Designing mobile devices at the intersection of creativity & consumption

The stories behind why novel product categories are introduced are often more important than the first product in the new line-up.  In the 20 years I’ve been writing about technology, I’ve seen plenty of good new products arrive, only to disappear – unsupported – after just 1 or 2 release cycles.  Nokia’s Lumia 2520 and Windows RT, anyone?

Reading between the lines of Lenovo’s September 2016 Yoga Book launch, however, there is an interesting origin story – as reported by The Verge – which suggests the 3 year gestation period of this product is backed by an ongoing commitment to establish a significant new product line for the company.

The first generation Yoga Book touches on several of the emerging strands of user behaviour we’ve been examining in the MEX initiative for the past 6+ years:

  1. Form factor evolution and our repeated call for manufacturers to think beyond generic touchscreen slates or traditional laptops (read Andrew Muir Wood’s 2013 essay ‘100 years of slate-itude‘ or browse the wider category of Pathway #6, Thinking Outside the Slate, in the MEX archive).  The Yoga Book takes its inspiration from a child’s physical book (Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, specifically) and introduces novel dimensions and mechanisms.  In doing so, it creates a physical presence which is familiar, yet one which facilitates new usage scenarios.
  2. The intersection of two user modes: create and consume (read Alex Guest and Marek Pawlowski’s essay on this theme, or browse the wider Intersection category in the MEX archive).  The experience design of the Yoga Book, across hardware and software, is specifically designed to allow users to act upon moments of inspiration, when consumption of content prompts them into a creative endeavour.  The light weight, small size and multiple input options support rapid transitions between these two modes of user behaviour.
  3. Canvas to orb.  Currently a ‘work in progress’ (see Marek Pawlowski’s essay), our theory predicts the transition from a digital world dominated by flat, two-dimensional rectangles, to a digital experience better imagined as multiple, interconnected orbs with properties of depth and support for multiple input methods.  While the Yoga Book’s output (i.e. displays) remains in the epoch of the canvas, its input mechanisms – with support for digital ink and a special pressure sensing panel capable of detecting pen input through an inch-thick pad of paper – are the first signs of ‘orb-like’ characteristics.

It is rare for a commercial product to make it into our Friday inspirations at MEX, but I include it here as much as for what it represents as for the product itself.  If other manufacturers perceive Lenovo as having serious intent in this area, it may be the spur which encourages the growth of a new category, with further iterations from other industry players.This post is shared at as part of the promise we made in episode 19 of the MEX Design Talk podcast.  That episode was dedicated to ‘Friday inspirations’, an internal MEX project hosted on our Basecamp, where members of the team discuss products, stories and things which have caught their attention.  During the podcast, co-hosts Alex Guest and Marek Pawlowski committed to sharing their next ‘inspiration’ with the wider MEX community…so here it is!

Follow future MEX Design Talk inspirations at #mexDTI on Twitter, or – better still – post your own Friday inspiration to the MEX team!

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