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Design - Robert J. Powers

MacBook is Sharp

Has anyone else noticed how the edges of the Macbook are seriously sharp? It literally cuts into your wrists. There have been reports of this for a long time. I cannot understand why Apple would not address this long ago. It’s bad enough that the laptop nearly melts your flesh. Apple could at least soften the plastic edges.

Hopefully this will be addressed in the next release.

AIGA GAIN 2006 Conference Review

For all attending or thinking of attending the 2008 AIGA GAIN conference I have put together this mini review of the previous conference in 2006.

Tom Kelley, general manager, IDEO

Tom was a great moderator. My only suggestion was to allow for Q&A with the audience. The cookie cutter, pre-canned questions were really sad.


Shane Brentham, senior director, brand services, worldwide marketing, Autodesk

Kevin Farnham, chief executive officer, Method

This was a really great presentation. I sympathized greatly with the growing pains that Autodesk and Method were going through. At the time of this presentation, the company was working for was having the exact same growing pains. Taking a huge product line that spans many disciplines and putting in into one cohesive brand structure is a very difficult challenge. The relationship seemed a bit hostile between the two, but the presentation was good none-the-less.

Moira Cullen, design director, Coca-Cola North America

Moira gave a good speech. She talked a lot about breaking down silos that form is huge corporate structures. At the time I could identify with that a lot because the company I was working for had many silos, and we were trying to break them down. She did speak a bit fast, and I would have loved for her to publish her PowerPoint, but that didn’t happen.

Sam Hecht, founding partner, Industrial Facility, London

Sam Hecht spoke about his relationship with MUJI. MUJI is like the Walmart of China. It was interesting to see their process, in that they still work with basic material like paper to do mock-ups. He really engaged the crowd, and left them wanting more.

Michael Hendrix, co-founder, Tricycle, Inc

This was an interesting idea about retiring carpet samples and using printed samples instead. It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it will take off. People like to feel products that are tactile. It’s a necessary evil. However, a year later they are still going strong.

Ji Lee, author, The Bubble Project

Ji Lee’s bubble project was totally inspirational. His work is honest and truly refreshing.

Bobby C. Martin Jr., design director, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Bobby’s speech was a riot. Very inspirational.

Doug Powell, principal, Schwartz Powell Design and founder, HealthSimple

Great speech! Doug took from his own life hardships and used design to create a better solution for children with diabetes.

Scott Williams, chief creative officer, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

Scott’s speech addressed questions I had been asking for years. Why do hotels continuously use horrible design that makes for and uncomfortable experience. Simple implementations like using clean white bedspreads and innovating with the curved shower bar is what GAIN is all about. Use design to make better experiences. This is one guy with whom I would love to work.


LiAnne Yu, director, Asian business strategy, Cheskin

I think this presentation should have been renamed “Market Studies on Selling Fast Food Chicken to Third World Countries.” Perhaps I am being too self righteous when I review this presentation, but I saw no value in it other than fat-cat corporate growth.


Henry Myerberg, principal, Rockwell Group

Richard Smyth, vice president, redevelopment, JFK, JetBlue Airways Corporation

This was probably one of the worst architectural ideas I have ever seen. In designing the terminal for Jet Blue, the Rockwell group imagineered three elements that identified New York. They came out with, cables, bleachers, and signs. Why is this bad, I’ll tell you.

The last thing anyone would want is to haul luggage up a bleacher to sit down. Bleachers have no backs an are one of the most uncomfortable seats ever. Typically if you have time to sit down, you want something comfortable, with space to place your luggage or set food to eat.

The large circular floating screen does nothing to add clarity or give information to users. It’s too far away to add any type of useful readable text for users, so it would basically become a ticker for advertising. More clutter. Fail…

The cables do nothing to the aesthetics of the terminal except add clutter. However, they are the lesser of the three evils.

If anyone has ever traveled, then you know what you want. It is common sense. Food, rest, a power outlet for phone and laptops, and free Wi-fi are the key things. The plan addressed none of these issues effectively and was a big fat plate of fail on epic proportions.

In general the presentation was kitsch and had no substance. The 3D fly-through simulation was going for a wow factor but missed the target. Rockwell was not solving problems with their design. They were decorating. Epic Fail.

I hope these reviews we’re helpful. There are some good speakers coming up at the next GAIN. Good luck to the speakers and attendees. I wish I could attend again.

The Perfect Case

I’ve bought many cases throughout my life and regretted many choices. After much travel and general observation, I have put together this little article to help in choosing the right case.

Wear and Tear

Make sure the edges are plastic or very hard leather. I had noticed on a friends bag that the edges were not plastic. The case was constructed of cloth and after very little usage, the bottom was totally shredded. It is especially important to have a hard plastic on the bottom.

Is it Sitable?

I don’t think that people really think about this when shopping for a case. In many situations at airports, bus stops, or subways, you may find yourself sitting for long periods of time, and chairs may not always be available. Sure you can sit on the ground, but there may be situations where you don’t want to get dirty. A good case with a strong frame makes for a great chair when you are really tired. Make sure that you can balance yourself on it also.


Make sure that your bag size fits with your size needs. If you want to use it for airline carry on, make sure it fits within airline size regulations. If you are buying a case for a laptop, make sure it is big enough to hold your computer. The 17″ Macbook Pro is a monster in size, and will not fit in many brief cases.

Heavy Duty

Inspect framing of your bag before purchase. Chances are, if you check a bag at an airport, it’s going to get tossed around like a rag doll. Buying a bag with a strong frame and heavy duty plastic edging with help with this greatly. This will also help with the aforementioned sitable factor.


Anyone who has gone to Europe knows that many of the streets are old world cobbled style. Pulling a bag with large wheels can help ease the pains of navigating cobbled streets. I have yet to see a good design for a suitcase that has a wheel base greated than 4 inches. Perhaps a savvy industrial designer will be inspired from this post and make one.


The storage factor goes without saying. Make sure that your case has as many or as little compartments to meet your needs.