PlayStation Turns 25

The single largest innovator in the video gaming space just turned 25 year old today. Before the PlayStation came around, controllers were bulky, console felt like outcasts in your entertainment center. Joysticks felt clumsy, games were mainly sold in cartridges. Sony brought a whole new edge to the at-home entertainment system market. From The Verge:

There’s plenty of credit to award when it comes to video game controller design. Nintendo pioneered the core button layout with the SNES (D-pad on one side, face buttons on the other), and both Nintendo and Sega beat Sony to shipping an analog thumbstick for their consoles. But ultimately, it’s Sony’s innovations and ideas that would go on to become the elemental base of what we think of as a “video game controller.”

There are two pioneering parts to Sony’s foundation of the modern controller. First is the original PlayStation controller that launched in 1994, which would establish the broad design (elongated palm grips, shoulder buttons, and the D-pad / face button combination). And then there’s the Dual Analog Controller from 1997 (followed by the more well-known DualShock models), which would change 3D games forever by offering a second analog stick: one to control a character and one to look around.

Check out The Verge’s PlayStation 25th Anniversary Issue here.

The Library That Almost Wasn’t, Hunters Point Community Library

Libraries, all-too-frequently, are sadly neglected. They serve so many wonderful purposes. They are civil centers, repositories of information, waypoints of knowledge and are doorways to other worlds. What should be celebrated is often left to decay. Libraries for many, are their own personal Room of Requirement. In short, libraries are awesome.

The Hunter’s Point Branch of the Queens Public Library almost didn’t happen. Classic New York City problems, time and money:

Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

From the start, pea counters in the city’s Office of Management and Budget didn’t see why Hunters Point needed a big fancy library, notwithstanding all the new apartment towers going up, bringing in droves of young families. The pea counters held the project up. Delays raised costs.Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

Behold this stunning, marvelous, and albeit slightly self-indulgent piece of New York architecture.

Looking upon the library from Manhattan
The exterior
The interior is awash in warm sunlight throughout the day and has plenty of cozy corners to curl up into

The New York Times has some incredible stunning photography of the library. You can view all the photos here.

The Motorola RAZR is Back

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge reports:

The hinge is also a bit stiff so you won’t be able to just whip it open with a flick of a wrist — closing it with one hand also involves some more finger contortions to start the closing action. It’s just more practical to close it with your other hand.

Even with these caveats, the whole opening and closing mechanism is supremely satisfying to do, with crisp snaps in both directions. Snapping the phone shut to hang up on a call is a particular delight; there really is no better way to end a call than the classic flip phone snap, and it’s excellent to see that Motorola has kept it alive here. The hardware feels great, too, with solid-feeling stainless steel and glass on the outside and a wonderfully textured back that’s nice and grippy, which is essential for not dropping it while flipping it open and shut. (It is a fingerprint magnet, though.)

A freaking… hinge! Did you hear that?!

Photo: The Verge

Pretty wild right? What year is this? Check out The Verge’s review video below. At the 1:20 mark, Chaim makes a fantastic point. All the other foldables seem to have run into the same problem. They all have terrible hinge designs, among other unmemorable product design issues. For other unknown reasons, most of the other devices fold hamburger style instead of hotdog. Perplexing really. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Fold? It was atrocious, and If you recall, it failed spectacularly.

Sure, the new RAZR isn’t exactly the most beautiful smart device either. It does after all run on Android and will likely employ Google RCS. Nonetheless, it does raise some eyebrows. It brings Motorola back into the fray, and it brings the flip back to smart phones in such a memorable way. One major upside for this design? No more glass screens, which means no more cracked screens for those that fumble (myself included). I think that’s a bright future we can all hope for.

Overall, I’m not sure if I would love it owning a RAZR (I never owned the original RAZR in the first place, but I did own a Sidekick 3 once upon a time), but it has certainly piqued my interest. I think it’s entirely possible that this foldable mobile-device paradigm just might make a comeback. What do ya’ll think?

Meet Mitsubishi Electric’s TO-ST1-T, the $270 Japanese Toaster that Toasts One Slice at a Time

I’ve always been intrigued by specialized instruments and devices. Some items that first come to mind are Post Hole Diggers, SoloWheels, Garlic Choppers or even the Ninm It’s OK Bluetooth Cassette Player.

This one is no different. It serves a very unique purpose. Toasting a single slice of bread to a niche specification preferred by Japanese markets. I’m talking about the Mitsubishi Electric TO-ST1-T.

Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Reed Stevenson for Bloomberg:

There’s nothing more enchanting than the perfect slice of toast, says Kaori Kajita, founder of the Japan Butter Toast Association, which sounds half-baked but actually exists. “You can’t help but be elated.”

It helps that bread in Japan is tailored for toast. Called shoku pan, Japanese-style square bread has been around for years (think of a high-quality version of Wonder Bread). The toaster boom has its origins in the desire to have soft, chewy bread that tastes and feels like it came out of a baker’s oven, Kajita says.

I can relate. Nothing is better than fresh bread from the baker (well okay, Mr.s Baird’s Bread beats em all but I digress).

Japan is full of specialties, traditions, and politeness the rest of the world often doesn’t understand. This toaster slots into that cultural framework easily. Let’s face it, toasters (and now, more than even smart ovens) are temperamental and frequently too complicated. I’m not in love with the price tag, but personally, I find the TO-ST1 a refreshingly simple device I can get behind.

Poolside.fm

It’s pretty rare these sorts of websites exist anymore, but here we are in 2019 and poolside.fm has me completely captivated. In my opinion, the same advice given to athletes, goes for websites, apps and startups too:

Do one thing, really well.

Poolside.fm does one thing very well indeed. Emulating a very specific aesthetic. Observe:

Player detail. I just love this. Reminds me of System 8.

It just so happens to play the most wonderfully curated playlists this side of the internet. Come for the aesthetic, stay for the jams. Right? Poolside is a labor of love from Marty Bell (@marty). Marty also admins a VIP entrepreneurs chat room called Jacuzzi Club.

Poolside consists of the classic trappings of a decent music site: a delicious summery mix of jams, dancey tunes, indie tracks, seasonal goodies, lo-fi mixes and rarities that your neighboring college radio station envies — I could easily spend days here myself. It has a fantastic nostalgia too (Majestic Casual anyone?). It’s a good place. In an age where algorithmically generated playlists tend to breed boring, repetitive (and all too frequently predictable) Spotify playlists and Twitter trends, Poolside fills the void with serendipitous sounds that I seemingly never grow tired of.

I feel like this exactly what the music community needs right now. According to The Verge:

That’s intentional. Poolside.FM has about 32,000 followers on Instagram, and Bell says that the site has 4,000 monthly listeners. He wants to grow that number this year and continue building up the community. Part of that is welcoming new listeners, but he also wants to encourage other artists and musicians to submit their tracks. It’s a collaborative process.

Spectacular. Very encouraging.

Sculptures of Stuff Crafted From Brightly Colored Paper

Okay. This… is just mind-blowingly cool. Just take a peak at this super cute bowl of pasta! The bowl, the fork, the pasta, the veggies… I just can’t. It’s too good. The quality alone has me spellbound, and for whatever reason — reminds me of Katamari Damacy gameplay.

Love these little vignettes. The pastels and compositions of appliances remind me of the vintages ads General Electric and Amana used to run in the 1960s.

Still feeling hungry, huh? Take a bite out of this tasty pizza!

You can see all of her images in this series, here at Colossal. Alternatively, you can visit Lee Ji-Hee’s website here for the entire catalog of her work, or follow her Instagram.

Jony Ive Introducing Flat Panel Displays in 1997

In 1997 at WWDC’97, Jony gave a presentation regarding the design process at Apple, and even briefly talks about eMate and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Which, at the time was only released only 3 months prior and featured a relatively new design and integrated LCD panel. Despite the executive finish, and abysmal sales numbers, this computer was closer to modern iMac’s than any Macintosh that came before it.

Next, Phil Schiller, invites Jony to talk a bit more in-depth, a bit more candidly about something that they’ve been exploring in the Design Labs at Apple. It really goes the extra mile in providing design context for the coming years, as Apple would release the G3 in 1998, the first Mac produced under Steve Jobs since his return to Apple as CEO. It even further provides context for the engineering feat that Apple undertook to produce the remarkable, love-able iMac G4. But, what I really love about this clip, is how Jony basically unveils the long arc of design iterations at Apple — years of iterating, that ultimately led to the creation of the Pro Display XDR.

I got a real chuckle over the reveal here (timestamp of clip is 37:07–39:03):

Here’s a transcript of the clip:

One of the things, that if you take a moment, think about your own personal working or computer environment.

Think about how you configured your desk, think about the furniture you use. Think about the way that you work, and I will contend that the issues relating to CRTs sort of size and weight that actually dictated a lot of your use. How would it be different if you had a product like this [Jony lifts CRT monitor up to reveal a flat panel display]. So this is uh, obviously a modular flat panel display, it has the equivalent of a 17inch CRT, sort of active area, depth of viewing. Um, one of the uh, one of the obvious things about it is it’s sort of (light?) to see things move around. The actual base, the stand for this thing actually houses a cunningly designed spring loaded mechanism which means the effective weight of the displays is one pound. So you can actually adjust the height of the product and the angle of the product with one finger. You can also plug-in to the display, uh sorry uh, the base — your keyboards speakers and so on.

One of the other things we designed, was a different stand, a different base for the product, so you can take the same display and clip it onto this [inaudible], this desktop arm. Now this arm, this arm attaches to the side of your desk or table, and really provides the ultimate in sort of zero footprint, um display [inaudible], you know the ultimate in terms of flexibility. And I think if you went back to your original sort of setup, I sense that this may actually sort of fairly fundamentally, sort of liberate the ways we could work potentially in the future.

Remarkable. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

I wish we saw more of Jony before he left Apple. Now, when we fast-forward to 2019 we can see the full progeny of Ive’s design process. It began in 1997, with the rudimentary arm:

We make a pitstop here at iMac G4, which devolves into the hinge that essentially remains on the iMacs even to this day:

Finally, we land here, in 2019 with the Pro Display XDR:

A Catalog of Public Agencies Graphic Design, Public — Archive

The publicarchive.studio homepage reads:

A space dedicated to preserving public agencies use of graphic design throughout the 20th century. 

I’m a total sucker for this kind of design ephemera. One, it’s deeply nostalgic for me. Secondly, this sort of digital preservation effort is pretty tough to come by these days. So, it deserves attention and gratitude. It’s brilliant seeing these catalogued and organized by country and department. I’m looking forward to seeing this collection grow!

Give the website a spin, it’s really really rad that Julian Bialowas (@julianbialowas) took the time to catalog these. You can follow the Public Archive Studio (@publicarchivestudio) here on Instagram. Here’s a sampling from the website:

Brochures and travel guides from Parks Canada.
A selection from Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.
A selection of brochures from Mesa Verde National Park.

As an aside, if this sort of stuff floats your boat, something tells me you’ll enjoy the Reagan Ray’s blog. Apart from being a one-heck-of-a design hombre over at Paravel, he’s catalogued some interesting stuff like, Airline Logos, 80’s Action Figure Logos, and my personal favorite — Railway Logos.