Yep, that's right. I'm tweaking a little bit Louis Sullivan famous quote, "Form ever follows function," here.
In 1896, Chicago architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase 'form ever follows function' to capture his belief that a building's size, massing, spatial grammar and other characteristics should be driven solely by the function of the building. The implication is that if the functional aspects are satisfied, architectural beauty would naturally and necessarily follow.
This approach trickled down to various design disciplines over the course of the 20th Century, but designers realized—through overly functional design attempts—that function should definitely be considered as a key part of the design strategy but never its sole driver. The Post-war kitchen design is a great example of how functionalism can get in the way of human behavior.
During the years following the war, womens' role in society changed drastically. During the conflict, women were regarded as an important element of the workforce and became an essential part of the warfare apparatus. After the war it has become obvious that this marked a major social shift. In order to accommodate the new family dynamics, the kitchen needed to be redesigned. Lots of ethnographic studies were conducted and a full range of proposals to optimize activities and movement in the kitchen were conceived. This seemed like a great idea—and it still does, if you think about it for a minute. If you had the power to minimize the effort and time women spent in the kitchen by nearly 80%, why wouldn't you, right?
Well, problem is, this is not as black and white as it seems. Kitchens, like most things in life, comes in grayer layers of behavioral complexity. I mean, if you look at it solely via the lens of reductionism then the full-throttle / all-in, optimization approach may appear like the perfect idea... except that reductionism kills behavior.
Reductionism is an old scientific philosophy, which can be traced, between others, to René Descartes. It states that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that it can be completely mapped and understood, in its whole, via the individual study of each part. It is the diametric opposite of what we designers call "gestalt." Gestalt means "the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts." Reductionism is, therefore, the extreme opposite to design itself. Design in its "bauhausian" mother language, German, spells gestaltung.
The problem with reductionism—the "black and white" approach—is that, when dealing with complex, wicked problems, the sum of the parts never explains the behaviour of the whole. And, trust me, in a service economy, everything is a bit wicked.
For instance, take the consumer journey. A consumer journey, in a service experience, is never the result of the sum of all the processes to be touched by the user. People reframe it and give it their own meanings according to their belief systems, expectations and emotional state. This takes place independently of how those processes or transactions were scripted and sequenced to be executed by the provider.(more...)
Some of the most recognized and trusted names in household products including CorningWare, Pyrex, Chicago Cutlery, Baker's Secret, Revere, OLFA and Corelle, come from the brilliant designers at World Kitchen, LLC. This impactful team is seeking a creative Senior Industrial Designer with great range: skilled at contributing hands-on design work and savvy about the business of new products. It doesn't hurt if you're passionate about the home, especially prepping, serving and storing food.
If this sounds interesting to you, Apply Now. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to an established design team and the mission of new product innovation at World Kitchen. Don't miss out, especially if you have high levels of visual literacy and have a solid understanding of the broad value of design thinking.
As we've written before, building an urban home in Japan comes with two built-in issues: Earthquakes and tight spaces. Muji's latest iteration of their pre-fab home, the Vertical House (which now has a model available for public viewing in Tokyo's Arakawa district), addresses both of these issues via design.
What's interesting, at least to this Westerner's eyes, is the way they went about it. First off, the anti-earthquake joints. Traditional Japanese construction features complicated mortise-and-tenons (below right in the line drawing) where beams meet columns. Under Muji's design (below left in the line drawing) the individual components are beefed up and wooden tongues are replaced with robust hardware designed to maximize strength under seismic loads.
Secondly is the way they've chosen to subdivide the space. Building upwards in a plot with a tiny footprint is a no-brainer, but rather than have contiguous floors, they've opted to first bi-sect the house with an open staircase...
...and then build slightly staggered levels to either side to create six different "zones."
It's like having a succession of differing-height lofts rather than conventional levels or stories. By staggering floors in this manner, each "zone" is distinguished and delineated by the position its floor occupies in space, rather than by potentially claustrophobic walls contained within such a small footprint. (Cultural note: While this wouldn't fly in privacy-obsessed America, consider that traditional homes in Japan are far less likely to invite "company," or non-family members, into their houses; and that the traditional Japanese notion of privacy involves nothing more than a rice-paper-thin sliding door.)(more...)
