Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 15 Jan 2015
Over the last few months, the hot topic of conversation among myself and my female startup friends (and a number of male friends too) has switched from the usual suspects of Shinola, YikYak, Casper etc to an unlikely pick: the New York-based underwear company Dear Kate.
Dear Kate's marketing campaign for their Ada Collection—an underwear line taking its namesake from famed programmer Ada Lovelace—sent a controversial ripple through the press last August in response to its use of high ranking women in tech as underwear models. The small but outspoken company responded publicly to the criticism of 'setting back women in tech' with the hashtag '#notcontroversial,' backed by overwhelming social media support via photos from their devotees outfitted in the company's wares (and not much else).
The incredible devotion of Dear Kate users combined with the ability to strike just the right marketing cord has pushed them into the spotlight, often overshadowing the not-to-be underestimated design and technology credentials of their product. Admittedly, I had mixed feelings about the brand following the launch of the Ada collection, however the quality of their products and attention to the needs of their target audience wins me over every time. As their recent Kickstarter campaign for their new line of yoga pants proves, Dear Kate is doing something very right. The yoga pants use the same Underlux technology as their underwear and solve a number of sensitive issues for their users, unabashedly tackling everything from panty lines to incontinence. I caught up with CEO and Founder Julie Sygiel to shed some light on designing the yoga pants, Underlux technology and outspoken marketing.
Core77: What's the history of Dear Kate?
Julie Sygiel: The business plan for Dear Kate was hatched in my college entrepreneurship class. At first it was a fun, unique idea (especially given that our class was 80% male), and then the longer we worked on it, the more committed I became to actually creating the underwear. Studying chemical engineering in school gave me the confidence to dive in and start learning about technical fabrics. Once I got started, it snowballed into collaborating with textile development teams at fabric manufacturers to create Underlux. Instead of having to totally outsource product development, my science background allowed me to be the one guiding everything from the fabric to the designs to the construction and fit of the product, which is something that I continue to be very involved in today as we develop new products.
How has your background influenced the trajectory of the company?
Aside from my technical background, I've always had an interest in fashion and feminism. I was also a Girl Scout for 12 years and sold over 10,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies so the notion that I could create and then market a product that is fashionable, plus make women's lives easier, was a dream come true. It checked all of my boxes in a way that I didn't know was possible and just felt "right." Once I started working on the business idea, it was addictive and became all I thought about.
As an avid documenter, collector and all around object enthusiast, my accumulation of 'stuff' from design school and beyond would rival designers much older than myself. In notebooks alone I have managed to fill many a bookshelf. Even a recent downsize upon relocating to Germany has done little to stymie the flow of sketchbooks, notepads, drawings etc.
Perhaps because of this, I immediately felt a kindred spirit in Jay Cousins, industrial designer and inventor of the 'Betabook' a current campaign on Kickstarter. Betabook was developed out of Cousins' experiments in living simply and with minimal objects—an interest he discussed as ranging from purging lesser-used objects to an anecdote about attempting to live in only 3 square meters of his Berlin apartment.
The Betabook is a direct result of Cousin's effort to take stock of his notebooks and sketchbooks nearly two years ago, only to find that the majority of their contents no longer retained enough value to warrant keeping. He began to experiment with alternatives, eventually removing the pages and recovering the bindings with a reusable whiteboard surface and documenting the important pages through digital photos. Cousins was later joined by co-founders of the creative studio KS12, Patrizia Kommerell and Gabriel Shalom to design and produce the final iteration of the Betabook as a consumer product.
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 22 Dec 2014
Chances are if you're a designer, artist, musician or use a computer daily, you have encountered that fateful moment when your mouse keeps you from making that perfect color selection or nudging a layer into exact position with Photoshop. While most computer aided drawing and modeling programs account for clumsy hardware (thanks magnetic lasso), isn't it about time we demanded better hardware? The fact is—from fancy Wacom tablets to every incarnation of touch screen and foldable keyboards—UI tools still fall into the uninspired categories of keyboard, tablet and mouse.
Recently however, the Y Combinator alumni and Berlin-based startup Senic has tackled this exact issue of high precision interface with their wireless device aptly named 'Flow.' The freely programmable controller is not only compatible with most computer based applications but also has potential integrations for connected home objects and even Internet enabled microprocessors.
The sleek aluminum, stainless steal and polycarbonate casing pays not-to-subtle homage to Dieter Rams-ian simplicity. At just under 2.75 inches, Flow boasts 360 degree angular positioning, capacitive touch and infrared-based hand gesture recognition. Additionally, with 3,600 values in just one rotation of Flow, exact manipulation of brush sizes, color selection and anything else is right at your fingertips.
