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Taking Apart A Watch

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I think that for most, people hear the name Rolex and simply think of a watch that rich people wear… and that’s about it. In today’s marketplace where goods are cheaper and more disposable than ever, we often times balk at anything that we believe to be “overpriced.” Watches are one of those items. So we, including me, purchase cheap watches because 1) We’re hard on watches to begin with, and 2) Who is going to spend $1,000, let alone $8,000 on a watch? Seems a bit excessive, right? What in the world is so special that the folks at Rolex, or any luxury watch seller, would lead them to believe that their product is worth $8,000? Especially when I can buy a perfectly good watch at JCPenny for a mere fraction of the cost. Surely there isn’t much separating my $150 Fossil from a Rolex Submariner, right? Wrong. 

I’ve said before that while I will most likely never own a Rolex Submariner, that doesn’t stop me from wishing that I could one day don such a remarkable piece of design and engineering. It’s not that I aspire to a life of luxury or excess, or that I wish to spend money on seemingly frivolous items–that’s not the case at all. The reality is that I admire the artistry and craftsmanship and the commitment to quality and consistency that goes into each Rolex timepiece. Especially the Submariner design. Why does it cost $8,000? Because it’s made of the best components and everything about that watch is everything that we should strive for in our own work. I don’t admire the Rolex Submariner because it fetches a ridiculous price tag, or the idea that it gives you status of some sort, no, I admire it because of it’s enduring legacy of quality and craftsmanship. There’s a reason why a Rolex can demand the price tag it does, and it’s because it’s just one heck of a product. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. It’s remarkable how small each component can be, and the precision with which so many components can fit so neatly into one small 40 or so millimeter case. I honestly feel as though it would be less frustrating to take apart a Lego Star Wars Star Destroyer and reassemble it with half the directions than it would be to take apart a Rolex Submariner and put it back together with all the directions in hand. Seriously, watch the video. All 6-odd minutes of it. It’s amazing. 

It’s like watching a physicist unpack E=MC² and then putting it all back together again. You’ll never look at a Rolex the same way again.

Dieter Rams 10 Principles of Good Design

If you've never heard of Dieter Rams, that's okay, so long as you learn his name now and commit it to memory. You may, however, recognize some of his products as he was an industrial designer for Braun and ran their design shop for decades. Most people, at some point or another, have owned a Braun product and therefore have probably had something that Rams' hands have helped craft in their home this whole time. Rams is an icon among the world of design. And I love his work for the sheer beauty of it, and the way he once described his own design philosophy: Less, but better. And, if you do some research into Braun's products throughout the last several decades, then you can see that philosophy rather clearly. If you need to see further impact of Rams' work and philosophy, look no further than all the Apple products for the last decade or so. Apple and industrial design guru, Jony Ive, has a sweet spot for Rams' work. 

In addition to his "Less, but better," philosophy, Rams created and widely shared his 10 Principles for Good Design. Now, Rams was an industrial designer, and for the uninitiated that simply means he designed concepts and devices that optimize their function, appearance, and value for the user and manufacturer. He made tangible products and devices that serve a specific function, rather than something that is purely visual and informative. Graphic design and industrial design are different disciplines, but his principles are useful for the graphic designer as well. But for the normal consumer, sometimes we never stop and think about the thought process and development of a product that we use periodically, or regularly. Unless, of course, it breaks right out of the gate and we curse the tortured soul that so poorly designed said product. Sure, it may have been ridiculously cheap and seemed a decent deal, but c'mon! Right? 

Anyways, here are Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design. Read them, and then think about some of them the next time you use your coffee maker, computer, smartphone, car, or that self-cleaning litter box you got for your cat. 

