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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Walking through a vast museum filled with paintings and sculptures, you might be surprised learn that what you're seeing is, on average, only 2–4 percent of the museum's entire collection. The other 96–98 percent is tucked away in climate-controlled storage rooms deep beneath the museum or at off-site locations. Recently, the Dutch art historian and designer Maaike Roozenburg unveiled the first results of a project intended to give these hidden objects a new life, putting them in museumgoers' hands and helping people get back in touch with their heritage.

Roozenburg has spent years exploring museum archives, and about four years ago she started examining the possibilities of 3D scanning technology as a way to put out-of-reach museum objects back in the hands of everyday people. "These objects are meant to be used, not just exist in a museum," she explains. "I want to bring their existence, their soul, back. That's where my work as a designer comes in. I really wanted to make these objects accessible."

MaaikeRoozenburg-SmartReplicas-2.jpgA 17th-century teacup and saucer (left) and its 3D replica

MaaikeRoozenburg-SmartReplicas-4.jpgThe final porcelain replicas are enriched with an Augmented Reality overlay that can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet.

During one of her research trips to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in Rotterdam, Roozenburg fell in love with a set of 17th-century glasses. "I just wanted to have them," she says. "They looked very modern somehow and I wanted to use them in my home." Unfortunately, the glasses were among the most fragile objects in the museum's collection, and not allowed to be touched.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  11 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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As the line between fine art and design becomes increasingly blurred, Ian Stell stands somewhere in the middle, crafting furniture that is just as much a feat of engineering as it is a work of art. I first stumbled upon the Brooklyn-based Stell when he presented a few pieces from his Pantograph Series at the Sight Unseen Offsite show during New York Design Week, and was so enraptured that I decided to dig a bit deeper in this column.

The Pantograph Series takes its name from the drawing tool, a mechanical copying device developed in 1603 for the scaling and copying of text and pictures. (Fun fact: Thomas Jefferson was known for making copies of his letters via a type of pantograph called the polygraph, which copied but didn't enlarge the original.) Stell became interested in the device last year while completing his MFA thesis in furniture from the Rhode Island School of Design. "I found something really fascinating about it, in that the core mechanism is a hinged parallelogram that can transmit motion in a very controlled way," Stell says. "The possibilities of how that can be used are limitless."

Stell was curious if the horizontal movement of the hinged parallelogram could also be transmitted vertically—specifically, down the leg of a table. Taking a leap of faith, he began to test his theory by prototyping, and soon found himself drilling a multitude of holes into bits of wood and hinging them together with pins.

IanStell-PantographSeries-2.jpgStell's Big Pivot is one of three new tables that transform when pulled—in this case, from a desk or dining table (top image) to a console (above).

IanStell-PantographSeries-3.jpgBig Pivot is made of more than 1,500 pieces of ebonized white oak.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   3 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Last April, we wrote about Logbar's Ring, a smart-jewelry concept that aims to provide gesture control of a host of smartphone apps (and that raised more than $880,000 dollars on Kickstarter). But Logbar is hardly the only company competing for this wearables niche. In June, Ringly announced a pre-sale for its own smartphone-connected ring, and hit its sales goal of $60,000 in just eight hours. Clearly, some people really want a smart ring.

Where Ring promises magic wand–style controls, Ringly is more about discreet notifications. The company's CEO, Christina Mercando, came up with the idea for the device after missing a series of important calls, messages and appointments. "I started asking around and noticing other women having similar problems," she says, "so I set out to create a solution that I was also proud to wear."

Through colleagues at her previous employer, the collective-intelligence startup Hunch, Mercando was introduced to Logan Munro, an MIT-educated engineer who became Ringly's co-founder. Together, they worked on creating a device that was, first and foremost, aesthetically pleasing. "The entire idea around Ringly was to create technology that was small and discreet and incorporate it into beautiful jewelry and accessories," Mercando says. "We wanted people to fall in love with the design first and then get excited about what it can do."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  20 Jun 2014  |  Comments (10)

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While thoughts of surfing may evoke summertime and warm, sandy beaches, there also exists an entirely separate sect of surfers who brave sub-freezing temperatures to catch waves on frigid waters. "Cold-water surfing" has become the alternative for die-hard surfers who have moved to a cooler climate or who are looking to catch a wave on a less crowded shore. And the British company Finisterre has set itself the challenge of providing gear that serves these hardcore athletes—including, most recently, the world's first surf knife designed specifically for the brutal conditions of freezing waters.

