16 September 2009No Comments

SketchBook Pro goes mobile

I've been playing with it for months on my iPhone, but now it's gone public – Autodesk's Sketchbook Mobile is coming to the app store. A fantastic addition to the digital designer's workflow, this is the drawing app you've been waiting for if you're a professional designer or digital artist.

Check out Carl Alviani's article about it on Core77, and I'll be putting up my impressions soon.

20 June 2008No Comments

The democratization of car buying?

I've always said that you can tell a lot about a person by the car they drive. Whether you like it or not, even the blandest car makes a statement about who you are and how you live. Very rarely would you be surprised by a slick salesman in a Honda Civic or a hippy in a BMW M3. But these days, gas prices seem to have changed that, forcing rednecks into Geo Metros and Soccer Moms out of their SUV high-horses and into more practical station wagons (gasp!) and reasonable sedans. But is this a permanent change, or a temporary reaction?

I'm not sure, but it occurred to me this morning that Europe has always been a more democratic car buying environment. Small streets, a near total lack of parking, insane taxes on vehicles, lack of credit, and, of course, high fuel prices have meant that for decades Europeans drove what as practical above what was cool. Only showoffs drove BMWs and SUVs. Only rich people drove Porsches. Everybody else, well, they drove what was cheap and local. The French have been buying Peugeot and Renault hatches, the Germans their Golfs and Opels, and the Italians their crappier than thou FIATs for generations. I've seen businessmen in Pandas and well-to-do families piling out of a Renault Scenic and never batted an eye. In the US, it's so rare, that pulling up to a family picnic can be a nerve-racking experience if you feel like you're "under-driving" (what will Aunt Jane think of me driving an old Saab? Will Uncle Mark think I've lost my job when he sees the '99 Passat wagon?).

But now it's all changed. I think that these gas prices are likely to stay over $4/gallon, so SUVs will slowly go away in favor of smaller cars permanently. The credit crunch will likely pass though, so as upmarket fuel-efficient cars start filtering in to our protectionist little country (I'm looking at you BMW, where's my efficient dynamics, huh?), will the level playing field tilt again to towards the wealthy? Will my neighbors put away the Civics in favor of Explorers? Is this just another malaise era that creates a generation of little fuel-efficient cars only to be completely forgotten when things get better again?

One way or another, it's going to be interesting. I can't instantly judge people by the car they drive anymore. That's no fun, but probably not a bad thing. I'll be keeping an eye out though. Will the market change to fit the cars, or will the cars change to fit the market? Only the automakers can decide that.

27 July 2006Comments are off for this post.

Why Cadillac just doesn’t get it.

Ok, so it's more marketing than design, but I think someone needs to put it out there - the reason GM is hemoraging money is that they simply don't understand the market, and in my mind, it all starts with Cadillac.

In the past few years Cadillac has been on a push to compete with European and Japanese luxury car makers such as BMW and Lexus by putting out cars that are big, blocky, heavy and unsophisticated. I know, I know, they're only unsophisticated in relation to those cars, being relatively modern and technological machines in their own right. But starting with the names - BTS, CTS, VTX, VHS, whatever they are, they're trying to be something they're not. What Cadillac really needs is a return to some old-style names, in the style of DeVille, Seville, Fleetwood, Eldorado (and maybe a few new ones to update the whole deal). People around the world have a soft spot for these names, especially a name like Eldorado, and the car that was associated with it – big, beautiful and brash. But not "don't mess with Texas" brashness, more like "Marilyn Monroe". In your face, definitely, but so over-the-top stunning that you can't resist it, even against your better judgement, which, let's face it, is the only way a BMW owner is going to buy a Caddy.

I heard that they were going to stop using Led Zepplin in their commercials. Well, that's a start. If you think a Lexus driver is going to jump ship because your luxury car is more "Rock & Roll", you seriously don't understand why someone buys a Lexus - performance, quality and understated luxury. That person is not going to go out and buy a car that's twice the size of their Lexus, looks like a tank that just drove through a chrome gate and has the interior quality of a Police cruiser.

Cadillac, get with the program. We all loved you as the eccentric, over-the-top Hollywood star of luxury carmakers, but you're just embarassing yourself right now.