Pentagram isn’t really helping Samsung by rethinking its design language

A profile of ‘How Pentagram helped Samsung rethink its design language’ by Katharine Schwab of Fast Company:

Samsung isn’t known for its UI design, but the company is now trying to change that, and boost its brand, with a signature interface style that debuted on its new S8 phone. To design it, Samsung called in the heavyweights: the New York-based design firm Pentagram

While Samsung phones typically rely on standard Android UI, the company wanted to differentiate itself with its interface for the S8 as a way of strengthening its overall brand. In comparison to the chunky, colorful design of Android, the S8’s interface is sleeker and more abstract–part of the company’s efforts to make the phone look elegant and timeless.

To satisfy this brief, Pentagram partner Eddie Opara and his team took inspiration from the phone’s widely admired industrial design. Opara’s central design concept, which he calls “Light and Line,” comes from these curved edges.

The biggest challenge for Opara and his team, who had never worked on a phone interface before? “It’s everybody in the world,” 

Samsung may be playing to its strengths here – relying on distribution and outsourcing elements of the design to other agencies but I can’t help but think this is the primary reason the user experience feels so disjointed. The front-end hardware and software itself are executed via two different approaches to design, leave alone integrating the complete package, no matter how much inspiration one draws from the other [which I may argue, should actually be working in tandem.]

Samsung’s forking of Android is also playing against the tide. I don’t know whether this is a strategic decision to keep people hooked on to their ecosystem, but their on screen navigation buttons of ‘back’ and ‘multi-tasking’ are inverted by default. That’s also an element of the user interface, which Pentagram probably had no say in. And the “chunky, colourful” design is the current aesthetic of Android. Like it or hate it, your apps will look more out of place when looking at the entire app drawer, with Google and other third-party apps encouraged to follow that direction. Design guidelines are there for a reason. Google doesn’t adhere to them in iOS either, and its apps looks totally out of sync on the iPhone.

For some reason, phones haven’t gone the same way as PCs. Android works on similar lines to Windows – it’s not about leveraging software and hardware integration; it’s about gaining scale, affordability and choice. Samsung should focus on the essentials i.e. hardware, distribution and add-on software and services that complement Android, not fight it.

The International Space Station just photobombed the solar eclipse

Johnny Simon, writing for Quartz:

The hotly anticipated total solar eclipse passed over the United States on Monday (Aug 21). Heading southeast, it passed over a narrow and long swath of the country. Also making an appearance—as it often does for astrophotographers—was the International Space Station.

Captured by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky while looking up from Banner, Wyoming, perfectly timed images show a tiny ISS passing in front of the sun.

Rope artworks that simulate tree roots and the nervous system

Christopher Jobson, writing for Collosal:

Artist Janaina Mello Landini (previously) continues to produce dizzyingly complex installations and canvas-based sculptural works comprised of unbraided ropes that branch out like tree roots. The fractal-like artworks have developed over a period of six years as part of her “Ciclotrama” series, a word she coined that combines the root word “cycle” and the Latin word “trama” meaning warp, weaving, or cobweb.

Saudi Arabian Airlines refuses to fly passengers who ‘expose’ arms or legs

Soo Kim, writing for The Telegraph:

Saudi Arabian Airlines (also known as Saudia), the national carrier of Saudi Arabia, has warned passengers about the way they dress, stating that those who are “clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers” could be denied boarding.

The restrictions apply to “women exposing legs or arms, or wearing too thin or too tight clothes and men wearing shorts exposing legs” as well as passengers who are barefoot, the airline’s website states.

The dress code, which has provoked outrage on social media, is refered to within a list of rules about passengers’ code of conduct on the website.

Well, Saudia is taking all these pains to maximise your comfort:

Saudia states that it “takes all the measures it possibly can to maximise passengers’ comfort and convenience” and its website advises passengers to “wear comfortable clothes when you travel. Tight-fitting clothes may naturally cause some discomfort and it is advisable to wear loose-fitting clothes instead.”