The knife marks a new direction for Finisterre, which is looking to expand from clothing into tactical equipment. So it enlisted the help of the skilled knife-smiths at Joseph Rodgers and Sons, based in Sheffield, England. "This was a new product for them and they relished the challenge," says Ernest Capbert, Finisterre's marketing director. "After specializing in folding knives and cut-throat razors for centuries, it was a nice change for them to experiment with new ideas and create a new model of knife."

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To make an effective cold-water surf knife, the two companies had to focus on the symptoms one experiences when confronted with stage-two hypothermia, such as muscle miscoordination, labored movements and contracted blood vessels, which make it hard to use tools quickly and accurately. The Finisterre design team drove across the country to work in-house with Joseph Rodgers and Sons for six months, sketching and ideating potential designs.

"Some of the earlier sketches featured saws, simple triple-blade editions, built-in fin keys, separate bottle- and tin-opener blades, a cork handle and various lanyard and clip styles," Capbert explains. "In the end, we opted for a two-blade knife—a simple multi-use blade and an additional blade that could handle a flat head, tin opener and bottle opener in one." The 3/32 hex fin key was removed from the main knife and an "easy pull" loop was added, making the blade more accessible in the harshest conditions.

The knife blade and fin key are made of 420S45 high-carbon stainless steel, hardened to 51-55 on the Rockwell scale. The decision to go with stainless steel was not an easy one. Carbon steel blades hold a very sharp edge, but are brittle and can rust and dull quickly, needing extra care and sharpening. While stainless isn't as hard and is more difficult to sharpen, it doesn't rust. For Finisterre, the 420S45 high carbon stainless struck the perfect balance.

Finisterre-SurfingKnife-5.jpgA prototype being tested on a can of beans

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  13 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We first stumbled upon the work of Studio Banana via its 2012 Ostrich Pillow, the pillow-hood combo of Kickstarter fame. Now the studio, which prides itself on making what it describes as "fun, functional objects," is back with another product of a different animal moniker: the Kangaroo Light.

Observing human behavior, the Studio Banana team saw an opportunity for a multifunctional light for the multitasking individual. With its slim profile, flexible form and negligible weight, the Kangaroo Light can be easily squished into any aspect of your life. "Its funky hexagonal shape allows it to fit your lifestyle, whether you roll it up and turn it into a torch or take it camping for some outdoor light," says Shadi Ganjavian-Connor, the Communication Manager for Studio Banana, which has offices in Madrid and Lausanne, Switzerland.

As with the studio's other products, tangibility plays a large role in the Kangaroo Light. The light has a pyramidal, white, high-silicone exterior, giving it flexibility and, as an added bonus, making it splash-proof. "We were after a portable, lightweight and flat device that could be manipulated with one hand and that could fit inside a standard purse, bag or rucksack," says Banana co-founder Key Kawamura. "The triangular tessellation is the result of many tests looking for optimum flexibility and adaptability to the insides of different receptacles." After experimenting with various shapes, the team determined that something closest to a circle was less likely to get caught being pulled in and out of a bag. Merging the triangular tiles with the concept of a somewhat circular form, the team arrived at the final hexagonal shape.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   6 Jun 2014  |  Comments (6)

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David Rockwell is one of America's most acclaimed interior designers. His firm, Rockwell Group, has designed large-scale immersive environments for hotels and restaurants around the world, not to mention its sets for the Academy Awards and several Broadway musicals. But Rockwell's latest project is one of his smallest yet, and not something typically associated with high-end hospitality—a grill.

Rockwell, however, doesn't see it as a major departure. "We are interested in all aspects of hospitality, from the preparation of food to the experience of eating," he says. "The core of dining—whether you're at a restaurant or at home—is sharing experiences with family and friends, and our grill goes to that."

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Indeed, the David Rockwell by Caliber Grill is being billed as a "social grill"—which, when you come to think of it, is something of an innovation. Grilling is an inherently social experience, but most grills do not exactly encourage folks to stand around and enjoy the show.

For the Rockwell Group, the biggest hindrance to a shared experience is the typical grill lid, which separates the cook from his or her guests. So the firm's primary goal was to create a disappearing grill hood. "Once we came up with the idea that the grill should be treated like a table with access on all four sides, we worked a lot on achieving that," Rockwell says. "It was a complex challenge, as the firebox needed to be certain dimensions to generate the solid heat for professional grilling, and there needed to be a means to discharge the fat spilling from grill's surface."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  30 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

KnaufBrown-FloorCoaster-1.jpgLeft: Knauf and Brown's Floor Coaster. Right: early prototypes of the rolling table

Die-hard auto enthusiasts swear by manual transmissions, not only for the gas mileage but also for the sensation of being in fuller control of the car. It's an appreciation fostered by active participation and intentional use—an appreciation that the design studio Knauf and Brown (whom we recently profiled along with two fellow Cana-designers) wants to foster in household objects through its new Standard Collection.

