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Mason Currey

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Mason Currey  |   4 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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With an elegant silhouette that doesn't scream "DIY," the Zeta Aluminium lamp is a welcome addition to the realm of hardware-free, flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself housewares. Designed by the Florence, Italy-based ZPSTUDIO, the lamp uses a narrow template design to wring maximum utility out of a minimal amount of material—resulting in low cost and little environmental impact.

Zeta Aluminium is actually the second iteration of this project. The original Zeta, released in 2011, was created from sheets of laser-cut poplar. ZPSTUIO'S founders, Eva Parigi and Matteo Zetti, sold the prototype to another design company, but they have now taken back the patent to redevelop the concept into Zeta Aluminium. "We wanted to further extend the early idea to achieve a more advanced, tech-like version," Parigi says.

Zeta Aluminium shares the same principles and silhouette of its predecessor, but instead of wood it uses Dibond, an industrial aluminum composite made of two pre-painted sheets of 0.012-inch-thick aluminum that sandwich a polyethylene core. This is a big upgrade from poplar: Dibond is lighter weight and more durable, and it will not warp or bow the way a sheet of wood might. Plus, the polyethylene core adds an additional layer of friction to hold the pieces together.

ZDStudio-ZetaFlatpackLamp-2.jpgAssembling the original poplar version of the Zeta lamp

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Posted by Mason Currey  |   6 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

GoogleX-Smith-Heinrich-2.jpgPhotos by Talia Herman

If you're an industrial designer looking to work in the tech sector, Google is probably pretty low on your list of prospective employers—if it's on there at all. The company employs plenty of UX designers, interaction designers, motion designers, and others who shape how Google users interface with its many digital tools. But Google doesn't really make stuff, and ambitious designer-makers are much more likely to set their sights on Apple, IDEO, frog, or any number of other high-profile companies that do.

That may be about to change. Recently, Google invited Core77 to visit its Mountain View, California, campus and meet some of the design talent behind Google X, the semi-secret "moonshot factory" that has in recent years been designing quite a bit of actual stuff, some of which you've no doubt heard about by now. X was founded in January 2010 to continue work on Google's self-driving car initiative, and to start developing other similarly futuristic projects. The next to be unveiled was Google Glass, the much-publicized wearable computer that is expected to reach consumers sometime this year. After that, X launched (quite literally) Project Loon, an attempt to provide Internet service to rural and remote areas via balloons floating in the stratosphere; it conducted a pilot test in New Zealand last June. X also recently acquired Makani Power, which develops airborne wind turbines that could be used to harvest high-altitude wind energy, bringing its total number of public projects to four.

But what's interesting for the design community is not just that Google X is doing some traditional industrial design in the service of realizing outrageously big ideas, but that it's integrating I.D. with a variety of other disciplines in a particularly rigorous fashion, creating an ideal-sounding nexus of design thinking, user research and fabrication. And it is actively seeking new talent who can help flesh out its multidisciplinary approach.

"We're looking for unicorns," says Mitchell Heinrich, one of the four X-ers I met in Mountain View about a month ago. Heinrich founded and runs his own group within X called the Design Kitchen, which acts as X's in-house fabrication department but is also deeply involved in generating (and killing) new ideas. And what he means by "unicorns" is designers who have the rare ability to excel in both of those roles—as he puts it, "people who have the ability to have the inspiration, the thought, the design, and then are able to carry that out to something that actually works and looks like what they want it to look like."

That may not sound like such a fantastically rare combination of skills, but Heinrich insists that finding people who can do this kind of soup-to-nuts design—come up with brilliant ideas and then actually make them, while also working extremely fast—has been difficult. In other words, the Kitchen has high standards. "I like to think of it as more like a Chez Panisse than an Applebee's," he says.

GoogleX-campus.jpgThe Googleplex in early December

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Posted by Mason Currey  |  30 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

C77YiR.jpgPietHeinEek-QA-1a.jpgPiet Hein Eek even enjoys doing administrative chores.

Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines · The Year in Photos

Over the last seven months, I called up 15 successful, respected designers from around the world and asked them each a set of 22 questions about their backgrounds, their current projects, their working habits and their thoughts on design. In the course of conducting these interviews—which we dubbed the Core77 Questionnaire—I noticed a handful of themes begin to emerge. Even though I talked to designers with a wide range of backgrounds and work experience, many of them had remarkably similar answers to several of our questions. So as part of Core77's year-end review, I wanted to highlight these outstanding themes in the form of the following six insights into the design mind.

Designers Don't Procrastinate

One of our 22 questions is "How Do You Procrastinate?"—and I was truly surprised by how many designers were incapable of coming up with an answer. As a writer, procrastination is an integral part of my daily routine; successful designers, by contrast, seem to actually want to do their work. Either that, or they just have a lot more self-discipline. As Paul Loebach said: "If I'm going to work, I'm going to work. And if I'm not going to work, I will take a vacation." Marcel Wanders can't bear to have work hanging over his head: "For me, procrastinating equals suffering," he said. Sandy Chilewich said the same thing: "Procrastinating, for me, is extremely painful. I'm really not having a good time if I feel like, 'Shit, I should really be doing this other thing.'" Ditto Paul Cocksedge, Piet Hein Eek and Sam Hecht. Even those designers who did come up with an answer really had to think about it first—none of my interviewees could imagine indulging in frequent bouts of work avoidance.

Designers Think Most People Don't Understand What They Do

This was another common theme, and it came up mostly in response to the question "What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers?" Over and over, our interviewees said that the general public basically has no idea what industrial designers do. Here's Ayse Birsel: "No one knows what we do. Fashion designers they get, but with product design it's like, 'What's that?' And then people say, 'Oh, so you style stuff? Or you engineer stuff?' And I'm like, 'Neither.' There's no easy answer."

Sam Hecht answered similarly, noting that because "design means so many different things now," the term designer has become almost useless. (When asked what he does, Hecht prefers to say, "I make things.") Fellow Londoner Paul Cocksedge agreed, saying, "It would be wonderful if there were another word besides designer, but I don't know what it would be." And Adidas's James Carnes suspected that "people would be absolutely amazed by the depth and breadth of a designer's daily work."

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Posted by Mason Currey  |  12 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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The Core77 Ultimate Gift Guide is one of the more popular pieces of content that we put together every year, both for our readers and those of us who have the privilege—and eye—for making the selections. In the interest of capturing the communal spirit of this year's Gift Guide, the contributors will be selecting a few of their favorite picks from their cohorts' lists alongside one of their own.


I know , I know—no one really wants to think about work over the holidays. But let's face it: most of us spend most of our time at work, and most of us also work in less-than-ideal environments, be it a windowless cubicle or a mercilessly exposed open-plan office. So anything you can do to improve that situation for a loved one (or for yourself) is certainly worthy of your gift-giving dollar.

Here, I have tried to suggest products that will improve one's workday in four key areas: caffeination, organization, isolation, and decoration. These critera satisfy my own personal vision of an ideal workplace: one with good coffee, a minimum of clutter, a modicum of privacy, and a few pops of colorful and/or quirky ornamentation. These gifts won't necessarily make for better or faster work, but they should at least make for more contented workers.

Mason Currey, Senior Editor

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Socks by Henrik Vibskov - I usually prefer to dress in solid, neutral colors—so I need socks like these to save me from being a total sartorial bore. $30 from Henrik Vibskov

LAX Minimalist Poster - I recently moved to Los Angeles, and this neon-colored homage to my local airport would make an excellent addition to my new apartment's decor. $159 at Zinc Details

5-Year Diary - I've never managed to keep a diary for more than a few days, but the idea of having five years' worth of notes in one volume—and in such a handsomely designed one -- makes me want to give it another go. $25 at MoMA Store

Zojirushi Tuff Mug - I don't actually have much use for a thermos, but, hey, I really like the way this guy looks. $32 on Amazon

See the full 2013 Gift Guide for more ideas →

Posted by Mason Currey  |  26 Jun 2013  |  Comments (2)

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I'm Mason Currey—for the past few months, I've been working as a guest editor here at Core77, and now my Core colleagues (Core-lleagues?) have asked me to write a brief post introducing myself.

So, first, let me take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my new book. It's called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and it collects information about the routines and working habits of 161 inspired minds—among them, novelists, painters, composers, poets, philosophers, filmmakers, and scientists. If you're interested in Beethoven's coffee-making regimen, Kafka's procrastination methods, Buckminster Fuller's nap schedule, or Benjamin Franklin's naked "air baths"—look no further, this is the book for you!

In all seriousness, though, the book is also relevant to my work here at Core. As you might guess, I have always been fascinated by process—by how creative people make the time to do their work, and what rituals, habits, superstitions, and neuroses help (or hinder) their creative activity. At Core, I've been feeding this obsession with a couple of new blog series. One is the Core77 Questionnaire, where we're asking a variety of designers 22 questions about their current projects, backgrounds, working habits, and thoughts on design. Over the past few weeks, we've talked to Ralf Groene, the director of design for Microsoft's Surface tablet; Paul Loebach, a furniture and product designer in Brooklyn; and Ayse Birsel, who has named herself the Chief De:Re Officer of Birsel + Seck. We'll be posting a new interview every other Tuesday.

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