Little Details

Most of the time, it is the little details that turn a good product into a great product. Whether you see these little details is one thing but if they have no function in the overall product does it then become superfluous? I don’t think so, it shows that the person or people behind it care about their work so much or want to make someone smile. Computer game designers do this a lot, adding “easter eggs” into games almost as a little prize for when someone finds it. The easter eggs are situated in that the majority of people won’t find them but reward those who want to explore.

A fairly well known example of one of these in a design sense is on the original 1984 Macintosh. In the moulding of the case was the signatures of everyone who worked in the Macintosh division at Apple at the time. A lasting legacy for those who put in the time and effort to make the machine.

One of my favourite little details is quite recent. In fact it only came to light a month or so ago. It is a little design easter egg on the new Volvo XC90. In the armrests for the third row of seats is a storage space. This storage space has a lid. On the underside of the lid is some ribbing. Now, there is nothing strange about a plastic part having ribs to help increase the strength. However, in the middle of a ribs is a spider. This isn’t something you would expect from a car manufacturer in their usually stern faced approach but it s a nice touch. This is especially true considering it will most likely be seen by the kids that would be sitting in the back row of seats (unless you were a small adult).

See. Designers do have a sense of humour.

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Making Do And Mending

Product designers should think about the lifespan of the product. It is a fact that there are products being designed that cannot be repaired easily or at all and that other products are designed in such a way that as soon as it is launched, it is forgotten about.

Throughout my time at university and in the 3 years since graduating and working in industry, I have made a conscience effort to think about the entire process of what I have been designing. This at times has come to a head with others, who do not necessarily value the benefits that design can bring to the product or even project as a whole.

It is frustrating in a professional sense not to be allowed to push for things you feel are right and would add value to the end goal. In my own time, I get to do things my own way and create things that, whilst may be seen by some as indulgent or unnecessary, fill the void left by working in a design for manufacture environment where costs, lead-times and stakeholders all take precedence over the niceties of design.

I am fairly sure I have mentioned this in at least one of my previous 460+ posts on this blog but I am not one to spend money on something just because it is in fashion. I buy things to last. In fact I would rather spend a little bit more on something in the knowledge that it will last me a good while. This approach has caused friction with some people I know but it is a principle I am going to stick to. But, what do I do when one of these things breaks? Throw it away? No. I would rather give it a go at trying to fix it to get a little bit more life out of it.

For the last year or so my Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet, that I have owned for about five years, has been playing up. The cable exiting the device had flexed a bit too much resulting in one of the wires inside to break. To get around this I had to effectively wrap the cable back on itself to try and force a connection. Over time it got worse and with the tablet being one of my most used tools I did take a look at how much a newer one (albeit larger in size) would cost. Put off by the £200+ price tag, it prompted me to take out my screw driver and soldering iron and fix the wire.

It was a simple enough process. Unfortunately there was no repair guide on ifixit or elsewhere on the internet. After undoing four screws on the bottom of the graphic tablet and wedging the casing apart I cut and stripped the wire about 20mm from the circuit board (I wasn’t wanting to do any soldering directly to the board). I then shortened the remainder of the USB cable by about 100mm to rid the problem area, stripped the wires and spliced them onto the board wires.

Upon re-assembling the graphics tablet I was pleased to find it worked flawlessly. However it was obviously disappointing how unfriendly the design was to get in and take it apart.

Overall this approach may be considered an old way of thinking. Maybe it was the way I was brought up. However extracting the last little bits of life from a product by repairing it or taking care of it properly helps add greater value and understanding of how things work, why things were done the way they were and means you can put off spending that money until when you really need to.

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You can see the repaired wire coming out of the device.

Enjoying a Craft Part VIII: Harris Tweed

I was struggling to thing of what to post this week. Being in between a few things has meant my mind has been else where. However, a lot of research some months ago (read that as watching a lot of videos) has meant that I have built up a stock of craft based videos to be shared.

Most of the videos I post for Enjoying a Craft focus on the actual work being done. The handiwork of those who care a great deal about what they are doing. Every so often there is a video that shows up which helps to tell the backstory about the craft and the person behind it. This weeks video is one of those.

This short looks at one man who weaves Harris Tweed on the Isle of Harris. It is a process that is still done in a fairly simplistic manner with no automation at all. This lack of high tech machinery is what sets it apart, and it even proves the point when high end manufacturers of consumer goods would like to source their material from a small outfit.

Bearing in mind my rambles loosely follow what the video is about, I’ll leave you to watch it for yourself.

Enjoy!

Practicing

Having a bit of spare time can be a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand you think you should be productive, but on the other you just want to do something fun for a change. A few weeks ago I found myself with a bit of free time so I put myself to good use and practiced doing some 3D modelling and rendering the results in Keyshot.

A sample of what I spent my time on is below.

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Braun Watch
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Scene including iPhone 6 (and case), ruler, paper, Apple Watch (minus strap), Braun watch, mechanical pencil, a sheet of paper and a MacBook Pro.
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Apple Watch

Enjoying a Craft Part VII: Leica

The video in this edition follows a slightly different approach. It shows how traditional craft and craftsmanship can still be applied in consumer goods, albeit ultra high end consumer goods. Leica cameras generally occupy the high end of the camera scale. Production volumes are low and a lot of the assembly is done by hand.

One of the key areas shown in the video isn’t the camera itself, but the accessories that are included. The camera bag, instruction manual and even box are made by hand. All to the highest German standards.

I will let the video do the rest of the talking. Enjoy!