itwonlast

The original ThinkPad design is the product of a collaboration between IBM and Germany’s ‘other industrial designer’ Richard Sapper. Sapper suggested a design inspired by the traditional black-lacquered bento boxes (Shōkadō bentō), a refined object concealing well though out insides (the lunch beautifully and orderly arranged in compartments) that would “reveal its nature only when you open it.” Sapper had previously developed a similar idea with the Cubo transistor radio (1965) and the ST201 TV set (1969) for Italian electronics company Brionvega and the Microsplit 520 stopwatch (1974) for Heuer, three variations on the “black box” theme that still look surprisingly modern despite their age.
Since the introduction of the Thinkpad 20 years ago, the fundamental design has remained almost unchanged, a phenomenon unheard of in the laptop industry. And If the ThinkPad might appear dated today, its introduction in 1992 didn’t go unnoticed. The all black chassis went against industry standards (the German DIN standard prohibited the use of any color other than off-white for office products for fear it might cause eye strain, the disclaimer “Not for Office Use” was slapped on to all German-sold models). Similarly, the Thinkpad signature red TrackPoint was originally refused by IBM (the color red was strictly reserved for emergency power off switches) who pushed for black instead. Sapper, however, saw the use of the color red as critical to call attention to the pointing device right in the middle of an all black keyboard. The presence of bright red details was also a discreet signature that Sapper had incorporated into several of his previous designs. As a workaround, the color was finally changed to purple the first year, Sapper reintroduced the red TrackPoint the following year.

The original ThinkPad design is the product of a collaboration between IBM and Germany’s ‘other industrial designer’ Richard Sapper. Sapper suggested a design inspired by the traditional black-lacquered bento boxes (Shōkadō bentō), a refined object concealing well though out insides (the lunch beautifully and orderly arranged in compartments) that would “reveal its nature only when you open it.” Sapper had previously developed a similar idea with the Cubo transistor radio (1965) and the ST201 TV set (1969) for Italian electronics company Brionvega and the Microsplit 520 stopwatch (1974) for Heuer, three variations on the “black box” theme that still look surprisingly modern despite their age.

Since the introduction of the Thinkpad 20 years ago, the fundamental design has remained almost unchanged, a phenomenon unheard of in the laptop industry. And If the ThinkPad might appear dated today, its introduction in 1992 didn’t go unnoticed. The all black chassis went against industry standards (the German DIN standard prohibited the use of any color other than off-white for office products for fear it might cause eye strain, the disclaimer “Not for Office Use” was slapped on to all German-sold models). Similarly, the Thinkpad signature red TrackPoint was originally refused by IBM (the color red was strictly reserved for emergency power off switches) who pushed for black instead. Sapper, however, saw the use of the color red as critical to call attention to the pointing device right in the middle of an all black keyboard. The presence of bright red details was also a discreet signature that Sapper had incorporated into several of his previous designs. As a workaround, the color was finally changed to purple the first year, Sapper reintroduced the red TrackPoint the following year.