Image by Dale Purves (see info below)
One of the things I loved about seeing Scott Robertson's presentation on rendering tricks at Autodesk's CAVE Conference: The man still renders in Photoshop. I cut my ID teeth rendering bottles in Adobe's flagship product, and it's nice to see that not everyone has completely gone the 3D route.
When you're manually (albeit digitally) laying down gradations and layers, you quickly learn how much black you have to put into something to make it look white, and how much white you have to put into something to make it look black. The optical illusion up above, which has recently gone viral and is shocking to anyone who's never done an ID rendering, is an excellent example. The top chiclet is black and the bottom is white, right? Well, not if we look at it after masking off most of the drawing:
In 2010 we put out a call for entries seeking ID renderings of a cell phone airbag concept. Exactly zero of you responded (though six people left comments; most folks like to critique more than they like to do). In 2011 we discovered Apple had actually patented an airbag-like cell phone protection system. And this week, I became excited upon seeing links popping up to an airbag cell phone case supposedly developed by Honda.
This year's Autodesk University was the largest we'd attended, with around 10,000 bodies swarming through the enormous Exhibition Hall. But unlike in previous years, where we saw tons of neat physical gizmos—like Zebra Imaging's crazy holographic prints, the affordable but powerful ShopBot Desktop CNC mill or unusual interface devices like Leonar3Do's "Bird" 3D mouse—this year the bulk of the Hall was either things we'd previously covered, or software. Better content management software and rendering plug-ins do not a sexy blog post make, so we combed the floor seeking things that we could touch and feel.
Our criteria for finding physically-designed objects meant the pickings in the vast Hall were slim, but we did find the very unusual RollerMouse from Contour Design. Designed specifically for traders and CAD users with multiple-monitor set-ups, the RollerMouse is intended to increase efficiency and speed while reducing or preventing repetitive stress injuries. Have a look:
As I've said before, it doesn't make sense to me that the iPhone and iPad are such beautiful devices when naked, and yet we must swaddle them in protective covers in order to use them in our everyday lives. I use a cheapie silicone case for my iPhone, not because I like it, but because it's easier than most cases to remove the phone so I can place it in the dock. But now I've seen a better solution.
UK-based designers Jack Spencer and Alex Boswell (collectively known as Nodus) feel the same way as I do about the iDevices, and resolved to design handsome cases for them that could be quickly removed from each device. "We think that protecting your phone or tablet from everyday bumps and scratches is important," the duo writes, "[but feel that] a case should never impair your devices' functionality, tactile experience and amazing design." They turned to "micro-suction technology"—a kind of film that has millions of tiny suction cups embedded within its surface—and bonded it to the inside of a simple leather case of their own design. Check out the resultant adhesive power and attachment and removal procedures:
Posted by Ray
| 6 Dec 2013
The first result of a Google Image Search for "Technique"
"Is technique an example of overcoming 'bad' design, or is technique itself a form of design?"
So begins Sanjy009's inquiry into "Technique vs. Design," proceeding to illustrate the topic with a couple of examples, which have driven much of the discussion thus far. He starts with an anecdote about driver's ed in Scandinavia: "Sweden teaches drivers to open their car doors with the opposite arm, so their bodies are facing backwards and the driver is better able to check their blindspot before opening the door" (it turns out it might be Amsterdam; no confirmation as of press time), followed by a discussion of the ergonomics on musical instruments.
The latter serves as the primary talking point; to Michael DiTullo's point that "we are due for something new, but even most of the purely digital tools mimic analog inputs," I would note that:
1.) I think the Ondes Martenot is a good example of how an avant-garde instrument still requires an intuitive UI: It's essentially a theremin (i.e. a sine-wave generator) that has a graphic interface, as seen in this video overview (it starts a little slow, but gets pretty cool at 3:55; by the end, the interviewer notes that "It's definitely the most 'alive'-sounding electronic instrument... It has a very human quality to it.") Radiohead fans might recognize the coveted synthesizer, which multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood has played on every one of their albums since Kid A; it also features heavily in his solo side projects.
2.) The Tenori-On also comes to mind—the short write-up on MoMA's Inside/Out blog (they've acquired it in their permanent collection) offers a nice summary of how the 16×16 grid actually works.
