Foreshadowing Web 2.0

April 20, 2009

Polaroid SX-70Deconstructing Product Design contributor Rob Tannen writes on the Polaroid SX-70 and the original Sony Walkman — 70s and 80s-era products that touched the same desire to share experience that drives Web 2.0:

The ability to take pictures and then quickly see the results increased the informality around photography that we take for granted with digital cameras and camera phones today.  Rather than waiting days or weeks to finish the film roll, drop it off for processing and then await the opening of the photos (incidentally, a suspenseful ritual that has been lost), Polaroid photographers could share photos instantly (more or less)… 

I remember well the magical effect of the Polaroid. The little white pictures would be passed from hand to hand, so carefully, as each person in turn cooed and often giggled with delight at the developing image. The sharing meme was clearly there, magnified by both the immediacy and the precious scarcity of the item — shots were limited by the film’s expense and the individual images were one-of-a-kind, difficult to copy.

Now that technology has erased the latter limitations — effectively an infinite number of shots can be taken, duplicated losslessly and passed with little effort to an ever-larger circle of friends and family on the social networks —  the value added by scarcity and novelty has clearly diminished. Yet the enormous volume of photos on sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook attest to the continuing, unquenched desire to share, to pass on the little rectangles that affirm our experience… 

DPD: Complete!

April 17, 2009

After a crescendo of effort culminating in a virtually sleepless week’s end, Deconstructing Product Design is done and on its way to the publisher

Good night!

Deconstructing Product Design, Book Cover

Video Monolith

April 13, 2009

An event visitor examines the Video Monolith.

The Video Monolith is one of the more unusual projects I’ve worked on, far from the usual two-dimensional confines of the digital medium. The goal was to develop a portable and inexpensive freestanding display to present video, audio and animation to special event visitors. The content included life-sized projection of a host presenting program information and other client messaging. My role was to develop the design of the physical Monolith display, integrating it with the site and its intended usage.

The final result demonstrated the dramatic effect of seeing video outside of its normal screen confines. With a more anthropomorphic, human-scaled screen and aspect ratio, the video of the speaking host was a much more compelling presence. The target audience, like most of us, has long since learned to filter out the video messaging that pervades public and private spaces. But watching a full-sized person standing and talking — in a form very different from the typical video shrunk to fit on a horizontal display — is not subject to the same automatic dismissal. It demanded at least a moment of passer-by’s cognitive processing, and often prompted longer pauses — whether for curiosity about the medium or interest in the message itself.

View this gallery for more images of the Video Monolith installation.

The Agony of Perfection

April 12, 2009

As most designers will tell you, developing a personal portfolio site is perhaps one of the most painful creative processes imaginable. Even without the added pressures of the show-and-tell nature of a portfolio, older work often seems, well, imperfect. The eye of the work’s creator is ultimately the harshest critic, alert to every flaw and compromise. At the same time, the affection for an old favorite piece winds up fighting against the desire for brevity and a sensible selection of representative work.

Then comes the question of how high to aim. The portfolio surely must be perfect. Or, the opposite argument, the portfolio must be a transparent platform on which the work can speak for itself. I vacillated in building this site, from one extreme to the other. If you’ve come here via the portfolio pages, you’ve already seen which path I chose, the decision simplified by the inevitable paralysis of the avenue leading toward perfection.

I will continue to add pieces here, for a few interesting favorites still clamor to be added. Take a look around and let me know what you think.