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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |  20 Feb 2014  |  Comments (3)

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When I work with clients to organize their kitchens, knife storage is one of the issues we tackle. Everyone has different needs and constraints—but fortunately, designers have given us numerous options to help meet those needs.

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The Toro Legno (Kitchen Bull) shown above is a fanciful item: a knife block with 10 slots, a book shelf and a cheese board. For those with the necessary countertop space, it could be a great way to keep multiple items close at hand—and that cheese board could perhaps serve as a cutting board, something most people are more likely to need quick access to. The Toro Legno is made from renewable plantation pine, which may appeal to end-users with ecological concerns.

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But let's back up a minute, and start with the basics. The slanted, slotted knife block, so commonly used, has numerous advantages: It can store a lot of knives, it makes them easy to grab, and it will usually fit under the upper cabinets. Such blocks also tend to be heavy enough, with a low enough center of gravity, that they are unlikely to fall over. One disadvantage is the slots may not match the knives the end-user has, unless the knives were bought from the same manufacturer. Looking at knife blocks from some top name brands, you'll see some variations. The 25-slot knife block from Wüsthof has rubberized feet to help keep it in position. The one from Henckels, on the right, uses horizontal rather than vertical slots for the steak knives, in order to allow the handles on all the company's cutlery to fit.

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You can take the same basic design and give it a very different look, as Wüsthof does with this knife block.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  20 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)

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No matter how modern, chic or technologically-forward you may be, everyone loves maps. Innate sense of navigation, likelihood of travel, and taste in worldly-looking decor have little to do with it—we just like to see space laid out, made more understandable, even as we stand still. Maybe it's a cultural value, the image of a globe carrying classy clout or educational nostalgia. Or maybe it's biological, an animal instinct to get the highest ground and the best available intel. (For more ascientific theorizing on the mind ask me how I feel about infographics. Or knolling.)

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Whatever the rationalization, the behind-the-scenes look at the bespoke globes of Bellerby & Co. triggered my own love of old maps. According to founder Peter Bellerby, desk globes are still in incredibly high demand, but until his arrival on the scene, only one other company was making them (or at least by hand) as well. Bellerby started out in 2008 by trying to make a globe for his father's birthday (hey, how hard could it be?) and wound up spending over a year (and every subsequent year) working out the kinks in the incredibly labor-intensive process. His accidental move into the odd niche was apparently well worth the effort—their fans now include Martin Scorsese and the Royal Geographic Society.

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Posted by Jeri Dansky  |   6 Feb 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Are you designing an office for someone who needs a good way to hang drawings or documents on the walls—for reference while working on a project, or just to keep frequently used papers readily accessible? Does you own office need that kind of product? Or are you designing products for those with this kind of need? Here are some of the many ways to use the walls effectively while accommodating various personal styles.

Bulletin/cork boards, and the pushpins to go with them

Bulletin boards have one downside—you wind up with tiny holes in the papers. But if that's not a concern, they can work quite well. Note that anyone with pets or small children will need to be careful about how the pushpins are stored.

Bulletin boards can be made interesting in a number of ways. For example, you might cover them with fabric, as Pulp does.


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Or you could use an unusual shape, as with this flower from Three by Three and this map from Luckies of London. But if you want to make the most use of limited space, you'll want to keep the shape somewhat close to a square or rectangle.

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Another option would be to put the cork board in a colorful frame, as Maine Cottage does.

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Posted by Michael DiTullo  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Michael DiTullo is the Chief Design Officer at Sound United, Polk's parent company.

There is an old story about Picasso that goes something like this: A young woman recognizes old Pablo on the street and exclaims "OMG! You're Picasso! Would you draw me?" He replies "but of course!" and quickly scribbles something on a piece of scrap paper. Offering the sketch to her he simply states "That will be $25,000 madam." Shocked, she responds "What?! It only took you 30 seconds!" To which Picasso explains, "On the contrary, it took my entire life to make that drawing."

That simple notion—to encompass everything we have learned in over 40 years of making great audio in a single product—is the concept behind the Hampden. Polk got its start in Baltimore by a small group engineering majors from Johns Hopkins who loved music so much they started making speakers by hand. Beautiful, wooden cabinet speakers. The brand spent decades perfecting the art of making great home audio for those who shared their love for music.

