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In the Details

The Core77 Design Blog

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

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When Micah Baclig embarked on his senior degree project at the Rhode Island School of Design last year, he wanted to create an object that spoke to the ideals of our modern society. "We are a more globalized community with almost instant access to unprecedented amounts of information," Baclig says. "We are constantly striving to do more, learn more and experience more of this life around us." So he created...a spork.

Specifically, Baclig created a compact aluminum spork that he has dubbed Kuma, and which he is now funding on Kickstarter in an effort to do a production run for next year. (As of press time, he had raised more than 80 percent of his $18,000 goal.) But wait—why exactly does today's globalized, information-soaked society need a reusable aluminum spork?

Kuma is the result of Baclig's insatiable curiosity and fascination with eating utensils—their history, how they work and what cultures created them. "From forks to chopsticks to even our own hands, what we eat with says something about who we are and where we came from," Baclig says. "Growing up in Hawaii with multi-ethnic parents, I constantly experienced this dynamic between food, utensils and culture. I fondly remember the times at the dinner table when my father, a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines, would put down his utensils to eat a meal he particularly enjoyed with his hands."

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For his degree project, Baclig focused his interest on eating tools that were both multifunctional and portable, which immediately brings to mind the spork. "In trying to be both a fork and spoon the spork is neither, which for some reason fascinates me," he says. "I also appreciate the spork's subtext of trying to achieve an ideal functionality."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  12 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)

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For centuries, scientists, thinkers, makers and—of course—designers have looked up to the sky and stars for inspiration. From satellite imagery on silk scarves to the movie Interstellar, some great stuff has come from celestial-oriented thinking. One of the latest examples is a set of tableware by Chi and Chi that takes its cue from astronomical objects and other cosmic phenomena.

Founded last year, Chi and Chi is a product design studio based in Taiwan, run by brothers Stephen and Leo Chiu. The duo were approached by a close friend, Sappho Wong, who wanted to develop a set of tableware for her brand Saniyo. Wong offered to provide her expertise in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) consulting and her connections in the ceramic industry, while giving the Chiu brothers free rein over the ideation and creative process.

The designers started off by thinking about the concept of "gathering"—a natural point of entry for tableware "We think that it is very interesting how people meet and get to know each other and become friends; it is something very natural and we never know if there is a law or pattern behind it," Stephen Chiu says. "We think it is similar to the universe—everything is in order, and when all the things join together, it brings harmony and diversity. It is exactly like the relationship between humans."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   5 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)

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When choosing materials for a side table, squishy and compressible polyether foam might not be at the top of your list. The porous material is fantastic for packaging fragile goods and for use as a tolerable mattress pad, but as a side table meant to support other objects—particularly a slab of marble? Not so much. Yet it's exactly those features that led Dutch designer Pieteke Korte to use the material for a series of side tables appropriately dubbed Stone & Foam.

A recent graduate of the Man and Identity program at Design Academy Eindhoven, Korte developed the Stone & Foam series during one of her studio courses. The brief, titled "Carry," tasked students with capturing the expression of weight in a design. Korte had focused on textiles, materials and art direction during her time at school, so she naturally began with material research and experimentation, playing with structure, weights and color. She didn't get very far into testing foam samples before stumbling upon the magical pairing of stone and foam, quickly moving to scale models and full-scale prototypes. "The foam and the stone create a really nice dialectic—soft and hard, light and heavy, cheap and upscale," Korte says. "It just made sense. I know it sounds like the idea was there from the beginning, but it took a while to get there."

Full-scale prototypes were where Korte ran into the most trouble. "There were plenty of failures after moving to full scale—split blocks of foam, wasted resins and urethane," she says. "There isn't a lot of information out there on the particular properties of foam." At full scale, Korte found that the foam was put under more stress, changing its degree of flexibility compared to her smaller mockups. This was particularly problematic with her folded table, which required that Korte find a more ductile foam for the full-scale version. The designer also explored working with resin and urethane as a way of sealing the foam and securing its shape, but was disappointed with the results. "It yellowed, it couldn't be used to create the kind of membranes I wanted," she says. "It was a week of experimentation that I quickly learned wasn't worth continuing."

