The Editorial: iFatigue, iFuture


The Editorial: iFatigue, iFuture

The iPad and its more diminutive sibling, the iPhone, are without argument our generation’s defining objects. And they are turning out to be something entirely more revolutionary than any shortwave radio, Polaroid, electric typewriter or Walkman. They are eminently portable. They combine an astounding number of functions on a flexible platform whose functionalities will be multiplied and enriched to the limits of its users imaginations.

Armed with our iDevices, we are the Bionic Man. And Einstein, armed with endless information at the swipe of a finger and the click of a graphic button. And critics. And publishers. And activists. And photographers. A fourth dimension has been opened – full of insight and information – that we access through our magic portals. The illustrious future 2011 once promised from afar is here. We travel through time and space by the use of sleek, smart technology.

But the fact remains that there is something deeply unsatisfying about the supposedly enriched experience these new gadgets bring. While not many would argue with the unprecedented convenience of a phone-camera-library-radio-map-everything, something crucial is missing. Form. Substance. This tablet-shaped enigma’s structure is neither an indicator nor a result of its function. And it’s hard to fall in love with a nondescript, rectangular brick.

The relationships we have built as human beings with our most essential objects is something profound. Hammers. Forks and spoons. Cups. Furniture. Books. And more recently, cameras, telephones, typewriters and other writing devices. These things have forms which remain semiotic constants (the iPhone uses a old-style telephone handset to represent its ‘phone,’ for instance). And when these objects are made with materials each possessing their own smells, weights and textures, they are transformed into something special. But with the iPad, objects are seamlessly subsumed into it and subverted entirely.

So, are we witnessing the death of separate functional objects? How will design grapple with this 4D universe? Is there a middle ground to be found?

With this in mind, and on the eve of 2011’s most important design event, we are thrilled to see what the minds of today’s best designers will astonish us with. As the lines continue to blur between the interfacial and the built worlds, we hope tactility and a real connection between form and function remains intact in some form or another. While we love our iPads and iPhones, we hope for a designed future in which we interact, learn, play and live through something more visceral than a tablet of metal, glass and electrons. Perhaps even our own eyes, ears, noses, hands and feet.

Tag Christof