Whaletale, the Portable Playspace

I'm not a parent yet (though I will be in a few months!), so I'm not quite qualified to say how realistically practical this design truly is - but design student Daye Kim's Core77-Award-winning Whaletale is certainly inspirational.  A soft and sanitary playspace folds out from the jetsetter-parent's rolling suitcase to create a private island in a bustling airport.  Even the sitting suitcase seems to provide some kind of barrier or backstop against the rest of the world, and the form makes it feel as if some piece of home is literally flowing from the luggage.  I know, that language is much more emotional/designery than my usual practical analysis - but for kids, shouldn't everything be a little bit magical?

Apple Stores' Touchy-Feely Tricks...

Even products as well-designed as Apple's don't just sell themselves - so the company has put some design thinking into their retail stores to help.  And that includes a few neat tricks, some of which were uncovered by Carmine Gallo in Forbes.  He reviews Apple Stores' basic advantages over big-box stores, like the fact that all the devices are powered on, connected to the internet, and unencumbered by bulky anti-theft fixtures.    But the sneakier tricks are even more fascinating: the Macbooks' screens are all tilted at 70 degrees by the store employees.  That's not a comfortable viewing angle, so it encourages customers to touch the computer to adjust it - and as Carmine says, "multisensory experiences build a sense of ownership."  He points out that it's the same theory that works for Build-a-Bear Workshops, where hands-on involvement creates an emotional bond - and it's put in practice in all aspects of Apple's product demos, purchasing, and setup.  Perhaps the best part: the employees use an iPhone app to measure that exact 70-degree angle.  Now that's putting your product portfolio to work!
[Forbes, via Gizmodo]

What Matters in Car Design

As a consumer product, cars really have it all: engineered performance, fashionable styling, a sense of identity, tons of usability considerations, along with safety and environmental balances.  The question is which of these things each consumer prioritizes in their purchase decisions - and which contribute to real satisfaction.  Don Norman argues that car reviewers are "stuck in the past", obsessed with performance driving and visual styling, and I agree - those two aspects are vastly over-emphasized, compared to how they'll serve the driver in everyday use.  Who cares if your car does 0-60 in 5 seconds, if you're never going to race it?  It's more likely that the usability of the more mundane features, or less sexy attributes like reliability and fuel economy, will contribute to long-term satisfaction.  Fortunately, these aren't entirely overlooked - Hipstomp writes at Core77 that these things are being quietly emphasized in car design.  "Quietly" because it's just not culturally preferred to buy a car for these reasons - I've taken some flack for my next car being a minivan - but the designers know that drivers will be glad they did in the long term, and hopefully come back for more!