In the last few days leading up to the juried review of our collaboration with Poltrona Frau, our studio workspace descended into complete disarray—with tools and materials scattered everywhere. The last bits of scrap leather were hotly contested and, naturally, the industrial sewing machines had failed just days before the presentation was due! As a result, some projects ended up having to be hand-stitched as time was pressing and quality had to be kept to a high standard. Sleep deprivation, minor scrapes and bruises notwithstanding, we managed to pull it together in time for the juried final review.
The jury panel consisted of legendary designer Massimo Vignelli, Paul Makovsky (Editorial Director, Metropolis Magazine), Sara Gobbo and Federico Materazzi (Poltrona Frau), Mark Bechtel (Interim Director of Product Design at Parsons) and our instructor, designer Andrea Ruggiero. We presented 15 projects, ranging from cigar cases and drink coasters to picture frames and candle holders. Per the design brief, we were required to address wastelessness and how we would envision the potential production of our pieces to enable the least amount of material waste. In a few cases, there was some disagreement between the judges as to the complexity and labor involved to produce a few of the objects. Regardless, the critics met privately after the presentations to decide the three winners of the competition, who will get to visit Poltrona Frau's factory in Tolentino, Italy, in the second half of July.
When it comes to sketching, line quality is everything. To build up the desired thickness using ink, you can either switch between multiple pens or you can hit the same line repeatedly with the same pen, as Spencer Nugent has done above; if using pencil or a pressure-sensitive stylus on a digital device, you can hit the same line and/or press harder, as Michael DiTullo's done below.
So this currently-under-consideration-at-Quirky design proposal has me curious. Designer "HSingh" is pushing for a pen with an adjustable tip, whereby a dial in the barrel somehow alters the nib's width.
There's virtually no explanation for how the thing would work, but the question is: Would you guys use this to change line weights, or do you prefer the old-fashioned way? And does anyone remember having to swtich back and forth from like, five different Koh-i-Noor Rapidographs in design school?
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Remember the useless machine from a couple years back? You know, the device with a switch that activated an arm that flipped its own switch? For better or for worse, I couldn't help but think of that paradoxical box when I saw Zelf Koelman's "Switch Candle"... which, ironically enough, is something like a useful version of the same. Bearing a crown of five tealights, the curious-looking object functions as a dimmable candle. I won't ruin it for you; just watch:
Koelman describes the "Switch Candle" as a comment on "how we perceive artificial light, how we interact with it and how we should not forget the amount of energy light needs to shine."
For ages we have put much effort in keeping on the fire at night to extend the day and keeping us warm and safe. Since the invention of electric light sources, I believe we lost track of how much effort and energy it really takes to keep us awake.
This past weekend, we took the water taxi to Randall's Island for the second edition of Frieze New York, which has established itself as an extremely well curated and produced art fair. The 250,000-square-foot temporary tent by SO - IL architects provides generous space for exhibitors, amazing natural light, and stood up remarkably well to the rolling thunderstorms that struck on Saturday afternoon.
Not one to shy from controversy, visitors were greeted by Paul McCarthy's giant 80 feet tall inflatable 'Balloon Dog', a dig at Jeff Koons' failed attempt in court to get exclusive rights to balloon dogs worldwide, if you're skeptical of the stakes, McCarthy's homage sold for $950,000.
LA-based Pae White won hearts with her suspended installation of tiny upward facing mirrors reflecting their bright geometric patterns underneath. Dan Colen's circular sculpture made from basketball backboards at the Gagosian booth provided awesome photo opps for 2001 style shots, and as far as found objects go, it's hard to beat the cement mixer by Alexandre da Cunha.
There was an abundance of bold new work on display with a lot of galleries choosing to promote the same artists they represented last year. Tom Friedman's solo show was hugely popular; we were really into Daniel Arsham's volcanic ash and broken glass cast resin pieces; and Liam Gillick's 'Scorpion or Felix' decorative door screens would probably do quite well at the ICFF this weekend.
