27 June 2014

Design from the outside in

I don't agree with Khoi Vinh's argument in Wearables, Fashion, and iWatch that a successful wearable device needs to somehow accommodate consumers' desire for endless variety in styling. I submit that wearables will be less a matter of fashion, which calls for variety and novelty, than they will prove to be a matter of style, which converges on classics. Recall that people were predicting not so long ago that you'd eventually have half a dozen differently-styled cellphones for different occasions.

But this little observation about the locus of design — the “inside” or the “outside” — is quite good.

When technology companies look at goods that are built from the outside in, they generally see irrationality and inefficiency, a broken market just waiting to be corrected and “disrupted.” They believe that they can engineer so much value into these items that people will be swayed to buy goods built from the inside out, that the promise that drives hardware and software—“adopt this and benefit from its utility”—will convince people to upend their sartorial habits. This is how you get products like Google Glass, which assumes that consumers prize utility so much that they’re willing to look like they have no interest whatsoever in having intimate relations with another human being.

Via John Gruber at Daring Fireball.

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