The design world has been rocked by allegations that the Super Friends, the so-called crimefighters whose Saturday morning reality show once documented their exploits, are in fact a bunch of design thieves with little respect for the laws they are sworn to uphold.
Years ago the vigilante group decided to construct a headquarters. In the security footage screengrab below, you can see them inspecting the site under the guidance of Superman:
Without obtaining permits, the team then constructed their headquarters in violation of zoning laws, and subsequently angered local trade unions by having Aquaman perform the plumbing himself. The cell phone "selfie" taken below shows the team after completing the sub-basement.
It was implied that the structure was self-designed, indicating one or more of the Super Friends had a background in design or was associated with a name-brand architect. However, it has now been revealed that neither the 'Friends, their associates nor even their foes have any connection with architecture whatsoever. For example, while archenemy Lex Luthor is often described as the "architect of destruction" of this or that, our research provides no evidence of his having obtained a degree in architecture from any accredited institution.
Instead it appears the design of the structure was ripped off wholesale from Cincinnati's Union Terminal, the Art Deco structure designed in the 1930s by accredited architects Alfred T. Fellheimer, Steward Wagner, Paul Philippe Cret and Roland Wank.
The resemblance is too close to be a coincidence, and with mocking arrogance, the 'Friends named their headquarters the "Hall of Justice."
But it gets worse:(more...)
Design on the Rise: How Smart Design's Decision to Shutter Its SF Studio May Mark a Fundamental Shift in the Industry
Apropos word that industry stalwart Smart Design is closing its San Francisco studio after nearly a decade and a half in the Bay Area, our Discussion Boards are abuzz about what may well be an industry-wide shift that finds its epicenter in Silicon Valley. OP jarman65 follows up to his opener with a link to a Peter Merholz blogpost unpacking the phenomenon; forumite Cyberdemon initially chimes in with the pros and cons of in-house vs. consultancy and a general shift in the industry, later concisely summing it up: "Smart and the big guys got contracts from the mega-corporations who could afford their hefty price tag, and those are the guys who now have fairly large and mature design teams internally." Meanwhile, Surface Phil puts it bluntly:I think it's time to face the music that if you are an agency whose core offering is industrial design alone (i.e. designing plastic) chances are this service can be found elsewhere. Whether it be in-house design resource or outsourced overseas. You better be bringing something else to the table. UX, business innovation, commercialization strategy. Something...
Commentators also note that Smart Design recently opened a London office (after quietly dissolving a Barcelona satellite) and there is no indication that the company is in anything less than ship-shape—which is precisely why some, such as Merholz, conclude that the trend is a symptom of the ascendancy of tech companies. In short, these juggernauts are increasingly investing in design, which may spell the demise of the brand-name consultancy as we know it. That, or maybe it's simply the case that Shoreditch is the new SoMa:Flickr & Google MapsSmart Design Founders Tom Dair and Davin Stowell
All told, it remains to be seen as to whether the shakeup at Smart Design is a Bay Area bellwether or an isolated incident. The second page of the discussion thread broadly addresses the facts, with more of the nitty-gritty from industry vets bepster, Yo, FluffyData and slippyfish; speculation though it may be, their comments speak to the dynamic—and sometimes outright political—nature of the relationship between consultancies and their clients.(more...)
In 1990 Dennis Amodeo, a carpenter from Long Island, won a rather amazing VH1 giveaway: A collection of 36 Corvettes, one from each year from the model's birth in 1953 up to the then-recent 1989. Something like that is an American boy or man's dream come true, the crappy 1980s models notwithstanding.
But it's also an American man's dream to receive six-figure checks, so when pop artist Peter Max offered $250,000 for the collection that same year, Amodeo handed over all five pounds of car keys. Max had some kind of art project in mind for the cars, and got as far as taping up the sides of some of them for color tests. But that's as far as Max got, so the cars just sat. And sat. And sat. For decades.(more...)
What kind of organizing products get funded (or try to get funded) on Kickstarter? Having written about the HYVE system, I wondered what else I'd find there. When I went looking, I found designers offering a wide range of interesting stuff.
