The job of a designer is to be a psychologist [Podcast interview]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

In the last decade or so, lots of companies have gotten design religion. Design has been brought in-house, where it can shape products from the very get-go. There’s an obvious source for this idea — Apple.

This week on the Kahney’s Korner podcast, I talked to Oliver Seil, senior design director of Belkin International’s Innovation Design Group. We discussed Belkin’s products and design process; the surprising complexity of USB cables (and why they cost so much); and why Apple has had such an enormous influence on design and manufacturing.

You can listen to the podcast or read a full transcript of the interview below. (Or dive into the show notes.)

How the tech industry outsources pollution to China [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Death by Design documentary
The hard-hitting Death by Design documentary is a sobering look at the environmental legacy of the tech industry.
Photo: Death by Design

The tech industry appears to be nice and clean, but it has a long and toxic history of environmental damage. Silicon Valley is home to the most Superfund cleanup sites in the country.

A new film, Death by Design, takes a sobering look at the electronics industry and its toxic environmental legacy — both in the United States and in China. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at the cost of the devices we consume in some measure of ignorance.

Apple features heavily in the film, though it’s not the only tech company implicated.

This week on Kahney’s Korner, I talk to the documentary’s director, Sue Wiliams, about Apple, pollution and Silicon Valley.

How industrial design is changing the tech industry [Kahney’s Korner Podcast]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

For many ugly years, manufacturers considered industrial design an afterthought. They would outsource the task to a contractor or neglect it altogether, in an effort to get products out quickly and cheaply.

The result: hideous-looking products that didn’t work well or proved difficult to use.

Nowadays, companies like Apple are changing the game when it comes to incorporating industrial design and user experience into product engineering.

On this episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Oliver Seil, senior design director with Belkin International’s Innovation and Design Group. Seil is Belkin’s Jony Ive, the top designer who overseas the company’s diverse array of products.

Belkin specializes in mobile accessories, from power packs and iPhone cases to WeMo home automation products

How this money man helped Steve Jobs turn Pixar into a powerhouse [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Lawrence Levy former Pixar CFO
Lawrence Levy, Pixar's former CFO and author of To Pixar and Beyond.
Photo: Lawrence Levy

In the early ’90s, Pixar was in the middle of creating its first movie, Toy Story, but the company was in disarray. It was bleeding cash and floundering around looking for a business model.

To help turn it around, Steve Jobs hired Lawrence Levy, a former corporate lawyer, to help figure out how to make Pixar a real business.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Levy about how exactly he and Jobs made Pixar into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

Apple vet creates iPhone sex toys that would cause a buzz in Cupertino [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Suki Dunham OhMiBod
Working at Apple helped sex toy entrepreneur Suki Dunham launch a line of iPhone-connected vibrators.
Photo: Suki Dunham/OhMiBod

It’s true: music can put you in the mood for love. A Spotify survey found that music is more arousing than touch. That’s why OhMiBod’s iPhone-connected sex toys make sense; they enhance the mood as well as buzzing in time to the beat.

“Our massagers offer an unrivaled sensory experience that allows singles and couples to not only hear their favorite music, but feel it as well,” says the firm’s website.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Suki Dunham, cofounder of OhMiBod, a female-owned and operated company that makes a line of iPhone and iPad controlled female pleasure products.

Suki used to work at Apple, where she learned a lot about product design, packaging and marketing, which she applies to her business selling high-tech vibrators.