Saturday, November 1, 2008

Talk to Me

This past spring, I was eagerly searching for a summer internship. I had finally landed an interview with a New York based design firm. I bused down to Manhattan for my interview, it was going well, and they were showing me products they had worked on in the past, mostly children’s toys and electronics. I was caught off guard when I was shown a few pictures of their current venture, the one that I, if I got the job, would be primarily working on. It was a vibrator, but not just any old vibrator. This one, fittingly named the “Talk2Me”, had a very special feature. It could hook up to any audio source, I-pod, radio, even a microphone, (all wirelessly of course), and vibrate in rhythm with the sound projected. “Bass and treble are divided so you can feel the difference between the strong pumping bass and the tickle of the treble. Use it as a standard vibe or with your favorite song, your lover’s voice, a podcast, or your boyfriend’s video game." (

                I wondered how something like this was ever conceived. Was it simply just the next evolutionary step in the greater context of vibrator design? Or was it the work of some well informed designers who were able to tap into a broader cultural consciousness? Then I began to wonder if this object, like countless other hastily designed products before it, was an over eager use of new technology, one lacking much consideration outside of the initial excitement of new capabilities. So many designs, it seems, are dictated by what technology is new and current. Such as with the advent of computer based design software, where all of the sudden it was possible to easily design and produce products with curvy organic forms. Karim Rashid capitalized on this niche quite well. His designs were clearly influenced by the newly found ease at which he could design elegant, voluptuous forms with the aid of computer software. Some of his designs seem a bit arbitrary, nice looking without a reason outside of their visual vocabulary. This is definitely one scenario, but how about the other. Did the creators of the Talk2Me consider the current state of pop culture? Surely they have. The “I-podization” of the world undoubtedly led to the creators tapping into this trend, or dare I say revolution, for their new vibrator concept. In the case of the Talk2Me, it seems to me (after a bit of reflection) that new technology allowed the designers to thoughtfully integrate a huge pop culture movement into their vibrator. The designers must have been intrigued by new technology, but they were able to use it in a well considered way, in accordance with current trends.

                As it turns out, I didn’t get the vibrator internship. I often wonder how it would have been if I did get it, and how delightfully well rounded my portfolio would have been. Maybe next summer.

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