Clearly, the organizers know their audience partnering with food vendors—Frankies Spuntino, Prime Meats, Roberta's, Mission Chinese Food and Blue Bottle Coffee, to name a few—and we were really impressed with the amount of water taxis they secured to ferry visitors to-and-from Manhattan. We'll see if The Armory Show, which takes place in March at the crowded Pier 92+94 complex, steps up its game in response next year...
The weather here in Portland, OR has broken as of late and recently (although not today) we have been dripping in sunshine. Our natural inclination is to head directly to the river to sip cold ones and barbecue with buddies at Washougal Falls, the Clackamas, Columbia or Sandy river. We've also got some secret spots that we won't share, lest they become overrun with yahoos.
At Hand-Eye Supply we believe little siestas are essential to the design process, a chance to relax our minds, shut off our smart phones and decompress for optimal performance. Perhaps a dip in the glacial runoff is just the right ingredient for the eureka in the bath tub moment for that stubborn design problem you've been battling. The point we're trying to make is, "Dude, it's time to take a break."
Lapka is a set of "artisan electronic devices" for gathering data about one's immediate surroundings: each of the four building-block-like sensors can be attached to one's iPhone through the standard headphone jack. Coupled with a free app, they can provide detailed information on radiation, organic matter, electromagnetic fields and humidity—interesting features in themselves, enhanced by the product's quasi-organic, vaguely totemic form factor.
To complement Lapka's effort to make the product look more like jewelry or tabletop sculptures than gadgets, Burgopak notes that "The products themselves are luxury tools that convey their connection with nature. The packaging, we felt, should do the same."
From the beginning this was not intended to feel like an, 'Apple' product. It is intended to disrupt preconceived expectations about consumer electronics. Brown kraft board, single colour print and incredibly limited product information were all intentional features.
The devil, as they say, is in the detail; using precise harmonious proportions (derived from the product) Burgopak created a simple tray to protect and frame the product. This was wrapped in a sleeve with an integrated lock and finished with a single tamper evident seal.
As data continues to indicate that spending all day on your ass isn't good for your health, there are exciting opportunities for workstation and seating designers. Standing desks, treadmill desks and funky chairs may fade in and out of popularity, but we like seeing the weird permutations and risks that designers are willing to take in their quest to find the "correct" solution.
One such new seating product comes from Turnstone (the Steelcase brand dedicated to furniture solutions for small companies and startups) with their Buoy, designed by Michigan-based ID'er Ricky Biddle. "Research shows that even people who typically work out after work don't receive the same benefit if they are sitting all day," writes Turnstone. "Overall, we recognize that movement is good so any way we can bring movement to the office is something we look for."
To that end, the Buoy is designed to be off-balance, like its namesake bobbing device, though not as extremely as a Pilates ball; the idea is that the microadjustments you're continually making with your body are not annoying enough to be a hassle, but adequate to burn some calories. Also unlike a Pilates ball, the Buoy is height-adjustable.
We wanted to find a simple seating solution that would allow for movement and work in multiple environments and applications. Turnstone had explored some initial ideas around active seating with a rocking stool concept called Humma shared at Neocon a few years ago, but for Buoy we wanted to allow a greater freedom of movement and a create a highly functioning product that could complement multiple settings and work with different height tables and related items around the home and office from both a functional and aesthetic point of view.
Move over, Jack Handey: Forum member Sanjy009 has recently posted some serious food for thought (so to speak) on our discussion boards. Citing a somewhat opinionated Washington Post article from the past weekend, "Are Foodies Quietly Killing Rock-and-Roll," the Adelaide-based designer notes that:
[The article] states the internet has turned music into a digital commodity, has removed it's value, and in doing so lessened it's cultural status. Food culture at the same time has exploded, and is filling the cultural and economic hole left behind.
I've been thinking about it in terms of product design and branding and self-identification. Why is it OK to identify with culture, but commercial identification is seen as crass? Can a product or brand do what music and food seem to be able to do naturally? Is this an inevitable result of technology making something easier?
Within 24 hours, a couple of his peers had posted thoughtful responses to his open-ended query, launching what has proven to be a fruitful dialogue on value, commerce and commodification in the digital age. Where the article makes a (somewhat hyperbolic) case for the ultracontemporary notion that "Chefs are the new rock stars," Sanjy009 is concerned with the implications for product design. (For the record, I vaguely recall New York Magazine hailing Brooklyn designers as rock stars several years ago; so too do they expound the hypothesis that "food is the new punk rock.")
Thus, as a corollary to the putative commodification of creativity, both music and food have been areas of design innovation: the former because the industry is in decline and the latter for the opposite reason.
In any case, peruse the discussion and put in your two cents here.
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The problem with driving the same route, day after day, is that it becomes easy for commuters to stop paying attention. They know the route so well that they subconsciously tune out, ignoring signage both static and electronic, even when the latter is flashing danger warnings in big, orange letters.
Needless to say this can have deadly consequences, and the authorities in charge of Australia's Sydney Harbor Tunnel decided to do something about it after the following incident: "We had a fire in the tunnel," explains Harbor Tunnel GM Bob Allen, "motorists ignored the warning lights and signs and continued driving towards the fire. These drivers exposed themselves to smoke and toxic fumes from the fire and then to compound the situation they turned around (in a one way tunnel) and drove back out of the tunnel against incoming traffic."
Through a government-led R&D program, Tunnel administrators were able to contact Laservision, a creative technology firm that designs architectural lighting, permanent attractions and special events primarily for the entertainment industry. They teamed up with pump manufacturer Grundfos to create a HUGE stop sign that is impossible to ignore: It seems to materialize out of thin air, directly in front of your car.
The Softstop, as it's called, utilizes a combination of pumped water and light projection. Watch it deploy:
Of all the reasons why I could never be a construction worker—not strong enough, can't consistently wake up at 5am, don't know how to catcall—preeminent among them is my deathly fear of heights. It was terrifying to watch this video of construction workers hoisting the spire onto One World Trade Center (someone slapped a GoPro camera onto the thing). The crazy part is that at the end, you get to see a handful of guys jimmying the massive thing into place with what look like crowbars.
Warning: This video isn't edited at all, it's a continuous nine-minute shot of them hoisting the spire from the roof to the top of its supporting structure. Part of me wishes they'd fast-forwarded the video, though if they had I would've peed my pants or thrown up (probably both).
The acronym "P.O.S." always struck me as somewhat ironic: most folks who have worked in retail know that it's short for Point Of Sale, but it also has a pejorative meaning in common parlance. When it launched in 2010, Square's register app marked a digital solution to the former—precisely because extant payment gateways so often might be characterized as the latter.
Today, they announced a major upgrade from the now-iconic card reader.
Square, the company making commerce easy for everyone, today announced Square Stand, beautiful new hardware for brick and mortar businesses that turns an iPad into a complete point of sale. With local businesses increasingly tearing out their old point of sale systems to run Square Register, Square Stand gives merchants a remarkable new way to manage and grow their business, all for the price of a cash register.
"Local business owners take as a given that they need an ugly, slow, expensive, and complicated point of sale system cluttering their counter," said Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Square. "Square Stand is elegant, fast, affordable, and easy to use. Whether you're selling cupcakes, cardigans, or cappuccinos, running your business with Square has never been easier."
Designed by Ammunition Group in collaboration with Square, the simple swiveling stand is designed as an all-in-one system. The card reader is discreetly integrated into the base, providing a larger and more stable slot for swiping.
They've also managed to cast a young Julianne Moore in the role of a lifetime:
Like my train pass wallet, these objects fall into the category of things I touch and use every day. Carabiners are intended for mountain climbing, but their simple design and great utility make them super-useful to city dwellers like me, who only climb subway steps. I use them in the photo studio, during event coverage, and for my dogs, and I now wonder how I ever got by without them.
