Postindustrialdesign

Of matchbox cars, wooden toy blocks, and a guiding light for a career

When I was a kid, like most boys, I loved to play with matchbox cars. Unlike most boys, I was not satisfied to simply caper about with the cars; instead I wanted to create roads, and cities, and worlds around them.
Building these worlds out of the square wooden toy blocks that my grandfather – a former carpenter – had made for me, I essentially gave myself “frameworks” to play within.

130103 PID1The only two remaining toy blocks from my childhood*.

Unsurprisingly, when I started out as a designer, I was similarly looking to employ a framing structure around my career. Don’t get me wrong, I focused on the essentials of my job, my clients, and the exciting projects I was working on, but at the same time I was looking to identify how the design profession would develop in order to define and hone a vision for my career.

The many metamorphoses of design

There are some constants to the design profession – think: problem solving, prototyping or aesthetic sensibilities. Yet, the skills to create technical drawings for example, that I acquired in university were obsolete by the time I started my first job and terms like “user experience”, or “design thinking” did not play a major role until a few years into my career: The design craft has always been in a state of flux and will likely continue on this trajectory.
While both the “why” behind the profession and pragmatic definitions of the trade, have become table stakes for the designer these days, I have come to believe that four aspects will be of great importance for the design profession in the future.

130103 PIDCapacity – Responsibility – Process – Content: The four aspects of Postindustrialdesign (PID)

And as I was pondering, reading, and writing, about these facets, I started seeing my work as postindustrialdesign**, an expression that had been defined some 30-odd years ago, and that is yet as contemporary and aspirational today as it was in the 1980s.

“The coming of post-industrial design”

The term was first coined by Nigel Cross in his paper on the progress of design methods. In it, Cross suggests a future for the development of design methods, that is informed by the concept of post-industrialism, and that will see design develop its own methods, rather than refining processes that had been borrowed from the field of science at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Cross argues that in a post-industrial society, production of goods is resource-conserving and quality-focused, he believes that design tools will be superior, yet simpler, and cheaper than its predecessors, and that the use of such tools will allow for new processes to emerge.

“My brand” of Postindustrialdesign

Cross’s theories resonate with me and I find his foresight astonishing: eco-friendly industrial design has still not been fully embraced, tools like computers, software, or 3D printers, have become accessible to everyone and the ‘maker culture’ does indeed have an impact on the product development process and the role of the designer in it.
In the future, Postindustrialdesign will see Cross’s framework extended from “product–tools–process” into the one that I mentioned earlier. So here goes:

Capacity

Nigel Cross put forth an accurate vision about the forthcoming era of industrial design. In the 30 years that have passed since publishing his paper, the profession would be democratized through tools that were cheaper and freer than the ones previously used; mostly due to the development of targeted software.
The role of the designer is largely dependent on his tools, and these tools are not only growing in number, and complexity, but do also impact both process and outcome of our work.

130714 iPhone Holder 8 PrintingNot unexpectedly rapid prototyping is one of the postindustrialdesigner’s newer capacities. More and more of his tools will be borrowed from neighboring fields such as business and science.

Given our trajectory in this regard it is to be expected that the postindustrialdesigner’s toolkit will include not only sophisticated software, but also an ever-growing set of prototyping methods, among them such techniques as 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machining.
The postindustrialdesigner will be able to use these tools not only to improve on the design process, but they will also be able to transpose the utilization of such tools to their final output – in the case of rapid prototyping, this could mean that postindustrial products are also “rapidly manufactured”.

Process

While large producers of goods will still dominate the marketplace in the foreseeable future, the aforementioned tools like crowd-funding will allow for small organizations to develop specialized products on a smaller scale, essentially dismembering large bureaucratic structures in some cases.
On a parallel path to the traditional product development process, an adaptable design process will ripen within these smaller entities. This new process will go from being autocratic to being democratic, from exclusive to inclusive and from rigid to to more flexible.
In his 2005 I.D. Magazine article “A Manifesto for Postindustrial Design”, Jamer Hunt draws inspiration from the open-source mode of software creation and wants to transfer the process to the development of physical products. In the eight years since, open source product development efforts from the likes of Bug Labs and crowd-funding websites such as kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com have proven that there is both the need and the space for such a parallel path to product design.

130103 LunatikWhat used to happen behind closed doors is taken out into the open by the postindustrialdesigner: Scott Wilson shares the prototyping process of LunaTik on Kickstarter.

While I do not anticipate a new product development process to replace the traditional methods overnight, the postindustrialdesigner will leave the romantic “genius-in-a-tower” image behind at times and will go from being creative to being collaborative and from being professional to being participatory, in order to meet new needs.
The postindustrialdesigner won’t think of the two processes as mutually exclusive: he might jump between them or even imagine a design-led and “crowd-funded” product development effort within the confines of a larger organization.

