Apple products aren’t usually the first to market in new categories, but what lifts their products into design icons is usually one revolutionary affordance that makes it sublimely user-friendly.

Relying on one voice assistant to rule them all might be expecting too much

Illustration: Ben Voldman

To borrow from J.R.R. Tolkien, voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google all aspire to be a little bit like Sauron from Lord of the Rings. If you distill all of their differing methodologies down, they ultimately come down to this: One ring (or, if you will, one A.I.) to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.

That is to say, every voice assistant out there is competing to be your only voice assistant through which you route all of your requests. So if you want to use your Amazon Echo to turn off your Philips Hue…

Huge art directors Jae Who and John Spinnenweber bill their new project as a “shotgun blast to society.”

How the iPhone popularized steampunk… and how the iPhone killed it off

Illustration: Ariel Davis

You can make the argument—and I have—that we’re living in the design era of the cyberpunk. In Silicon Valley, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all devoted to perfecting concepts first popularized in science-fiction novels, ranging from virtual reality to virtual assistants. Major advances in A.I. and bio-modification are made on almost a daily basis, and in the media, cyberpunk is the aesthetic du jour, popping up in everything from Stephen Spielberg movies like Ready Player One to widely anticipated video games like CD Proket’s Cyberpunk 2077. As I wrote a few months ago: “Tears in rain is the motif…

Designing solutions for people with disabilities offers a peephole into the future

Photo: Melinda Podor/Getty Images

“It’s just the right thing to do.”

Very few people think that those of us who are blind should be exiled from the web altogether, or that people with hearing loss shouldn’t have iPhones. That’s as it should be. But all too often, the importance of accessibility — the catch-all term for designing technology that people with disabilities can use — is framed in terms of charity alone. And that’s a shame because it makes accessibility seem grudging and boring, when the reality is that it’s the most exciting school of design on the planet.

Accessibility is a crystal ball…

We can communicate across devices, platforms, and mediums at practically the speed of light. Shouldn’t our punctuation marks—not just emoji—evolve to express the nuanced emotions we feel?

Clive Thompson, the author of the new book Coders, pulls back the curtain on a group of influential computer programmers.

When augmented reality goes mainstream, you’re most likely to experience it through a product you already own — headphones.

The introverted Pentagram partner talks about finding inspiration, embracing structure, and the importance of listening.

John Brownlee

writer, editor, journowhatsit. Design, tech, and health is my beat. Editor-in-chief of Folks ( Ex-Fast Company, Wired, and more.

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