One of the most important (and most overlooked) elements of design that can have the greatest effect on an objects overall aesthetics are its proportions. Short and wide, long and skinny, accelerating or tapering, many designers typically accept the proportions they are dealt at the beginning of a project and go to work exploring and refining within that framework. However, if given the creative license to challenge those proportions, they can have the greatest impact on what is typically a first-read aesthetic element. One very commonly used proportional theme is Compression. Here the proportions of an object are severely compressed in a specific direction (usually the one that will make the object seem very thin). Sony has historically been a practitioner of this theme, finding ways to compress Walkmen, CD-players, and televisions to increasing levels of thinness (sometimes its the last thing you can do to a mature product category). But regardless of product category, the resulting perception is usually one of “premium-ness” and advanced technology. This is commonly seen in design-forward luxury items to convey a sense of grandiosity, exclusivity, and inferiority (on your part, not theirs). Just as when you flatten a ball of play-dough, the other proportions may have to increase to compensate, such as in the original RAZR phone. Achieving this almost always involves significant investment in engineering and technology, as internal components will always have to be redesigned or rerouted to achieve this new proportion. So next time you’re stuck wondering how to begin your next creative project, try starting out just squashing it….

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3 Comments to “COMPRESSION”

  1. cormac says:

    Thin is always in in product design.

    • AWOLtrends says:

      True, going thin is always a well-received move in many product categories…except when going huge is even more exciting. Our MASSIVISM trend will highlight this contrast, check back soon…

  2. Glen says:

    Watching “thin” evolve is an exciting process. The razor is the perfect example of how thin can be cool, spot on. However, I think the recent launch of the new razor phone presents the challenges of evolving “thin” to “thiner” to “thinest”. Although nice looking, I doubt it will have the same game changing impact of the original razor. Thin almost now needs a new counterpart for a knockout punch.