Holy COW this is cool, or at least, looks it. A California-based company called WayTools has developed the TextBlade, a diminutive, minimalist keyboard that nevertheless provides the same key spacing (19mm on center) as you'd get on a desktop or laptop, and 2mm of travel, which they claim "outperform[s] a Macbook Pro." And check out how this thing breaks down for storage and comes together for usage:
What you can't see in the video is that the TextBlade components apparently have some type of material or texture on the bottom that provides "rock-solid grip that hugs the table closer than a MacBook Air." It seems that that, in concert with the magnets, is enough to keep the thing from sliding around and/or disassembling, but to be fair I haven't actually touched one IRL.
If you hear voices in your head, that's bad. If you hear piano music in your head, that's not so bad, particularly if you're a professional pianist. Yet Gergely Bogányi still found it disturbing, because the sonorous quality of the music in his brain exceeded the sound a piano can actually produce. "[I] was intrigued to find out how I could make a difference," Bogányi writes. "How could I bridge the gap between the 'miraculous' sound in my head and that of the sound I was hearing?"
If it was a question of tuning, we can assume his long-suffering piano tuner might've found the solution. "[I] spent countless hours with my professional piano tuner, who travelled the world with me. Trying to find that consistent, quality sound in every piano. It was always so difficult with each concert hall having such different conditions that affected the piano. Dryness, dust, humidity were always a factor. Could we find a way to keep this quality consistent?"
Bogányi decided he'd have to custom design a piano, both inside and out, to get the sound he wanted. He assembled a team of designers, engineers, craftsmen and music technicians, and ten years and 8,000 team-hours later, they'd produced the Bogányi Piano you see here, which the pianist claims can produce "the clearest, boldest, [most] premium sound quality possible."
While it contains the wood and iron you'd find in an ordinary piano, the Bogányi has a proprietary carbon fiber soundboard design that is reportedly weatherproof, i.e. remains unaffected by humidity or dryness. The exterior is unusual in that it stands on just two legs, "to allow an additional bottom passage for the sound to reach the audience." (I'm not much of a classical music lover, but to you concerto-goers, does that third leg in the back really muck up the sound that much?
In my high school days, the threat of moving earth for a living was meant to keep us in line. "If you don't hit the books, you'll be digging ditches," the teachers warned.
Digging ditches might suck, but what they didn't tell us was that mowing ditches would be awesome. Because then you'd get to work machines like this beastly Claas Xerion 3300 VC Octopus Ditch Bank Mower.
"How ya like me now, Mr. Peterson?"
Operated by Holland-based agricultural contracting firm Hack Harvest, this Dutch ditch monster boasts four mowing booms built from machinery firm Herder's Grenadier tool-carrying arms. And judging by the video, this thing's no cinch to drive, as the operator must set up all four booms independently:
There's a reason "The Walking Dead" is set in the South; because watching a bunch of us Yankees trying to load 9mm rounds into a .45 or accidentally ejecting the magazine every time we try to turn the safety off would probably not be that compelling to watch.
Gun culture varies widely in the United States, depending on everything from local laws to regional history to personal upbringing. In NYC most firearms are illegal, thus law-abiding citizens here grow up with no familiarity with them; but I've met folks down South for whom owning and carrying multiple guns at all times is natural, and for whom firearms instructions was a part of their childhood.
The unnamed vet (that's veterinarian, not veteran) behind YouTube channel Demolition Ranch clearly falls into this latter category. His vehicle-based "everyday carry," or EDC video below skirts the line between dead-serious and tongue-in-cheek and packs several surprises. Regional differences being what they are, I'm sure Northerners will find it eye-opening while Southerners will think it old hat:
No, it ain't real, but we'd love to see it if it were. German website CURVED/labs worked up this concept design for an anniversary edition of the original Macintosh, echoing that machine's shape while flaunting the thinness possible with 2015 technology. Of course some of the design elements make no sense—if you can even find a physical disk to stick into that slot, does it just fall out of the back?—but it's still pretty cool to see.
Italian design engineer Guido Medana has invented eyeglasses with a new type of hinge called Spine. Created through metal injection molding (although the website, perhaps erroneously, lists the definition of MIM as "micro injection metal,") a series of small "vertebrae" interlock to create a housing for a spun wire cable threaded through springs. The result is a resilient, self-closing hinge.
