With the arrival of our site wide celebration of Design Milk’s 15th Anniversary comes the rare opportunity to stop and take a breath to fathom what we’ve worked upon over the years, both as a team and also as individuals tasked to report upon design in all its facets. As the technology editor here at Design Milk, that’s offered both a nostalgic pleasure and also a challenging task, as my main focus upon the intersection of design and tech tends to evolve at a jarringly fast pace, a confluence that has become increasingly inseparable as tech seeps into every facet of modern life.
When I joined the team back in 2014, Design Milk was still primarily focused upon the more prominent columns of architecture, decor, product and industrial design holding the roof of the halls of design. Our founder recognized tech was exponentially becoming an essential tool for designers, while also evolving into a new canvas of both a tangible and increasingly intangible nature. Thankfully I was given wide berth to add categories such as automotive, mobile devices, smart home, gaming and various other tech categories previously only sporadically covered to better determine design’s trajectory (and vice versa; over the years technology companies have increasingly made more targeted and dedicated efforts to appeal to the design community).
Design Milk began at a time when massive tablet-sized touchscreens in all-electric cars were still a novel “what-if” concept, virtual reality was more popularly associated with a slip-sliding musician with an affinity for enormous headwear, and Steve Jobs had yet to drop the game-changing Apple iPhone to forever alter our relationship with technology and design into app-sized bites. Looking back, I’ve been given numerous extraordinary opportunities to learn how designers, engineers and programmers utilize technology to manipulate and heighten human experience. The following are a selection of some of my favorite milestones and memories of this circuitous timeline of technology and design for Design Milk.
Automatic Lets You Safely Tweet + Update Facebook Status While Driving
The very first tech post I would write up for Design Milk encompassed topics I am still very much committed to following today: mobile devices, automotive integration, our virtual online lives interconnecting with our IRL activities, and automation. Back then we’d propose, “Imagine your vehicle automatically emailing your mechanic when a check engine warning comes on, turning on or dimming home lights as you depart or arrive, or automatically sending out notifications to family members you’ve arrived back home safely after a visit via Facebook, Twitter or email.” Today these features are commonplace and baked into cars rather than required as an add-on accessory, revealing how today’s what-ifs can quickly become a standard.
The Beauty Is in the Details: 2016 Volvo XC90 Test Drive
What I recollect of this Volvo event was getting lost with a co-driver in the rolling hillsides of Spain and the noticeable effort the Swedish automotive brand extended to spotlight and explain many of the core principles of their designs expressed across three new models – including the then-new XC90 – using the language of designers rather than one specifically targeting the traditional automotive media. Volvo’s Chief Designer of Interiors Tisha Johnson would be up to the task of weaving the brand’s lofty language of modernist architecture and the Swedish affinity for nature to spotlight many of the functional, tactile and aesthetic details that reshaped Volvo’s perception internationally, including a delightful “spiderweb” pattern and spider hidden on the underside of the rear set compartment lid that added structural reinforcement.
A Fine Time for Simplicity: 12 Minimalist Watches
Back in 2014 “wearable technology” had yet to become a mainstream term or category. The Apple Watch was a year away from its official release, and we still categorized traditional timepieces – albeit minimalist design watches – as a technology still desirable to wear and own despite their increasingly anachronistic necessity in the era of the smartphone. Readers would prove this assumption correct, becoming one of our more popular posts as the year came to a close.
A Preview of a Custom Fit Future: adidas Futurecraft 3D
Like the post above, the interjection of technology into fashion was making notable inroads with the development of improved 3D printed technology. And no company was doing more to push the boundaries of functional fashion designed and manufactured with 3D tools than adidas and their Futurecraft 3D initiative. I’d receive one of the first hundred prototype 3D printed sneakers, one crosshatched with a “slightly off-white TPU of the 3D printed midsole evoking some semblance to that of an athletic-minded Matthew Barney piece.”
Our Favorites From CES 2016
I had already attended numerous Consumer Electronic Shows over the years before joining Design Milk, but I remember 2016 as my second year wearing a Design Milk-emblazoned media pass alongside a small budget to stay in Las Vegas to peruse the endless halls of emerging technologies, including the most glorious pair of headphones I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, alongside the unforgettable pleasure of watching “this guy air guitaring” at the Sony booth.
This 112-Year-Old Company Is Making Enormous Tables for Apple Campus 2
Our first formal press invitation from Cupertino wasn’t for a computer or mobile device, but a table, one feted to play a prominent role within the yet-to-be Apple Campus 2, aka the “spaceship”, great spans of oiled Spesshart white oak sourced from the fairytale forests of Germany and crafted into beautiful surfaces to coax and compel Apple’s teams to collaborate organically.
How Ivy Ross Helped Change Google’s Culture of Design
If you haven’t listed to our DMTV Milkshake episode with Google’s VP of Hardware Design, Ivy Ross, I’d highly recommend you give it a listen, as it will certainly supplement an appreciation of the innumerable achievements she’s made as a design mind within a very tech and data driven corporation. Ross, alongside her dedicated team, is responsible for imparting some Human-centered design – an aesthetic and tactile heart to Google’s well-established brains.
Behind the Doors of Microsoft’s Building 87
Visiting Microsoft’s Building 87 – or “B87” as it’s commonly referred to within Microsoft’s 500-acre Redmond, Washington campus – was like getting a peak behind the curtain in the land of Oz, a tour guided by the slightly mischievous Microsoft head of design Ralf Groene. He’d give us a peek of various Surface team prototypes, their explorative material labs, and the unforgettable opportunity to stand within the quietest room on earth (which I greatly enjoyed to a somewhat alarming degree).
The Moog Matriarch Joins the Family at Moogfest 2019
Receiving an invitation to Moogfest, an eclectic music, art and technology festival hosted in North Carolina arrived as a bit of a surprise. Although I was aware of the iconic reputation of Moog synthesizers, what I experienced was a uniquely jubilant event that felt one part trade show to nine parts party. I built a limited edition Moog Spectravox synth, met Mark Ramos Nishita, aka Money Mark, and bobbed along to ?uestlove as he DJed an all hands in the air and wave ’em like you don’t care set.
Creative Permeability Defines Jaguar’s New Design Studio
Being granted access into Jaguar’s 39,000-square-foot Jaguar Design Studio and Engineering Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire, UK offered an extraordinary opportunity not only to see an entirely new and cutting-edge automotive design facility equipped with state-of-the-art model making printers capable of 1:1 scale models, virtual reality cockpits, and an assortment of test-simulation facilities (including an enormous lighting system engineered to mimic the natural light of specific geographic locales), it also gave me a better understanding of the holistic approach required to design what is increasingly becoming a computer on four wheels. The charming Jaguar Design Director, Julian Thomson, was an affable guide, both in an office environment and also guiding us along the way in test vehicles.