San Francisco based audio accessories brand Native Union, strive to bring communication back to how it should be: simple and enjoyable. With this in mind, they have designed the award winning Switch – a compact, lightweight, and portable Bluetooth speaker. It pairs to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with wireless ease, letting you listen to all your audio with unmatched sound and quality. The name Switch derives from its ability to play audio effectively in both a vertical and horizontal position. Aside from its sound quality, it’s the beautifully minimalist box design that has me particularly impressed. The speaker’s rubber exterior encases all sides of the box except the metal speaker screen. The exterior also features the Native Union logo, which unfortunately is its only aesthetic flaw. I would have preferred a more subtle (same colour) engraving. However, an intuitive volume wheel inspired by hi-fi audio systems is convenient to use, regardless of the speaker’s position. Switch comes in a variety of colours and is available on both the Native Union and the Apple stores. Images courtesy of Apple.
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Math done simply. Designed in the Swiss style, Sumhold is a calculator that instantly calculates and stores numbers with a fiercely reductive interface and simple swipe gesture. This is the result of a beautifully developed iPhone app by Chad Voss, an independent interaction designer from Seattle. Sumhold, featuring an attractive minimalist design, makes complex calculations and number storage simple. Sumhold is made for those everyday calculations (e.g. groceries and budgets) when you need to do simple arithmetic while keeping track of previous calculations and results. Unlike most basic calculators, Sumhold keeps a running tally of your current calculation at the top and, when calculations become complex, automatically inserts parentheses to keep everything clearly readable. There is no need for an “=” button because it calculates as you type. When a calculation is complete and you need to store the result for later, you simply drag it down toward the keypad into Sumhold’s scratch-line to make a temporary button. Having downloaded this app myself, I must say that it is a joy to use. Incredibly simple both in aesthetic and function. Currently available on the iTunes store.
There is roughly a bajillion alarm apps out there, some of them analyze your sleep, draw fancy diagrams, show twitter streams, news and weather… What I like about this app is the freedom from clutter, both in the UI and functionality. Wake iPhone app, created by Tiny Hearts, does one thing and does it well – it wakes you up. There are three waking modes: slap & flip, which allows you to slap the phone to snooze and flip it over to turn the alarm off; shake, the mode useful to heavy sleepers for it makes you shake the phone repeatedly before turning off the alarm; and swipe, a basic mode that turns the alarm off when you swipe the screen of your phone. The design of the app is minimal and intuitive. I love the dial, which reminds me of the classic iPod controls. Among other features – the ability to save eight repeatable alarms and dedicate them to specific days of the week and the choice of twelve alarm sounds, progressively getting louder as they play. Watch the demo video to see the Wake app in action.
This brightly colored object is a concept DAB radio by Norwegian design duo Theo Tveterås and Lars Marcus Vedeler, who work under the moniker Skrekkøgle. The piece is a witty and unusual step away from the Apple-esque idea of minimalism in electronics. It goes back to basics and employs a humble cork as an on/off switch. Aside from its intuitive function, I like the fact that Plugg gives a new perspective on how we physically interact with our devices. Check out the video to see the piece in action.
Miami based company OCDesk, the self-proclaimed crusader for a more organized world (OCD – see what they did there?), created an OCDock – a neat iPhone docking station that attaches to your iMac and Thunderbolt monitors. The product’s most notable feature is the paper-thin cable that runs underneath the display stand, making it look wireless. Here is what designers say about OCDock on their already fully successful Kickstarter page: Less truly is more, but only so if the function is at the core. With these inspiring design principles in mind, we wanted to create a scaled back dock that would use as little material and space as possible while offering the most feature rich and comfortable docking and undocking experience. Designed as a seamless companion to Apple devices, OCDock is made using the same technologies and materials. It has been CNC machined from a solid piece of high-grade aluminium, glass bead blasted and anodized to match the finish of the iMac/Thunderbolt Display. The piece is also ergonomically conscious. It makes an iPhone easy to interact with while charging. Check out the video to see OCDock in action.
It struck me, reading Fast Company’s recent profile of Tadashi Yanai and his company Uniqlo, just how minimalist the Unique Clothing Warehouse really is. Yes, I’d be a fool to admit that the brand embodies the aesthetics of minimalism entirely (have one look at their website), but also wrong to omit the small and large ways that it is visually reductive (the much lauded Jil Sander collaboration proved its potential in this regard, and even today a customer could construct looks in a similar vein from what is currently available – I certainly do). But what really occurred to me, reading this article, are the ways in which the brand is practically minimalist. For whereas something like Jil Sander may look minimalist, actually owning and using the products reveal other ways in which it isn’t (how minimalist is it really to have dry-clean-only clothes or to wear such delicate fabricates amounting to deep care and deep pockets?) Naoki Takizawa, who previously worked as the lead designer for Issey Miyake, notes that [a]t Issey Miyake, it was about putting on more and more, and at Uniqlo, it’s about taking away. Cut, cut, cut! Speaking of an autumn/winter 2012 parker, Jeff Chu writes: But...
Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design inspired the latest weather app, WTHR, by Visual Designer David Elgena. The identity of Braun products subtly come through with the classic minimalist forms, universal icons, intuitive display and clean, simple font. The drop shadows on the symbol displays and toggle button for temperature conversion add depth while using the app which makes the iPhone transform into another (Apple) product. For $0.99 at the App store, it sounds like a bargain. After all, how often do we really need to know that today’s highest temperature in was 70C at 2.20pm when conditions were partly cloudy at 83% humidity? Stop wasting time staring at weather radars and atmospheric pressure readings, you’re not an airline pilot…WTHR™ Indeed. Devoid of all unnecessary information stripped down to just what most people in moderate climates need, I think WTHR celebrates the trend of good design in a sensory-overload culture. Check out this YouTube video for a short demo.
Colorado based design studio Berger & Föhr practice cohesive visual communication characterized by modernism, minimalism and objectivity. Recently they launched Recher, world’s first gesture based calculator. Math is beautiful. Arithmetic is simple. Rechner is both. Rechner has gestural functions for +, -, = and clear. There is a hidden actions drawer for x, ÷, ±, √, % and erase. I love the concept but I can imagine that it will take a while before one is used to the gestures. Rechner is now available on the AppStore.
One of Apple’s finest minds Tony Fadell is the force behind Nest, a new thermostat manufacturer. The device is a sleeker and smarter alternative to a traditional wall eyesore most people are used to. Nest learns your heating and cooling preferences and adjusts accordingly. It is also wi-fi enabled and can be controlled directly from your computer or smartphone. Technology should be about more than newest, loudest, prettiest. It should make a difference. We take what’s familiar and look at it in a new light. Our team focuses on making technology that’s simple, fresh and helpful. This ability to adapt is also reflected in the design of the device. A true chameleon, Nest blends into any wall and reflects any colour. Apple influences are strong in the shape of the piece. And it seems that Steve Jobs’ war on buttons has gained a new mighty little soldier… Watch the video to see Nest in action.
Italian product designer Emanuele Cecini has recently completed the concept design of the Wi-Fi stereo and docking station, Woozik. The system consists of a stereo, a remote control and two small speakers, supported by a plywood outer casing with a natural ash finish, which also acts as a stand. Compatible with the Apple iPhone, iPod, and iPad, Woozik can also be used via Wi-Fi or bluetooth connection through one’s computer. Primarily thought for home use, the system can be controlled with the remote, but also through the buttons on the stereo itself. The design of Woozik has a beautiful simplicity to it. There is an Apple-style resemblance, yet it manages to achieve its own identity. Although I can’t vouch for the sound quality, Woozik certainly looks an impressive concept.
As it’s summer time, a slightly less serious post than usual… I present to you: Eve! Eve is the futuristic white robot from the successful animation movie Wall-E, created by Pixar in 2008. Eve is absolutely seamless: one single body without edges. All its technology is beautifully hidden inside. You may recognize some Apple influences, and if so, you are very right: Apple’s lead designer Jonathan Ive participated in Eve’s design.
Canadian architect Todd Saunders has designed a series of simple clean artist studios on a remote island off Newfoundland in Canada, named the Fogo island. His dispersed group of sturdy ultra-modern buildings have a shelf life of a few generations or so, after which the buildings are supposed to disintegrate and leave the island devoid of manmade scarring. I love these minimal and modern buildings respectful of the landscape and environment. More on this project can be found on Edition29 STRUCTURES iPad magazine.