Ironically (though comparative terms are always misleading):

Saudi Arabian Airlines, which launched more than 70 years ago, operates flights from London Heathrow to Jeddah, Riyadh and Yanbu. Earlier this year, it was named the ‘World’s Most Improved Airline’ at Skytrax’s annual World Airline Awards, ranked 51st (up from 82nd last year) among the world’s best airlines. 

Concrete ribs and brickwork walls

Eleanor Gibson, writing for Dezeen:

Concrete ribs extend across the brick walls of this house on the outskirts of Brasília, Brazil, which Bloco Arquitetos has designed as two pavilion-like structures linked by an outdoor path.

Solid brick walls are slotted between the concrete structure, echoing the material palette the architects used for a house extension for a family in Brasília.

The architects left the materials exposed to reflect the building techniques of the local area, and to save time on extra finishes.

“We have decided to use the expression of the materials in its raw state, accepting the imperfections of the local manual labour and its limitations,” the architects explained.

“The idea was to minimise the extensive labour that is normally used for the finishings such as plaster or paint and to have materials that would age well without the need for constant maintenance.”

Thought 1: Building looks great.

Thought 2: “Accepting imperfections of local manual labour and limitations”? It’s very hard to judge the threshold of quality of workmanship in Brazil, but you’d pay double the cost (and time) of a regular painted finish to get that quality of bricks in India, let alone the workmanship. And it would compromise — not embrace — the look they’re going for.

This may have been the initial intention, just as I’ve seen the desire in countless projects here in India, but I’m not convinced the end result maintains those ideals.

The original emoji set has been added to The Museum of Modern Art’s collection

Via MoMA:

We are thrilled to announce the addition of NTT DOCOMO’s original set of 176 emoji to the MoMA collection. Developed under the supervision of Shigetaka Kurita and released for cell phones in 1999, these 12 x 12 pixel humble masterpieces of design planted the seeds for the explosive growth of a new visual language.

Early mobile devices, however, were rudimentary and visually unwieldy, capable of receiving only simple information about weather forecasts and basic text messaging.

Shigetaka Kurita, who was a member of the i-mode development team, proposed a better way to incorporate images in the limited visual space available on cell phone screens.

Twelve years later, when a far larger set was released for Apple’s iPhone, emoji burst into a new form of global digital communication.

Even though these emojis are evidently dated for today’s devices, I prefer their abstract quality over the hyper realistic ideograms today.

Nathalie du Pasquier displays her bold geometric forms and colourful contrasts in London exhibition

Emma Tucker, writing for Dezeen:

French designer and Memphis Group member Nathalie du Pasquier has created more than 50 new pieces for her first solo show in the UK in 25 years.

The From Time to Time exhibition, which is being hosted by Pace London until 29 July, features sculpture, paintings and drawings, all with the bold geometric forms and colourful contrasts that Du Pasquier’s work is known for.

Some of the paintings include additional 3D elements, such as doors that fold out, or grid-like sections that extend beyond the edges of the piece.

Du Pasquier  – who has described herself as a “painter who makes her own models” – often creates these as 3D pieces before painting them in flat colour on canvas.

Louis Vuitton’s $3,000 Android Wear smartwatch

Daniel Cooper, writing for Engadget:

The flirtations between technology and high fashion have never been very comfortable, the former’s mass-market ethos clashing with the latter’s exclusivity. That fact hasn’t deterred Louis Vuitton from launching its own premium Android Wear device, the Tambour Horizon, produced with help from Qualcomm and Google. [..]

Speaking of mass-market, the Horizon uses the same Snapdragon Wear 2100 gear you’ll find in watches from LG, Gameband, Armani, Guess and Montblanc. The hardware is reasonably familiar, too, with a 42mm case standing 12.5mm off your wrist and packing a 1.2-inch AMOLED, 390 x 390 touchscreen.

One notable admission is the lack of an optical heart rate monitor from the underside of the case, but perhaps exertion, or caring about one’s health, is not something the bourgeoise do.

If one was to draw a Venn diagram of quality (*) luxury vs. tech products, we’d get two very lonely figures.

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