Design Is How It Works

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Create Individualized Experiences on Your Website. Deliver Value Through Personalization. Behavioral design is all about feeling in control. Includes: usability, understanding, but also the feel. A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. A digital music player, it weighed just 6. There were small MP3 players around at the time, and there were players that could hold a lot of music.

But if the crucial equation is ''largest number of songs'' divided by ''smallest physical space,'' the iPod seemed untouchable. Since then, however, about 1. For the months of July and August, the iPod claimed the No. It is now Apple's highest-volume product.

Design is How it Works

Of course, as anyone who knows the basic outline of Apple's history is aware, there is no guarantee that today's innovation leader will not be copycatted and undersold into tomorrow's niche player. Apple's recent and highly publicized move to make the iPod and its related software, iTunes, available to users of Windows-based computers is widely seen as a sign that the company is trying to avoid that fate this time around. But it may happen anyway. The history of innovation is the history of innovation being imitated, iterated and often overtaken.

Whether the iPod achieves truly mass scale -- like, say, the cassette-tape Walkman, which sold an astonishing million units in its first 20 years of existence -- it certainly qualifies as a hit and as a genuine breakthrough. It has popped up on ''Saturday Night Live,'' in a 50 Cent video, on Oprah Winfrey's list of her ''favorite things,'' and in recurring ''what's on your iPod'' gimmicks in several magazines.

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It is, in short, an icon. But what does that really mean? It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. So you can say that the iPod is innovative, but it's harder to nail down whether the key is what's inside it, the external appearance or even the way these work together. One approach is to peel your way through the thing, layer by layer. If you want to understand why a product has become an icon, you of course want to talk to the people who dreamed it up and made it.

And you want to talk to the design experts and the technology pros and the professors and the gurus. But what you really want to do is talk to Andrew Andrew. Andrew Andrew is a ''highly diversified company'' made of two personable young men, each named Andrew. They dress identically and seem to agree on everything; they say, among other things, that they have traveled from the future ''to set things on the right course for tomorrow.

Among other things, they do some fashion design and they are DJ's who ''spin'' on iPods, setting up participatory events called iParties. Thus they've probably seen more people interact with the player than anyone who doesn't work for Apple. More important, they put an incredible amount of thought into what they buy, and why: In a world where, for better or worse, aesthetics is a business, they are not just consumers but consumption artists.

He was with Andrew, of course. A friend showed it to them. Andrew held the device in his hand.

The main control on the iPod is a scroll wheel: you spin it with your thumb to navigate the long list of songs or artists or genres , touch a button to pick a track and use the wheel again to adjust the volume. The other Andrew also tried it out. Before you even get to the surface of the iPod, you encounter what could be called its aura. The commercial version of an aura is a brand, and while Apple may be a niche player in the computer market, the fanatical brand loyalty of its customers is legendary. A journalist, Leander Kahney, has even written a book about it, ''The Cult of Mac,'' to be published in the spring.

As he points out, that base has supported the company with a faith in its will to innovate -- even during stretches when it hasn't. Apple is also a giant in the world of industrial design. But the iPod is making an even bigger impression. Bruce Claxton, who is the current president of the Industrial Designers Society of America and a senior designer at Motorola, calls the device emblematic of a shift toward products that are ''an antidote to the hyper lifestyle,'' which might be symbolized by hand-held devices that bristle with buttons and controls that seem to promise a million functions if you only had time to figure them all out.

They show up at about 10 in matching sweat jackets and sneakers, matching eyeglasses, matching haircuts. They connect their matching iPods to a modest Gemini mixer that they've fitted with a white front panel to make it look more iPodish. The iPods sit on either side of the mixer, on their backs, so they look like tiny turntables. Andrew Andrew change into matching lab coats and ties. They hand out long song lists to patrons, who take a number and, when called, are invited up to program a seven-minute set.

At around midnight, the actor Elijah Wood Frodo has turned up and is permitted to plug his own iPod into Andrew Andrew's system. His set includes a Squarepusher song. In talking about how hard it was, at first, to believe that so much music could be stuffed into such a tiny object, they came back to the scroll wheel as the key to the product's initial seductiveness.


