Design challenge of a world in which all designed objects are subsumed into boring hard drives

Core77's Carla Diana looks at the design solutions that industrial designers have come up with to impart fetishistic desirability on the hard drives that are replacing thousands and thousands of books, CDs, videos, games, etc. My world is definitely divided into stuff that I can compress onto a hard-drive and then stick in a box and forget, and stuff that gets displayed or worn, and virtually nothing else (though I just discovered the hard way that moving a half-terabyte of data from your old encrypted laptop hard drive to your new one is a veeerrrryyy sloooooow).
If so much of our personal history is getting compressed into data, and digital imaging, cloud computing, and streaming media have become an integral part of daily experience, being sensitive to the physical presence of these devices is an important responsibility. Creating distinctive, engaging objects that help people manage and understand the nature of data--an imperceptible property that is at once fragmented, modular and flowing--is a new and challenging opportunity. Data-management devices such as routers, hard drives and modems--previously relegated to back corners and spaces under desks--are now front and center, featuring prominently in people's living rooms, desktops and front pockets. Once the exclusive domain of the cable guy and corporate IT manager, they are now mainstream products that moms and dads will buy to place front and center in a living room, veritable shrines to the data that is contained within or flowing through them. Once designed to look benign, apologetic and clumsily invisible, they are now becoming sculptural pieces that warrant a strong presence in the domestic landscape. Though it may often seem like the industrial designer's job is to create a "black box" around circuit boards, the ability to take the complex nature of data and translate it into meaningful form is more important than ever before. More than mere shells for electronic components, they play a totemic role in the home and act as the threshold for rich, emotionally-laden content and timely personal communication.
Atoms For Bits: Designing physical embodiments for virtual content - Core77 (via Beyond the Beyond


  1. my data-status will be in the form of a huge pyramid of stone that has a few kilos of media buried deep inside.

  2. I want an error-proof, multi-terabyte medium that looks just like a 5.25″ floppy, and is readable in something that looks just like a 5.25″ floppy drive.

    I want the storage media to say “Elephant Memory Systems: Never Forgets” on the label.

    That would be my personal geek-nostalgia peek.

  3. @Cory “My world is definitely divided into stuff that I can compress onto a hard-drive and then stick in a box and forget, and stuff that gets displayed or worn, and virtually nothing else”

    What about food and drink, friends and family, the rest of humanity … ?

  4. Nosehat, dude, that was a total nostalgia trip. I hadn’t thought about the Elephant Memory Systems logo and slogan in years. I remember being a kid, feeling the high quality of the disk sleeves that Elephant used, and thinking “this is the FUTURE!!”

    Funny how it was more like the present – soon-to-be past.

    I need some of their stickers.

  5. The excerpted text, first it was exciting if a little perfumey, then, like, the water got deeper and deeper as it progressed– but I followed all the way until… totemic role??.

    But Elephant Memory 5.25″ disks! I pledge never to forget! I used to buy hard-sectored disks and put electrical tape over one of the sector holes so I could use them with my recombo Western Digital controller / mutato North Star software. In order to store, what, 250K? Sure beats a cassette tho.

  6. it’s stored in the paint on my laptop.
    or, if i have to carry it and use it all the time, it’s in the form (and disposability) of a 3×5 index card.

    where’s my data paint?
    and, for that matter, where’s my superconductive paint?

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