parts & flows

The archetypal iPod, exemplified by the Classic series discontinued in 2014, retains a number of desirable interaction features — the scroll wheel interface, the flexibility of a standard headphone jack, and the focus benefits of lacking networking hardware. The limitations, tied to hardware limitations of the time rather than designed feature set, become ever more distracting — namely weight, slowness, display quality, and an outmoded data port.

The intent of this design is to take advantage of the iPod’s limited feature set to apply an inside-out formal approach to a digital device with analog inputs and outputs, shaping the casing based on its energy and data flows. The central user-facing data flow of the device, between the scroll wheel and display, is already resolved and well-integrated. The feeling of direct interaction is optionally augmented by clicking sounds, playing through a hidden speaker as though the wheel were physically notched.

The other main flows between parts of the device are —
dock connector to battery to logic board (energy)
dock connector to storage on logic board (data)
DAC on logic board to 3.5mm jack (analog signal)
hold switch to controller chip on logic board (data)


The Brionvega Concetto 101 is an integrated turntable system from 1976 designed by Paolo Orlandini, Roberto Lucci, and Marco Zanuso, distinctive for the way in which its upper casing is shaped around its mechanisms.

The turntable lid is a complex topographic surface which appears arbitrarily sculptural but is in fact raised to fit the platter, the control dials, and the sweep of the tonearm. This surface stands out from the otherwise rectilinear shape of the unit.

This implementation of a technologically expressive design language deviates from the usual conventions that would fit with this theme — namely exposing the internal components through a transparent material, or for a more direct effect, locating components outside the boundaries of the case.

A view of a machine’s internals gives insight to a casual observer when the function is mechanical and thus visible — a pulley, a set of gears — but invisible electronic processes get abstracted away. An outer casing that reflects a logically ordered set of internal components can effectively demonstrate the relationships between these components — the passage of energy or data.


The case, with a footprint of 28 × 56 millimetres, is formed tightly around the internal components. The logic board and battery make up the central mass of the device while the generously sized hold switch (modelled off the original) and the two ports branch off to the edges. A thin slab makes up the base of the device and frames the display and scroll wheel opposite these components.

Features like wireless connectivity that are not included on the final generation iPod Classic remain absent on the basis that they would complicate the flows of data and energy through the device.

Substitutions of equivalent updated parts allow for miniaturization — the dock connector is replaced by its updated equivalent and on-chip flash storage is used instead of a hard drive. This integration of processing and storage does not confuse the model of the iPod’s internal signal flow as consideration of this device’s processing power — its computer-ishness — has always been downplayed to the user.

This proposal deviates from Apple’s post-white plastic design language but retains key features — continuous curvature in surface transitions, anodized aluminum, careful consideration of corner radii, and the use of var(--base) plastic for contact surfaces. It responds to the trend of subtraction of extraneous volume from products to leave a “naked robotic core” — rather than ensuring compliance of internal components with a geometrically optimal rectangular shell, the components are treated with individual importance and pushed outward to form the overall shape of the device.