"If you ask someone why they drive a standard instead of an automatic, the answer is usually related to enjoying the act of driving," says D Calen Knauf, one half of the Vancouver-based studio. "You're using your hands, you're using your mind more, you have to make decisions, and those elements bleed into this collection." Perhaps the most notable object in the collection, which debuted at Sight Unseen OFFSITE during New York Design Week, is the Standard Floor Coaster, a petite rolling platform that looks sort of like a cross between a coffee table and a curling stone.

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Knauf made an early, makeshift version of the table during his freshman year at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, in Vancouver. It was born out of the very real need for a small, movable table that wouldn't be toppled by his swiveling armchair. "It was just a block of wood with a notch cut out of it, so that it was easy to grab, and a rounded bottom edge to allow it to drag on the carpet easily," Knauf says. "People would sit on it at parties and it would break. Every time, it would take like a week or so to fix it, and I'd realize how much a part of my life it was."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  23 May 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Anyone who has experienced the wrath of a malfunctioning takeout coffee cup will be relieved to hear that a new alternative is coming to the market. The Viora Lid from Vaporpath promises to end your to-go cup woes with a lid that not only reduces the likelihood of spills but provides an experience closer to sipping from a ceramic mug.

For the lid's inventor, Doug Fleming, Viora is the result of 20 years of innovating in the beverage-container space. "The current lid is the result of dozens of iterations on almost every aspect of the design," Fleming says. "What began as a quest to unlock the aroma inside the cup, and the air flow of the volatile vapors [hence the company name, Vaporpath], evolved into a study of the fluid-flow part of the problem."

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"While few things sound as simple as understanding how a cup works," Fleming says, "it turns out to be remarkably complicated to get it right once you put a lid on it." First looking to unleash the aroma of the coffee within, the inventor enlarged the mouth hole of the lid and moved it away from the cup's rim, creating an effect similar to that of a ceramic mug. When the cup is tipped, a pool of coffee collects in a well right under the drinker's nose, giving them a fuller sensory experience. The idea: more smell, better taste.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  19 May 2014  |  Comments (1)

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The Dutch design studio Joris Laarman Lab is known for merging technology and craftsmanship to challenge our notions of how furniture looks and feels, and its work currently on display at Friedman Benda in New York certainly doesn't disappoint. Joris Laarman Lab: Bits and Crafts, which runs until June 14, contains no shortage of mind-bending furniture—but perhaps the standout example is the Gradient Chair, a curvy, dark-navy lounge that appears to be made of hundreds of tiny circular structures.

Microstructures is actually the correct term for the chair's components—and that's also the name of one of the four themes highlighted in the exhibition. (The others are Maker, Vortex and Spirographic Series.) Earlier this week, I caught up with Laarman to find out more about how his studio developed these particular microstructures, and how they came together in the Gradient Chair.

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As with much of Laarman's work, the impetus for the project was a desire to push the limits of digital fabrication—in this case, 3D printing. "We want to make objects that are actually usable, and we still see that 3D printing is most often used for prototyping," Laarman says. "We want to bring it to a higher level." With the advance of new printable materials like polyurethane and aluminum, Laarman saw an opportunity to create an utterly new and innovative chair, one that defied many of the structural concerns faced by other 3D-printed products.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   9 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

ElisaStrozyk-CeramicTables-1.jpgAll photos by Studio Been

The Berlin-based designer Elisa Strozyk has the ability to transform commonplace materials and age-old techniques into anomalies of design that challenge our perceptions. The designer is best known for her wooden textiles, and her latest endeavor shows a similarly disruptive approach. For a series of ceramic tables, Strozyk quite literally breathe new life into glazing, one of the oldest decorative techniques.

The ceramic tables debuted at Objects and the Factory, an exhibition that took place in Cologne, Germany, earlier this year. Strozyk was invited to explore a specific production technique. "I had wanted to work with ceramics for a long time," she says. "It was a good reason to visit some ceramic workshops, and I was very inspired by the different possibilities of using ceramic glazes."