Anyone who carries keys and a smart phone in the same pocket might be interested in using the KeyDisk 2 to hold those keys. And even those who don't might be intrigued by the design. It can hold up to nine keys, and has a car fob attachment. Membership cards can fit inside, too. It's made from sandblasted and anodized aluminum and uses custom-made screws. People who funded the original KeyDisk are coming back to fund this updated version, which is slightly lighter and holds more keys. The one disadvantage is finding the right key quickly; you need to remember where each key is relative to the KeyDisk logo. This product has already met its funding goal, and will go live on Dec. 5.
For those who aren't happy with the multitude of cable organizers currently on offer, there's the Cablestop. Cablestop has a polycarbonate body and two stainless steel interior weights. The plans are to manufacture Cablestop in Portugal; this makes it more expensive than products made in lower-cost countries, but it also means it will be made with significantly lower pollution. The designer, Philippe Guichard, is both an industrial designer and a mechanical engineer and has over 20 years of experience. Cablestop has until Nov. 4 to meet its funding goal.
End users who want to make the most of their refrigerator space might be interested in bottleLoft, a magnetic bottle holder for the refrigerator. The plastic rail is held in place with a strip of 3M VHB (very high bond) tape, a special low temperature application grade suitable for a refrigerator. The bottleLoft can be removed using a plastic putty knife/scraper to shear the adhesive sideways, and replacement adhesive strips will be made available. The designer, Brian Conti, has had four other Kickstarters that funded, including one for Strong Like Bull magnets—and this Kickstarter has met its funding goal, too. It goes live on Nov. 9.(more...)
Hot on the heel-plate-attachment-points of Noonee's "Chairless Chair," the team at Mono+Mono has launched the "Sitpack" on Kickstarter. The Copenhagen-based design consultancy has developed what they're calling "the world's most compact, foldable resting device," and they're looking to bring the pocketable monopod to market via a crowdfunding campaign. Designed in keeping with the seven universal design principles, the form factor looks like something made by, say, Beats, but the device itself is actually entirely mechanical: The canister splits laterally into wings (which serve as the seat), revealing a telescoping leg that extends to up to 85cm (33in). We know it's that time of year, but don't try this with your kid's lightsaber toy:
Originally known as "Rest"—hence the references in the video—the "Sitpack" is essentially a further reduced version of portable camp stools or those canes with a built-in tripod-stool (both of which I came across in the USPTO archive, after a commenter tipped me off about the original 'wearable chair'), as they indicate in a tabulated side-by-side comparison on their Kickstarter page. They're available for the discounted price of kr175 DKK (about $30 USD); retail will be in the kr270 DKK ($46 USD) range—not bad, considering that they're looking to manufacture it in Denmark—see more here.
Process sketches & renders
Portland-based Frank Howarth isn't your average ivory-tower paper architect, but a man who actually makes things with his hands—and shows you his design/building process. With a YouTube channel dedicated to "Architecture at a small scale expressed through woodworking and filmmaking," Howarth presents shop-built projects in a clever, entertaining way. I also like the man's flair for practical, attractive designs.
A good case in point is his series on French-cleat-based projects he built around his house. We've all got one of those closets filled with household cleaners and other domestic spillover, and here's how Howarth handled his:(more...)
Like these envelope-pushing urban downhill cyclists, we American motorists are also stretching boundaries—unfortunately, of our waistlines. And while we Yanks have been getting fatter for years, it took until now for someone to notice that crash-test dummies still look like they're in shape.
That's a problem, because having crash-test data from an average-sized dummy isn't much good when we are no longer "average-sized." And since we can't seem to get our fitness and diets together, leading dummy manufacturer Humanetics is going to start making, well, fat crash test dummies.
"Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a crash," Humanetics CEO Chris O' Connor told CNN. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat." This skews the data between in-shape, in-proper-position dummy and out-of-shape, out-of-position accident victim, so Humanetics' obese prototype weighs north of 270 pounds and has a Body Mass Index of 35. (A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy/fit.)
"[Our] obese crash test dummy... is capable of measuring belt and airbag loads generated from heavier occupants during crash events," O'Connor reported in Crash Test Technology International. "The initial prototype dummy was made available in August 2014 for sled evaluations. Collaborating unversitites and companies will continue evaluations in the later part of 2014."
What we expect to see next: A celebrity or politican fat-shaming one of these dummies, then being forced to apologize on Twitter.(more...)
Cities like New York and Washington D.C. were designed with nice, rational grids. Cities like Tokyo and Kyoto were reportedly designed to confuse invaders with twisting, irrational angles. And cities like Valparaiso, Chile and Taxco, Mexico were designed in reaction to Mother Nature, being built as they are atop a number of rugged hillsides.
The crazily-narrow, winding alleyways of Valparaiso and Taxco follow gravity and topography more than logic, and as it turns out, this makes for an extremely compelling downhill bike course. Organized downhill racing through urban environments has existed since the '90s, but this year a bunch of sponsors got together to organize the City Downhill World Tour 2014, spanning Valparaiso and Taxco as well as Santos, Brasil and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Last week's race was held in Taxco, and the on-bike footage from rider Filip Polc is unsurprisingly insane—this seems like the entire reason GoPro cameras were invented:
How is this not a video game yet?(more...)
I can't for the life of me recall where or when, but I once heard that you turn a bicycle ("cornering," as we call it) not by steering with the handlebars but by 'pointing your belly button in the direction you want to go.' It comes naturally to anyone who has surmounted the learning curve, but it's easy to forget that we aren't born with the ability to ride a bike. Jersey City, NJ-based brothers Steve and Rich Thrush sum up the problem:As you probably know, the experience of riding a traditional tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels is quite different than riding a bicycle. In fact, because you cannot lean into turns on a traditional tricycle nor a bicycle with training wheels, kids riding these toys often develop bad habits which they then have to unlearn when learning to ride a bicycle.
The recently Kickstarted Dreisch leaning tricycle addresses the counterintuitive physics of muscle memory by shifting the steering to the rear axle via a hinge and a pivoting swing-arm that runs the length of the frame. The result is a 'natural' turning mechanism.
As big-time bike nerds, we're glad to see a genuine innovation in bicycle design, albeit for a specific subset of riders. By sheer coincidence, a commenter suggested a use case for a certain much-discussed concept bike just this morning: "Age 2–5 kids glider bike I think. Gonna make one." We'd be curious to see the results if he or she does, as this would be a bicyclic evolution of a baby walker—for which trade names include Exersaucer and Jumperoo—though I'm not exactly sure if a harness has any advantages over a traditional balance bike or, say, Andreas Bhend's convertible take on a child's first bicycle.
Via Bike Rumor(more...)
The ShopBot Desktop Warm-up Routine and How to Make a Spoilboard, Part 1[Core77 ShopBot Series, Episode 04]
We're finally ready to cut something on the ShopBot! And now that we're getting ready to cut, some of you may be wondering what the daily maintenance is like for this machine. Every morning before I run the ShopBot, I run this warmup routine to get the machine's juices going:(more...)
Formlabs Introduces New High-Resolution Resin Solutions: Castable & Flexible Allow for SLA-Enabled Investment Casting and Pliable Applications
The folks at Cambridge, MA-based Formlabs recently announced the introduction of two new materials that mark their first major release since they launched on Kickstarter with the Form 1 3D printer, which made nearly 30 times its funding goal in October 2012. The first-generation SLA machine shipped starting in May 2013 and this June saw the release of the Form 1+, an all-around upgraded iteration of their flagship product, but their growing team has also been developing complementary products on both the software and materials sides. Check it out:
Speaking of 3D printing, but I've been meaning to watch Print the Legend, the full-length documentary about the rise of 3D printing, which is streaming on Netflix...(more...)
Messenger bags make you sore on one side. I can just about guarantee those of you that wear them have one shoulder that is constantly stiffer than the other. Backpacks provide more even pressure, but then you lose the key utility of a messenger bag: The ability to quickly slide it around from back-to-front. Years ago when I switched from messenger bag to backpack, I was surprised at how much I took that utility for granted.
On a crowded subway car you want your backpack in front, to prevent pickpocketing and because it's simply good manners; when walking down the street it's a hassle to shrug out of your backpack just to grab one thing, which is why you always see pairs of backpack-wearing tourists where one is fetching something out of the other's bag for them; likewise when you're waiting for a bus which may arrive in 30 seconds or fifteen minutes, you must decide whether to shrug out of the bag and sit, or keep it on and stand.
I always assumed this was just the design trade-off inherent in the choice of form factor, but the development team behind Wolffepack have proved me wrong. These clever gents have designed a backpack that quickly docks and undocks with the shoulder straps, giving you the best of both worlds:
Who else did a double take, thinking it was Scott Wilson?
You probably remember Richard Branson's April Fool's joke about Virgin producing glass-bottomed planes. I figured this next bit of news might be a gag too, but apparently this proposal for a virtually invisible passenger airplane is sincere.
Put forth by the UK's Centre for Process Innovation, a science/engineering/technology incubator, this "Windowless Fuselage" concept is intended to save fuel and reduce emissions. The CPI's thinking is that commercial airplanes have windows for the passengers' comfort, but that if the windows could be jettisoned from the design, airplanes could be made lighter and thus save on fuel. To offset the feeling of sitting inside a tin can, airplanes would then be lined with ultrathin, flexible plastic screens covering the interior surfaces and even the seatbacks.
These screens, the concept goes, could serve as mere lighting, or the entertainment systems, or be linked to external cameras to provide the impression of flying al fresco. The screens could even "allow the colour changes associated with sunrise and sunset to be controlled on long haul journeys, helping passengers to adjust to time zone differences."(more...)
When You Understand People like Pensa Does, You Can Develop Truly Successful Brands and Products. Want to Work For Them?
Pensa is a design firm with a strong track record of developing successful products and brands. At Pensa, that success comes from gaining a deep understanding of people, the products they use and the contexts in which they use them. Their DUMBO team is seeking a Senior Industrial Designer with exceptional story telling skills to join them on their mission of delivering the creative solutions their clients need.
Not only will you need 5-8 years experience working as an Industrial Designer, they're looking for someone with solid experience in consumer product design and the demonstrated ability to resolve 3D form language as the foundation developing brands. This is a fun team comprised of designers with multifaceted backgrounds, but every single person LOVES design. Get your resume, portfolio and cover letter together and Apply Now.
In the non-square, non-level, non-plumb world we live in, the Stanley FatMax laser level is one of the handiest tools I own. Can't remember what I paid for it—mine is way outdated—but it was less than a hundred bucks, and X/Y only.
On the other end of the cost scale, a California-based company called Origin Laser Tools produces extremely expensive high-end laser levels. Optomechanical engineer Tim Litvin started the company in 2010 with the aim of making laser levels that would be the best of the best—with locally-sourced parts and construction:Our laser's mechanical parts are CNC-milled by a local machine shop, a local circuit board manufacturer fabricates and assembles our custom electronics... even the hand-checkered wooden grips are the product of a local craftsman. Almost every other component is also made in the United States. The components are finally assembled, by hand, here in Santa Cruz... Our laser tools are an investment, made by craftsmen, for craftsmen. We hope they'll become a tool that you'll look forward to using, every day.
Zoe Mowat on Interpreting Intuition, Taking Productive Breaks, and Why Large Rolls of Paper Are Her Most Important Tool
Name: Zoë Mowat
Occupation: Designer and maker
Location: Montreal, Canada
Current projects: Recently I've been in my workshop a lot. I've been prototyping a new product and I'm finishing up an edition of my Arbor Jewelry Stand—I've been doing a limited version all in brass. And then I'm balancing that with custom orders and client work.
Mission: To challenge myself, and ultimately to make things that people want to keep around.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? Actually, my plan was always to be a sculptor, like my mother. When I was growing up, we would spend afternoons in her studio building things and assembling materials together. So that's where it started. And then it was in high school that I discovered design. In art class for a while I was really into drawing modernist buildings, sort of breaking down the geometry—I don't know why I was doing that, but one day I was drawing Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, and from there I discovered the Barcelona Chair, and I think that was it. Seeing a real vision, and how it can apply to many things—that everyday items can be designed by a governing philosophy. Also, I wanted to make objects that can be touched and used, unlike sculpture in most cases; I guess I'm really drawn to that intimacy. So at the end of the school year I ended up applying for industrial design instead of sculpture.
Education: I studied industrial design and graphic design at the University of Alberta.
First design job: While I was in university, I designed window displays for a design store. It was equal parts concept, working with your hands and planning. And when it came to working with my hands, it usually involved a lot of glitter, electrical tape, spray paint and the need to attach a hundred of one thing to another thing. I loved it.
Who is your design hero? I'm not sure about the word "hero," but there are many designers whose work I really admire. I especially admire many of the women from the early 20th century, like Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Eva Zeisel, Ray Eames . . . the list goes on.
Mowat's recent Tablescape series (Tablescape I pictured) was inspired by Charles and Ray Eames's philosophy of "select and arrange."(more...)
Just launched on Kickstarter, Fireside is bicoastal startup that promises to revolutionize digital photography—not in how we create images and videos but how we share and enjoy them for posterity.
"1,000 songs in your pocket."
So goes the tagline for the very first iPod, released 13 years ago (nearly to the day), a quaint conceit in hindsight. In fact, history has shown that the mp3 player and iTunes alike are merely incremental steps along the path to more versatile hardware and software: Smartphones are capable of fulfilling our listening needs beyond our wildest imaginations. With the concurrent advent of 3- and 4G networks, mobile devices can extract melodies from the ether, while streaming services offer unprecedented depth and breadth when it comes to choices and recommendations, neatly categorized with tags and filtered through metadata.
A database with millions upon millions of songs is one thing, but what about other media? Video is a younger cousin of audio to the extent that it too has exploded with the twofold emergence of online hosting platforms—viz. YouTube and Vimeo—and widely accessible hardware. GoPro is a case study in itself, but even our phones are powerful enough to capture everything from historic events and major occasions to random moments between those milestones.
But if it's easier than ever to document our lives, the friction occurs at a different point in the user experience. For one thing, having hundreds of thousands of photos and videos means that each one becomes a proverbial drop in the pond, and organizing/editing them can be a chore in itself. Then there's the incongruity between shooting—for which a small but powerful device is ideal—and actually viewing the results. A glass rectangle the size of the palm of your hand may be perfect for taking a call, accessing a music library and snapping a selfie, but it's hardly the best format for appreciating visuals that inundate our screens these days.
More on this below...
Indeed, the latest generation of iPhones marks a slight concession to Apple's competitors. Tim, Jony & co. decided that screen could stand to be bigger after all, and the sales figures validate the hypothesis thus far. With a screen that is nearly 40% bigger than that of its predecessor, the iPhone 6 is certainly easier on the eyes, not to mention the obligatory improvements in camera technology.
But it turns out that the ability to take better photos and store them in one's pocket is only half of the equation. We've all been there: We want to show someone an older photo of that Halloween costume or that trip to Paris or that street art from a few years back, and despite
camera rolls' perfunctory affordance to sort images by location or date, the virtual 'shoebox' of chronological thumbnail images leaves a lot to be desired.
Conversely—and arguably worse still—we often forget about older photos and videos as it gets buried under the figurative weight of new memories. As with ring-bound albums, one-hour-photo envelopes and dusty shoeboxes, we simply neglect to resurface bygone years despite the easy access of digital storage. Sure, there are Flickr and Facebook albums full of memories, but the former rarely occasions revisiting and the latter offers far too many distractions to offer a meaningful viewing experience.
Enter the Fireside Smartframe. As with the iPod, it's not the first device to do what it does—as you might have guessed, it's a digital picture frame—but it is intended to be the first to do it well. Co-founder Andy Jagoe introduces it as Pandora or SONOS for photos: the former reference point has far better name recognition and captures the data-as-genome element of the playlists, but the latter is slightly more accurate in that it is a largely source-agnostic hardware (and quasi-IoT) system. He and fellow co-founder Don Lehman acknowledged as much when they demo'd the Smartframe for me last week, in anticipation of the launch of their Kickstarter campaign this morning [disclosure: Lehman has contributed to Core77 in various capacities for over a decade].(more...)