• Kaisern Chen

Talk of designs

Updated: Sep 7, 2019

Talk of designs - a personal blog on how I see the design on random articles!

It would probably make little sense if I started this design talk away from an object I deeply fascinated and love - the camera.

Leica M Edition 60

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." ~ Albert Einstein

Leica M Edition 60 - Audi Design

With Leica M Edition 60, Leica came very close! It is one of my favorite cameras and often use until the introduction of Leica M10-D, which is more convenient to shoot with but not a better camera design. Leica commissioned Audi Design for this 60th-anniversary edition model of the legendary Leica M camera that pays homage to the essence of photography. It raises the fundamental question of what is photography? And should photography with solid-state sensor any different from its analog age?

It is a result of a meticulous effort that the camera feels dense but not heavy, sharp edges around but holds comfortably in hand. The camera looks more beautiful without the added Titanium Thumbs Up from Match Technical, clearly not up to the craftmanship of Edition 60 camera, but I leave it on for photography purpose to have something to talk.

It is not a design for everyone. It does not need to.


Arca Swiss B1, after almost three decades of heavy use

This is the first Arca Swiss B1 I bought in the early 1990s in New York which has endured heavy use since then and still is in good service order close to three decades later. I no longer use it often and intend to keep it for the sake of good memory, but I like it so much so I have two other Arca Swiss B2 ball heads permanently sit on my FOBA stand in my studio in regular use till this day.

It is a rather ingenious design to use an aspherical ball inside a housing with spherical interior fittings to allow the aspherical ball to move more freely in an upright position but increase friction when tiled to the side while gripping tension can be further control by a locking knob on the side. The 45° dovetail clamp works so well that it never failed in almost three decades of using whether with the original Arca Swiss ball heads or the similar system from Really Right Stuff. The friction control works so well that regardless of the camera or lens mounted on the ball.

As Helmut Schmidt once said, "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement." Arca Swiss has made varies of internal improvements, so the ball head performs more fluidly, and friendly yet the original design hardly get scratched. It is a perfect example that the design focuses on only the essential and carved out anything not necessary.

It is the mother of all ball heads today! Many manufacturers have tried to bring something different, but none ever top the Arca Swiss, most simply copy it shamelessly. Really Right Stuff comes very close, and some may say they are equal to Arca Swiss, I like both and use both. What Really Right Stuff did most meaningful was the invention of "L" brackets which found on most of the cameras I use since its availability.

Good products last forever and Arca Swiss B1 is such an example.

Alessi Ossidiana Espresso Coffee Maker

Alessi Ossidiana, still capable of making good espresso after a couple of thousand rounds

Individual preference is always subjective, and I am no exception. I like coffee since I was studying in junior high school in Taipei, Taiwan, which I have a Hario Syphon Coffee Maker on my bedside table. A Moka pot was always in my backpack when I started to climb mountains since senior high school and later with me traveling around the world. I have a small personal collection of more than 20 Moka pots, and as an industrial designer, I also designed a few.

As a coffee drinker, I appreciate the well processed and roasted beans with an intense aroma so I can hand drip it, syphon it, Aero Press it or cook with Moka pot. And I make sure a working coffee machine in the office since 2000.

Moka pot may not produce the best coffee but I love to cook espresso with Moka pot on a camping gas stove so I can experience the aroma from filling the coffee grounds in the filter basket, feel the heat from the flame, the gurgling sound of the espresso coffee and finally pouring the coffee to a demitasse - drinking it is the not the only purpose, it is to mark a perfect end of the whole experience, until the next round. It is not about just drinking coffee, it is to make coffee part of you.

The Alessi Ossidiana, design by Mario Trimarchi, is one of my favorite Moka coffee makers. The shape is unique among most Moka pots, easy to grip to separate or assemble the boiler and collector, handle is positioned higher away from flame so it won't get too hot during cooking and spout is easy to pour.

The 1-cup Ossidiana in the picture is one of my most used Moka pots brewing 3-5 espresso every day for the last 3-4 years! It is one of the designs I wish I could have designed it.