To thine own self be true

Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Faaar right

Posted by Polonius on 23 March, 2007

There are a couple of amusing comments on the latest badscience posting. The first is Neil Desperandum’s, drawing attention to the Daily Hate’s standards of proof-reading.

The second is Andy’s pointer to an interesting Web page. Horizontal scroll bars are widely seen as a usability no-no. I have seen an online art gallery that mimicked a real-world gallery, and it suited the metaphor to stroll (or scroll) horizontally through the site, but that was a rare exception. Now Phrenopolis bring us what may be the world’s widest Web page.


Posted in Design, Science | 1 Comment »

Coming (soon?) to a blog near you

Posted by Polonius on 19 September, 2006

My recent post on the Olympus XA is intended to be the first in a series of posts on design classics that may be found in a fairly ordinary home (i.e. my home). This post serves a couple of purposes:

  1. If you enjoyed the first post, I hope this will tempt you to come back looking for more.
  2. I am often filled with enthusiasm for new projects but, before I get very far, something else comes along and distracts me. By publishing my future plans here, I put myself under some pressure to continue.

My current plans are for articles about the following.

Kenwood Chef

This one’s going to be tricky to photograph, with its stainless steel bowl.

Nikon FM2

I’ll save this until after I’ve done a non-camera piece.

Picquot Ware tea service

I thought this was going to be a “swords into ploughshares” story of exotic aircraft alloys developed in WWII, but preliminary research suggests the design is prewar.

This may be even more difficult to photograph than the Kenwood Chef – it’s not quite as glossy, but it reflects in all directions.


I may not have a lot to say about some of these. Oh well – all the more challenging to write!

Posted in Blogging, Design | Leave a Comment »

Design classics – the Olympus XA

Posted by Polonius on 19 September, 2006

The Olympus XA Olympus XA with A11 flash redefined the compact camera. Until 1979, even “compact” 35 mm cameras were relatively bulky. Then the XA appeared. It was a truly pocket-sized 35 mm camera, with a 35 mm f/2.8 lens. Its ingenious sliding lens cap made for a smooth, and fairly tough, package that could slip into even a relatively small pocket.

Its tiny body was packed with useful features. Most striking was the rangefinder focussing, like the much more expensive Leica M series. This provides very accurate focussing, even in relatively low light levels. Like the Leicas, it had a very quiet shutter mechanism, much quieter than SLRs with their clattering mirrors. These features allowed aspiring but impoverished photographers to attempt to emulate the candid street style of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The XA predated the era of automatic everything; even DX coding of fim speed wasn’t available in 1979. The aperture priority automatic exposure relieved the user of the need to set the shutter speed, but that still left a lot of settings to be input . Arranging all those controls in such a small camera presented huge ergonomic challenges, which weren’t entirely successfully met. Nevertheless, the XA represents a milestone in the development of 35 mm compact cameras.

The legacy of the XA can be seen in Olympus’ μ seriesOlympus μ-1, μ ZOOM and XA. The original μ-1 (or μ[mju:]-1, to give it its full title), of 1991 was a point-and-shoot model that, unlike its ancestor, really did have automatic everything, including a built-in flash, programmed exposure and (100-step?) autofocus. With all those features, especially the flash, it can be forgiven for being slightly larger than the XA. The μ-1 had a slightly slower, f/3.5, 35 mm lens, and later models added zoom lenses. The μ series retains a sliding lens cap similar to the XA’s, but has improved the grip, at the expense of a slightly less smooth shape with the cap closed.

Posted in Design, Photography | 1 Comment »

Design – a preface

Posted by Polonius on 10 September, 2006

First of all, what design is not. Design is not fashion. Fashion is a means by which a few very wealthy people make obscene amounts of money from people who are too stupid to choose their own clothes.

Design covers a wide spectrum. At one end is form following function, often with an elegant simplicity. Concorde is an iconic example. The Millau Viaduct is another. The waiter’s friend corkscrew is a more everyday one. At the other end of the spectrum, design is about using funky colours. This is wandering dangerously close to fashion territory.

Dyson vacuum cleaners cover the full spectrum. Yes they are hideous colours. But we had one for a while, and there are a lot of clever touches. The tools pop neatly into recesses when not in use. The flex (ours was an upright) winds round two hooks and the top hook swivels for a quick release – a simple feature, but nice attention to detail. The transparent reservoir shows how much dust it’s lifting, and it’s very very good at lifting dust. But ask it to lift a cornflake or a dead wasp, and it’s crap! And how can the marketing be legal? It contains a filter. What happens when that gets clogged with dust? Loss of suction.

The Design category of my blog is intended to include articles about design that strikes me as particularly good (or bad). I do not intend to review Web sites. Lots of other people do that, and quite a few are better qualified than I am. Check out the Blog Watch list at meyerweb.com for a good selection of links on that subject.

Posted in Design, Rants | 1 Comment »