Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Ideas before and after their time

Long ago Dieter Rams gave timeless advice about what makes good design: things like usefulness, aesthetics, honesty, and simplicity. Because I'm a packrat, I happened to have an old catalog from the 1960s on one of my bookshelves. Although it might be tempting to say that these products have design flaws, they remind me of how time can also affect a design's efficacy.

Exhibit A: Today we watch videos on smartphones & portable DVD players. The item at left was an idea that was ahead of its time. Someone 50 years ago realized that viewing movies wouldn't always be a communal activity. Still, this product probably wasn't the most practical.

Exhibit B: Although having your social security card on a keychain might seem like a bad idea now, it's possible that it wasn't such a bad idea in the 1960's. An example of an idea that's now "behind its time."

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