This project began like most projects in our studio: as a simple user insight. While people love music just as much as they did in 1972, they now enjoy it very differently. We wanted to create something that brought our sound to the desktop with USB and Bluetooth connectivity and built off of our recently launched Polk Heritage Collection of speakers and headphones. We stated with an open competition amongst our designers. Our studio is set up similar to an auto studio where multiple designers participate in the research, ideation and design phases of a program. As the concepts are winnowed down through the design phase, the creator of the winning design becomes the lead designer of the project. I prefer running things like this because it becomes a very democratic way to assign projects. Designers being naturally a touch competitive typically ensures a relatively even distribution of projects.

Polk-Hampden-Concepts.jpgSome of the initial concept directions

Polk-Hampden-Sketch.jpgCameron Nielsen's selected thumbnail sketch

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Posted by erika rae  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Hyper-metallic cases and gaudy lighters are taking over smoking accessories. What were once carefully created pieces of functional art are now truck stop novelties and pass-me-downs. Not that we're looking to promote the act, but I recently stumbled upon a cigarette case with a noteworthy design. Even more, you can download the pattern and make it yourself.

SmokeBox-Materials.jpgA classic knoll shot because you know how much we like those.

Lance Green, a designer based in New York City, was looking to create a case using a single coin cell battery, one LED and miniature and simple, handmade mechanisms. SmokeBox features a interior mechanism that connects with an exterior screw for easy access to one cigarette at a time. When you're down to your last cigarette, a red LED light will fire up.

Green shares a look at the wooden case in action:

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Posted by erika rae  |  10 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you're one of those people who love a good ironic product (like this office-supply inspired bag we had our eyes on last April), there's a good chance you'd be able to find a place for a shark fin lamp in your home or office.

SharkLamp-Beach.jpgThe Shark Lamp in its natural environment

We covered the design back when it was still a prototype looking for a manufacturer. Now you can snag your own lamp online from furniture and lighting manufacturer Moree.

SharkLamp-Sanding.jpgSanding the perfect fin

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |   8 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Everyone loves to back a winner. Eone Time brought the Bradley Timepiece to Kickstarter and the people of Kickstarter backed it to the moon and, uh, back. This slick watch was developed by Hyungsoo Kim, inspired by the surprisingly limited watch options for people with impaired vision and aided by simple design sense.

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The Bradley Timepiece is made from machined titanium and powered by a Swiss crystal mechanism, but the brilliant point is the face. Two slightly exposed ball bearings representing the minute and hour hands are pulled around tracks by strong internal magnets which keep them in time and secure. Numerical positions are marked in relief, 12 is a bold triangle and quarter hours are textured to distinguish them from minor increments. As a result, you can tell time with a brief brush of the fingers.

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Lego prototype

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Posted by erika rae  |   7 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We're no stranger to innovative clothes hanger designs. This time, we've been turned on to a design that consists a lot more than what meets the eye. UK-based homeware brand Gazel has introduced a sleek hanger that won't damage your clothes with some avant garde functionality.

The Gazel clotheshanger will look good in your closet and it actually looks like one of those products that holds true on the term "user-friendly." Read on to find out how this design might have the power to make you want to hang up your clothes.

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Posted by erika rae  |  20 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Homebrewing is a breeding ground for tiny recipe tweaks and entirely new tastes. But there are only so many variations you can put your favorite brews through before the process gets a little stale. Right in time for the holidays, we discovered Wood Thumb—an online retailer for all things wooden and awesome. Among their curated offerings of wooden products (like this tie), we stumbled upon a game to toss into your beer brewing regime. Most of us can agree that beer is great, but what's even greater is when someone finds a mathematical and design-savvy way to mess with homebrewing like Wood Thumb has.

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Roll & Brew is a dice game for homebrewers. The game comes with a brigade of dice that dictate the ingredients for your next go-round, and the recipes have been professionally created and approved so you don't worry about ending up with strange brew. Wood Thumb's in-house brewer and founder, David Steinrueck—who studied under some of the world's most renowned brewmasters in Munich, Germany—took on creating the algorithm that insures you'll get a standout brew each time.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  16 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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This one's for the Japanophiles and notebook nerds: Hobonichi Techo planners are finally coming to an English speaker near you. (Pronounce it "tetch-oh" or look a fool.) These addictive planners are one part sketchbook, two parts calendar, three parts diary, and 100% obsessed over in Japan. They've got the good bits you can't leave out of a decent planner: multiple attractive calendar views for your yearly/monthly/daily/hourly calibration, gridded paper with plenty of room for notes or drawings, and a binding tough enough to take a year of questionable treatment. They also offer niceties like moon phases, space to write weekly goals, printed month tabs for easy navigation, customizable daily timeline, and vital information like international sizing and global tea types.

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To get pumped, I recommend this interview with the Hobonichi Techo designer Shigesato Itoi, in Ping Magazine. They cover the un/importance of note taking, writing all over Nietzsche novels, picking up girls by sketching floor plans, intentionally unhelpful design, and channeling Obama's spirit at funerals. Clearly your life plans are in good hands.

In addition to the rote duties of day-planning and life-organizing, people use them for all manner of art and expression. This absurdly adorable video covers some of the creative capacities you didn't know you needed in a calendar:

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |   6 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Here's a holiday project for those of us DIY-inclined and prone to self-supergluing/mixing up the salt with the sugar. These iconic ornaments, Legoized by Chris McVeigh, are available in build-it-yourself kits. If your house is already replete with plastic stackables, his site offers tons of free downloadable "recipes," too.

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Posted by erika rae  |  21 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Josh Woolliscroft, artist and corporate prankster, created a whimsical series of custom writing utensils from boring HB BIC pencils. After shaving down, cutting into and sharpening his purchases, he re-packaged them and contacted BIC France to share the specimens of "non-conformity."

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In response, the company asked that he send the pencils in for investigation and paid for his postage. They've also thanked him profusely for bringing this to their attention. Check out screenshots of Woolliscroft's correspondence with BIC below.

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  17 Sep 2013  |  Comments (0)

mebotics2.pngThe Microfactory is designed for small spaces and can even work on a desk. All images courtesy Mebotic.

Enter a making/hacking space in most parts of the world, and you're likely to find a wide variety of tools and machines to help you realize your creative vision. Given the cost and size of equipment, it often makes sense to visit a maker's space to run your prototype idea through their 3D printer, hammer something together or basically tinker and make.

The Microfactory is a new project out by Mebotics LLC in Somerville, MA. Concocted at the Artisan's Asylum maker space, the Microfactory is what it sounds like: a smaller, more portable 3D printer and milling machine in one self-contained unit. It's networked, quiet and—with a simple model starting at $3,195 through their Kickstarter campaign—vastly more affordable than more standard models. The machine even contains a computer within, complete with USB and Ethernet ports, and it cleans up after itself with a built-in vacuum.

"We believe the Microfactory would be equally useful for maker communities and individuals," noted co-founder Jeremy Fryer-Biggs in an interview with Core77. "But one thing about the Microfactory that's particularly great for individual makers is its networkability, which allows people working in garages or collaborating remotely to share equipment and ideas—bringing some of the benefits of a maker community home."

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Posted by Glen Jackson Taylor  |  20 Aug 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Our friends over at PSFK took their self-published "Future of..." trend report series to whole new level this month with a physical exhibition showcasing over 60 products, ideas and services from their latest research into "The Future Of Home Living." Located in the 5,000 sq. ft. future retail space of Stonehenge's latest building development, 101 at 101 West 15th Street, the exhibition not only addresses the changing needs of the modern-day New Yorker but also the global shift towards urban living and managing smaller spaces.

To examine our trends through a macro lens, we've organized them into three larger themes: Adaptive, On-Demand and Equilibrium, which point to the importance of a clean, efficient and responsive space that can flexibly conform to the ever-changing needs of its residents. This overarching framework is meant to inspire anyone to reshape their life at home, regardless of whether they live in a studio apartment inside a high rise, a split-level home in the suburbs or a remote cabin in the woods.

Anyone familiar with the Life Edited project will be aware of many of the concepts put forward, but one thing that resonated with us was the subscription-based services for: coffee, cocktails, exact ingredients for healthy homecooked meals, and a library for periodically rotating your wall art. The on-demand services are not only practical but offer a form of entertainment for the dweller, improving the quality of their life at home.

PSFK-popup-04.JPGKitchen and living room section.

PSFK-popup-03.JPGAT-UM Table for Lenovo's Horizon Tablet PC by UM Project.

PSFK-popup-05.JPGHome Aquaponics Kit by designers Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez.

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Posted by Core77 Design Awards  |  12 Mar 2013  |  Comments (0)

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It's almost here. The deadline to submit your awe-inspiring, judge-wowing, boast-worthy work to the 2013 Core77 Design Awards is this Friday, March 15th, at 8PM Eastern Time.

For those of you who haven't even started preparing your entry or entries, the next few days are important! Imagine that your favorite, most admired jury member is waiting patiently to review your work and tell you how impressed they are by what you've done. Don't let him or her down.

Get your act together and don't miss this deadline. Everything you need to know about entering and winning is here, so stop reading this and go become part of design history!

» Enter your best work today!

Posted by core jr  |   4 Mar 2013  |  Comments (5)

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The SodaStream booth was definitely on our radar this year, since they unveiled the Yves Béhar-designed Source soda machine just a month after the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show. As with last year, the New Jersey-based company went all-in with a massive booth in the Wired+Well section of the Housewares Show, though they opted to forgo the walkthrough mini-movie booth for a relatively simple cage filled with plastic soda bottles.

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Even so, this year's booth was no less spectacular than last year: between the sculptural installation Keurig-like flavor caps and an alcove for the new Samsung refrigerator that features an integrated carbonator, SodaStream made a strong showing at McCormick Place. Check it out:

When we were filming her introductory remarks, Design Programs Vicki Matranga made an offhand comment that SodaStream was among the major success stories for the kitchen category, marking a shift in beverage consumption habits. We noted that at least a couple competitors were nipping at their proverbial heels last year, but we were impressed with the new offerings as SodaStream continues to innovate and collaborate in order to reach new customers in the expanding market for home carbonation.

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Posted by Ray  |  11 Jan 2013  |  Comments (13)

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Say what you want about IDEO, but no one can deny that some brilliant folks roam their open-plan workspaces, including Dave Vondle and Jerry O'Leary. The longtime colleagues at the firm's Chicago office have just launched a side project under the name Central Standard Timing on the occasion of CES 2013, handily surpassing their $200,000 crowdfunding goal for "The World's Thinnest Watch" in a day and a half.

Indeed, the CST-01 comes in at a svelte 0.8mm, and, at 12 grams, "weighs less than five pennies"—the first 500, which sold out in a matter of hours, were available for $99, or about 54.5 lbs worth of pennies. The internal electronics are laminated into the flexible stainless steel band, which accommodates a scant 0.5mm of componentry in its 'face,' "[showcasing] the most innovative qualities of E Ink's SURF segmented displays; ultra-thinness, readability, ruggedness, flexibility, and low power."

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Vondle and O'Leary have also wisely chosen to forgo hardware buttons: Users set the time through the charging stand, which is a beautiful object in itself. Of course, considering that it will only take ten minutes to charge the CST-01 for a month of use, the buoy-shapped base might end up in a drawer for most of the wristwatch's 15 year lifetime (our two cents: maybe it could double as a coffee tamper?).

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Posted by core jr  |   4 Dec 2012  |  Comments (3)

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As you start making your adventure wishlist for 2013, audio brand BOOM are fueling the fire with a sneak peek of their newest product, the Urchin. BOOM is an audio line from the folks behind Polk Audio targeted at an active consumer who expects their products to keep up with their lifestyle. With the release of the Urchin, they've created a bluetooth speaker that falls in a category BOOM has identified as "R4A certified" or ready for anything. Their internal classification means it is IPX level 4 water resistant (5 minutes of direct spray with a hose), shock tested (50 drops at 10 feet) and dust sealed.

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With a colorful removable silicone skin in 10 different hues, this little speaker is made to match any situation. The Urchin also ships with suction cub, custom designed carabiner and adhesive mounts in the box, so it really is R4A—beach sand, shower wall, back pack, or adhered to a dorm room window. The cuddly shape is defined by anti-sonic diffraction geometry producing clearer sound at louder levels than some boxier options on the market.

