Yesterday I had to retire one of my well-used, much-appreciated, everyday objects and figured I'd give it a postmortem, covering what I liked and didn't like about this product design. It's the Jambox, the portable wireless Bluetooth speaker famously designed by Yves Béhar.
I used my Jambox virtually every single day from Dec. 22nd, 2012 to August 31st, 2014. That's over 20 months of daily use. It finally gave up the ghost on August 31st after sustaining damage in a fall (more details further down).
Because I used this object so frequently, I consider it as having improved the quality of my life. I've used it in every single room in my house and workplace to play music or podcasts while I go about the tedium of life and work: Doing dishes, folding laundry, sewing, working in the shop, sorting parts, fixing sewing machines, cleaning the house, cleaning the studio. I also place it in the bathroom every night when I shower so I can catch up on podcasts. To me the Jambox has been invaluable for breaking up tedium and allowing me to listen to podcasts anywhere, without the bother of headphones.
I travel with it too. On regular trips to a rental house in the country, I connect it to a projector and my laptop to play movies for the group of friends I go up there with.
I've only used it twice for its speakerphone capabilities and don't have any useful input there, beyond that it worked fine.
Editor: Where we left off, designer and entrepreneur Pat Calello had run into the headaches that can come with overseas manufacturers. Here he attempts to straighten things out with a deceptive production house—but this time he's got a secret ace up his sleeve!
In October 2003, I was contacted by the president of BRIO U.S., who expressed interest in taking on Automoblox as the sole North America distributor. Within a few weeks, we put together a distribution deal for 2004. There was also some talk of taking over the manufacturing of the line, and we discussed possible terms. But I wasn't willing to let Automoblox out of my control at this point; I still wanted to achieve my dream of being a manufacturer.
To my delight, BRIO issued a purchase order for 10,000 pieces! With the order came a Letter of Credit with an estimated ship date and an expiration date. (This means that if the Letter of Credit expires and Automoblox doesn't deliver, the sale is invalidated.) This order put Swift Tread under fire to resolve the tooling issues in order to meet the delivery date for my first customer. BRIO also talked about annual forecasts in the 60,000-100,000 piece range. At this juncture, and at the height of my anxiety, I felt it was necessary for me to leave my position at Colgate; a week later I was on a plane to China.
During my farewell rounds at Colgate, I stopped to say goodbye to a colleague Yvonne Hsu. Yvonne has the kind of energy that inspires commitment from her team, and she and I worked together under crazy deadlines. I shared with her my plans for Automoblox, and she expressed her support and encouragement. Although ideas for Automoblox had been playing non-stop in my mind, my friends and colleagues at Colgate (for obvious career-related reasons) were unaware of my personal project. Yvonne told me that her dad, who was in the manufacturing business, might be able to help me, and she suggested I give him a call. She warned me that I needed to be prepared to talk specifics, because Henry "isn't the chatty type." Her warning sufficiently scared me enough to put off calling him right away, but by February, I mustered up the courage to call for some advice.
Henry, born in Hong Kong, agreed to meet me for lunch in New York. I showed him my product, and shared with him the trouble I had been experiencing with Swift Tread. The pre-production samples functioned to some degree, but still not correctly. I told him about my upcoming trip to China to work with Swift Tread on final tool modifications and check out some new factories. To my surprise, he offered to accompany me on the trip! I explained that I was not in a position to pay him for his assistance, but he told me not to worry about it, and we agreed that I'd cover his airfare. His offer was one I could not turn down.
Australia-based machinist Ed Jones runs Ed Systems, a "Strange and somewhat crazy hobby shop that specializes in anything electrical, industrial, automotive, and anything in-between." A metal shop engineer by training, Jones' stock-in-trade is production machining, welding, injection molding, electrical work, you name it. As part of his work he needs to disassemble machinery for recycling, so when it came time to break down a Whirlpool, Jones opted for an easier method than de-wrenching it:
To be clear, Jones isn't do this (purely) for fun. "[The] machine was donated by one of Dad's friends, who happens to be a fan of [my YouTube] channel and wanted to see it die again. It was a power surge victim with a leaky drum unit, so its not a waste to scrap it. New ones are about $400, so it's not [a] big deal."
Another thing he can't do
For small parts storage, I use the cheapie Stack-On containers we covered here. They're useful and inexpensive, but their design also dates back at least several decades. For a more modern-day solution, check out industrial design and manufacturing engineer Jeffrey Bean's Twist Tubes.
Bean's background comes with heavy tooling experience, yielding a specialty in "the rapid design and build of plastic injection molds." He's used his skillset to create a series of storage tubes that open from the side, via rotation, and feature both colored and clear polycarbonate in the same package (for color-coded organization and visibility, respectively). And his Twist Tubes are designed to avoid the one thing that's happened to all of us at some point: Dropping the container and spilling its contents everywhere. Although cylindrical, the toothed design of the cap means the Tubes will lie flat on their sides, preventing them from rolling off of a table; the sealed design (unlike a Stack-On drawer) means the Tubes won't spill their contents even if dropped; and the polycarb ought to withstand the impact of an accidental bench dive.
Animal Planet calls Anthony Archer-Willis "the best in the world for what he does—designing and delivering the ultimate swimming experience." That's why they gave Archer-Willis, a British landscape architect with a specialization in swimming pool and water garden design, his own show. In "The Poolmaster," he designs dream swimming pools for a handful of lucky clients.
While the TV show will reveal Archer-Willis' own creations, in the following video he shows you his appreciation for another pool designer's work. An unnamed family in Utah commissioned this absolutely insane, mammoth $2-million-dollar swimming pool, which was designed to look all-natural. With five waterfalls, a grotto, a waterslide, hidden passageways, an integrated indoor kitchen/bathroom/showering facility, a scuba diving practice area and more, this is not the average swimming pool that most of us Americans will be hitting up this holiday weekend. Watch and be amazed: