Archive for October, 2004

Jonathan Ive at the Design Museum

Friday, October 29th, 2004

Q: How do you make a world beating iconic product and thereby revive the fortunes of your $2 billion loss making computer company ?

A: Hire a visionary designer who can align himself almost completely with your founding values and give him the freedom to pursue his belief that simplicity is not a style but is designed into a product from the ground up.

Jonathan Ive at the recent launch of the U2 ipod special editon was dubbed by Bono, “ipod Johnny”. More formally, Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Computer, Jonathan Ive is the man who has developed a swathe of highly engineered products that are clean, pure and simple to use. A Dieter Rams for the new century, Ive has already had an enormous influence on product design as everything from pens to the BBC news studio takes on glowing translucency and aluminium detailing.

He joined Apple in 1992 and said that he felt at the time that the company had “lost it’s sense of identity”. Work had begun on the original imac before the return of legendary Apple founder, Steve Jobs but Ive dispelled the urban myth that Jobs simply arrived and demothballed the radical design for the imac. No doubt though, the imac was a survive or die product for Apple.

It was very interesting to hear Ive talking about his work. Not least because he doesn’t do it very often. His last similar public event was seven years ago and he’d requested that this one be kept informal – the Q&A style suiting his low key approach. Describing his design rationale at Apple, it emerged that strong attention to every last detail is key. He obviously feels passionately about the values of the company and revealed that projects have no formal design brief. The guiding principal is ‘making products better’. Ive talked about Apple as not just an opportunistic company or a purveyor of technology for its own sake. The simplification of Apple products he described as, “teetering on naive – almost unfinished” – the same might be said of their business philosophy. The goal of the company, he claimed, is “not to make money”. The belief is that striving for the best products will create the desire for them and the profit.

Unconventional it may be but it’s hard to argue when you look at the sales figures.

During the meeting Ive was at his most animated when talking about his geeky obsession with product features that nobody will ever know about such as the clutch mechanism controlling the opening of the display on the 17″ Powerbook. Designer Dick Powell, who was in the audience, enthused about the disappearing latch hook on the Powerbook and Ive took the first of many opportunities to tell us how, “we had to work really really hard on that – spent hours and hours and hours on it”. What marks out Apple products is this obsession with quality and detail. Mac afficionados will tell you how the total integration of products from their operating system through to the design of the power switch gives them a coherence and integrity. Ive’s take on this was enlightening, “its the whole experience of the product not just the way it looks”. Every last detail of the user experience is considered. He talked again and again about ‘focus and caring’. Focussing on what was essential to achieving the vision for a product and caring fully about every aspect of it’s design. Allusions to an iterative cycle of ‘throwing away and starting again’ gave a clue about the zeal with which Ive’s quest to ‘get design out of the way’ is pursued.

Unexpectedly beefy in appearance, his jeans, sneakers n stubble consistent with his lack of formality. He confessed to finding computers intrinsically uninteresting. Feels comfortable with designing small products as opposed to larger items and lamented the lack of general quality in mass market industrial design, “there’s not a lot of really nice stuff”.

Design heroes were few but he commented that the current Marc Newson exhibition was irritatingly good – particularly admiring Newson’s cellphone design. He dealt good humouredly with the inevitable inane questions – “Is the ipod masculine or feminine ?” [ A: “It’s a music player”]. And for a resident of California did not seem too hung up on the ethical aspects of his job. Ive just appears to be wholly captivated by his role and the opportunity it provides him to ‘make some really nice stuff’. It was good to see him in person and understand that he’s rounded, grounded and the kind of bloke you would meet in the pub and not guess he was a superstar designer.

The prospect of a 2 button Apple mouse, though, was not up for discussion.

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

Then here’s to John Peel
With his beard so gray
On the wireless each night
his tracks did play
Did ye ken John Peel
he was a fine DJ?
and a really nice bloke too. [ Who needs rhymes? – the man was an artist ]

Top 10 cinematographical cliches

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

1. If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises wearing their most revealing underwear.

2. Beds have strange L-shaped top sheets that reach up to armpit level on a woman but only waist level on the man lying beside her.

3. All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

4. It’s easy for anyone to land a plane, providing there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.

5. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off – even while scuba diving.

6. The ventilation system of any building is a perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building without difficulty.

7. You’re likely to survive any battle in any war unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.

8. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German accent will do.

9. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.

10. People on TV never finish their drinks.

Principal enemies are humans – (who sometimes kill it for meat), lions, hyenas and leopards; pythons also take the young.

Monday, October 25th, 2004

Young females stay with their mother until after the next baby is born. They may then dig their own burrows a few yards away from the mother and join her to forage for termites.

What have we learnt this week

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Sarah Jane lives more like a princess than a Cinderella, and believes that the Bible’s warning to beware of inner filth puts things into perspective. via Scary

Sir Cliffe hopes that you will think of him as you wear the perfume which he has created with just you in mind. via Zed

The heat in Tel Aviv is not too overbearing at 9am at this time of year [ grr ]

It’s not a good idea to wear suede shoes during a torrential downpour.

There was an unfeasibly large organ in Leicester Square.

I always thought that ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ was a great title. Now I know it was worth having – tax exempt status on all that vodka.

The Fat Slags may be out of circulation for a while. Not in Bignjuicyville I can assure you.

Not having a job feels pretty good…so far.

Newborns are pinkish and stay inside the burrow for about 2 weeks. Then begin to follow their mothers in their search for food. The young first eats solid food at 3 months of age and is suckled until 4 months.

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

Young males become independent at about 6 months and go off on their own.

Free at last

Friday, October 22nd, 2004

Those strength vibes you sent got me thru – thankyou.

Feeling now: drained, strangely unafraid and in need of a large drink.

Well I am as they say, officially the hell outa there.

The Formal Leaving Lunch was as weird as expected – the talk as small as a gnats shrivelled left gonad. After much general chit chat and consumption of bizarre food relieved only by water and the occasional fart from the assembled throng, the Formal Farewell Speech was performed. This was fascinating, excruciating and surreal. My achievements were outlined in glowing terms and my place in history almost assured when the official photographers tuned up. Sadly, I was not ready for my closeup and sent them away until later – when I knew I would be several miles distant. There was an awkward shifting vibe as we all sat around on bizarre low level pink loungerettes trying to keep the conversation flowing whilst maintaining the dignity and Formality of the occasion. I waited for the first one to look at the clock. [ 15 mins in ] I waited for chief tosser to arrive. [ 20 mins in – so he didn’t have to stay too long ]. I waited for chief tosser to take over the conversation so that he became the centre of it. [ 21 mins in ] I cracked a few funnies and the assembled throng all guffawed maniacally. I looked around to see if the nude 86 year old bus conductress I had ordered for the entertainment had arrived such was their mirth. Sadly she was delayed in traffic and never made it. Everyone, all day was being so nice the sort of nice that ordinarily would have you worried you were about to be sacked or sent to work in the Slough branch office. It was as though everyone had taken a Nice Pill – how I wish they had started putting them in the tea five years ago – I might then have not needed to massacre them all with a high powered gas laser.*

*[ other revenge fantasies are available ]

Give birth to one offspring at a time.

Flush me baby one more time

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

I’ve been pretty blogstipated for the past few weeks. If you’ve been reading this stuff for any longer than that you’ll no doubt have noticed. Sorry n all. I think it’s down to coming to terms with what I did nearly two months ago. [ Resigned from well paid secure job with nothing to go to – as you do ]. I’ve tried not to go on about it too much but something this big is bound to have an effect eh? I admit it – I’ve been preoccupied with life, the universe and where my next pint of the black stuff is coming from.

Well my prison sentence is nearly over, my hell notice is nearly at an end. Tomorrow I have The Formal Leaving Lunch. Shortly after I will be leaving by the back door, climbing into a fast car and you won’t see me for dust. Ciao Bella! I’m not quite sure yet what The Formal Leaving Lunch will comprise. I suspect it will be a dysfunctional gathering of all the sad old farts I’ve been obliged to spend the last five years listening to as they outlined their vision of the world and how I could help them achieve it. The very same group who all hate each other and spend large parts of the day whispering in corridors about ‘The Others’. The men [ for women are not permitted to join their ranks ] who have stabbed me in the back repeatedly and who now expect me to play their little game one last time. There maybe smalltalk ahead but while there’s paper plates and warm liebfraumilch and twiglets and coleslaw vol-au-vents ahead lets visit the bog and chuck. You can tell I’m looking forward to it can’t ya? Tomorrow at 1.10 pm I want you to go to a quiet place, focus on me and send me strength vibes – I’ll be the one wearing a coathanger in his mouth and choking on a non-vegetarian party snack.

After tomorrow the blogflow should improve – it better had or I’m off.

With their keen sense of smell, also hunt for the long columns of termites that move outside the mounds at night.

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Sometimes press their snouts against an opening in a mound and suck up the termites.

Stardate 2022: Is it a Boyo or Girlo?

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

I see that the Welsh sperm donation situation is nearing criticality. “The service has practically dried up”, according to sources. [ Oh the possibilities with that one – but I’ll resist ] The prospect of being tracked down by your genetic offspring in future years is apparently putting off donors. What used to be a wam bam that’ll be nineteen quid please experience could now mean an appearance on Surprise Surprise eighteen years later. Personally, I was toying with the idea of a visit to Wales in the near future but I realised that any profit potential would be neutralised by the train fare [ I wonder if you can send it through the post? ] I’m all in favour of passing on my genes to future generations – that’s what we men are for isn’t it? So with the prospect of ten different pregnancies and no responsibility I’m surprised that the demand isn’t rocketing skywards.

[ OK I’m cheap ]

Trap termites using their long protractile tongues, which are covered with a thick, sticky saliva.