I am working on… the development of a digital document management tool

Posted on Dec 3, 2010 in Interaction 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…

Digital Photography, where will you go? (or why aren’t you there yet?)


As one would expect from any self-respecting creative consultancy, Artefact has a deep interest in photography. For some of us it is a hobby we are passionate about, for others it is a social or creative tool, some actually earn decent income on the side with it.

This leads to a lively conversation (and sometimes spirited debate) about the topic and we thought we’d let you in on our conversation. We will do this in the form of a series of blog posts: We aim to assess and analyze both the history and the status quo of photography, discuss areas of opportunity for the industry and – after having outlined our point of view on the topic, share our thoughts on what we consider could be a compelling product for the aspiring hobbyist in the year 2013.

Cycles of Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation

Invented nearly 200 years ago, the camera industry took it’s first series of experimental steps during the 19th century. After William Fox Talbot invented the positive/negative process in 1816, the first color photograph by James Clerk Maxwell was shown in 1861 and the Kodak Brownie made photography accessible to the masses at the end of the 1800′s.

The introduction of standards like the 35mm format and the 135 film cartridge after the turn of the century led to market growth and a commoditization of the technology started in the 1950’s with the release of cameras like the Agfa Optima and Kodak’s Instamatic. In most recent years, the industry changed from film to digital.

During this history one can clearly see alternating waves of disruptive and sustaining innovation: times where the introduction of new technology opened up photography to new users, followed by periods of more sustaining progress, where incremental improvements and price drops dominated the market.

The digital age has caused a major shift in the industry. It has fundamentally changed who the major players in the industry are by wiping out film. It has taken photofinishing out of the (specialty) store and brought it into our homes. Since the cost per picture has been reduced to zero, the volume of pictures we take has increased by an order of magnitude which gives rise to new tools. Where we used to share pictures only in person, we now share them online.

Yet for all these changes, digital photography has not sparked the transformational change it could have brought for the photographer. It has not yet changed how we take photographs.

Product Architecture and Technology: The Status Quo

Over the years, different form factors have been explored. The industry has now settled on two stable architectures: cameras with and cameras without interchangeable lenses.

The former segment is comprised of single lens reflex cameras and the – currently very “hot” – EVIL systems.

For the most part, cameras with non-interchangeable lenses could be categorized as point-and-shoot devices, even though that term does not do justice to cameras such as the Leica X1 or the Fujifilm FinePix X100.
Today’s digital cameras feature sufficiently high resolutions and the technical challenges of the past (such as low-light capabilities, vignetting, etc.) are constantly being improved.

Author and camera expert Erwin Puts sums it up nicely in his review of the recent Photokina 2010: “We have now the situation that every camera produces image quality that is better than what you need and even a small EOS 550 can create quality that is not that far removed from what you get with a 1Ds.”

All in all, the manufacturers work on incremental and predictable improvement of proven systems bringing these closer and closer to perfection, yet hesitate to truly innovate. We cannot but agree with Puts who provokingly states, that “A vision for photography would be nice too.”

Digital Technology’s Impact (and Lack Thereof)

Critically looking at the past two decades in which the photographic medium has gone through a tectonic shift from film to digital, it is somewhat surprising that the impact on photography as a whole is not as vigorous as it could be: While the post-processing has been altered with the advent of digital technology, the act of taking photos has remained the same for the past 100 years. The most significant change is that photographers are now looking at an LCD screen instead of through a viewfinder.

We find this rather disappointing and think that there are both technology potential as well as untapped user needs that could spark a disruptive change.

The Grass on the other Side of the Fence

Where do the camera industry’s prospects lie? On the search for a point of view, some might say it is too easy to point to other industries, but let’s go there just for clues: mobile consumer electronics have embraced new technologies and opportunities more enthusiastically than the static camera industry.

Mobile electronics leverage wireless connectivity and make extensive use of sensors (e.g. location, proximity). They take advantage of the integration of software and hardware, and blur the boundaries between still and video functionality.

For these reasons today’s smart phones are in many ways the better image capturing device. Traditional camera manufacturers will face greater pressure and threat of obsolescence from increasingly capable camera-enabled mobile devices. Not surprisingly, mobile phone giant Nokia has been the world’s largest producer of cameras for the past number of years.

Opportunities

To sum things up, based on our observations, we see missed opportunities in three main areas:

  • Product architecture: To date, the shift from film to digital has created merely incremental changes – what other opportunities still exist?
  • Connectivity: most of our electronic devices are connected, why not the camera? The digital camera of the future will be linked in multiple ways, allowing for photography devices to communicate with each other and with “the cloud”.
  • HW/SW integration: In most technology areas, hardware and software combine to produce better results and better experiences. Camera manufacturers cannot afford to continue to only use software as an “afterthought”. Going forward, hardware and software must be integrated into a tightly knitted system and great user experience.

“Now what does all this mean?” you might ask. The three areas highlighted above will enable exciting new possibilities and novel use scenarios for photographers. And we will get back to these after looking both at the user needs and wants, as well as guidelines for an ideal camera in the next part of this series.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… making it easier to set up your printer

Posted on Oct 20, 2010 in Interaction 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…

I am working on… an industrial device that saves corporations a lot of money

Posted on Oct 7, 2010 in Industrial Design, Interaction 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…

Panasonic Avionics FlightPath wins IDEA Bronze Award

Posted on Jul 28, 2010 in Awards, Interaction Design

The design study around Panasonic’s FlightPath inflight entertainment experience has won the 2010 IDEA Bronze Award!

I am working on… a better all-in-one desktop computer

Posted on Feb 20, 2010 in Industrial Design, Interaction 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…

I am working on… making it easier to get iced water

Posted on Nov 18, 2009 in Industrial Design, Interaction 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…

Seattle – Hamburg – Dubai – New York – Seattle

Less than two weeks after returning from Taiwan, I embarked on another intercontinental trip, this time strictly for business. A collaboration between Carbon Design, Artefact and Panasonic Avionics around the future of inflight entertainment took Martijn and I on a crazy trip through three continents in order to experience different inflight entertainment systems with different airlines and to visit the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

Our first stop was the trade show in Hamburg and we also crammed in a few internal work sessions in the “Hansestadt”. Before heading out for the second leg of our trip, we had an afternoon off, took a stroll through the stunning “Speicherstadt” and discovered the “Prototyp” Auto Museum, where we spent a few hours exploring the exhibition…

Our business trip’s second stop took Martijn and me into the United Arab Emirates and the city of Dubai – an area and a city that always fascinated me. While we had a three day stay in town, our time was mostly spent on work. We did however manage to escape for two afternoons to explore the city and to participate in a desert safari.
Weighing our options for the former activity with the hotel’s front desk, we found that “leisure” in the desert city more than in any other place on the planet equals “shopping”, as there seemingly is nothing else to do in Dubai and the options given by the hotel were somewhat monotonous…

Q: “What else can we do except for visiting shopping malls?”
A: “Well, not much… but every mall has its own flavor.”

Vegas on steroids. Great.

Admittedly, there is no other shopping mall on the planet where one can visit an indoor ski resort, but I found the lack of culture and history in the dusty city combined with a generally inhumane and little hospitable urban planning and the obvious slavery-like conditions of Dubai’s poorest simply disgusting.

While I still had hopes to find the romantics of 1001 night in the desert safari, I was also disappointed here, as the tour consisted out of several caravans of around a dozen jeeps each driving around in the sand dunes, just to stop at absolutely insignificant points for a few minutes and then to continue on to another little ride until the final destination, a very touristy “desert camp” featuring a few tired looking camels, shops selling overpriced Dutch beer and gimmicky souvenirs and a little inspiring belly dancer from the Philippines…

How to best summarize my first impressions… or the lack thereof?

If it wasn’t for the incredible man-made structures, built on the backs of hundreds of thousands of men deprived of human rights, Dubai would be an utterly uninteresting and boring place in the middle of nowhere. With all its ongoing and completed constructions the town is well worth a one-day visit.

I am working on… helping a tech company to innovate

Posted on Feb 3, 2009 in Industrial Design, Interaction 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…