These were initially pet-driven purchases. I own two dogs and was looking for a way to hold both of their leashes in one hand without them becoming entwined. First I bought this thing, which is called a rotor swivel:
I spotted it at a mountain climbing equipment store across the street from Core77 HQ. It's just two aluminum loops attached by an enclosed bearing that allows them to rotate independently, and it set me back forty bucks. Being designed for climbing, I figured it's got to be watertight, which I'd need to weather thunderstorms (I'm out with the dogs for up to two hours a day, rain or shine).
Next I sewed a length of webbing through it to serve as a handle. (If any of you are interested in working with canvas webbing but don't know how to sew, please pipe up in the comments and I'll prepare a basic tutorial. With a simple trick, someone with no skill can use even a junky sewing machine to sew canvas webbing.)
Then I needed a carabiner to attach the two leashes to the rotor. Mistakenly thinking beefier would be better, I initially bought this Omega Pacific locking carabiner at the same equipment store for ten bucks.
However, I found this carabiner too bulky, and together with the rotor it added too much weight to the leashes for my taste. But at the hardware store I spotted these cheapie "key holder" carabiners for just a few bucks.
They appear to be made from aluminum and one can be used to handily attach the rotor to the two leash handles.
Frank Novak is the co-founder of Modernica, Inc. Modernica owns the original presses and the original preform machine that were used by Zenith Plastics for Charles Eames production of Herman Miller chairs. Their preform machine is the only such machine in existence. Both the presses and the preform machine are the very same pieces of equipment used to create thousands and thousands of chairs since their very first run in 1950 and now sixty years later, these seminal pieces of equipment are located at Modernica's new Los Angeles factory.
From the Modernica Archives
From the Modernica Archives
From the Modernica Archives
Frank Novak grew up in Omaha Nebraska where his family owned car dealerships from the 30's to the 70's, and an antique store from 75 to 2001. He went to Goddard College, Evergreen College and New College of California. Frank moved to California in 1986 and worked as a set builder and production designer for Roger Corman. He was the Art Director for Woody Harrelson's first film, Cool Blue. In 2000 his directorial debut Good Housekeeping was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. While working on films he began building furniture and in 1989 founded Modernica with his brother Jay. Together they were one of the first American companies to reproduce out of production mid century furniture. Modernica products, including the George Nelson Bubble Lamp and the Eames Fiberglass chair are sold worldwide. Modernica employs over 100 people in the Los Angeles area at their factory and film prop rental house.
Starting this Friday night, the students of the new MFA in Products of Design will be appearing at WantedDesign from May 17–20, where they will present ALSO!, a series of interactions that explore how we experience new design.
Through a roving set of mobile interventions—both cart-based and human-worn—visitors to the show will participate in "an unfolding narrative around celebration, sustainability, digital mediation, storytelling, and scale, each expanding the conversation around design beyond form, function, and materiality." There are teasers up at www.alsoproject.com, and ALSO! on Facebook, but here are some intriguing particulars:
A smartphone kaleidoscope and lift apparatus expose the distortion of constantly consuming experiences through our screens; a set of ViewMasters lets us peer into speculations around the unseen, "un"wanted, and marginalized; a sound crew with microphones and headphones invites visitors to listen in on the untold stories of objects; a digital microscope on a remote cable reveals hidden design details invisible to the naked eye; and a die-cutting station prompts guests to transform their printed materials, ennobling ephemera and inviting visitors to reflect their experiences to one another.
Through this series of moving, participatory installations, the work hacks the exhibition at large, prompting visitors to see design through a variety of new lenses.
The event is free. Located at 269 11th Avenue, New York City, WantedDesign is a creative destination for the design community that offers innovative installations, student workshops, and engaging discourse.
