Apple's Flipping Logo

Apple used to place its logo on its laptops so that it's right-side up when the user looks at the closed laptop, but upside when open and seen by others - and then it changed.  For a company with such a reputation for design and usability perfection, how could a binary choice (literally) flip?  Joe Moreno reports why it happened:  it was originally oriented to help users know which end of the laptop to open - a laserlike focus on usability.  But they eventually realized that users will only make that mistake once or twice, and then solve the problem for themselves.  Conversely, the upside-down logo for everyone else lasts for the life of the product - and the product fumbles a great chance to advertise itself to prospective customers.  Every other laptop maker seems to have come to the same conclusion, and it'll probably stay that way - until a tech comes along that enables flipping logos!
[via Gizmodo]

Icons Stuck in the Past

Icons are handy little things: they make efficient use of display real estate, provide a quickly-identifiable visual cue to the user, and work across all languages.  But some of the standard icons we've used for years have been orphaned, as the technologies they visually mimic have gone extinct.  Scott Hanselman, a Microsoft programmer / author / comedian, has a great list of them on his blog.  Three of my favorites are above - I wonder what today's generation of "digital native" children would make of a 3.5" floppy disk, a reel-to-reel tape voice recorder, or a TV with (1) a rounded picture tube, (2) a rainbow test signal, and (3) rabbit ears?
[via Gizmodo]

Bigger Buttons: Adding meaning to energy consumption...

Small, clean, tasteful buttons and switches may be the Apple-inspired style of the time, but there's no denying the emotional heft of a big damn button.  So why not harness that built-in meaning for a good cause?  Two products aim to do just that: on the left, Bracketron's Mushroom GreenZero is a big button you mash with your foot to start gadgets charging (for a limited amount of time), while on the right, ThinkGeek's Panic Button replaces any light switch so you can save energy with the action-movie urgency of an emergency shutdown.  Both products add drama, and meaning, and thought, to what's become a mindless activity - and maybe by thinking about it a little more, we can be a little more conscious of energy use.
[via Gizmodo and, well, Gizmodo]

Bloom Chips: Packaging Becomes Serving Bowl

It's one of those concepts that just makes you smile right away: folding out a Pringles-esque chip can into a serving bowl.  Bloom Chips made some judges smile, too, winning its designers a Red Dot Design Award.  It's not without its drawbacks - it can't re-package partially-eaten contents without crushing them to crumbs, and the engineer in me worries about the seal between the lid and the folded top edge of the can.  But those are problems for the real world, right? As a concept, this one's plenty clever!
[via Fast Company Design & Gizmodo]

Wheelchair-Friendly Kitchen Design

With aging baby boomers about to hit old age, it's time to stop seeing products designed for the elderly as "niche" - they're definitely going mainstream. Italian manufacturer Snaidero recently showed just how attractive and sensibly designed these products can be with a wheelchair-friendly Skyline Kitchen. The lowered countertop that wraps around a stationary user is an obvious start, but nice touches like multiple lazy susans show good thought toward real usability.  Perhaps the best innovation is that it actually looks good.  Let's hope that catches on!
[via Core77]

Not all buttons are created equal...

The photo here is of a remote control, modified so that one particular button is easier to find by both sight and touch - by gluing the other kind of button to it.  Besides being cutely "meta-button", this brings up an important point: not all buttons are created equal.  Some are way more important than others - mute, pause, and skip forward, for example, are more important than sleep, sound-mode, or close-captioning.  A well-designed product will reflect this, making the important buttons easy to find (again, by both sight and touch).  But when the design doesn't do that?  Apparently it's time to get out the glue and shirt-buttons!
[Lifehacker & Reddit]