In his 20s, Michael Walker worked as a jewelrymaker. But one day his wife gave him a copy of American Blade, a magazine for knife collectors. Walker looked through the pages and figured he'd give knifemaking a try.
That was way back in 1975, and by 1980 he was making knives full-time. His highly-sought-after creations sell for as much as five figures. And they're not just pretty: Walker holds some 20 patents and trademarks for folding knife mechanisms, starting with the "Linerlock" mechanism for folding knives that we'll describe below.
How do we fathom fathoms? Often by referring back to our own bodies. It's startling to realize that the much beloved metric system and the idiosyncratic imperial only became widely adopted in the 20th century. Human Scale is a fun look at how we quantified things before measurement systems became standardized. Leila Santiago was spurred to start the project while working as an international grad student in New York, experiencing innately common systems of weight and height and temperature without a comfortable base of reference.
"When I moved to New York for my master's program, I found it difficult to discuss formal specifics with my classmates around our projects. "Should it be 5 feet deep, or 6?" I didn't know; in essence, I was having to learn the basics again." The little book was a project for a graphic design and illustration class in SVA's Products of Design program, and highlights interesting ways we've made sense of quantities in everyday use.
Larger units, like how much rice a person eats in a year, may be hard to wrap your head around with much specificity, but could have been more palatable information in simpler times... with fewer corner stores. Others, like the distance a dog's bark will travel, are both recognizable and poetic. Taken with their contemporary units, the project is a nice exercise in exploring human communication and history.
As makers know, humans tend to be more engaged with objects they had a hand in building. DIY'ers are proud of their coffee tables, furniture designers get a special enjoyment out of sitting in a chair that they produced from raw lumber.
Automakers know this, but they're generally not able to engage their consumers beyond a "design your own pizza" approach, where buyers choose from a bunch of predetermined options, usually through a web portal. So Chevy has upped the ante with their Engine Build Experience program. For five large, new Corvette Z06 buyers can fly themselves out to the Corvette factory in Kentucky and actually bolt the freaking engine together (under the watchful eye of an engine assembly technician, of course).
The program was started back in 2010, when the Z06 factory was still in Michigan, and temporarily halted while Chevy's Performance Build Center was relocated to Kentucky. Now that the new factory's on-line, the engine-building option is being re-launched for March, with a price drop. (In Michigan the DIY option was $5,800.) And for those of you thinking participants just tighten a few bolts, this video GM's posted of the first EBE program actually looks pretty involved:
Apparently, everyone's favorite familial relationship testing board-game Monopoly was first conceived in 1903 as an educational tool by American Elizabeth Magie— the game-play intended to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies. Over a century on, the brand has lost much of its satirical sting—indeed, now something of an icon of good ol' fashioned business to hard-nosed capitalists and presumably an educational tool of a different sorts for their offspring—but the intended message of the original has only increased in pertinence with real estate crisis hitting a large amount of modern cities in recent years.
One of the key failures of Ms. Magie's anti-monolopy propaganda was, of course, starting her players on an even setting with the board's market an untouched open playing field. Creators of Austerity! —journalists at London based blog UsVsTh3m—have remedied this naivety in their satirical reimagining of Monopoly in a cruel post-financial crisis era, splitting players into "bosses" and "plebs" (UK slang for 'ordinary guy') from the get go—the bosses skipping around the fast-track outer-ring of the board and the lower mortals resigned to the slow-progress of the many hurdled inner-ring with only £57 at their disposal (the number being the typical amount received per week as social security payment in the UK).
LaCie's got a long history of tapping designers and design brands to create memory devices that needn't be hidden behind your monitor. (See Sam Hecht, Neil Poulton and Christofle, to name a few.) Now they've turned to Paris-based ID'er Pauline Deltour—whose client list boasts Alessi, Bree and Muji, to name a few—to design their latest: The elegant LaCie Mirror.
Done up in Corning Gorilla Glass that's been polished to a mirror shine, and sitting in its own included ebony wood stand, the Mirror looks less like a storage device and more like a desktop vanity:
As with high-end cosmetics, beauty doesn't come cheap: The 1-terabyte, USB 3.0 device will set you back US $280.
There's sometimes an uncomfortable paradox in the condition of the industrial designer—whilst making a living with the imagineering of consumable products, we're also often amongst the most aware and troubled by the many problems associated with rampant consumerism.
London-based designer Chris Thomas—"educated in the depths of the recession" at Goldsmiths—has penned a short book(let) YOU HAVE TOO MUCH SHIT, part self-help book, part propaganda pamphlet, unapologetically rallying against our excessive consumerist lifestyles, apparently "the culmination of quite a few years of inner raging".
Available for download free in iBook, ePUB or PDF—and also available to buy physically if you can handle the irony— Chris's book offers a range of practical anti-consumerism advice from first defining "shit" to then outlining lists of "shit" you probably don't need in your life to the final chapter on "Now You Know You Have Too Much Shit, Here's How To Get Rid of It".
As an avid documenter, collector and all around object enthusiast, my accumulation of 'stuff' from design school and beyond would rival designers much older than myself. In notebooks alone I have managed to fill many a bookshelf. Even a recent downsize upon relocating to Germany has done little to stymie the flow of sketchbooks, notepads, drawings etc.
Perhaps because of this, I immediately felt a kindred spirit in Jay Cousins, industrial designer and inventor of the 'Betabook' a current campaign on Kickstarter. Betabook was developed out of Cousins' experiments in living simply and with minimal objects—an interest he discussed as ranging from purging lesser-used objects to an anecdote about attempting to live in only 3 square meters of his Berlin apartment.
The Betabook is a direct result of Cousin's effort to take stock of his notebooks and sketchbooks nearly two years ago, only to find that the majority of their contents no longer retained enough value to warrant keeping. He began to experiment with alternatives, eventually removing the pages and recovering the bindings with a reusable whiteboard surface and documenting the important pages through digital photos. Cousins was later joined by co-founders of the creative studio KS12, Patrizia Kommerell and Gabriel Shalom to design and produce the final iteration of the Betabook as a consumer product.
In and around New Year's holidays the Japanese public traditionally make their way through vast quantities of Mochi—sticky and sweet cakes of pounded rice, eaten usually in soup, or toasted and served with sweet soy sauce and wrapped in dried seaweed. Unfortunately, this yearly customary celebration is all too often marred with tragedy—glutinous patties have been known to take the lives of people (often elderly) who choke on the sticky substance. This year has seen a particularly high casualty rate with 9 people reported to have died and a further 13 left in a critical condition.
Whilst in recent years Mochi manufacturers have adjusted their recipes to reduce casualties—the addition of an enzyme making the cakes less sticky, whilst maintaining the starchy flavour—Japanese industrialist have (somewhat predictably) also been taking on the challenge with interesting results. Tokyo-based medical equipment manufacturer Shin-Ei Industries is marketing a simple accessory for household vacuum cleaners with the premise that any rice cake incidents can be averted by sucking the offending mush from the victims throat.
The Apple Watch launches this year, which means we'll soon see loads of imitators and competitors. The 2015 CES is bound to be smartwatch-crazy. But one prominent watch manufacturer is taking a different tack: Offering a smart watch strap that can be attached to different watches.
The Montblanc E-Strap is an Italian-made piece of leather texturized to look like carbon fiber (?!?) connected to a tiny screen that sits on the inside of the wearer's wrist. This OLED display is actually a touchscreen, and while I can't imagine it allows a wide variety of gestures given its diminutive size (0.9 inch) and resolution of just 128x36, the company reckons it will be good enough to provide notifications and some remote control functions. According to watch news site A Blog to Watch,
In addition to basic calls, texts, e-mails, calendars, social media, and reminder notifications, the e-Strap will function as an activity monitor/tracker with a pedometer and accelerometer to measure data that feeds into an included iPhone or Android phone app.
Plastic is convenient to produce, though not the most durable stuff in the world. To get around this, San-Francisco-based industrial designer Mark Kelley created a line of desktop organizers made from polystone.
Polystone--a blend of polyurethane resin and powdered stone--is more substantial than plastic, featuring a smooth, almost porcelain-like finish, yet is lighter than stone (not to mention easier to work).
Produced under Kelley and partner Richard Liu's BASE brand, the clean-looking, minimalist line currently consists of three (really, four) products: Object 001, a desk cup; Object 002, a tall desk cup; and the combination Object 003, a small cup that nests in a tray. Check 'em all out here.
Dumb Drum is the name of a group of amateur filmmakers in California. For years they've been making shot-for-shot "sweded"* versions of popular movie trailers--remember fellow filmmaker Dustin McLean doing this with Iron Man 3 last year?--and it's incredibly fun to watch how they simulate millions of dollars worth of special effects with household items.
Their Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer went up just last week. How did they handle the three-pronged lightsaber? Well, let's see:
You've gotta love that they do all of the music vocally.
So how faithful was the DD version to the real thing? Judge for yourself with this side-by-side comparison:
*Fun fact: The term "sweded" is taken from the Michel Gondry film Be Kind Rewind, where Jack Black's character accidentally erases all of the VHS cassettes in a video rental store. He and Mos Def's character then re-shoot the movies themselves, super low-budget style. As demand for the flicks grows along with wait times, the pair tell customers the movies are "Sweded," i.e. all coming all the way from Sweden, as a way to explain the delays.
Despite the Russian-sounding name, Laika is an American stop-motion animation company based in Oregon. You probably know their name from 2009's Coraline, which they produced, and earlier this year they released The Boxtrolls. The A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd reviewed the latter film by writing "In an age when most cartoon companies have traded pens for pixels, the magicians at Laika continue to create fantastically elaborate universes out of pure elbow grease."
Dowd is referring to this surprising scene saved for the end credits, which Laika's just released on YouTube. It gives you a good sense of how labor-intensive this type of animation is:
Did you notice how many times the animator's clothes changed?
For those of you that didn't experience this scene in the theater, Colossal's Christopher Jobson did with his son, and explains the crowd's reaction: "This single scene caused a more vocal response from the audience than any other moment in the entire movie. People were literally gasping, myself included."
Following their recent three-year $90-million mega-renovation, the Cooper-Hewitt has been going all out to raise the game of their recently relaunched all important museum SHOP. As part of their efforts, curator Chad Phillips has allegedly commissioned a number of home-grown designers to create a range of "exciting new products that are covetable, gift-worthy, and affordable" to stock the shelves, inspired by collections at the museum.
One such object comes from Brooklyn based studio UM Project (standing for "Users and Makers" as their homepage will tell you), who contributed a range of mallets in a range of incongruous materials including brass, copper, marble-esque delrin and maple given a range of tasteful powder coating and lacquer finishes. Pretty and beautifully crafted though these "Mad Mallets" undoubtedly are (presumedly inspired at least in part by the museum's Memphis collections), we have to wonder—what is the sense in these faux-functional luxury tool toys?
The postmodern multi-material mallets could well be explained away as the simple whim of some over-zealous Brooklyn furniture designers, were it not for signs of similar stuff happening elsewhere. Beirut-based designer Stephanie Moussallem recently launched this range of handmade rolling pins (above) at the SMO Gallery Beirut (hmm, note the white wall natural habitats of these particular products) in a less colourful, but similarly luxuriously eclectic material palette.
Purveyors of web-based procrastination-enablers Adult Swim have been treating online audiences to a series of ingenious infomercial parodies in recent months—from feature-creeping Broomshakalaka to the frankly pornographic Salad Mixxxer. The latest spoof from the series takes aim at the sitting duck of the connected/quantified/smart home/health/self start-up world—mocking the various absurdities of the industry well and truly in an 11 minute fictionomercial that is both amusing and terrifyingly believable.
Last-minute shoppers: So you've mastered the one-piece-of-tape gift wrapping method, which works great with rectilinear objects. But now you've got to wrap an irregularly-shaped object, since that potted cactus was too great a bargain to pass up. How do you do it? Simple, use the "origami bag" method:
For those of you who find it painful to watch American television, here's a more subdued British presentation of the same technique:
The holiday season is when we start seeing some wacky promotional products, and this first one's a cake-taker. Johnnie Walker partnered up with shoemaking outfit Oliver Sweeney to produce these Leather Brogues. And yes, what you're seeing is real: The $489 kicks come with hollow compartments in the heel for the wearer to stash airplane-sized booze bottles.
Moving up from the feet towards the top of the body, the manufacturer of the Whisker Dam figures their drink-topping gewgaw will solve a pressing problem for the mustachioed. This "handcrafted to perfection" piece of copper, "dressed with a timeless patina," is meant to protect your moustache from beer foam. H.I.A.H.
And finally, YouTube tippler The Drunken Woodworker shows you how to make a candle holder. I mean, you tell your spouse and in-laws that it's a candle holder, but we all know the thing is for serving whiskey flights:
This post includes photos and an excerpt from the photoessay Christmas, Handmade in China originally published by Make Works. Make Works is an organization based in Scotland championing local manufacturing by making it easier for designers to work with manufacturers and makers. Photos and the original article are by designer Gemma Lord, documenting her experience on as part of the expedition program of Unknown Fields—a nomadic design studio exploring behind the scenes of the modern world, visiting manufacturing landscapes, mines and infrastructural fields.
It's the most gallingly consumeristic time of year, and (for anyone with even the slightest understanding of modern day globalized production and manufacturing) it takes, I'd suggest, a feat of remarkable mental strength and endurance to block out the social and ecological impact of season (squirming uncomfortably in the back of our minds) and actually enjoy it. Fortunately for us, a lot of the new objects appearing in our stores—santa hats and the latest plastic kids toys dropping like some Christmas bloody miracle every year without fail—shield our innocence and let us get on with the admittedly important task of celebrating with our loved ones.
On a mission to shine a light on the realities of global manufacturing practices and make a path for new forms of localized production, Make Works have recently published a photo-essay by designer Gemma Lord documenting her experiences as part of an Unknown Fields expedition project, posing as a European buyer inside a Christmas 'decorations' factory (of course, during the height of summer in advance of the season) supplying vast quantities of jolly tat to the Western world. As well as a fascinating look behind the scenes with some stunning photography, the piece is a much needed reminder of the impacts of Christmas consumer behavior. Whilst the conditions might not look too appalling (grim, definitely, but not the worst by a long stretch), perhaps the most troublesome thought that these pictures provoke, is that so much human life is spent dedicated to the production of something so trivial, to be shipped half way round the world and in landfill by New Year's.
Imagine a Poundland store so enormous that it takes two whole days to walk from one end to the other. Even then, you'll have missed an aisle or two. Well this is Yiwu International Trade Market. Covering over 4 million square metres it is the "largest small commodity wholesale market in the world."
With all of the hullabaloo over the new lightsaber design, fans may have missed another important detail in the trailer for the new Star Wars movie. First off, most of us know the Millenium Falcon has a round radar dish, as shown above.
Fans may also recall that in Return of the Jedi, Han Solo lends the Millenium Falcon to Lando Calrissian. (Han is busy down on Endor, trying to disable the Death Star's shield.) Lando drives the Falcon into a shaft on the Death Star—and hits a pipe, knocking the radar dish off, as seen in this clip:
Core77 has obtained an exclusive, unreleased script excerpt that details the aftermath of that incident, and it just so happens to tie into the new trailer. Please see below.
Owners of the Knee Defender may be able to purchase a companion device next year, albeit one from a different company. Said company, Soaragami, is a start-up looking to tackle "the problem of fighting for armrests" with their eponymous product.
The idea for the Soarigami came from being stuck in a very uncomfortable airplane seat. Sick of fighting for armrest space with strangers, our co-founder sketched a design that would ultimately become the Soarigami on, you guessed it, a cocktail napkin.
The services of California-based design firm Focus Product Design were enlisted, and the result is a foldable divider—gussied up to look like an old-school airmail letter, which I think is a bit too on-the-nose—that a passenger can unfurl and perch on the armrest. And for their part, the Soaragami founders don't see it as having the built-in confrontational nature of a Knee Defender: "Make a friend, share fair, and let's unfold savvier skies," they write of the product. (Your cynical correspondent doesn't think fellow passengers would react positively to anything that they perceive as intruding on their personal space, but I hope I'm wrong.)
One thing that Soaragami has for sure, that the Knee Defender doesn't, is a catchy, accompanying pop anthem:
It's a sad fact, but true, that most of us industrial designers know the feeling of working on something that we don't care about. I myself have worked on many projects that I felt were inferior or even unneccessary, because I was part of The Machine, the one where the Design Group was beholden to Marketing. And for those of us that don't blossom into Marc Newsons, Jony Ives and Karim Rashids, we don't get much say in the process, and must continue to serve our cog-like function by slowly rotating in place.
I think that's why I found this Jerry Seinfeld clip so satisfying to watch. (Part of it is the awkward silence early on, while the audience tries to figure out if he's making fun of them or not.) He's giving an acceptance speech for winning an honorary CLIO Award earlier this year, and while on the surface he's skewering the advertising industry, he may as well be speaking to the thousands of companies pushing out unneccessary product: