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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  23 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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This is the last in a three-part series featuring the Mikes of Ultralight—lightweight hiking packs and the designers who love them. We previously interviewed Mike St. Pierre of Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Mike Pfotenhauer of Osprey Packs.

Granite Gear is an outdoor gear company started by outdooring obsessives back in 1986. Like many successful names in the outdoor game, their focus has been balanced between innovation and pragmatism. As co-founder Dan Cruikshank puts it, "If someone else is already doing a great job with a certain product, we say good for them, but if we can take it to the next level and improve, we will." As a result, Granite Gear is well known for making sturdy and attractive ultralight packs, (and plenty of other accessories) with a sharp focus on adaptability for personalized fit. I spoke with Michael Meyer, Granite Gear's Director of Design and Development, to dig into how they make their ultralight gear work right.

Core77: Tell me about your design background.

Michael Meyer: My first real job was designing backpacks and luggage for High Sierra, where I worked for four and a half years and learned a lot about backpacks and luggage. From there I went on to Under Armour where I was the senior product designer for bags—duffel bags, sport bags. They were bringing it in-house after have been licensing it, so we built the program from the ground up and lead it into what it is today. I was there a hair over three years. From there, I came to Granite Gear, where I have been as the director of design and development the last year. Granite Gear has always been a tried-and-true hardcore outdoor company, and we're looking to grow and move into new product categories. We're already deep into the outdoor hiking and climbing packs, and the company wanted to get more into the day-to-day backpack, campus bag, the back-to-school market, as well as adventure travel gear, which is essentially luggage.

What's your outdooring background like?

The outdoor industry is a great fit for me. I always loved to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I got into cross country running, I'd do day hikes and trips, kinda weekend warrior hiking trips. And did cross country all the way through highschool and college, so I'd spent a lot of time outdoors, which is what sparked me to start designing gear for the outdoors. It's what pushed me into my first real job at High Sierra.

Describe the Granite Gear design team.

A couple new faces and a couple of old faces: Dan is one of the founders of the company—which is 28 years old now—and he's not a classically trained designer as I would say I am; he's experience-based, kind of taught himself. Dan is involved in the design process as much as possible. Our design team is currently myself; Associate Product Designer Ben Landry; a design intern, David, who's about to graduate this year from my alma mater; and a senior level graphic designer who's been with us for about eight years. That's us in a nutshell right now. In the near future we're hoping to hire our intern as an associate product designer, and hire another senior level graphic designer, and we're always going to do the intern program every summer.

Walk me through your design process.

We've been very fortunate to work with a number of athletes who we sponsor. A key guy is Justin Lichter, whose trail name is Trauma. He's authored a number of books on it, the latest is the The Ultralight Survival Kit. He's a younger guy and he's worked with us from soup to nuts, with what to do to make things lighter.

As with all our gear, they're very, very, very function driven, even more so with ultralight packs. These guys will go out on day hikes, week hikes, sometimes even longer, and they really like to tailor their packs to do what they need them to do. So we wouldn't design a pack and say "Trauma, here's our ultralight pack and it has a maple core frame sheet"—we do have a pack with an actual maple-ply frame sheet, which is super innovative. It's lightweight but it's not ultralight. These guys are going out there with effectively no frame, or very little stability in their back. If something's going to be ultralight, we'll use the lightest fabrics, whether it be silicone, nylon, or cuben fiber. Cuben fiber is non-woven dyneema that's layered into what could be called a textile. It's super light and strong.

We always use the smallest possible width of webbing, the actual difference in the webbing doesn't make much difference in weight savings between 5mm and 10mm, but what it does do is when you use 5mm webbing you can use 5mm hardware. All the buckles or ladder locks—that's where the weight begins to accumulate. If you can use 5mm hardware instead of 10, you're going to save an ounce across the bag since you'll have six buckles and eight ladderlocks. Every little area helps to add up to the whole project.

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Posted by Coroflot  |  23 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

Work for Misfit Wearables!

Misfit Wearables is looking for a designer to help define the future of Misfit software to join their team in Burlingame, California. Misfit develops the most elegant activity trackers in world and provides a unique mix of hardware and software that motivates and inspires people to be more active and live a healthier life. As a user experience designer, you would be applying Misfit design principles to a variety of user interfaces and websites, designing for a variety of formats (wearables, phones, tablets and the web), wireframing and presenting solutions to a wide variety of design problems, creating pixel-perfect mockups and generating production-ready assets for use by engineering.