This year, WantedDesign is being held in concert with NYCxDESIGN, New York City's inaugural citywide event to showcase and promote design of all disciplines.
Imagine, if you will, a design exercise in which the primary constraint is simply to answer a brief with ideas that have never been dreamt of. The themes range from Global Warming to Time, and are selected based on passion as much as relevance and timeliness, and as such, design teams are expected to come up with ideas that meet those criteria as well.
These are the guiding principles behind IDEO's "Designs On—," an ongoing internal project that has taken off since IDEO Associate Partner and Industrial Design Director Blaise Bertrand introduced it in 2008. The global design consultancy has just launched a dedicated microsite for the fifth annual edition, which tackles the seemingly mundane (or otherwise overdone) issue of Packaging. And while the topic is ostensibly more pragmatic than past themes such as Food and Birth (as well as the two mentioned above), it's not so much a departure from the spirit of the platform as it is an affirmation of its breadth.
The idea of "Designs On—," according to Bertrand, is to "let designers pick a personal perspective" on the topic at hand. The goal is "to push the edge of a particular content area [as well as] to constantly question our assumptions about design." IDEO employees organize themselves into teams as they see fit, developing, iterating and ulimately packaging their ideas over the course of four to five months.
"The 'Expired' concept is one of my favorites," says Bertrand. "It feels natural—to take a simple analogy of a banana, [which has] a very powerful emotional aspect."
Bertrand excitedly noted that "Biomimicry is a growing domain."
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Johannesburg's Southern Guild traveled halfway around the world for the Collective Design Fair last week, and their legwork didn't go unnoticed: the inaugural exhibition marked the New York debut of the platform for contemporary South African design, featuring work by some of the country's best talent. "Devoted to provoking the local design industry and to encouraging designers and artists to explore and produce more challenging and important work, Southern Guild... aims to inform the world market about the dynamic new work that is being produced in this arena."
Porky Hefer's handmade nests are inspired by those of weaver birds.
The "Blackhole" is made out of discarded truck tires
Had they been exhibited individually, the pieces might come off as exotic for the sake of kitsch; presented together, I was struck by the dialogue between, say, a sculpture of a gorilla and a quasi-fetishistic rubber cocoon—an uncanny coherence that might be deemed a certain South African sensibility.
Artisanal, hand made and cerebral, South African design elicits a physical response as much as it invites a viewer to think. Some of this experiential quality derives from the handmade nature of the work. Its distinctiveness is grounded in social and political realities, narrative, a true bond with nature and a sense of human connectedness with little interest in passing trends or in highly polished, technologically driven visions of design.
And if Michaella Janse Van Vuuren's digitally-fabricated figurines somehow contradict the above characterization of South African design, I should note that I took surprisingly childlike delight in activating the Birdman. Tucked away in the back of the booth, the eight-inch tall figurine was my favorite piece at the booth, if not the entire fair. Not only were the Birdman and Rocking Springbok among the most detailed 3D-printed objects I'd seen in person, but they both featured moving parts, a signature element of the artist's work.
Whether you watch Mad Men or not, you understand that the advertising industry reflects the times we live in, addressing our distorted self-images with occasionally ruthless trenchancy. Thus Ogilvy Paris has commissioned the Slender Vender, an ultraslim vending machine for client Diet Coke.
It's more of a stunt than the real deal; while the machines were actually created and scattered about Paris, they dispensed free product. And though advertising blogs are heaping praise on the things--Adland TV writes "The idea is quite nice, turn the vending machine into a slender pole, reminding people that Diet Coke is the skinny choice" while Adverblog posits "Diet Coke is the responsible choice when it comes to calories, so why not let the vending machine show how slender it can be. Nice campaign to make the point of sale an experience," it doesn't take a major cynic to see these machines probably wouldn't fly in the 'States. Walk around your average U.S. shopping mall and see if the folks drinking Diet-anything are any skinnier than the folks drinking the regular variants.