Monday, April 16, 2012

Philippe Starck: the impractical designer

There's news today that famed French industrial designer Philippe Starck is working with Apple on something.  This is bad news because for all his renown and fame Starck's products are often horrible to live with.  And the one thing Apple seems to try to do is make livable products.

Take Starck's famous juicer.  I was given one as a gift.  It looks really cool.  Perhaps it makes you think of War of the Worlds, or a squid.

If you own one of these you'll know that it's the worse juicer ever. Why?


This juicer has no way to catch pips.  That means that you have to use it with something like a sieve. And the legs are very close together so you need a small bowl and a small sieve.  Compare that with a cheap, glass juicer like this.  Or in fact pretty much any juicer other than the Starck one.

Another present I received was Starck's Mangetoo cutlery.  Here's the knife:

Now this knife does cut, but what it won't do is sit on the plate. Unless you very carefully balance it on the knife blade and handle it will fall over and rattle around.  It cannot be laid down on its side otherwise it will flip over because of the shape and weight of the handle.  So, you can't at the end of the meal simply lay the knife and fork down on the plate.

And then there's Starck's bicycle designed for the city of Bordeaux:

Set aside a moment the mechanical issue of the strain that's going to be on that platform at the bottom and ask yourself two things: who needs a platform to place their feet on while cycling and doesn't something look odd with the pedals?

The platform is there apparently because you'll be able to use the bike as a scooter (a combination that no one appears to have ever thought of, undoubtedly for a good reason I fail to think of).  But the pedals are a more serious problem.

If you look at any bike you'll see a line from the seat to the crank.  On this bike the line is broken with the pedal set back (notice how the frame bends backwards): I wonder if any humans have tried cycling like that?  The reason the saddle is usually behind the crank is that when you sit your upper body weight is partly supported by the seat; if it's too far forward then you end up holding yourself up on the handlebars (which is tiring).

Goodness knows what exciting product Apple and S+arck will be able to come up with.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.


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