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Carly Ayres

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  23 Jan 2015  |  Comments (2)

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When Microsoft approached Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves last November, offering to partner with them to realize a project of their dreams, it probably goes without saying that the duo jumped at the opportunity. Murakami, an architect, and Groves, an artist, make up the London-based studio SWINE (short for Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), and they were given only one requirement by Microsoft: to use its Surface Pro 3, a 12-inch, all-in-one tablet meant to compete with laptops currently on the market.

SWINE typically focuses on what Murakami and Groves describe as "luxury artisanship," with projects that are often handcrafted using a range of production techniques and innovative material applications. (You may have seen SWINE's Hair Highway, which uses hair to create a series of vessels, when it made the rounds of the design blogs a few months back.) With the Microsoft-sponsored project, the duo wanted to push things in a new direction. "We aren't a very tech studio," Groves says. "So we embraced the opportunity to do a lot of tech things, such as 3D scanning, modeling and CNC milling."

Murakami and Groves had been closely following the recent NASA mission to place the Philae lander on comet 67P. "It was such a plucky and inspiring mission," Grove says. "We really wanted to celebrate that incredible feat in some way." In addition, he notes, the studio had "always wanted to make heels." Those two desires came together with the Meteorite Shoes, a pair of high heels that, as Groves describes them, "capture the look and sensation of large rocks suspended in zero gravity."

Swine-MeteoriteShoes-2.jpgTop and above photos by Petr Krejci

Groves first called up a geologist he knew at London's Natural History Museum, pumping him for everything he knew about meteorites. The designer then made a trip to the vaults deep beneath the museum to see what is widely considered the best meteorite collection in the world. "We put together a proposal and had just three weeks to do the research, design, find the fabricators and make the project," Groves says. "It was like D-Day. There was no time for a prototype." For the material, they settled on aluminum foam, typically reserved for industrial processes such as energy absorption and compression beams in luxury cars—but perfect for its ability, Groves says, to form "bulky, rock-like irregular forms and be incredibly light and strong."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  16 Jan 2015  |  Comments (0)

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Patrick Paul and Adam Leeb were frequenting the same co-working space in Michigan in early 2014 when they first began discussing the pros and cons of various distraction-free writing software. Paul, a software developer, was telling Leeb all about programs that don't allow the user to backspace, or that begin to delete what's been written if the user pauses for more than 30 seconds. From these discussions came the idea for the Hemingwrite.

"If someone's going to that extreme to help them write, I figured, okay, maybe there's something to this," says Leeb, a mechanical designer. "So we came up with this idea to make a writing-dedicated hardware device and take that distraction-free software one step further." Together, Paul and Leeb designed and built the Hemingwrite, essentially an update of the standalone word-processor machines of yesterday, with an e-paper screen and cloud storage for documents. As of this writing, the device has surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $250,000 by almost a hundred grand.

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Despite diverse backgrounds that span everything from investment banking to political science, Paul and Leeb's respective focuses on software development and mechanical engineering were the driving force behind the creation of the Hemingwrite. With Paul handling the on-board software as well as Postbox, Hemingwrite's unique web application for saving and syncing documents across platforms, Leeb tackled the physical product side of things, from initial rough sketches to final 3D models and production.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   9 Jan 2015  |  Comments (1)

Breathometer-Mint-1.jpg"So, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about . . ."

It's likely that at some point in your life you've employed the awkward smelling-your-own-breath maneuver, to see if that garlicky lunch left you unfit for human interaction. Maybe you found yourself thinking, "There must be a better way!" Well, now there is. Breathometer, the same company that invented the Bluetooth-connected breathalyzer Breeze, has now developed a small device called Mint that measures both breath quality and hydration—all in one discreet suck.

You may have heard of the Silicon Valley startup when its founder and CEO Charles Michael Yim took to the screen to pitch his idea for the first smartphone breathalyzer on Shark Tank back in September 2013. With the success of that original version and its Bluetooth-enabled brother, Breeze, Yim and his team felt ready to take on the worlds of halitosis and hydration. "Mint was a part of the original roadmap when I founded the company," Yim explains. "Alcohol and breath quality were the two markets that were well understood and low-hanging fruit in terms of building a solid business. The plan was to build a platform-based model first and then repurpose the sensors for different applications. Breath quality is only one of many."

Seeing oral hygiene as directly linked to breath quality and overall body wellness, Yim envisioned Mint as a product naturally poised to monitor both. "Mint is the first portable and connected breath analysis device for consumers that is medical grade," he says. "When Mint is placed inside your lips, it'll suck air from your mouth and within a few seconds provide a numeric measurement and visual display of your current condition." That vacuum-like suck is one of the big differentiators between Mint and Breeze (aside from their function), as each device's air sampling is different based on the biomarkers they are trying to detect.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   2 Jan 2015  |  Comments (2)

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If your New Year's resolution is to spend a little less time working and a little more time relishing the day-to-day, you might want to consider investing in the Eclipse Clock. A gentle reminder of the passing of time—and of the inevitable deterioration of our bodies—the timepiece stands as a somewhat functional sculpture that blurs the line between art and utility.

Designed by the Chilean-born, New York City–based artist Iván Navarro, the Eclipse Clock was made exclusively for Paul Kasmin Gallery's PK Shop in an edition of 50, and produced in partnership with the shop's director, Polina Berlin. The first consumer product by an artist known primarily for his neon light–based installations, Navarro's Eclipse Clock depicts the passing hours through light and shadow, which cross over its face in phases (much like its namesake). As time passes, the word PETRIFICATION—etched into the glass face—becomes increasingly visible, a reference by Navarro to the archaeological process of understanding time and the history of the earth through the layers of its sediment.

"Iván wanted to make a functional sculpture, and an eclipse brings together two notions that have always interested him: light and time," Berlin says. "Incorporating the metaphor of an eclipse into a functional clock really appealed to him." Navarro and Berlin worked with the British industrial designer Robert Nightingale and his studio to bring the idea to life. Starting with hand-drawn sketches, the team created rough prototypes using lightbulbs and masking surfaces such as coffee cups, before moving on to CAD and 3D models.

IvanNavarro-EclipseClock-2.jpgPhotos courtesy Paul Kasmin Shop

Mimicking the movement of an eclipse was the biggest challenge for the team. Initially envisioning the object as an opaque disc moving across an illuminated surface, Navarro created a CAD model for a prototype to be made of sheet metal that would move horizontally across a backlit surface. The engineering for the concept proved too complicated, however, so the team continued to explore a variety of materials—including CNC-ing the entire clock out of Corian. After struggling with getting light to pass through the piece, they next experimented with OLED light sources embedded into five-millimeter-thick sheets of mirror, a technique that made it easy to create the illusion of time but impossible to create a pure eclipse effect. Ultimately, Navarro decided that a digital version of the movement felt the most elegant and conceptual, and the team settled on using LEDs to create the eclipse behind layers of acrylic and glass.

Spun-aluminum prototypes that incorporated LEDs and circuit boards were used to mock up the look and feel of the final product. "There was a lot of mathematics, timing calculations and light tests to create the warm glow across the surface," Berlin says. "[In the end] Iván settled on the pure white face, warm light and the raw aluminum bezel." No stranger to working with light, Navarro brought on many of his long-time neon fabricators—such as Manhattan's Let There Be Neon studio—as well as local shops to help fabricate the various clock components. Each piece was sourced, made and assembled by hand in New York City.

More than a thousand LED lights housed inside the sleek, spun-aluminum casing were used to achieve the final effect of an eclipse, while maintaining the slim profile of a wall-mounted design. Starting out entirely dark at midnight, the device's light sources are completely off, and then gradually illuminate as morning approaches. Rows of lights begin to glow beneath the etched glass and a semi-transparent layer of acrylic, starting along the western edge of the clock. The LEDs form a crescent shape that moves laterally across its horizon—a pattern pre-programmed by Navarro. Fully lit at noon, the light slowly recedes back to pure darkness at midnight, repeating the cycle every 24 hours.

Another challenge in designing the Eclipse Clock was ensuring that it was not only accurate over a 24-hour period but also intuitive to a user. Sitting on the floor beneath the clock is an aluminum box, which holds external components and a control panel—a knob and LCD screen inside the box allow the user to easily set and adjust the time.

Navarro's Eclipse Clock will be featured at the opening of the Light Shop at PK Shop's flagship New York location on January 7. While the $7,500. price tag might be somewhat jolting, it's a small price to pay for the appreciation of time, don't you think?

Posted by Carly Ayres  |  19 Dec 2014  |  Comments (2)

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When Micah Baclig embarked on his senior degree project at the Rhode Island School of Design last year, he wanted to create an object that spoke to the ideals of our modern society. "We are a more globalized community with almost instant access to unprecedented amounts of information," Baclig says. "We are constantly striving to do more, learn more and experience more of this life around us." So he created...a spork.

Specifically, Baclig created a compact aluminum spork that he has dubbed Kuma, and which he is now funding on Kickstarter in an effort to do a production run for next year. (As of press time, he had raised more than 80 percent of his $18,000 goal.) But wait—why exactly does today's globalized, information-soaked society need a reusable aluminum spork?

Kuma is the result of Baclig's insatiable curiosity and fascination with eating utensils—their history, how they work and what cultures created them. "From forks to chopsticks to even our own hands, what we eat with says something about who we are and where we came from," Baclig says. "Growing up in Hawaii with multi-ethnic parents, I constantly experienced this dynamic between food, utensils and culture. I fondly remember the times at the dinner table when my father, a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines, would put down his utensils to eat a meal he particularly enjoyed with his hands."

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For his degree project, Baclig focused his interest on eating tools that were both multifunctional and portable, which immediately brings to mind the spork. "In trying to be both a fork and spoon the spork is neither, which for some reason fascinates me," he says. "I also appreciate the spork's subtext of trying to achieve an ideal functionality."

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