Website v3.0

Today I proudly announce v3.0 of my website. It’s come a long way! New to this version are Twitter Bootstrap integration (designed for built-in responsiveness for phone/tablet/desktop), infinite scroll for blog posts, completely rewritten CSS, and lots of new PHP. I’ve got hours of small details I plan to iron out but I’m very happy with what I’ve done over these past two days!

v3 – September 2012

v3

v2 – May 2012

v2

v1 – February 2012

v1

The “Magic” Trackpad

I was replacing the batteries on my Magic Trackpad today and noticed something interesting: the two nub-like gray circles on the bottom are what enables the clicking:

trackpad

To enable the ultra-thin design, Apple integrated the clicking mechanism into the base rather than making it a part of the trackpad (what I assume to be the traditional approach). My curiosity led me to attempt to click the trackpad while I held it in my hand but nothing moved. Only when I placed it on my desk did I realize the gray nubs were responsible for clicking.

Ever since Apple redesigned its trackpads to be larger and button-less, I have always appreciated their capability and elegant design. I’m not sure if MacBooks utilize the same structure, but I find this design very interesting and absolutely brilliant. It’s small innovations like this that draw me to Apple- I hope they never lose this attention to detail.

DOET #14: REI Tumbler

Today I analyze my REI Tumbler:

rei thermos

[first impression]

This was one of the REI employee gifts from December 2010. I was pretty impressed when I first got my hands on it: it felt sturdy, sleek, and capable. I was amazed when I used it the first few times: my tea was still tongue-burning hot when I drank it 3+ hours after putting it in the tumbler. It outperformed every tumbler/mug/thermos I had used before and served especially useful in the winter to warm me up in the mornings.

[usability]

The tumbler encloses the inside liquid in a double-wall vacuum, and is advertised to keep drinks warm for up to six hours and cool for up to ten hours. It has a flip top and push-button thermal stopper to seal the liquid inside. Its rubber base gives it reliable traction on a variety of surfaces. It utilizes a rugged stainless steel construction and a contoured shape that allows for a very comfortable grip.

The tumbler’s design results in a very solid but also somewhat heavy product. At 10.5 ounces, it weighs more than other tumblers, mugs, and thermoses that I’ve used. The main flaw that I’ve found hasn’t been under my usage, but rather my Mom’s. She doesn’t always tighten the top down all the way, and as a result the seal isn’t completed. This results in the liquid coming out when you tilt it to drink from it, and during our past trip to China she had half the tumbler’s contents spill onto her lap. While this may be argued as more of a user-error problem, I think the design can be improved to give the user better feedback that the tumbler is not completely sealed. After a few years of usage, it also seems harder to secure it tightly.

[overall analysis]

I’ve come to love using this tumbler to store hot drinks during the winter, but I haven’t found much use for it in the summer. For some reason it feels unnatural to put cold drinks in it. I like its metallic silver look (REI calls the color Sharkskin), and find the tumbler very aesthetically pleasing. It’s definitely earned a spot on my list of products that combine great usability and an elegant-looking design. It’s easy to disassemble and straightforward to clean. Like the other REI products that I own, I have come to appreciate the detail that went into its design and the durability that makes it perfect for outdoor adventures.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

This is my last DOET (for now), where I randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this was to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #13: Belkin Surge Protector USB Charger

Today I analyze my Belkin Mini Surge Protector/USB Charger:

belkin

[first impression]

