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A Camera That's Easy To Smile At

Annual Design Awards: Business & Industrial Equipment

A Camera That's Easy to Smile At


-- Desktop Video Camera

-- Designer: Philips Electronics


-- Nino 300

-- Designer: Philips Electronics

The Philips Electronics team of designers in the Dutch town of Eindhoven was having difficulty coming up with a concept for a computer video camera. So one night two years ago they decided to relax by seeing Toy Story. The next day, recalls Tom Delaey, a senior product designer, team members toyed with the idea of a camera in the image of a character, Mr. Potato Head. It was a joke, but...they liked it.

When the team traveled to the U.S. to unveil the concept for their American colleagues, Potato Head met with a frosty reception. The Americans told the Dutch designers that the character was too goofy for a $192 computer accessory. But the Dutch team reclined the figure a bit and reduced its cartoonish appearance while retaining a certain playfulness. This was important, they thought, to battle the menacing Big Brother image of a PC-video camera staring from atop the monitor. The laid-back Potato Head got a thumbs-up from the Americans.

The result is the USB Desktop Video Camera. Introduced last year, it has become a hit for the $34 billion consumer-electronics giant. The camera films people at their computers and sends the clips as E-mail. Customers buy two Potato Head cameras for videoconferencing, says Joop Rijsterborgh, Philips' business manager for PC cameras.

Philips picked up four IDEA awards in 1999, including a bronze for its $300 Nino 300 personal digital assistant.By Stephen Baker in Paris

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