I studied mechanical engineering in college and in my senior year, I took an elective course in plastics.
In the mid-90’s, there was a big push to use plastic for everything–bottles, trash cans, lawn chairs. No one understood well how to design in these new materials and the answer normally was to make “it” thicker or add a gusset here or there for strength and support.
I remember vividly one of the final lectures of the class when the instructor talked about what the evolution of design would be like.
First, we mimic what was done before. We take what was metal and do the same but in plastic. The object looks the same. The object functions the same. And we likely save some money.
The second evolution is when we truly understand the characteristics of the new material. The object’s function remains, but the form is something completely different from what we could have imagined before.
Cool Hunting yesterday highlighted the Foodpod. Think about the evolution of colanders. Only fifteen years later are we getting around to seeing what it truly possible in plastics
You can see the same thing in the touchpad mock-up of The Sports Illustrated that has been circulating. We are almost to the point that we can envision a new form of media that will inherently function better than what existed before.