Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Day 257, on which the Beach Boys and Babybels aren't so different [14.9.10]

Dag to hundrede syvoghalvtreds. Mmmm, Icelandic music is so good. Namely, Sigur Rós. If you don't know their songs, you do - search on YouTube, iTunes or Spotify for 'Hoppípolla'. You've heard it before, for sure. No doubt about it. It's used almost too much nowadays, but always remember it was Icelandic before the English version came out.

Beach Boys and Babybels. Here's a quick similarity, for the sake of the post title. We all know the Babybel theme tune: 'ba-ba-ba, ba-babybel'. That's how it goes. Though, it is actually a shameless rip-off of the Beach Boys' song 'Barbara Ann', which goes 'Ba-ba-ba, ba-barbara ann'. So there you go. You learn something new every day.

I guess we'd better carry on with Rams' 10 principles of 'good design'. I visited the design museum up in London today, so I'm in a designy mood. They have a whole wall covered in the ten principles there! Much love for Dieter Rams. Also I knocked over a Starck Juicy Salif juicer, but that's another story. And it didn't break, so hah.

6. Good design is honest.

This principle is pretty loosely defined, I must say. Not what you'd expect from a German functionalist designer. Honest. What do we mean by honest? I guess, using my own interpretation, Rams means that a design is pure. That it doesn't try to be something else, doesn't try to be a 'three-in-one!' or show off complicated dials and buttons which don't really do anything. Because, the truth is, we get fucked around enough by people and we shouldn't get fucked around by products.

Having a dial on a radio that - seemingly - doesn't do anything is dishonest design. Even if it does something, but its function makes so little difference it's impossible to notice, it's dishonest. You want to provide what the user wants. The user doesn't want an FM radio that has a range of 500 frequencies, when there's only radio stations on the first 200. It's unfair to the user. Similarly, designs which look like they can do something but actually can't (contrary to what is shown in their aesthetics) are dishonest. Whatever happened to treating the customer like yourself?

I think one other example I can explain of design dishonesty is in a camera I saw today. A so-called 'bridge' camera; semi-pro. Between a consumer camera and an SLR. And it had writing all over it. Saying its specs, who made it, what chip it's got inside, its model number, everything. In big letters all over it. Once you buy a product, it mustn't keep advertising itself to you! Or even to the people around you! That is dishonest, unfair design, preying on the consumers. Using their purchase as a chance to sell more cameras. My old film camera from the 1980s doesn't even have the model number on it, which goes to show how much consumer culture has changed us.

That's all for today. Sorry I'm being so slow about this, but I've been very busy these past few days. We'll get them finished eventually.

~John

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