    1.    Good design is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
    2.    Good design makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
    3.    Good design is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
    4.    Good Design makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
    5.    Good Design is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
    6.    Good Design is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
    7.    Good Design is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
    8.    Good Design is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
    9.    Good Design is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
    10.    Good Design is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

(Image: Justin Gum)

Terms and Conditions May Apply

Recently I watched the documentary featured in the video above on Netflix. I've always been rather interested in Internet privacy. Don't laugh at me, but it probably started when I first watched that movie The Net with Sandra Bullock way back in 1995. Was was all of 12 or 13 years old and the Internet was still a phenomenon in regular culture, but it fascinated me nonetheless. We didn't even own a computer connected to the Internet at that time. Regardless, over the years my fascination with Internet privacy has grown, and over the last few years I've taken more of an interest in privacy with regards to our online lives. 

How many times have we signed up for a service whether it be a social network, retailer, or something of the like and we've been made to accept the terms and conditions in order to use the service? How many times have we actually read those terms and conditions? At this point we believe it all to be the standard legal deal, right? Don't use this for terrorist activities, don't threaten people, don't use it for lewd purposes, don't copy and steal copyrighted material from this service, blah blah blag, ACCEPT. 

The truth is those terms and conditions are never meant to protect the user, in fact, they have more and more ebbed away at your right to privacy while using such services. This documentary brings that reality into a startling light. Facebook, Google, Amazon and many more all with increasingly shady terms and conditions. I feel as though Facebook and Google at the absolute worst offenders of user privacy. The realty is that for Facebook and Google their products are search or a social network... their product is you, the user. They don't make money from a social network or a search engine, they make money by selling ad space on their service to companies, serving those ads up to you based on information they are perpetually gathering from your usage, and then serving those ads up to you and cashing the advertisers checks on the other end. It shouldn't amaze anyone that if you sign into Amazon or eBay, poke around at amplifiers, and then the next day you get an email showing you all the amps for sale on either commerce site. They store your information in order to better serve ads that you're more likely to click on, thus raising their ad revenues. Simple economics. Sadly, we're the products.

I should fully disclose that while I may rail against these services, I do actively use some of them. Facebook for one, because you can't get around the ease of connection to friends and family, or an audience. I refuse to use anything Google related. I think I have a Google+ account because I wanted to see what it was like and got an invitation before it's public launch. I don't even use it. I have a Youtube account, which I don't think I've posted anything to in over a year. I use Amazon only when absolutely necessary. And the last time I used eBay was when my mother dropped off all my old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys for my son to play with and Raphael had gone missing. Mikey, Donny and Leo were all there, but no Raph. So I bought a replacement off eBay for $6 plus shipping. As far as I'm concerned, Google is one of Satan's minions. 

I'm not much for conspiracy theories, so please don't read this the wrong way. The revelations that have come out of the Edward Snowden case have really opened up the eyes of the general conscious regarding privacy. It made privacy violations very real. And right in the middle of it was Facebook and Google. And, this documentary touches on that issue a bit near the end. It was largely produced before Snowden came to light and had played out to the level it has today. 

One fascinating bit of the documentary revolves around a sidewalk interaction the documentary director has with Mark Zuckerberg, creator and CEO of Facebook. The director approaches Zuckerberg with a camera in hand and Zuck is very cautions, awkward, closed off, and straight-faced. When Zuck asks the director to turn off the camera and the director complies, he fails to realize the director is still rolling by way of a hidden camera in his glasses frames. Once Zuck believes he is safe from the camera, his entire demeanor changes. It essentially does a 180 and he actually smiles at the director, warmly. It's very weird. 

It also touches on how privacy violations and data collections can hit even everyday folks like you or I. In the case of one writer for the now cancelled CBS drama, Cold Case, his information collected through search requests on Google looks like something a deranged man looking to murder his wife would search for. Turns out he was simply doing research for a plot and his wife (who is present in the video) is still very much alive and well. But, if this information is being mined through government programs that are looking to log certain search strings to profile potential threats... you can see how this becomes the larger issue presented in the Tom Cruise film, Minority Report. 

It's a great and somewhat disturbing documentary that will make you think twice about hitting that "accept" key on the terms and conditions next time. And if you are thinking about updating your Facebook App, read this article first. Again, your information is being collected whether you like it or not.