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Posted by Ray  |  15 Sep 2014  |  Comments (1)

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Locale-1.jpgLocale 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.

IndustrialFacility-Mattiazzi-BrancaStool.jpgThe 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 refined, 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 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."

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Formwork.jpgFormwork for Herman Miller (2014)

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Formwork-prototypes.jpgPrototypes of Formwork

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Posted by core jr  |   5 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

Definitive-WCollection.jpgDefinitive Technology; from L to R: W Adapt, W9, W7, W Studio, W Amp

A veritable three-headed giant in consumer electronics, Sound United's aptly differentiated trio of brands is well-established across the category, offering products for users of all stripes, from hip millennials to discerning audiophiles. Today sees the launch of its first two wireless music systems, major releases for both the Polk Audio and Definitive Technology brands. Building on its long history as a leader in bringing top-notch audio engineering to music fans, the Polk Omni family comprises a suite of speaker options, plus a standalone amplifier and a wireless adaptor for your existing home audio system. Definitive Technology's W collection is billed as the "first audiophile-grade wireless music system," with higher-end versions of a congruent product range—two sizes of speaker, a soundbar/subwoofer combo, an amplifier and an adaptor.

DTS' Play-Fi allows for streaming via services such as Pandora and Spotify, as well as Internet radio and, of course, the user's personal music collection. Each of the systems is controlled by a dedicated app, compatible with Android and iOS and specifically designed to complement the respective hardware.

Polk-OmniCollection.jpgPolk Omni, from L to R: S2, S2 Rechargeable, SB1, A1, P1

We had the chance to talk to Michael DiTullo—a longtime friend and contributor to Core who also happens to be the Chief Design Officer of Sound United—about the thinking and process behind the two new collections.

Core77: Home audio, as a category, has a certain aesthetic; to what degree do you abide by these standards, and to what degree to do you try to break away?

Michael DiTullo: We try not to think of what is going on in the CE category and instead focus on what is important to our target persona and what other objects they surround themselves in. An audio product lives with a family, in their living room, in their kitchen, in their bedroom. It has to respond to these spaces to earn the right to be there. Our Polk collection uses warm metallic finishes, warm metallic off blacks, a mix of dark and light grilles and softer, mid-century modern inspired form language to respond to what is going on the space of the Polk listener and visually represent the sonic profile which is very warm.

The Definitive persona, who we call the aficionado, is more Modernist, clean, crisp, very precise. The design language reflects that with machined aluminum bases, machined cantilevered aluminum UI's, and very strong, minimal forms. Likewise, the sonic signature is very cold, precise, and forward, just like the design.

It sounds like you imagine these products in context, i.e. in and among the kinds of interiors, furniture and lifestyles of the end users.

Very much so. Before embarking on designing this collection, we conducted a series of ethnographic interviews with a range of listeners, including recent college grads moving into their first apartment, couples moving into their first home, young families with multiple children, and empty nesters who were downsizing. We studied the use cases of these individual groups, the unique pain points with trying to get an audio experience around their rooms, and were able to extrapolate the insights that went into the innovation and form factor of each product. By learning about what wasn't working for people, we could develop a collection and system that does work and is flexible enough to grow with them and continue to surprise and delight. We always start every project by answering two very simple questions: Who are we designing for, and what can our brand and expertise bring to them that makes their audio life better?

Polk-SB1.jpgPolk Omni SB1 (wireless subwoofer & soundbar)

Definitive-WAmp.jpgDefinitive Technology W Amp

Polk-P1.jpgPolk Omni P1 adaptor (at center), pictured with RTiA1 speakers

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Posted by Ray  |  29 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

Specialized-CVNDSHCollection_HERO.jpg

I'd heard that cycling had caught on in London, but somehow I wasn't expecting the shoals of A.M. bike commuters at every intersection in the city center as I was shuttled across town, groggy from the red-eye but alert to my new surroundings. Given the preponderance of helmets, high-viz gear (highlighter-yellow backpacks and shells are the order of the day) and mudguards (I noticed that one fellow had two rear fenders), these folks struck me as rather more like diehard Portlanders than the fair weather pedalers we have here in NYC. I also witnessed a couple of subtler behavioral cues as to the growing presence of the cyclists in London: 1.) an irritated cyclist slapped the side of a car that blocked the bike lane in an ill-advised three point, and 2.) a jaywalker actually checked for cyclists before stepping into a (non-bike) lane.

All of this, duly noted in a single journey from Heathrow Airport to trendy Shoreditch (the adjective is obligatory at this point), where I had the chance to meet pro cyclist Mark Cavendish on the occasion of a product launch for Specialized. And even though only a fraction of the riders traversing London on any given morning would be considered to be the target market for the new CVNDSH collection, he (and Specialized) hope to get ahead of the curve. "Bikes are fashionable now; cycling is becoming popular," Cavendish quipped, even as he acknowledged that it "is still quite niche—[after all,] you've got to shave your legs and wear lycra."

Specialized-CVNDSHCollection-CavOnstage.jpg

Still, I couldn't quite gauge his renown amongst Londoners—Cavendish is widely regarded as the fastest road cyclist in the world, with a World Championship and 25 stage wins at the Tour de France to his name, among other achievements—though this certainly might have had to do with the very limited sample of non-sportsfans that I'd consulted. In any case, the man known as the Manx Missile is rather unassuming in person, and he struck me as chatty and approachable despite his reputation as a fierce and an at-times outspoken competitor.

He had every reason to be in a good mood: Speaking with the slight lilt that I'd heard in post-race interviews (he hails from the Isle of Man), Cavendish introduced the new road cycling apparel line that he had designed and developed with Specialized: jersey, bib shorts, helmet, gloves and shoes, as well as a saddle. (If it seems unusual that the Morgan Hill, Calif.-based company would hold the launch event in London, Cavendish explained that he was traveling to the Tour of Turkey the following day; if you must know, he'd won the first two stages as of press time.)

Specialized-CVNDSHCollection-table.jpg

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  21 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

HMGlead.jpg

This is the first of a multi-part look at lightweight backpacking and the designers who love it.

Ultralight is a challenging niche within both the outdoor community and the outdoor industry. Ultralight users are often out on the trail or mountain for weeks on end, and ultralight designers have to get them there and back. To learn about the passions and problem-solving involved, I spoke with Mike St. Pierre, founder of Hyperlite Mountain Gear, makers of award-winning ultralight packs and tents.

C77: What inspires you to create new designs?

Mike: Honestly? My own personal interest level in an outdoor activity. I started out making packs for backpacking and through-hiking because I was doing a lot of that, then I got into climbing, so I made packs for climbers. Then I got into backcountry skiing—so that's probably one of the next products. New designs come from personal interest and from customers requesting products for niches where they want to go lighter.

How do you determine desired weight and work towards it?

We don't set out with that goal in mind. Weight is important, but I've never been looking to be the lightest guy out there. The weight is a byproduct of the design philosophy: strip away and provide the basics of what you need. A lot of companies build bags that have a multitude of attachment points, bags for doing all kind things—one bag fits all. We don't look at it that way, it's good to be specific. Rock climbing? Climbing bag. Ice hiking? Ice hiking pack.

How do developments in high-tech materials impact your line of products and new designs?

When I found out about cuben fiber it was a no brainer. It's truly waterproof, the strongest material in the world, it's non woven. All the other fabrics out there are coated fabrics. Instead you've got something that won't leak, weighs less... It's the best. So we're always searching for the newest modern materials. More minimalist designs mean more high tech materials. Marrying the two is how we reduce the weight. Stick with what works, but sometimes you find something exciting that can spark a whole new line.

I had a heavy hand in the development of a lot of fabrics that we use. We're doing our own production here in Maine—when we started no one was willing or had knowledge of the adhesives and bonding techniques involved. I shopped it around, and decided there was no way to do it unless we build out manufacturing ourselves. Our cuben fiber with laminated woven fabrics, those are products fabrics I had my two cents in with our developers. I constantly find things I like somewhere, and find a way to get it laminated or incorporated in the manufacture of the cuben.

Hyperlite1.jpg

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Posted by core jr  |  28 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

Critiqued-HERO.jpg

As a graphic designer and writer (and sometime contributor to Core77), San Francisco-based Christina Beard is in a unique position to investigate the conventions and tropes of design practice and discourse. For her first book, Critiqued: Inside the Minds of 23 Leaders in Design, she subjected her work—a poster advocating hygiene—to the discerning eye of nearly two dozen leaders in the field.

Every designer at some point faces positive and negative criticism.

Most designers have experienced a crushing critique that makes you question your choice to even be a designer. Conversely, many have had a positive critique that left them feeling elated and excited to keep going!

Design is subjective.

I set out to investigate this further, and designed an experiment that took me all over the world to meet with leaders in design. I designed a poster, took it to a designer for a critique and based on that feedback I redesigned the poster, and took the new poster to the next designer—a process similar to the children's game Telephone.

Each designer shared with me what was working, what wasn't working and how they would approach their own redesign. The feedback ranged from "you should just start over" to "this is great, I think you're done!"

Critiqued_Spreads-6.gifCritiqued-byAlice.jpg
L: The poster with Alice Twemlow's feedback; R: The following iteration, which incorporated those comments

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Posted by core jr  |  27 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

AIGA-100Years.jpg

Core77 is very pleased to be a media partner for an event that happens literally once every hundred years: 2014 marks the centennial of the AIGA. Since its founding in 1914, the New York-based professional association has expanded to 67 chapters nationwide, boasting some 25,000 members across various design disciplines.

In keeping with their mission to recognize and advocate for design, the AIGA will be celebrating this momentous occasion with several events this spring, as well as the just-launched 100 Years of Design website. Although it is ostensibly a look back at the past hundred years of design, the online gallery also serves as an extensive standalone survey of design history since 1914. Indeed, the AIGA worked closely with Second Story, a part of SapientNitro, to develop "a dynamic online platform documenting significant design works from the last century that have impacted our collective visual experience."

Viewers are encouraged to add their own favorite examples of design history to the initial selection of works, which are drawn primarily from the AIGA Design Archives and woven together with commentary from leading designers. Driven by participation from designers, students and design enthusiasts, the site invites conversation about design's rich legacy and expanding impact.

We had a chance to speak to AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé about the centennial festivities and the story behind the impressive "100 Years of Design" website.

Core77: First of all, congratulations on 100 years! How does it feel to be spearheading the festivities for this momentous occasion?

Richard Grefé: The centennial is a tremendous affirmation of creative professionals—the value of their coming together as a community is to inspire each other, to seek ever-expanding opportunities for the design mind to thrill others with stunning and evocative work, and to enhance the human experience. A century marks a hundred years of growth, change, creativity and achievement, and the beginning of an era with even greater possibility. The festivities celebrate the breadth, depth and diversity of the fellowship of designers who come together as AIGA in order to advance the profession. Pretty exciting!

AIGA-Adler_ClearRx.jpgDeborah Adler - ClearRx (2005)

Regarding CelebrateDesign.org, how did you arrive at the five categories? And did you have trouble classifying any of the artifacts, quotes or clips? I imagine there was quite a bit of overlap...

Organizing the story of design over the past century was no easy task. We wanted to move beyond a linear chronology. Ultimately, we decided the purpose of the site should be to begin the conversation, not end it, so we selected five broad categories that most would agree should be among any list of intents for great design. We then invited viewers to consider other impacts by including an open-ended prompt: "Celebrating 100 years of design that..."

Because any work of design can of course have multiple impacts depending on context and the viewer, it was at first daunting to assign works within the structure. Impact is subjective and a work being featured in a certain narrative for this project does not circumscribe its larger meaning. However, key works started falling into place as particularly representative of one impact or another, and then supporting pieces began to make sense in that context.

We pulled quotes from primary sources and books—such as Graphic Design in America, Looking Closer, Design Culture, Nine Pioneers in American Graphic Design, and Design Discourse—that spoke directly to the impacts chosen. For example, Samina Quareshi on the need for design to connect a community; the designers behind the First Things First 2000 manifesto on designers' imperative to assist in addressing environmental, social, and cultural crises; Paul Rand's defense of humor to delight through visual communication; Robert Fabricant on designers exerting influence through every decision they make. The final pieces were the voices of design legends, which help hold groups of work together. Each "impact" such as Delight or Inform contains three themes, and these voices complemented what we called the "narrative glue" that described each theme (for example, here and here in the Connect section).

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Posted by core jr  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

Left: A community map with measured dimensions. Right: Iso-metric illustrated version of the community based on reference photos. This was developed to make the map more engaging and fun. Righthand illustration by Boyeon Choi.

In the field of design and technology today, deeply understanding users in their local context is an essential part to the design process. A holistic understanding of users generates empathy and a specificity of experience that enables designers to create valuable solutions for markets, communities and individuals.

In our field work in Uganda's rural north and Kampala, its capital and largest city, we took the unique opportunity to conduct research, as designers, into informal technology usage from a more complex and discovery-based perspective. Jeff focused on informal electricity bypassing in an urban community in Kampala, and An looked at how youth transfer media files via Bluetooth in northern Uganda. These are the stories that emerged after a hybrid approach of design, ethnography and other research methods to understand the systems and structures in place and build relationships with individuals working and living in these contexts.

In an increasingly globalized world, local contexts matter more than ever before. Rich, deep ethnographic stories can communicate the complex conditions under which communities and individuals make decisions regarding technology use in their everyday lives. These stories in turn inform design decisions around technology development and practical use. As Jessica Weber and John Cheng recently argued in UX Magazine, "Ethnography reveals how digital and physical processes work together to help businesses address gaps and focus on the entire customer experience."

We present two examples of user stories from our research into informal systems, as well as the visual forms we developed to communicate it. It was essential to use visualization to engage the designers and researchers in a developed, U.S. context to translate the unique characteristics of the informal systems for those who couldn't experience them firsthand. Visualizing the conditions and the systematic influences at work through user-generated drawings, maps, videos and photographic documentation placed them in context, helping to reframe these stories in a manner that permitted audiences in the United States to make judgments based on local values and their emergent informal usage of technology.

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Posted by Mason Currey  |   6 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

GoogleX-Smith-Heinrich-2.jpgPhotos by Talia Herman

If you're an industrial designer looking to work in the tech sector, Google is probably pretty low on your list of prospective employers—if it's on there at all. The company employs plenty of UX designers, interaction designers, motion designers, and others who shape how Google users interface with its many digital tools. But Google doesn't really make stuff, and ambitious designer-makers are much more likely to set their sights on Apple, IDEO, frog, or any number of other high-profile companies that do.

That may be about to change. Recently, Google invited Core77 to visit its Mountain View, California, campus and meet some of the design talent behind Google X, the semi-secret "moonshot factory" that has in recent years been designing quite a bit of actual stuff, some of which you've no doubt heard about by now. X was founded in January 2010 to continue work on Google's self-driving car initiative, and to start developing other similarly futuristic projects. The next to be unveiled was Google Glass, the much-publicized wearable computer that is expected to reach consumers sometime this year. After that, X launched (quite literally) Project Loon, an attempt to provide Internet service to rural and remote areas via balloons floating in the stratosphere; it conducted a pilot test in New Zealand last June. X also recently acquired Makani Power, which develops airborne wind turbines that could be used to harvest high-altitude wind energy, bringing its total number of public projects to four.

But what's interesting for the design community is not just that Google X is doing some traditional industrial design in the service of realizing outrageously big ideas, but that it's integrating I.D. with a variety of other disciplines in a particularly rigorous fashion, creating an ideal-sounding nexus of design thinking, user research and fabrication. And it is actively seeking new talent who can help flesh out its multidisciplinary approach.

"We're looking for unicorns," says Mitchell Heinrich, one of the four X-ers I met in Mountain View about a month ago. Heinrich founded and runs his own group within X called the Design Kitchen, which acts as X's in-house fabrication department but is also deeply involved in generating (and killing) new ideas. And what he means by "unicorns" is designers who have the rare ability to excel in both of those roles—as he puts it, "people who have the ability to have the inspiration, the thought, the design, and then are able to carry that out to something that actually works and looks like what they want it to look like."

That may not sound like such a fantastically rare combination of skills, but Heinrich insists that finding people who can do this kind of soup-to-nuts design—come up with brilliant ideas and then actually make them, while also working extremely fast—has been difficult. In other words, the Kitchen has high standards. "I like to think of it as more like a Chez Panisse than an Applebee's," he says.

GoogleX-campus.jpgThe Googleplex in early December

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Posted by core jr  |  26 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

C77YiR.jpg2013YiR-TopTen-3.jpg

Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines · The Year in Photos

These last week of the year is always kind of a weird duration, one that typically feels slow and fast at the same time, a stretch of five or six days that is invariably removed from the epicyclic progress of the rest of the year, demarcated by a pair of holidays. Work and school are generally put on hold in favor of family-related obligations, yet there's inevitably some project to catch up on—even it's just sleep—and before you know you it, you're back at your desk... like you never left.

Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year is both the end of a specific timeframe and an opportunity for a fresh start. Thus, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on what we've seen in the past 360-ish days or so in order to draw insight into what might be on the horizon in 2014.

We'll start with a seemingly straightforward cross-section of our content mix: the top ten most popular posts this year. Insofar as their viral appeal is predicated on broadly interesting subject matter, many of these stories are not explicitly related to industrial design per se; rather, they illustrate how the natural and manmade world has the power to surprise and delight us.

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10.) How a Doctor's Five-Minute, $15 iPhone Hack Could Affect 600 Million Lives

9.) Owning Two of a Certain Object Indicates Your Kids Will Do Well in School. Can You Guess What It Is?

8.) Underwater Archaeologist Franck Goddio Finds 1,600-Year-Old City that Vanished 1,200 Years Ago

7.) A Drinking Glass That Can Prevent Sexual Assault

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Posted by Ray  |  19 Nov 2013  |  Comments (0)

FiftyThree-Pencil_Graphite-material.jpg

In the early chapters of The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, Henry Petroski speculates about the uncertain origin of a certain species of writing implement, proceeding to chronicle a fascinating (albeit at-times long-winded) account of its eponymous subject matter. A civil engineer by training and professor by trade, the author takes the pencil as a vehicle for tracing a loose history of his chosen profession over the course of some 300-pages.

As in Petroski's account, FiftyThree's latest product represents far more than the everyday object that sits on or in our desk. Its name and form factor transcend mere etymology and superficial skeuomorphism: "Pencil" captures the very essence of its namesake—typically the first tool that we use in earnest as a means of recording words and drawings—a stylus that significantly expands the power of their breakthrough app, Paper. But beyond a tightly integrated hardware-software ecosystem, Pencil marks a first step towards smarter accessories in general.

FiftyThree-Pencil_Walnut-HERO.jpg"We really want the materials to be authentic—it's a big part of our brand, craftsmanship and authenticity." -Jon Harris

Pixels, in some ways, represent a digital equivalent of graphite—discrete pigment deposited on a virtual surface, which can be restored to its original state by erasing these particles. If the physical evidence of a Dixon Ticonderoga consists of an infinitesimal amount of matter transferred from one object to another, then the digital traces of, say, the brush tool (in your sketching software of choice) are even less tangible. With their first product, Paper, a versatile drawing app, FiftyThree harnessed this unseen magic to reveal the potential of the iPad as a mobile creation device.

But the artifact itself endures, and that much was clear at FiftyThree's New York HQ last week, where co-founders Georg Petschnigg and Andrew Allen offered us a hands-on demo of the production version of Pencil, which launches this very morning; Director of Hardware John Ikeda and Design Co-Founder Jon Harris were also on the line via videochat from Seattle. The handsome Bluetooth-enabled stylus comes in sustainably-sourced walnut and black brushed aluminum variations, and it's hard to decide which one is superior. Ikeda clearly prefers the former: "We try not to coat or treat the wood too heavily—just enough to protect it from humidity and those kinds of thing—but what's really nice about them is that after a handling them for a while, they take on their own character."

FiftyThree-Pencil_Walnut-material.jpgLike many of his colleagues at FiftyThree, including the three co-founders, Ikeda previously worked at Microsoft: "We always wanted to build a product that we could describe with the word 'patina!'"

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  12 Nov 2013  |  Comments (0)

Boardroom.JPGPhotos courtesy of Square

The first time it happened, I took time to notice the experience. A food truck vendor handed me his phone, which had a little white square sticking out of the headphone jack. "What is this?" I asked, wondering which one of us was the crazy one. "Square," he replied. "You can make payments on your phone." I swiped my card on the strange device and then I signed my name with my finger. The receipt went straight to my inbox, and the deed was done: A delicious meal was mine to enjoy, all with a few taps and a swipe.

What was once a revolutionary gesture—a vendor hands me his or her smartphone, and I swipe and pay—has now become second nature. Countless friends and I have used Square to pay for coffee in chic cafes, fruits and vegetables in a hectic farmer's market food stall, and small works from independent artists, yet we rarely think about it. And that, I've learned, is by design. Whereas most design objects draw attention to themselves, the Square Reader and the accompanying software help you get the job done quickly and then quietly fade into the background.

squarestand.JPGJesse Dorogusker demos the packaging for the Square Stand.

Anyone who's spent time haggling in a street market knows that payment is not just about money changing hands but about a conversation. Hardware Lead Jesse Dorogusker took the time to demo Stand, Square's newest product, a point-of-sale system designed to sit on vendors' countertops and operate with an iPad. In the spirit of conversation, the stand rotates, allowing the vendor to type in the total and then have the iPad face the customer as he or she signs it.

"The merchant will very quickly understand that there are things that I do, and there are things that I want my customer to do. And we're going to have a conversation, and this is going to facilitate that conversation," noted Dorogusker, who has previously worked at Apple, in an interview with Core77. After the sale is complete, the Stand can be rotated back in place with a satisfying click.

Image courtesy of Square

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Posted by core jr  |  15 Oct 2013  |  Comments (2)

AudiFactory-EnthusiasticallyPosedTour.jpgA very close approximation of my factory tour experience

Reporting by Kat Bauman

If anyone ever asks if you'd like to visit the Audi factory, do the right thing. Located in Ingolstadt, at the center of the Free Republic of Bavaria, it's a hearty drive from most things and soundly worth it. For those of you too physically or mentally removed from Germany, here's an overview of the delights on offer.

The Ingolstadt factory employs 35,000 people, a substantial chunk of the cobbled city's 160,000 total population, and winding your way across the complex you start to believe it. The campus covers two million square feet, with facilities running six days a week on three shifts per day. Red bicycles are neatly docked inside and in front of every building for speedier intracampus transit, and despite construction and everpresent cars, the in-between scenery was green and inviting. Almost every single A3, A4, A5 and Q5 is produced at the Ingolstadt factory. The tour was led by smiling, beautifully fluent guides and punctuated with disorienting chauffeured trips across the giant campus. Do not attempt to photograph anything if you value your camera or your hosts' good graces.

Although I had a chance to see virtually the entire manufacturing process, the true starting point, forging and stamping, remained unseen! I gather they do this on-site, but away from prying eyes. (My guides cited dangerous work conditions, which I resented at the time but now strikes me as only slightly regrettable, considering I nearly walked under forklifts and cargo robots repeatedly throughout the day.) Audi's base frames are made from either forged steel or aluminum, and every other piece of the car body is made of galvanized sheet steel or a new aluminum alloy. Galvanizing prevents corrosion, while aluminum alloys save weight and sound futuristic. As it was, we joined the cycle after the components were formed.

AudiFactory-TonsofTonelessTTs.jpgTT Time

As soon as we entered the factory floor we were surrounded on all sides by tightly organized production lines. The main factory is heavily mechanized, but robot upkeep and morale takes a good deal of staffing, and the building buzzed with both mechanical and human activity. Down each side of the access corridors were large "rooms" walled by clear plastic, where teams of robots plucked stamped parts from overhead conveyor belts or forklifted stacks and began to fit them together as teams. Parts zoomed overhead, welding crackled, and the sweet, guilty smell of glue drifted freely.

Due to the almost innumerable variants available on the non-American market, Audi has found it most efficient to run cars through production as they're ordered (essentially one-off) rather than in batches. Despite their different body styles and models, most A3s, A4s and A5s are built on similar base frames, so having a responsive assembly line is still feasible. In practice, this means that each assembly station gets its marching orders via a black box attached to the base frame, and rearranges its clamping and adhering positions for every assembly.

Just about every component is epoxied in place by surprisingly accurate tube-wielding robot arms, squeezed into place by robotic vices, and spot welded by copper-tipped robot fingers. The hyper-jointed arms of the welders and gluers are fantastically flexible and accurate—necessary when working on a variety of parts—reminiscent of many an anime film. The speed of each operation was noteworthy, usually taking far under a minute for setup, attachment and removal. Nearby you could see bins of spent copper welding tips, which are chucked for recycling after around 30,000 welds. The desire to stuff my pockets with blacked copper was only offset by my guide's friendliness and enthusiasm for rule-following.

AudiFactory-AssemblersErgonomicSeatThingy.jpgErgonomic Seat Thing

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Posted by Ray  |   7 Aug 2013  |  Comments (1)

EzraCaldwell.jpgPhotos courtesy of Ezra Caldwell

We've devoted a fair number of pages and pixels to that singular design object known as the bicycle, and whether you're a leisure rider or all-weather commuter, weekend warrior or retrogrouch, there's no denying the functional elegance of the human-powered conveyance. Thus, when Harry Schwartzman reached out to us about lending our support to the inaugural Bike Cult Show, a celebration of the beautiful machine and a local-ish community of individuals dedicated to building them, we were happy to support the cause.

Bike Cult Show: Save the Date · Ezra Caldwell · Johnny Coast · Thomas Callahan · Rick Jones · Jamie Swan


"I think the bike is inherently the most perfect thing that people have ever designed."

So says Ezra Caldwell, who isn't exactly known to exaggerate, a framebuilder who holds a unique place among their ranks, not least for his unusual background. At least a couple of clichés—Jack-of-All-Trades and Renaissance Man—come to mind, yet his story is anything but: the son of a woodworker, he enrolled at the University of Arts as an industrial design major, only to discover that he disliked the curriculum and "ended up in the dance department somehow and got stuck dancing for 15 years." Despite the fact that Caldwell was talented enough to land a cushy part-time teaching gig after a decade in the dance world, he eventually found himself back in the shop; by 2007, he decided he liked bicycles (and had grown disenchanted with the performing arts) enough to dedicate his life to building custom bicycle frames.

Fast Boy Cycles was barely a year old when Caldwell received a devastating diagnosis of colorectal cancer; up until that point, about five years ago, he "really did get everywhere on a bike." I first learned Caldwell's story via this beautifully executed short film in the documentary series "Made by Hand":

If the short doc successfully transcends the tragic trope of a gifted artist stricken with a terminal illness—a trait that threatens to consume the victim's identity even as he accepts his fate—it's a bit surreal to see him in the flesh, and in high spirits no less, when I visit him in his basement workshop in an unassuming brownstone in Harlem. "It may not seem possible to believe, but I am so happy right now," he declares. "There are parts of it that really bum me out, but on balance, I would say I'm the happiest I've ever been."

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Posted by core jr  |   8 Jul 2013  |  Comments (0)

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How To (How To): The AIGA Research Project by Ziba
Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5 · Part 6

For everyone returning, welcome back to Project Medusa. You're (still) invited to this party! Every AIGA member who wanted to participate was invited to this party, in fact, which ensured a great cross-section of designers. Intrigued? (If none of this makes any sense to you, click here.) Ziba produced this research effort to look into AIGA's future, and learn directly from its members—working in Reno, Providence and everywhere in between—what the future of the organization should look like. This meant, implicitly, that younger members' voices were key, and that drove decisions about many of the elements we're going to look at in Part 2. The key to designing your own research project is know your audience... you can't expect much success hunting for a totally unfamiliar animal.

We'll start with some overarching considerations, and then get into the nitty-gritty, with a checklist for conducting rich, relevant research.

1.) Preparation is key.
If you take only one thing away from this series, it should be the importance of being prepared. Without proper planning, you can only try and catch up after the fact: too little, too late. This flows directly out of advice from Part 1 of the Project Medusa How-To series. We can't emphasize enough that you need to do your research before you start the research. What do you want to know? It's difficult find anything of meaning unless you know (at the very least) where to start looking, even with highly sophisticated design research methods. With your goals identified, think back to your audience: if you don't ask the right people, it won't matter how good the question is. Rubbish in means rubbish out, no matter how you slice it. (More on this in Part 3, still to come.)

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2.) Everything is intentional... and should be directed.
Project Medusa took the form of an interactive film with coordinating activities, to guide individual AIGA chapters to host their own informational workshops and sketch a new vision for the entire organization. This allowed Ziba to control the overall look and feel, in keeping with a designed research outreach, while still allowing us to leverage the personal knowledge and connections that each local moderator brought to the table.

Even if your research effort will be a simple web survey, consider how your presentation might affect your results. Be intentional with whatever tools you've got: slips of paper, a series of roundtable discussions, or formal focus groups. Consider your biases—what you think you know starting out, and any other assumptions surrounding the inquiry—and do what you can to make these supposed liabilities into assets, too.

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Posted by core jr  |  19 Mar 2012  |  Comments (0)

It's been an exciting two months of head-to-head competition but our Braun & Core77 Design in the Wild photo challenge is drawing to a close. VOTE TODAY for your favorite example of beauty in every day design from our four categories: EAT, PLAY, WORK and RELAX. The photograph with the most votes will receive an industry leading tablet! Our distinguished jury team of Core77 partner Stuart Constantine and Braun section head/manager for Product Design Duy Phong Vu will also select a Grand Prize Winner that will receive an industry leading notebook computer and tablet.

With a global representation of every day design from Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States, we've been delighted by the incredible breadth of entries we received and learned a lot about designed objects from around the world.

And here are our eight finalists in alphabetical order. Vote for your favorite photograph today!

PLAY - 2,000 FILAMENTS2000filaments.jpgThe Koosh ball has always been a favorite toy of mine. Colorful, soft, tossable, lively. It's a delightfully simple concept: a ball composed of 2,000 natural rubber filaments.

Jennifer DiMase, United States
Jennifer DiMase wrote this bio while baking biscotti and rendering bacon. She is a multi-tasker. A designer. A researcher. An organizer. A list writer. She is driven by curiosity about how things come to be, inspired by good design, and passionate about people. She has self-published a collection of comic strips from college and a glossary of food for children. Jennifer studied cognitive psychology—memory, attention, and perception—in college and grad school, and pursues opportunities to create with others' wellbeing in mind. The bacon...so good. Biscotti take a while.