I bought this several years ago to more efficiently use my outlets and to simplify charging my devices while travelling. The first things that stood out to me was its elegant three-outlet and two-USB plugins, modern white and gray design, and great value (They sell on Amazon for <$12!). [usability] I can't imagine how a product like this could be better designed for usability. The outlets aren't densely packed together but are still compactly organized so it is highly portable. Its size allows it to be easily gripped and contained in one hand. A reassuring green light appears to signal protection for surges. But my favorite feature is the rotating plug that can spin a full 360 degrees and has four locking positions (every 90 degrees). This makes it tremendously versatile and gives it the ability to flexibly fit in an outlet or alongside any other plug. It works great to charge my phone, Kindle, and other small USB devices. However, a small annoyance (and the only feature I consider has room for improvement) is that it doesn't charge my iPad. I imagine there's some electrical limitations that have led to this, but I'm sure modern technology would allow enough power to go through this to be able to charge more power-hungry devices. Another thing that slightly bothers me but will probably be overlooked by most people is that if you position the outlets so they are facing "up" (skinny prongs on top, fat prong on bottom), the USB plugins will be facing down. This leads to the USB icons/logos facing downwards. I'm not sure why it was designed this way or if it was intentional, but it's a small thing that bothers the borderline-OCD designer inside me. [overall analysis] The look and feel of this surge protector/USB charger is very Apple-esque: it is simple, elegant, modern, and very usable. I'd imagine it would be pretty popular among Apple users because it pairs so nicely with Apple products, both aesthetically and functionally. After enjoying my first one so much, I went out and bought another one. I'm sure there are clones or attempts to copy this product, but I consider Belkin's the best; they've done an excellent job designing one of my most enjoyed everyday products.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 2 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #12: North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Today I analyze my North Face Venture Rain Jacket:

jacket

[first impression]

Early into my job at REI I noticed that the Venture jacket was one of our bestselling products. I attributed this to three main reasons: it was a high quality jacket from a respectable brand, popular among Seattleites for combating the rain, and had a trendy slim-fitting design. The jacket was one of my first employee purchases because I wanted to experience what consumer behavior so obviously pointed to as a worthwhile investment. From the beginning, I was impressed. It kept me dry in the rain, shielded from the wind despite how thin it was, and allowed me to keep cool with its generous pit vents.

[usability]

The Venture has become one of my most frequently worn jackets. It holds up great against the wind and the rain when I need it and can roll into a compact ball for when I don’t need it. The zippers slide smoothly and effortlessly, a characteristic I’ve enjoyed on every North Face product I own. The hood is uniquely shaped and different from standard hoods: instead of an even oval shape it protrudes above your forehead, providing extra protection from the elements. I consider this to be one of the best features about the jacket: an extra few centimeters of nylon in the hood has allowed me to stay drier in countless situations. Aside from extra protection in the hood, the jacket is also longer than many others. It reaches down past the top of my hips, covering any shirt I’m wearing and keeping the top of my pants dry. It covers enough so that my pockets are protected, a feature I feel I haven’t appreciated enough.

The pockets offer ample storage; I’ve even been able to fit medium-sized water bottles in them. The sleeves easily roll up my forearms and stay near my elbows, and the velcro cuffs have been great for adjusting between wrist and forearm. After a year of use, the waterproof coating has understandably begun to wear off and the jacket doesn’t repel as well as it used to. Otherwise, the jacket is in excellent shape because of its durable construction.

My main complaint is how the inside of the jacket feels against bare skin, like when I wear a t-shirt underneath. If I am absolutely sweat-free, then the jacket is okay. But once I have even a little bit of sweat, the jacket becomes uncomfortable. This can happen while walking across campus or even sitting on a bus that has the heat up high. The nylon sticks to my skin in a strange way, turning any moisture trapped inside into glue. I now try to wear my jacket only when I need it and store it otherwise. Something about the material doesn’t play well with my skin, but I can see how it’s difficult to alter this characteristic because the jacket is meant to be thin, light, and rain-repellant.

[overall analysis]

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this jacket and it has been well worth the money I paid for it. I’ve collected several North Face jackets (guilty as charged for taking advantage of my employee discount) and this is definitely one of my favorite ones to use. Aside from everyday usage of going to class and walking outside, I’ve used it while cycling and even as a makeshift blanket to take a quick nap. Even though the feel of the inside of my skin is an annoyance, this jacket is superbly well designed and nails the primary design priorities/requirements I’d imagine The North Face gave it. It doesn’t take much time with this jacket to understand how it’s meticulously designed for the outdoor adventurer; it begs to be thrown to the test in pounding rain or strong winds and has valiantly conquered everything I’ve thrown at it. With it, I feel empowered to never stop exploring.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 3 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #11: iPad HDMI Adapter

Today I analyze my iPad HDMI Adapter:

tv remote

[first impression]

I bought this along with the VGA adapter back in March. It’s served its purpose of sending HD output to my TV very well- I’m actually using it right now in the background while I write this analysis. To be honest, it’s difficult for me to describe my first impression since I’ve used so many similar Apple adapters. Each of them have the same characteristics: a simple and clean white design, easy to use, and more expensive than off-brand counterparts. Something that I find intriguing is that all Apple adapters I’ve used follow the same overall structure: input, a connecting wire, and the output. Various other manufacturers will have no wire in between and often place the input and output together in the same unit. I can’t quite put into words why, but I prefer the unique design of Apple adapters. But maybe that’s why I prefer them- because they’re unique.

[usability]

I love that, instead of exclusively being an adapter like its VGA dongle sibling, this adapter includes a plug for the charger. I assume this stems from one of the use cases being a user that enjoys watching long hours of media (like Netflix) that would often drain the battery. I do find it interesting that they didn’t include the same port on the VGA adapter, but my guess is that they had different use cases and subsequently different requirements.

While this isn’t necessarily a design feature of the adapter, I am amazed that the iPad instantly detects the adapter and outputs the media. Every computer I’ve used (laptop and desktop) takes at least a second or two to connect to an external display and begin outputting. The transition with this adapter is instantaneous. The time it takes from my transitioning from from watching Netflix on my iPad to watching it on my TV is limited only by how fast I can plug the adapter in.

[overall analysis]

I have always appreciated how optimally sized Apple adapters are. While I don’t necessary appreciate my need to purchase so many to support my various devices, I do appreciate how they are designed to play well with other peripherals and flexibly bend to accommodate any space. This adapter outputs excellent 1080p from my iPad and provides an enjoyable interface for a new way of enjoying media.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 4 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #10: Logitech Mouse

Today I look at my Logitech Mouse:

tv remote

[first impression]

I bought this mouse for use on my laptop about a year ago. I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate a variety of Logitech products; this mouse was no exception. It was my perfect mixture of features, portability, and price. The modern glossy gray on black finish provided an aesthetic appeal, and after a few uses I was very happy with its functionality.

[usability]

Other than the two buttons on its left side, this mouse is completely symmetrical. These two buttons make it biased for right handers, but otherwise this mouse is very usable for either hand. The scroll wheel is basic and noticeably inferior to the more expensive Logitech mice but for this price point it is perfectly adequate. The sides have nice rubber grips that allow for traction and an ergonomic feel. Clicking is straightforward and efficient. The long top plate that stems from the lower end of the mouse (by the logo) and spans to the top to become the two buttons is an interesting design decision. Most mice I’ve seen separate those parts, but I think its a unique and elegant design.

My favorite feature is the battery performance. Logitech’s efficient battery use is remarkable; I’m still using the same pair of basic Duracells that came with the mouse one year ago. This is substantially different from my bluetooth-operated Magic Mouse, which I need to swap batteries for every month. Additionally, its optics work on a diversity of surfaces and it gracefully slides across everything I’ve had to use it on. The USB connector is sensibly stowed inside by the batteries, and takes up little room when plugged into the side of my laptop.

[overall analysis]

This mouse has been an amazing mobile sidekick for my laptop and has been invaluable for designing on the go. It’s been great for Starcraft, Photoshop, and general web usage. I’ve used it for several hour-long work sessions and appreciate its ergonomic design. I’ve come to view the broader Logitech brand as an accessible, versatile everyday tool that brings great quality/design to ordinary people and ordinary usage. Perhaps I’ll analyze another Logitech product later on in DOET!


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 5 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #9: TV Remote

Today I look at my Sony TV Remote:

tv remote

[first impression]

This is the remote that came with my TV, which I’ve had for about a year and a half. The first thing I noticed about it was the strangely curved top. I was used to fairly flat remotes, and this design struck me as something original and different. I was initially impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the button layout. It felt organized yet aesthetically pleasing. Important buttons were color-coded to stand out and the Power / Functions+Navigation / Numbers / Volume+Channel layout agreed with my idea of the correct button hierarchy. The remote was very easy to use from the beginning, and it only took me a few uses to be able to operate it by touch because of its intuitive organization.

[usability]

I have come to appreciate the curve of the top- it allows easy grip from any side of the remote and for easy operation of the buttons. Its concave design allows buttons in any row to be easily pressed, and is a much better design than any convex remote because it reduces the distance your thumb has to reach to hit a button on the far side. Letters and numbers are easy to read; the font size is generously large yet efficiently compact. The labels are also fairly durable; after a year and a half they show no signs of wear. Padding around words/numbers is even and nicely centered.

The one strange thing about this remote is the power button on the bottom. Yes, this remote has two power buttons: the obvious green top button and a strange black one on the bottom. While an interesting addition, I have never found good use for the bottom button. I usually forget about it and only remember its there when I don’t need it. However, it is very intuitively placed. A natural grip on the remote with your thumb over the numbers will leave your middle finger covering the bottom button. Thankfully it is inset and not easily activated, otherwise it would lead to many accidental power-offs.

[overall analysis]

Though I don’t use this remote as much as I should (thanks to laziness to find it and impatience), it has performed its job excellently and enriched my experience with my TV. That said, there are many buttons that I have never used. The BRAVIA Sync area is irrelevant for me since I don’t own any compatible products and I have never found use for the Scene, Favorites, or Tools buttons in the circular group. I love the placement decision that put Return to the left of Menu, and I appreciate that my more frequently used Volume is to the left of Channel (its more natural to adjust volume than channel with my right thumb).

The slim, long, and concave design of the remote leads to a supplementary product that is both pleasing to look at and enjoyable to use. A considerable amount of effort must have gone into designing it, and were it not for my DOET project I would have overlooked its elegance. After analyzing the remote, I have to say that I appreciate it almost as much as my TV!


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 6 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #8: SanDisk Flash Drive

Today I look at my 16 GB SanDisk flash drive:

pur filter

[first impression]

I’ve been a long time user of SanDisk, so this was my third flash drive of this design and fifth overall SanDisk flash drive. I liked how its compact and modern look: while lightweight, it was also solid and felt trustworthy. Its smooth curves also felt great in my hand. As odd as it is to say, it was enjoyable to hold. Because I had previously only used capped flash drives that didn’t extend/retract, it took some getting used to do operate its retractable design.

[usability]

Even though I had to get used to the extending mechanism, I have come to really appreciate it. Once it is extended, it will stay extended by locking into place. To release the lock, pressure again has to be applied downwards before sliding. If it has not been fully extended, it will retract back into its smaller transporting position. All of this amounts to a flash drive that is easily transportable, easily inserted, and overall very usable.

The light that comes on while the drive is being accessed is useful and a great form of feedback. It assures me the drive is working and is connected. Additionally, the red paint isn’t just on the top, but it is also inside the USB head so you can easily see which side the USB should face. Though it may not seem like a substantial thing I find it brilliant in helping me correctly insert the drive, especially when I can’t see the USB port and must do it by touch.

The dimensions of the drive are good for vertical ports such as on an iMac, but problematic on horizontal ports like the Macbook Pro. Using it on my Macbook Pro means that I can’t plug anything else into the neighboring USB port, which has periodically caused annoyance.

[overall analysis]

I’ve enjoyed using every SanDisk product I own: compact flash cards, SD cards, flash drives, card readers, and more. Their flash drives were my first introduction to the brand, and I’ve been a loyal customer ever since. There’s a reason SanDisk is the photography industry’s standard for high performance, and their commitment to quality shows in all of their products that I’ve used.

I’ve put this flash drive (and many other SanDisks) through a lot: as a mobile installation of Starcraft, loading gigabytes of music (this was before Dropbox), and carrying/backing up important files. I haven’t had one experience where it didn’t perform excellently. SanDisk was the first company I know of to manufacture the retractable design, and in my opinion the ones who did it the best. Though their innovation may not seem like a breakthrough, their elegant implementation of a new kind of flash drive housing definitely earns my respect. Aside from the periodically annoying width, I consider the SanDisk flash drive to be perfectly designed.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 7 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #7: Pur Water Filter

Today I look at the my Pur Water Filter:

pur filter

[first impression]

I bought this filter at Bed Bath & Beyond my freshman year. It was on sale and I really liked its transparent blue design. My first impression was fairly positive: it was easy to use, had simple components, and was the most modern-looking water filter I had owned. (that’s not saying much, since it’s my second one after an old Brita) It held an ample capacity of water, and filtered a full load within a few minutes.

[usability]

My appreciation for the transparent blue design is both aesthetic and functional. It allows you see how much water has yet to be filtered, a feature I haven’t seen in the several Brita filters I’ve tried. The handle offers a sturdy grip and feels natural in your hand. The opening allows water to efficiently pour out but still be well-controlled. The filter is straightforward to replace, sliding in and out of its compartment easily.

The top is easy to pop off for quick filling, but sometimes I consider it too easy. When I fill it beyond 95% and have to move it, there is a good chance the water inside will move around and even come out. This is where I appreciate the isolated top that comes on modern Brita filters, such as this one. It would be great to have a top that has a higher threshold against internal loosening but a similar threshold for external release, perhaps in the form of a release trigger or button? For now, I’ve learned to keep it stationary while I wait for the water level to drop.

[overall analysis]

I have come to love this filter; when I’m at home I usually refill it every 90 minutes. I’m comfortable leaving it on my computer desk because it’s modern blue/white/transparent design allows it to fit right in. To me, Brita feels “old-school” and traditional while Pur is hip and modern. The oval shape is very nicely rounded, providing a solid structure, planted base, and contemporary look. While many people might overlook the design put into their water filter, I want to give kudos to the designers of my Pur filter for a job well done.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 8 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #6: Vibram FiveFingers

Today I look at the my Vibram FiveFingers:

timbuk2

[first impression]

I bought my FiveFingers in July 2011 with my REI Dividend, and they have been my favorite shoes ever since. They felt strange the first few times I wore them; my feet (toes especially) weren’t use to the freedom and mobility. The feeling was both natural and foreign. I felt like I was walking barefoot but I wasn’t in direct contact with the ground. Around my foot, they initially felt similar to a sock but the range of motion that they allowed my toes made them completely different.

[usability]

When my FiveFingers are on, I love them. They allow me to be nimble and the natural feeling they give my feet is amazing. However, I have qualms about them when they aren’t on. They aren’t the easiest to put on, and usually require a two-step insertion: one to get my toes in and another to fit my heel. This process usually takes twice as long as putting on normal shoes. However, I find difficulty imagining how the design would allow otherwise; the glove-like fit requires a very tight design. They’re supposed to feel like I’m not wearing them, and they perform that design priority excellently.

Also, while this isn’t necessarily a usability issue, I consider their smelliness quite annoying. To keep the stench of feet manageable, I have to wash them every three uses or every week (whichever happens first). I don’t know what material they could have constructed these out of that would be both durable and stench-reducing, so again I face a problem I have no viable solution for.

[overall analysis]

There are two common reactions when others notice my “toes shoes”: 1) a confused look accompanied with a funny comment like Hey, did you forget to put on your shoes this morning? or 2) an intrigued look with a curious How do you like those? I enjoy both, and my response always evokes how much I love them. While some may have aesthetic disagreements with the design, I actually enjoy how they look. I haven’t spent much time looking at the other colors, but I love the two-tone black and silver.

Inside my house, I take every opportunity to walk barefoot. I would enjoy doing the same outside but my feet don’t play well with rough ground and would be burdensome to clean. These have been the perfect solution for me to “walk barefoot outside”, and I will surely be a loyal FiveFinger fan for years to come.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 9 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #5: Timbuk2 Messenger Bag

Today I look at the my Timbuk2 Messenger Bag:

timbuk2

[first impression]

I bought it on a whim for 50% off at the University Bookstore. I had heard many good things about it for years and was eager to hop on the bandwagon. It was great to use from the beginning; it comfortably stowed my laptop, had a brilliant stability strap for when I was cycling, and featured intuitive pockets for my everyday needs. I found myself appreciating the quick release strap adjuster and clip-on reflectors for added visibility. From my first time using it, I was pleased with how durable it felt: they don’t call it durable ballistic nylon for nothing!

[usability]

I consider this bag very usable, right up there with my North Face Recon in terms of well-designed bags. Its San Francisco roots are all over, and it only takes a few minutes of using it to understand what a versatile bag designed for active urban technophile (especially cyclists) should feel like. Aesthetically, I love how the bag looks with its three panel front and symmetrical straps. The large velcro panels that keep the top flap down are extremely convenient and perfect for quick retrieval.

However, a characteristic of the bag that bothers me is how it feels when you carry it by the handle. Loaded with my laptop, charger, water bottle, and more, it hangs at an unnatural angle. Unlike a briefcase (which hangs perpendicular to the ground), it sits at an angle with the outside of the bag partially facing downward. The same velcro I raved about above seems to be part of the cause of this awkward angle since the design doesn’t allow the handle to be placed farther up in the position a briefcase uses. Thankfully, the bag is usually on my shoulder so I seldom run into this minor annoyance.

Another trait that bothers me is how narrow the individual pen pouches are. They easily fit a standard pencil, but most of my mechanical pencils and pens won’t fit without forcing them in. Sure, I can put them in the larger compartment behind the individual pouches but that compartment doesn’t seem designed for them. I would like to see individual pouches that can stretch farther out; they don’t have to be wider, just utilize a larger circumference so common pens and mechanical pencils can fit easier.

[overall analysis]

A Timbuk2 bag is more than a bag and a brand; to me it has become an icon and an experience. Whenever I work outside my house, I consider this messenger bag as essential as my laptop and pens that go in it. It has become my trustworthy noble steed to house everything I need on the road. It performs wonderfully in the active and often fast-paced situations that I put it through, and is always asking for more.

There is a special place in my heart for products that empower (or at least feel like they empower) me to become better. Just as my camera empowers me to artistically express myself and my computer empowers me to design, my messenger bag empowers me to face the challenges I meet on the road. The way I see it, this kind of empowering user experience is unbelievably hard to design for. I’d even argue that designing with the goal of empowering won’t lead to an empowering design; you can only arrive at them by connecting to the innermost fiber of your being and almost let the product naturally design itself. Empowering products transcend ordinary designs because they have a clear sense of purpose and strive to fit into a greater synergy that goes beyond themselves. And there you have one of my main goals for DOET: to uncover and explore the underlying elements that make the everyday designs empowering.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 10 days until September, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #4: Car Keys

Today I look at the my car keys:

car keys

[first impression]

I’ve been driving my trusty CRV ever since I had my permit. My first time using the remote, I immediately knew what to do with it and loved the convenience it offered. Back in 2001 (the year my car was made), I bet remotes were hot thing! Today’s versions combine the key and remote, some don’t even use keys anymore. For this analysis, I’ll be focusing on my specific keys.

[usability]

The remote was simple enough to learn the first time and after spending several years with it I could likely operate its functions in my sleep. Overall I’d consider it pretty usable: as an experienced owner, I never need to look at the buttons to know which one to press. However, when I hand my keys to someone who has never seen this particular remote before they become confused. Years of use have made their mark on the icons and all have faded to white remnants. Though it would have been slightly more expensive, the remote should have been designed with small icons engraved as opposed to printed onto the buttons. Given the choice, I would have gladly paid $10 extra for engraving vs printed.

Also, what’s up with the PANIC button? I can’t think of a single time it was pressed on purpose for its purpose. The designers had good intentions but society doesn’t seem to require or appreciate it. Some may argue that all of the times it’s accidentally activated are worth the one unlikely situation it might be useful for. Then again, our acclimation to rogue car alarms might already lead people to thinking you’re just another careless car owner crying wolf. For the most part, I agree with the philosophy of “having it and not needing it over needing it and not having it”, so I suppose I’m an advocate of keeping it.

[overall analysis]

If you’ve spent time with me in either a sleep-deprived, bored, or thoughtful state you know that I will begin asking a lot of why questions. Examples: Why is chicken called chicken? Why are AA batteries the most popular? Why are circadian rhythms set on daily as oppose to weekly cycles? Why do we have blue skies, green trees, and red sunsets as opposed to purple sunsets, white trees, and green skies? Anyways, I am obligated to ask the same of my keys. But my curiosity isn’t necessary about what’s there (I’ve already vented about the PANIC button) but rather what’s not there. Why isn’t there a button to open the hood? Why don’t stock modern remotes have a start engine button? Why isn’t there a roll-down-the-windows button or at least one to open them to a sliver so your car doesn’t become an oven on a hot day? How about the opposite: why isn’t there a button to roll all the windows back up?

There may be perfectly valid reasons against all of those, especially the argument against a car remote that rivals the TV remote in number of buttons. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ask! Some interesting contemporary technologies such as the smartphone control mini-displays intrigue me and make me wonder about what the future of car remotes will look like. Wikipedia tells me the car remote was first developed in the 1982 under Renault. That was 30 years ago. In three decades, has the car remote changed?

I think it’s time to re-imagine the car remote. Who knows, in 30 years we might not even need a remote. Our cars (or personal spaceships?) will automatically detect our proximity, unlock the doors, and make us a sandwich (or food capsule?).


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 11 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #3: Moleskine Notebook

Today I look at the Moleskine notebook:

moleskine

[first impression]

I was given my first Moleskine in December 2009. Since then, I have used them as a daily journal for reflection. I have become a very loyal fan: pictured above is my fifth black Moleskine. Also in my collection are two large red notebooks and a small black one. I was unsure what to do with the notebook at first: it felt like no other notebook I had ever owned. Its cardboard cover, rounded corners, and slightly colored pages made me feel special and the writing I put into it important.

It’s difficult to explain why the notebook feels different, but I have observed similar reactions of awe in others experiencing a Moleskine for the first time. Maybe that’s the magic behind: one doesn’t simply write and read a Moleskine. You experience and interact with it.

[usability]

As a notebook, it would be difficult for the Moleskine not to be usable. But subtle elements of its design deserve my reflections on the broader user experience. The rounded corners are smooth and cleanly angle. The cardboard cover feels soft and comfortable but durable. But the best part is the pages: they are nothing short of incredible to write on. Writing in a Moleskine is like playing a Steinway grand piano or accelerating in a supercar. It feels natural, the way things should be. The notebook becomes an extension of your being. From within arises a feeling that your writing is part of something bigger; that if you give a beautiful effort, you will get a beautiful result.

The Moleskine’s unique size makes it very portable yet spacious enough to record ample sections of writing. It is lightweight, pleasant to hold, and easy to thumb through. The binding and bookmark, both common traits of many modern notebooks, are enjoyable to use and improve the overall experience. Lines on the page feel like college rule and are perfect for my handwriting. The lines are a nice medium gray: distinct enough to help align your writing but subtle enough to enhance the words between them.

[overall analysis]

I tried my best to materialize how I consider the Moleskine so well designed, and here I will think about why its designers did what they did. Why is it 5.2×8.2 inches? Why 240 pages? Why is Moleskine so adamant to handmake each and every notebook? Why does it have an expandable pocket in the back, and what did they designers intend owners to put in it?

I don’t know the specific answers but one thing’s for sure: a notebook with roots in the legendary ones used by van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, and many other iconic figures is clearly designed with purpose and tremendous thought. Its popularity is no surprise because it is accessible, inviting, and surprisingly eager to stow your thoughts. The Moleskine is designed for anyone and everyone- all you need is the willingness to write.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well-known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 12 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

DOET #2: Indoor Wireless Remote Control

Today’s analysis is on the Stanley Indoor Wireless Remote Control:

remote receiver

[first impression]

My first encounter was at my friend’s house when he showed off how he could wirelessly control the lights in his living room. I was instantly sold and immediately ordered my own. The system was very straightforward to set up: plug the outlet receivers in and connect your devices. Press on/off on the remote to toggle power. When a button is pressed on the remote, feedback is returned as a brief red light to indicate 1) the remote is active and 2) the command was sent.

From my first time interacting with it, I immediately knew how the system worked. Everyone I’ve showed the system to has been able to pick it up on their first try, and they too have shared my surprise with how simple yet useful it is.

[usability]

As a set of simple on/off switches, the remote is easily learnable and very intuitive. Press on to turn your device on. Press off to turn your device off. That’s it. However, there are two things that bothered me once I was a few months into using the system:

First, the outlet controllers are faintly labelled. In the picture above there is a subtle “3” on the outlet receiver. Distinguishing receivers often takes careful examination. Why aren’t the numbers in black (like they are on the remote) and larger? Users would be able to better identify which receiver is which.

Secondly, there are six buttons when three could perform the job. I’m a fan of the Dieter Rams‘ philosophy of “Less, But Better”. A toggle function only needs one button to use, so why are there two? The A/C button in cars is not composed of an on button and an off button, but rather a single button. In the same way, conventional power switches toggle on/off as opposed to having two buttons. (more on this below)

Despite these two nuances, I do consider this system quite well-designed and very usable.

