For anyone with an eye on current activity in the technology world, it will come as no surprise that the legendary Nokia 3310 ‘feature’ phone has been relaunched by Finnish tech company HMD. In what has been called a ‘bold’ and ‘clever’ move, the launch comes nearly 17 years after the handset’s initial release. Mobile phone users of a certain age (myself included) may have owned one, and will almost certainly be aware of – or wasted many hours playing (myself included) – the now cult game Snake.
My everyday life is full of ‘stuff’. Stuff comes in, stuff goes out, but it’s the quality, well-designed and built-to-last things that remain – the things I really want around me (and if I’m truly honest, the list is pretty short). Unfortunately, the ‘under the hood’ story of many consumer products today often tells a tale of cheap, synthetic materials that ultimately define a short product lifespan. You’ve got to wonder at how much more care and attention we would place on our ‘stuff’ knowing that it was built to last with the consumer and the environment at the core of the design process.
As I was putting the needle to an album the other night (J.J Cale, Naturally for the record), I had a moment of pause to reflect on how much I love my Technics SL-1200 turntables.
Years ago I sold my once-loved drum kit to finance them and have never looked back – not only do they look and sound fantastic, they have never missed a beat, despite a fair bit of punishment. Multiple house and country moves, heavy use under various ‘conditions’, and attempts to test their true capabilities, they still soldier unfalteringly on. Whilst various models have been released over the years, the ‘improvements’ have been minor – even the 2015 audiophile’s model (read, extortionate price tag) is more superficial bling than radical change with the design and technology remaining largely unchanged.
It seems increasingly that when we talk about design, we also talk about technology playing an integral role in that design. Well, never more so than with the new Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric – a new prototype performance shoe that has an upper made from 100% Biosteel® – a nature-based and completely biodegradable high-performance fibre. In layman’s terms – biodegradable artificial spider silk that will fully decompose in your sink once you’ve finished running them down. Amazing.
My mental pictures of everyday product design often leans heavily on what has already been created – design, materials and function based on pre-established designs using available technology to solve a problem or perform a task. Take the humble kitchen knife for example – I’ve said before that I’m a big fan, but my ‘ideal’ knife definitely falls into the ‘traditional’ design category. In-depth kitchen knife history aside, I think it would be fair to say that the iteration and replication of tried and tested solutions has led to the well-recognised designs we see today.