The Null Device

Frogdesign on the iPod

Luke Williams from design firm Frogdesign (who designed the original Mac and the NeXT cube) talks about the design of the iPod and the way design conventions reference other objects:
"So... as I was sitting on the toilet this morning" (this is of course where most good ideas come from), "I noticed the shiny white porcelain of the bathtub and the reflective chrome of the faucet on the wash basin... and then it hit me! Everybody perceives the iPod as 'clean' because it references bathroom materials!"
The public once thought electricity was dangerous and expensive, so to change this perception, the electricity industry sought to project the image of electricity as a modern and progressive source of energy. To symbolize these qualities, designers used the conventions associated with "technological futurism"--hrome plating and streamlining. In 1955, industrial designer Henry Drefuss wrote that changes in the design of the modern kitchen had been brought about "by two things that had nothing to do with cooking a meal--the automobile and the airplane."
Although the symbolism has changed, the iPod also uses conventions to appear ahead of its time. Its surfaces are seamless and have no moving parts-- two conventions that have often been used in science and science-fiction to connote advanced technology. Remember the seamless, molten-metal bad guy in Terminator 2? Or how about the perfectly seamless, black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

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