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In the Details

The Core77 Design Blog

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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 (2)

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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)

IanStell-PantographSeries-1.jpg

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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