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After touring a few local workshops, Strozyk begin to experiment on her own. "The first challenge was to develop large flat surfaces that can be used as tabletops," explains Strozyk. "With traditional ceramic techniques it's not easy, as the material could break or bend during the firing process. I found a way to use an artificial ceramic material for the tabletops." That material is cordierite, the same mineral used to create pizza stones, perfect for its ability to retain and distribute heat without cracking.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   2 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

LucasAndLucas-TrashCloset-1.jpgA wardrobe salvaged from the trash (left) was repurposed for Lucas en Lucas's Trash Closet. All photos by Rene Mesman

One man's trash is Marijke and Sander Lucas's treasure. The Amsterdam-based designers behind the studio Lucas en Lucas recently unveiled the Trash Closet, a high-end armoire built from thrown-away furniture and intended to raise awareness about the global furniture-waste crisis.

For the husband-and-wife team, the design process often begins where the life cycle of other products ends. Taking inspiration from written-off or seemingly mundane objects, the team looks to create new functionality and draw attention to these forgotten products. With the Trash Closet, this inspiration came from "urban landfills"—the Lucases' name for the piles of waste that build up once a week in Dutch cities before being picked up by the municipality. "In some cities, this results in huge mountains of waste that lead to very strange scenes on the streets," explains Sander.

These trash piles proved to be fertile ground for the designers, who made a schedule of trash days and pickup areas in order to build their collection of discarded furniture. "Most people would consider furniture in the streets as trash, but if you look closer you might find beautiful objects, sometimes even little treasures," Sander says. With these castoff bits and pieces in hand, Lucas and his wife set about designing a new furnishing that showcased the possibility not only to create beautiful, functional objects from recycled materials but also to create one valued at a much higher price than the sum of its parts. (In that respect they were certainly successful: the Trash Closet has a price tag of $11,268.08.)

LucasAndLucas-TrashCloset-4.jpgA scale model of the Trash Closet

LucasAndLucas-TrashCloset-2.jpgLucas en Lucas's Frankencloset taking shape in their laboratory, er, workshop

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  25 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Had Albrecht Dürer been able to attend this year's Salone Milan, he would have been pleased to see his designs getting a new breath of life thanks to the work of deJongeKalff. The Dutch design studio based its silicon Table Skin Embroidery on one of Dürer's woodcuts as part of m2, an exhibition put on by Droog featuring new works adapted from some of the 8,000 objects in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

The artists Jennifer de Jonge and Roos Kalff founded deJongeKalff in 2011; since then, they've continued to work independently while pursuing some projects jointly, having discovering the benefits that come with co-working and the cross-pollination of disciplines. (No doubt Dürer, who was a painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist, would have approved.) One of the beneficial byproducts of this arrangement was the Table Skin. Kalff got the idea for the product after observing de Jonge experiment with pouring leftover rubber from another project over various glass plates. Fascinated with how the heavy material fell and revealed the structure beneath it, Kalff immediately thought of the drapes and folds of a tablecloth.

deJongeKalff-TableSkin-2.jpgAlbrecht Dürer's woodcut Pattern from the Series of Six Knots, completed in 1507, was the inspiration for a new version of deJongeKalff's Table Skin on display in Milan earlier this month.

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So the designers set out to create an actual tablecloth in this manner. First deJongeKalff covered the top of a table with a large bread of clay weighing roughly 22 pounds, building it up to about six millimeters in thickness and rubbing it until it was mirror smooth. Then the artists experimented with pressing various objects into the clay: "pineapple, knots, spoons, different strings, all we could find in the studio and its surrounding shops," de Jonge says. Pouring rubber over the surface, the designers would look at the results and evaluate them before trying something else.

"Ultimately, we chose to work with haberdashery," de Jonge says, referring to the small sewing items sold by a haberdasher, such as beads, buttons, needles and ribbons. "You will see the very detailed wire work in the rubber, the weaving, the fineness of the design." Not that everything they tried was a success. "A lot of objects worked better than others," de Jonge admits. "It depends on the thickness, the smoothness, how big the object is. Of course, it really depends on the end result you are looking for." For Roos and de Jonge, that result was a design that blended the understated elegance of white damask linen with the ornate detailing of Persian carpets.

deJongeKalff-TableSkin-4.jpgThe designers started by pressing various objects into a layer of clay spread across a tabletop, then pouring rubber over the surface and evaluating the results.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  18 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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While the Layers Cloud Chair might feel (and look) like you're sitting on a cloud, the bulbous lounge is anything but weightless. It's made from 550 pounds of solid wool—and its construction was a woolly beast of its own. Designed by Richard Hutten, the chair made its debut in Milan last week as part of an exhibit by the Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat, which enlisted 22 international designers to explore the diverse capabilities of its Divina fabric.

"For me, designing is in the first place a thinking and research process," the Rotterdam-based Hutten says. "So I looked into the material. What makes it special? How does it look, feel, smell? How can I use it in an exceptional way?" Divina is a durable wool blend, and Hutten chose to focus on what he considered the main qualities of the material—its soft tactility and its availability in a range of vibrant hues.

As an added challenge, the designer resolved to use Divina as the structure for the object itself. "I wanted to use the Divina material as the sole material for the piece, not only as a cover, which is the normal way it's being used," he says. "These I called 'the rules of the game.' From there, the playing started."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  11 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you were attending the Salone del Mobile in Milan this this week, you might have seen a little black Daihatsu pickup driving around with some nebulous cargo in the back—the Cumulus Parasol, a cloud-like umbrella that inflates in reaction to sunlight.

Cumulus is the work of the Netherlands-based Castor Bours and Wouter Widdershoven. The duo has been working together on explorative design projects since early 2007, forming Studio Toer in the center of Eindhoven in 2011. "When you look around, most interiors are static," Bours says. "We want to create products that communicate with you. The Cumulus Parasol was developed from an exploration in creating an object that reacts to its own surroundings."

It works via four small, rectangular polycrystalline solar cells that harvest energy from the sun. The polycrystalline cells are made up of raw silicon, melted and poured into a square mold, that is cooled and cut into perfectly square pieces. As one of the most standardized processes for making solar panels, polycrystalline panels tend to be the least expensive on the market and can be easily sourced online, as was the case for Studio Toer. One slight hitch: Even though the polycrystalline panels are low in intensity, the duo found that too much power allowed the parasol to inflate in no sun. "Which is no fun," says Castor.

Studio Toer remedied this by using fewer and smaller solar cells that only kept the parasol inflated for as long as it's in direct sunlight. When charged, the panels transfer energy to a 12-volt ventilator positioned at the roof of the umbrella. The ventilator is sewn into the top of the nylon body, and when on, it inflates the Cumulus Parasol in 20 seconds. When the sun is obscured, the parasol automatically deflates. For manual control, there is also a power switch integrated into the pole.

StudioToer-CumulusParasol-2.jpgThe solar cells and fan on top of the parasol

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   4 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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With an elegant silhouette that doesn't scream "DIY," the Zeta Aluminium lamp is a welcome addition to the realm of hardware-free, flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself housewares. Designed by the Florence, Italy-based ZPSTUDIO, the lamp uses a narrow template design to wring maximum utility out of a minimal amount of material—resulting in low cost and little environmental impact.

Zeta Aluminium is actually the second iteration of this project. The original Zeta, released in 2011, was created from sheets of laser-cut poplar. ZPSTUIO'S founders, Eva Parigi and Matteo Zetti, sold the prototype to another design company, but they have now taken back the patent to redevelop the concept into Zeta Aluminium. "We wanted to further extend the early idea to achieve a more advanced, tech-like version," Parigi says.

Zeta Aluminium shares the same principles and silhouette of its predecessor, but instead of wood it uses Dibond, an industrial aluminum composite made of two pre-painted sheets of 0.012-inch-thick aluminum that sandwich a polyethylene core. This is a big upgrade from poplar: Dibond is lighter weight and more durable, and it will not warp or bow the way a sheet of wood might. Plus, the polyethylene core adds an additional layer of friction to hold the pieces together.

ZDStudio-ZetaFlatpackLamp-2.jpgAssembling the original poplar version of the Zeta lamp

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  28 Mar 2014  |  Comments (1)

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With the rise of augmented reality (AR) technology, virtual reality headsets like the much buzzed-about Oculus Rift aren't just for playing games in a simulated universe—they can actually help industrial designers do their jobs, too. Four students at the Royal College of Art recently suggested how with Gravity, a 3D sketchpad that they debuted at an RCA exhibition last February.

Right now Gravity exists as a functioning prototype—and it works pretty much exactly how you would imagine. Users don virtual reality glasses and then draw objects in space above the Landing Pad, a handheld glass platform. This space above the Landing Pad is called "GSpace," and it can be comprised of a single drawing or multiple ones. By rotating or tilting the Landing Pad, the user can control the plane the drawing exists on and build out the drawing, much like adding details to a real object in space.

Gravity works by integrating several tracking technologies to be able to pair and synchronize all of the different elements of the system together with the AR glasses, so that the 3D-generated content is overlaid on top of the user's vision in real time. The team has a patent pending on its innovation.

The Gravity team—Guillaume Couche, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Pierre Paslier and Oluwaseyi Sosanya—is currently finishing the beta software and looking for manufacturers for the Landing Pad and the pen. Users will have to provide their own virtual-reality headsets; the developers have been working with AR glasses by the French company Laster, but they're aiming for universal compatibility. "We have recently made our software compatible with Oculus Rift and we are looking into making it work with all the leading-edge AR glasses on the market (that is, with on-board camera and LARGE field of view for immersive AR)," the Gravity team writes in an e-mail. "Gravity is a tool where augmented and virtual realities can be exploded as creation tools. This is why we are trying to make it available for as many platforms as possible. Our idea is to become the universal platform for 3D sketching in AR."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  21 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Francesca Gattello was completing her master's in product design at Politecnico di Milano last spring when she decided to enter Scenari di Innovazione (Innovation Scenarios), a competition that tasks students with creating new products for small artisan companies. After visiting many of the contest partners' shops, Gattello was struck by huge sacks of waste outside a marble manufacturing facility, which she learned posed a serious environmental problem. Given the expense of proper disposal, many manufacturers opt to simply pour their stone waste into streams—damaging the local ecosystem. Gattello decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, incorporating stone waste into pure clay sourced from another local shop to create an experimental material that could be used for a line of housewares.

Gattello's project ended up winning the Scenari di Innovazione and, as a reward, she was able to prototype the products proposed. For her line of pots, cups, vases and bowls, dubbed Calcarea, the Verona-based designer drew inspiration from her collaborators' existing products. "I chose to work with Attucci Marmi, a little stone industry, to get the waste, and Rossoramina, a family-run ceramic company, to develop the product concept, the prototypes and the collection," Gattelo says. From Rossoramina, she got the idea for the vessels' distinctive vertical grooves, as well as for using two surface finishes—"a transparent glazed one," Gattello says, "to show the complete claylike production process, and a rough one, which shows the core mixed material, its nature, its visual and tactile qualities."

FrancescaGattello-CalcareaHousewares-2.jpgGattello had to hand-sift the stone waste to remove impurities, a process she hopes to automate for the production run.

FrancescaGattello-CalcareaHousewares-3.jpgThe vessels are made via a combination of mold-casting and hand-turning on a wheel.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  14 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Based in Syracuse, New York, Borough Furnace is a small metal-casting workshop founded by cousins John Truex and Jason Connelly. The crux of their operation is the Skilletron, a custom crucible furnace now on its fifth or sixth iteration that melts scrap metal by burning waste vegetable oil.

Truex was first introduced to the world of iron casting via a small cupola furnace, a miniature version of the old coke-fired furnaces that were the staple of industrial iron production for a long time. "Now most U.S. iron production is done in large electric induction furnaces; a lot of Indian and Chinese iron production is still done with large coke-fired cupola furnaces," Truex says. Wanting to create a small batch of cast-iron goods like skillets and bottle openers, Truex and Connelly looked at a variety of furnaces and manufacturing options to see what would make the most sense.

The duo discovered that for the same amount of money they would need to spend on tooling for overseas production they could build out their own micro-foundry and prototyping studio in the States that would also allow them to explore new cast-iron products and objects—retooling and making their own production molds for each new piece. Investigating further, they found that existing cost-effective furnaces like cupolas were restricting in their ability to only cast iron and types of bronze; also, because of the coke fuel, they were extremely dirty. But more expensive crucibles, which can melt aluminum or any other metal cleanly, proved unacceptable in the amount of pollution and fuel the process requires.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   7 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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From concrete planters cast from fruit to whittled toothbrush shanks, Pratt Institute graduates Chen Chen and Kai Williams (CCKW) have been exploring industrial processes and materials to create furniture, products and art since 2011. "Our design philosophy is very bottom-up," Chen says. "We experiment with materials and allow them to inform us of what products to make from them."

One of the first results of this design philosophy was a set of Cold Cut Coasters, inspired by the way in which deli meats are sliced at the point of purchase. Chen and Williams wanted to replicate that effect with a product where they could pre-make a "loaf" and slice it depending on how much a customer wanted.

