Posts Tagged 'take-apart'

iFixit Teardowns


iFixit was started in 2003 by a couple of guys at Cal Poly in their dorm room as a laptop repair shop. The only  problem: most of that stuff didn’t come with a repair manual and little if anything was available to the public. So they did it the hard way: tinkering and fiddling until they figured it out. They started to sell repair guides and spare parts from all the stuff they took apart (and eBay) and thus their business was born.  Since then, iFixit has grown into a valuable resource for for repair documentation and spare parts that end-users just can’t get from the manufacturer (mostly Apple). Their plan is to collaboratively build a database of repair manuals for all sorts of products – anything where the user can’t get support from the manufacturer. (Necessity is definitely the mama of repair manuals…)

And that, in itself, is really cool…

But for me who loves to take stuff apart to see how it ticks, iFixit features an entire section devoted to Gadget Teardowns. (Cue the choir singing in the background…) While most of these teardowns, autopsies, take-aparts – whatever you want to call them – are for the ultimate purpose of assembling a repair manual, they’re soooo much more. To me they’re a peek into how great products are designed, methodized and constructed.


Well, yes. All of these products (with maybe the exception of the banana teardown – no I’m not kidding), these are very complicated products. And all of that stuff has to fit inside a neat little package compelling enough for  somebody to slap down their hard-earned bills for. I just get the biggest kick out of seeing how all of the complicated mash-up of plastic, sheet metal, electronics, wires and whatnot all find a home inside the product. As a designer, it shows me what you can get away with (and sometime what you can’t).

So iFixit’s site is a place where you can see the latest techno-porn get ripped apart without spending your own nickle. They’re all there for your sick amusement: all the iPod variations, lots of cell phones like the iPhones and the Palm Pre, a Nintendo Wii… Even {sniff} the Pleo robotic dinosaur… They even provide you a step-by-step guide on how to create your own teardown and post it to the site to be shared with everyone else.

So get out those screwdrivers and get to work!

Product Autopsy Workshop


I love this stuff… I mean honestly, who DOESN’T love taking gadgets apart and seeing what makes the tick and how they’re put together? It’s one of the more common childhood stories you hear from fellow product designers… Like whenever something broke at my house growing up, it would always come to me first. Could I always put it back together? Well, that’s another story… anyways, it was already broken when I got it.

As a product designer, there’s nothing so useful as taking a product apart. You get a lot of good ideas: how to do something, how not to do something, specific plastic joint details, assembly techniques… on and on… I drive my wife nuts because I’m always turning products upside down to see how their made…

So Leonardo Bonanni is a PhD candidate in the Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab. And he ran this Product Autopsy Workshop a few years ago:

I ran a workshop for sponsors and students called ‘Product Autopsy’ at John Maeda’s Simplicity Meeting on Cape Cod in March 2007. Various objects were dissected and their function, manufacturing and design teased out of them as they were pinned to white boards. In every case, the resulting product+narrative was much more beautiful than the original.

I’m always on the look out for more of this kind of stuff . When I find more I’ll bring it to you here (and tag it so you can find it).