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Posted by erika rae  |  12 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Every family has their own lingo that's only understood within the doors of their abode. Some of my fondest memories growing up involve fighting my younger brother over the dobber in an attempt to nix the constant stream of college football that graced our home's living room and the never-ending injury-inducing dobber tosses from my mom to my dad. After a few confused looks from visiting friends, I eventually realized that not everyone referred to their television's remote control like we did. In fact, we were probably the only ones in the world to call it a dobber—which made it that much more special. No one in my family knows where the term came from or when we started using it, but we never skipped a beat using it in conversation—and every time I make the trek back home, it slips right back into my vocabulary. Luckily for families like mine (and yours, I'd be willing to bet), San Francisco-based illustrator Rinee Shah is compiling a collection of niche neologisms and creating illustrations to go with their descriptions in a series called "The Made-Up Words Project."

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Posted by erika rae  |   8 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Trying to find some sort of beauty in the noisy traffic of a busy city street probably isn't your first thought as you're walking down an overstimulating sidewalk. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll do anything you can to mentally take yourself away from the bustling environment—starting with plugging in to your headphones and creating some high-decibel eardrum damage. Urban Matter, Inc. is taking a different approach that present itself as such a blow to your hearing.

You can find your own personal moment of tranquility underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) in the most populous borough thanks to the Brooklyn-based design studio. Like many places in New York City, the traffic noise never stops and it gets quite dark, so the team took on the challenge of turning the noise into an interactive light exhibit. Enter "Silent Lights," a series of gates housing 1,400 LEDs located in a Brooklyn hotspot.

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At the intersection of Park Avenue and Navy St., you'll find a series of square arches that slowly transition through a rainbow of colors according to the level of traffic noise in the area. Check out this behind-the-scenes video on what it took to create the installation:

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  16 Dec 2013  |  Comments (1)

1377703436_speedpowercomp.jpgThe Leveraged Freedom Chair, a wheelchair optimized for rural terrain. All images courtesy Icsid.

As the field of design for social impact grows, so does the discourse around it. Here at Core77, we recognize Social Impact as its own category in our own Design awards [Ed. Note: Which are now open for entries], and sites like Change Observer and the Design Altruism Project regularly highlight design and its role in social change. The World Design Impact Prize, started last year by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), is one such prize, a new development in recognizing and rewarding innovations in the field.

"The goal of the World Design Impact Prize is to recognise and elevate industrial design driven solutions to societal challenges," noted Icsid Project Development Officer Mariam Masud. "By sharing these solutions, and the challenges they address the prize hopes to raise awareness of perhaps unknown obstacles and encourage a global exchange of ideas."

laddoo.pngFood design for social change: a repurposing of the popular Indian snack called a "laddoo", with rich nutrients to fight malnutrition.

The shortlist of projects met the standards of basic selection criteria that extend past basic questions of design aesthetics and functionality that an industrial design competition might be focused on. Rather, jurors are asked to consider questions around Impact, Innovation, Context and Ease of Use. "Are there elements of the project (best practices) that can be universally shared?" "How well does the project compliment or build on the existing infrastructure (physical, political, cultural etc.)?" "Is the project easy to maintain and are replacement parts easily available?"

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Posted by Ray  |   5 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Earlier this week, we were wowed by an elaborate parody of a certain purveyor of anachronistic Americana: Remade Co. cleaved its supposedly superlative subject like an axe splitting a cord of firewood. Today, we'd like to share another brilliantly conceived and produced multimedia project from NPR, one that expresses the opposite sentiment, supplanting the thickly-laid irony with earnest, beautiful reporting from Mississippi, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Colombia. Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt was originally Kickstarted six months ago, bringing in over ten times its $50,000 goal, and the meta-level T-shirt reward tier (the only one available) was both the means to support and the premise of the investigative journalism project.

That $590K most certainly paid off: A custom web experience drives the compelling narrative, which presents an incredible amount of quantitative and qualitative information in an easily digestible format: tightly-edited video complemented by just the right amount of text, stills and archival photography.

NPR has been supporting the self-contained website with additional content & broadcasts this week; here's a brief synopsis (spoiler alert?) and the introduction below, but you should really just check it out for yourself...

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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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.

Posted by core jr  |  21 Nov 2013  |  Comments (0)

core_bike.jpgPhotos by Sarah Rottenberg, Yilin Lu, Yoshi Araki and Anna Couturier

By Mathieu Turpault, Director of Design, Bresslergroup

Last summer, we got to live vicariously through a group of Integrated Product Design students at the University of Pennsylvania who traveled to Ghana.

They were conducting ethnographic research at the Yonso Project, a Ghanaian rural organization that provides educational and economic resources to help people in the region break the cycle of poverty. In 2009, Yonso added a bamboo bicycle workshop to their roster of empowerment programs. The workshop builds skills by training locals to make beautiful bamboo bike frames that are sold internationally. It creates jobs, leverages local production from the bamboo plantation, and helps fund Yonso's educational initiatives.

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Strategy and Research

While the folks at Yonso are incredibly knowledgeable about their core initiatives, they're not as experienced in product development. They approached UPenn for help in 2012 when they wanted to expand their bamboo product line. In turn, Sarah Rottenberg, Associate Director at the Integrated Product Design program, asked Bresslergroup to help mentor the students who were going.

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Sarah and the team of IPD students, Yoshi Araki, Yilin Lu and Anna Couturier, visited our offices last spring for a couple of strategy and ideation sessions with our designers and engineers. We guided them through brainstorming and ideation exercises, talked about how we prepare for conducting ethnographic research and brand language development, and suggested strategies for narrowing and choosing product categories that could be pursued most successfully. We've gone through this process many times before, for many different types of products, so we've run into walls and we know how to avoid pitfalls.

core_brainstorm.jpgRead more in our blog post about brainstorming about how we structure this phase of the design process.

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Posted by erika rae  |  12 Nov 2013  |  Comments (4)

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Any commuter who takes on rush hour public transit knows how the game is played: headphones on, no eye contact, no smiling and no talking. While these aren't official rules plastered on the carriage walls like out-of-date sitcom advertisements, it's something every passenger has picks up on within a ride or two. UK-based designer Thomas Wing-Evans has created a way to bring London's commuters closer together in the form of a well-known game: tic-tac-toe—or noughts and crosses, as it's known in London.

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  11 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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One of the most devastating experiences of diseases that affect motor abilities is the lack of control over one's body. As designers, from graphic to industrial, we rely on our bodies everyday for fine movements like typing a keyboard and gestural motions like moving a mouse or tapping and swiping. So much of design is about streamlining these experiences, but what's always interested me is how design can also streamline user experiences for those suffering from a physical disability.

I recently learned about Lift Labs, a company that's developed Liftware, a spoon designed for individuals with Parkinson's Disease and the lesser known condition, essential tremor. Both of these can cause severe shaking in one's body, including the hands. This compounds the difficulty of everyday tasks, like eating and brushing one's teeth.

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The spoon operates on a rechargeable battery that their web site says will last for a few days, and it detects the tremors in your hand, canceling out each movement to create a more steady eating experience. It doesn't cover all conditions—a simple test you can print out can help you determine if the product will be helpful for you—but the videos are incredible to watch. What once might have been a distracting or disempowering situation is instead made more manageable with the Liftware design.

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Posted by erika rae  |   5 Nov 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Inmates at Rebibbia, a prison in Rome, are getting access to a new kind of creative outlet—one that doesn't include crude prison tats and wall scratchitti: Wall clocks made from the product waste from leather producers that signify a literal translation of "doing time." Designer Sara Ferrari was invited by Artwo gallery to work with the institution's inmates to create a new creative outlet.

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Back to the tattoo mention (it was strategically placed there, you know). Many prison tattoos you may come across feature a clock with no hands, which has come to represent several things. One being the seemingly neverending prison sentence and another the different way in which an inmate views and passes time in comparison to someone who isn't locked up. But once they leave their cells and jump back into the real world, the tattoos are still there. The designer wanted to give inmates another way to express themselves.

"With this project I would like to give prisoners the possibility to 'mark' a different kind of skin, a canvas to use as a carrier pigeon where to express their thoughts and ideas and send them outside. Wastes generated in the leather products industry will become the new skin to mark, a new precious surface where the prisoners' thoughts will become decorations of a furnishing object such a wall clock. Like this, the 'doing time' will gain a different meaning and it will be transformed from simply 'serving time' to 'making and thinking time.'"

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The five dots aren't just decoration, either. "The dots, sometimes known as the quincunx, represent time done in prison," Ferrari says. "The four dots on the outside are seen as the four walls, and the dot on the inside represents the prisoner."

This design will be a part of the RECUPERO exhibition at the Triennale in Milan, through December 15th.

Posted by frog  |   4 Nov 2013  |  Comments (4)

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By Roberto Veronese, Creative Director, frog San Francisco

The use of digital banking and electronic payments is expanding in many countries, as consumers embrace technology that facilitates financial services. Yet in Russia, people still cling to cash for most of their financial needs. In fact, more than 90 percent of all commodity purchases are in cash, according to the Bank of Russia, and the country loses over one percent of its annual GDP due to the huge amount of cash circulating and its maintenance costs. This poses a challenge to financial institutions, like Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, which is eager to transition customers to digital services. Sberbank asked frog to envision product and service concepts that could effectively support that transition.

We began our work with extensive qualitative research in the field, investigating the deeply personal reasons why cash remains so popular among customers in Moscow. "I cannot go around without cash," a young, wealthy and tech savvy Muscovite told us, while shopping at GUM, the city's main department store. This was a typical response, even for younger Russians who are regularly online. More than half the population uses the Internet at least once a week, and appreciates the convenience of new digital tools to browse for information and media content. Yet in some cases these technologically sophisticated consumers refuse to open a bank account, preferring instead to pay their bills with cash at ubiquitous payments kiosks, despite the high commission applied to these transactions.

We found a number of reasons for this reluctance to adopt digital banking and electronic-payment services. Foremost is the fact that only a small number of merchants accept credit card payments, due to charges of up to 4 percent on the seller's side and widespread tax evasion. Meanwhile, salaries are still largely paid with cash, despite the introduction of "salary cards" issued by a bank chosen by the employer. This is the main type of card issued in Russia, which on payday contributes to an extremely high volume of cash withdrawals that are usually not transferred to bank accounts.

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Posted by Ray  |  28 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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In what is surely a sign that the world is getting smaller—or perhaps just an indication that urbanism is a hot topic these days—the last two months have seen Daan Roosegaarde bounce between stages on both sides of the globe. In August, the Dutch designer took a short trip to Copenhagen to accept the INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award for his much-lauded "Smart Highway" concept. A month later, he turned up at Beijing Design Week as a speaker at the intersection of the "Smart Cities" theme and the Guest City program, representing his native Amsterdam. But if his globetrotting lifestyle is partly predicated on his nationality, so too is his work informed by his experiences abroad: back in his homeland for Dutch Design Week, Roosegaarde has put forth yet another visionary proposal... inspired by Beijing's infamous smog-o-sphere.

Developed in collaboration with a team at TU Delft, "SMOG" is designed to suck pollutants out of the sky by generating a massive electromagnetic field using copper coils embedded in the earth. "It's a similar principle to if you have a statically charged balloon that attracts your hair," Roosegaarde notes in an interview with Dezeen.

As the story goes, Roosegaarde drew on his firsthand experience during Beijing Design Week, when he happened to stay at a hotel with a clear view of Rem Koolhaas's CCTV Headquarters. "I had a good day when I could see it and I had a bad day when I could not see it. On a bad day the smog is completely like a veil. You don't see anything. I thought, that's interesting, that's a design problem." If he gets the project off the ground, so to speak, it will 'drain' a column with a diameter of up to 50–60 meters of the particularly nasty particulate matter; he likens it to 'drawing' by erasing smog—I'm imagining something like an inverse skywriter.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Oct 2013  |  Comments (10)

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The phrase goes that one oughtn't reinvent the wheel, yet we've seen countless examples of people trying, from square to hubless to powered. The latest wheel reinvention to make the, er, rounds comes from Ackeem Ngwenya, a student of Innovation Design Engineering at London's RCA. Ngwenya's designed something that looks simultaneously nutty and completely feasible: A shape-shifting wheel he's calling "Roadless."

The "Why" of it is pretty simple. Ngwenya grew up in rural Africa, where "head-loading" remains the most practical way to transport goods, as arduous and inefficient as it is. He reckons that a shape-shifting wheel could adapt to different terrains, thus providing a one-size-fits-all solution for load-carrying carts, bikes or vehicles in areas with no infrastructure.

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The "How" of it is both simple and fascinating. By using the principle of a scissor jack, and arraying a series of them around a circle, the wheel would either grow shorter and wider, or taller and more narrow, as the mechanism is manipulated.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Coca-Cola is known the world over for producing its sugary (or fructose-y) namesake beverage. But in keeping with the ever-greening times, they now hope to form a secondary reputation as a provider of safe, clean drinking water. In Heidelberg, South Africa, Coke recently launched their first EKOCENTER, a 20-foot shipping container meant to serve as a retail kiosk, community center and social hub in impoverished rural areas. To draw bodies, each EKOCENTER is loaded up with a Slingshot, a water purification machine invented by Dean Kamen.

Segway inventor Kamen's Slingshot is amazing. Taking up as much space as a small refrigerator, the thing can run on cow poop and uses no filters, yet can turn any water source into potable water--cranking out up to 1,000 liters a day. And it can run for five years without even requiring any maintenance!

The Slingshot was more than a decade in the making, and with Coca-Cola's backing and global distribution network, is well-positioned to make a significant impact on global health through the EKOCENTER. And in addition to the Slingshot functionality, each container contains solar cells that can be used to power charging points or refrigeration for medicine. Following the South African launch, Coke plans to get the containers into 20 countries in need by 2015, getting safe drinking water into the mouths of millions.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Oct 2013  |  Comments (4)

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Overnight delivery is amazing. The thought that I can finish a drawing here in New York, drop it off at a FedEx office at 5pm and have it show up first thing tomorrow in L.A. is pretty neat.

A far superior delivery system is the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. It takes about five minutes to boost itself into suborbital flight, where it then cruises for less than a half-hour, and then spends just two minutes plummeting down to its target more than 7,000 miles away. And even small ICBMs can carry half a ton of cargo. Of course, since that cargo is usually a nuclear device, we think of ICBMs as deliverers of death.

Huai-Chien "Bill" Chang, a doctoral candidate in Space Architecture at the University of Tokyo, however, has a different idea for what ICBMs could be used for: Long-range disaster relief. Should a natural calamity strike in a region of the globe that's difficult to access, Chang posits, an ICBM somehow modified for a soft landing could be loaded up with supplies, and quickly delivered where it is needed. And with the dearmaments following the end of the Cold War, there's no shortage of mothballed missiles.

"These rocket engines are still functioning. If we could use these engines, the cost would be very much reduced," Chang told science and astronomy enthusiast website SPACE.com, following a recent presentation of his idea at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2013 conference. "I'd like to see something like this happen before the next big disaster hits."

Here's Chang himself explaining the concept at a TEDxTokyo "audition:"

Posted by erika rae  |   2 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

Banksy-Day-1.jpgOctober 1st, 2013

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Yesterday, Banksy's website announced a month-long "show" on the streets of New York. Each one of his street art pieces will come with a painted phone number (that's probably been covered up by the time you read this—let's be real). If you're lucky enough to catch the digits before they're gone, you'll get an in-depth look into what the pieces signify and are trying to say in true Banksy fashion. Or should I say, Ban Sky—the artist's moniker for the month of October.

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This residency, titled "Better Out Than In," will feature a new painting every day in a different part of New York City. Follow the project's Instagram account to see where the paintings show up. Let us know your favorites as the month goes on!

Posted by An Xiao Mina  |   2 Oct 2013  |  Comments (1)

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In some way or another, we all pay taxes to the cities we live in, and we benefit regularly from city services. But few of us are aware of how exactly our money is spent on municipal projects. Also, while the structures of democracy ensure town halls and the ability to petition our representatives, even fewer of us feel a sense of agency in guiding the decision-making process.

I recently learned about Citizinvestor, a site that attempts to bring crowdfunding to city projects in the United States. Unlike most crowdfunding sites, not just anyone can join: they have to be city officials, and the project has to be approved for moving forward. Citizinvestor steps in with the funding side—city officials can go directly to their constituencies to seek funding. The city gets the funds it needs, and citizens know exactly how their dollars are being spent. As with Kickstarter, projects are only funded if they meet 100% of their goal.

In a recent TEDx talk, co-founder Jordan Raymor introduced the notion of the government as a vending machine, where citizens can choose what projects they want to pay for and engage with. This has dangers, of course—a project like this could detract from the sort of systemic change that many cities require to provide more equitable services for all citizens, not just those who have access to credit cards and the time to check a crowdfunding campaign. But Citizinvestor isn't mean to replace regular government functions. It does, however, provide a platform for accountability.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Sep 2013  |  Comments (2)

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A couple of years ago, we looked at inflatable structures used for events and disaster relief. And exactly two weeks before that post aired, on March 11th of 2011, a devastating earthquake-tsunami combo ripped through Japan, permanently shifting the main island eight feet to the east and triggering the Fukushima disaster. While Fukushima is a problem with no end in sight, we were surprised to see a rather unusual inflatable structure is now making its way around Japan's disaster-affected areas, for reasons of morale.

Michael Haefliger may not be able to stop Fukushima, but as the artistic and executive director of the Lucerne Festival music event, he is doing what he can to mitigate the aftereffects of the disaster. "Since we at Lucerne Festival have maintained a very close relationship to Japan for many years, I felt a strong desire to make a contribution to overcoming the consequences of the catastrophe, within the scope of what we have to offer," Haefliger told the Telegraph. His idea was to put on a roving concert in the troubled areas using a massive, traveling, inflatable concert hall.

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By collaborating with British artist Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, he was able to bring his vision to fruition. Next week the amazing Ark Nova, as it's called, will have its opening weekend at the Japanese coastal town of Matsushima. The 18-meter-tall, 30-by-36-meter structure will be kitted out with pews and acoustic reflectors created from local cedar trees damaged by the tsunami, and the bulk of the structure is made from an unspecified "coated polyester material." Boasting a capacity of 500, the Ark's first event will be a a concert by the Sendai Philharmonic, with following days to include Kabuki performances and musical workshops for children.

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Those in Japan who want to keep abreast of the Ark Nova's performance dates can do so here.

Posted by erika rae  |  26 Sep 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Zippers can be many things, but I bet you wouldn't normally describe them as "whimsy." But that's exactly what they are, thanks to Japanese street artist Jun Kitagawa. He has created a standout public installation in cities around Japan that gives passersby more than just something pretty to stop and take in.

Kitagawa is no stranger to offbeat public displays of art. His inaugural installment came to be after finding himself with a bunch of unwanted T-shirts and living in a town with numerous nude statues. Obviously the best (and only, in my opinion) use for those T-shirts were for covering the statues. And in an act that rides a perfectly crooked (and humorous) line between vandalism and public service, a street artist was born.

His zippers are found painted on walls and sculpted to interact with natural resources. The zippers' intent? To give viewers a more intimate look into the world we interact with every day through a familiar object.

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Posted by erika rae  |  23 Sep 2013  |  Comments (2)

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As if first dates don't come packed with enough over analyzation as it is, there's now a cutlery set that looks so far into designing a less awkward dinner date that it actually might be cutting back on your culinary meet-and-greet anxiety. First Date Cutlery, the creation of London-based designer Cristina Guardiola, "aims to smooth over some of the potential anxiety of a first date dining experience by facilitating good table etiquette and encouraging interaction."

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Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  23 Sep 2013  |  Comments (1)

eyeswatching.CCmikecoghlan.jpgImage CC BY-SA Michael Cochlan

One of the simplest but most impactful design decisions inside the Prius is the miles per gallon meter. Any Prius owner can readily fill you in on their average miles per gallon, and if they're really paying attention, they know their MPG in different parts of town. Going down a hill or sitting in high traffic? MPG goes up. Have to cruise on gas for a while? Watch the numbers go down.

