This is a slightly longer version than usual, with stories from the last two weeks.
- Great design is not enough to make a product succeed on its own. Good product-market fit, quality marketing, diligent sales efforts, robust engineering and a thousand other factors have to come together as well. This round-up of products or companies that fell flat in 2017 is filled with great industrial design work that met inglorious ends when the other elements failed to fall into place.
- On Western designers lifting aesthetics from China and Thailand, while playing the part of a victimized creators when replica goods are produced.
- Designers and engineers attempt to conjure the future more than most professions, prototyping new methods and improving on inventions of the past. New Year's is a time when we all take on that time traveler role, oscillating between visualizations of the past and future. We attempt to dodge the mistakes and bad habits of the last year(s) for the next go-round, and strategize how best to grasp the promise of a yet-unknown (but certainly better) future. In that spirit, take a look at these computer/machine interfaces from design years past and imagine how boldly futuristic some of them must have felt at the time. It's also a reminder of how difficult it is to predict the future of technology and interfaces, as some of the flopped companies of 2017 listed above could tell you.
- Tesla is making restrictions on what kinds of customers can use their electric charging stations, specifically barring commercial users. Without the commonplace availability of powering up that petroleum vehicles enjoy, the company faces a real challenge: deal with long queues of customers or delineate policies that will control usage.
Feeding the Future:
- One common obstacle that women face is that they typically perform more domestic labor than their male peers, cutting down on time in general and especially compromising the intense periods of focused work required for everything from great writing to scientific breakthroughs. The biologist and Nobel-prize winner Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard has created a program specifically to help women relieve these burdens and focus on science, a step that will surely have far-reaching positive ripples.
A very literal form of toxic masculinity: A study suggests that men in the U.S. and China, attempting to assert masculinity, may actively reject environmentally responsible policies as behaviors due to coding them as 'soft' or 'passive' ways of being.
Roadmapping the Future:
- When it comes to consumer hardware, 2017 definitely felt like the year of the smart speaker and by extension the smart home, as huge numbers of Alexa-powered Amazon products and Google Home devices shipped out into the world and landed on kitchen counters, nightstands, and living room bookshelves. The speed at which this trend has been moving is as startling as the associated privacy concerns, and it doesn't show signs of stopping. 2018 will likely reveal some polished efforts and new approaches to the form from brands more closely associated with high quality consumer electronics than Amazon is, which could turn the smart speaker category into one of the most significant mass culture technology moments since the jump from feature-phones to smartphones.
- MIT Technology Review's best GIFs of 2017 offers a visually dazzling sliver of the cutting edge in robotics, biology, and material science from the past year.
- Brands are constructed in attempt to differentiate products (often in an artificial capacity) and capture marketshare through psychographic tactics. While brands can get people to pay a premium for a commodity good, their vaguely anthropomorphic qualities are also alienating to large swaths of people and can stand in the way of people really getting what they want. Mindy Yang has opened shop in New York called Perfumarie, with the intention of stripping away the branded aspects of scents in order to find what people really like. Many customers find themselves surprised at the outcomes, choosing scents that they might avoid in everyday life due to branding concepts that conflict with their sense of self. This underscores the fact that more consumer choice can lead to inferior experiences for people even as it fattens the bottom-line for brands.