By EDU IBAZETA
I remember having a large shoe collection during my college years. (Well, okay, 10 pairs of shoes isn’t large, but it seemed a lot to me.) I would choose which pair to wear based on what I was wearing or the weather or the occasion, until I started having this feeling that I was neglecting some of them. Just as Andy’s toys in Toy Story would talk to each other when there was no one around, I would imagine my shoes were doing the same. From then on, some of my decisions were based on how a certain shoe I hadn’t worn in a while felt envious of its other footwear companions. I became attached to them. Shoes. Inanimate objects.
What’s crazy about us humans is that we become attached to our things, going so far as giving them names and showering them with love (a common practice amongst the owners of Apple Products). The moment we assign these affections to a gadget (or just about anything, really), we are recognizing that it has a personality.
How many of us have gone to a mall and ended up listening to salesperson’s pitch just because something attracted you to him or her? Aarron Walter, author of Designing for Emotions, said that personality is a great tool in design because it influences our decisions. The author gave Volkswagen’s Beetle as an example: Have you ever looked at a Bettle and thought that it had an actual face? Its headlights represented eyes while the bumper suggested that it had a smile on its face? Smiles are friendly and inviting, which may very well be the reason for its success over the course of several decades.
It’s funny. I used to not care so much about how about gadgets looked as long as they had the internal specs I wanted. But here I was, in a mall, staring at all these laptops and I kept thinking just how ugly most of them were: the angles and edges were boring; screens were glossy (Matte for the win! Especially on a sunny day.); a lot of them seemed to weigh as much as a block of cement and I certainly (thanks to my frail figure) couldn’t lug them around on a daily basis. And what’s with all that shiny plastic? Do these companies actually care about what their products look like? Do they actually think that we don’t care?
Great device designers are often the ones who are able to marry both function and form in perfect harmony with no room for divorce. The obvious example is, of course, Apple who have been largely successful with their devices, not only because they work well, but also due to the high regard that both the punditocracy and the average consumer give to their products. Design curator Paola Antonelli stated in her March 2007 TED talk “The best way to design a successful object – and also, an object that we were missing before – is to pretend that it never existed or that people will have a new behavior to it with it” and a lot of their devices, the iPod, iPhone and iPad most especially, were successful because they were created with this philosophy in mind.
Design in consumer electronics (and I could be wrong because, as I am not a pundit in this field), adopts a different philosophy as opposed to design applications in other fields. While some schools of thought use design as a way of conveying a message such as “The existentialist crises of a female vagina and its relationship with a higher being that watches over our souls as we struggle through a world riddled with war, poverty and, ultimately, chaos”, creations in consumer electronics require a large focus on functionality.
With computing devices most especially, software and how it interacts with the hardware play a major role. In fact, good hardware may be hampered by poor software. Just ask Nokia, whose recent smartphones have great hardware designs but held back by the aging, and now dead, Symbian OS. Software matters. I purchased my HTC HD7 mainly because I loved the look and feel of Windows Phone 7′s Metro UI and that it worked well with HTC’s hardware (my only caveat being the phone’s battery life). Microsoft’s decision to set the minimum hardware specs seems to be a good decision and avoids the sort of fragmentation that we’re seeing in Android devices. Hopefully though, Google will fulfill its promise of putting an end to their platform’s fragmentation via the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Design, and personality in design, applies to lines of code as well. Take websites as an example: Most of us love Google, not only because it searches well, but also because of the personality of their page and the people who work on it. I certainly find the Google Doodles enjoyable. Jesse Schell’s pageis a current favorite of mine. I love how it feels like an extension of his personality without doing too much. Yes, I like simplicity.
Even operating systems have their own personas, which is really the point of this entry. The current crop of popular mobile OS’s have their own stories to tell, and yes, I have created my way of telling that story.
The setting: corporate. The company: Smart Fonetix (Could be any name, really)
Apple iOS came in a few years ago and quickly climbed through the ranks, eventually becoming CEO of the company. And he did so with swagger but not being too abrasive with his methods. His ideas ushered in changes within the company’s culture and provided new solutions for the company to adopt. iOS had just updated some company initiatives and hired a a young, new secretary, Siri, who has quickly become the talk of the town.
Smart Fonetix CTO/COO is Android OS. People at the marketing department perceive him to be a boring guy, with ‘unfavorable’ fashion sense. The people in the IT department, however, know just how brilliant he is. He can even crack a joke or two. Still, he has been recently trying to improve his image. Maybe then the people at marketing might take a second look.
Windows Phone 7 is the newly hired manager already making noise with her fresh new ideas. She came from a company that began successfully, but was unable to make the necessary adjustments to be competitive. Marketing loves WP7 with her designer duds and trendy style. Those close to her a lot say her mango kani salad is to die for.
Then there’s Smart Fonteix’s Blackberry OS, the company’s executive vice president. He has been around for quite some time and working his last few months before retirement. He’s been trying to keep himself relevant but his methods seem to be stuck in a previous generation. Upon his exit, his protege is expected to take his place.
There are others like WebOS, the HR director who tried to shake things up, but no one really listened to. He ended with a nervous breakdown. Then there’s Symbian. He used to be CEO but was voted out by the board of directors. That separation pay was pretty sizable though.
I’m pretty sure that a lot of you already are aware of all these points that I’ve just mentioned. But why does it feel like some of these manufacturers don’t? Perhaps there are just some things that bear repeating.
Edu Ibazeta plays “physical emotions” for the “stupidest, most excellent band in the world”, Halik ni Gringo. Aside from working part-time as a host on Cge TV, his days are devoted to bear wrestling and bare wrestling. He is on call 24/7 to punch a hole in the universe whenever you need him to. His last appearance in these pages was with a review of bitches in business.
This post originally appeared in his very own repository for feelings about gadgets called, So I Started a Tech Blog.