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Carly Ayres

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  12 Sep 2014  |  Comments (1)

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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."

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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.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   5 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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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."

ColinWesteinde-ParametricPendants-2.jpgUsing Grasshopper, Westeinde could create a script and then vary its parameters to make each light unique.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  29 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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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.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  22 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

GUR-IanStevenson.jpgIllustration by Ian Stevenson

Designer Célia Esteves first fell in love with the Portuguese tradition of rug weaving at an exhibition in her hometown of Viana do Castelo, in the north of Portugal. There she met—and got a tutorial from—an artisan who was creating rugs on a hand loom. Esteves left the exhibition smitten with the technique and determined to find a way to continue working with the traditional handcraft. "I found it so exciting and promising that I immediately wanted to share it with some of my illustrator friends," she says.

Luckily, Esteves has some very talented friends. She asked illustrators like André da Loba, Marta Monteiro and José Cardoso to create designs to be translated into woven rugs, and worked with the weaver she met at the exhibition to realize the project. The result is Rug by GUR, a remarkable pairing of contemporary illustration and traditional Portuguese rug weaving.

GUR-MartaMonteiro-JoaoDrumond.jpgIllustrations by Marta Monteiro (left) and Joao Drumond

GUR-JoanaEstrela.jpgIlustration by Joana Estrela

"The technique is very specific, and it can also be limiting," Esteves admits. "Sometimes it is not possible to do exactly what is designed." One of the challenges is the grid system required of the weaving, making it difficult to create continuous lines. Another is the material used, raw tirela, which is made of rags from used clothing, limiting the colors to what is available from nearby factories.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  15 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We first covered Jamie Wolfond's work when he was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, stuffing plastic pellets into fireproof molds and slumping them over other objects to create his Frumpy Chair series. Now, just a few months after graduating, Wolfond has launched Good Thing, a Brooklyn-based company that takes a new approach to manufacturing by building production into the ideation phase, collaborating with designers, artists and vendors to create a seamless process for realizing new products.

Experimentation with manufacturing is a motif throughout the Toronto-bred designer's work, as he utilizes techniques usually reserved for the mass production of industrial products to create small runs of household goods. At the onset of a new project, Wolfond often begins by working with an outside vendor—even before he knows what exactly it is he's designing. "By allowing the strengths and limitations of a producer to influence the product from a very early phase, I am able to design an object that does not need to be compromised for production," explains Wolfond. "Not only does this idea yield considered objects, but it also lends itself to efficient and inexpensive production."

Good Thing was born from that concept, applying the idea to a much larger scale with more products and larger production runs. Its debut collection features a series of collaborations with local NYC designers, artists and vendors, with household objects ranging from hand-spun copper vessels to sand-cast aluminum trivets. One standout piece is the Plastic Craft Pot, a collaboration between Wolfond and Benjamin Kicic that drew inspiration from ceramic coil pots, but reimagined in biodegradable plastic.

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Kicic, also an alumnus of RISD, had been playing with the archetype of the coil pot since before he and Wolfond graduated last May, making several rapid-prototyped porcelain vessels over the past year. Given that they are both interested in the parallels between 3D printing and clay coiling, Wolfond and Kicic decided to collaborate on a piece for Good Thing, but quickly realized that rapid-prototyping coil pots was not a very efficient method of producing in volume. "It is one of the few processes that does not become less expensive with quantity," Wolfond says.

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