Tagged : design

Kavel Benjamin One - Vrijburgh Drachten

Pickets

By now you all know I’m developing my own house. The Benjamin One. Somehow it continues to feel like nothing but fiction. The design only exists in my computer. Talks I have with the local government, buyers, contractor, friends and colleagues are… talks. So, Benjamin One, my future house, continues to be some sort of imagination. A dream. Fiction.

Until now.

I walked by the lot where my house will be constructed and realised something was different. I noticed little yellow pickets defining the lot. My lot. Suddenly the Benjamin One project turned from fiction to reality. It’s just four little pickets. But it makes all the difference to me.

Cobouw

Last week a Cobouw journalist interviewed me regarding the Benjamin One Project. He wanted to know what inspired me in the design. I answered “iPhone”. Read the full article here.

Benjamin One - Vrijburgh Drachten

It’s been a while…

Well, okay. It’s not just been a while. It’s been a looooooong while. My last post dates back to June 2014, which is exactly 630 days ago. Yep, it’s a long time, and a lot has happened since.

The thing that kept me most busy is an idea. A stupid idea at first. Here it comes: What if I would design and develop my own house?

Yeah, why not?

Long story short: I did. And since it’s my first house, I named the project Benjamin One. Soon it turned out “Benjamin Three” would be more applicable. This is because the local government “forced” me to develop two other houses as well. In return of this “favour”, I was allowed to pick the lot I preferred most. Soon construction of the three houses starts. It’s going to be exciting times!

iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCampus

Apple is busy building a new campus in California. Their soon-to-be headquarters costs several billions of dollars, is set to be net-zero energy and is designed by one of my favourite architects, Sir Norman Foster. It’s gonna be a remarkable building for sure. But there’s more to it than just these facts… because there’s a video!

This video made me think of something I always knew, but never fully realized; A building is basically ‘just a product’, thus the same compared to other products like cars, electronics and furniture. Similar to these products, a building also needs to be designed, sold and ultimately be used.

We’re not gonna focus on the design of this ‘product’. I think it looks great, both the design and functionality are awesome and the campus looks transparant but essentially is a fortress… in other words, it’s exactly what we think of Apple and its products. Instead I want to talk about the ‘selling-part’ and explain what this has to do with this building ‘being a product’.

New-Apple-Campus-Rendering-cupertino-steve-jobs

Apple didn’t have to sell the project to their Board of Directors. Steve said yes, which is all you need. The project also didn’t have to be sold to the architect (“Norman, will you please design this building with us?”). When Norman Foster got the call he probably said “yes” before Steve could even ask the question. However, the building needs to be ‘sold’ to the Cupertino City Council. If they don’t like the design, think it’s too big, too whatever, the project is off.

Although few can imagine the city council to disapprove the project, it’s still a possibility (remember Steve Job’s battle to tear down his own house?) This is why Apple left nothing to chance. In 2011 Steve Jobs personally presented the proposal to the council. In October 2013 Apple again presented their plans in front of the council. This time they also showed a short video (see video above).

In this video, Apple presents their campus as if it’s a new iPhone. They talk more about the process of the design than the actual features. Typical for Apple, they don’t talk about the giant size of the building, or the costs, or the jobs it will bring to the area (the ‘specs’ so to speak of). Instead, they focus on trees and the landscape; “80 percent of the site will be green space”.

jony ive and norman foster

The video itself is a typical Apple production. We see the product (the building) and its designers. Norman Foster functions as as Jony Ive and designers use phrases which can also be used to describe the newest iPhones. What to think of:

“This project is pushing the boundaries of what’s technically possible in almost every aspect.”

“Everything is hand crafted for this project.”

Remember they’re talking about their new campus, not a new iGadget. To me this proves Apple really has design and marketing in their DNA (as if I ever needed any proof, which I didn’t). They did an incredible job to market this building as if it’s a consumer product.

Steve Jobs was proud to be involved in four revolutionary Apple products: the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Let’s add a fifth revolutionary ‘consumer product’ to the list… the iCampus.

Note: The Cupertino City Council unanimously approved the project in October 2013.

Skeuomorphism

These days, everyone seems to talk about skeuomorphism, not in the last place because of Jony Ive’s design revolution at Apple. I follow this discussion closely because this discussion also applies to Kiozk.com, a company I co-founded. More on skeuomorphism later, first a little introduction on Kiozk.

When you visit Kiozk.com and set the location to Groningen (a Dutch city), you’ll see a long list with activities based on your time and location. The activity at the top of the list is about to start, the more you scroll down, the later the activity takes place. Essentially, this is all you need to know about Kiozk, although there’s much more to it.

screenshot Kiozk Groningen

Kiozk, a modern kiosk

We see Kiozk as the modern equivalent of a kiosk. No need to collect dozens of flyers or search the Internet to find something to do. Instead, use Kiozk and you’ll immediately see activities taking place nearby. This led to an important design-question. If we see ourselves as a modern day kiosk, shouldn’t we look like a kiosk as well?

Skeuomorphism

We quickly learned this is called skeuomorphism… Skeu-what!? In short, it means that a digital object closely emulates objects in the real world. Check these examples: 12 and 3. In other words, a digital button looks like a real-world button, so our digital Kiozk should resemble a real-world kiosk as well.

To Skeu or Not to Skeu

Last year, there were many arguments in favor of skeuomorphism. After all, Scott Forstall still worked for Apple and iOS was filled with real-life objects, materials and shapes. Since many people were (and still are) used to this skeuomorphic design, it made sense to apply the same design philosophy to Kiozk as well. So we did (well, only during our mock-up phase).

We tried wooden textures…
kiozk skeuomorphism - wood
Made the activity-feed resemble paper…
kiozk skeuomorphism - paper
We even used leather stitching at some point (yes I know, it looks terrible).
kiozk skeuomorphism - leather stitching

We literally tried hundreds of designs for the Kiozk homepage. Some were skeuomorphic and some used the so called flat design. In the end, we choose the modern and more minimalist look and ditched skeuomorphism. In hindsight, this is the best decision we could’ve made. After all, with the current design revolution at Apple, skeuomorphism is now officially outdated.

kiozk skeuomorphism - current flat designThis is the current activity-feed.
We hope to perfect the design within several weeks.