PietekeKorte-StoneFoam-4.jpgFoam and marble, plus trial and error

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

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When Poltrona Frau turned one hundred in 2012, the Italian furniture maker decided it was time to rethink its classic armchair, which had been around since the very beginning. An overstuffed wing chair with a built-in ashtray for the gentleman who likes to smoke at home—clearly it was time for a revamp. So the CEO reached out to 12 designers to take part in a competition for the "centenary armchair"—one that not only brought new life to Poltrona Frau's classic, but that also predicted the future of the armchair in the home.

The winning design was by Satyendra Pakhalé, an Amsterdam-based industrial designer originally from India (who answered our Core77 Questionnaire last spring). Pakahalé envisions a future where work and life intersect more than ever. "The concept was inspired from contemporary life in an increasingly connected world where the boundaries between the domestic space and the workplace are further blurred," Pakhalé says. "The resulting collection is a synthesis between the contemporary and the traditional; between the needs of an evolving society and the excellence of Poltrona Frau's craftsmanship in processing leather and hide."

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In addition to the new armchair, the Assaya collection includes a table, a lap tray and a pouf. The idea, Pakhalé says, is for the armchair to provide "a flexible way of living and working, where one could use it as a writing desk and also as a place to relax." The lap tray is provided for the use of digital devices, while the pouf and side table can be used in formal or informal settings for work and leisure.

The project began with a trip taken by Pakhalé to the Poltrona Frau factory in Tolentino, Italy. "I was curious, keen to grasp, assess and evaluate in my own manner the legendary heritage of Poltrona Frau," Pakhalé says. The designer drew upon the company's extensive leather production facilities and craftsmen in the design of Assaya, which is constructed in hide and leather all sourced from Italian and Swedish tanning factories owned by Poltrona Frau.

SatyendraPakhale-AssayaChair-3.jpgPoltrona Frau's original armchair, with its built-in ashtray

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

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Winter is coming. Between blustery winds and slushy streets, sometimes it can be a challenge to decide whether you need an umbrella, an overcoat, a trash bag or all of the above. Enter the Häring Poncho, a lightweight, multifunctional solution from The Arrivals, a New York City-based clothing company focused specifically on American-made outerwear.

The Arrivals' creative team is made up of architects, designers and engineers, championed by creative director Jeff Johnson, who originally hails from San Diego, but spent time living in the Netherlands. "Living in Amsterdam, the weather is unpredictable, likely resulting in a soaking wet afternoon," Johnson says. "I wanted to design something light, packable and functional." Taking its name from the German architect Hugo Häring, known for his obsession with place and condition, the Häring Poncho is a "wearable, waterproof shelter" constructed of weatherproof poly-spandex and rubberized twill.

"Our fabrics for all of our garments are chosen for their performance properties," Johnson says. In the case of the Häring Poncho, that means an Italian twill undergoes a rubberizing process where an impermeable layer of matte rubberized film is laminated onto a portion of the material. This creates a double-face effect to the fabric, resulting in a water-resistant and windproof coating. For the body of the poncho, the designers fused a breathable yet water-repellent Korean Din-Tex micro-knit mesh to the rest of the shell.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   7 Nov 2014  |  Comments (1)

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In today's fast-paced world, it's getting harder and harder to find the time to decompress and let off some steam. And for those who prefer to do this in some steam, well, even the most sauna-addicted can only manage so many Spa Castle visits a month. Design Academy Eindhoven student Marcis Ziemins feels your pain, and has created a miniature version of the classic sauna—one with all the sensory relaxation of a trip to the spa without the roomful of hot, sticky steam. In fact, this pint-sized sauna might even be your next desk accessory.

Billed as the Smallest Sauna on Earth, Ziemins's design was created as a way to share the decaying traditions of his home country of Latvia, where the sauna is a cherished method of cleansing and unwinding. After organizing a class trip to Latvia to learn more about the country's rituals, Ziemins sought ways to bring the sauna tradition back to Eindhoven with him. "When I went [back] to Eindhoven to present my ideas to the teachers, they said that it is not really enough for me to just live there and renovate [a sauna]," Ziemins says. "They asked me to search for translations and something that I could actually bring to Eindhoven to show."

MarcisZiemins-SmallestSauna-2.jpgZiemins scoured Latvian beaches for the perfect-sized stones for his sauna.

