Posted by Ray
| 17 Dec 2013
With the holidays upon us once again, once again we collectively face retail propositions—thinly veiled as holiday spirit, if at all—at every turn as consumerism surges towards its perennial peak in one week. So too are flesh-and-bone shoppers invariably subject to a brick-and-mortar experience that predates the web-enabled phenomenon of 'showrooming' (which has now met its match with neologisms such as 'webrooming,' 'e-rooming,' and 'RoBo'; look 'em up if you're curious): the ineluctable IRL soundtrack to the season, piping through the internal airwaves of stores as though preordained—paeans to Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, et al part and parcel to unflattering fluorescent lights and cranked-up HVAC. Hackneyed holiday classics and the ever-lengthening tail of covers, remixes, etc. alike serve as foregone background music that falls like light flurries on one's ears; sure, it melts instantly, but it also has a weird way of seeping into your cerebellum. Tis the season indeed.
Here's one that you won't be hearing at your local Best Buy or [insert big box electronics store here]: James Houston's take on "Carol of the Bells." The director / animator / graphic designer tuned his obsolete-device orchestra—which include an iMac, a Commodore 64 and a SEGA Mega Drive, among others—to the telltale motif of the Ukrainian folk chant. Check out "Season's Greetings from The Glasgow School of Art" (Houston's Alma Mater):
Posted by Ray
| 13 Dec 2013
One more for today, via new Gizmodo-spinoff Sploid: We took note of filmmaker Kirby Ferguson's "Everything is a Remix" project when it launched in 2011; given his thesis—that art and innovation increasingly consists of merely recombining existing ideas in novel ways—it will only become more true as time marches on. Ferguson has just revisited the project with a one-off case study on the iPhone, and while it's definitely worth watching, it does feel a bit like armchair analysis—dissecting these specimens (see also: the viral "Was iOS7 created in Microsoft Word?" vid) or, say, identifying all of the samples in a Girl Talk album is, as the clich&ecute; goes, to miss the forest for the trees, and overlook the seamlessness of the the system as a whole (which, as we all know, was Jobs' genius in the first place).
That said, it's nice to see all of the reference points in one place, and unlike the latter example, in which the DJ's All Day actually boosted sales of its source material, hardware is a zero-sum game. As an immaterial good, we hear or listen to dozens, if not hundreds, of songs every day; most of us only own a single phone.
Posted by Ray
| 13 Dec 2013
All photos by Hanne van der Woude
Last few weeks ago, a Cinelli "Laser Nostra" prototype sold for nearly 2.5 times its high estimate of $20,000 at a charity auction, raising $47,500 for (RED)—a fraction of the $13.1m total, but certainly a handsome sum for a bicycle that reportedly won the 2011 Red Hook Crit in Milan. (The one-off red Mac Pro went for nearly a million bucks, grossly eclipsing its $40,000–60,000 estimate.) Of course, the hammer price with buyer's premium comes in at one-tenth the figure of the most expensive bicycle sold at auction, a Trek Madone adorned with custom Damien Hirst 'butterfly' graphics—real wings applied to the frame and wheels—raced by Lance Armstrong during the 2009 Tour de France (see the full ranking here). The lepidopterous lightweight sold, pre-doping scandal, at a 2009 charity auction for the controversial cyclist's Livestrong organization, bringing in (as Lance Tweeted) "Half a million bucks!!!"—far and away the most of any of the art bikes he raced on that year.
Now Sotheby's, the esteemed auction house behind both of these notable sales (Bono is the man halfway-but-not-really behind the curtain), has commissioned a kind of artist's edition of bicycles from Herman van Hulsteijn, whose elegant seat tube-less frame design we first admired a couple of years ago, shortly after he launched his eponymous bicycle brand (styled as Vanhulsteijn). The Dutch designer has outdone himself with his latest project, a collaboration with his neighbors in Arnhem, who specialize in the craft of lacquer, also known as urushi.
Urushi is the sap of the urushi or lacquer tree (rhus vernicifera). It is a member of the sumac family (anacardiaceae) and native to China, Korea, Japan and the eastern Himalayas. The sap of this tree contains a resin (urushiol) which, when exposed to moisture and air, polymerizes and becomes a very hard, durable, plastic-like substance. Urushi is in fact a natural plastic. The process of applying the lacquer is long and labour intensive: independent of the size of the surface it takes on average 6 months to carry out the finishing. In some cases 60 layers are applied and polished by hand. Depending on the kind of lacquer the time it takes a single layer to dry can take from two hours up to three months. Due to its fascinating characteristics which are both sustainable and aesthetically beautiful, urushi is still used for a wide variety of purposes.
Video by Vandervan
Posted by Ray
| 11 Dec 2013
Illustration by Mike Joos; photo by Emiliano Granado
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.
In other words, hint, hint.
I considered several different approaches to my gift guide list this year, but ultimately ended up following my gut and go with a handful of selections that represent facets of my abiding passion (outside of writing about design, of course). It's probably obvious that at least one member of Core77's editorial team is a cycling enthusiast / dedicated bike-commuter / sometime evangelist—after all, bicycles hit a sweet spot between form and phenomenon, between function and fun.
And while I deliberately chose gift ideas for discerning folks whose idea of a canvas is a pair of triangles on wheels, I'm broadly interested in objects that are functional, durable and lend themselves to mobility. It so happens that I recently moved to a new apartment—my first time living without roommates—so planning this year's gift guide coincided with a period of 'needing new things' (I actually ended up selling a bike so I could afford some new furniture). It initially felt unnaturally materialistic to me, but I came to realize that it's worth acquiring worldly possessions if 1.) you use them regularly, if not daily, and 2.) you won't have to buy that thing ever again.
–Ray Hu, Managing Editor
A preponderance of cylindrical objects...
Outlier Grid Linen Towel - About as practical as it gets, really. Not only does the grid weave provide structure and surface area but the subtle geometric pattern adds a bit of subtle Modernist flair as well. $28–120 from Outlier
AeroPress - A veritable secret to success, as far as I'm concerned. I imagine Da Vinci secretly invented an early version of this—since lost to time—and thanks to the AeroPress, everyone now has easy access to the life-affirming elixir we call coffee. $26 on Amazon
Rapha × Raeburn Wind Jacket - An easy one, perhaps, but hey, "high-viz" is meant to stand out. All black is normally the order of the day for me, but when you're plastered in spandex anyway, you might as well go all out. $450 from Rapha
Zojirushi Tuff Mug - Another one that I own and use regularly—usually not for my own Aeropressed ambrosia but on those occasions when I get it at my local coffeeshop. Lightweight and works like a charm. $32 on Amazon
Sony QX10 / QX100 - It might seem a little absurd at first glance and I imagine it's not quite as seamless as it could be, but I much prefer this version of the future to awkward tablet photography, amirite? $250 / $500 from Sony
See the full 2013 Gift Guide for more ideas →
Posted by Ray
| 6 Dec 2013
The first result of a Google Image Search for "Technique"
"Is technique an example of overcoming 'bad' design, or is technique itself a form of design?"
So begins Sanjy009's inquiry into "Technique vs. Design," proceeding to illustrate the topic with a couple of examples, which have driven much of the discussion thus far. He starts with an anecdote about driver's ed in Scandinavia: "Sweden teaches drivers to open their car doors with the opposite arm, so their bodies are facing backwards and the driver is better able to check their blindspot before opening the door" (it turns out it might be Amsterdam; no confirmation as of press time), followed by a discussion of the ergonomics on musical instruments.
The latter serves as the primary talking point; to Michael DiTullo's point that "we are due for something new, but even most of the purely digital tools mimic analog inputs," I would note that:
1.) I think the Ondes Martenot is a good example of how an avant-garde instrument still requires an intuitive UI: It's essentially a theremin (i.e. a sine-wave generator) that has a graphic interface, as seen in this video overview (it starts a little slow, but gets pretty cool at 3:55; by the end, the interviewer notes that "It's definitely the most 'alive'-sounding electronic instrument... It has a very human quality to it.") Radiohead fans might recognize the coveted synthesizer, which multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood has played on every one of their albums since Kid A; it also features heavily in his solo side projects.
2.) The Tenori-On also comes to mind—the short write-up on MoMA's Inside/Out blog (they've acquired it in their permanent collection) offers a nice summary of how the 16×16 grid actually works.
Clockwise from top left: Ondes Martenot via Wikimedia Commons; Jonny Greenwood via Wikimedia Commons; Tenori-Onvia Wikimedia commons; Theremin player