EAT - CITRUS SQUEEZER
citrussqueezer.jpgWe didn't have these when I grew up in the Northeast. When I moved to the South, Texas specifically, there is much more citrus (limes are 12/$1) and the need to extract the juice from citrus increases dramatically. Margaritas are an every day type of drink here, not something fancy for Saturdays. Lime and lemon juice are used in all types of cuisine, especially as an element Mexican dishes. That being said, when I moved here, I knew exactly what this item did the first time I saw it. I purchased mine for $3 or $4 almost 10 years ago, it still looks and performs as new. Heavy duty aluminum parts, nice colorful thick coating, no plastic parts anywhere, no branding anywhere. A simple tool, easily overlooked. It squeezes every last drop out of the citrus, quickly, easily, efficiently. No mess and no acid in the eyes either. Squeeze, juice pours out, open it up, the citrus half pops out to be easily discarded. Perfect. Genius.

Taylor Welden, United States
Taylor Welden is an experienced and skilled Industrial Designer currently searching for challenging Freelance and Full-time opportunities. Born and raised in Hershey, PA, educated at the Savannah College of Art and Design (BFA of Industrial Design), Taylor now resides in Austin, TX, working as a Full-time Freelance Industrial Designer for numerous clients all over the world.

EAT - CUTLERY
cutlery.jpgCutlery of the armed forces of Germany.

Felix Stark, Germany
Felix Stark was born 1976 in Bonn, Germany. After his university entrance diploma he completed an apprenticeship as cabinet maker and studied at the Ecosign Academy for Design. He graduated in industrial design and completed a practical training in Hong Kong. Back in Germany again he opened his own industrial design office "formstark" and started working as a freelance instructor at several higher education institutions such as Ecosign Academy for Design and the Bochum University of Applied Sciences. He has won numerous prizes, including a prestigious RedDot award.

RELAX - I PUT A RECORD ON
iputarecordon.jpgWe find ourselves busier than ever in the digital age, and although we may have the means to relax in our back pockets or our handbags, sometimes we find joy in the trails of the past. Playing a record on my old Sony player brings an inner calm—no longer a nomad, I sit back and relax to the sound and its purity.

Nick Hayes, New Zealand
Nick Hayes is a 22-year-old Bachelor of Architectural Studies (University of Auckland) graduate and is currently completing an Honours in Product Design (Auckland University of Technology). Hayes has a real passion for design and music and a growing enthusiasm and passion for photography.

WORK - JUST A PENCIL?
justapencil.jpgWhen choosing the object for this challenge, I could think of numerous things which to describe and which are interesting for me, but I felt that that was not enough. After writing down many pages notes and ideas, I realised that all this time I was holding the greatest invention of anything made by man, a pencil. Could you imagine that pencils were used by world famous scientists, artists, musicians to complete their magnificent works and give inspiration to all of us? Cheap and erasable pencils were used by astronauts instead of expensive ink pressurised pens. With pencils only Roald Dahl wrote all his books. With a pencil one can draw a line up to 56 km and still write with it if it is not sharpened. Thomas Edison and Van Gogh used for their creations only specially made pencils. Annually, 1 million pencils are used on the New York Stock Exchange. I am a designer and I have to draw a lot. I have new markers, gel ink pens and permanent fine liners to make my work clean and understandable. But nothing makes it look more creative and impressive than a simple pencil drawing does.It is thrilling to acknowldge how such a small and insignificant thing has affected life of human kind and has shaped the way the world likes today.

Arina Fjodorova, Latvia
Arina Fjodorova was born in Riga, Latvia in 1992 and traveled to Florence to study Industrial design in 2010. After sucessfully completing one year course in Florence Design Academy, Fjodorova enrolled to study Product Design in Brunel University, London. Always obsessed with drawing, illustrations and graphic design, currently, she is trying to establish a Photo/Graphic Design society for design students who are not confident in their photography, sketching and photomontage skills and want to improve their portfolio.

PLAY - LET'S PLAY A TUNE
letsplayatune.jpgThis is the Floyd-Rose style floating bridge on my Guitar. I love to play surf music and the floating bridge makes it a snap. Sometimes adjustments can be tricky but it is worth it in the end. The colored balls are the strings, each size string has a different color to help prevent them from getting mixed up during restring operations.

Paul Bennett, United States
Paul Bennett is a Fire Protection Engineer living on a beautiful lake in South Carolina, USA. He has always been interested in design and the way things look, function, and interact with people and surroundings. He considers himself a minimalist with regards to design and believe less is more. Bennett's philosophy on life is all about balance and includes the mental challenges of engineering problem-solving and the physical challenges of firefighting (formerly) and motorcycle riding.

RELAX - SURROUNDED BY LOVE
surroundedbylove.jpgA Korean couple is enjoying their leisure time together, while being surrounded by thousands of padlocks at the N Seoul Tower, South Korea. The padlocks are not used for their original function, but symbolise the lovers promise that they will never separate. The "Locks of Love" are a clear example of a products symbolic performance; they show the value of symbolism in the relation between product, owner and society.

Kevin Smeeing, Netherlands
Kevin Smeeing recently graduated as Industrial Design in the Netherlands. His passion for design lies in creating experiences, in translating thoughts into things but in the same time he tries to be responsible and works on projects with meaning in different areas of design. To get a grip on what inspires him, Kevin uses photography as a tool. After a minor at Aalto University of Art and Design he travelled for design related projects to Hong Kong, China, Finland, South Korea and Brazil, carrying his camera with him. A selection of his photos can be found under INSPIRATION on his website.

WORK - SYSTEM VS CHAOS
systemvschaos.jpgWe all have a system for the way we work. "Organization" is a very relative term; what might make total sense to you will look like complete chaos to the casual observer. Ultimately, you design the way you design.

Nour Malaeb, United States
Nour left his home country of Lebanon to explore the fascinating and foreign world of industrial design. He fell in love with the process of understanding people and providing them with tools and services to make their lives better, or simply more enjoyable. Since 2009, he has been working at RKS Design in southern California on projects such as high-performance audio equipment, design language for biotech lab equipment, and smartphones for the blind. Nour reads too much internet, eats too much Korean food and talks about design too much.

Design in the Wild is presented with the support of BraunPrize 2012. Established in 1968, the international BraunPrize competition is a triennial design competition aimed at promoting the work of young designers, highlighting the importance of industrial design and increasing the profile of innovative product ideas globally. This year's theme, "Genius design for a better everyday," emphasizes the importance of well-designed products that enhance the everyday lives of consumers around the world.
Visit the BraunPrize 2012.

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  14 Mar 2012  |  Comments (0)

While China's art scene continues to make record sales, and big names like Ai Weiwei, Cai Guoqiang and Yue Mingfen are starting to roll easily off Westerners' tongues, Chinese design remains comparatively in the shadows. At best, it's regarded as a culturally-distinct (but not quite mature) creative discipline; at worst, it's a punchline about cheap knockoffs. Still, Chinese design is gaining traction: a couple weeks ago, the 2012 Pritzker Prize award went to Hanghzou-based architect and green design advocate Wang Shu, a major milestone towards introducing Chinese creativity to the outside world, beyond the usual art practices.

One of the primary obstacles is that Chinese design can often be difficult to locate. Take a stroll through the French Quarter in Shanghai, or the peek through some of the design studios in Beijing's hutongs, and you'll locate a few here and there. Aside from organized events like Beijing Design Week, it can be difficult to get a broader sense of trends in the Chinese design sphere. Indeed, a furniture designer friend of mine has a studio in a village on the outskirts of Beijing.

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Which is why, when living in Beijing, I was thrilled to hear about Design China, a new web site and blog that actively tracks trends and issues in contemporary Chinese design. Spearheaded by Zara Arshad, a British designer currently based in Beijing, Design China aims to provide a rare, organized look at China's contemporary design scene.

Ms. Arshad provides a unique overview through her own design practice. Critically, she served on the Organising Committee for the popular Beijing Design Week 2011, a landmark event that currently provides the best look into Chinese design trends. Further, she's contributed to a number of exciting projects in China, including Teach For China, The Library Project, Greening the Beige and, most recently, Beijing's first dedicated design space, Liang Dian Design Center.

dooling.pngFashion designs by Dooling Jiang. All images courtesy Design China.

It's through this broad work experience that Ms. Arhad has witnessed Chinese design. While I've discussed these issues many times with her over drinks in Beijing, I finally had a chance to sit down with her (on Skype) recently to talk through them more formally.

Core77: Where did the idea for Design China come from?

Zara Arshad: I had been discussing something like this for a really long time. The first time was whilst I was working on the Organizing Committee for Xin: Icograda World Design Congress 2009. This was in the latter half of my first year in Beijing, and I was frustrated at not being able to access design information in one place. It was mostly through colleagues (who were heavily involved at Central Academy of Fine Arts) that would inform me about events and exhibitions. It was all mostly via word of mouth.

Core77: I definitely felt that when I first moved to Beijing in early 2011. The art scene was quite well organized, but it was still difficult to find unified information about design. What spurred you to actually make the site?

The impetus came last year when I was taking care of the Beijing Design Week international media group. We were discussing Chinese designers and the BJDW program at the time, and some of the journalists highlighted their interest in seeing work specifically from Chinese designers. However, much of our 2011 program was a mix of both international and Chinese design. The former was, perhaps, slightly more prominent.

During an informal chat with some of the international media group, one journalist commented, "I don't know if there are any good Chinese graphic designers." I just happened to mention a few of my friends that fit the slot, to which he replied: "You have all this information in your head. You need to put it somewhere so that we can go and find out all these things." Sitting in a room with people who were experts in their field, and who were telling me there was finally a demand for something like this, caused me to conceive Design China.

I'm surprised there are so few blogs dedicated to contemporary Chinese design. I have actually found a couple of design blogs since, such as CreativeHunt and EightSix. They are both good websites, but I feel that I just have different experiences and information to offer. For example, I'm not just reporting about individuals groups and projects but also about events and observations. I'm trying to really expand on the design debate and look at how design can facilitate positive change within the community and how that's happening in China.

lddc1.pngThe interior at Liang Dian Design Center, Beijing's first space dedicated solely to contemporary design.

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  29 Feb 2012  |  Comments (5)

Guactruck is Manila's first designer food truckGuactruck is Manila's first designer food truck.

They're a staple in New York City, Portland and much of California, turning up in urban centers across North America by the day (at least come summer time): colorful, designer food trucks hawking delicious street food from around the world, from Korean tacos to crispy falafel. Multiple trucks park outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard, and near the startup hub of San Francisco's Mission Street.

Now, the designer food truck phenomenon has spread its wings to the busy streets of Manila, Philippines. Started by Michealle Lee and Natassha Chan, Guactruck opened business recently as the country's first designer food truck. It wasn't easy, they tell me.

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"In the first month, most of our customers were foreigners," said Ms. Lee, who hatched the idea after a stint living in Los Angeles to study business. "The Pinoys [Filipinos] were intimidated, even with free samples."

In the spirit of LA's many fusion restaurants, Guactruck provides Mexican-style Filipino dishes. Taking a page from Chipotle's playbook, they offer a build-your-meal plan along a buffet-style assembly line, with everything from soft tacos to burrito bowls stuffed with you choice of delicious Filipino dishes like pork adobo, chicken tocino and garlic rice. The tasty, unexpected blend partly reflects Guactruck's roots in Southern California, which has a rich Filipino and Mexican community.

Guactruck's food is all sourced from local businesses, thus substantially reducing the company's carbon footprint in an island nationGuactruck's food is all sourced from local businesses, thus substantially reducing the company's carbon footprint in an island nation.

"It's hard to find Mexican ingredients," Ms. Chan noted. "We made sure the food is more Filipino, prepared in a Mexican style."

This practical business decision—to use authentic, accessible ingredients—dovetails with their abiding interest in sustainability. All of the food is locally sourced, which drastically reduces their footprint in an island nation where much of the food is shipped in from overseas.

Beyond cuisine, Ms. Lee and Ms. Chan aim to innovate with sustainable business initiatives. The truck, a retrofitted Mitsubishi L300, is almost entirely self-contained and comes with LED and energy-saving lighting. They paid meticulous attention to the interior design to ensure all available space was maximized; only a generator sits outside to help power the truck during hours of operation.

Guactruck-Interior.jpgThe interior is as thoughtfully-designed as the exterior

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Posted by core jr  |   1 Feb 2012  |  Comments (5)

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Product Revue - A Special Advertising Section for Core77.

Over the past couple weeks I've spent some time digging into Keyshot 3, the latest release from Luxion. I was optimistic when Bunkspeed and Luxion parted ways, splitting the excellent HyperShot into two separate software packages, Bunkspeed Shot and Luxion KeyShot. [ED. NOTE: Hypershot 1.9 was technically replaced by KeyShot and not SHOT. The rendering technology that was used in Hypershot was improved and updates with the release of KeyShot. When Bunkspeed failed to pay licensing for the rendering technology, they integrated the iray render tech from mental images and rebranded it as SHOT.] If you don't remember, the core of HyperShot more or less became Keyshot. The computer I used to review is a MacBook Pro, with Windows 7 (via Bootcamp).

My CAD tool of choice is Solidworks complimented by PhotoView 360 for creating renderings. I've tried a number of other tools, such as Maxwell, but I kept coming back to PhotoView. It is integrated into Solidworks, scenes are easy to setup, there are enough options (but not an overwhelming amount) to dial it in. Renders don't need to bake forever to look decent and the results are "good enough."

A New Version

KeyShot 3 has arrived with a large number of enhancements and new features. The most notable being the integrated animation tools. Out of the box this feature is fully functional, and small preview movies can be saved. An add-on purchase is required to unlock exporting full resolution animations. In addition, from the render queue to the material editor, everything is cleaner, more intuitive and redesigned.

Installing and licensing KeyShot 3 was simple. A free demo version is available from Luxion's website along with a handful of plugins for popular CAD packages. As a designer who is primarily Mac based, I was pleasantly surprised to see Windows and OSX versions.

For this review, I sought a realistic scenario where I'd need software like KeyShot 3. High end design renderings are often used to evaluate the appearance of products that are difficult to prototype and as virtual photography for marketing and promotion. Complex & translucent objects are usually a good test for rendering software in regard to realism and speed. I decided to design a glass bottle for a fictional, high-end liquor brand: Hylian Mead. The "client" is the Hylian Meadery, located in the kingdom of Hyrule (the setting for Nintendo's Legend of Zelda video games) After a few thumbnail sketches, I settled on a design.

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Posted by Robert Blinn  |  23 Jan 2012  |  Comments (2)

Palenque_15.jpegImage from the Mayan ruin site Palenque: Templo de la Calavera ( Temple of the skull ), by Peter Andersen

Every couple of years a crackpot comes along and prophesizes the end of the world. Fortunately for us, the outcome of the Mayan calendar looks a lot more favorable than reviews for Roland Emmerich's film, 2012. So far, no end of the world cult has gotten it right and as a populace, we remain unsurprised. At the same time, on a very different calendar, an entirely different set of crackpots make promises on a much shorter timeline. This group tends to achieve their predictions, at least in the short term, but their shortsightedness might be just as dangerous as the Mayan's prophecy from so long ago.

Unfortunately, the second group has far more sway on the global economy. Each quarter CEOs give "guidance" to stock market analysts, which is basically a prediction of the earnings that they expect to achieve in the next quarter. Using an enormous bag of accounting tricks and choosing when to buy or sell assets, they often get their earnings per share estimates correct. When they exceed those estimates, they are rewarded by seeing their share price jump or punished when they miss it. For investors, that "pop" is a nice thing to see in their personal account, but the suits that own their stock aren't necessarily their customers.

Peter Drucker observed in 1973 that the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer, and the recently eulogized Steve Jobs fully understood that insight. Because Apple made an effort to focus on user experience rather than shareholder wealth, the people who invested in Apple shared in the same customer driven joy when it made its way to their pockets in earnings. Jobs, however, retook control of the reins of Apple in 1997 and the full extent of his influence is still being felt today. Jobs was CEO for around 60 quarters, while a design engagement usually takes less than a year. Apple succeeded in part because he understood that business is an ongoing design engagement, not an exercise in hitting quarterly earnings.

Steven Jennings wrote a thoughtful review of Roger Martin's new book Fixing the Game in Forbes called The Dumbest Idea in the World: Maximizing Shareholder VALUE. Maximizing shareholder value isn't necessarily the dumbest idea in the world if we view companies as players in a short-term betting game. For product designers, employees and customers, however, product development and corporate survival is not a short-term game of beating expectations, but instead represents creating actual value in the real world.

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Posted by core jr  |  20 Jan 2012  |  Comments (1)

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This post is part of our year-long series, Apocalypse 2012, where our favorite futurists, resiliency and disaster experts examine the role of design to help you prepare for...the end?

If you asked me what the two most important design tasks at hand for humanity is right now it would be:

1. Preserving human habitat
2. Creating new habitats for humans

The response I often get to these mandates is that the two are mutually exclusive; that if we preserve our habitat, planet Earth, we don't need to find a new planet. Some might argue that searching for new planets advances unsustainable technologies while simultaneously promoting fatalism with regards to our environment. In other words, the first proposal is proper tree-hugging and the second is dirty, quasi-steampunk.

I believe nothing could be further from the truth. It is an astronomical fact that planet Earth, in the long run, is doomed regardless of how well we handle the present greenhouse effect and related environmental challenges. Secondly, finding alternative habitats will not be feasible if we don't overcome present environmental challenges. Thirdly, the knowledge needed to terraform planets and to geo-engineer earth is the same.

I do think that we need to take our environment in general—our water and energy supply and global warming specifically—far more seriously than we do. I also don't think that spacefaring plans should diminish our current obligations to the Earth's environment. Within design and innovation we are already exploring the next frontier: innovation that breaks away from resource-dependence, where growth is uncoupled from consumption and product life cycles are prolonged.

Spacefaring is tougher to deal with because it seems remote; both physically and in terms of relevance and time. So the stickiest criticism is: "Why invest is space migration now?"

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Posted by Michael DiTullo  |   3 Jan 2012  |  Comments (8)

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A student recently asked me how I got my first professional job as a designer. It reminded me of a particularly difficult journey I hadn't thought of in years. Looking at my resume my path seems almost predestined. It was easy for me to almost forget how difficult it was to transition from student to professional. It almost didn't happen at all.

My last year in design school, I was doing sponsored projects for both Nike and Nissan. The Nike project was going extremely well and resulted in Nike flying me out to their headquarters outside of Portland, Oregon a couple of times to meet with the team and David Schenone, then the head of footwear design. A few months out from graduation, Dave made me an offer to come out to Nike full-time. Arrogantly, I asked if I could defer my decision until after graduation so I could weigh all of my options. I wanted to finish up my project for Nissan and I was hoping it also might turn into an offer.

Little did I know that many companies were having a difficult year. In fact it was one of the worst sales quarters Nike had ever seen. I wrapped up the program with Nissan and they expressed interest in me coming there, but they wanted me to get a couple years of experience first. Nike informed me that I was at the top of their list, but they had a 6-12 month hiring freeze. Interest from other companies like Seadoo and Bombardier also cooled when they readjusted their budgets.

This left me with one full-time offer to work on the design staff for a small company that manufactured electric assisted chairs for seniors. While this was a great opportunity, it just didn't feel like the right fit for the 21 year old me. To the surprise of my friends and family, I turned the offer down, ate a healthy serving of humble pie and moved back in with my parents that June.

ditullo_train.jpgAbove: Sketch from the basement studio days. Hydrogen fuel cell steam train. Charcoal, prisma pencil, and marker on large format newsprint.

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Posted by core jr  |  30 Dec 2011  |  Comments (0)

Wrapping up our Year in Review, we've rounded up our top 15 things you must see this Friday before you checkout to ring in 2012!

1. How Pencils are Made

2. Kawamura Ganjavian's Ostrich for the new Working-Resting Paradigm

3. Sweden's Hotel of Treehouses

4. Rube Goldberg x Social Media = Melvin the Magical Mixed Media Machine

5. With +Pool, Design Trio Aims to Make Manhattan's East River Swimmable

6. A Truly Amazing Paper Record Player Invitation

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Posted by core jr  |  28 Dec 2011  |  Comments (1)

In case you missed it, we've been looking back at 2011 this week in our Core77 Year in Review series. Besides our coverage of this year's news and milestones, we also looked at the cycling movement and visual communication with more trend watching to come. Today, our look back focuses on the best of Core77 features and resources from 2011.

2011YiR-Bestof.jpgOur top 10! Drumroll please...

CORE77 TOP 10
10. Moto Undone, a stripped down motorcycle concept.
9. Quadror, a new structural joint supporting everything from furniture to housing by Dror Benshetrit.
8. UPenn Engineering Students Present "Alpha": Possibly the Most High-Tech Bicycle Ever, featuring a switchable integrated free-fixed transmission.
7. Rapid Prototyped Dicemaster, intricately RP'ed dice for the Dungeons & Dragons set.
6. Bertelli's Biciclette, beautifully built using a mix of found and new parts.
5. I Have Seen the Future, and I Am Opposed, Don Norman reflects on the future of our technologies and warns about propriety controls.
4. Jeff Tideken's Gravity Bike Gets Up to 60 miles per hour.
3. Light Light's Sublime Levitating Lamps, skeuomorphic LED lamps.
2. CoreToon: Sixteen Ways to Use Your Wrist now that Watches are Obsolete.
1. A Mindbender for Craftsmen, who knew a piece of wood and a nail would be our top post of 2011?

Click to see if you can figure out how the nail got here?

FAVORITE FEATURES

Since our storied beginnings 16 years ago, the heart of Core77 has always been learning and making. 2011 has been no different. From Paul Backett's series on rethinking design education, Craighton Berman's introduction to the art of Sketchnotes to our Sustainability in 7 video series with Designers Accord, taught us that whether you are still in design school or have been designing for 40 years, it's always exciting to learn something new.

From Sketchnotes 101, by Craighton Berman

In 2011 we learned about the full lifecycle and applications of cork—from harvest to industry—while being mesmerized by the alchemic art of peinture decorative to transform one material into another. Our favorite case studies from 2011—whether it was frog's work on new electric vehicle ecosystems, Continuum's Leveraged Freedom Chair for mobility in developing countries or Ziba's work on creating a digital identity for TDK Life on Record—were also a testament to the transformative nature of design. Our Core77 sponsored competitions also yielded incredible case studies. Aava Mobile saw two distinctly different prototypes in Thomas Valcke's Blackbox and Alberto Villareal's Twist. And who could forget our Autism Connects winner (and student winner for the Core77 Design Award in Design for Social Impact), GoBug, an interactive toy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blink, a new line of electric vehicle chargers for ECOtality

And as we celebrated the history of industrial objects through the design history of icons (like the American fire helmet) and even stamps, we also spent time this year exploring the changing terrain of making. Willem Van Lancker challenged the idea of making physical things in a digital object culture in "O Pioneers." The persistence of the Open Design movement is becoming more evident as it becomes embraced by a wider audience of designers and consumers. Hand-in-hand with the rise of Open Source design, we saw 3D printing reaching past prototyping into the world of direct consumption with affordable 3D printers, multiple materials and made to order businesses.