Content

Both Berg’s Jack Schulze and Kicker’s Dan Saffer in their respective blog posts “The Ghost in the Field” and “Post-Industrial Design” write about the designer’s new raw materials:

Where once industrial design was concerned with radii, form, and finish, we now deal in behaviours, experience, shifting context, and time.
– Jack Schulze

More than anything, it seems that post-industrial design is both a way of working and a way of thinking about products. It’s a way of working in that it considers the interactive behavior a product should engender before considering its physical form.
– Dan Saffer

Panasonic FlightPath 1While user interface design is not part of the industrial designer’s vocabulary, the postindustrialdesigner is well-versed in this domain.

While I challenge Saffer regarding his assessment that postindustrialdesign sure has “arrived by now”, I cannot but agree with Schulze’s and Saffer’s assertion that the interactive behavior of an object must be an integral part of modern day design.
Beyond that, the postindustrialdesigner will also be involved in the creation of business and design strategies, and the services that frame the physical product and its interaction.

Responsibility

In terms of the designer’s responsibility in the product development process, Cross’s paper is mainly concerned with the scarcity of resources in a post-industrial society. He argues that products move from specialized to generalized, from mass-produced to short-run, and from short-lived to long-lived, all with a focus on quality, so as to conserve resources.

111108-7The postindustrialdesigner’s most lofty goal: saving the world.

And while this ideal certainly makes even more sense now than it did 30 years ago, there are also political, and sociological aspects that need to be considered. With the content of his work shifting from the mere creation of physical objects to the design of related interactions, strategies, and services, the postindustrialdesigner is concerned with the shaping of behavior for a preferable future – read more on this topic of “21st Century Design” on artefactgroup.com.

So, what does this all mean?

Being a postindustrialdesigner, I am using the above framework not only to make career decisions, but also to inspire and to guide my day-to-day work.
The beauty of those square wooden toy blocks my grandfather gave me as a kid was that they could always be rearranged, and that I could add and subtract bricks as I desired.

130103 PID2

So, along the way – as my thoughts and opinions become more refined – I reserve the right to adapt my framework to new developments in industry and society and who knows, one day I might migrate this entire website to its new domain postpostindustrialdesigner.com.

 

* After we stopped playing with them, my grandpa used the wooden blocks for some of his tinkering and home improvement projects, thus there are now some drill holes and notes on them…
** Yes, I do spell that as one word.

Lights, Camera, EVIL


If you are a camera buff, the holiday season for you starts in January, when Las Vegas opens its doors for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, where among other things, camera manufacturers show the latest and greatest of their lineups. Simultaneously, at the concurrent PMA conference, photography experts will get together to discuss upcoming trends that will shape the industry.

EVIL on the Rise

One of the themes that are bound to become a hot conversation topic is the recent success of EVIL cameras (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) and what it means to the industry. My EVIL primer “EVIL on the Rise: The Demise of SLR Cameras?” explores the origins of these camera systems and takes a look at the opportunities EVIL offers manufacturers, professionals and prosumers.

In the report, I review the lasting advantages of Single Reflex Cameras and conclude with recommendations to manufacturers that will help them master the EVIL opportunity, and give consumers more to look forward to.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… refining the way we prepare our meals


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… making hi-fi products relevant again


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

The iPhone 5: Is It Boring or the “Next Big Thing”?


If you do not live under a rock, you know that the iPhone 5 has arrived and that it is thinner, lighter, larger and faster than its predecessor.

And if you, just like me, belong to the growing crowd of nerdy tech-blog followers, you have known this for quite a while. The fact that iOS 6’s new features had already been introduced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this summer, in combination with the wave of leaks, took a bit of the fun out of the announcement.

In addition, at first glance it seems that the innovation that the iPhone 5 brings is rather incremental.  Wired‘s Mat Honan argues that it is a boring device and Forbes thinks that the iPhone 5 is not “the next truly big thing“. There is, however, an interesting nuance that seems to go largely unnoticed and the number “Five” might mean more than one assumes. Here is what caught my attention:

The Incremental Improvements

  • The screen: The “biggest thing” about the iPhone 5 is obviously its larger display, using in-cell touch screen for better color accuracy and saturation, and a thinner form factor. While the new aspect ratio is very close to the 16:9 HD standard and thus better suited for the consumption of media, app developers are probably in frantic update mode as I am writing these lines…
  • From 30 to 8 pins: The original 30-pin dock connector had a great run of 10 years, but it was time for a change. In an industry where slimness is a key advantage, the size of the dock connector became an obstacle for slimmer products. Apple’s move to provide two types of adapters will salvage the millions of accessories already on the market, even though David Pogue expects some “grumpiness in iPhoneland” and wishes that these adapters came free with the purchase of an iPhone 5. The additional costs will certainly be a consideration for “upgraders” that own multiple accessories…
  • 4G: After most of its competition features LTE for quite a while already, the faster wireless standard finally arrived on the iPhone and it comes along with a smaller “nano-SIM” card. If you travel intercontinentally on a regular basis and want to get “the 5″, you’re up for a tricky purchase decision, though, as there are three region-specific devices available… I for one am holding off with my order until unlocked devices become available in the U.S.
  • Camera: Being the photography geek that I am, I was interested in seeing how Apple would improve what is the most popular camera on flickr. Except for the scratch-resistant sapphire glass, the hardware seemed unchanged and it looked like improvements were made only with the inclusion of a panorama mode and better low-light performance. DPReview has, however, found that Apple is also using an updated image sensor that is slightly larger and improves on the minimum light sensitivity. Altogether, this seems to offer an all-around better experience of the industry-leading feature.
  • 600 people to test and develop the EarPods: To me – and to many other users that gave the iconic white earphones a measly 2.5 star rating in the Apple Store – the redesigned EarPods are merely righting a wrong.  They never really did fit or sound too great and I hope that all that testing, did bear fruit – pun intended.

Five: What’s In The Name?

Apart from these “boring” improvements to the class leader, ASYMCO’s industry analyst Horace Dediu was quick to point out that the iPhone 5’s name holds an important clue as to how Apple views its halo-product. Prior to the event invitation that revealed the product’s name, there had been speculations on whether Apple would move away from a number-based naming for the iPhone.

After changing the iPad naming to the brand-subbrand scheme (iPad 2 vs. “the new” iPad) that the rest of Apple’s hardware follows (e.g. “MacBook Pro” and “MacBook Air”, “iPod Touch” and “iPod nano”), the iPhone is now the sole hardware product in Apple’s line-up that still bears a number in its name and this means two things:

  1. There will not be an iPhone “nano” or “mini,” and tiering the product line will continue to be achieved through several generations of the product being sold at the same time. Currently these are the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
  2. More interestingly, the nomenclature could indicate that Apple sees the iPhone more as a platform, much like its operating systems iOS6 or OS10.6. The platform could play host to an increasing portfolio of software and services, like Siri.

This could be a disruptive shift, creating new interesting opportunities for the iPhone and even more so for its users. Here are four hypotheses of what could lie ahead for the iPhone:

  • Apple Maps could see extensions with Apple-proprietary or third-party location-based services and augmented reality.
  • Apple’s Passbook service could develop closer ties with e-commerce websites and other forms of payment to become a true digital wallet.
  • With the addition of sensors and wearable technology, Apple could develop the iPhone platform into the leading hub for Digital Health & Wellness.
  • Along the same lines, the iPhone could become the gateway into that elusive Internet of Things, and connect not only to the personal computer and TV, but to pretty much everything one owns.

With these – and many more – potential additions to the platform, I do not think that the iPhone 5 is boring at all and while it may not be “the truly next big thing” itself, it might well be what the next big thing for Apple will be built upon.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… refining how we will work in the future

Posted on Jul 12, 2012 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

Googlerola

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research, Trends


Since Monday’s announcement of Google’s multi-billion-dollar acquisition of Motorola, the media has been buzzing on what is the largest deal in Google’s history. While Google continues to reiterate that it is a protective move that allows using Moto’s patents to protect its Android OS from anti-competitive threats, it is fascinating to speculate about the fate of all players involved. So what might be next for “Googlerola”, for its partners and competitors, for Android and – last but not least – for the consumer?

Reading the media reaction to Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it becomes clear that the move is not solely “defensive” as Google’s PR machine is trying to suggest. Sure, after losing the 6,000+ Nortel-patents to the Apple-Microsoft-led consortium just a little over a month ago, Motorola’s intellectual property of some 17,000 patents comes as a welcome infusion for Android, but more importantly Googlerola will now be able to build truly market-leading mobile devices that finally deliver a fully integrated Android hardware and software experience.

While it might be too early to sell your Google shares, not all is good in Mountain View: Google has just increased its workforce from 30,000 to 50,000 employees and has acquired 90+ low-margin hardware factories in an information-centric world that it dominates.

More importantly, beyond the mere numbers, it will be challenging for the search-giant to cope with the obvious looming cultural clash that might in the end tip the scales.

Android Partners and Competitors

Upon acquisition of Android, Google founded the Open Handset Alliance – “a consortium of 80 hardware, software, and telecommunication companies” (Wikipedia), the most important device manufacturers of which certainly have reason to feel threatened by Googlerola. The suspiciouslyuniform partner responses seem to spell trouble:

 “We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Googles deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”
JK Shin, President, Samsung Mobile

“We welcome the news of today’s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
Peter Chou, CEO, HTC

“I welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Bert Nordberg, CEO, Sony Ericsson

“We welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Jong-Seok Park, CEO, LG Mobile

Even before the news broke, Nokia’s stance against Android (and for Windows Phone), HP’s attempt at reviving Palm’s WebOS and Samsung’s move to create their own “Bada” OS late last year raised quite a few eyebrows.

While Nokia yet has to deliver a Windows Phone product, the Finnish market leader detailedaspects of their plans for the platform today. Samsung has shipped an estimated quarter of its 20 million smartphone shipments in Q2 powered by Bada (with a year-by-year growth rate of 355%!). Furthermore, two days after Google’s big shopping spree, Samsung’s chairman Lee Kun-hee demands from its company to “enhance its software prowess”. Wow!

So now that Samsung is showing that it can work and others are in the midst of trying, what keeps the LG’s and HTC’s and Sony Ericsson’s from attempting the same – especially now that Google has turned into a full-fledged competitor?

And what about Microsoft? As of today, they are the sole provider of a mobile operating system that does not come with integrated hardware and will have to figure out how to play in the mobile space once again. Maybe it’s time to produce some Redmond-designed phones?

The previously stale mobile phone market is suddenly fresh and exciting again and I expect the players to reevaluate their strategies and to react to the changed situation with enthusiastic new plans.

The Android Platform

I am wondering what the move means for Android as a market-leading platform that seems to dominate with “quantity” rather than “quality” (think: number of features, manufacturers, carriers, handsets).

Not even three years after the release of HTC’s “Dream”, Android feels more bloated and obese than Windows ever managed to become (“Longhorns” never were the most nimble of animals).

Android is extremely fragmented and doesn’t allow for much differentiation between Google’s partners (read: competitors), unless they inflate customize their flavor of the operating system even more.

There is certainly some word of caution in historic attempts to integrate hardware and software in this arena: Steve Jobs stopped the “Apple Clone” program after his return to Cupertino at the end of the 90′s, Microsoft never built their own laptops and Nokia’s acquisition of Symbian marked the beginning of the demise of that operating system. According to asymco’s Horace Dediu, “This is classic channel conflict and never ends well.”

Android will certainly not fade away, and it will probably not lose its market leading position either. However, the acquisition might however strengthen some competitors and will spark others to appear in the arena.

The Consumer

So what’s in it for us? Gizmodo is quick to point out “Samsung, HTC, et al, are going to need another avenue of attack, since Motorola branded products are going to theoretically have a major advantage”.

All these possible “avenues” are what will make Google’s acquisition of Motorola so interesting in the coming months and I strongly believe that the event will act as a catalyst in the development of a multitude of new and improved mobile products.

Paraphrasing JK Shin, Peter Chou, Bert Nordberg and Jong-Seok Park “I welcome the news” and hope that in the end the consumer will win.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… changing how students learn


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

Cameras Connect

Posted on Mar 14, 2011 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research, Trends


Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, GPS, compasses and other receivers are a given with mobile phones – these components not only help to interconnect different devices and untether the overall use experience, they also connect users to each other through the use of social media. Users will demand for this experience to transcend beyond the realm of their mobile phones. While the traditional camera model has been simply to capture images, post-processing, sharing, and other activities will find their way into digital cameras.

The full report shows you how mobile connected services centered on photos are growing, early designs for new camera connectivity that will soon be commonplace like WiFi, GPS, and battery charging, and new device relationships allowing remote control.

Cameras Connect

Rich with examples, all Artefact Reports also include conclusions about business opportunities and exercises you can use to understand how this trend may affect your products and services.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

Big “App-ortunities” for the Camera Industry

Posted on Feb 28, 2011 in Design Strategy, Opinion, Research, Trends


Camera makers still think of the embedded software on their devices as “firmware,” whereas the mobile phone industry has taken the next step and sees their offerings as “operating systems” or “software platforms.” While it is thus still somewhat of an afterthought within cameras, software enhances the imaging-related capabilities in smartphones and sometimes turns them into the better camera. This creates a demand for the same interactivity within the digital camera arena. We believe the embedded software that comes with cameras will be more integrated with the device and it will be expandable through apps. Digital Cameras will become “smart cams.”

The full report shows you how the rise of photo-related phone apps are making them camera competitors, how more interactive camera hardware sets the stage for more complete experiences, and what ‘open source cameras’ reveal about creating more capable devices.

Big App-ortunities for the Camera Industry

Rich with examples, all Artefact Reports also include conclusions about business opportunities and exercises you can use to understand how this trend may affect your products and services.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.