photography by Dan McAlister

This tablet pc is designed to create a feeling of emotional attachment - it marries elements of traditional craftwork and pattern design with contemporary technology to form an unexpected whole. The design aims to inspire the user in their work (whatever that may be), by stretching beyond the purely utilitarian. In this sense it is conceived as a "pc for poets".

PBJ commissioned me to design an Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC). PBJ are successful tablet pc brand in the business to business sector and want to expand their range using interesting design. I was excited about this project as it gave me a chance to articulate some ideas I had about introducing traditional craft references into the design of technological products.

This UMPC is designed to be a non-business machine - whereas once we lived in a world where computers were solely for business, today our personal lives are often experienced through the computer. However we are still stuck with the business machine paradigm. For example looking at family photographs on a conventional laptop is a slightly sterile experience - certainly compared with looking at a traditional bound album. This design brings the more emotive qualities of the traditional photo album to the world of technology.

The top and bottom of the case have been considered with equal importance - the underside of a computer case is normally neglected as being unimportant, but the underside is the outward face to people sitting around the user, therefore it has an important role to play in advertising the machine. The surfaces have slightly different qualities - on the top the engraving is shallow whilst the engraving on the underside is deeper and forms an interesting tactile pattern for the fingers as they hold the tablet (designers have long understood the aphorism "the eye loves to be involved", this deep engraving tries to involve the tactile senses on the same terms). The underside is also visible to people sitting around the user, which makes them curious about the object.

The rubber feet on the unit allows the UMPC to be laid horizontally on a work surface, or leaned vertically when not in use, in this vertical mode it can also be used as a digital picture frame. The interaction design is paired down - there are no buttons or track pad on the top surface - the primary interaction is either through the stylus or by using a finger. The stylus itself is the same length as a normal pen and so can be used comfortably for sustained periods of time.
The design was partly inspired by looking at the traditional Japanese writing boxes (suzuribako) - these objects were essentially functional (they held the writing implements together), yet they were also very decorative and sensual - qualities which aimed to inspire the writer in their work. In a similar way the design of this UMPC aims to inspire the user in their work by being more than simply utilitarian.

This project could not have been realised without the skills and effort of a number of very talented people - designers Matthew Falla and Elio Caccavale and model makers Paul South and Simon Leach. The studio photography was taken by Dan McAlister. The project was managed by Okada Tomohiro from Y'Innovation and produced for PBJ.

Comments, feedback and press requests should be addressed to myself <Crispin -at- Mr-Jones.org> or to Okada Tomohiro <tomohiro@creativecluster.jp>

The design is being presented to the public for the first time at 100% Design Tokyo on the Y'innovation stand [Stand D40]

31st October - 5th November 2006)