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Posted by core jr  |  21 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

JamesSelf-0.jpgFigure 1: Digital CAD used to communicate form and design aesthetic. All images Courtesy of Younghoon Hwang, UNIST, Korea

From thumbnail sketches to low fidelity models and prototypes to test rigs, CAD concept renderings, illustrations, mock-ups and visualizations, designers embody their design intentions using a variety of Tools of Design Representation (TDRs) during conceptual design in an attempt to provide creative solutions to often ill-defined design problems. The industrial designer employs TDRs with two objectives in mind. First, they provide a means to describe, explain and communicate design intentions to others. Second, they are used to reflect upon and develop one's own design intent towards emergent—but still conceptual—solutions. As such, TDR use is a critical component of conceptual design practices. In a previous Core77 article (CAD vs. Sketching, Why Ask?), I responded to what I see as a limiting and somewhat circular debate on the role and use of CAD tools during conceptual design, drawing attention to the fact tools are only tools insofar as they are used as such to achieve a purpose. That is, the effectiveness of TDRs (CAD and sketching included) is dependent upon both context of use and, critically, the designers' own skills, knowledge and judgment in their application.

In light of the dizzying array of digital, conventional and hybrid tools now available to the designer, this article builds on some of the issues previously touched upon. I aim to move beyond anecdotal accounts of this or that best tool, way of working, method or media in this or that context or working environment towards the fundamentals of TDR use during conceptual design practice. What kinds of fundamental designerly knowledge, skills and practices underpin effective and productive engagement with and use of TDRs during conceptual design? I believe that knowledge of these fundamentals is required both to develop more effective digital design tools and to contribute to design pedagogy alongside the more traditional studio teaching environment of practical skills acquisition.

Fortuitously, design research over the past 30 years provides us with important insights into the act of designing and the kinds of thinking it involves. Donald Schon's seminal work (The Reflective Practitioner, 1991) on the notion of design as a reflective practice has been influential in providing a means to understand design activity and tool use. Briefly, considered through the lens of reflection-in-action, design activity is characterized by reflection (considering what has just been done, such as reflecting upon a sketch) and action (revising a sketch or CAD model in light of reflective understanding). Within this iterative process of reflection and action, the representation or embodiment of design intent is critically important. The designer must externalize design intentions through TDR use—sketches, drawings, notes, CAD models, physical prototypes, etc., of varying levels of fidelity—in order to reflect upon, test, and develop design ideas.

Important in influencing the nature of this reflection-action is the distinct character of the design problem. Design problems, unlike problems in the sciences, may often be ill-defined or wicked. The primary feature of these ill-defined problems is that there is and cannot be a single correct solution to the original problem but that there are many possible outcomes. In fact, there may potentially be an infinite number of possible solutions and a limitless number of ways to proceed towards a final design solution.

Harold Nelson and Erik Stolterman (The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World, 2012) describe this engagement with the design problem as a search for an ultimate particular. The designer must come to a solution that is itself new or particular in relation to any other solution that may have come before, one that must provide a best or ultimate possible result given the designer's emergent understanding of the design problem.

JamesSelf-2.jpgFigure 2: Sketch illustration to reflectively explore design intent


Posted by core jr  |  17 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)


Two, as logic and cliché suggest, is better than one. Hence, the Y-splitter, a not-quite-indispensable dongle that doubles any connection point. Long a tool for A/V-savvy folks, the 3.5mm (2F-1M) version often sits alongside earbuds and cases in the shelf of your local Apple store. Now comes a Kickstarter project for a product that is intended to join those ranks: the Why? cable turns one USB port into a pair of Lightning connectors (given the titular pun, we'll spare you a terrible joke about striking twice).

There are mixed reports regarding how many people/households have more than one Apple mobile device (for one thing, metrics typically include other hardware, including desktops and laptops), but it's something of a self-selecting market in the first place: Anyone who owns both an iPhone and an iPad is anecdotally more likely to buy additional accessories anyhow.

Posted by core jr  |  15 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


This is the latest installment of our Core77 Questionnaire. Previously, we talked to the Italian designer Luca Nichetto.

Name: Mia Lundström

Occupation: Creative director, IKEA Sweden

Location: Älmhult, Sweeden

Current projects: I'm working with long-term home-furnishing priorities, in terms of how people live their everyday lives—their needs and their frustrations and the opportunities and so on. That's a quite big project that goes on all the time, but it needs to be updated and we need to have a product range for it and we need to make sure that the people developing and designing IKEA concepts really, truly understand the latest trends in society, so that we can cater toward them in a good way.

I'm also working quite a lot on some questions around the meeting with the customers in our stores. We want to create a much more vital interaction; we feel that we have been a little bit slow on the uptake with our showrooms and the impression of home-furnishing—that IKEA is a creative company and that we are in tune with society and trends and all that.

