Posts Tagged ‘Accessories’

Google Glass’ Big Lesson

Posted by Robert Weitz on August 7, 2014 1:25 PM

We recently attended the Wearable Tech LA Conference to get a brand’s eye view of the wearable tech revolution. This is technology that attaches to our bodies that can sense, inform, augment, stimulate and even heal us.

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The atmosphere at the WTLA was electric with ideation, a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of gear and toys, a meeting of brilliant humanistic hyper-technologists and a window on a magical future. Bracelets, eyewear, shoes, gloves, rings, shirts, patches, LED scarves that dazzle, sensors of all kinds, and things that are surgically implanted—all of which connect to our bodies.

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As soon as something is connected to your body, it changes from being a tool to being jewelry or clothing, which are very personal and emotional. I believe that the caustic, sometimes violent, emotions associated with Google Glass is a learning moment in the evolution of wearable technology.

bringlassI found it interesting that the presence of Google Glass in a social setting tends to put people on edge. Why? I think it’s due to a design flaw: a gap in the human connection.

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Our ability to pick up minor asymmetries in faces is a survival mechanism that warns us of danger, and informs us as to what others are thinking and feeling. For instance, we can tell when a dog is happy or angry.

Google Glass is asymmetrical in the place where we look to establish trust! OK, I buy the cultural baggage and clash of demographics, but this was a design failure that makers of wearable tech need to heed—design matters. That doesn’t mean you can’t have asymmetry, but know that it means something.

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Companies that bring wearable technologies to market should follow Apple’s lead and hire designers who are sensitive to the nuance of taste, fashion and human fetish. I’m pleased that many of the exhibitors and panelists at the Wearable Tech LA Conference have either addressed the human connection, or are aware that it’s the next phase. I, for one, can’t wait for that to happen!

MUJI Invades America

Posted by Dylan Tran on February 9, 2009 2:16 PM

It’s ironic that in brand-obsessed Japan, one of the most popular brands is MUJI (short for Mujirushi Ryohin). What began in Tokyo over 25 years ago as a simple concept to create “no-brand quality products,” has now transformed into a global empire with over hundreds of stores in Asia and Europe.

Up until now, MUJI products, which include stationery, housewares, clothing, and toiletries, were only available in the U.S. through select museum stores such as the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. But in the last year, MUJI has finally invaded America, opening three retail stores in NY (SoHo, Times Square, Chelsea) with plans for many more locations nationwide.

I’m excited about this because MUJI products have long epitomized modern simplicity and functionality. MUJI pays attention to the smallest of details for the most basic of necessities. Take this aluminum card case, for example, which is elegant and minimalist in its design. The lines are sleek and clean; the materials are beautiful and lightweight. And it works amazingly well.

MUJI card case

Notice there’s no MUJI logo on the product? You won’t find it on any of their 7,000 items. That’s because the genius of MUJI is that the design is the brand. The aesthetic is so unique you won’t have trouble identifying any of their products.

MUJI has also set themselves apart by simplifying the packaging. Most items come in a plain plastic wrap to let you see what you get. There’s no printing, just the price sticker. And they’ve streamlined the manufacturing process in other ways as well, reducing waste and improving efficiency. They use earth-friendly natural and recycled materials in their products. Check out these foldable cardboard speakers, for instance.

MUJI speakers

All of these smart strategies have helped to keep MUJI’s prices low and affordable, and to garner them a devoted legion of fans worldwide. By emphasizing innovative design and high quality as the standard for their “no-brand,” they’ve managed to distinguish their products in a crowded marketplace. And that’s something we can all learn from.

Tools for Living – New Store Opening

Posted by Robert Weitz on January 2, 2009 1:07 PM

Much of the rhetoric of the early modern movement centered around better ways to do things through technology. California architect Richard Neutra designed the Lovell House, Le Corbusier made films showing him and his friends exercising on their roof gardens and everyone proclaimed modernism to be slicker, more healthy and more convenient than the old, dusty, dark houses of yore.

The term “Modern Living” came to mean clean, sophisticated and bourgeois – conjuring a scene from a vintage Julius Shulman photograph of a Los Angeles-cantilevered home filled with Knoll furnishings and long elegant fashion models.

FS really admires the Scandinavian designers who took the concept of modern living to the nth degree, designing an infinite variety of everyday objects using a singular modern vocabulary of high craft, utility and simple elegant geometries.

While the theorists and designers of the early 20th century fantasized that “everyman” would embrace modern, industrial design, “everyman” never could quite put a Barcelona chair in their rumpus room or festoon the dining room with a vintage Saarinen. Modern designs done in steel, glass and plastic are most cost effective when mass produced since the set up cost is quite prohibitive.

It’s no wonder that modern design appealed to the corporate, wealthy bohemians who live in John Lautner homes in Bel Air. In fact, prior to Design Within Reach’s arrival in 1999 it was hard for “everyman and everywoman” to walk out on the street and buy a fine piece of early 20th century furniture.

DWR has done an amazing job of combining au courant mass marketing and edu-evangelizing to invigorate a new market for modern furniture, and as a side effect, they have helped revive a tremendous interest in modern design and architecture.

FS jumped at the opportunity to visit the LA roll out and opening to DWR’s new line of “Tools for Living” recently. They served champagne and chocolates; a lot of serious but tipsy art/design mavens paraded around, and I got the impression that there was delight in the air. The delight got thicker when the 98-year-old architectural photographer Julius Shulman appeared to sign his new TASCHEN-published books.

schulman at tools for living

The aesthetic of the collection is all over the place. And they all seemed to fit in a MOMA store kind of merchandizing. It was kind of strange to see the drippingly elegant Cedar Sake Set that was reminiscent of both Shaker and Japanese craft genius in the same collection as the clunky, funky Louise Nevelson-esque Can Opener, but somehow both share a visual literacy and intelligence that behooves a 21st century gift store.

tools for living

Tools for Living is a really good smart move for DWR in the face of economic downturn because they will be able to spread their brand and sensibility around without have to close a sale on say, a $3000 credenza. It’s a great way for modern fetishists to pick up a little something that will hold them down until they are ready to go for a Corbusier Chaise Longue!