Recently, Tom Warren, senior editor of The Verge, wrote a review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. In my opinion, this was more of an opinion/smear piece rather than a review. He spent the majority of the article bashing ThinkPad design and the TrackPoint, calling them “old” and “outdated”. He called ThinkPad design “boring” (which is typical of people ignorant about ThinkPad design – and design in general), and thinks the TrackPoint should be taken out.
Being a longtime ThinkPad loyalist/fan/lover/user, I of course, took issue with this, as did many others (just check out the comments section of the article. If the article made you feel sick to your stomach, perhaps the comments on the article will make you feel better). I really don’t like it when people talk about ThinkPads like that. People like these come across to me as childish and I just can’t take them seriously. These people clearly don’t understand ThinkPad design – or design as a whole – and instead of taking the time to understand it, they’d rather just bash & smear it. This is perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves. I decided to make a response to Tom, in the form of an open letter, and that’s what I bring you today.
Here is my open letter to Tom Warren:
@tomwarren Instead of bashing & smearing something you don’t understand, take some time to actually understand it.
Your comments on ThinkPad design and the TrackPoint were abominable and ignorant. Just because ThinkPad design and the TrackPoint aren’t your thing, doesn’t mean that you have the right to bash them like that. Maybe if you’d actually taken the time to understand why ThinkPad design is the way it is and why people like it so much, I would’ve taken you much more seriously. If you said something like “ThinkPad design and the TrackPoint aren’t my thing, but I see why people like them so much, why they’re so useful, why Lenovo has decided to constantly redefine the design as opposed to drastically changing it, and the philosophy behind ThinkPad design”, I would’ve also taken you much more seriously. But you didn’t, and so that’s why I’m writing this open letter to you.
I’ve been using ThinkPads for 12 years (since I was only 14, in fact). I am proud to call myself a ThinkPad lover/loyalist/fan/user and I really can’t see myself using anything other than ThinkPads. The quality and reliability just can’t compare to other brands and the brand played a huge role in my growth and development in my youth. Your comments on ThinkPad design philosophy (i.e. the TrackPoint, the black box design) was downright disrespectful and ignorant to a highly respected and beloved brand that has been around for almost 25 years. How many computer brands do you know of that have been around for and have lasted as long as ThinkPad? I take big offense to anyone who bashes ThinkPads like that, because they clearly don’t understand the philosophy behind ThinkPad design – they’d rather bash something they don’t like or understand. This is, admittedly, a big pet peeve of mine.
I find it ironic that you bash ThinkPad design, while at the same time praising Apple for “changing” and “modernizing” their design. Apparently, you seem to be ignorant to the fact that Apple doesn’t drastically change its design either (at least nowadays – in the last 10 years or so). Just like ThinkPad, Apple has a minimalist design that is unique and iconic. You can instantly recognize a ThinkPad or a MacBook – even with their logos covered up. Same thing with products like the Porsche 911 or a military tank. As someone who has studied design (and that includes ThinkPad design philosophy), I can very much tell you that drastically changing the design of something isn’t very smart or practical. It is so much better to constantly redefine something over time, rather than drastically change it. Industrial design is a mixture of design and engineering. You have to take both aesthetics and functionality into account and create something that flows seamlessly together.
Notice how Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and the military don’t drastically change the design of their vehicles? This is because they know that you can’t just change the design of a product just because you feel like it, or just to make it look “prettier” – just like you can’t just change the design of your logo for that exact same purpose. You need to develop your product in accordance to usability and efficiency. Not to mention, that different products are targeted towards different audiences, and so you have to develop your product in accordance to that. MacBooks are targeted towards consumers, ThinkPads are targeted more towards business users – and professionals in general. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are targeted towards higher-end, affluent customers. While military vehicles were made for use in combat. All of these brands have mastered the art of industrial design and that’s why their products are so great and have withstood the test of time.
The TrackPoint is an excellent pointing device. It is quick, accurate, efficient, and functional. I am a music producer and sound designer, a digital artist and designer (I do photo manipulation, graphic design, illustration, and now, 3D art/modeling), and video producer, and the TrackPoint helps me out tremendously in doing my work – its much more precise and allows me to keep my hands on the keyboard. Have you ever tried working on a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or a virtual synthesizer (VST)? If you have, then you’d know that without hardware (i.e. MIDI controllers), you need a pointing device that is precise and efficient, since in music production & sound design, you’re turning a lot of knobs and sliders in your VST or DAW – and there are even times where you need to type in numerical values. Sure, a MIDI controller and a Wacom tablet/pen (for art & design) are even more efficient but I don’t always have access to that stuff, it isn’t always practical, and I don’t want to plug in a mouse (unless its a desktop or non-ThinkPad laptop). The TrackPoint is the best thing there is when there’s no other options available. A trackpad is very impractical for these purposes. Trackpads are clunky, inefficient, and rigid. I hate them with a passion.
ThinkPad design is anything but outdated. It is classic, timeless, elegant, rugged, functional, and visually pleasant (easy on the eye), while the TrackPoint is an extremely useful pointing device. ThinkPads have withstood the test of time and that’s only because of its design philosophy – not to mention that Lenovo takes customer feedback into account, which further adds to its resiliency. This has nothing to do with ‘nostalgia’ and ‘playing it safe’ and everything to do with ease of use and functionality. If you’re going to bash ThinkPads, you might as well do the same thing to the MacBook, Porsche 911, and military tank (or any other military vehicle, for that matter). Please do some more thorough research next time before you make ignorant statements like these.