Is Design more important than Technology?

With the advent of the smart watch, the question of style has resurfaced in the computer world. Perhaps from it’s beginning, the industry has had a problem with making things look good. This can easily be seen as the companies who had thought about styling turned out to be the few high towers in a low city of beige boxes. Only within the last ten years or so has the computer industry started to ‘get it’ when it comes to styling, and it was an ugly path full of not so good ideas and even more poor executions.

The dual launch of Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch, however, has seen the tech industry smashing their boats on the rocky shores of fashion, a strange land where few of their kind has ventured.

Most would say that, before this, there were mobile phones braving the way into personal style. The difference between these devices and mobile phones is in their daily use.  We really only pull a mobile phone out to do something with it, and eventually it is put away in your pocket, out of sight. Glass and the Galaxy Gear are designed to stay out at all times, making them more like your belt or shoes, rather than your wallet. This situation involves a completely different thought process. It involves vanity.

Samsung have packed the Galaxy Gear with features... But is it cool?
Samsung have packed the Galaxy Gear to the brim with features… But is it cool?

Aside from the tech-addicted, the simple question of “does this make me look cool? (or more to the point, un-cool) ” trumps all of the features in both. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to think of a technological feature that either device could do that would offset a loss to our perceived self-image.  Of course, this also extends to the interfaces for the devices. It’s already awkward enough to be trapped in a room with people on their Bluetooth headsets, just imagine trying to nonchalantly talk into your watch or plant a kiss on your significant other without it feeling like Jordie laForge is doing the smooching.

Both companies have proven they can hurdle the technological challenges of plowing tech into smaller packages but the notion of fashion is an entirely different beast. Arguably, Samsung has a leg up in the race on Google, but making things smaller or with more aluminum can’t be relied on to cross the divide. Maybe this is why Apple started hiring fashion executives – and more telling, is sitting on their watch concept.

The hardest part of all this that there have been none before them. When you style a suit or a pair of shoes, we have millennia of good ideas and a millennia of car crashes to tint our decision making. Google Glass is essentially a brand new thing for people, as well as trying to lodge a large data display onto your wrist. Samsung may have it a little easier as they can just ask Casio about the pitfalls of tech on the wrist. Or maybe not. Aside from the few years after they launched, calculator watches and their ilk haven’t really been the rock of fashion.

It’s certainly a sticky issue, but what we do know right now is that people are still trying to wrap their heads around both technologies and what the world will be like when the bulk of us have these sorts of things. Judging by the responses from the critics, the industry-standard versions of both platforms will probably not look like these first shots, as both companies and individuals struggle with adopting these devices – both in use and in personal style.



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