From "Q+A with Thomas Lommée and the Open Structures Project"

Looking towards 2012, we'll continue with our Apocalypse series, kicked off by Jon Kolko's appeal for sensemaking and the humanizing power of design in an uncertain and disjointed world. The urgency of these current times was also addressed in Michael Sammet's "Building Adaptive Capacity: Towards a Design for Sustainability 3.0", Dave Seliger's Redesigning International Disaster Response and Panthea Lee's ongoing series, The Messy Art of Saving the World, a look at the role of design in international development.

CORETOONS

A perennial favorite, Coretoons are the incredible work of lunchbreath and fueledbycoffee, our Core77 artists-in-residence. Besides our 2nd most popular post of the year, here are three of our favorites from 2011:

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Posted by core jr  |  23 Dec 2011  |  Comments (0)

ShelterBox, disaster relief in a box, from Michael Sammet's "Building Adaptive Capacity: Towards a Sustainability 3.0"

2011 has been a year marked by the extreme winds of mother nature, political upheaval and economic uncertainty. But in this time of unpredictability, design has emerged as a voice of reason, offering elegant solutions for inelegant problems and championing the sheer magic of human resiliency.

March 25th, 3:40PM EST, from Haiyan Zhang's Geiger Maps

In March, the world was gripped by the tragedy of the Tokhoku earthquake and designers responded immediately with fundraising efforts, disaster relief assistance and information systems to show support unbound by geography. The ebullience of the Arab Spring was tempered by reality as newly liberated countrymen and women looked towards building a brighter future together with designers on the ground, lending a helping hand. Closer to home, designers helped write a new chapter in the lives of disabled American veterans returning home from war.

From Panthea Lee's series on the role of design in international development, "The Messy Art of Saving the World: After the Egyptian Revolution"

Designers changed the world. 2011 welcomed the world's seven billionth person—designer's prepared for this milestone with innovative and empathetic solutions for managing our growing global community. Cooper Hewitt's Design with the Other 90% exhibition is the most comprehensive and wonderful example of some of these solutions—a computer station made out of an oil drum, bicycle phone chargers and sandbag architecture, just to name a few. In other design exhibition news, The Museum of Modern Art took a look at the communication between people and objects in their phenomenal crowd-sourced exhibition, Talk to Me, sparking what we hope will be an ongoing public discussion about interaction design.

talktome.pngPHOTO GALLERY: Talk to Me exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art

Designers made this year fun. This year, we painted with light, made rainbows with circuits, watched a man fly and saw a new world of possibilities in the best art project ever. We made printing exciting again—whether it was printing solar cells, making mini letterpress printers, 3D Printing Stephen Colbert's head, printing food or printing your digital feed.

Big Idea, Little Printer: Exclusive Q+A with Matt Webb of Berg
Jeb Corliss, wingsuit flyer

At Core77, 2011 marked our 16th year as an online resource for the design community. And what better way to celebrate than to reward our collaborators, old and new, with a trophy. The Core77 Design Awards trophy, to be precise. We kicked off the Core77 Design Awards program with 15 categories of design excellence judged by a distributed jury representing 8 countries. In our inaugural year, we had over 600 entries (including 250 video testimonials). And did we mention the live broadcasts? Another first for the Core77 family is our recently released Hand-Eye Supply catalog, our first printed catalog and the Hand-Eye Supply x Vanport American Craftsman apron, our very first Hand-Eye Supply product collaboration.

Hand-Eye Supply x Vanport Outfitters American Craftsman Apron

Core77 Design Awards 2011

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Posted by Jon Kolko  |   8 Nov 2011  |  Comments (11)

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This is the first post in a year-long series, Apocalypse 2012, where our favorite futurists, resiliency and disaster experts examine the role of design to help you prepare for...the end?

It's a pretty fascinating time to witness the demise of the most powerful and rich nation in the history of the world. All doom and gloom aside, for those of us who fancy ourselves drive-by-ethnographers, it's good people watching. What's more, it's predictable and rhythmic, as events occur and pundits pundit and protesters protest, all to the steady beat of mass production. There's no need for unnecessary anticipation, as we can easily guess when the next occupier will be tear-gassed, or when the next presidential hopeful will make an audacious and racist remark; we're pretty much guaranteed a rhetorical and canned response from our administration, followed by news of a pop star acting drunk and disorderly. It repeats so frequently, and with such a blanded regularity, that nothing is unbelievable, nothing too grotesque. An electric fence to keep the immigrants out? Of course that's what a presidential candidate would propose. New functionality to see what pornographic videos your friends are watching, right now? Of course that's what Facebook is building. This is the tongue-in-cheek fallout the feeds the Daily Show, only it isn't really very funny, because it's real, and you can't turn it off.

It's perhaps obvious to point out that the world we live in is interconnected, yet the simple statement is at the crux of our downward digression: our political system is intertwined with economics, intellectual property is connected to technology, design is at the heart of consumption and marketing feeds the beast. It's a system, and so our critique of it should be systemic, and so too should be our strategies for change. But most of us can't think of systems, because they are too big of which to think. We witness items, or people, or unique instances, and we critique and celebrate those, because they are tractable. To denounce Michele Bachmann as insane is misleadingly simple, but to rationalize her rise to power is harder, because it requires empathizing with her supporters, understanding her world view, acknowledging the role she's played in a political machine, examining her relationship-through-policy with large companies, teasing out the relationship between these companies and religious entities, and holding all of that in your head while asking yourself, "Did she really just say that 'there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas'?" Seven plus or minus two, and our brain quite literally can't make sense of the world around us.

To maintain any resemblance of happiness, the skill most of us will require in the post-apocalyptic, post-United States industrial block is sensemaking, the ability to synthesize large quantities of often incomplete or conflicting information—and we must direct that skill squarely at the humanization of technology. In the history of economic prosperity and advancement, there have been only a select few armed this magic ability: us. The "creative class", those with—god help us—"creative quotient", have learned this skill largely through on-the-job training. And then, we've focused our efforts on producing things no one needs and marketing these things to people who literally aren't equipped with the education, the confidence or the discerning ability to judge.

Wealth inequality, from my perspective, is not the point of clash between the 1% and the other 99% (although, like in any system, money is intertwined in just about everything). The clash is about the ability to understand systems—to make sense of complexity—and then, when possible, to wield or manage these systems to our collective advantage. The political process is not separate from banking, lobbying, manufacturing, educating, importing, exporting, fighting or praying—and neither is the process of design. To say "we're part of a global economy" is to trivialize the complexities of the man-made world. We're part of a global technological system, and everything —including, thanks to companies like Monsanto, nature—is now a part of it. The power currency of the next era is sensemaking through systems thinking, and the occupiers are starting to realize that they don't have any money to spend in this new economy.

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Posted by Michael DiTullo  |  13 Oct 2011  |  Comments (3)

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About four years ago I had the rare opportunity to start collaborating with Jonathan Ward, founder of Icon. Jonathan and his team hand build limited edition vehicles in California. Calling them vehicles is almost an insult—they are rolling testaments to what happens when you go the extra mile on every single detail. The vehicles don't have headlights, they have LED assemblies made by the same people who made the lights for the Mars rover. They don't have paint jobs, they have electrostatically applied powder coated finishes. The emblems are hand cast by a jeweler. The upholstery is made by Chilewich. When people say things like "They don't build them like they used to," tell them to look up Jonathan.

This is not the kind of object you use and toss. Its very existence nurtures its owner's desire to keep it, to take care of it and be proud of it. Working with Jonathan reminds me a bit of something that frog's founder, Hartmut Esslinger, once wrote:

"If you build in emotional value, people will keep products longer and take more care of it; this of course saves energy and materials. It is the difference between selling an ordinary hi-fi and selling amazing sound."

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