The four co-founders represent a broad skill set and media prowess enviable to most start-ups launching a crowdfunding campaign. We caught up with CEO Tobias Eichenwald to discuss the campaign, the frustration that gave birth to Flow and the future of UI.
C77: How did Senic start? What first put you on the path to designing a tool like Flow?
Tobias Eichenwald: We're three friends and co-founders from Germany and we use digital tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Rhino or Eagle on a daily basis. We need to be fast and we need to be good at what we do. Browsing through menus and pulling a fake slider with a mouse didn't feel that way. Existing interfaces don't give us the pixel-precision we need; they are time consuming and interrupt our workflow.
We found similar problems in other fields like controlling our connected devices for example. We grew up with the assumption that you turn on a light by hitting a big white button on the wall without thinking about it. Now that smart devices are replacing traditional devices and the market for connected homes is exploding, we are expected to browse through apps and spend time waiting in a hallway, just to turn on a light.
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 27 Oct 2014
Berlin has rapidly made a name for itself as one of the foremost cities for tech startups to ahem, start up. In addition, to the budding companies that call the German capital home, we also have heavy hitters such as Soundcloud, Eyeem, plus satellite offices of Twitter and Etsy for good measure. With such an array of software and online products I've been asking around—dewy-eyed as a newly minted Berliner—where are all of the hardware tech companies?
One answer is that they do in fact exist, the tech hardware scene is growing tremendously particularly as wave after wave of creative and technologically inclined young people flock to the city. I first came across LUUV, a promising group of Germans building a camera stabilizer for your trek through the Bavarian Alps or skateboarding in Alexanderplatz during the international betapitch global event in Berlin.
The design philosophy of LUUV reads almost as a Design 101 case study on the importance of fast prototyping and direct user research. Fresh from a long series of pitch competitions and as new alumnus of the tech accelerator HARDWARE.co, co-founder Tim Kirchner shared his thoughts on 3D printing and skateboarding culture in Germany. In the interview below, Kirchner elaborates on LUUV's success and the hardships of bringing a product to market, setting your sights on international distribution, and building a community from the ground up.
Core77: How did you guys started with LUUV?
Tim Kirchner: The idea of LUUV goes back to one of our co-founder Felix, who was filming with cameras like the GoPro. From the beginning, he was having this problem from the beginning that when filming with it either in the hand or attached to your head, you always end up with shaky, crappy footage you don't want to show your friends. In December 2012, Felix was on a snowboarding trip to Austria, and built a little DIY stabilizer, basically a stick with a weight on it to film for fun around the cabin and in the evening. He was traveling with a friend of his who works a big media studio in Germany, when the friend was looking at the footage, he started saying, "Wow, it's really impressive and stable." That's really where the idea of LUUV was born.
School is back in session, so you know what that means: The a Better World by Design Conference will be returning to Providence, Rhode Island, in just a few short weeks, for the weekend of September 19–21. Born as the collective brainchild of RISD ID and Brown Engineering Students in 2008, the conference has grown into one of Providence's most looked-forward-to annual events. Each fall, it draws an international audience of hundreds to discuss the impact of interdisciplinary design. But perhaps more impressive than the fact that it's now in its seventh year, the conference continues to be completely student-run, and has the tendency to completely take over the two campuses for three days that include not only talks and workshops but also design challenges, a design expo and of course excellent afterparties for attendees and speakers.
This year, the theme for ABW×D is Wayfinding':
Wayfinding is about orientation. It's about developing and reading signs, navigating new terrain, and processing the unfamiliar. It encompasses understandings of both where you are and where you are going—individually, and in relation to your community. The 2014 conference will challenge attendees to create a more comprehensive understanding of our relationships to spaces, problems, and experiences.
For a student event planned by first-timers with full course loads, the conference has had incredible success entering its seventh year. The audience comprises students, Providence natives and professionals, whose ranks include multiple-year attendees who prefer ABW×D over more established design conferences. The collegial atmosphere, in which presenters, attendees and students intermingle freely, is made possible largely due to the enthusiasm of the young group of organizers. With the implementation of last year's presenter "office hours" in combination with a number of social events, the team has further demonstrated its ability to achieve personal rapport in where many conferences fail. Likewise, boasting previous presenters such as former AIGA President Doug Powel, who also previously served as Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts, or Lorna Ross, Design Director at Mayo Clinic Centre for Innovation, certainly doesn't hurt. It seems that the RISD/Brown penchant for innovation is alive and well. Not only does the ABW×D team find a way to pass institutional knowledge down through the ranks to new team members (who are often only freshman or sophomores), but they actually manage to improve the conference each year.
Here are a few of our picks for this year's must-see presenters during the upcoming weekend of design, social good, engineering and a healthy dose of sticky notes: