I dig kitchen gadgets, but I've never been able to get on the trash-compactor wagon - it seems too complicated, too heavy-duty, and not worth the trouble. But the advantages of compacted trash are indeed nice - fewer trips to the outside bin, more space for each toss of more refuse. So, I like the Smash Can - a human-powered trash compactor, cleverly designed as an accordion-style pushable lid. It feels clever, and congruous with "green" goals - why waste electricity on... well, waste? The only downside is that the inside compacting surface will surely accumulate some gunk, and cleaning it won't be a blast... But overall, not bad, not bad at all!
In design, as with most technologies (or, say, The Force), there's a choice to be made: use it for good or for evil. Well, here's a fine example of the dark side in action: an iPhone app (that I won't even link to) which disguises its photo-taking functionality with a benign non-camera image on the screen, and snaps pics as long as it hears your voice. As Cult of Mac says, "there are two types of people who'll like this: fans of street photography who love catching candid photos of ordinary people, and perverts." And I don't think this is going to be used by many fans of street photography.
Some of the best designs come from observing the natural behavior of people, and then designing to assist that behavior. That's certainly the case with Air New Zealand's upcoming "cuddle-class" seating: people have stretched out on rows of airplane seats for decades, but now it's going legit. Passengers can buy the three-seat row for the price of 2.5 seats, and use the space however they like - keeping clothes on, of course. It's a clever way for the airline to offer something new, and usable, without having to change a single thing about the plane itself!
There's been plenty of debate about which is the superior eBook reader, Apple's iPad or Amazon's Kindle. Though I own neither device, I'm ready to weigh in, and tell you why: it's the Kindle, and it's the display. Forget the size and weight (the iPad is comfortable enough), forget the price (the difference is negligible for the heavy reader), forget the battery life (the iPad can support a single long reading session) - it's all about how your eyes feel. Take a look at the microscope photos from BIT-101 - Kindle on the left, iPad on the right; 26x on top, 400x on bottom. There's a harshness, a grating, a visual assault that takes place with the red/green/blue pixels on the iPad - and a smoothness, a consistency and wholeness that relaxes the eyes on the Kindle. For a serious reader, I truly believe that the comfort of the experience delivers true usability. Now, if the debate is about which is the better general mobile device to consider, that's where the iPad shines - it does tricks the Kindle can't even imagine. But the title of best eBook device? Kindle all the way!
Core77 has a quick rumination on food packaging and why it's so often impossible to get the last bit of whatever's being dispensed. Author Rain Noe offers two solutions - one, the "Ketchup Collector" device shown at left that he used when working in restaurants, the other a double-ended jar that would suggest easier access to the entirety of the contents. Read the comments for some thoughtful insights on these and other problems and solutions, but I'd consider this: there's no business motivation to let users get to the last drop. The more that can't be reached, the sooner the user will need to buy more, right...?
I try to write about real issues of use and usability on this blog, but sometimes things that are just clever catch my eye. Not particularly useful, or usable - but things that'll put a smile on your face. Designer Alexander Hulme has a few of these, including the "Breakable" plate concept and pencil-with-clip shown here. Check out his site for some more. I'm not sure I could recommend any for real life use, but they're good to get the brain juices flowing!
Designers can employ some sneaky tricks to make people unknowingly do their bidding - heck, even setting a default can make a big difference. This one's a doozie, though, if it's true: photographer Chris Maluszynski suggests that casino carpets may be deliberately designed to be such eyesores that you look away - and look toward gaming machines. Check out the gallery of his photos at Wired and see if you agree... [via Core77]