Mission: To create a better everyday life for the many people

MiaLundstrom-Ikea-2.jpgA cabinet and pendant lamp from IKEA's new PS 2014 collection. (Last March, we interviewed six of the young designers behind the collection.)

When did you decide to pursue a career in design? Well, I'm not working with product design specifically—I'm working with, in a sense, designing the concept of home furnishing. And I've always been very interested in this. I started in the retail sector and one thing sort of led to another.

Education: I would say life and experience is my main education. Other than that, I went to Swedish primary and high school and took a couple of courses at art and design school. But no university; I have gone to IKEA university.

First design job: To design the bedroom department of a store in Stockholm

Who is your design hero? There are many. Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank are, of course, two of my favorites. I also admire some of the Danish and Finnish designers like Arne Jacobsen and Alvar Aalto. Among contemporary designers, I like Paola Navone and Ilse Crawford. There are a lot of women in my favorites, and I think that we sometimes have too few women in design. I could name many, many more.

MiaLundstrom-Ikea-3.jpgAlso from the PS 2014 collection: a wardrobe by matali crasset (left) and a storage table by Rich Brilliant Willing. (Read more about their contributions here.)


Posted by core jr  |  14 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Industrial designer and professor Lance Gordon Rake previously shared the story behind the Semester bamboo bicycle, developed with Pamela Dorr and various collaborators in Hale County, Alabama. Now, less than a year later, HERObike is pleased to present its second project on Kickstarter, the Beacon Alley Skateboard, which represents Rake's further research into bamboo as a versatile, renewable raw material for the socially conscious organization. Once again, he was willing to share the story and process behind the project.

Since the beginning, I have been working with John Bielenberg at Future Partners and the graphic design partnership Public Library to develop the products and the business. Ultimately, all we ever wanted to do was create some nice jobs making well-designed products using the resources and people of rural Alabama. The bamboo was there. Traditional craft skills were there. We used design to put these things together in a way that could make a sustainable small enterprise that might serve as a model for developing rural communities all over the world.

The MakeLab shop in Greensboro Alabama has become a kind of research center for bamboo fiber composites. Many of the materials that are in a Semester bike—bamboo, fiberglass, carbon fiber—are also in a Beacon Alley Skateboard. The skateboard is a product with a very demanding user group who expect incredibly high performance at a fair price. The Semester bike is in a demanding, competitive category as well. And if your product doesn't look good, it's a non-starter.

The past 11 months have been a bit crazy: We had a successful Kickstarter campaign that finished last August and we managed to deliver all 45 bikes and frames by our promised date in February. Since then, our little shop has been building about ten Semesters per month, in addition to our standard "Gilligan" bamboo bike and our Gilligan kits for the DIY crowd. We are developing international markets for Semester—we've already shipped them to seven countries and this seems to be an area of rapid expansion. Right now, I am working on ways to dramatically lower costs so we can make a bike that delivers the look and ride quality of bamboo for less than half of the current price.


Posted by core jr  |  10 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Foaming at the mouth? Got infoamation on the whereabouts of the blue stuff? Hoarding scraps and offcuts with nary a purpose? Don't wait—donate! The Foam Agency, a new initiative by Elisa Werbler and Lucy Knops, is currently accepting contributions of rigid insulation foam for an installation at the Brooklyn outpost of the Makeshift Society, where the two SVA Products of Design students are artists-in-residence this summer (a first for both the designers and the co-working space). As their very first project, "The Insulation Installation" is intended to showcase—or show-wall, as it were (wall-case?)—the unsung material that is familiar to artists, architects and designers for its unique utilitarian properties.

Traditionally, insulation foam has worked hard to prevent drafts and keep moisture out of walls. Artists and designers have adopted the material as a tool for expressing ideas because of its low cost and high flexibility. From beautifully articulated handcrafted models to full-scale architectural mockups, rigid foam has become an integral part of the making process. The installation at Makeshift Society celebrates all of the wonderful properties of rigid insulation foam.
Housed in a transparent wall, at Makeshift Society Brooklyn, TFA's reclaimed foam will showcase the many talents and ambitions of the design community, while continuing to do its job as an insulator. Why hide the most dynamic of materials? TFA is looking to showcase foam that has already lived an exciting life, foam that has been sawn into pieces, shaped with hot-wire cutters, hacked away with a rasp or sanded down with 600-grit sandpaper.


As with, say, reclaimed wood, the provenance of the foam is paramount: The Foam Agency will catalog the story of the secondhand materials. They're currently accepting contributions in-person and online—if you're in NYC, they'll "dispatch their agents" to pick it up—fill out the submission foam here.