MarcisZiemins-SmallestSauna-3.jpgAn early prototype and a sketch

Ziemins began designing a smaller version of the large saunas he saw in Latvia, something simple in scale and stature so that users could easily understand the concept and principles of how one works. What he arrived at was a device that could imbue a small space with the atmosphere of a sauna. "It will not get as humid or as hot as the real sauna, just the ambience and aroma," Ziemins says. The Latvian native also looked to incorporate the classic four elements—fire, earth, water and air—into the design. Not thinking much about mass-production, Ziemins saw the object as something to be made by hand, feeding into ideas of rituals and tradition.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Comments (3)

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Based in Tahoe City, California, Barclay Moore has been making custom furniture in his tiny one-car garage since 1986. Working in the small space, the furniture maker relied heavily on folding sawhorses for their ease of storage and light weight. One huge drawback, however, was their lack of strength and stability—over the years, Moore amassed a pile of broken plastic versions. Last summer, he finally got fed up and decided to invent a sawhorse of his own.

"So the idea came in July, when all my plastic horses lay in ruins," Moore says. "I needed a set that was bomb-proof but that still folded." With a background in engineering, Moore took out a piece of cardboard and began sketching. "The goal was to make something that will last years, fold up, be transportable, be able to stand on it, be able to modify it and use a material that is appropriate," he says. Moore chose plywood for its stiffness, durability, weather resistance, light weight and ability to be machined using tools he already had on hand.

The result is the MORHORSE, which Moore calls a "folding sawhorse on steroids." It comes in two versions: the Clydesdale—"the mother of all horses as far as strength to weight"—and the Mustang, a slimmer and lighter design. Both are CNC-cut from 4-by-8-foot sheets of 3/4-inch CDX plywood, yielding three and six sawhorses per sheet for the Clydesdale and Mustang, respectively. To test the strength of his designs, Moore loaded two Clydesdales with 3,320 pounds of lumber, and they held up without a crack. The Mustang made it to 1,720 pounds—before Moore dropped the load from eight feet to finally break them.

Moore's Kickstarter video

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  17 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you have ever shipped mass quantities of products worldwide, it's likely that you've worked with a packing solutions company. Experts in cardboard, foam and other packing products, these companies work with clients to make sure your beautifully designed product reaches the hands of consumers in one piece. "It's like the walls of a house in a tornado," explains Mike Martinez, Director of Consulting Services at Ernest Packaging Solutions, based near Los Angeles. "We protect your contents from the outside elements."

But that's not all Ernest Packaging Solutions does. Last month, to kick off its Cardboard Chaos series—in which the company hopes to push its skills by inventing alternative uses for its paper products—Ernest collaborated with Signal Surfboards to create a cardboard surfboard, a far cry from its daily services.

Martinez led the endeavor, putting together a small team at Ernest with each member specializing in various packing techniques, from food handling to shipping fragile china. The crew at nearby Signal Snowboards introduced Martinez and his team to Jeff "Doc" Lausch, a legend in the world of surfboard shaping. With Lausch's help, the team decided to model its board after a standard foam surfboard, using Hexacomb, a paper-based honeycomb, as the underlying structure.

Taller and thicker than cardboard, Hexacomb's structure makes it ideal for safeguarding objects, with crushable air cells that protect on impact. In a surfboard, these pockets of air provide buoyancy. "To recreate a foam-core surfboard out of paper, we needed to maintain buoyancy through compartmentalization that will keep that air inside," Martinez says. "Foam is just a bunch of small, trapped air bubbles. We wanted to create these air pockets and knew that Hexacomb was a great medium to do it."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  10 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

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I first stumbled upon TJ Volonis's work while attending the Fiercely Made design show last month in Brooklyn. Standing at 30 inches tall and 60 inches long, the Brooklyn-Barcelona Console Table was the centerpiece of the show, inviting attendees to admire its complex geometries—inspired by the bridges and arches of its namesake cities—and its simple use of materials. Just as the show highlighted the work of Brooklyn makers, Volonis's table is a product of his surroundings. For the artist, the city provides the inspiration and backdrop for his work, as well as the pathway to discovering the medium of copper tubing in the first place.

Volonis began working with copper tubing back in 2005, when a dumpster-diving roommate brought home an awful IKEA coffee table. "It was in pretty bad shape," Volonis says. "The legs were quite wobbly, as the supports between them had broken off.". Always curious about copper tubing, Volonis picked some up at his local Lowe's and taught himself how to manipulate and solder it to build new legs for the discarded table.

His next foray into copper tubing was for a chair he made for a benefit art auction. Entering anonymously, Volonis ended up taking home the Best Emerging Artist Award for mixed media, garnering the attention of a gallerist who asked to see the rest of his portfolio. As the chair was only the second piece he had made at the time (and the IKEA table left a bit to be desired), Volonis did as all good creative folks do—said yes and ran home to figure it out. He quickly made another four or five pieces to show the gallerist, and while the opportunity never quite panned out, Volonis began to look more seriously at his work.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  26 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Anyone who has had to empty out the entirety of her suitcase's contents on the floor of airport check-in knows the plight of overweight luggage. Sure, you can buy suitcase scales and other devices, but they often get misplaced and—somewhat ironically—can't account for their own weight. Enter the TUL Suitcase, which has its own built-in weighing scale.

Pisan Kulkaew came up with the idea for TUL after watching his mother struggle to weigh her suitcase following a surgery. Unable to lift heavy objects, she incurred excess baggage fees of around $100. Kulkaew, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, Australia, started thinking. "I asked myself, What do I see suitcases looking like in ten years' time?" he says. "To which I answered: Definitely something along the lines of a smart suitcase. Even the cheapest suitcases would at least have the self-weighing function."

With degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering coupled with mathematics, the Brisbane-based student is no stranger to challenging problems. Kulkaew began by brainstorming with his mother around the functionality this futuristic suitcase would have. After connecting with an electrical engineer who believed in the idea, he used the yellow pages to call up suitcase factories, meeting with owners and trying to convince them to help make TUL a reality.

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Due to limited resources, Kulkaew opted to modify an existing suitcase mold instead of designing his own from scratch. With a first prototype in hand, he cracked open his digital bathroom scale to understand its underlying electronics and mechanisms. For Kulkaew, the bathroom scale was a perfect model for TUL, as it removes its own weight from the final calculation. "I'd say that this technology is there for a long time, just that it hasn't been adapted for this application," he says.

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

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While studying abroad in Denmark during the fall of 2013, Meg Czaja toured Lego Headquarters and was disappointed with what she saw. For a class at the Kolding School of Design focused on the topic of play, the designer explored the toymaker's facilities, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the company's outlook on children in the United States. "One of the speakers, whom I believe worked in marketing, said that children in the U.S. don't know how to use Legos without instructions, which is why they are now sold in sets," Czaja says. "Rather than trying to challenge the notion, this mentality was driving their current designs—in lieu of a child's capacity to create. I found it to be incredibly troublesome."

That experience stuck with the Pratt MID candidate when she came back to the States, as she actively sought out opportunities to design for children's unrestricted, self-prompted play. The perfect opportunity came last spring in a soft-goods class taught by Rebbecah Pailes-Freedman. Given the task to design a backpack that incorporated an inherent social message, Czaja naturally gravitated to the topic of free play. The result is the PlayPack, which incorporates toys in its construction and can even become a toy itself.

Czaja kicked off the 14-week project with a comprehensive competitive analysis of existing backpacks. Making trips across New York and New Jersey, Czaja visited Target and REI stores to take photos and gather information about the bags they sold. Focusing on the bag construction, she looked at materials and the way zippers and other fasteners were handled, along with other features. "I think I examined over a hundred backpacks," she says. Czaja sketched out potential designs, honing those down to a final ten to present to her class.

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In an effort to make the experience similar to that of a client/designer relationship, the professor picked the final direction for PlayPack, and then Czaja had to execute it. Designing and prototyping happened concurrently as the designer spent a few days mocking up the paper backpack from craft paper and masking tape on a child-sized mannequin, while simultaneously figuring out how the pack could be played with as individual pieces. "What if the bag itself became a toy that could be used in conjunction with the objects it held?" Czaja asked herself. "The form came from there. I never wanted the bag to be a toy in typical terms. I wasn't aiming to make a backpack that looked like a rocket ship or an octopus because, overall, that's limiting."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  12 Sep 2014  |  Comments (3)

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Last February, Kai Lin was watching YouTube videos of mountain goats jumping up a vertical mountain side when he was struck with an idea. Lin, now a senior at Pratt Institute, was enrolled in a prosthetic-design class at the time, and he wondered if the same anatomy that allowed the goats to so swiftly and accurately scale the vertical surface could be applied to humans.

