hypertext, words and more

Design Thinking

  • Sacha Greif, the owner and creator of the popular design newsletter, Sidebar has made the decision to pause operations:

    “Design content seems to have either dried up, or else been driven to platforms like Medium and Substack.”

    In his post, he shares a list of design sites to follow

    I’ll add a few of my own bookmarks here below. Some of these are more communication design focused than others.

  • I came across some lovely photos of some vintage Herman Miller pieces today (h/t @architeckure on Threads). This lead me down a rabbit hole of the designer at Herman Miller who created these workstations.

    The man behind the desk (so to speak), is George Nelson. He was a lead industrial designer at Herman Miller from 1945 to 1954. Sometime before that, he was an avid design writer. He contributed to magazines like Architectural Forum and in later years, published several books on architecture and design thinking.

    In 1959, Nelson and others designed and built the “Comprehensive Shelving System,” the CSS as it were — this pre-dates the Dieter Rams Vitsoe Shelving System by a few years

    Nelson’s contributions to mid-century decor and Herman Miller’s aesthetic remain steadfast and important. His workstations and office furniture are astounding.

    His sofa designs, home decor and other furnishing are still being sold to this day. Here’s a few items from Herman Miller’s online catalog dedicated to Nelson:

    Timeless design, exceptional dedication to craft and details. Here’s to you George ❤️

  • In 1997 at WWDC’97, Jony gave a presentation regarding the design process at Apple, and even briefly talks about eMate and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Which, at the time was only released only 3 months prior and featured a relatively new design and integrated LCD panel. Despite the executive finish, and abysmal sales numbers, this computer was closer to modern iMac’s than any Macintosh that came before it.

    Next, Phil Schiller, invites Jony to talk a bit more in-depth, a bit more candidly about something that they’ve been exploring in the Design Labs at Apple. It really goes the extra mile in providing design context for the coming years, as Apple would release the G3 in 1998, the first Mac produced under Steve Jobs since his return to Apple as CEO. It even further provides context for the engineering feat that Apple undertook to produce the remarkable, love-able iMac G4. But, what I really love about this clip, is how Jony basically unveils the long arc of design iterations at Apple — years of iterating, that ultimately led to the creation of the Pro Display XDR.

    I got a real chuckle over the reveal here (timestamp of clip is 37:07–39:03):

    Here’s a transcript of the clip:

    One of the things, that if you take a moment, think about your own personal working or computer environment.

    Think about how you configured your desk, think about the furniture you use. Think about the way that you work, and I will contend that the issues relating to CRTs sort of size and weight that actually dictated a lot of your use. How would it be different if you had a product like this [Jony lifts CRT monitor up to reveal a flat panel display]. So this is uh, obviously a modular flat panel display, it has the equivalent of a 17inch CRT, sort of active area, depth of viewing. Um, one of the uh, one of the obvious things about it is it’s sort of (light?) to see things move around. The actual base, the stand for this thing actually houses a cunningly designed spring loaded mechanism which means the effective weight of the displays is one pound. So you can actually adjust the height of the product and the angle of the product with one finger. You can also plug-in to the display, uh sorry uh, the base — your keyboards speakers and so on.

    One of the other things we designed, was a different stand, a different base for the product, so you can take the same display and clip it onto this [inaudible], this desktop arm. Now this arm, this arm attaches to the side of your desk or table, and really provides the ultimate in sort of zero footprint, um display [inaudible], you know the ultimate in terms of flexibility. And I think if you went back to your original sort of setup, I sense that this may actually sort of fairly fundamentally, sort of liberate the ways we could work potentially in the future.

    Remarkable. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

    I wish we saw more of Jony before he left Apple. Now, when we fast-forward to 2019 we can see the full progeny of Ive’s design process. It began in 1997, with the rudimentary arm:

    We make a pitstop here at iMac G4, which devolves into the hinge that essentially remains on the iMacs even to this day:

    Finally, we land here, in 2019 with the Pro Display XDR:

  • From Stereogum:

    It’s weird to think that, in the years before the Walkman, there was no way to listen to music privately while out in public. There were ways to bring music with you — on transistor radios, on boom boxes, on car stereos — but they forced you to subject everyone around you to that music, as well. The Walkman freed us up. It allowed us to make music more a part of our lives, to build our own private soundworlds. It was a transformative invention, one of the few that utterly upended the way we listen to music. Soon enough, more and more portable cassette players would hit the market, and the price fortunately dropped. But no matter which company made them, we still used the word “Walkman” to describe them.

    Only looking backward, can we appreciate how far we’ve come. It truly changed how we listened to music. We might not refer to our music players as Walkmans anymore, but in a sense — we still do. A simple progression of design thinking over the years reveals my favorite Bruno Munari’s maxim:

    An arrow can lose its feathers but not its point.

    Bruno Munari, Design as Art.
  • From The Verge:

    Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive is departing the company, bringing an end to a tenure spent crafting some of technology’s most influential products, including the iPhone. Ive is leaving his official role at Apple “to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients.” The company is called LoveFrom, and Ive will be joined by famed designer Marc Newsom on the new venture. Despite stepping down from his executive position, Ive and Apple both claim he will still work “on a range of projects with Apple.”

    Wow. Remarkable.

    So, right out of the gates — I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for Apple, nor do I think this is a bad thing for Jony (but that’s a given, more on that later). Basically, the best product design talent on Earth, just spun-off from Apple to do their own thing. Awesome!

    This of course, has happened before with Apple. I suppose there was Esslinger and Frog Design in the beginning. There was TBWA\Chiat\Day after that. Then, there was that one time when Huge founded a wholly controlled subsidiary, called Elephant whose only client was Apple. Ok, so the last one wasn’t exactly an exodus from Apple, but I suppose now, we have LoveFrom to add to the roster.

    I have a feeling that this has something to do with Project Titan, which in of itself, is a fascinating project at Apple. But allow me to elaborate. First off, Jony Ive is special to Apple. He’s not compensated the same as everyone else. His salary is a closely held secret, apparently prior to Steve Jobs passing, he insured Ive would remain incentivized to stay at Apple. So his exit strikes me as odd. Fortune writes:

    According to Apple, Ive is exempt from SEC rules because he’s not what the commission calls a “Section 16” employee. Despite his title—chief design officer—the company does not classify him as a director or officer of the company.

    The only hint I could find about how much Ive might be making comes from Leander Kahney’s 2013 biography Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. Summarizing a couple of British newspaper stories published in early 2011, after Ive had reportedly threatened to quit, Kahney writes:

    “To cement his connection with Apple, the company reportedly paid Jony a $30 million bonus and offered him shares worth a further $25 million. At the time, Jony’s personal fortune was estimated at $130 million.”

    Secondly, Project Titan was/is immense. The pressures are high, the margins are low, the R&D is insane — I’m sure everyone involved on Titan are getting spread pretty thin. The acquisitions have only just begun, and there still isn’t a viable (or marketable) product yet. I’m sure there’s no bad blood between Jony and Apple, mainly because, there’s a press release from Apple. That’s pretty telling. Even more telling is that this news story didn’t leak. At all. But Titan feels like a project that exudes a lot of friction. Jony doesn’t do friction. Which is my guess as to why he’s exiting now, rather than later.

    Moreover, he couldn’t stay at Apple forever. That’s for certain, and he’s not getting any younger — so operating in a consultation capacity has its upsides: flexible goals, focused deadlines, and focused creative work. Oh yeah, not a whole lot of friction if you play your cards right. I will continue to expect nothing short of excellence from Apple in the coming years. But, I have to say I didn’t see this coming (or at least not this soon anyways). I always figured Jony would retire and run a design studio in his later years.

    But overall, I’m glad to see Alan Dye and Evans Hankey are sticking around too (I guess Cook is delegating responsibility to Jeff Williams, I wonder how long that will last, that doesn’t seem very Apple to me either) — At any rate, I would be gravely concerned if Alan left during this departure. He’s also some been around Apple for a while. I’m looking forward to see what Alan brings to this new structure, but it’s weird having a Chief of Design vacancy. So yeah, I’m genuinely excited to see what comes out of LoveFrom. Not just what it produces with Apple.

    As for Apple, I’m sure they’ll keep on spinning without Ive:

  • A Bag of Tricks

    Gordon Brander (@gordonbrander), a product designer and software developer at Google published some dope notes on a variety of topics.

    From design thinkings to writing to 3D rendering to strategy to startups. There’s even some fun notes on philosophy? I think there’s something for everyone here really.

    I really enjoyed wading into the waters of Brander’s thoughts. Enjoy.

  • From Lost Type Co-op:

    pro·spec·tus: noun

    1. A document that advertises a product, service, venture, institution, or event for the purpose of attracting potential clients, investors, participants, etc.
    2. A new and bold contemporary serif typeface, with optical sizes, designed by Dave Bailey, exclusively from The Lost Type Co‑op.

    A lovely, light-hearted typeface. Full of spirit and originality. Glistening with nostalgia, but full of energy. Lost Type Co-op describes it as:

    A recognizably crisp, bold, and contemporary choice for all of your editorial, fashionable, intellectual, and satirical typesetting needs. Designed by Dave Bailey, and available now, only from The Lost Type Co‑op.

    So much fun. Get it here, pay what you want for personal use.