Sunday, February 25, 2007


No matter how I say this I'm going to come off as a pompous prick and an Apple zealot. This really has nothing to do about Apple and all to do about product design so here goes.

The link is to an article about a new laptop design by Samsung for their Aurora model. Before I go on let me give kudos to Samsung for a great effort. This is a very nice laptop design; right up there with the Toshiba Qosmio series. If anything I find the Qosmio even sexier than the Aurora. I tend not to bash a company that is at least trying to embrace industrial design; especially when they're in the learning stages.

The author of this article though I think needs a lesson in aesthetics.

But now the Samsung design team has pushed the boat out and created the new Aura series of notebooks, which look set to go head to head with Apple’s ultra-stylish MacBooks.
The first Aura out of the gates will be the R20, which Samsung will be officially announcing next week. The R20 really does look the business with its glossy black finish and minimalist styling.


I would say the R20 is the epitome of Rocotechno design*. There are numerous conflicting lines and curves ornamenting** the laptop's profile. There is a very prominent latch mechanism. There is no attempt to conceal the various ports to blend with the ID (Industrial Design) of the laptop. Rather, each port is prominently displayed in a way that pronounces its unique shape and distinguishes it from all the other ports. Samsung felt that people were comfortable enough to understand that USB ports where still USB ports even though they were black. By the same nature, why are the consumers of this laptop NOT smart enough to know that the D-Sub 15 port is for an external monitor; why the PC '97 blue colour coding when there aren't even any serial ports.

ASSIDE: I like to use the example of when I was a kind I used to play with this toy that had you stick pieces of a certain shape (square, star, moon, circle) into holes that matched that shape. Toddlers are doing this with PC peripherals now. When you remove the element of fear of technology you allow the natural mechanisms of learning by interacting with our environment to kick in. Consumers are slowly coming more an more from the generation of digital natives so why no embrace that in our designs.

I'm not necessarily saying there's anything wrong with ID that is not minimalist (though in many cases it tends to be my preference simply because I am a romantic modernist at heart). Just don't call something minimalist when it isn't

In fact, if you placed it next to a black MacBook you’d be forgiven for thinking that they share the same DNA. That said, you could say the same about a Nintendo DS Lite!

Come again? If you don't know anything about art, art history, aesthetics, or product design then please don't talk about it as if you do! The article would have had much more merit if the author would have left it at the nice technical specs and a note that he thought the laptop was pretty and stylish and given a kudos to Samsung for joining the growing number of manufacturers that are concerned with the aesthetics of their products.

*As far as I know I just invented the term Rocotechno (Rococo + Techno) and I think I like it.
** I use ornamenting in the pejorative sense here. Added visual complexity but useless in function.

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