news that Google had acquired Nest. Nest to me seemed like a beacon of hope for home electronics, that someone was starting to care about the neglected appliances that we use day in and day out. Nest’s CEO Tony Fadell learned his skills by helping to birth one of the most important and iconic objects of the last 100 years: the iPod. To think that such a man was setting his sites on these forgotten products had me dreaming of a fully connected home that would truly respond to our lives. I believe he was also an underdog of sorts, trying to right the wrongs of grandfathered industries, and who doesn’t love an underdog? It’s inherently built into us to want the little guy to come out ahead, I mean, look at Tesla. In less than 10 years they’ve become the darling of the auto industry, beating the old dogs at their own game.

Now the underdog has taken a $3.2 billion dollar buyout so that Tony Fadell can focus on designing again, not running a company. I’ve heard some rather smart remarks from folks, like the fact that consumers invited Nest into their home, not Google, and that Google’s commitment to “Not be evil” fades slowly year by year, becoming the very thing they vowed not to be. To me the underdog has chosen the financially lucrative route, not the path that slowly leads them to greatness.

I have no idea how this path will turn out for Tony Fadell and the Nest team. I honestly wish them luck and I hope they continue to develop great projects without the influence of Google. To me that’s the true test. It’ll be interesting to see what the Nest team produces over the next 5 years and to see what influence, if any, Google has over the company. I also hope that that they continue to make groundbreaking projects, the trajectory that they were on, that continue to make our homes better places to be. Only time will tell, but you can consider me seriously conflicted over the matter.

Nest + HAL image by Farshad Nayeri

Bobby Solomon

January 15, 2014 / By

Museum Of Internet

Museum Of Internet 1

If you give a person the Internet, he or she or whatever it is will want to share a selfie. The 2013 Word Of The Year is the main subject of Internet art lampooners Museum Of Internet‘s work. The online creatives are at the intersection of conceptual art, Post-Modern humor, and Internet follies: they take memes and misuses of technology and contextualize them in a way that reveals how sad and hilarious humans are.

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KYLE FITZPATRICK

January 9, 2014 / By

“Display Centric World” – A horrifying vision of the future from Samsung

Display Centric World by Samsung

This new video from Samsung is literally one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. I wanted to post it because it’s a great example of blue sky thinking gone way too far. Titled “Display Centric World,” you’re invited to a reality where literally EVERYTHING is a display. It could be the window in your small town cafe, the cutting board you chop vegetables on, or even the closet doors where your dad can electronically walk in uninvited. EVERYTHING.

I’ll start out by saying that I like how the video is trying to focus on humans. Their concepts seem to want to connect us better to one another and to augment our day-to-day lives for the better. Hell, the tagline for the video is “Technology Begins with a Love for You”… barf. Unfortunately, they didn’t do a lot of thinking around why you’d need to have all these screens all over the place. Do you really need to see what the weather is outside on a piece of glass that let’s you see outside? Does your alarm clock need to fold in half? Do you need to play rainbow Jenga with a kid from another country?

It’s funny that the last portion of the video falls into the cliché of “boardroom presentations,” as if they’ll ever be a day without Powerpoint presentations. Watching their crazy car meeting, all I could imagine was the stress of having to design a presentation for a gigantic glass panel (Do I have large enough assets?!) which can then shift into six independent panels that display all new kinds of data (I’m still waiting on final copy!!). I’d quit instantly.

To me, products like those big ass “smart watches” fall into the same category as this: they may be great ideas in theory…but how are people actually benefitting from them?! Why do people actually need these products? It’s interesting to note that there are no “smart glasses” in their vision, a la Google Glass. Does Samsung not believe that Glass is a viable product for the future? Did they not want to seem like they were ripping Google? Or perhaps they’ve already started on their crappy version which will be on a shelf near you very soon?

This is product design masturbation, a bunch of needless ideas that make Samsung seem like they understand where technology is going without actually thinking about what the future really needs.

Bobby Solomon

January 3, 2014 / By

An Interview with Kai Brach of Offscreen Magazine

Kai Brach 1

Print-only publications are a rarity nowadays. And one guy running it? Unheard of. Yet that’s the story of Kai Brach and his self-described “old-fashioned” magazine, Offscreen. Exploring a more human side of tech, Offscreen is a beautifully designed publication with quality only possible in print.

The next issue is due out at the start of next year. And with Kai’s Christmas Wishlist giveaway having just begun, it’s a good time to check Offscreen out.

We spoke with Kai about what it means to run a print publication today: the challenges, process, and vision Kai has for what makes Offscreen different.

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December 11, 2013 / By

The UX Archive observes where design has been and where it’s going

uxa 1

Try explaining UX design to someone who’s unfamiliar. It’s tough. Unlike the typography or colors that make up an application’s aesthetic, user experience is invisible when done well. That’s why for mobile app makers and designers good UX can be a tough thing to nail down. How do you implement design ideas when the best ones are fundamentally unnoticeable?

For designers Arthur Bodolec, Chris Polk, and Nathan Barraille, the answer is in observation. Observing how others have tackled user actions, and making note of what’s worked and what hasn’t. To do this, they created the UX Archive – a site meant for logging examples of popular apps and identifying how their design goes about certain challenges.

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October 16, 2013 / By

Clear, the App with Timeless Design

clear 4

Back in the iOS 6 days (man, remember those days?, there were a few apps that might foreshadow what was to come in the fabled “flat” iOS 7 redesign. One of the most prevalent was a to-do list app called Clear. It was gorgeous – simple color gradients, bold typography, and dead obvious gestures that made the app a delight to use. In the context of the rest of the OS’s awkward linen textures and embossed buttons, Clear stood out as the indisputable way of the future.

So now that we’ve arrived at this less-skeumorphic landscape, how does Clear hold up? Better than ever. In fact, it didn’t take much to return the app to its lead among other iOS 7 redesigns. With the just released Clear+, the typography was lightened, a few UI elements were added, and iCloud syncing was introduced to support a new iPad version.

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September 30, 2013 / By

Phonebloks: The Phone Design Dream

phonebloks 1

As Apple released its iPhone 5C last week, buyers had the opportunity to personalize their phone unlike never before. Five color variations as opposed to the standard two? Man, the choices.

Color variations aren’t much of a customization feature – in the end, your phone does the same things, has the same features, and even falls short in the same areas as everyone else’s. Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, however, has come up with a concept that would truly make your phone customizable.

It’s called Phonebloks – a name that might remind you of Megabloks or Legos. And thinking along those lines would be right on. The Phonebloks concept takes phone design to users as Legos do for architecture. Every functional component of a phone is contained in its own individualized block. The battery, for instance, would be one block; while the camera would be an other. Combine all the right blocks, and soon you have a working phone.

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September 23, 2013 / By

Orée Touch Slab Trackpad

Orée Touch Slab Trackpad

As a person who’s quite interested in wabi-sabi, the idea of the beauty that exists in things that have aged naturally, the Orée Touch Slab is quite intriguing. Despite it’s wooden frame this is actually a sophisticated, Bluetooth equipped trackpad. What I think is really neat is how the wood would start to wear as a person uses it, the subtle gestures of their fingers wearing familiar grooves into it’s surface. It’s kind of nice to think of our technology aging gracefully, hopefully we start to see more thoughtful designs like this in the near future.

Bobby Solomon

September 19, 2013 / By

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