If you're a Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign master; love a good crit; have no problem being a self-starter; love and understand global trends, tech and fashion; and have great interpersonal skills, then this might be the job for you—Apply Now!

Posted by erika rae  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Fire and heavy electronic beats may not be the first things you'd associate with a children's classroom lesson. The team at science/tech blog Veritasium met with a group of "physics and chemistry demonstrators" that combined all three in an audio visualizer they tour around to help demonstrate the shape and intensity of various sound waves. Turns out it's just as cool for adults as it is for the kiddos.

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By creating a pyro board of Ruben's Tubes—essentially rows of Bunsen burners (see above)—that moonlights as a sound board, it's easy to see the flames jump as the different soundwaves pass over it.

In Veritasium's video, the first half address how the entire thing works and the second half consists of music and lots of fire (if you're just in it for the flames, make sure to stick around past the first half). Check it out:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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You don't think of big-name designers doing furniture for schools, but Danish furniture brand Hay scored Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to do their line for the University of Copenhagen. The resultant Copenhague line is a handsome blend of wooden desks, tables, chairs, and stools, some stackable. And in a nod to modern needs, the tables and desks featuring bent plywood provide a slot where the dual surfaces meet, intended for power cables to be routed through.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Editor: After going Hollywood in Part 5, here in Part 6 Accidental Designer finds a casual suggestion from his wife is about to change their lives. As one door closes, another door (this one on a shipping container) opens....


I was down in my basement workshop, failing.

I had been trying to produce a lightweight and affordable bamboo folding chair for Hollywood sets. After hundreds of hours and countless prototypes, this problem just had me beat—and I knew it. I mopped my brow and called up the stairs to ask my wife if we had any sandwiches left.

My wife is a mean cook and she goes through cutting boards like nobody's business. It doesn't matter what they're made of, she just plain wears them out. "I need a new cutting board, this one's through," she called down the stairs. "Can you scrape up some of that bamboo and make me one?"

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I looked around at all of the bamboo scrap I had and thought, well, here's a problem I can solve. I glued up a bunch of scrap pieces, more than I needed just for the sake of doing something, and by the next day I'd made her a cutting board and a few back-ups.

Following that, to clean up my shop area, use up a bunch of scrap and exercise my brain, I threw myself into gluing up cut-offs and began experimenting with different styles of cutting boards. After failing with chair prototype after prototype, it felt good to successfully make something—anything.

I had consistently-shaped scraps in several different sizes, and so I designed the cutting boards around the shape of the scraps. By the end of my clean-up project I had several dozen good-looking cutting boards. I felt like my table saw and router respected me again.

I didn't think much of this until a few weeks later, when I was loading up my truck to hit a craft show in Arizona. I was bringing the $2,000 bamboo chair even though I knew it wouldn't sell, and also bringing some consumer-grade chairs I knew I could sell, just because I needed the cash. The extra bamboo cutting boards I'd made were sitting in the corner. I figured they'd be Christmas presents for relatives, which would save my wife and I some cash since we were getting close to broke.

Still, I grabbed a bunch of the cutting boards and threw them in the truck. I didn't think I'd sell any, but figured I'd use them to gauge interest.

Maybe you can guess what happened next.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (1)

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And now for a bit of local news. Pearl Paint, NYC's famed art supply superstore and one of the original supply sources on Core77 version 1.0, has closed after more than 80 years in business.

This signifies the demise, for industrial design students at Pratt Institute in particular, of Canal Street as a destination for supplies; in the '90s we'd travel to Industrial Plastics on Canal & Greene, Space Surplus Metals around the corner on Church, and cap it off with a trip to Pearl for everything the prior two stores didn't have. Now all three outfits are gone.

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Posted by erika rae  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

PlantingSystem-Lead.jpgAll photos by Omar Nadalini

Nurturing a houseplant isn't exactly a well-designed process for casual growers. You plant the seeds, water the sprouts once in a while and hope that something nice-looking makes an appearance after a while. Most of the time, it's hard to tell what's going on between the act of planting and the end goal of appreciating a full-grown arrangement. The Phytophiler Flower Pot System by Dossofiorito has something to say about that. The System (which was presented at this year's Salone Satellite) includes your everyday terracotta flower pots with a few add-ons—magnifying glasses, rotating bases, mirrors, etc.—to enhance the growing process.

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The Phytophiler becomes a centerpiece of a different caliber once it's all set up. The add-ons can be rearranged, added and removed depending on what parts the grower wants to focus on. When assembled, it throws off an Inspector Gadget vibe—but in a homey, non-catastrophic kind of way.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)

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This is the second of a mini series on lightweight backpacking and the designers who love it. We previously spoke with Mike St. Pierre of Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

Whether you think ultralight backpacking sounds like hell or vacation, it provides a special dilemma for design minds. Ultralight gear has to be minimal, ergonomic, versatile and very very light. To get a higher-level industry take on the lightweight challenge I spoke with Mike Pfotenhauer, founder, owner and and chief designer of Osprey Packs. Osprey is over four decades old and renowned for innovative, ergonomic and, yes, lightweight pack design. Still independently owned and operated, they're a leading name in multiple fields of backpacking. When I caught up with Mike he had just gotten back from Southern California—a region he's required as a Northerner to speak poorly of—where he'd had a nice time hiking around Big Sur. (Don't tell him I told you.)

You guys have been doing pack design for a very long time. What sparks new ideas now?

For us a new design is often a compilation of older ideas that finally make sense. We build many iterations when developing a new product. Often it requires a minimum of 15 or 20 different versions before we can finalize a new product. All of this experimentation is never wasted. Our prototype archives are loaded with innovative concepts that are just waiting for the right opportunity. We have a lot of ideas stored. In fact, I just told everybody we have to dig out today! We have so many prototypes we're tripping over them! It's insane, we're drowning, we could get lost in them!

Do you still have a hand in the design process?

I'm definitely still involved in the design process. We have a design office in Mill Valley, and up until two years ago I did almost all of it. Now I have two design assistants and a production manager, and the design team in Vietnam, who turn the designs into prototypes and so on. We get a lot of input from distributors and vendors too. We travel to Vietnam where we have 35 people in the development office. With web conferencing we keep the product on a 24-hour development path. They build samples and ship them here or we go over them online, and go over them again and again and again... until the curtain. It's been worked to death by then. So that's three designers—two less than half my age, which is interesting. Young minds to keep me thinking young.

You guys just put out a new Exos. What's your take on going ultralight from a design perspective?

I really appreciate limitations. With any lightweight gear you have that rule—you want to keep it simple. It's also nice from a sustainability angle. Less process, less material. I do gravitate towards lightweight, towards minimalism. I like the challenge to strip things away. We're pretty known for that—gear that's lighter but durable. Not too light, though. We have an extensive warranty program and we don't want stuff coming back. Or getting thrown away!

How do you determine desired weight and work towards it?

Comfort, efficiency and load transfer are the concerns at the top of our list. Once we've accomplished those we do what we can to strip weight where it won't be detrimental. Because we develop our prototypes entirely in-house we know the product intimately and every gram that's not pulling its weight is discarded. With the Exos we knew that a highly tensioned back panel would be far lighter and more comfortable and ventilated than one with plastic or foam. We stripped dense foams out of the hipbelt and shoulder straps and created more ventilation by using layers of 3D mesh.

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Posted by Ray  |  22 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Spazio Rossana Orlandi is perenially among the must-see exhibitions during the Salone, and its namesake design patron is perhaps the definition of a doyenne. This year, her multi-chambered, multi-level space hosted an eclectic mix of students, small studios and well-established designers, several of whom happened to be exhibiting kitchenwares and other vessels.

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Konstfack's "Talking Table" was a showcase of experimental tablewares that explore the nuances, dynamics and social norms of dining. Students from the Industrial Design and Jewelry & Corpus programs (some of whom we'd met at ICFF last year) presented consistently thoughtful and well-crafted design objects, from the 'ghost' place setting (smartphone not included) to the napkin for two, a comment on Eastern vs. Western dining traditions.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Yes, this thing is every bit as crazy as it sounds. Matthias Wandel, the man behind Woodgears, recently built a tall wooden scaffold to be able to change the lightbulbs in his secondary hangar-like shop. But to climb up, change a bulb, climb down, move the scaffold to the next bulb, climb back up, etc. would be a slow process, so Wandel decided he'd motorize the entire contraption. As if that weren't daunting enough, he designed it to be driven and controlled from up top--using a simple drill and some woodworking ingenuity.

As for how he did it, and how this thing works, you simply have to see it to believe it: