In the Artefact Studio Space

Posted on Jan 23, 2012 in Career
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I took a few shots in the office in recent months* and thought I’d post them here… enjoy!

* The team photo was taken by Tucker

India

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 in Career, Travel

For the second time in my career, I am taking a two-month sabbatical, this time in India, where my wife Evelyn has been working since January for the organization NEEDS in Deoghar.

This is my third trip to India, with the first one being the archetypical tourist-trip from Delhi, via Agra through the state of Rajasthan and its famous cities. I also visited the country a few months ago this spring – also to visit Evelyn.

This time around, I spent a few days in Kolkata during Durga Puja, before staying two weeks in Deoghar to experience life in Northeastern India. Originally, I planned to conduct a design project there, but found that the time was just too short to do something truly meaningful, so that I ended up “designing my time in Deoghar” and spending it on some  personal projects and helping out with smaller aspects of NEEDS’ work and in their education program.

Evelyn and I finished off the trip with a little holiday in the opposite corner of the most colorful country of the world and traveled through the Southwestern state of Kerala, where we visited the coastal towns of Varkala, Kollam, Alleppey, and Cochin and the Periyar Wildlife Reservoir upcountry.

Panasonic Avionics FlightPath wins the Silver German Design Award

Posted on Sep 26, 2011 in Awards, Interaction Design


I have been part of the team that won the Silver German Design Award for a collaboration between Carbon Design, Artefact and Panasonic… very proud of the FlightPath project – and it was a fun one, too!

On top of it all, I was the lucky one to travel to my hometown Frankfurt and pick up the trophy…

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.

Speak no WVIL

Posted on Jun 12, 2011 in Media

After all the dust around our Camera Futura concept seems to have settled, I took a look back at some of the hundreds of articles that were written about it. The publicity didn’t start all too well, with our little “rogue” CES video being at first considered it a hoax by some. Engadget spoke of it being “unbelievably fake” and called our initial video a “pathetic viral campaign”… we’d probably take a different route the next time around.

Still, after we posted a video vignette, describing the product’s user experience and after ReadWrite picked up on the design, the media started to focus more (pun intended) on the concept, rather than the way we first introduced it. ReadWrite’s Richard MacManus wrote the following:

As we increasingly rely on our smartphones to take photographs, wouldn’t it be great if there was a lens that could easily be added to their smart phone. That’s exactly what this camera concept aims to achieve. The Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens is an idea that would allow users to easily attach or remove a professional lens to almost any device.

My favorite article about Camera Futura was written by Wired‘s Bruce Sterling, who said:

There’s something really contemporary and even beautiful about the way this provocative “concept camera” is packaged and rolled out. First, there’s the way cameras are re-imagined “after the death of cameras” — actually, they’re imagined as if there had never been any cameras, as if cameras had always been component-based platforms and operating systems mashed-up through APIs.
And then the article itself, or the WVIL provocation, behaves as if there had never been camera companies. No economies of scale, no mass-production muscle… just an atelier shaping the tech conversation while vaguely threatening to find a production method somewhere-or-other. It’s a provocation, but it’s also a disruption. There’s something very of-the-moment about this. It’s like the camera-biz equivalent of BitCoin.

Here is what other media outlets wrote:

When can we buy one? (Please excuse the drool as I type this.)

John Pavlus, FastCo Design

Oh how I wish the 31 megapixel, full frame sensor Camera Futura camera phone were real.

Scott Hansen, ISO50

This is one of the most beautiful and innovative concepts you’ll have seen in a long time, and acts upon something I’ve always wondered about—why can’t manufacturers just add cellphone guts to a camera?

Kat Hannaford, Gizmodo

Artefact has created a concept camera for the smartphone age

Jonathan Eger, Photo Weekly Online

Artefact have imagined a new camera that fits portability, flexibility and quality requirements.

Bless This Stuff

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.

WVIL Spoof

Posted on Jan 9, 2011 in Media

So here I am, sitting at Las Vegas Airport waiting for the plane that’ll take me back home to Seattle after a few exhausting days at CES in Vegas… I feel worn out from all the meetings, I feel hung over from last night’s party, but most importantly, I feel like a naughty kid that got caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

Over the past few months at Artefact, I have been working on a camera concept that aims to paint a vision for where photography could go. As we were thinking about how to best start the conversation with the industry that we are looking forward to having, we came up with the idea to staging a “stealth product introduction” on the CES show floor.

Now you have to know that the concept currently is in “appearance model” stage, meaning all we have as of today is a non-working “looks-like” mock-up of the product. Nevertheless, we shot the video next to the Polaroid and Nikon booths at CES, with Fernd and Tucker asking questions to a “WVIL product manager” (played by me) about his new product.

Issara and Yaque from Dos Rios Films pulled an all-nighter to superimpose the product’s user interface onto the camera’s screen and posted the video less than 24 hours ago.
We didn’t explain that the camera is just a design concept, but offered glimpses at the our website’s URL WVIL.de that would explain the whole story.

A few hours later, the video has over 1,500 views and some commenters are crying “fake”, completely dissecting Issara’s and Yaque’s late night work… I’ll have to catch my flight now, but will see how this story unfolds after I’m off the plane.

It feels fantastic to be a naughty kid!

Artefact and UW: “There’s A Thing For That”

Posted on Jan 3, 2011 in Education, Industrial Design


I initiated, planned and led a collaboration between the University of Washington’s Design Department and Artefact. Combining Artefact’s expertise and interest in both industrial design and interaction design, Artefact wanted to both task the students with the exploration of “interactive objects” as well as to challenge the status quo and current presumption that every daily need “there’s an app for that.”
We posted two articles here and here that talk about the project in a little more depth.