is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Digital media engenders all kinds of ironies. For instance, as the things we interact with on a daily basis get less and less tangible, we turn to digital media itself to fetishize the things that digital media can’t reproduce. I see this in videos documenting the intensity of manually assembling high-precision luxury objects from real materials. A few weeks ago I posted a video of a watchmaker at work, and the response was pretty enthusiastic. Something in our lizard brains delights in watching other people engage in manual labor, even if we have no inclination to undertake such activities ourselves. Here are a few more of these videos:
First, a four minute overview of the assembly of a classic Eames Lounge Chair at the Vitra factory in Switzerland. It’s actually quite educational; I never really knew that so much of this iconic object is literally hand-made. But it’s a little bit pornographic too in the way the camera tightly frames the chair’s famously sumptuous curves.
Next, this video captures the total effort in assembling a limited Leica MP-9 Edition Hermès camera kit. It shows how the body is fit together, how the leather is stitched for the carrying case, how the box is assembled, and, my favorite part, even how paint is hand-applied into the embossed numbers on the sides of the accompanying lenses. An enormous amount of care went into each kit, but then again, they sold for US$50,000 each.
Finally, to take this thread to one logical extreme, this video, again from Leica, shows forty-two minutes of polishing the body of a new Leica T camera. The company itself bills the video as possibly “the most boring commercial ever made.” But its point is plain: a lot of care goes into a Leica T, and you should be prepared to pay for it.
Much thanks to reader Adrian Ulrich for bringing all of these videos to my attention. Made my day.+