This was the beginning of KLIPPA—the name is Swedish for "cliff"—a prosthetic leg designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. With the seedling of the idea in mind, Lin dug deeper into the anatomy of mountain goats, learning that their hooves have small cupped surfaces that create suction, coupled with a hard outer shell that allows the goats to stabilize their bodies on even the steepest surfaces. Looking for design opportunities, the student stumbled upon the documentary High Ground, which tells the story of 11 veterans who heal mental and emotional trauma during a 20,000-foot Himalayan ascent. Lin also discovered that rock climbing was the first choice of physically demanding sports for veteran amputees looking to maintain an active lifestyle after returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. "I realized from the demographic of amputee patients that quite a few of them are wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them suffer from physical and psychological trauma," Lin says. "That just gave me more reason to design something meaningful—not only for day-to-day patients but for someone who might use my rock-climbing prosthetic legs to help with their recovery process."

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Further research took the product design student to Brooklyn Boulders, a local climbing gym, where he interviewed experienced climbers about their technique, ankle articulation and muscle use. Lin took to the wall to give it a shot himself, attaching blue foam stilts to his feet to understand what it was like to climb without sensory feedback. Creating a series of blue foam stilts varying in surface size, Lin tested the ideal size for a prosthetic. "What I found was that when a [foot] surface is too big, it blocks you from seeing what is underneath and it becomes hard to step," Lin explains. "But when the contact surface is too small, you lose your balance." He created three main sizes of stilts in proportion to a human foot—full, half and quarter—discovering that the ideal solution was somewhere between a half-size and quarter-size foot, which limited the contact surface while still maintaing balance.

Lin synthesized this knowledge in a series of (really awesome) sketches, working to incorporate his research along with other identified problems amputee climbers face like strength loss, passive articulation, and a lack of sensory feedback and grip. The first iteration of sketches for KLIPPA was a direct biomimetic approach pulling inspiration from mountain goats, while his second series echoed a more human feel. From these sketches, Lin made five prototypes from blue foam and 3D-printed features like textured heels, hoof-like feet and rubber shoe encasings. His final design took the best pieces from each of these prototypes, resulting in a progression of human to goat anatomy moving down to the foot.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   5 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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This September, we're getting design education-y here on Core77, so it seemed appropriate to highlight a student project for this week's column.

Parametric Pendants is a series of generative lighting by Colin Westeinde, a BFA furniture student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Completed last May during Westeinde's third year at RISD, the lights are a direct result of Westeinde's work experience—his internships and apprenticeships led the Vancouver-born designer to explore the space between handcraft and machine work in the lighting series.

After an internship at Amsterdam's Joris Laarman Lab (whose Gradient Chair we previously covered in this column), Westeinde was struck by the studio's approach of designing systems of making rather than specific objects. Particularly with regard to code, Westeinde observed the massive front-load of work taken on by Laarman's specialists that allowed for quick iterations and fine tuning of a design once complete. "This workflow allowed rapid responses and efficient adaptability to the unexpected challenges that inevitably arise in any process—within the established framework, of course," Westeinde says.

During his internship and back in the classroom, Westeinde found himself questioning the subjective value placed on handcraft over the machine-made—and found inspiration in the work of another Dutch designer. "Though I don't believe the aforementioned categories will ever truly blur, [Maarten] Baas's More or Less chair proposed possible answers to my dilemma," Westeinde says. "This design identified one of the main defining qualities of mass produced objects—their uniformity—and broke it."

ColinWesteinde-ParametricPendants-2.jpgUsing Grasshopper, Westeinde could create a script and then vary its parameters to make each light unique.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  29 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you've ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know firsthand the challenges of coordinating across time zones to connect with parents, friends and partners. Phone calls are painstakingly scheduled, then spent catching up with a myriad of questions about the day-to-day in an effort to feel closer. Recently, a group of designers proposed a novel way to facilitate that connection: through a set of Internet-connected lights that reflect the weather conditions of another's location.

Called Patch of Sky, the lighting collection was conceived and developed at Fabrica, a communication research center in Treviso, Italy, in a collaboration between six designers, strategists and developers: Leonardo Amico, Federico Floriani, Reda Jouahri, Alice Longo, Akshataa Vishwanath and Giorgia Zanellato.

"Fabrica hosts designers and artists from all over the world, thus distance and nostalgia are naturally recurring topics," explains Amico. "Drawing from these conversations, we had the idea for Patch of Sky, an object that would silently connect people over distance, just by letting them 'share the sky' under which they're living." With that inkling of an idea, Amico and Akshataa invited the other four to join the team; collectively, they brought the project from ideation to fruition over the course of a year, completing it in early 2014.

The lights are made of painted wood and one-way mirror glass, and they come in three versions, for mounting on a wall or placing on a desk. Housed inside each device is an Arduino Uno and custom electronics that control an RGB LED strip. The purchaser of a light must first log in to a website with his or her own Facebook account (sorry Facebook holdouts, you're out of luck), entering a key that will uniquely identify each Patch of Sky device. That device will then be associated with that Facebook user, displaying animations from the account's most recent location. While they have yet to iron out all of the kinks, the Patch of Sky team envisions most customers ordering the product as a gift for a loved one, linking it to Facebook before specifying the recipient's address.

The recipient of the light must connect a small device called the Berg Cloud Bridge to an Internet router. The Bridge will then facilitate a wireless Internet connection with the Patch of Sky—now able to continuously transmit data from the user's Facebook account, pulling his or her location and retrieving the local meteorological conditions from a weather web service. That information is then generalized to one of 11 predetermined weather options, each linked to a lighting animation.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  22 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

GUR-IanStevenson.jpgIllustration by Ian Stevenson

Designer Célia Esteves first fell in love with the Portuguese tradition of rug weaving at an exhibition in her hometown of Viana do Castelo, in the north of Portugal. There she met—and got a tutorial from—an artisan who was creating rugs on a hand loom. Esteves left the exhibition smitten with the technique and determined to find a way to continue working with the traditional handcraft. "I found it so exciting and promising that I immediately wanted to share it with some of my illustrator friends," she says.

Luckily, Esteves has some very talented friends. She asked illustrators like André da Loba, Marta Monteiro and José Cardoso to create designs to be translated into woven rugs, and worked with the weaver she met at the exhibition to realize the project. The result is Rug by GUR, a remarkable pairing of contemporary illustration and traditional Portuguese rug weaving.

GUR-MartaMonteiro-JoaoDrumond.jpgIllustrations by Marta Monteiro (left) and Joao Drumond

GUR-JoanaEstrela.jpgIlustration by Joana Estrela

"The technique is very specific, and it can also be limiting," Esteves admits. "Sometimes it is not possible to do exactly what is designed." One of the challenges is the grid system required of the weaving, making it difficult to create continuous lines. Another is the material used, raw tirela, which is made of rags from used clothing, limiting the colors to what is available from nearby factories.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  15 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We first covered Jamie Wolfond's work when he was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, stuffing plastic pellets into fireproof molds and slumping them over other objects to create his Frumpy Chair series. Now, just a few months after graduating, Wolfond has launched Good Thing, a Brooklyn-based company that takes a new approach to manufacturing by building production into the ideation phase, collaborating with designers, artists and vendors to create a seamless process for realizing new products.

Experimentation with manufacturing is a motif throughout the Toronto-bred designer's work, as he utilizes techniques usually reserved for the mass production of industrial products to create small runs of household goods. At the onset of a new project, Wolfond often begins by working with an outside vendor—even before he knows what exactly it is he's designing. "By allowing the strengths and limitations of a producer to influence the product from a very early phase, I am able to design an object that does not need to be compromised for production," explains Wolfond. "Not only does this idea yield considered objects, but it also lends itself to efficient and inexpensive production."

Good Thing was born from that concept, applying the idea to a much larger scale with more products and larger production runs. Its debut collection features a series of collaborations with local NYC designers, artists and vendors, with household objects ranging from hand-spun copper vessels to sand-cast aluminum trivets. One standout piece is the Plastic Craft Pot, a collaboration between Wolfond and Benjamin Kicic that drew inspiration from ceramic coil pots, but reimagined in biodegradable plastic.

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Kicic, also an alumnus of RISD, had been playing with the archetype of the coil pot since before he and Wolfond graduated last May, making several rapid-prototyped porcelain vessels over the past year. Given that they are both interested in the parallels between 3D printing and clay coiling, Wolfond and Kicic decided to collaborate on a piece for Good Thing, but quickly realized that rapid-prototyping coil pots was not a very efficient method of producing in volume. "It is one of the few processes that does not become less expensive with quantity," Wolfond says.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   8 Aug 2014  |  Comments (3)

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They say crisis breeds opportunity. This was certainly the case for Daniela and Jorge Perdomo: Sitting in the dark struggling to communicate with their friends and loved ones in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the siblings were struck with an idea. "I realized it was crazy that we have these supercomputers on us that don't enable us to communicate in times when we need it most," Daniela says. That was the genesis of the idea for goTenna, which acts as a two-way radio for mobile phones, connecting you to others even when there is no cellular service.

With backgrounds in business development and systems architecture, Daniela and Jorge now serve as the CEO and CTO, respectively, of goTenna. In the early concept phase of the device, they first set about validating their idea and the technology before beginning work on a prototype. Their goal was to build a solution that enabled smartphone-to-smartphone communication without having to ever plug into central connectivity. Whether at a crowded concert where service is spotty or deep in the woods with no signal at all, goTenna would allow a user to transmit messages to others who have the device. The Perdomos sent their first goTenna message on a beach in the Dominican Republic.

It wasn't until a year later that the duo started thinking about design. In January 2014, the Perdomos approached Pensa to collaborate on the hardware and housing for the technology. Both based in Brooklyn, goTenna decided to work with Pensa after going through a dozen iterations and came together to arrive at their final design. "Our original prototypes were big, clunky devices that plugged into the audio jack of your phone," Daniela says. "Now we've got a sleek, small, rugged device that wirelessly pairs with your smartphone and will work for a huge variety of users."

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Balancing that sleekness with ruggedness was one of the biggest challenges for Pensa and the goTenna team. "We didn't want people to have a giant external device that they have to carry around with them at all times, and we also wanted to make sure that it could withstand the elements," Daniela says. They chose rugged materials like aluminum and PC-ABS, made to be water-resistant and dust-tight. A nylon strap was added to make it easy to attach the device onto other gear.

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |   1 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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When it comes to lights that retail for tens of thousands of dollars, you better believe every detail is excruciatingly considered. That's certainly the case with Bec Brittain's line of high-end lighting, luxury pieces thoughtfully designed and painstakingly assembled in her studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. A prime example: During New York Design Week last May, the designer launched her latest iteration of Echo—a series of pendants with a price tag of around $40K each—which uses fins of glass around a central axis to reflect and diffuse beams of light.

Started in 2013, the Echo series is an exploration of light directed inward, toward mirror and glass. Thus Echo 1 has five angled LED arms that shine light toward the center, where it is reflected by bronze mirrors. The next version, Echo 2, employs opal white glass panels to softly diffuse light, while Echo 3 uses gray mirrored panels to create a much stronger, brighter glow. This year's addition to the series, Echo 4, introduces custom-cut perforations to break up its mirrored panels.

The perforated mirror is a first for Brittain's lighting work, chosen for how it works with linear light. "The lines are segmented and thrown, to create an effect we had hoped for but could barely anticipate," explains the designer. "This is one of our most exciting new fixtures, as the visual impact is at a maximum. The perforated mirror panels work with each other in a way that makes the fixture undefinable; it becomes a concentrated optical illusion."

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When approaching a new idea for lighting, Brittain always begins by sketching—allowing the fixture to take form in these sketches, before moving to physical models. "We look at proportions, feasibility, concept; we try to understand the project as best we can with these methods, and then bring it to a digital model to work out the details and individual parts," she says. For the Echo 4, that meant prototyping the fixture in foam core and mocking it up using hardware from her SHY light series. Some sample glass was cut. In other cases, Brittain's team has 3D-printed hardware prototypes." It's a really great way to see the pieces and test them," Brittain says. "We move between the computer and these prototypes, and then order a small run of machined parts before moving into production."

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  25 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

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On any given day, many Marines carry more than 15 pounds of batteries along with all their other rations and gear. Add that to the fact that they're mostly on their feet, constantly moving, and you have a recipe for fatigue. But what if you could harness the energy from their movements and the weight of that gear while also decreasing the amount of poundage these Marines have to heft? That was the idea that brought together Lockheed Martin and STC Footwear to design and develop a pair of boots that capture the energy from all those footsteps and turn it into usable power.

The Kinetic Boots were announced early last May at the Marine Corps' Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB) event, where Marines demonstrated their ability to generate around three watts of power after an hourlong walk, enough to charge an iPhone 5 three times. This just a start—Lockheed Martin and STC anticipate that the boots' have the potential to generate nearly twice as much power after further development.

"There were two or three key challenges that we identified on day one," says Michel Bisson, CEO and Chairman of the Canada-based STC Footwear. "The main one was that we wanted to use only the wasted energy generated when the person walks or runs. It was very critical for us that no additional work be required by any part of the body (i.e. joint) other than carrying the two to three ounces that the system weighed." Lockheed had previously explored solar-power chest panels and helmets, but those devices added significant weight, and STC was determined to avoid that trap.

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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 (11)

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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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