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boom_urchin_detail_01.jpegAbove, the Urchin ships with a custom milled aluminum carabiner, suction cup mount and adhesive stamp.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Nov 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Until Ideso's PowerPac goes into production, I'm on the lookout for a human-powered charging device, inefficiency be damned. Next time I'm caught unprepared in a blackout I'd like to be able to charge my phone and iPod Nano for the radio. Eton's BoostTurbine 2000, a hand-cranked generator/battery that charges via a USB connection, seems it'd fit the bill nicely.

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The device is apparently popular--as of press time, they were sold out--but puzzlingly there's not a single review of it on Amazon, the first place I typically check for things I'm thinking of buying. What I really want to know is how long it takes to produce a watt-hour, but the product copy makes no mention; they do say, however, that "in one minute the hand turbine power generator can produce enough power for a 30-second call or a few critical texts. When fully charged, BoostTurbine2000 fully charges most smartphones."

Before I take the gamble, do any of you have experience with human-powered electricity-generating products? If not, you'll have to wait until the next "Dispatches from the Dark" series to read the review.

Posted by core jr  |   1 Nov 2012  |  Comments (4)

DesignTideTokyo2012-DrillDesign-low.jpgText by Rachel Carvosso; photos by Junya Hirokawa

Through a solid three years of experimentation and tinkering, Yusuke Hayashi and Yoko Yasunishi of Drill Design have arrived at "Paper-Wood" which is now sold as a material used by a range of different designers and companies to make everyday objects (furniture, stationary, garden and kitchen utensils).

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According to Yoko, the initial combination they came up with used acrylic and wood but the latest series (four and five) use paper and basswood. Since the colors aren't painted on, the material always retains its bright colors, even when it wears down. When I asked what kind of paper they use, I was quietly told it's a 'company secret.'

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"...the first two years we experimented in workshops to find out what materials, colors and combinations worked best... we wanted to explore the concept of adding things to wood to make new kinds of 'layer cake' materials," explains Yoko. Look closely at a slice of Paper-Wood and you can clearly see the "layer cake" she's talking about—each layer alternates between, well, paper and wood.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Nov 2012  |  Comments (2)

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Karim Rashid sez: "Human beings touch an average of 600 objects a day." I'm guessing that number drops, and becomes much more focused, during emergency situations. Here are the two things I touched most during the recent blackout.

Surprise winner: The iPod Nano I never ordinarily use.

The Nano's built-in radio tuner was my only link to mass media, and as I live in a city well-covered by broadcast towers the reception was crystal clear. The device is tiny and unobtrusive, easy to clip on the lapel of a shirt. It only had a sliver of battery life left, yet lasted hours longer than I thought it would, because after you turn the screen off it uses such little juice.

The Nano will now be a go-to piece of kit for me, as soon as I get around its only drawback (proprietary charging method) by acquiring a battery-powered iDevice charger. I'd recommend it for anyone not requiring a powerful antenna.

Expected winner: Surefire flashlight.

Undoubtedly the object I touched the most during the blackout whether cooking, trying to take a pee, or confronting someone I thought was breaking into the darkened diner downstairs (turned out to be the diner owner, who offered me free bagels in gratitude). I can't say the model I have, the E2L Outdoorsman, is any better or worse than competing ones, as the only thing I have to compare it to is the relatively wan Mag-Lites I grew up with. The ergonomics of tactical LED flashlights are obviously superior, requiring just one hand, and the beam is almost absurdly bright for something so small. The metal clip is sturdy and makes it easy to keep the thing at hand at all times.

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However, there are two central design flaws that I see with LED flashlights like this. 1) A lack of visual feedback on power levels, and 2) no well-designed way to attach extra batteries.

1) When this flashlight does run out on you, it's completely without warning. One second it's working, one second it's not. Old-school flashlights start to get dim, telling you it's time to switch batteries.

I realize this would add to the cost, but I'd consider it a perfect object if there was an indicator of exactly how much battery life was left. I'd settle for a sequence of LED dots, but I'd pay more for a counter that dumbed it down—the way new cars tell you you've got 72 miles left in the tank—by telling me how many more minutes I could leave the thing on for.

2) The CR2 batteries required by LED flashlights are not easy for me to find locally, so I stock up on Amazon. But I don't like that they sit in the back of some drawer. I wish the Surefire had some type of clip-on thing so I could always keep the extra batteries together with it, in case it runs out while I'm in the middle of doing something important. I'm guessing someone makes a holster that holds both the flashlights and extra batteries, but I'd prefer not to have a separate thing, I'd like to see it built into the flashlight itself.

Up Next: Your Suggestions for Disaster Prep Objects

* * *

See all of our Hurricane Sandy coverage

NYC on Hurricane Lockdown:
» First Impressions
» Taping Windows is Probably a Waste of Time. Now We Need a Video Demonstrating Why
» Three Types of Flood Barriers, from Sad to Serious

Hipstomp's Dispatches from the Dark:
» Good Objects, Bad Preparation
» Public Behavior, during the Blackout, in Traffic & Communications
» What Came in Handy During Sandy?
» What Are Your Go-To Disaster Prep Items

Plus:
» AT&T Sending Mobile Hotspot "Satellite COLT" Trucks into NYC
» Two Versions of the Manhattan Blackout
» Hurricane Sandy vs. NYC Cyclists

Last but not least, check out our list of ways to help

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Oct 2012  |  Comments (6)

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The problem with most audio speakers is that they're not designed to irritate your neighbors to their full potential. Sure, you could point your speakers directly at a window or shared wall, or place it against a floor-mounted cast-iron radiator to send the sounds of Shakira directly into the apartment below yours, but doing either of those things can diminish your own listening experience.

Well, help is here in the form of wireless resonating speakers like the Mighty Dwarf, seen above, and the Mini Dwarf, seen in the video below. These diminutive devices sound like crap when played open-air, but attach it to virtually any surface--the floor, a window, or the sheetrock between apartments 2A and 2B--and you've got a party!

Check out the demo below by fast-forwarding to 3:10:

We know what you're thinking: Can I afford one of these? Folks, with buy-in starting at just 50 bucks, you can't afford not to get one of these. You may never find out exactly who is nicking your copies of the Times, or leaving the vestibule wide open despite your persistent and thoughtfully-worded Post-Its, but someone will be made to pay.

Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  31 Oct 2012  |  Comments (16)

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Add this new acronym to your phrase book: GIR, or Get It Right. For their very first product, the designers at GIR have cooked up what they're calling the Ultimate Spatula, a single piece of molded silicone that's easy to hold, easy to clean and can handle food temperatures up to 460 degrees. You'd think by now someone would have been able to nail spatula design, but most spatulas available to consumers have a number of flaws. For example, a spatula made from multiple parts, including a head, handle and grip, means there's at least three extra joints for food gunk to get stuck in. Metal handles get too hot; wooden handles have to be hand washed. The GIR spatula, however, is made from a single piece of silicone molded over a nylon reinforcement that runs through the entire body, ending just 5cm from the tip, lending the blade enough structure to mix heavy, wet ingredients while retaining the flexibility to run it flush against the inside of bowls, dishes and cookware.

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To see if the GIR spatula really was "the best spatula you've ever used," we road-tested it in a variety of dishes and temperatures. At first we were skeptical that the blade wasn't thin enough at the tip to scrape the bowl clean, but after using it in dense, wet cookie dough, hot, sticky oatmeal and a greased frying pan for flipping our eggs over easy, we found the tip was able to run between the food and the cooking equipment seamlessly. We bent the blade back with the palm of our hands, used it in an impromptu kitchen sword fight and ran it through the dishwasher, where we were sure the heat would mangle its pristine silicone body, but it emerged from our endurance test without a scratch. Consider us convinced.

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GIR's Kickstarter goal has already been met two-and-a-half times over, but you can still donate $20 and preorder your Ultimate Spatula in one of ten colors.

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Posted by Ray  |  22 Oct 2012  |  Comments (1)

Sothing-XiangfeiRan-BambooChandelier.jpgBamboo chandelier

If you've never heard of Wenzhou before, consider yourself educated: Sothing, easily my personal favorite among the talents at the Interior Lifestyle China show last week, hails from the Southern Chinese city of three million residents. The design consultancy provides fully-integrated product design solutions for clients such as Intel, Lenovo and Philips, among others, as well as a collection of independently-produced design objects. Several of these items were on display at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, and each and every one stood out as a noteworthy product.

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The "Branches" lamp would tip over if not for the presence of the rock—any sufficiently heavy object will suffice—a simple metaphor for finding stability in everyday life. Meanwhile, the gold-peaked "Mountain" plate beneath it represents a perpetual sunrise.

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As with the plate, the teapot refers to the mountains around the Wenzhou region; less obvious is the fact that the cups are shaped like the region's bodies of water.

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Sothing Design Director Xiangfei Ran eagerly shared his insights and, with just a little prodding, some ideation sketches from his notebook.

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The "Chair" ring is based on a pun: in Chinese, to 'depend' (yikao) is closely homophonous with 'leaning on a chair.' The wearable miniature is something like an elegant upgrade from a friendship bracelet.

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Sothing's clear acrylic incense holders are treated with a carefully-applied pigment that deepens as smoke slowly escapes the enclosure.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Oct 2012  |  Comments (3)

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Back when I was a bona fide CAD monkey, I had carpal tunnel like the rest of us. After successfully convincing my employer that they needed to ditch the mice and get Wacom tablets, the wrist pain went away.

For intensive work, the pen is such a superior form factor to the mouse that Swedish company Penclic melded the two to create a new type of input device. It looks a little strange—something like a pen sitting in an inkwell—but that hasn't stopped it from being nominated for "Best Work Environment Product" by the Swedish award of the same name. "The nomination...presents an excellent opportunity to increase awareness about our device's many advantages over the traditional mouse, both ergonomically and precision-wise," said Penclic CEO Stina Wahlqvist.

The Penclic mouse's ergonomic benefits are achieved by eliminating the need for the unnatural, twirling arm movements associated with traditional mice. The pen-shaped design extends the body's natural movements, allowing the user to work with the underarm kept linear, in a rested, flat position against the work surface.

But the advantages go beyond ergonomics. The device not only looks, feels and moves like a pen, but it also has a pen-like grip that provides a level of precision that makes it well-suited for demanding creative tasks such as photography, design and architecture. Advanced technology in combination with the ergonomic design delivers fast and precise cursor movements with minimal effort and hand motion.

The scroll wheel placement doesn't seem ideal—as you can see in the vid, when she uses the wheel, the base moves around a bit, which I can see causing havoc with fine-point navigation—but I'm still looking forward to trying one of these out.

Posted by Ray  |   1 Oct 2012  |  Comments (5)

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My other life as a recreational cyclist often influences the occasional product reviews that I write, whether the product is actually a bike accessory or not. Outdoor Technology's Turtle Shell is somewhere in between: the LA-based company offers an optional bike mount for the wireless speaker, which is designed expressly for outdoor and urban settings. Complementary usage scenarios notwithstanding, I found it more impressive as a portable speaker as opposed to a bike accessory, handsome and entirely practical in a variety of settings except when mounted to my handlebars.

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The thoughtfully designed packaging of the Turtle Shell promises premium product within: the acrylic box looks fit for an Apple store and is easily repurposed for all variety of knick-knack and tchotchke. As per the description on the Kickstarter page, it comes with a USB charging cable and a wall adapter, as well as a 3.5mm audio cable for non-Bluetooth audio sources, plus a carrying pouch that's perfect for the speaker but doesn't quite fit all of the accessories.

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It's not quite usable out-of-the-box: the quickstart guide advises a full charge prior to use. Charge time comes in at a completely reasonable 2.5–3 hours for up to eight hours of music playback; it's obviously too soon to tell how the battery life holds up over time, but I found that I was able to use the Turtle Shell on and off for a couple days at a time without recharging it. In fact, it never completely ran out of juice on my watch, and I assume that the indicator light, which blinks red when charging, does the same when the battery is low.

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The controls—three buttons and a backlit on/off switch—are located on the outer edge of the device, as are the USB and line-in ports (neatly concealed with a protective flap). I happen to like the old-fashioned jog dial myself, but it turns out that the buttons are multifunctional (especially in 'Talk' mode, below), allowing for both volume control and previous/next track function. The interface isn't quite intuitive—the red/blue indicator and loud-ish beep can be a bit arcane—but all that you really need to know is that holding down the center button activates 'pairing mode' for new devices.

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