A Look at Gary Hustwit's Rams

via Fast Co. Design

via Fast Co. Design

 

More than perhaps anyone, documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit has articulated the supreme importance of design in our world. With his films Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized, he explored the impact of typography, industrial design, and city planning, respectively. But in Rams, his latest documentary due later this year, Hustwit focuses his lens entirely on one subject: Dieter Rams, the most influential designer of the last century.

Hustwit just dropped three new teasers for the film, along with news that it will be scored by none other than electronic music pioneer Brian Eno.

 

Judging by his previous work and these new teasers, I think Hustwit’s filmmaking style (plus Eno's score!) is going to help tell the story of Rams and his work as it ought to be told. I really hope this leads to more documentaries on other prolific designers in the future.

Good Music 2

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A good album…

Saw You in a Dream starts with the titular track – a melancholy ballad driven by a groovy rhythm section. I think the juxtaposition works. At the forefront are Amber Bain’s airy vocals that make the song, and the rest of the album, all the more a dream-like experience. It’s capped off with a 9-minute journey of a track aptly titled Count to Nine.

Verdict

Great hooks and vocal melodies across this EP – enough that I can excuse Bain with indulging a bit in that last track – although all the tracks are very similar sonically. I guess that’s just something that comes with dream pop. It’s great when you’re in the mood for it, though.

Listen on Spotify.

 

7.5 / 10

 

Tracks I play the most: Saw You in a Dream

Tracks I play moderately: Somebody you found, 3/3, Count to Nine

Tracks I usually skip: (none)

 

 

A good live performance… 

Takuya Kuroda - Actors (Live in New York City)

I might have a thing for frantic trumpets.

Vestaboard: Analog Made Digital

via Vestaboard

via Vestaboard

Found this really cool product via Jason Kottke. Though it looks awfully familiar

Vestaboard is a nice re-imagination of the split-flap display that can be programmed using a smartphone. It can also receive Wi-Fi to update itself automatically and connect to Amazon Echo and Google Home.

If I were to own one, I’d offload a lot of my news consumption onto it – headlines, at least. That’s a big “if” though – it costs a whopping $1850.

New Adidas Shoes Can Be Used as Transit Passes in Berlin

via The Guardian

via The Guardian

 

The shoes, which feature the same camouflage pattern used on the city’s train seats, double up as an annual transit pass. It’s embedded in the tongues of the trainers, which are styled as a fabric version of the BVG annual ticket, and can be used just like a regular ticket covering the bus, tram and underground in zones A and B. While the cheapest annual ticket available from the BVG is currently €728, the shoes cost just €180.

 

I’m curious how this works. Is there a way to verify the ticket on the shoe besides simply looking for the tag on the tongue? Is the pass only valid when you have the shoes on? What if you don’t want to have to wear the shoes every time you need to ride public transit?

Technical details aside, this is a really cool and clever way to encourage ridership for public transit. The savings are a big win, too… but the standalone ticket should be much cheaper than that to begin with.

Thoughts on Apple Slowing Down Devices

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– 5 minutes –

I thought that this was a big enough thing that I’d break my silence on here, especially since it’s something that personally impacts me and my device usage. I’ve also found myself in casual conversations with friends regarding this.

The general conclusion derived from this whole fiasco is really feeding into the often-believed notion that Apple builds in something called “planned obsolescence” into their devices, in which Apple intentionally shortens the lifespan of devices by somehow impairing usability so that customers will feel the need to upgrade to a newer model of the device they’re using.

This, to me, is as easy a notion to debunk as it is to believe. The issue of Apple prioritizing profits and margins is one thing – and I personally believe that it is very much a thing – but it’s been so often conflated with the issue of Apple devices not lasting as long as they’re desired to last, and that seems to be coming to a head now.

Apple elaborates that their reason for slowing down devices, particularly iPhones, is to preserve battery life. I believe this to be true, and the reason is simple – it’s the same reason why I believe planned obsolescence is a myth. It’s in Apple's interest to have the usability of iPhones last a long time, not the opposite.

According to Apple themselves in the letter I just linked to:

 

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

 

I don’t think the single most profitable product in the history of the world would’ve found its success in being systematically made unusable. People buy iPhones because they’re good products – because they’re of good use – and people vote with their purchases. If people’s needs are no longer satisfied by a product, they’ll look at alternatives. If the alternatives don’t meet their needs – device lifespan being a criterion – then they’ll stick to buying iPhones.

I might come off reductionist in my thinking, but at the very least, it’s unlikely that there are any hidden motives here. Apple’s business model has always been that straightforward.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that bad decisions haven’t been made. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Apple’s problem is a communication problem. The problem is two-fold in that,

  1. if this had been communicated at all in the first place, the consumer and media backlash would at least be controllable; and

  2. if they’d made their initial statement clear and made their initial solution better for customers ($79 for a battery replacement is untenable), I think there might have been a chance at saving face.

Now Apple finds itself in a spot they're rarely in. In my experience, I’ve always found there to be a subset of people who’ve latched onto beliefs that Apple does x, y, and z to wring every last dollar out of customers besides using high profit margins. For example, in the 00’s, there was a sizable number people frustrated at Apple not making batteries removable.

The beliefs are conceivable to some extent, but now there’s a whole lot of people going to be part of that subset after this debacle. How big it’ll be, time will tell. I don’t think a lot of iPhone users are going to be jumping ship, but I think repeat purchasers are going to have a bit more buyer’s remorse knowing Apple, whether for better or for worse, might be doing something behind the scenes they don’t know about.

The Urban Gentry Launches New Website

I came across The Urban Gentry, a watch-centric YouTube channel run by “TGV”, a few months ago and I’ve been absolutely hooked ever since. I can’t say I’m that much more of a watch connoisseur having watched the guy’s videos – being midway through college on an allowance can only take me so far in the watch world – but his passion for horology and great watch design is infectious and eye-opening.

Now he’s got a new blog and online store. He’s celebrating with a Seiko watch collection giveaway – not just a watch, a watch collection. Instructions to join in the video linked below.

Also, if you’re trying to get into watches like me, now’s as great a time as any to join the Gentry. He’s got videos from his recent factory visits across Switzerland coming up throughout the next few weeks.

Kobe 2017 Pt. 1

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Sorry these took a while.

What’s really impressive about this city – Japan in general, really – is that it looks exactly the same as it did when I left 12 years ago, so these photos are a pretty good glimpse into the life I had growing up. Enjoy.

 

 
 
 
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In the next post, Himeji.

There's Nothing Wrong with the Google Logo

A few weeks ago I remember coming across a post on Facebook that ridiculed the Google logo for not being mathematically perfect. I wasn’t so bothered by it cause I knew there was something going on regarding how the logo is visually perceived.

Logo design YouTuber (I’m so glad that’s a thing) Will Paterson explains how mathematical perfection doesn’t always result in what he calls “optical stability”.

Uniqlo Installs Vending Machines in the US

 
Japanese casual clothing chain operator Uniqlo Co. has been placing vending machines in airports and malls in U.S. cities, offering two of its most popular items for customers to choose from and purchase using a touch screen.

The company has installed five of the so-called “Uniqlo to go” machines since Aug. 2, including one at California’s Oakland International Airport. It plans to roll out such machines at five more locations in the near future.
 

I’m actually surprised it took this long. Uniqlo, being one of the most ubiquitous Japanese companies in the world right now, is in a position to popularize this uniquely Japanese retail model. Keeping the machines in stock might be tedious, compared to doing the same in their home market of Japan at least, but besides that, I don’t see much reason for this to not become successful.

 
We are looking forward to introducing a new and easier way of shopping,” said Hiroshi Taki, chief executive officer of Uniqlo USA LLC, adding the machines provide “convenience to travelers looking for a warm jacket without the bulk or a versatile undershirt, all with the push of a button.
 

It’s good that they’re not just stuffing any items of clothing in there – they could easily just transfer leftover stock from a nearby retail store, for example. They put in there travel-friendly and travel-appropriate apparel.

I was struck by the closing sentence:

 
The company has yet to achieve profitability in the country, but hopes the vending machines are a move in the right direction.
 

Uniqlo don’t exactly capture the zeitgeist of American fashion, don’t they? Regardless, basics have timeless appeal and necessity, and that might be enough to bank on in the long run.