Posted by Carly Ayres
| 26 Sep 2014
Anyone who has had to empty out the entirety of her suitcase's contents on the floor of airport check-in knows the plight of overweight luggage. Sure, you can buy suitcase scales and other devices, but they often get misplaced and—somewhat ironically—can't account for their own weight. Enter the TUL Suitcase, which has its own built-in weighing scale.
Pisan Kulkaew came up with the idea for TUL after watching his mother struggle to weigh her suitcase following a surgery. Unable to lift heavy objects, she incurred excess baggage fees of around $100. Kulkaew, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, Australia, started thinking. "I asked myself, What do I see suitcases looking like in ten years' time?" he says. "To which I answered: Definitely something along the lines of a smart suitcase. Even the cheapest suitcases would at least have the self-weighing function."
With degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering coupled with mathematics, the Brisbane-based student is no stranger to challenging problems. Kulkaew began by brainstorming with his mother around the functionality this futuristic suitcase would have. After connecting with an electrical engineer who believed in the idea, he used the yellow pages to call up suitcase factories, meeting with owners and trying to convince them to help make TUL a reality.
Due to limited resources, Kulkaew opted to modify an existing suitcase mold instead of designing his own from scratch. With a first prototype in hand, he cracked open his digital bathroom scale to understand its underlying electronics and mechanisms. For Kulkaew, the bathroom scale was a perfect model for TUL, as it removes its own weight from the final calculation. "I'd say that this technology is there for a long time, just that it hasn't been adapted for this application," he says.
Posted by Carly Ayres
| 19 Sep 2014
While studying abroad in Denmark during the fall of 2013, Meg Czaja toured Lego Headquarters and was disappointed with what she saw. For a class at the Kolding School of Design focused on the topic of play, the designer explored the toymaker's facilities, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the company's outlook on children in the United States. "One of the speakers, whom I believe worked in marketing, said that children in the U.S. don't know how to use Legos without instructions, which is why they are now sold in sets," Czaja says. "Rather than trying to challenge the notion, this mentality was driving their current designs—in lieu of a child's capacity to create. I found it to be incredibly troublesome."
That experience stuck with the Pratt MID candidate when she came back to the States, as she actively sought out opportunities to design for children's unrestricted, self-prompted play. The perfect opportunity came last spring in a soft-goods class taught by Rebbecah Pailes-Freedman. Given the task to design a backpack that incorporated an inherent social message, Czaja naturally gravitated to the topic of free play. The result is the PlayPack, which incorporates toys in its construction and can even become a toy itself.
Czaja kicked off the 14-week project with a comprehensive competitive analysis of existing backpacks. Making trips across New York and New Jersey, Czaja visited Target and REI stores to take photos and gather information about the bags they sold. Focusing on the bag construction, she looked at materials and the way zippers and other fasteners were handled, along with other features. "I think I examined over a hundred backpacks," she says. Czaja sketched out potential designs, honing those down to a final ten to present to her class.
In an effort to make the experience similar to that of a client/designer relationship, the professor picked the final direction for PlayPack, and then Czaja had to execute it. Designing and prototyping happened concurrently as the designer spent a few days mocking up the paper backpack from craft paper and masking tape on a child-sized mannequin, while simultaneously figuring out how the pack could be played with as individual pieces. "What if the bag itself became a toy that could be used in conjunction with the objects it held?" Czaja asked herself. "The form came from there. I never wanted the bag to be a toy in typical terms. I wasn't aiming to make a backpack that looked like a rocket ship or an octopus because, overall, that's limiting."
Posted by Carly Ayres
| 12 Sep 2014
Last February, Kai Lin was watching YouTube videos of mountain goats jumping up a vertical mountain side when he was struck with an idea. Lin, now a senior at Pratt Institute, was enrolled in a prosthetic-design class at the time, and he wondered if the same anatomy that allowed the goats to so swiftly and accurately scale the vertical surface could be applied to humans.
This was the beginning of KLIPPA—the name is Swedish for "cliff"—a prosthetic leg designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. With the seedling of the idea in mind, Lin dug deeper into the anatomy of mountain goats, learning that their hooves have small cupped surfaces that create suction, coupled with a hard outer shell that allows the goats to stabilize their bodies on even the steepest surfaces. Looking for design opportunities, the student stumbled upon the documentary High Ground, which tells the story of 11 veterans who heal mental and emotional trauma during a 20,000-foot Himalayan ascent. Lin also discovered that rock climbing was the first choice of physically demanding sports for veteran amputees looking to maintain an active lifestyle after returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. "I realized from the demographic of amputee patients that quite a few of them are wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them suffer from physical and psychological trauma," Lin says. "That just gave me more reason to design something meaningful—not only for day-to-day patients but for someone who might use my rock-climbing prosthetic legs to help with their recovery process."