[overall analysis]

Though a simple product, I have come to rely heavily on this system. All of the lights I use it for have hard-to-reach switches, and this remote/receiver set is a practical and economical (fine, I’ll let you have lazy as well) solution to instantly toggle my lights. The remote has a keychain as well as a three-part antenna, two elements I don’t consider absolutely necessary. I’ve never had reception difficulties and find the remote too bulky to reasonably fit on a keychain, so I’m not quite sure what was the rationale behind the use cases or requirements to include them. Speaking of bulkiness, I wish the receivers didn’t take up so much room; though the electronic internals are beyond me they don’t play along well on power strips.

Now, to expand on my six vs three button thought from above. A valid counter-point is that that single button toggles have some sort of visual feedback marking on/off while this remote doesn’t. A car’s A/C button has a light, and every power button I can think of has visual feedback to distinguish on versus off. This remote has no feedback for state and only displays whether a command was sent with the red light mentioned above. However, the reviews on Amazon show that the primary use case for this system is to control lights or devices that otherwise have obvious visual feedback.

I would prefer a three button remote with larger buttons and labels. Less buttons = simpler and less risk for malfunction. The buttons on the remote are small and quite close together: someone with large thumbs or quickly pressing buttons could easily hit two at the same time. My thoughts would be to reduce the numbers of the buttons and increase their size and the distance between them.

But the buttons and the bulkiness are secondary priorities to the primary requirements of a usable and simple system coupled with a economical price. Stanley was spot on with its fundamentals, and has created a product I can’t live without.


[about DOET]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 13 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

Past DOETs:

  1. 3.5mm Audio Cable

DOET #1: Audio Cable

[introduction]

Last year I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography, I recently began thinking and reflecting on the beauty around me. There is a lot of design coverage and discussion about well known and extraordinary things, such as a Retina Macbook Pro or a Lamborghini Aventador, but there is little towards better understanding the normal objects around us.

For the next 14 days, I will randomly choose an everyday household object and conduct a thorough analysis of its design in what I’m calling my Design Of Everyday Things, or DOET, project. My goal with this is to learn more about design through the careful scrutiny of products I would have otherwise overlooked. This is my refusal to take design for granted. Each analysis has three parts: first impression, usability, and overall analysis. I don’t consider this to be a review, but rather an exploration: there will be no numerical rating, purchasing recommendation, or a pro/con section.

That’s it for my introduction; I’ll now include it at the bottom of future DOETs. Let’s begin!


Today I examine an $8 4 ft. Mediabridge 3.5mm audio cable:

audio cable

[first impression]

I chose this over the multitude of Amazon’s alternatives because it evoked quality and a clean, modern design. Though it was on the expensive side, bad experiences with cheap audio cables in the past led me to pay a little extra in the hopes of getting a better product.

When I first got my hands on it, my expectations were adequately fulfilled. The build quality felt solid and actually better than what I assumed from the pictures. Its was designed to be refined and modern.

[usability]

Featured on the product page is that its “New design accomodates iphone, itouch, smartphone and mp3 case”. The extended gold portion before the wider bulk of the head makes it different than many other cables I’ve used. For an iOS device user, this is fantastic. It will work on any iOS device, even when you have a case that makes it difficult to plug in.

[overall analysis]

This cable has sound, well-thought out design. If I had to identify its design language with a big-name brand, I’d choose Samsung: sleek, polished, dark gunmetal color, and modern. The heads are durable and won’t fray easily. It feels like a solid product, and is one of the most usable wires I own.

Let’s take it one step deeper. I chose to purchase the 4 foot version of this cable. Aside from it being a nice whole and even number, why did the designers choose 4 feet? My initial assumption was that this cable would be used for either two close-proximity devices you hold in your hands or to connect your device to the car auxiliary port. After all, that was my intention for purchasing it. Amazon’s customer reviews confirmed that this was the primary use case the cable was designed for. From 520+ 5 star reviews, it’s clear that this cable’s designers were spot on with the use case requirements and build quality customers sought. This cable has definitely earned my respect in a well-designed everyday object.