  1. Markus Sabel.
  2. Graph Spectra for Complex Networks.
  3. “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”.

The idea of innovation, particularly technological innovation, has a kind of aura around it, too. Imagine the lone genius, sheltered from the storm of short-term commercial demands in a research lab somewhere, whose tinkering produces a sudden and momentous breakthrough. Or maybe we think innovation begins with an epiphany, a sudden vision of the future. Either way, we think of that one thing, the lightning bolt that jolted all the other pieces into place. The Walkman came about because a Sony executive wanted a high-quality but small stereo tape player to listen to on long flights.

A small recorder was modified, with the recording pieces removed and stereo circuitry added. That was February , and within six months the product was on the market. The iPod's history is comparatively free of lightning-bolt moments. Apple was not ahead of the curve in recognizing the power of music in digital form.

It was practically the last computer maker to equip its machines with CD burners. It trailed others in creating jukebox software for storing and organizing music collections on computers. And various portable digital music players were already on the market before the iPod was even an idea. Back when Napster was inspiring a million self-styled visionaries to predict the end of music as we know it, Apple was focused on the relationship between computers and video.

Design is how it works

The company had, back in the 's, invented a technology called FireWire, which is basically a tool for moving data between digital devices -- in large quantities, very quickly. Apple licensed this technology to various Japanese consumer electronics companies which used it in digital camcorders and players and eventually started adding FireWire ports to iMacs and creating video editing software. This led to programs called iMovie, then iPhoto and then a conceptual view of the home computer as a ''digital hub'' that would complement a range of devices.

Finally, in January , iTunes was added to the mix. And although the next step sounds prosaic -- we make software that lets you organize the music on your computer, so maybe we should make one of those things that lets you take it with you -- it was also something new. There were companies that made jukebox software, and companies that made portable players, but nobody made both.

What this meant is not that the iPod could do more, but that it would do less. This is what led to what Jonathan Ive, Apple's vice president of industrial design, calls the iPod's ''overt simplicity.

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It was a perfect day, and he wore shorts with his black turtleneck, and sneakers. He was very much on message, and the message was that only Apple could have developed the iPod. Like the device itself, Apple appears seamless: it has the hardware engineers, the software engineers, the industrial designers, all under one roof and working together. As he described it, the iPod did not begin with a specific technological breakthrough, but with a sense, in early , that Apple could give this market something better than any rival could.

So the starting point wasn't a chip or a design; the starting point was the question, What's the user experience? If you start to work on something, and the time is right, pieces come in from the periphery. It just comes together. What, then, are the pieces? What are the technical innards of the seamless iPod? What's underneath the surface? Consumers, he said, don't care about technical specs; they care about how many songs it holds, how quickly they can transfer them, how good the sound quality is.

But some people are interested in esoterica, and a lot of people were interested in knowing what was inside the iPod when it made its debut. One of them was David Carey, who for the past three years has run a business in Austin, Tex. He tore up his first iPod in early Inside was a neat stack of core components. First, the power source: a slim, squarish rechargeable battery made by Sony.

Atop that was the hard disk -- the thing that holds all the music files.

At the time, small hard disks were mostly used in laptops, or as removable data-storage cards for laptops. So-called 2. With a protective cover measuring just over 2 inches by 3 inches, 0. This is what Apple used. On top of this hard disk was the circuit board. This included components to turn a digitally encoded music file into a conventional audio file, the chip that enables the device to use FireWire both as a pipe for digital data and battery charging and the central processing unit that acts as the sort of taskmaster for the various components.

Also here was the ball-bearing construction underlying the scroll wheel. The newer iPod models got slimmer by replacing that wheel with a solid-state version and by using a smaller battery. It is, as Carey notes, an admirable arrangement. Exactly how all the pieces came together -- there were parts from at least a half-dozen companies in the original iPod -- is not something Apple talks about. But one clue can be found in the device itself. Under the Settings menu is a selection called Legal, and there you find not just Apple's copyright but also a note that ''portions'' of the device are copyrighted by something called PortalPlayer Inc.

That taskmaster central processing unit is a PortalPlayer chip. The Silicon Valley company, which describes itself as a ''supplier of digital media infrastructure solutions for the consumer marketplace,'' has never publicly discussed its role in the iPod. Its vice president for sales and marketing, Michael Maia, would talk to me only in general terms.

PortalPlayer was founded a little more than four years ago with an eye toward creating basic designs for digital computer peripherals, music players in particular. Specifically, the company wanted to build an architecture around tiny hard disks. Most early MP3 players did not use hard disks because they were physically too large. Rather, they used another type of storage technology referred to as a ''flash'' chip that took up little space but held less data -- that is, fewer songs.

PortalPlayer's setup includes both a hard disk and a smaller memory chip, which is actually the thing that's active when you're listening to music; songs are cleverly parceled into this from the hard disk in small groups, a scheme that keeps the energy-hog hard disk from wearing down the battery. More recently, PortalPlayer's work has formed the guts of new players released by Samsung and Philips. A trade journal called Electronics Design Chain described PortalPlayer as having developed a ''base platform'' that Apple at least used as a starting point and indicated that PortalPlayer picked other members of the iPod ''design chain'' and helped manage the process.

Plastic Dreams by Charlotte and Peter Fiell, aims to be, as it observes on...

Interestingly, the legal section in the first version of the iPod used to include another copyright notice on behalf of a company called Pixo, which is reported to have created the original operating system for the iPod. Pixo has since been bought by Sun Microsystems, and the credit has disappeared from both newer iPods and even more recent software upgrades for the original model. Apple won't comment on any of this, and the nondisclosure agreements it has in place with its suppliers and collaborators are described as unusually restrictive.

Presumably this is because the company prefers the image of a product that sprang forth whole from the corporate godhead -- which was certainly the impression the iPod created when it seemed to appear out of nowhere two years ago. But the point here is not to undercut Apple's role: the iPod came together in somewhere between six and nine months, from concept to market, and its coherence as a product given the time frame and the number of variables is astonishing.

Jobs and company are still correct when they point to that coherence as key to the iPod's appeal; and the reality of technical innovation today is that assembling the right specialists is critical to speed, and speed is critical to success. Still, in the world of technology products, guts have traditionally mattered quite a bit; the PC boom viewed from one angle was nothing but an endless series of announcements about bits and megahertz and RAM.

That 1. Apple apparently cornered the market for the Toshiba disks for a while. But now there is, inevitably, an alternative. Hitachi now makes a disk that size, and it has at least one major buyer: Dell. My visit to Cupertino happened to coincide with the publication of a pessimistic installment of The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column pointing out that Apple's famous online music store generates little profit.

The more interesting point, noted in the back half of the column, is that Apple doesn't expect it to generate much profit -- it's a ''Trojan horse'' whose real function is to help sell more iPods. Given that the store was widely seen as a pivotal moment in the tortuous process of creating a legitimate digital music source that at least some paying consumers are willing to use, this is an amazing notion: Apple, in a sense, was willing to try and reinvent the entire music business in order to move iPods.

The column also noted that some on Wall Street were waiting to see what would happen to the iPod once Dell came out with its combination of music store and music player. Napster's name has been bought by another company that has launched a pay service with a hardware partner, Samsung. But it was Dell that one investor quoted in the Journal article held out as the rival with the greatest chance of success: ''No one markets as well as Dell does. Dell has no aura; there is no Cult of Dell. Dell is a merchandiser, a shiller of gigs-per-dollar. A follower.

Dell had not released its product when I met Jobs, but he still dismissed it as ''not any good. About a week later Jobs played host to one of the ''launch'' events for which the company is notorious, announcing the availability of iTunes and access to the company's music store for Windows users. In what seemed an odd crack in Apple's usually seamless aura maintenance, he did his demo on what was clearly a Dell computer. The announcement included a deal with AOL and a huge promotion with Pepsi. The message was obvious: Apple is aiming squarely at the mainstream.

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This sounded like a sea change. But while you can run iTunes on Windows and hook it up to an iPod, that iPod does not play songs in the formats used by any other seller of digital music, like Napster or Rhapsody. Nor will music bought through Apple's store play on any rival device.

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