You don’t have to be a designer to appreciate the beauty of a thoughtfully made object. But insight from one certainly makes that appreciation more rich. And inversely, makes the disdain for a product done wrong more painful.
So is the story for myself, at least. I had long held an appreciation for a well designed product, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that I fell in love with great design. July of 2012 to be exact. The month that I met Andrew Kim.
I use “met” loosely. Technically, I “met” Andrew’s work on his blog Minimally Minimal (MM). A third-year student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena at the time, Andrew uploaded a school project to MM titled “The Next Microsoft”. It was Andrew’s envisioning for a rebrand of the company as a future-looking and almost science fiction version of itself. And it was stunning. It took Andrew only three days to accomplish what Microsoft has yet to achieve — to feel relevant, advanced, and beautiful. The post went viral, and thrust Andrew’s work into the limelight (garnering him an invitation to Microsoft as well as a job offer). In discovering “The Next Microsoft”, I learned about Andrew Kim. And in discovering Kim, I learned about great design.
Born in Seoul and raised in Vancouver, the visual and product designer (who works today at Microsoft on confidential design projects) has had a strong appreciation for aesthetic detail since a young age. “I think my earliest memory of properly designing something was in elementary school when I insisted on creating my own heading layout for my assignments,” says Andrew. This obsessive attention to detail has followed Kim through his young but promising design career, and is demonstrated most intimately (and publicly) on Minimally Minimal, where Andrew shares his thoughts, showcases his work, and writes product reviews.
And it is these product reviews (or perhaps, “dissections”) that helped me truly appreciate design. In reading through Andrew’s thorough analysis of a given product’s every curve, shape, material, and finish, I began looking more closely at the items around me. I now notice (and am thus bothered by) imperfections in a product’s design or construction: a slightly crooked stitch line, a cheaply built component, or an ill-placed pocket. They are obsessive details to some, but it is these details that ultimately elevate a product from good to great.
“For me, detail is everything,” says Andrew. “Details define a product and signify the care and consideration that have gone into it. They are things that most people may not notice, but when these seemingly frivolous elements come together, they paint a bigger picture that anyone can appreciate. Small things like the quality of an aluminum finish or a small graphical treatment bring life to a product for me. It’s what keeps me fascinated in the art of design.”
To showcase such art of design, Andrew has assembled eight of his favorite design details for Classfare. Read on for images of, and his thoughts on, those special details that make his favorite products come alive.
“When I was in middle school, I purchased an iPod mini, and it became immediately obvious that it was a special object. The solid extruded aluminum shell was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I found it so intriguing that I took it apart after just a few weeks of use. The tube-like form is the perfect balance of design purity, functionality, and manufacturing process. This was the moment that opened my eyes to the way products are made, and how careful attention to detail translates to a well-conceived product.”
“In June, Leica surprised everyone with a completely new camera: the Leica Q. It’s everything we dreamed Leica would make: a compact street camera with a fast autofocus lens, full-frame sensor, and built-in viewfinder. One of the great features of the Leica Q is the ability to switch into a macro mode. This is done using a macro ring, which physically slides the hyperlocal distance meter into a dedicated macro distance meter. It’s marvelously engineered and so German. It’s completely unnecessary, but it’s this kind of attention to detail that makes Leica stand out.”
“The SK55 has always been one of my favorite design pieces and in my opinion, is the most crucial product to Braun’s history. Personally, I’ve always been drawn by the red dot on the radio frequency dial. The dot’s color also correlates with the indicator needle, an effort to help the user make the functional connection.”
“I bought a bottle of lotion out of pure curiosity on a business trip and have been using/recommending Muji skincare products ever since. Designed by Kenya Hara, Muji packaging has delicate, honest typography that I adore. It communicates simply and is also beautifully minimal in appearance.”
“The Hiroshima chair has one of the smoothest, most elegant finishes of wood I’ve seen. Whenever I come across one, I take a moment to sit down and rub my hands across the wood.”
“What I find really clever about Haerfest backpacks is the ring and stud strap system. It’s an immensely witty design that transforms a singular strap into both the hand and shoulder straps. This is the type of clever simplicity that I really love to see in a product.”
B&O BeoPlay H8
“Being a B&O product, attractive design is a necessity. The H8s are no exception and are probably the best looking bluetooth headphones on the market today. B&O is the only company that mass-produces products with touch over a metal surface — gestures and all. The subtle spin finish is one of the nicest I’ve come across as well.”
“If there’s any product that I can call my favorite piece of design, this is it. I love Ikepod’s futuristic aesthetic, and the circular, off-center movement window on the back of the Megapode is one of my favorite details.”