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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  11 Feb 2014  |  Comments (9)

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The urchin followed me down the street, cajoling. I was backpacking through Hanoi, and this poor kid living on the street had latched onto me with his broken English, claiming that no matter what it was I wanted, he could find it and sell it to me. In fact I'd been looking for a particular book written by Vietnamese writer Bao Ninh, and in those pre-Amazon days I asked the kid if he could find an English-language copy, as there were no bookstores I could see on Hang Bac Street. I was shocked when he returned with a faded copy of the book in an hour, and I gladly paid him the asking price: US $15.

I'd become friendly with Quang, the young Vietnamese manager of my hostel and showed him the book. Quang was surprised I wanted it and asked how much I paid for it. When I told him, he became incensed: "That book is $1.50, not $15," he said. He barked something to a cyclo driver outside and the two of them set off. Thirty minutes later they returned and pulled me out into the street, where a crowd had gathered.

Quang knew the urchin, had tracked him down, and bloodied his nose. I was horrified. Quang stood up on a box, cupped his hands to his face and began yelling an explanation in Vietnamese to the passersby, which caused more of them to stop and listen. The cyclo driver translated for me: Quang was telling everyone that this kid was a thief who had ripped off a visitor to their country. The crowd grew visibly disgusted and a small queue spontaneously formed. People—housewives, day laborers, people carrying stuff to the market—each took a turn approaching the urchin and unleashing a one-sentence verbal smackdown before departing. At the end, despite my protests, they forced the kid to apologize to me.

Coming from a then-high-crime neighborhood in Brooklyn, where my neighbor's apartment was robbed so thoroughly that they took the sheets off of her bed, this was astonishing to me. My limited experiences in Communist countries like Vietnam or Cuba has shown me that things weren't about the money there, because there was no money to be had. And when people are not motivated by profit, they instead adhere to whatever moral code they were raised under. Nowadays the economic structure is different in Vietnam than it was sixteen years ago, and you can legally earn an American buck, as young game developer Dong Nguyen has done with his Flappy Bird app. So it probably seems shocking to us Americans that after raking in US $50,000 per day with his app—this in a country where most earn just US $2,000 per year—Nguyen shut the app down.

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Posted by Glen Jackson Taylor  |   6 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)

NY-NOW-Winter-2014-01.JPG'Toto Wooden Dolls' by Artek. The villagers, called Martta, Kerttu, Aaro and Eemil, are made by turning wood and finished with painting by hand.

NY-NOW-Winter-2014-02.JPGThe 'Toto Wooden Dolls' were designed by Kaj Franck in 1945 as collectables for the Finnish magazine Kotiliesi.

Here's a quick round-up of some of the noteworthy stuff we came accross at the Accent on Design section of the home and giftware show NY NOW (f.k.a. NY International Gift Fair), which faced some stiff competition last weekend, coinciding with Chinese New Year festivities and the Superbowl. This year's show was loaded with some really impressive ceramics, as well as Tom Dixon's ever-expanding catalog of products, and it was great to see so many young designers with really solid product photography, personal branding, and marketing collateral. Check out the highlights below:

NY-NOW-Winter-2014-03.JPGCeramic 'Buddie Vessels' by Mirena Kim.

NY-NOW-Winter-2014-04.JPG'Nest' storage containers by Joseph Joseph with their signature color-coding.

NY-NOW-Winter-2014-05.JPGRocking wooden and brass paper-weights 'Tipsy' by Bower.

Congrats to Danny Giannella and Tammer Hijazi of Bower, our pick for the "Bloggers' Choice Awards"

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   4 Feb 2014  |  Comments (3)

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My new printer arrived, it's wireless. While setting it up I had to put my glasses on. It took me so long to do that I instinctively turned my head and yelled for my wife to fetch my son to show me how to do it, but then I rememebered that I am unmarried and childless.

Because I don't have kids, my friends who've successfully bred don't forward me child-based YouTube videos, leaving me in the dark as to current child-rearing trends. So I was surprised to see this video of a father giving his daughter a ponytail using a vacuum cleaner:

My first thought was, Well, this is why the terrorists hate us Americans. But it seems this trend has crossed the pond, as there are videos of Brits doing it:

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  31 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Are you tired of recognizing and enjoying your background jams? Do you strive to have a sonically obscure yet socially sharable music collection? This weekend give a listen to songs literally no one has tried out on Spotify. Forgotify is dedicated to bringing songs with zero plays to an audience of at least one.

The offerings are understandably wide-ranging—apparently there are a lot of stray songs in the world, 4 million if you ask the guys at Forgotify! You'll find off-brand covers of yesteryear pop hits, symphonic arrangements of classical classics, and truly difficult to explain foreign soundtracks. Something is bound to strike your fancy, or at least raise an eyebrow.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

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After spotting the photo below (which is one of those endlessly, shamelessly Pinterested-shots with no attribution, making tracking down the original creator impossible), Nagoya-based Tori Sugimura figured he'd try making a traditional Japanese version.

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After successfully learning to craft his tiny power-outlet-covering sliding shoji screen doors, he caught the attention of a Japanese television show; the original clip is here, for Japanese speakers. Interest in Sugimura's wares subsequently exploded, and they're for sale on his Tori Craft website.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  28 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)

0balmoral.jpgUhhh, that's a cross-section of a ship

I'm impressed by a shipyard's ability to dry-dock a cruise ship. I'm also impressed by limousine manufacturers being able to cut, stretch and weld a Town Car.

It never occurred to me that these two pieces of manufacturing prowess could be combined, but several years ago, Hamburg-based shipyard Blohm + Voss—who've been plying their trade since 1877—received a commission to "stretch" a cruise liner. Watch and be amazed as they transform the Norwegian Crown into the Balmoral, the latter ship being 90 feet longer than the former:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)

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[Editor's Note: This post has been edited to reflect a comment regarding the physical nature of nixie tubes.]

In this age of digital displays, it's hard not to appreciate the old-school aesthetic of a nixie tube. To individually bend ten different digits out of cold cathode neon tubes the cathode, then stuff all of them together in a little glass dome—i.e. the tube itself—is perhaps needlessly labor-intensive but provides a clearly legible readout with an Edison-bulb vibe.

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Sydney-based Duncan Hellmers is of the same mind. "[Nixie tubes] fit in well with today's aesthetic trends but still retain that sense of nostalgia and sentimentality," he writes. "I'd seen quite a few tube clock designs online, but couldn't find one whose character matched what I was after, so I decided to design my own."

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Since the dawn of time, high fashion has recycled low... and congratulated itself for doing so. Antique Japanese boro fabric, increasingly popular among the edgy styluminati, is simultaneously co-branded couture, lowbrow folk tradition, and literally recycled. Boro traces its lineage to the traditional cloths used and reused and re-reused by rural farmers, artisans, craftspeople and laborers between the 18th and 20th centuries. Before cotton was widely available in Japan, the most commonly used fibers came from tough and abundant sources like jute, wisteria and bast. Rough stuff for sure, but resistant to wear and tear. As cotton production increased and cotton products began to spread, used cotton kimonos and other textiles became available at more affordable prices.

kimonofabric.jpgExploded diagram of a kimono, Boro fabric exploding at the seams

Boro_The_Fabric_of_Life_880.jpgTasteful French gallery show of other people's old workwear

To get the most out of these valuable softer fabrics, they were patched over and over, sometimes being torn into strips and rewoven, integrating the tougher materials for reinforcement. Dyed textiles would often be taken apart, redyed and rewoven in multiple iterations, creating a deeply textured and mottled appearance over time. Sometimes you can find signs of a fabric's earlier life, like the darker strip on a blanket where a kimono collar used to be. The most recognizable boro fabrics feature an array of indigo hues, carefully patchworked with strong quilting or darning stitches. (For a good time, look up "sashiko" stitching, which literally translates as "little stabs." Quilting is pretty metal.) The patches on most boro fabric, while varied in color and size, are usually square or rectangular. Coincidence? Nope, nor a cultural obsession with rigid angles. It's another sign of efficiency and good design.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Comments (13)

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Is there anything more frustrating than when product designers get something right, only to screw it up in successive iterations of their design? Think of anything you've owned two versions of where the power switch has now been moved to an inconvenient location, or the metal construction of a crucial part has been swapped out for plastic, or positive-click buttons have now been made spongy.

NYC-based filmmaker Casey Neistat encountered one such generational design flaw with "The Almost Perfect Camera," Canon's S120. Previous iterations of the camera—Neistat's favorite—had the microphone aimed towards the subject; the new model has it pointed towards the sky, which creates ergonomic interference. Unsurprisingly, Neistat went at it with boxcutter, epoxy and ice cream stick to fix the problem:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Comments (7)

0lucaiaconistewart-001.jpgThis shot might be of Coach, but this guy's modelmaking skillz are first-class

Get this man a job as a modelmaker.

Luca Iaconi-Stewart learned to make architectural models from paper in a high school class, and found he enjoyed it. Rather than pursuing a career in architecture, Iaconi-Stewart subsequently embarked on a crazy project to build a detailed scale model of a Boeing 777, entirely out of paper.

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The man has spent five years on the yet-to-be-completed project, and even sacrificed college to continue on it.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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What's made out of leather, already broken-in, and gathering dust in the closet of most red-blooded American males of a certain age? A baseball glove. And for every one of you that still pulls yours out in the spring, there are probably nine of us that prefer to wear out the leather in our armchairs.

A company called Fielder's Choice Goods has been getting their hands on this worn-leather bonanza and turning ex-mitts into wallets, belts and keychains.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  16 Jan 2014  |  Comments (2)

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If you've got the bucks, an HD projector is a cool alternative to a television. It's about as unobtrusive as it gets, turning any white wall into a screen larger than the biggest LED or plasma screen you can buy. But installing a projector is a pain—I helped a buddy hook one up, and mounting it to the ceiling required us making a custom plate for it, then dragging the ladder back and forth to find the perfect spot for it, not to mention drilling into a stamped-tin ceiling. Then came the PITA of getting cables to the thing and having to drill supports for the cables along their length. And once it's up and running, if you find you need to make physical adjustments to the thing or de-dust it after a period of months, well, time to break out the ladder again.

Sony's brilliant design solution to projector hassles is their 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  15 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In the '90s, David Munson was working as a volunteer English teacher in Mexico when he caught the bag bug. While searching for the perfect leather bag, he realized it didn't exist, and set out to design his own. Long story short, here in 2014 he runs Saddleback Leather, which manufactures a high-quality line of leather bags, backpacks, briefcases, wallets, luggage, accessories and more. Each product is designed to be so durable and "over-engineered" that your heirs will "fight over it when you're dead," as the company motto goes.

Munson, by the way, is pissed off. After spending years learning the trade and building out his company piece by piece, he now has to deal with unscrupulous folks knocking off his products. He came up with a rather brilliant way to address this problem head-on: He made a video to his competitors showing them how to knock his bags off, incidentally educating the consumer on where the quality and design of his products, versus the competition's, starts to diverge.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  14 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)

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In design school in the '90s, they taught us that products about to become obsolete change their form factor to imitate their successors shortly before dying out. In other words, the lesson went, landline telephones would start to look like cell phones in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, and then they would disappear.

Twenty years later, we see an almost opposite phenomenon with LED bulbs, which have oddly tried to mimic the physical appearance, in broad strokes, of the incandescent bulb. But finally Philips has realized this is silly—and expensive, as LEDs occupying a lightbulb-sized volume require pricey heat sinks. Thus they've designed these cool, new SlimStyle LED bulbs.

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They've got the efficiency you've come to expect from LEDs—a 60-watt equivalency wrung from just 10.5 watts—and because they're so skinny, and made from plastic rather than glass, the bulky heat sink can go away. That's good news for consumers' wallets, as the price-per-bulb has finally dropped below the $10 threshold. And yep, they're dimmable.

Posted by Kat Bauman  |  10 Jan 2014  |  Comments (1)

knolled-typewriter-880.jpg

To some, an art form. To others, common sense. To the messy outsider, pointless de-jumbling. As a savvy designer or design enthusiast, you're most certainly familiar with the principles and outcomes of knolling, even if you had no idea it deserved its own word. As the story goes, knolling got verbed by the fastidious janitor at Frank Gehry's furniture shop, who would make sure all tools and materials were 90-degreed at the end of the day, mirroring rigid angles and clean lines of Knoll furniture they produced. It was picked up by the artist Tom Sachs while he worked there. Sachs institutionalized the principle in his own work and defined in his virally adored "10 Bullets":

But knolling means more than just tidying a space by aligning tools to each other or their creative confines. Through neatness, it suggests an improvement to functionality, accessibility and efficiency. In a way it's like making your workspace into a 3D exploded diagram. Which is awesome.

Although well-organized spaces and prettily arranged items are in no way new, the hyper tidy appeal of knolling is definitely on the rise. It's seeped into every visual form you can imagine. Infographics, advertising, fashion blogs, cookbooks, whole dedicated tumblrs, merchandising, photography collections. And Pinterest... Pinterest everywhere.

knolled-tree-880.jpgBig Improvement

knolledbike-880.jpgSo much easier to use!

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)

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"Form Follows Function" is how you design a wrench, or a toboggan, or a kitchen mixer. But as we move into this increasingly dematerialized era, the keyboard and mouse are the only parts of our computers that seem to hew to this rule. For a little while the cables we used to plug into our computers at least had little plastic ridges on them, the barest concession that human fingers were meant to grasp them, but now even that's been replaced by designer whimsy; in 2011, for instance, Parisian luxury brand Christofle designed this silver-plated USB key for LaCie that seemed like something out of a jewelry box.

The Christofle-LaCie team-up is at it again, this time with a hard drive seemingly designed by a gypsy (or Jeff Koons). The USB 3.0 Christofle Sphere is a one-terabyte number intended to sit on your desk and look purty, "hand-crafted and silvered in France" as it is.

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Then again, maybe the reflective form does have a function, one more in step with our modern times: It'll let you take a selfie at your desk without having to stretch your arm out and aim.

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De rigueur, classic-instrument-scored "the majesty of craft" video after the jump.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Jan 2014  |  Comments (7)

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The Canadiano is freaking awesome. It's a single-serving coffee brewing device, for those of us who live alone, or those of you who live with other people but enjoy being selfish, and it's made out of wood.

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Or one of three woods, specifically. You can order the Canadiano in Cherry, Walnut or Maple, and while we're not sure if this part is true or just hooey, the manufacturer claims that "the wooden piece will remember each cup of coffee you make."

Overtime the coffee oils of your specific beans and roast will be absorbed into the wood and be a part of your morning coffee experience... Each type of wood is matched with different beans and roasts from around the world. We encourage brewing single origin beans in the Canadianos. The Walnut edition is crafted and designed for use with darker roasts and earthier flavors such as beans from South East Asia. Maple and Cherry is designed for beans with slight citrus hints and nutty taste.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)

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Is this 2014's first Photoshop hoax? That was the sentiment as the photo above was brought to the blogosphere's attention earlier this week. "What's the largest item you can have shipped from Amazon?" queried Reddit user listrophy. "Because I think my neighbor just got it."

More photographs of the mysterious box popped up on Twitter...

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Want!

There are certain items that don't lend themselves to being hung on hooks, like towels, scarves and winter hats; mine like to stay on the hook for the first 30 seconds, but later I'll return to find them on the floor--which led to my dogs destroying my favorite rabbit-fur head-heater, which I purchased in Sweden. Sigh.

Ironically, the solution to this also comes from Sweden. Homeware manufacturer Linden Sweden sells the Clever Hook you see pictured above. It's tough to understand how it works by looking at a still photo, so watch this short vid:

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |   7 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

CameronSmithSpacesuit-880.jpg

It's the dawn of a new year, a time that we often think about the future. For Cameron Smith, a professor of Anthropology at Portland State University, that future looks like something from a 1950s B-movie: He's building his own space suit by hand. When I say by hand, I mean by hand—he doesn't even own a sewing machine. Recently featured on the podcasts Destination DIY and 99% Invisible, Cameron's work is an impressive example of the weird world of DIY aeronautics. Motivated by the challenge of engineering his own answers to the technical difficulties of keeping a human body alive in the extreme pressures of space (officially bounded by the Karman line, for those interested), rather than design prize money or grants from an entity like NASA, he is definitely on the outer reaches of space engineering and DIY in general. To date, the only key component he hasn't fabricated himself is a Soviet space helmet. When stumped he often turns to Soviet designs, because their smaller space budget forced them to use more creative problem-solving.

Though it's still a work in process (the wearer can currently breathe in but not out—"It's a minor problem, we will fix it"), the pressurized suit is already stable and airtight enough to function at length underwater. Once the design is trustworthy, he intends to take the suit up to space-like conditions at 50,000 feet in a balloon-supported gondola - also made by hand. In the meantime, Cameron has teamed up with Copenhagen Suborbitals, a non-profit rocket building project operated out of an abandoned shipyard in Denmark. It may sound sketchy, but they are prolific and dedicated and making headway towards manned space flight.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)

0hrdwork-massive-dock-001.jpg

I hate lifting a coffee cup and finding the coaster has stuck to the bottom of it. It's minor and merely annoying, yes, but on some level that's a design fail. Similarly, I find it absurd that I have to use two hands to de-dock my iPhone, to prevent the dock from coming up off the table with the phone.

That's why this next product sounds crazy but actually makes sense, or at least highlights the central flaw in the iPhone dock's design. Hanover-based Mac accessories manufacturer Hardwrk's Massive Dock is made out of concrete.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Dec 2013  |  Comments (3)

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While we looked at Better Packages, Inc.'s cool automatic tape-dispensing machine, a pair of Cooper Union engineering students are hoping to get rid of packing tape almost entirely—by redesigning the box. Henry Wang and Chris Curro have developed the Rapid Packing Container, a re-think of the cardboard box that aims to make it easier to open, easier to seal, and easier to re-use. Have a look:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Dec 2013  |  Comments (4)

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The two friends of mine who were raised by germ-freak, super-clean parents are the two who get sick the most often. My theory is that their immune systems were hobbled by them not being allowed to play in filthy sandboxes as kids. And while I'm not one of those anti-vaccination nuts, I'm fine with encountering a certain amount of dirt; hell, I'd better be, as I live in New York City.

Where do you draw the line with personal cleanliness? A company called PhoneSoap claims that your phone is filthy, filthy, filthy, and suggests you buy their $50 ultraviolet phone cleaner/charger to regularly disinfect it. Their website claims, in alarmist tones, that your phone is dirtier than your toilet seat; I've got news for you, I bet most things in most peoples' houses are dirtier than their toilet seats, because we clean toilets with harsh chemicals on a regular basis.

The hyperbole is laid on pretty thick, with the company citing Fox News to point out that "A cell phone has 18 times more bacteria than a public restroom" and claiming that "The way we use our phones makes us... sick" and then dropping this gem:

Not only are the extra bacteria on our phones bombarding our immune systems, they can also cause some serious facial effects. Some types of acne come directly from talking on the phone! Pressing your cheek and chin against your phone can exacerbate acne by allowing bacteria to get into those pores, causing chaos.

I'm not buying it. Are you?

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  20 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)

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It's been a while since I've seen any good urazawa, that being a Japanese word that loosely translates to a secret trick or shortcut to doing something, and commonly means something like "household tips" or life hacks. Urazawa are kind of a counterpoint to product design in that they're about solving problems, but through the user's behavior rather than refining the form of something. As we saw in Lisa Katayama's book on the subject, they can be something as simple as using newspapers to clean windows (to leave them streak-free) or as involved as boiling spinach to get coffee stains out of a carpet.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  16 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Those of you who've participated in Secret Santa gift circles know that the presents can be less than stellar. Anonymity coupled with a low percentage of creativity in the population can yield some boring tie clips, awful handmade tree ornaments and suspiciously dog-eared books.

It stands to reason, however, that the larger the Santa circle, the higher the chance that someone will receive a knockout gift. So it went with this year's Reddit Gifts Secret Santa, which signed up a staggering 121,916 participants from 161 countries. Reddit user and graphic designer "sickgnasty" received an innocuous box from "crespokid," and after photographically documenting an unboxing like any you've seen before, posted the results, which swiftly went viral.

The initial opening didn't appear too auspicious, yielding a mere stuffed shark.

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However, the attendant card hinted at more:

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His suspicious aroused, Sickgnasty then anaesthetized the shark (presumably in case it was still alive), and prepared to investigate.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  16 Dec 2013  |  Comments (4)

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Gardening is known as a soothing, therapeutic pastime. Guns have a bit of a reputation for causing consternation, unsightly holes and bodily harm. To mix up these old world assumptions, ad firm Studio Total has unveiled a new product: the Flower Shell. Rather than pain and strife, these shells spread life. Load up with the standard 12 gauge shells (available in a dozen different flower types) and prepare to blast new growth into your yard. Beyond the addition of seeds, the amount of gunpowder has been reduced in proportion to the type of seeds used. But don't be concerned by the attenuated firepower—apparently this is a good thing in a product meant to be used at short-range near the home. Ideal for violently reseeding large empty fields and boring (hopefully unpopulated) garden beds.

Tired of both senseless gun violence and quiet, slow tinkering in the garden? Take replanting by storm and force the yielding soil into bountiful submission.

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Note: This concept product is 100% questionable. To aid users, Studio Total has released this series of informative test videos on their Dr. Bronner's-like website.

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