Clockwise from top left: Ondes Martenot via Wikimedia Commons; Jonny Greenwood via Wikimedia Commons; Tenori-Onvia Wikimedia commons; Theremin player
How do you take two things most people don't like—airline travel and advertising—and combine them into a pleasing experience? That was the task online retailer Zappos set for Mullen, and the Boston ad agency came up with a client-pleasing solution. This Thankgsiving Eve, travelers through Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport found their baggage claim conveyor belt festooned with what appeared to be Zappos advertising banners, but which were in fact prize markers for clothing, appliances, accessories and gift certificates. The entire conveyor belt had effectively been transformed into a giant roulette wheel, with travelers' individual pieces of luggage serving as the ball.
"Zappos wants to intercept people in their everyday lives and bring surprise and delight," Mullen executive creative director Tim Vaccarino told Ad Age. "So right away we're always looking for something fresh in approach."
Zappos staff were on hand to verify prize winnings, with at least one of them dressed like a turkey. And unlike America's usual Black Friday shenanigans, there were no fistfights, stabbings or shootings reported.
As I mentioned in this post on travel methodologies, I never travel with anything larger than a rolling carry-on. So if I'm flying someplace that has inclement weather and I think I might need to bring boots, I have a simple space-saving trick: I wear them onto the flight. Even filled with rolled-up socks and power cables, boots take up far too much space packed into luggage, whereas the sneakers I pack are easy to crush and stow.
The problem with the boots-wearing is, it's a pain unlacing and re-lacing them at the airport security line. But I think I've just found a solution: A company called LEMs, for Live Easy & Minimal, sells a collapsible, packable boot that I could easily squeeze into packed luggage.
If only there were, for every kid glued to an XBox, another kid like Wesley Souza. After observing how an escavadeira (excavator) works, the Brazilian teen replicated the hydraulic mechanisms using syringes and plastic tubing; with a little help from family member Lidio, he even carved up some wood scraps to create a working scale model.
See it in action:
A buddy of mine recently returned from his annual trip to Japan, lacing our female friends with omiyage (souvenirs) that are difficult or impossible to find in the 'States: Green Tea Kit Kat bars, exotic-flavored Gummi Bears, gourmet shrimp chips, et cetera. And I knew he'd have some guy gear that one could only find in Tokyo. This time he was sporting the impossibly stylish Cycling Jacket you see above—you've got to see it and touch it in person to appreciate—which is both well-tailored and functional, constructed from a proprietary blend of moleskin and Windstopper fabrics. While Japanese manufacturer Nanamica sells a few jackets Stateside through the J. Crew Menswear Store, if you want the Cycling Jacket you have to go to their shop in Daikanyama, Tokyo.
To a lover of designed objects, the words "Japanese Market Only" are three of the worst words in the English language. So much cool stuff is designed on that island and destined never to leave its shores, like this beer glass designed to evoke Mt. Fuji, this cutting board meant to put you in a good mood, or this malted milk ball dispenser that I must acquire if I am ever to become a grandparent.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 25 Nov 2013
Here's lookin' at you, kid
Never actually watched the black and white films everyone claims to love? No sweat. If you've got a mil' to kil' today you can massage your movie cred by buying THE Maltese Falcon. Or the getaway car from Casablanca. Or a gauzy garment from Gone with the Wind... the, ah stuff dreams are made of. Who could question you with that regal raptor on your mantle? Nobody, kiddo.
Winning bidder may or may not be required to reenact this scene.
If this video was just about a guy who makes things using only pre-1949 shop tools, it would be awesome (check out the wicked picket-cutting machine at 1:47). If it was just about a guy who can turn 1,200 cornerblocks by hand with machine-like accuracy, it would be awesome. And if it was just about a guy who teaches kids who have been thrown out of multiple reform schools how to make things, it would also be awesome. But it's all of those things and a fourth, much more important thing. Like inventor Ralph Baer, craftsman Eric Hollenbeck explains with brutal honesty why he continues to do what he's done for so long, and while his reason is wholly different from Baer's, it touches on a truth a portion of us will well recognize. It's no surprise this video is a Vimeo Staff Pick:
The beautifully-shot video was done by filmmaker Ben Proudfoot (who at 23, is perhaps too tender to immediately grasp why Hollenbeck didn't want to go to town for supplies). As for Hollenbeck, he runs Blue Ox Millworks and Blue Ox Community High School out of Eureka, California. For those of you living in the region, on the 29th and 30th of this month they'll be hosting their biannual Craftsman's Days local showcase event.
Before XBox, before Playstation, before Sega, even before Atari, there was the Magnavox Odyssey, the world's first game console. It was the work of Ralph Baer, an inventor who developed it in 1966 for a defense industry company that developed electronics, and by 1971 Magnavox had licensed it. Some of you weren't even born then, but that was the first brick laid in the road towards your white-knuckled Call of Duty sessions.
Back then the concept of an electronic game console was so new that the company had to print "Works on any television set, black and white or color" on the box, because people figured it would only work if connected to a Magnavox television. And while Atari later came out and familiarized more consumers with console gaming, it was Baer's Odyssey and the 350,000 units it moved that were undeniably first.
Amazingly, Baer—now 90 years old and still sharp as a whip—is still inventing! In this short video from PBS Digital Studios' "Inventors" series, Baer tells the sobering story of why he continues to work.
Posted by IDEO
| 13 Nov 2013
Since 1866, when John Boultbee Brooks first wielded his iron awl and cobbler's hammer to stretch leather over a bike saddle, his company has been known for its craftsmanship, durability, and quirky British insistence on doing things differently. Cyclists are fiercely attached to the brand. Thus, when Brooks England turned to IDEO to design its first new bike saddle in decades, it was essential that the design pay respect to the company's heritage.
The result is the Cambium C17, a saddle that offers the same durability as traditional Brooks leather saddles but with instant comfort and weather protection. It took them nearly seven years to source the materials and perfect the process for creating a more comfortable saddle. Project Lead Thomas Overthun sheds some light on IDEO's approach to the challenge.
Disruptive innovation is at the core of Brooks' heritage. There were no comfortable saddles before Brooks invented their now-classic, but then-revolutionary and high-tech leather saddle. Brooks took a simple hammock construction concept and combined it with natural, high-quality materials that promoted comfort but were also durable enough to last a lifetime.
The company also had a history of being slightly quirky and doing things differently, so we wanted to revive that spirit and make it relevant to an emerging group of users. Unfortunately, a lot of heritage brands have a tendency to stagnate a bit because they work hard to preserve a product's original attributes. Taking risks is how other heritage brands have taken a step forward, grown and innovated—a good example is Burberry evolving from the original trench coat design. Doing something different is risky, but it's also what makes a project exciting.
Thor's mighty hammer, Mjölnir, was forged from magic metal in a workshop of the gods, right? Well, not this latest one; it was TIG-welded out of chromoly steel in a workshop in Burbank.
Tony Swatton is a California-based master blacksmith who runs an unusual roster of employees, with a "Warlock of Animal Fibers" working alongside conventional machinists and swordsmiths. Swatton's Sword & Stone operation creates custom armor, weapons and props for Hollywood; if you need an historically accurate medeival broadsword, an anodized 14th-Century suit of armor or a silver Valkyrie's circlet with an agate centerpiece, S&S is your spot.
While they were not the ones contracted to make the version of Thor's hammer used in the forthcoming movie, Swatton & co. took it upon themselves to make a convincing replica as a testament of their skills. (Every week they make a new mythical weapon, and this week Mjölnir's number was up.) Watch as they turn chromoly, aluminum, leather and a rod of allthread into a lead-shot filled 250-pound beast, and use it to smite some of Thor's worst enemies like a lava lamp, a soda can and a watermelon:
In the past two years, residents of North America's west coast have received some "gifts": Soccer balls, wooden flooring and even entire boats have washed ashore. Amazingly, this stuff traveled all the way, untended, from Japan.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the tsunami of March 2011 washed some five million tons of Japanese debris into the Pacific Ocean. Seventy percent of that debris is estimated to have sunk to the ocean floor around Japan, but the other 30% was buoyant enough to keep going. And yes, some of it has washed up on American shores, and if the experts are to be believed, there is more to come.
Earlier reports have been panicky. In September, NOAA released this graphic based on a computer simulation:
That shows a field of garbage larger than Texas, and about two times the area of Japan itself, on a collision course with California. In an update released just this week, however, NOAA points out that that is not a solid mass of debris:
...Whatever debris remains floating is very spread out. It is spread out so much that you could fly a plane over the Pacific Ocean and not see any debris since it is spread over a huge area, and most of the debris is small, hard-to-see objects.
We don't care if this island of garbage is contiguous or not; what's distressing is that there is 1.5 million tons of trash headed our way. What's more distressing, however, is this:
Spend any amount of time sitting at a workbench, as I do in my machine-fixing hobby, and your issue is always getting light to the right spot. I spend almost as much time fiddling with the swing-arm lamp as I do manipulating tools. I've thought about getting a headlamp, but suspect it won't solve the issue, although it will make me look like more of a dork.
Netherlands-based UX designer Bob de Graaf has a potential solution. Called "Species of Illumination," the project was de Graaf's entry in Eindhoven's 2013 Graduation Show and features two lamps, named Darwin and Wallace:
[The] two lights...act and react like autonomous creatures. Wallace responds to changes in light intensity in its environment and brings light to the darkest corners. Having done that, it's no longer the darkest space, so he moves on, constantly bringing light where it is darkest. Meanwhile solar-powered 'Darwin' searches for sunlight during daylight hours to charge his battery, and in the evening wanders around the house seeking movement - accompanying people with his light. The interaction and emotional relationship they bring contribute to our well being. They behave like pets. They are lively lights you can play with.
I'm less interested in playing with them than having them serve me, but that's because I am prejudiced against robots. De Graaf, for his part, is not: "I am a big fan of Wall-E, I think Pixar did a really great job in showing how a robot can be adorable," he said in an interview with UK-based We Heart. Not that the Pixar flick, or the hopping Angelpoise lamp, was his inspiration: "My inspiration comes mainly from nature. In nature everything moves all the time, some things really quickly, others really slowly, but nothing has a fixed form or place. That's why I think it's really interesting to work with movement, instead of denying it and working with fixed forms."
Posted by Ray
| 7 Nov 2013
L: Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair; R: Sotheby's
About a month ago, we couldn't help but take notice of the Jony Ive / Marc Newson-designed custom desk, which anchors the upcoming (RED) Auction alongside the Leica M that made rounds that week. At some point in the past four weeks, Sotheby's has published the full catalog of the 44 art and design objects in the charity auction, and it's quite a star-studded list. Besides Ive and Newson, the roster includes works by the likes of Azzedine Alaïa, Ettore Bugatti, Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (not pictured) and Damien Hirst (who curated the first edition of Bono's auction in 2008), to name a few.
From left: Typewriter by Ettore Sottsass, boots by Christian Louboutin, armchair by Dieter Rams
I'm partial to the Dieter Rams pieces myself—along with the Vitsœ 620 and 606, there's a Braun Hi-Fi—and the Cinelli Laser remains something of a grail bike for me (vintage ones command close to the $15,000–20,000 estimate for the 2013 Laser Nostra in the auction).
Not to scale
As for the (RED) desk, the Neal Feay-produced beauty comes in at a solid $300,000–500,000; only the Leica M comes in with a higher estimate at $500,000–750,000. (A Steinway grand piano and a Takashi Murakami trunk filled with 33 alligator leather Louis Vuitton handbags come in next at $150,000–200,000.) Ive/Newson diehards who miss out on the big-ticket items might have to settle for the sculptural NASA space shuttle window ($100,000–150,000).
Posted by Ray
| 6 Nov 2013
Here, via NOWNESS, is a neat little video portrait of the inimitable Tom Dixon talking shop—specifically, how welding was his launchpad into design. Indeed, the acetylene torch is a veritable metallurgical wand, and here the British designer marvels at its simple efficacy, poodle in tow. "And then suddenly you've got this tiny world that you can control."
As for his definition of design? "For me, it's really, probably just about improving things."
Who knew that a half-century before they produced their first car, the Peugeot family was making coffee grinders? And would continue to, for over 100 years? In 1840 the Peugeots produced their first moulin a cafe out of a combination of metal and wood. The beans were inserted into the metal hopper up top; metal gears were turned by a wooden-knob-capped metal crank; and the blade-cut grindings fell into a pull-out wooden drawer in the bottom of the housing.
The first models were utilitarian affairs, purely form follows function with little in the way of decoration. But later models began to display some craft confidence, as you can see in these shots from the Peugeot Museum in France, where the corners have received a style treatment.
Dates are tough to come by, but at some point they also began experimenting with cast-iron models as the Industrial Revolution took hold.
While "We Are Makers" was the first documentary looking at the burgeoning Maker Movement, it certainly won't be the last. As of this week, we know what the next one will be: The team behind 2011's Design & Thinking doc are gearing up for their next effort, Maker, whose successful Kickstarting period ends today.
The paltry $15,000 budget belies what we're hoping will be a meaty flick on the movement, this one feature-length and interviewing more than two dozen folks ranging from Chris Anderson to Autodesk CEO Carl Bass to Local Motors designer Jacob Ferguson.
"Maker" delves deep into [the] ecosystem of design and manufacturing in the Internet era. The film explores the ideas, tools, and personalities that are driving the Maker Movement - and returns with a timely snapshot of one of the transforming influences of the current age.
Due to budget constraints the doc will only examine the Maker Movement in America, though the finished film will screen in over 40 countries worldwide. And while most of the shooting has already been completed, postproduction is expected to be time-consuming, with a projected launch of sometime "before May of 2014." In the meantime, you'll have to sate yourself with the trailer:
Hit the jump for the rather impressive list of subjects they've already managed to lense:
Remember Casey Neistat's car commercial shot on the Bonneville Salt Flats? Then you probably remember the salt-sprayed shades he was wearing. Enough people asked about them that Neistat subsequently did his thing, posting a DIY video on how he replicated the look post-shoot. Watching the ad-hoc way that he bangs these out using commonly-available materials, I felt like I was back in the ID shop at school.
Back in June, we wondered how Apple's then-forthcoming tube-shaped Mac Pro was manufactured. Following a tip from Don Lehman, we learned it was the process known as impact extrusion, and we assembled a bunch of clips to show you the process.
Well, turns out Apple has put together their own video showing the actual Mac Pro as it goes from an aluminum puck into the Ive-envisioned final cylinder. Attendees of Apple's media event earlier this week were the first members of the public to see it, but thankfully it's now been posted to YouTube. Have a watch:
As you saw, the video also treats us to a rare look inside Apple's actual production facility. (Is it me, or has it become weird to see a factory filled with American workers?) And speaking of that factory: For the true production methods geeks among you, Oregon-based product designer Greg Koenig has gone and listed what he believes are the actual machines Apple's using.
When bubbles of the financial or personal dreams variety burst, it isn't a pretty sight. But when actual bubbles burst, it's completely beautiful. Particularly when they're the gi-normous ones made by a company called Shanks FX, who collaborated with PBS Digital Studios to show you how it's done. In the following video, they not only reveal their "recipe" for making huge bubbles, they also show you how to construct the spawning gear, and a wicked "bubble control wand" that allows you to manipulate the bubbles in space using fans:
Nutty, no? It almost looks as if a liquid is transformed into a solid that then explodes into a gas.
Raymond Loewy famously designed a bunch of stuff for Coca-Cola. Marc Newson, too, is venturing into famous beverage territory, but for a decidedly sudsier product: Beer.
Three years ago Heineken, after doing research, decided there was a market need for a product that would allow consumers "to enjoy an upscale drinking experience in their own homes." Six months later they'd tapped Newson to design it and now, 2.5 years later, they're ready to roll out the fruit of their collaboration, dubbed The Sub.
Manufactured by Krups, The Sub is, in Newson's words, "a giant pressurised vessel" and "a male-oriented object made of anodized aluminium." Consumers can purchase what they're calling "Torps," metal cylinders filled with brew, that they then load into The Sub like a torpedo into a firing tube. But instead of sinking an enemy U-Boat, The Sub then chills the beer down to two degrees Celsius, which is four degress colder, Heinken reckons, than your 'fridge can get it.
For now your choice of beers is limited to the ones in Heineken's stable, including Mexican, Italian and Belgian brews.
As someone whose primary transportation mode is walking, I wish sneakers were designed more like cars. When your car's tires wear out, you pop them off and install new ones (or remold them if they're expensive); but every eight months I have to toss an entire pair of kicks because the treads are gone, and there's nothing for it. No local business I know of will re-sole a $100 pair of running shoes.
Rock climbing shoes are a different story, as they can be resoled and repaired. Places like The Gear Fix, which is three hours south of Core77's Portland HQ in the city of Bend, Oregon, make their living by repairing outdoor gear: bikes, climbing equipment, ski equipment, camping stoves, backpacking gear, and yes, climbing kicks. And re-soling the latter does not look easy, as it's a blend of art and science. An anonymous TGF employee undergoing an apprenticeship on how to do half-soles posted a video showing the process:
There isn't much actual material used, but just look at all of the equipment required, from the wooden inserts to the hand tools to the machinery to the cool little floor-stands. Then there's the learning time, of course; the unnamed apprentice in the video had been at it for about five months prior to shooting it. So how much do you think it costs for a job like that? I was well surprised by the low price: "Basically $35 for a pair of soles," writes the shop, "and $10 each if you need the rands / toe caps replaced." That's nuts.
A couple of climbing shoe notes:
- If you're wondering why this particular repair is half-sole and not full-sole, the area you see being replaced—from the ball of the foot to the toe—is where most of the wear typically occurs in a climbing shoe.
- The "rands" refers to the parts of rubber above the sole, like the "sidewalls" of the toe, for instance.
Images courtesy of the artist and xpo gallery
With his simple black-on-white line drawings, France-based artist Vincent Broquaire provides subtle, clever commentary about the modern-day world.
And his animations are even better, demonstrating an intriguing concept for how the universe might work. Check out his "Progress Bar:"