Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Apr 2012 02:56 UTC
In the News "Sir Jonathan Ive has been crowned British Visionary Innovator in a competition, run by the Intellectual Property Office. Ive won by a large margin with almost fifty per cent of the vote (46.6%). In second place was Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web) with 18.8 per cent of the vote. James Goodfellow OBE (the inventor of PIN technology and the cash machine) was in third place with 15.2 per cent of the vote." Alan Turing was also nominated. If you ever needed an illustration of everything that's wrong with the technology industry today, it's this. Guy who designs the exterior of mass-market gadgets wins over guys who actually really contributed to technology. Telling.
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Missing the point
by Tony Swash on Fri 27th Apr 2012 08:30 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

I think your response is erroneous and incomplete. It is founded upon the mistaken idea that what counts is the technical intricacies of devices rather than what they do for people. The mistaken idea that design is about the wrappings of an object rather than by it's totality, that design is about how things look, and is thus trivial, rather than about how people interact with objects at a deep and complete level, which is profound. Both Mozart and lift muzak are both just sound frequencies arranged into patterns, yet one lifts the soul and one very much does not. And therein lies the magic.

Take the iPod. A device that included nothing technically new, no component (other than it's software perhaps) that was not available in other music players. A yet this device completely transformed the way countless millions of people interacted with their music, with their culture. That is something profound. It did this because of it's total design, including it's look, form factor, technical specs, overall mode of operation and it's software.But one cannot abstract any part of the iPod and say "that's the magic ingredient", it's the total design of the iPod that works the magic, that produces that most elusive and odd experience produced by a device, emotional (i.e. human) engagement.

One can be entranced by the sight and smell of a vase of flowers. But if one takes those flowers and grinds them up and separates out all their constituent chemical compounds you will never find the special ingredient that makes a vase of flowers entrancing. By grinding them up you may find that chemically flowers are quite similar to dung and draw the conclusion that interacting with flowers and with dung will produce a similar experience in people. But that would be foolish.

I think Jonathan Ives is one of the great designers because he has taken powerful technologies and enabled their potential to change human experience to be realised on a mass scale and thus enabled millions of people to transform not just the way they do things with this technology but how they feel about it. If you spend time with people with their new iMac or Macbook you notice something, they spend time touching their new objects with affection, they stroke them, they feel at ease. Previously for all the power that modern information technologies had unleashed mostly they produced in people a sort of twitchy anxiety, a feeling that they had to adapt to the machine. What Ives does is design objects that people feel are extensions of themselves. The designs of Ives liberates the technology for people.

Why did people vote for Ives? Because they had directly experienced his work and felt it's impact in their lives.

It worth remembering the ten principles of "good design" as laid down by Dieter Rams who work was the direct inspiration of Ives.

Good design:

Is innovative - The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
▪ Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.
▪ Is honest - It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.

Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

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