Wearables need more design, less brand-whoring

Wearables need more design, less brand-whoring


There are about a million questions you could ask about the current state of wearable technologies. Input vs. output? Count what and when? Do what with all this data? ETHICS?!?? (What’s that?)

But perhaps the big question dominating everyone’s minds these days is: how will wearables find the right mix of fashion + function? Everyone is obsessed with the idea of making smartwatches/fitness trackers/glasses for your dog “desirable,” on the level of luxury goods – the ultimate goal being to “entice the average consumer” into making these gadgets as everyday-essential as that smartphone you can’t fucking stand.

So how are we addressing this? One way has been to “hide the chips” – that is, conceal tech behind traditional-looking accessories like rings. I sort of see the logic behind this, but I personally don’t really think making the tech invisible is necessarily effective, or will make it truly adoptable. More recently, wearables have been brand-whoring it up – e.g. Tory Burch for Fitbit, DVF | Made for Glass on net-a-porter, Michael Bastian x HP’s Gilt exclusive smartwatch. And of course, Angela Ahrendts bringing “More Burberry, less Borg” to Apple.

But I’m confused. Why are tech companies rushing to layer other brands over their products and call it “fashion?” If you’re “done” building your whatsitcalled band that can adequately tell my phone how many calories I’ve burned and what my sleep cycles are like but I don’t want to wear it because it’s ugly as sin, surely you’re not quite done? Surely the solution is NOT to run to Michael Kors and ask him to paint his MKs all over it?

Instead of learning from the fashion industry, its rich history of experimentation, and its ability to create luxury out of cotton and some buttons, tech companies are trying to piggyback off of fashion’s top designers and thinkers in the hopes of catapulting their products into the realm of consumer desire. I’m not really convinced this is the way to go – or at least, the way to start. I think in order for wearables to drop like Tamagotchis in the 4th grade, we need to stop distracting ourselves with fashion and return to the fundamentals of product design.

I hate to play the Apple card, but…who am I kidding? I will always play the Apple card:

Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the project, or service.” – Steve Jobs

IT’S THE SOUL. It’s integral to creating anything you want people to NEED to use every day of their lives. The way the thing looks and feels should be inextricably tied to the way it works (I imagine Iggy Azalea’s a$$ would agree). This is the reason I’ll buy almost anything if it’s shiny and made by Apple. Through design, Apple has shown me that we are spiritually in sync. Every square centimeter of an iPhone is in complete harmony with its virtual processes – it’s a single, complete, and glorious experience that makes me forget where hardware ends and software begins.

Tech companies should figure out how to make the products, period, desirable, for what they are and not for any other name brands attached, so that they can rise to become, and not mimic, luxury brands. ToryBurching a Fitbit doesn’t make me want it any more. Why are you assuming I want my Fitbit to look like a TB bangle, anyway?

But of course, someone else might – which brings me to another point: fashion and style are not the same thing (thx YSL). Maybe there’s a way for tech companies to experiment with design that is flexible, changeable, and customizable. The elemoon bracelet is one of the very few examples I can think of trying to address personal style with flexible design, while also playing up the tech aesthetic instead of trying to conceal it.

And yeah, I get it – who am I to be doling out criticism? I’m just a lazy schlub farting away on the couch. But I’m going to be demanding nonetheless, because I know we can get there. Maybe the long-awaited iTime will begin to show us the way. I just really, really want the next generation of wearables to GET HERE ALREADY so I can fulfill my lifelong dream of being Zenon and living the quantified, notified, holographic lifestyle.

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