Ron Arad’s tablet design concept for LG

Ron Arad is more famous for his architecture and art than product design. I went along to see him speak at an event that is part of London Design Festival last week thanks to the China-Britain Cultural Exchange Association. Arad’s presentation felt largely unplanned as the curator of the talk asked him to jump around from project to project rather than a clear narrative being presented. Arad showed imagery or video that he then talked around.

During the presentation Arad showed off the design concept that he did for LG that pre-dated the iPad. It sounded at the event like he had started his thinking in 1997, but the sources I looked at online stated that this project was done in 2002 and the video copy I found on YouTube states that the copyright is 2003.

The video is quite prescient in a number of ways

  • The device was primarily about content consumption and messaging
  • He nailed the in-home use case, with the exception of realising that the iPad may be a communal shared device rather than belonging to an individual
  • It has a flat design interface (though this might be a limitation of their ability to create it on video and a spin on the circular LG logo)
  • The soft keyboard on screen
  • There is no stylus
    There was auto-rotation of the screen
  • It has no user serviceable parts (this was at the time when cellphones and laptops came with detachable batteries)
  • Inductive charging with a table rather than the small pad used by the like of the Microsoft/Nokia Lumia devices
  • The way the controls where superimposed on footage of the user working with the device is reminiscent of the way TV and films are now treating parts of a plot that involves messaging

There were a few things that it got wrong:

  • Arad clearly didn’t understand the significance of the iPod, so the device had an optical drive rather than side loaded video content
  • The device is really big, more like a laptop screen than a phablet, a la the iPad Mini or Galaxy Tab
  • The form factor was too thick, understandably so when they are trying to squeeze a battery and optical drive in the device, the thickness had a benefit in that the device was self-standing. Apple relied on covers and cases to provide the standing mechanism

More information
The Israeli designer who (almost) invented the iPad | Times of Israel
The Simple Way “Sherlock” Solved Hollywood’s Problem With Text Messaging | Fast Company

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