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Idiocy in electronics packaging

June 5, 2007

You know how electronics’ stuff always comes with thin plastic film over its shiny parts?  This is to make sure they stay shiny until the consumer takes them home, where they can begin to look scratched-up and shabby.  By then, the item is sold so it does not matter.

Here we see a brand-new Gateway laptop with some of that plastic film on it.  The manufacturer has thoughtfully provided a hole in the film for the ventilator opening of the Core-Duo machine, so it won’t overheat on display.  But the hole is too small – covering 40% of the vent area.  Guess what?  The laptop overheated.  This is a non-trivial problem.

I have seen the plastic film still on 5-year-old consumer items, never removed by the consumer.  It is a simple fact of technology life that consumers do not usually buy a computer for the computer, but for the content they want to move into and out of the computer.  It may be hard for the designers and the company to understand but it is true.  They’re just not that focused on the hardware itself, or on the operating system that is so endlessly fascinating to geeks like us.

I mention this because I recently unpacked a brand-new Apple iMac from the box.  The packaging was so perfect, and so well thought out, that it just boggled the mind.  It was impressively designed to get the product smoothly from the box to the desktop ready to work – no detail was overlooked.  One might think it is a heedless waste to pay that much attention to packaging, until you think about idiot packaging design mistakes like this.  The devil really is in the details.

Categories: Geeky, hardware
  1. June 6, 2007 at 14:11 | #1

    That’s one of the things I’ve loved about Apple products (except from the mid-‘90s, but that’s another story); they pay great attention to interface on all levels.  An example related to the plastic film situation: I recently bought one of their newer Airport base station models, and it had plastic film on it.  However, the film had giant tabs hanging off it that made it ridiculous looking and practically begged the user to pull the film off.

    Also, I have friends who refuse to remove the film even when it gets nicked and scratched because it “protects the surface” (said surface having been rendered invisible by the nicked and scratched plastic film).  The real kicker was an Amazon review for a microwave I bought where the reviewer complained of the microwave being blue instead of the stainless steel she thought it would be; when I received my microwave, it was covered with blue plastic film.

    User interface is a tricky thing, it seems.  Have you read Donald Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things”?

  2. June 6, 2007 at 15:27 | #2

    You’d think the blue color would be a clue, but I guess not ;-)

    Have you read Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things?

    Yes I have!  It is an awesome book. No surprise that Norman is a big design contributer at Apple.  I have not yet read Emotional Design though.

  3. June 7, 2007 at 10:31 | #3

    And then there are the rednecks who buy lamps from Wally World and don’t remove the plastic covers and people in South Florida who have their new sofas reupholstered with clear, heavy (hotternhell) plastic. Go figure.

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