Ten years ago, external hard drives were bulky, nondescript boxes that increased your PC’s storage capacity while taking up a sizable chunk of desk space. Since then, the technology has come a long way: today’s models are sleeker, lighter, and small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, making it easy to shuttle your data (MP3s, PowerPoint presentations, digital photos) between computers (home and work, desktop and laptop). They’re also relatively affordable—$125 buys 250 gigabytes of portable storage, equivalent to the capacity of a MacBook Pro—which means that now there really isn’t a good excuse not to back up your files.
The German technology company Freecom touts its new Mobile Drive XXS as the world’s smallest hard drive, and with a bold yet understated case by Sylvain Willenz, it could very well be the world’s hippest. The Belgian designer kept the overall package compact by wrapping the electronics directly in a soft, removable rubber skin, which protects the device and provides a nice grip. Each hard drive comes with 160, 250, or 320 GB of storage; a miniature USB cable; and a black sleeve, though white, silver, and gold cases will be sold separately for those who like to color-code their information. “It seems funny, but some people actually have ten hard drives at home,” Willenz says. Here he takes us through every bit (and byte) of his design process.
Length: 4.3 in.
Width: 3.1 in.
Height: 0.5 in.
I very much like rounded corners, nice and bold shapes—which, coincidentally, are reminiscent of the iPhone. But here the rounded edges have a function: they allow the case to be manufactured with extra rubber at the corners, so the internal device is a bit more protected.
Usually, the company name is printed very visibly across these products. This is something that I think is kind of ugly. Why do products have to be branded so violently? When you look at this drive, there’s a discreet tag on the side, like one you would have on a T-shirt, and this little thing is branded with Freecom on one side and my name on the other. It is made out of the same material and injection-molded with the rest of the case.
Everything is tiny about this project—even the USB cable, which is 3.7 inches long. But it’s totally compatible with most USB ports.
We looked at all these iPod and iPhone protective sleeves in rubber,
so the choice of material was also about using what people already knew.