Posted by Ray
| 15 Sep 2014
Locale for Herman Miller (2013). Images courtesy of Industrial Facility unless otherwise noted
Given the current vogue for local, handwrought, artisanal or otherwise bespoke goods, the tide has effectively turned against mass production as millennials forgo the efficiencies of economies of scale in favor of purportedly more meaningful modes. The appeal of these objets is ostensibly the deeper level of personal connection—the prospect of shaking the very hand that made your wallet or dress or dining table is simultaneously atavistic and avant-garde—that justifies the cost of championing local production in the face of, um, faceless overseas manufacturing. This resurgence finds its most fundamental expression not in made-to-order heirlooms but in locavorism: Food products are literally rooted in a place, yet the fact that they are perishable precludes preciousness.
It's ironic, then, that "America has this great tradition of keeping kitchen appliances on the countertop." Kim Colin, co-founder and partner of design firm Industrial Facility, brings it up in the context of the broad shift away from the materialistic mentality of yore, rattling off a few generations' worth of examples. "Mr. Coffee's been there, the Kitchenaid's been there, George Foreman's grill was there for a while, the soda machine might be there now..." That these appliances have a shelf life (with the exception, perhaps, of the stand mixer) is a testament to the consummation of a consumer culture that revels in excess, the food itself being incidental. Whether or not we use them frequently enough to justify the countertop real estate, our society has long kept these objects on display, not only as status symbols in themselves but also because we have the luxury of space.
Or at least we did, before the world's metropolises drew in the majority of its 7.2 billion people and twentysomethings found themselves with less space and fewer things anyway. More kale, perhaps, but less of the other stuff.
The Branca Stool for Mattiazzi (2014)
We don't go out and find work, people find us.
Industrial Facility is arguably the best-kept secret in certain circles that extend far beyond its geographic locale of London. In contrast to the likes of Philippe Starck (with whom IF collaborated on TOG) or, say, friend-of-Apple Marc Newson, Kim Colin and her partner Sam Hecht opt for fly-by-night anonymity, much like one of their longtime clients. "[Muji is] not using design as a personality... if there is a personality, it would be Muji." Like kindred spirit Naoto Fukasawa, Industrial Facility's work dissolves into the client's brand—assuming, of course, that the client shares their refiend, purposeful design philosophy.
When Colin notes that "there's a kind of strange public awareness about us—we have what I would characterize as a cult following," she's referring to clients—Established & Sons, LaCie and Issey Miyake, to name a few—but the statement is true of consumers as well. It's not so much a signature style (again, they're designing for the likes of non-brand Muji) but a perspective that guides with their sub rosa appeal. "We're very interested in the actual ways we're living and the ways that's changing," Colin says. "We study it through the different kinds of clients we have... we learn how they're seeing the world, and we often have a very different point of view." She continues: "Those companies then realize that we have more to offer than a specific project on its own, and that we might have something to say about their business, or growth, or direction." Naturally, these deeper relationships tend to be self-selecting, and it's telling that Industrial Facility works closely with companies like Muji and Herman Miller in a design advisory role. "Our clients are unafraid of our questioning and our level of questioning."
Hence, Colin draws the distinction between their design practice and that of the 21st-Century artisan. "I think there are a lot of people working in design that are doing local products. Those are small batch, limited production or production-on-demand," she matter-of-factly declares. "Our scale is mass production, really, and that's why we named our studio Industrial Facility and not Sam Hecht and Kim Colin Studio. We want big companies not to be afraid to use design."
Formwork for Herman Miller (2014)
Prototypes of Formwork
Posted by Ray
| 10 Sep 2014
The new Apple Watch may offer navigation via a paired iPhone's GPS system, but (Maps bugs notwithstanding) wayfinding used to be a skill, especially here in New York City. While the grid of streets and avenues bears a semblance of intuitive legibility, the sinuously criss-crossing subway lines has long been rather less forgiving. The city-wide system itself originated with the merger of the privately operated IRT, BMT and IND in 1939, but each line continued to publish its own maps (sans the other two) and signage until the late 50's; the major turning point came a decade later, when the NYCTA commissioned a comprehensive overhaul of the signage and wayfinding system in 1967. Some four years in the making, Unimark International's codified design language is far more profound than the empirical typography and glyphs that characterize the subway system today; rather it captures the essence of visual communication qua user experience. Sure, any poseur can get ahold of a 1972 Subway map, but true aficionados will go for the real deal, available now on Kickstarter for the first (and last) time: the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual, meticulously authored by the late designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark.
Known simply as the Standards Manual, the original ring-bound text is something like the contemporary equivalent of the Rosetta Stone: a dictionary, encyclopedia case study and veritable holy text rolled (or rather Smyth-sewn) into one. As a canonical document of high modernism, it's right up there with the Gutenberg bible—a beautiful object in and of itself—and Pentagram's Jesse Reed and Hamish Smith are offering a faithful reproduction with the blessing of the Metropolitan Transit Authority itself.
In 2012—42 years after the Standards Manual was released—we discovered a rare copy in the basement of design firm Pentagram.
Now, under an exclusive agreement with the MTA, we are scanning and printing every page in a full-size hardcover book.
The MTA agreed on the reissue with one condition: it will only be available during this 30-day Kickstarter campaign.
After this campaign, the book will never be reissued again.
Is it just me, or does Standard Medium (later changed to Helvetica, of course) look kind of like a heavier version of Apple's new typeface?
Upon their initial discovery, Reed and Hamish simply published the Standards Manual digitally but have since seen fit to publish a scale reproduction of the 364-page omnibus for posterity's sake, a felicitous tribute to the recently deceased Vignelli and his unsung colleague Noorda (who passed in 2010). Narrated by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, the reverential video is also on point; drool on your keyboard now because you won't want to ruin your copy of it:
Posted by Ray
| 3 Sep 2014
Cupertino seems to have sprung a few leaks lately, from the iCloud celeb photo hack to a drone-eye view of the spaceship construction site Of course, insofar as Apple is known for its secrecy as much as its industry leadership, the company has long been a target for another reason: speculation about new products.
Hot on the heels of Feld & Volk's hands-on teaser, above, Russian tech reviewer Rozetked brings us a fully assembled iPhone 6 a week prior to its official unveiling next week. Reportedly sourced from various factories that are supplying parts for the sixth generation iPhone, the product walkthrough imparts a strong sense of the larger, thinner smartphone's features, most notably its rounded edges and protruding camera. Other notable details include unibody construction with the signature plastic bands for the antenna, while the 4.7” screen is reportedly not made of solid sapphire (which we'd previously seen and was introduced for the home button of the iPhone 5S).
Check out the video:
Posted by Ray
| 29 Aug 2014
Left: Courtesy of Gary Cruce; Right: Drawing for patent D249,987
So it looks like the honor of Design Crossover Hit of the Week goes to Noonee's Chairless Chair, and while the mainstream media took to hailing it as a futuristic exoskeletal paramedical breakthrough, it so happens that the basic idea dates back to the late 70's. Upon seeing my post about it earlier this week, eagle-eyed reader Gary Cruce sent a note with a photo from an old exhibition catalog, indicating that the product may well have been invented several decades ago. "I doubt Noonee was aware of this earlier concept, but they may want to know of it as they work to take the product to market," Cruce writes. "The exhibit was at the Kohler Arts Center (yes the toilet company) in 1978, based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. That show featured many studio furniture pieces including selections from Sam Maloof and Wendell Castle." Along with the image and anecdote, Cruce provided an all-important snapshot of the caption from the catalog; crediting the "Wearable Chair (1977)" to Darcy Robert Bonner Jr., it reads:
The "Wearable Chair" consists of two identical "chairs," one strapped to each of the wearer's legs. Bonner states that "It is important for the 'Wearable Chair' to be adjusted to each user. Just like a piece of clothing, if the chair doesn't fit, it will not feel good. When adjusted correctly, you can comfortably relax with all your weight on the chair.
"With the lower member of the chair strapped to the calf, a spring presses the upper member against the back of the thigh. As the user squats, the released compression bar pushes the leg of the chair to a locked position, thereby supporting the body. When the user rises, the lower member is unlocked and is retracted by a spring to its original position, where it will not interfere with the user's movements."
Curious to learn more, a de rigueur Google query revealed that Darcy Robert Bonner had actually filed a patent for his invention, which inspired this "more-than-you-cared-to-know" history of the wearable chair—a bit of rechairche du patents perdu, if you will—gleaned mostly via the USPTO (though tangential sleuthing reveals that one Darcy R. Bonner now heads up an eponymous architectural practice in Chicago).
Left: Uncredited composite image of Darcy Bonner's "Wearable Chair"; Right: Detail of drawing for patent D249,987
The original patent is simply entitled "Wearable Chair," which also happens to describe Noonee's product. Filed in 1977 and granted as D249,987 in October 1978, Bonner's initial design patent is described in Twitter-friendly terms as "the ornamental design for a wearable chair, as shown and described." Although this first iteration briefly resurfaced in the post-Google era in 2008, when the images above made blog rounds, it turns out that Bonner subsequently filed a second patent, US4138156 A, granted in Feburary 1979, which is far more detailed in tenor and scope. Where the former is classified as a "footed," "collapsible or folding" article of furniture, the latter is subject to an entirely different taxonomy of patent-worthiness. US4138156 A is a "device for supporting the weight of a person in a seated position including chairs, seats, and ancillary devices not elsewhere classifiable," specifically a "portable bottom with occupant attacher" (Subclass 4) with "occupant-arising assist" (Digest 10). (In the interest of due diligence, there are 148 patents in the former subclass and 353 in the latter; Noonee's Chairless Chair does not appear to be among them. Fun fact: "Digests" [denoted by DIG followed by a number] are considered secondary subclasses, which are used for indexing purposes only, i.e. as meta tags.)
Posted by Ray
| 28 Aug 2014
"I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real."
–LCD Soundsystem, 'Losing My Edge'
Well this is weird and fun: The data wizards at IBM have partnered with the U.S. Open and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem / DFA Records fame to create real-time musical interpretations of tennis matches throughout the tournament. The premise of the U.S. Open Sessions is simple: IBM processes millions of data points via cloud-based algorithms to generate synth tones that represent the gameplay, complemented by Platonic shapes in the browser window. Developer Patrick Gunderson of digital production companyTool does the heavy lifting while Murphy transposes the progress of the match from groundstrokes to keystrokes; from playing the baseline to, um, playing the bassline.