Further research took the product design student to Brooklyn Boulders, a local climbing gym, where he interviewed experienced climbers about their technique, ankle articulation and muscle use. Lin took to the wall to give it a shot himself, attaching blue foam stilts to his feet to understand what it was like to climb without sensory feedback. Creating a series of blue foam stilts varying in surface size, Lin tested the ideal size for a prosthetic. "What I found was that when a [foot] surface is too big, it blocks you from seeing what is underneath and it becomes hard to step," Lin explains. "But when the contact surface is too small, you lose your balance." He created three main sizes of stilts in proportion to a human foot—full, half and quarter—discovering that the ideal solution was somewhere between a half-size and quarter-size foot, which limited the contact surface while still maintaing balance.
Lin synthesized this knowledge in a series of (really awesome) sketches, working to incorporate his research along with other identified problems amputee climbers face like strength loss, passive articulation, and a lack of sensory feedback and grip. The first iteration of sketches for KLIPPA was a direct biomimetic approach pulling inspiration from mountain goats, while his second series echoed a more human feel. From these sketches, Lin made five prototypes from blue foam and 3D-printed features like textured heels, hoof-like feet and rubber shoe encasings. His final design took the best pieces from each of these prototypes, resulting in a progression of human to goat anatomy moving down to the foot.
Posted by Carly Ayres
| 5 Sep 2014
This September, we're getting design education-y here on Core77, so it seemed appropriate to highlight a student project for this week's column.
Parametric Pendants is a series of generative lighting by Colin Westeinde, a BFA furniture student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Completed last May during Westeinde's third year at RISD, the lights are a direct result of Westeinde's work experience—his internships and apprenticeships led the Vancouver-born designer to explore the space between handcraft and machine work in the lighting series.
After an internship at Amsterdam's Joris Laarman Lab (whose Gradient Chair we previously covered in this column), Westeinde was struck by the studio's approach of designing systems of making rather than specific objects. Particularly with regard to code, Westeinde observed the massive front-load of work taken on by Laarman's specialists that allowed for quick iterations and fine tuning of a design once complete. "This workflow allowed rapid responses and efficient adaptability to the unexpected challenges that inevitably arise in any process—within the established framework, of course," Westeinde says.
During his internship and back in the classroom, Westeinde found himself questioning the subjective value placed on handcraft over the machine-made—and found inspiration in the work of another Dutch designer. "Though I don't believe the aforementioned categories will ever truly blur, [Maarten] Baas's More or Less chair proposed possible answers to my dilemma," Westeinde says. "This design identified one of the main defining qualities of mass produced objects—their uniformity—and broke it."
Using Grasshopper, Westeinde could create a script and then vary its parameters to make each light unique.
Posted by Carly Ayres
| 29 Aug 2014
If you've ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know firsthand the challenges of coordinating across time zones to connect with parents, friends and partners. Phone calls are painstakingly scheduled, then spent catching up with a myriad of questions about the day-to-day in an effort to feel closer. Recently, a group of designers proposed a novel way to facilitate that connection: through a set of Internet-connected lights that reflect the weather conditions of another's location.
Called Patch of Sky, the lighting collection was conceived and developed at Fabrica, a communication research center in Treviso, Italy, in a collaboration between six designers, strategists and developers: Leonardo Amico, Federico Floriani, Reda Jouahri, Alice Longo, Akshataa Vishwanath and Giorgia Zanellato.
"Fabrica hosts designers and artists from all over the world, thus distance and nostalgia are naturally recurring topics," explains Amico. "Drawing from these conversations, we had the idea for Patch of Sky, an object that would silently connect people over distance, just by letting them 'share the sky' under which they're living." With that inkling of an idea, Amico and Akshataa invited the other four to join the team; collectively, they brought the project from ideation to fruition over the course of a year, completing it in early 2014.
The lights are made of painted wood and one-way mirror glass, and they come in three versions, for mounting on a wall or placing on a desk. Housed inside each device is an Arduino Uno and custom electronics that control an RGB LED strip. The purchaser of a light must first log in to a website with his or her own Facebook account (sorry Facebook holdouts, you're out of luck), entering a key that will uniquely identify each Patch of Sky device. That device will then be associated with that Facebook user, displaying animations from the account's most recent location. While they have yet to iron out all of the kinks, the Patch of Sky team envisions most customers ordering the product as a gift for a loved one, linking it to Facebook before specifying the recipient's address.
The recipient of the light must connect a small device called the Berg Cloud Bridge to an Internet router. The Bridge will then facilitate a wireless Internet connection with the Patch of Sky—now able to continuously transmit data from the user's Facebook account, pulling his or her location and retrieving the local meteorological conditions from a weather web service. That information is then generalized to one of 11 predetermined weather options, each linked to a lighting animation.