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  • Interface: people, machines, design, is a new show exhibiting at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in New South Wales, Australia. From the exhibition’s description:

    Interface: people, machines, design explores how design has been applied to information technology products; about how a handful of companies made complicated technology appealing and easy to use. What they did effectively was, look at what you do, think about what you need and create what you want. Interface is about the visionaries who started some of the great consumer product companies of the 20th century, including Olivetti, Braun and Apple, and how the designers and engineers they hired found a means of imparting their ideals into the products they designed.

    I’m a huge fan of user-centric design. We often forget that everything is designed. While most items are not thoughtfully designed, the most successful are (and therefor, plenty of products are emulations or forked from original products without permission, such as mass-market SEM watches). The Conversation has an excellent summary of the exhibit core-focus on human-centric engineering and design:

    While we nowadays associate interfaces with digital computing, this show suggests we should think otherwise. Tactile buttons, knobs, dials and machined surfaces abound.


    Featuring the work of well-known designers such as Dieter RamsJonathan IveEttore SottsassSusan Kare and Peter Behrens, the show does more than acknowledge the genius of the “superstar”. It also presents an “archaeology” of how material, function and form morph across time.

    More than this, Interface underscores the importance and continuity of what we now call “user-centered design”. It shows this across a range of practices – and not just modern information design.

    2+7 Telephone. Designed by Marcello Nizzoli, made by SAFNAT, Italy, 1958. Powerhouse Museum
    Divisumma 18 portable calculator, designed by Mario Bellini, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1973. Photo: Powerhouse Museum. Powerhouse Museum