When studying industrial design, you'll find most programs will have you build at least a couple of pieces of furniture, whether you're a Furniture Design major or not. But the main output always seems to be in wood or metal, with most programs simply too short on time to teach the art of upholstery.
So it's helpful, we think, for the aspiring but inexperienced furniture designer to see how upholstered furniture comes together. Your program has undoubtedly taught you rudimentary wood-joining, and maybe you've learned to weld and finish with an angle grinder, but there's an entire science of straps, webbing, springs, nails, tacks, foam, glue, fabric, buttons and thread you may have never seen. Here are three different pieces being assembled by Shanghai-based Novaz Furniture.
First up, a bed frame with an upholstered headboard and footboard. It starts off with the woodwork and glue-ups you're probably already familiar with, but the second half covers the upholstery:
Nitinol is a metal alloy, and its name stems from its roots: This blend of nickel and titanium was developed at America's Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1950s. The stuff is capable of exhibiting a surprising level of shape memory when exposed to a temperature differential. Check it out:
Product design applications, anyone? I've got a pretty brilliant one: Make headphone cables out of it. That way, if you're in Alaska and they get tangled, all you've got to do is fly to Brazil and they'll magically unkink themselves!
There is a graphic design element to tennis courts, (American) football fields and basketball courts, with highly visible lines indicating boundaries and distances. These are fixed in place, as service lines, end zones and free throw lines aren't meant to move.
Soccer, though, has a unique problem that can't be solved by fixed lines: When a player is fouled, he's awarded a free kick from whatever spot on the field the foul occurred. The opposing team is allowed to assemble a defensive wall of players at a distance of ten yards from the kicker. The problem is that people cheat. The ref sets both the spot of the free kick and the site of the wall, and as soon as he's not looking, the two may surreptitiously creep towards each other to improve their chances.
Which is why for this year's World Cup, you'll see the referees carrying an aerosol can filled with a white foamy substance, and they'll spray this on the pitch to clearly mark visual boundaries for the both the kicker and the wall. Seconds later the line mysteriously disappers. (Hardcore footie fans have already seen this spray as it's been in action for years, but this is the first World Cup where it's been used.) So what is this stuff, shaving cream?
Nope. This "vanishing spray" is called 9.15 Fair Play, patented by an Argentinean journalist named Pablo C. Silva. Silva was playing footie in a local league and had a crucial free kick of his blocked by a defensive wall--one that had rushed him to close the distance to a mere three meters. "The referee didn't book anyone and didn't do anything," Silva fumed to The Independent. "We lost the game, and driving home later with a mixture of anger and bitterness, I thought that we must invent something to stop this."
Saitama-based Masanori Oji's interests are as broad as his skillset. The handicrafts designer has experience in architecture and graphics as well as product, and after attending a workshop at a brass foundry to learn about the material, it wasn't long until he proposed a series of product designs to the company behind the foundry.
That company is Futagami, one of the oldest brass foundries in Japan, and one that's produced everything from ship fittings to Buddhist altar equipment. In collaboration with Oji they've released a beautiful line of housewares, like the dope bottle openers you see up top, and these gorgeous sets of chopstick rests below.
They also produce rests for Western cutlery...
...in addition to the cutlery itself, which is primarily brass, but silver-tipped at the business end.
Would you like ketchup with that Ford Focus? No joke. Ford announced yesterday that it will partner with Heinz to possibly use tomato fibers to make cars from a new form of bio-plastic.
Okay, it's not about engines or doors made from tomatoes. But it is about taking dried tomato skins and turning them into those containers in the car where we dump our loose change, hair ties and other random objects. The skins could also become the wiring brackets used in a Ford vehicle.
Their goal is to develop "a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact," said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford.
It all started two years ago when Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble to develop a plastic made form 100 percent plant-based material. The intention is to have a far lower environmental impact than we get from the current petroleum-based materials.
Heinz stepped up with innovative ways to repurpose the peels, stems and seeds from the two million tons of tomatoes they use annually to produce their number one product: ketchup.
Posted by erika rae
| 10 Jun 2014
"029: Lucha Libre"
There's something glow-y about a person who truly loves what they're doing. For Jennifer Beatty, the glow comes through in her upcycled art. She managed to tie-in her two passions into one 100-piece series titled "100 Hoopties"—a hooptie being "any car that meets the following: a) Driver must enter car through passenger side; b) Three different brand and size tires (three of them missing hubcaps); c) Exhaust is held up by half a clothes hanger, other half replaces the antenna..." as defined on the ever-entertaining Urban Dictionary. Beatty gives us her own working definition for the poster project:
- A bicycle with at least one part dangling off that has duct tape holding it together and/or makes you aware of its impending arrival by the volume of the squeal coming from the petrified brake pads or lack thereof.
- A Huffy or Murray mountain bike with three broken spokes and the shift lever unattached, commonly ridden by New York City food delivery riders.
If you couldn't tell, Beatty is both an avid cyclist and a graphic designer, and she combines her passions in her project, recreating famous graphics ranging from movie posters and works of fine art to video games and logos.
Starting on April 7, 2014, Beatty started creating a new composition every day and plans to keep it up for 100 days—meaning this series will see its end on July 15. This project is one in a group of "100 Days" assignments taken on by the 2014 Masters in Branding graduate students at the School of Visual Arts.
Fifty years ago, most things you'd find in a refrigerator, like milk, ketchup or mayonnaise, were all in glass containers. Nowadays those items are mostly contained in plastic. Plastic is cheap, it doesn't shatter when dropped, and if you think about any jar you ever had trouble opening, it's almost never a plastic one.
The benefits of glass, on the other hand, is that they're more sanitary, re-usable, have better heat resistance and are safe to microwave. So Japanese manufacturer Hakuyo Glass has been studying plastic-vs.-glass uptake in the kitchen and concluded that if they can design glass jars that are easier to open, they can win part of the market back.
To do this, they consulted Tokyo-based designer Noriko Hashida, who heads up her own ID firm and is also a professor at Shibaura Institute of Technology's College of Engineering and Design. Hashida went all-out in her research, hooking test subjects of all ages up to an electromyograph to precisely measure their muscle movement as they opened a variety of glass designs. By studying where on a package force is applied, she concluded that a parallelogram-shaped cross-section was ideal and provided the best leverage. As a former structural package designer I'll say it doesn't look too shabby, either.
Hakuyo Glass has filed a patent for Ms. Hashida's design, and it's expected they'll soon make their way to Japanese store shelves to hold jam and pickled products.
Via Nikkei Technology
Think that pure white, organic cotton tee shirt is environmentally friendly? Hm, most likely not. People might jump to the bleaching chemicals and yes, those are toxic and can be polluting. But another problem is the huge amounts of energy required to bleach out the natural color of cotton. But a new study, published this week in the Journal of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Resarch, has a solution.
Currently the cotton industry requires bleaching the natural cotton fiber with hydrogen peroxide at extremely high temperatures. We've grown to love bright whites but this process compromises the quality of the cotton material. And when we realize that there are 7.3 billion pounds of cotton produced in just the U.S. this process uses too much energy for it to be sustainable.
Posted by erika rae
| 4 Jun 2014
Stephen Fry, in bacteria form
Fan art is one thing, but bacteria-cultivated portraits capturing the faces of the world's most well-known? That's straight-up dedication—not to mention innovation. Microbiologist-turned-artist Zachary Copfer has devised a way to induce bacteria growth in predicted patterns to form some familiar faces.
See if you can match the bacteria to the celebrity—you can see if you're correct here.
By exposing specified sections of microscopic organisms to radiation, Copfer is able to create temporary halftone portraits in Petri dishes and other scientific vessels. In some instances, like Stephen Fry's, the image is made up of bacteria that invaded the subject's body in real life.
Posted by erika rae
| 3 Jun 2014
For some reason, tea manufacturers seem keen on the idea that thoughtfully worded phrases of motivation are the cherry on top of our drinking experience. Maybe there's hope in the idea of the tiny, squares of paper inspiration that physically keep our tea bags grounded have some sort of psychological correlation to the mantras we use to get through the day. (Whew, deep.) I'd much rather see a rad use of packaging materials than some sweet sentiment that I look forward to tossing out. So I'm all for BOH's clever use of the steeping process with their Chamomile tea bags.
Using edible tea ink, the brand created an eye-catching tea bag with a clear "before and after." Pre-water, the tea bags feature a silhouette of shapes and animals that are anything but relaxing: a grimacing grizzly, a taloned bird, lightening projecting from a storm cloud and more. Give the bag a dip, let it steep for a bit and the silhouettes soften, the grizzly's face turning into a smile, a song bird appears in lieu of its predatory predecessor and the lightening dissolves. The ad agency behind the packaging concept M&C Saatchi, is focused more on marketing solutions, with the interactive design being a bonus—which is why this video makes sense (not to mention it's a good excuse to see the bags in action):
Back in '09 we showed you an Ultimate Factories clip of an IKEA factory revealing what's inside their lightweight tabletops. That clip has since been rendered unembeddable, so we'll grab the new code and show it here:
As you can see, by adapting the technology used by hollow-core door manufacturers, Ikea was able to create a lightweight, yet reasonably sturdy tabletop surface at a pricepoint that attracted consumers.
The honeycomb construction isn't only in their tabletops, of course; anytime you see something chunky at Ikea that seems lighter than it ought, there's probably honeycomb inside. UK-based Physicist Lindsay R. Wilson—a man who built "a prototype double-layer luminescent solar concentrator module" for TU Eindhoven--is the kind of guy who has high-end optical imaging technology lying around his house, so after he recently bought a soon-to-be-obsolete Expedit, he X-rayed the thing to show you what's inside:
Water might be good for our bodies, but it's terrible for our stuff. Our smartphones, the walls in our home, the precious documents we're carrying—water can ruin all of it. So when a material is created that can repel water so perfectly that whatever it covers essentially never gets wet, we take notice.
This kind of material is called superhydrophobic. That means that water droplets remain in their spherical shape, sit on top of the material, and then roll off of it like pearls from a necklace. The droplets never really touch the material in the first place. Check out the photo below. The angle between the bottom of the droplet sphere and the surface will be more than 120 degrees. If it were 180 degrees the droplet would not touch the surface.
There have been many variations of superhydrophobic materials and most involve embedding structures within the material that prevent the water from coming into contact. For instance in a recent study researchers from Brigham Young University used material that either had microscopic long ridges or posts (see photos below) that prevented the droplet from penetrating through the fibers.
Posted by erika rae
| 22 May 2014
There are all kinds of ways to take in the colorful history of American car culture: museums, photo series, coffee table books, a tour through a decrepit GM factory, the list goes on. Diehard automobile enthusiasts are likely already familiar with the motor vehicle memorabilia known as fordite imagery, a rock-hard material that's made from years' worth of automobile paint that dripped onto racks in the oven of the paint shop. Because of the oven's extremely high temperatures, the layers of paint were baked time and time again (sometimes over the course of up to 100 trips, according to Fordite.com), hardening into rock-like formations. The fordite growths were only removed once they became a nuisance to production.
Uncut fordite (left) and a group of polished specimens (right)
Today, the paint is applied with an electrostatic process in which the color is magnetized to the car bodies, making fordite—also called motor agate—a waste product of the past.
When he was introducing the iPhone 5C, Jonathan Ive referred to it as "beautifully, unapologetically plastic." The subtext being that plastic, these days, is a material whose use ordinarily warrants an apology. But if we go back in time, it is interesting to see how some of the earliest industrial designers to work the material first wrangled its newness into a form consumers could appreciate.
Even for those of you designers who took History of Industrial Design as students, there may be a gap in your design timeline knowledge. In design school many of us were taught that Massimo Vignelli's plastic tableware for Heller, circa 1964, was the first such mass-market design success; but in fact we have to go back a bit further in time, and move north from Italy to Finland, to find an earlier example of a plastic diningware design sensation.
By 1961 Fiskars had already been in the metals business for over 300 years, starting off as an ironworks and gradually transitioning to the refining of steel. But when the then-futuristic material known as plastic came around, the company saw opportunity. The question was, What to do with the stuff? They certainly didn't have the expertise in it that they did with metal, but they did have a talented industrial designer named Olof Bäckström.
Bäckström was tasked with creating tableware from plastics, specifically melamine. But he wouldn't do it alone. As we saw in our History of Braun Design, Dieter Rams worked alongside new hires plucked from the Ulm School of Design. Fiskars, too, availed themselves of locally-available, young design talent: Bäckström had encountered two gifted designers, one from each gender, at the Helsinki School of Art and Design in Mattias Ingman and Gittan Landström. After helping them secure jobs at Fiskars, he now had his design team in place.
The result of their collaboration was Fiskamin, a line of over 130 pieces of tableware including virtually everything you could possibly put onto a dining table: Plates, bowls, cups, mugs, saucers, serving platters, marmalade jars, egg cups, ashtrays, et cetera.
Fiskamin collector and author Mikko Aalto, photographed by Lauri Rotko
Posted by erika rae
| 20 May 2014
It might only be a concept, but this knife design from National Taipei University Of Technology student Chia-yu Yeh is something for our inner sci-fi and culinary nerds to get excited about. The Lightsaber Knife was an entry in this year's Electrolux Design Lab competition and brings in a few sci-fi aspects past its namesake, starting with a "liquidmetal" blade that can be interchanged with the press of a button.
The tool features a fingerprint scanner that identifies the user—helping keep sharp objects out of the hands of children. Just imagine the damage they could do with a bit of Force:
Posted by erika rae
| 20 May 2014
CYQL's exhibit set-up at last weekend's WantedDesign Launchpad showcase // Photo by Alex Welsh
All it took was a fashion show, a particularly inspiring Halloween and a little bit of stolen style from a Greek goddess. Sophie Hones—CYQL designer and DesignLaboratoire owner—had her first go-around repurposing bicycle inner tubes while crafting a Medusa headdress for a Halloween-themed fashion show and has since been hooked on the material. Soon after her repurposed debut, she found herself with a group chair assignment based on the simple brief of incorporating "fun materials." With all of the leftover inner tubes taking up space at home, Hones decided to put them to good use in her seating design.
Then and now: Hones' first encounter with bike tube design (left) and the CYQL exhibit at WantedDesign (right)
By taking a ball and wrapping the residual tubes, she came up with a design that nailed what she was going for aesthetically, but fell short in performance. "I just glued the tubes around the ball," she says. "I had to develop the process a little further because it just fell apart." It turned out to be an easy switch from gluing the tubes together to creating one long spool of sewn tubing to get the hold she was looking for.
Photo by Alex Welsh
After a bit of networking with local bike shops, she was able to source more material for her rubber chairs. Aside from machine washing the tubes and sewing them together, Hones keeps the rubber looking just as it had on it's last ride. "I always try to show the prints, wear and tear of the inner tubes," she says. "If they have been broken, I sew them to repair them, making a scar. If they've been repaired by the bicycle owner and there's a patch, I leave it. I try to take advantage of the tube's character."
While we hope to never have to see one of these in real life, we spotted this mesmerizing video of airplane emergency slides deploying over on DoobyBrain:
The question is, how the heck do they design and make these things? How is it possible that one little pressurized tank can blow the entire thing up in six seconds? What material are they using that it's strong enough to withstand the process, not to mention the thereotical hundreds of people that might slide down the thing? We did a bit of hunting and found the video below, where you'll see everything from a vacuum table fabric-flattening machine to a CNC cutter to a lot of handwork:
When I think of carbon fiber, I think of its automotive applications, like F1 guys making monocoques out of the stuff. But it never occurred to me that carbon fiber could be used to make the hand tools we use to work on cars. A company called CarbonLite Tools is now producing a line of carbon fiber box-end wrenches.
The wrenches are, of course, insanely light; a set of five weighs just 6.7 ounces (190 grams), which the company reckons is lighter than your average steel single 15mm wrench. And yet they're not made completely from carbon fiber—the teeth are made from hardened stainless steel inserts, which you can see in the photo below, so that stubborn nuts won't shred those expensive layers of fiber.
And yes, they are expensive: A set of five—metric on one side, Imperial on the other, from 3/8" & 10mm up to 5/8" & 15mm—will set you back US $140. Beyond the price, the only thing that might give you pause is this caveat from the company: "We recommend using gloves as there is a small possibility the carbon fiber can leave splinters in your hand if the carbon fiber is damaged. The possibility of splinters from the carbon fiber wrench is about the same as with a wood handle on a shovel or hammer."
In the world of material science graphene might be considered its Superman, Einstein and Edison combined. In the lab, it has proven itself to be nothing short of magical and amazingly useful time and time again.
The single-atom slice of pure carbon is crazy strong, yet lightweight and very flexible. While it is not yet used in commercial applications, it is under very active development for potential use in photovoltaics, energy storage, electronics and filtration, among many others. We're not talking about it just being part of such applications—it will radically change everything. If it lives up to promise, we'll be able to charge our phones in about five seconds, clean up huge amounts of radioactive waste, make salt water drinkable, create unbreakable touch screens, insert bionic devices in human tissue—the list goes on.
But it looks like the first doubt has been cast upon the darling of materials science. Two studies published this month have found some negative side effects.
G.E. might bring good things to life, but sometimes they'll also take a moment to destroy the things you love. To promote their Global Research Center in New York, they took a bunch of everyday items like wristwatches, sunglasses, skateboard wheels, etc., and ran them through a few of their industrial testing machines to see how they'd do:
The baseball was kinda surprising, no?
Posted by erika rae
| 5 May 2014
Finding clean water for the entire world to enjoy has been an ideal that's gone unsolved, but not for lack of trying. Scientists, chemists and designers have been on the challenge for years, coming up with solutions that technically work, but might not necessarily fit into the budgets of those really in need of a tall glass of the good stuff. Non-profit Water is Life teamed up with scientists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia to come up with a solution that's a little more wallet-friendly than a water generator: the Drinkable Book.
The 20 corrugated pages in this booklet are actually filters that block harmful water-borne bacteria like cholera, E. coli and typhoid from getting into your water. Dr. Theresa Dankovich was able to create a paper coated with silver nanoparticles—tiny pieces of silver between 1 nm and 100 nm in size—which gets rid of more than 99.9% of dangerous bacteria. While the Drinkable Book's primary intention is to provide safe drinking water, it also covers another very important link that's been missing from the equation: education. Most people who catch water-related diseases have no idea that the drinking water is unsafe to consume. Each page of the book displays different water safety facts and tips for readers/drinkers.
Check out Water is Life's video for the project:
Posted by core jr
| 1 May 2014
Michael Young and his aptly named Carbon Fiber chair
While Salone headlines tend to be dominated by news of the latest and greatest collections from European manufacturers—and the biggest European names in design—plenty of exhibitors hail from further afield. We're always keen to see what San Francisco-based Coalesse has to offer and they didn't disappoint. The new Michael Young-designed Carbon Fiber chair is something of a marvel, weighing in at <5lbs and available in fully custom paint for maximum versatility.
We had the chance to catch up with Design Director John Hamilton, who shared the story behind the chair. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
We do projects both internally and with partners—Michael's our latest one; I've been working with Michael for a couple of years now. We started the process thinking we don't just want to make a carbon fiber chair, we don't want to make a gallery piece—we want to make a real, industrialized solution, at a pricepoint that will enable it to be used for a variety of applications.
So when we started, we set a couple of bars for ourselves: 1.) Make sure it's under five pounds and 2.) make sure you can stack it at least four high. We hit both of those marks—we're at 2.2 kilos or right thereabouts, which is 4.8 pounds... and it does stack four high. Four of them in a box will weigh less than 25 pounds, which is pretty amazing—I have photos of people holding four on each arm smiling, which you can't do with any other chair.
The other interesting thing was working with Steelcase engineering—we were able to leverage their expertise in seating and FEA modeling to be able to understand how to utilize the material in the most efficient way possible in order to reduce the amount of carbon fiber needed to pass all of the business contract solution testing. They have these very, very high standards for what a chair has to be able to do, and this chair passes all of those tests.
Since carbon fiber is so expensive, optimizing for as little material as possible brings the cost down. When you add more material and have a big surface of carbon fiber, you're going to end up with a $5,000 chair, or you add a lot of labor to it by having to polish this huge object and it becomes more expensive. The way we've done this chair allows it to be (again, that metric that we set for ourselves) more affordable. It's not going to be the least expensive chair on the market, but it's not going to be the most expensive. I think it's going to be one of the lightest chairs on the market, and I think it's going to be one of the funnest chairs, because it allows the designer to participate in its final step.
Basically, you can do any paint you can imagine with the paint methodology used in the automotive, bike, boat, etc. industries, because it's the same material. If you send me a chip that's the color of your shirt, we can do it. For the chairs at the show, we did an ombre effect on the legs to show that you can actually do a transition. We did one in metallic, to actually have a depth to it—a copper color—which we did it kind of as a play, because you look at it and think, "Oh, it's a metal chair. Oh look, it's made out of copper." But then you touch it and there's this surprise and delight that you get because you pick it up and go, "Oh, it's not. It's balsa wood... but it's strong."
When I think of 3D printing, I think of objects that are hard, made of plastic, metal, or some synthetic material. I imagine there will be a lot of soft products made with 3D printers, but I was curious how they might be made. Recently a new kind of printer produced by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney is printing soft things. Their printer turns woolen yarns into objects.
The actual printer looks a lot like a sewing machine and can produce objects that look hand-knit. Scott Hudson, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said in a press release that he sees "...this material being used for things that are held close. We're really extending the set of materials available for 3D printing..."
It doesn't take a lot to think about what these materials will be: Clothing, accessories, little bunnies and teddy bears. But Hudson also says that this printer could also make soft robots—making such robots touchable.
Posted by erika rae
| 25 Apr 2014
"Did You Hear That?"
We're big fans of Star Wars, if you couldn't tell. (See: snowy Star Wars photography, our recent forum discussion on Star Wars design vs. Star Trek design, our breakdown of the opening scene text crawl—the list goes on.) New York artist James Haggerty has created another one to add to the list: Star Wars themed staple mosaics. He recreates the classic characters using thousands of the colored office supply pieces.
Details from "Did You Hear That?"
Haggerty is strategic with his staple-use—by using the dark background of the canvases, he's able to create a bit of depth that offsets the sheen given off by the staples. Taken out of context, bits and pieces of this series could easily come off as unrelated abstract artwork.
Posted by erika rae
| 23 Apr 2014
The newest video from Polish knifemaker Trollskyy couldn't have come at a better time, considering Earth Day has barely passed us by. "I love to make something out of nothing," he mentions on his YouTube page—well said considering his designs feature abandoned metal scraps. Trollskyy's most recent YouTube upload follows the process of a knife he made from the leaf spring off of an old Jeep. The end result is a dangerous-looking blade that bears no resemblance to its past life. Take a look:
The Lord of the Rings-esque music just adds to the oh-so-epic transformation (Let your nerd flag fly high and feel free to imagine Trollsky standing at the edge of Mordor, knife in hand—I did.) From railroad spike to old bearings, Trollskyy spotlights rejected metal in a whole new functional way. Check out more of his video documentations:
Posted by Ray
| 21 Apr 2014
Along with the nearby ECAL exhibition, Studio Formafantasma's "De Natura Fossilium" at Palazzo Clerici was one of the most buzzed-about projects in the Brera District this year—after all, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin consistently present excellent work during at the Fuorisalone, and this year was no exception. The Eindhoven-based pair often look to their Italian heritage for inspiration; this time around, they took inspiration from the November 2013 eruption of Mount Etna, creating a beautiful collection of tablewares, textiles and small furniture items from the byproducts of volcanic activity.
The project page for "De Natura Fossilium" does a far better job of explaining the work than I ever could, including striking photos by Luisa Zanzani; the "Process" section in particular illustrates the depth of Formafantasma's practice.
Volcanic glass, procured by remelting Etna's rocks, has been mouth-blown into unique vessels or cast into box-like structures that purposefully allude to the illegal dwellings and assorted buildings that have developed at the foot of the volcano. Drawing on their own vocabulary, these solitary glass boxes and mysterious black buildings have been finished with such archetypal Formafantasma detailing as cotton ribbons and Murano glass plaques.
In homage to Ettore Sottsass, the great maestro of Italian design
and an avid frequenter of the volcanic Aeolian islands, this new body of work takes on a linear, even brutalist form. Geometric volumes have been carved from basalt and combined with fissure-like structural brass elements to produce stools, coffee tables and a clock."