This December we’ll avoid using the Christmas-y music I’ve been aiming here and there a we return to something more brassy; Akira Ifukube’s Ritmica Ostinata.
The last few months have been rocky to say the least. There was a lot of… mishaps first of all with increasing amounts of deadlines, and then my main desktop broke down, forcing me to get a whole rig that has been running pretty decently for a time now. There was also a death in the family, which kind of forced me to stop everything I had planned, thus pushing planned things back as well as just dropping some altogether due to all the lost time.
Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to get my editor run the blog for the time I needed to get things sorted out. Not all the plans are abandoned, their timings have just been thrown out of the window. That’s life to you.
There’s going to be few things left for me to do outside the Internet that are keeping me busier than I’d like to be, which means that some weeks may see a post break. Then there’s this small thing that yours truly is going to Scotland in mid-January to study industrial design for around a half year, so updates will get somewhat uncommon. I intend to find another person to keep this site up with me, so the flow won’t be cut too much. However, just like with everything, there are obstacles in this, mostly in that finding the right person is insanely hard.
Have you noticed how similar the Xbone and PS4 ultimately look like? They both are split into and share sort of chocolate piece look, and their main colour is black out of all. Without their few details, they’d just be black blocks of plastic. They look decent, because they really don’t look like anything. The NES was made to look like the entertainment electronics of the time, namely a VCR deck. The MegaDrive, SNES, Saturn and bunch of other consoles do not really look like run-of-the-mill appliances, which asks the question if modern game console design has gone insanely bland because nothing is designed to have shapes any more? Of course, the 00’s and by extension, the 10’s have been very sleek, no-nonsense looks and surfaces, a thing that Apple started. I can’t say that I personally like it, as that kind of design is rather easy to do. iPhone’s design is pretty… well, the design it has is there to justify the phone looks. That’s it. So, does the same apply to Xbone and PS4?
No, because the question is unanswerable. We know what kind of basic design a phone should have in that it needs to sit well in your hand, is able to capture your voice clearly near your mouth and have a speaker you to hear from. That dictates the core design quite a lot, unless you want to be an asshole and make a three part phone. What kind of design is necessary for a game console, or any media device? First of all, it needs to accept the media it’s designed around, like SD cards, USB sticks, discs or cartridges. Then you have the controller, which might or might not be a separate entity from the package, ie. cordless.
I was asked What are designers needed for? recently, and the question I provided was Designers are there to fulfil your needs.
A designer is there to take a look how something works, observe its use, and then make it work better, faster, stronger, better. It would be a selfish thing just to do whatever you want, designer whatever you want, to whomever you want, whenever you want and disregard the reason a designer as a field exists.
As such, the answer how a game console should look is dictated by its function and use, and this is why game consoles, other entertainment machines and most household appliances are hard to design; if they don’t work as intended because of the design, they’re badly designed. I’m not talking about the looks here, but also about the functions; how well a machine vents air, how the casing shells the inside mechanisms and takes impacts and how well all of it comes together as a whole piece. Both SONY and Microsoft have been failing with their console design for some time now, and it’s because they haven’t paid attention to design of their products. The looks should come naturally from the core design, but I’m afraid that too many times the process if backwards, where the design and design come from separate origin. We can have design, but we don’t need design.
These two designs are two separate things that share the same name. The first one is what I answered, the one that dictates all and everything, and then we have the second, which is people splattering stuff somewhere in order of aesthetics and good looks. We call people who use the second design as artists for good reasons and only the Lord knows why they’re in a field where they are doing more disservice than anything else.
I’m just saying that the people who design the consoles have exactly one job, and there’s no defending the fact that they failed when a machine breaks down.
Now how did Microsoft manage to put millions of dollars into the development of the Xbone controller? I have no idea, but all they had to do was to fix the D-Pad and they would have been ready to go. Ergonomics is a well researched field, and human hands haven’t manage to evolve into a new shape within a decade, so fixing what wasn’t broken seems to be the wrong thing to do. Then again, Microsoft is seeking to gain more profits from keeping you re-using any 360 gadgets with the Xbone. Sometimes it just seems they’re making new shit up just to justify the existence of any design department in any corporation.