|Hard edges grace the new Samsung UHD tv shown at CES 2013|
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Curvy, Sensuous Gadgets are Dead
Blobjects: they were the soft, rounded, fun technology of their time. From the mid 90s to the 00s, rounded, soft-edged surfaces ruled the world of high tech. The original Imac, the soft, smooth back of early Iphones, the rounded bezels on the first generations of HD televisions--these were the organic-feeling objects that yearned to be touched and held. Maybe it's a reaction to the times we live in, but the modern approach to design has swung to hard-edged, aggressive, squared-off and a bit prickly.
Excerpt: "The 'Blobject' had a good run. Advances in CAD software made this sinuous style possible and Apple made it popular starting with their first iMac. After the iconic Bondi Blue blob exploded in popularity, the trend transformed everything from staplers to soap bottles. CES 2013 seems to have ended the golden age of globules and ushered in a rectilinear revolution. In every product category from 3-D printers to biosensors, exuberant organic forms have been replaced with hard-edged alternatives.
While Apple doesn't exhibit at CES, they appear to be responsible for this trend. Since the original iMac, they've slowly transitioned their products from approachable plastic to cool metal and glass, with each generation becoming less curvy and colorful. Apple designers once talked about touring jelly bean factories to learn how to make plastic more playful. Today, it's more likely that they are visiting aerospace engineers or weapon manufacturers. The iPhone 5 killed off the last soft fillets on the device, replacing them with hard-edged, industrial chamfers and the world of industrial designers appears to have noticed.
'In the case of the iPhone 5, I've heard that the decision to create a monolith with chamfers was largely a need-based design decision, to reduce size while maximizing the internal capacity for battery, guts, etc.,' says Nick de la Mare, executive creative director at Frog Design, the legendary San Francisco product design firm that helped Apple develop the industrial designs for its first products. He doesn't see the iPhone 5's design as a statement of aesthetics as much as function. 'Rounded corners typically come at the expense of wasted size and material.'
'I think there's definitely a move toward planar surfaces, but I don't think the iPhone started it,' says de la Mare. 'I think a lot of it simply comes down to the creation of a new norm in response to and reaction to the old norm. If you look across other industries you have an apparent trend toward stealth, beginning basically in the mass market with the introduction of the hard geometries and corners of the stealth fighter etc. —; witness the recent Lamborghini design language for example. In a sense it's just a celebration of the machine. These are perfect forms, unyielding and edged, things that only a computer could generate. And as such, a juxtaposition to the organic, more naturalistic elements we were seeing before.'