Tag Archives: fashion

Man vs Machine

shutterstock_59344237 terminator_400pxEase of use is not only about great design and engineering. The product (category) also has to have a chance to somehow fit to the user’s daily habits and subconscious routines.

In the past 15 years I’ve adapted myself to the evolution of the items-previously-known-as-phone-and-PC-and-TV. My phone gear follows along as effortlessly as the wallet, the key-ring and the watch (the primary of purpose of which is to be the holder for my wedding ring during sports).  But adapting requires constant, proactive work. I’ve dropped chargers on my path like a hostage leaving breadcrumbs for the rescuers. I’ve bought new bags and clothes way before the old ones have worn out. I even invented a fun game in which my daughter gets to fetch the cable-TV smart card from the set-top-box upstairs (worked until she was about seven). And so on and so forth.

In other words, in order to make my every day easier, I have trained myself to do certain things in a certain order or to react to certain visual cues. Making the brain useless, like any worthy goal, is not easy. But it can be done.

However, there is one task that naggingly keeps on reminding me how far I still am from becoming The Terminator.

Having the Bluetooth headset charged when you need it.

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Product guy – find your inner hipster

glasses shutterstock_124465828 500pxYin and yang. Fire and ice. Maverick and Iceman. Design and engineering. While it may be entertaining to watch the opposite forces go at it, making great products requires that those forces work together.

When that happens and the cross-functional team is on the high gear, all that friction turning into energy enables the team to go forward at an unbelievable pace. No day is the same. No one settles for the status quo, and everything moves like crazy, unfortunately including features, schedules and the confidence to any commitments given.

The best way for the product guy to fix the situation? Duh. Never let things go so far out of hand.

Not easy, but it can be done. The prevention starts with the product guy understanding the prevailing corporate culture. More specifically, how does the gravity work in the power balance between design (either UI design or industrial design) and engineering (either hardware or software). For example, I worked at Nokia where, in my opinion, the engineering had the upper hand, especially in software, though the gap did start to close as fast as the iPhone ate market share, including some periods of an excessive pendulum swing the other way.

In any given day, the product guy should make the extra effort to be on the side of the weaker, or the misunderstood, party. This isn’t really because rooting for the underdog is a more interesting movie plot, or because product guys somehow are better people, but because of the mission ahead. Greatness often is the result of minds the meeting in the tough debate that stretches the boundaries (and the nerves) of everyone. Had Marty McFly had not the courage to coach George McFly stand up to the bullying of Biff, Michael J.Fox wouldn’t have gone to rule the box office (and, by the way, to help to create a foundation that supports medical research in beating Parkinson’s disease with about 50 MUSD yearly spend)

But how to relate to those trendy design folks? Is it a problem if the product guy can’t fit his kids and the he-ain’t-puppy-no-more -sized dog into a Mini Cooper, but has to opt for a Volkswagen Touran instead? Or that he prefers football shirts over turtlenecks? Or thinks that 5 euros for the coffee that is more milk than coffee, is just modern day highway robbery? The list of self-doubt goes on and on and on…

The solution is that the product guy must find her/his inner hipster.

Now, I don’t mean just suddenly starting to wear intellectual-looking wardrobe or to instagram every piece of lunch the Sodexho office campus cafeteria offers. Nobody wants to be as shallow as Justin Timberlake in Bad Teacher (who, as the Touran-driving product guy wants to note, ultimately was no match to the gym teacher in the quest for Cameron Diaz’s affection)

The point is to be interested in aesthetics, good taste, emotion and beauty. And, like the sometimes forgotten definition of hipster, do that by not taking yourself too seriously, always remembering the difference of actually being intellectual or artistic, and just playing the role. The more open the product guy’s mind, the more he will learn to respect the masters of the artistic universe. And the tens of thousands of hours of practice it takes to become great, often starting early. Mozart delivered his first opera at the age of 12 and Justin Bieber his first youtube hit at 13.

Through the journey of learning to respect the mastery of art, and learning to separate the real from the fake and the wanna-be, the product guy gets the answer to the most mission critical decision around design– who should I trust in the decision of aesthetics and good taste in this particular product.

With an open mind, you may find helpful talent in unexpected places. For example, during my Nokia years, I found many middle-aged, loafer-wearing engineers from places like Jyväskylä (Finland) or Ulm (Germany) to be highly aesthetically competent. And these places don’t have any Starbucks or much choice of a sushi place, so the nurturing of the contemporary art skills shouldn’t be possible. But those places have great outdoors, and, when you really think of it, the nature is one of the most beautiful things ever.

Nature is the answer also if the cross-functional friction turns into an all-out full office warfare. Take your running shoes, put your sportstracker on, and take a run into the woods. And when no one hears, scream your lungs out. It helps.

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Happened in the previous episodes of Product Guy series:

Stay tuned for the next episode: Product guy – dream living other people’s lives

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Wrong side of the cool

omg, I seem to be always on the wrong side of the cool. For all the years when it was the thing to be a Mac user, I put stickers (FC Liverpool, Maemo, various product programs) to my black, matty IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad desperately trying to make it look one notch more creative.

This summer I then bought a shiny MacBook Pro. And now all the trendy people post on facebook with their Microsoft Surface.

I probably need to talk to someone about my feelings.

 

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Fashion industry can fix mobile industry’s compromises

I’ve participated to some intriguing threads on Horace Dediu’s asymco blog about the iPhone5 display choice (see e.g. this and this). I continue to be surprised by Apple’s choice, though at the same time, I do know from (personal experience) how super-hairy the display size/resolution selection (or, more precisely, managing the related roadmap) can be. That decision-making is not for the gadget romantics – it’s more one of those “If you like sausage, you should never visit a sausage factory” cases.

The gadget world tends to attract highly analytical, binary-minded people (not you, of course, dear reader) who are inclined to make rules of thumbs (“width can’t be more than n”), acid tests (“can you reach point X with your limb Y”) or, even excels that weigh various parameters of what goes on inside the consumer head at the point of purchase (often not much).

My experience tells me that the world is more complicated than that. If the product is great, functionally and emotionally, the consumers can be surprisingly adaptive. They are motivated to change their ways – and, in fact, sometimes even enjoy the changes in the daily routine – and the fashion industry can patch whatever was not optimal, with new accessories or, as an example, just by making purses or pockets bigger. So it is more important, for example, to apply the old wisdoms about aesthetics (such as golden ratio) than to apply some logical rule that may end up being a fleeting moment in time.

What I said, however, mainly applies to the device size and dimensions. Not to the weight. That gravity is towards lighter and lighter.  And that’s good for the well-being of Planet Earth as well – I have sometimes wondered how much damage human bodies have endured carrying those bulky PC:s, often in a badly designed back-bag on one and always the same shoulder.

The lightness trend is also good for aesthetics. The days of accessories like below are likely to be over, for good. Yes, it is a real picture of the belt carrying case for the “in the blue corner….weighing 397 grams….from Tampere, Finland” Nokia 9000 Communicator. The year was 1997, and I found one from my drawers as I cleaned them upon leaving Nokia. I deny ever wearing it.

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