Artificial Horizon

Articles and links about the design process
by Thibaut Sailly

Judging from pictures

November 26, 2007

This post, where my commentary on the Kindle product design has been described as a "silly attempt to review via photos" made me realize that product designers are actually this kind of guys, they judge products from pictures.

What happens is that we get an idea of how a product could be, given the brief, and we start drawing. Doodling first, sketching, getting more detailed with projected views (front, side, top,...) or perspective views, and eventually we build a model of it. Depending on the budget we have in our hands, we'll be able to build one to three physical models before the presses start pumping. So all along, we are judging products from pictures that are not even close to photography, and to save costs we'd better be good at it (models are very expensive). Thanks to imagination and "mental visualization" (being able to do a flyby around the object with your eyes closed), we are making choices on what a product is worth from reduced representations of reality. Paper or screen, 2D or 3D, it doesn't matter, it's still an image, and this is our fuel to get to the end.

I'm not saying we're all able to do this 100% accurately (at least we try) or that only designers can do this, and certainly not that it makes the evaluation of a physical version obsolete. I'm saying it's a huge part of the design process, and every product you see on shelves come to life through this.

Architects are the real masters in that aspect : every building you get in is built from images and have not been evaluated from a real model.

So, Mr Aaron Pressman, thank you for letting me realize it, but don't call me silly upon this (in my back on top of that : boo). I don't feel bad for evaluating the aspects of the Kindle I talked about just from the pictures. This wasn't a review at all, and I never said that nobody should buy it. I'm close to be jealous that you have one. All I said was it could have been so much better. I've been dreaming for a decent e-ink device since I heard of it in 1998, and it's just frustrating when a company that has built a much more complex object that is doesn't get it where it could be today.

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