Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Victor Papanek

Fast Company’s article on Building a Sustainable Design Community – Article on Valarie Casey and her challenge to the design world known as the “Kyoto Treaty of Design” got me thinking about my favorite designer; Victor Papanek.

Papanek had a mantra that all designers should contribute to society. As such he spent quite a bit of his career in Africa. He also got the bumper on cars. In the 1950’ies deaths in car crashes were at an all time high. Congress wanted to do something and called a hearing with the car manufactures urging them to put bumpers on cars. But the car manufactures fought back claiming that a bumper that could sustain even 10 mph would make the car so expensive that no one would by cars.

The car manufactures won the debate but as people were coming out of the building after the debate Papanek drove a car into the wall of Congress at 25 mps with a bumper built of two layers of tin cans and came away with an unhurt can and unhurt himself. The story goes that congress went straight back into the building and overturned their decisions.

That, to me illustrates what design is about and that is why Victor Papanek is my favorite designer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Small Things

I just bought a Zune. I have waited for a long time to get a Zune, waiting for auto playlists and audiobook support and with version 3.0 audiobook support was finally added. I bought it Monday and Thursday it died on me. Or so I thought. It happened suddenly. No warning. I was listening to music during a workout, turned it off when done and tried to turn it back on when driving home. But it did not turn on again. I thought it was probably just out of battery although it had happened incomprehensible abrupt. When I cam home I plugged it in, but nothing happened, nothing showed me that it was charging. I tried two different cables, and two different computers, but nothing.  I was furious. What the beep. Premium price super device broken after just one week, well, less than that.

This morning before taking it to company store, I thought I would just try one more time, and sure enough, when I plugged it in it started charging, the hints on the screen was almost invisible, but it was there. Subdued, dark grey on black, no motion, like someone coming out of a year long coma. After a while it was back to life, started responding to input and finally got its powers back and started syncing wirelessly.

I like drama, on TV, not when interacting with electronic devices. As good as it feels to have brought the Zune back from the dead, it was something I could have lived without and all it would have taken was ‘low on battery’ message and a bright bleep on the screen when I plugged in the power. Too much to ask? Against the dark visual language of the device?

The darkness of the visuals on the device are in stark contrast to the pink that runs through the PC software. But also a good extension. The subdued, under saturated colors used in the PC player works well with the black/grey + bright highlights on the device.

The Zune is full of little well thought out details, many of them enjoyable. Animations for instance run through the entire application and works really well. Except in those cases where you do not use the software as expected. When you are in the collage view and it changes to the next song, the title and album art slides in from the left. Delicious. But, if you are like me and just play your entire collection instead of a single album and start skipping the songs to get to something you want to listen to, the animation really gets in the way. Small? Yes. Noticeable? yes.

Overall I am very happy with my shift from an Ipod to the Zune. The Ipod and Itunes both look dated; From another area when computers where made of grey. The Zune is like when television got color and pictures started moving.