"Eventually, we came to the realization that this was not going to be possible," Chen says. "But in trying for that goal, we came up with a way to make composite materials with intricate patterns by soaking fabric in resin and then wrapping it around solid materials like wood. This process brought an element of chance into each composition we made, as we had no idea what the slices were going to look like until they were cut." That material exploration also laid the groundwork for what would become a series of four rugs made in collaboration with Tai Ping Carpets and released during Art Basel Miami Beach last December.

ChenKai-ColdCutsRugs-3.jpgDetail views of Coast Occult Dress (top)

ChenKai-ColdCutsRugs-2.jpgThe Oldest Stucco Star is another one of the four rugs Chen Chen and Kai Williams designed for Tai Ping Carpets

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  28 Feb 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Like a lot of successful entrepreneurial ventures, Chrome Industries was born of out dissatisfaction. Its founders were a group of Boulder, Colorado, cyclists who couldn't find a messenger bag that met their standards—so they started making their own, using military-grade materials and salvaged seatbelt buckles. Now based in San Francisco, Chrome has been selling those messenger bags for almost 20 years, alongside a growing collection of similarly tough backpacks, apparel and other gear.

The latest addition to that collection is a line of what Chrome calls "knurled welded waterproof rolltops," released two weeks ago. The four bike bags (two backpacks, a front-rack duffle, and a saddle bag) sport roll-top closures and distinctive exterior seams with a nubby texture—evidence of that "knurled welded" technique, which the company says creates superior durability with very little weight.

So how does knurled welding work? Knurling usually refers to a surface treatment used on wrenches and other metal tools; in those cases, it creates a raised pattern that provides better grip. In knurled welding, that raised pattern is printed on both sides of the tool used to RF-weld pieces of fabric together. (Envision two waffle irons coming together.) This creates more surface area along the seams, which equals greater strength.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  21 Feb 2014  |  Comments (6)

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While desktop 3D printers have made rapid prototyping at home as easy as the push of a button, that accessibility comes at a price—a much lower level of quality than with traditional manufacturing methods. As a result, desktop 3D printing is still not a viable option for making finished products. At least, that's the general assumption—one that the New York-based Italian designers Barbara Busatta and Dario Buzzini hope to challenge with their Machine Series, a line of containers that are ready for use hot off the printer.

Busatta and Buzzini's collaboration was born out of a promise to do a project together each year under the studio name ICOSAEDRO, each time focusing on a specific material or craft as part of a joint effort to learn a new methodology. For their inaugural effort, Buzzini, a design director at IDEO, said that he and Busatta, a freelance art director, were drawn to the "artisanal process" of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), a 3D-printing technology that involves melting plastic filament and extruding it layer-on-layer to build a form.

Icosaedro-MachineSeries-5.jpgThe Machine Series includes five containers with lids. There is a black version in three different shapes (top) and red and yellow versions (above).

Until now, FDM has not exactly been a fount of high-end product design. "FDM nowadays is a synonym for tchotchkes and miniatures for Yoda busts," Buzzini says. But he and Busatta felt that there was an opportunity to bring a new level of craft to an imperfect technique, noting that "it felt like the right starting point to express our point of view on what could be a way to bring craftsmanship into the future."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  14 Feb 2014  |  Comments (2)

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When choosing materials for a delicate hanging light, granite might not be your first choice. Not so for the Spanish designer André Simón Soneira, who decided to use the weighty material to create MIKA 350, a lamp that is just as beautiful to behold as it was challenging to make.

With this project, Soneira wanted to create a product that spoke to his identity as a designer, resonating with his traditions and heritage. Soneira hails from a region of northwest Spain called Galicia, known for its granite repositories. With strong Celtic influences, Galicia has a long tradition of mining and processing granite for different uses and has many rare types, including Pink Porriño, Gray Mondariz and Silvestre. "Galicia and its cities smell like stone," Soneira says. "When it's raining, the smell invades every street. … If Galicia were a lamp, it would be MIKA 350."

AndreSimon-GraniteLamp-2.jpgSoneira (center) with the lamp-shade craftsman, Esteban (left), and a colleague from Soneira's studio. All photos by Lino Escuris.

A look at the production process behind MIKA 350

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  31 Jan 2014  |  Comments (6)

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As people get more and more used to paying for small transactions with credit cards, one group in particular seems to be losing out—baristas. At least that's what Ryder Kessler noticed in 2008 while using plastic at a favorite coffee shop with a noticeably empty tip jar. A (miserable) barista explained that the rise of credit card payments had meant the decline of cash tips. "That struck me as a huge problem for everyone involved," Kessler says. "The employees were working just as hard and making less money, the store was losing out on incentives for good service, and customers like me who liked the convenience of paying with plastic had no way to tip. I thought that the simplicity of a cash tip jar—just drop your dollar bill in—should have a credit card equivalent. That's how the idea for DipJar was born."

DipJar is exactly what it sounds like, a small aluminum jar with a built-in credit card reader that deducts one dollar per swipe. But realizing the simple device has taken several years. After graduating from Columbia University with a master's in English, Kessler let the idea for DipJar germinate in the back of his mind for a few years as he took jobs at start-ups and gleaned knowledge in how to build companies and ship products. Only then did he set about bringing his idea to production. Skimming websites, Kessler found the portfolio of Simon Enever, an industrial designer based in New York whose work matched the mental image Kessler had for the product. [Ed. Note: We've covered Enever's work before, most recently in an in-depth case study about designing a better toothbrush.] Together, they worked through various ideas for the design until they felt confident putting it into production.

InTheDetails-DipJar-2.jpgThe design evolution, from sketch to the first-generation unit now being tested in the field.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  24 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Any athlete who has had trouble with joint and muscle pain knows the value of getting support where it's needed most. For those athletes' whose Achilles' heel is their knee (so to speak), the sports-gear brand Opedix has recently developed a line of tights that promise to provide a new level of assistance to that frequently mucked-up joint.

Called KNEE-Tec, the tights aren't the first to use Opedix's patented knee-support technology, but they take it a step further with a new tension system developed by Dr. Michael Decker and his colleague, Mike Torry. Decker's design uses a combination of fabric tensions to push and pull on the knee joints to create a "kinetic chain" of pressure, a setup that the company has dubbed Torque Reforming Systems.

The secret to the Torque Reforming Systems lies in its non-stretch banding and careful placement of different microfiber fabrics across 19 panels that pull and tug against each other to create tension and deliver support, without compromising the banding's integrity. "We wanted a balance of elasticities to do the work for the product, keeping the non-stretch banding as tense as possible without stretching," Decker says. The non-stretch bands are placed strategically between the various patches to offer corrective control and keep the legs in what is known as a "neutral state."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)

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At first glance, the Dream Chair looks like a concept, with impossible curves and a seemingly precarious structure that appears as if it could only exist in a 3D rendering. Yet the Danish manufacturer Carl Hansen & Søn took Tadao Ando's dream and made it reality with a chair that stands as a feat of both manufacturing and fantasy.

The project originated with Carl Hansen & Søn (CHS). Looking to create a tribute to the great Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner, CHS approached Ando to develop a design for a lounge chair. "I have been an admirer of Wegner's craftsmanship for many years," the Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect said in a press release. "This was new to me, as in the past I have been used to only selecting furniture for the buildings I have created over the years."

During their first meeting in Japan, CHS informed Ando of some of the restrictions of working with wood and veneer, which he wrote in his memo book, and then waited for him to bring back his first concepts. "When we saw the first sketches and drawings, we knew that to make this chair would be one of the biggest challenges that we have ever faced in Carl Hansen & Søn," says Knud Erik Hansen, third generation owner and CEO of Carl Hansen & Son. "Not only was the chair large, but the bending of the veneer was designed beyond what had ever been made."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  10 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Bang & Olufsen's new BeoPlay A9 wireless speaker is unusual in a couple of respects. First, there's its strange saucer-like form, with a 2.3-foot-diameter disc perched on a wooden tripod. But perhaps even more unorthodox is its development story, as told to me recently by the Danish designer Øivind Alexander Slaatto.

A9 marks the first manufactured product for Slaatto; previously, he "didn't even have a single toothpick in production." Surviving in Copenhagen as a tuba performer and a caregiver, Slaatto had to borrow the money (and a shirt) to cross Denmark and knock on the door of Bang & Olufsen's headquarters, arriving unannounced with his portfolio in hand. Surprisingly, B&O agreed to meet with him—and although the company rejected most of the work in his portfolio, it nevertheless saw promise in his ideas.

B&O decided to let Slaatto work in its studio with then head of design Flemming Møller Pedersen, with whom Slaatto completed the design proposal for what eventually became A9. "The idea only took a few days to come up with, but to turn it into reality took several months," Slaatto says. "I was involved all the way to the final production. I think it was worth the hard work."

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