What that little indicator taps into is a scientific effect known as the Hawthorne effect. A recent article in Scientific American points out what that means: "...study subjects change their behavior because they're being observed. So researchers collaborated with a utility to test for the Hawthorne effect in electricity use." Participants who received a postcard notifying them that they were being monitored for "research purposes" decreases their energy usage by almost three percent. That doesn't sound like a lot until you note what happened after the study (supposedly) ended: their usage went right back up.

Even the thought of being monitored might alter behavior. A recent study at Newcastle University found that simply placing a pair of eyes in front of bike racks reduced theft by 62% in two years. And here's the bigger surprise: schools that didn't put the posters up experience an increase in theft by 63%. (Maybe all the thieves scared off by the posters just traveled to the posterless campuses.)

The important takeaway here for designers isn't simply an indicator, though judging by the Prius example that clearly has an impact. The Dexim smartphone charger, which lights up to show electricity usage, is a great example. But it's interesting to think about how creating affordances for monitoring—whether actual monitoring through social media sharing, or just implied monitoring, like a set of eyeballs—can influence how users interact with products.

On the car-related front, I was just looking at this cost-of-driving meter that takes the MPG logic even further by showing the straight-up cost of driving. What if data from that meter could be (voluntarily) reported back to peers, or if a set of eyes reminded you about that rideshare program you'd been meaning to check out? That might not be so popular for automobile and gas companies, but it could influence how much we drive.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  16 Aug 2013  |  Comments (0)

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As a small child, I never noticed the slight grade changes in the sidewalk of my neighborhood unless a ball happened to get away from me. But once I got my first skateboard, I then became sharply aware of each incline, crest and decline for blocks around.

Similarly, as a new member of NYC's Citi Bike bikesharing program—and as someone who previously had not ridden a bicycle literally since childhood—I now see the city in a completely different way. To run an errand ten blocks away is pleasurable to do on a bike, but requires some planning and forethought; one-way streets, a car-and-truck culture, taxi fares swinging doors open and a marked dearth of bike lanes make it impossible to travel smoothly and in a straight line.

Why are cities like New York so bike-unfriendly, and what can design do to remedy this? In the following TED Talk, urban mobility expert and bicycle infrastructure specialist Mikael Colville-Andersen, the CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., discusses how bike lanes came to be, and what they could become. (One fascinating case in point is the Netherlands, where they are installing weather sensors on bicycle traffic lights at intersections; in rainy, snowy or cold weather, the lights are then automatically gamed to give cyclists priority, so they can get out of the foul weather quicker.)

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Aug 2013  |  Comments (13)

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Three years ago Michael Abramson was at a nightclub in Boston. Shortly after taking a sip of his drink, he knew something was wrong. It was his first drink of the night but "started to feel much more like my 15th drink," he reported. Before he knew what was happening, the suddenly legless Abramson was being thrown out of the club, presumably for being overintoxicated; his friends had to carry him out, and he remained unconscious until the next morning.

Abramson had been "roofied," having drank from a cocktail that someone had spiked. It's possible he was the target of a potential robbery, or that the drink was intended for someone of the fairer gender—shockingly, some 400,000 women are rendered unconscious and subsequently raped each year after unwittingly ingesting GHB, Rohypnol or Ketamine, colloquially known as "date rape drugs." (And that number only reflects the cases that are reported.) Even worse, you don't need to be Walter White to whip up a batch of GHB—it's easily created out of commonly available chemicals, and the resultant drug is odorless, flavorless and colorless, making detection just about impossible.

Abramson, who had studied engineering in his undergrad years, resolved to make it detectable. After enlisting the help of two of his former professors from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, he formed DrinkSavvy, a company dedicated to producing cocktailware—cups, straws, cocktail stirrers, and drinking glasses—that would change color in the presence of date rape drugs.

The team successfully worked out the chemistry, and next month DrinkSavvy's first batch of drinking straws and 16-oz. plastic cups will begin shipping. The first recipients will be the crowdsource backers that helped launch DrinkSavvy through IndieGogo, where a modest 50 large was enough to get the initial products manufactured. The company expects to have units ready for sale to the general public by 2014.

Here's a demonstration of a prototype:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Jul 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Earlier this week, a Japanese commuter accidentally fell through the gap between train and platform. The accident happened at the Minami-Urawa station, which I've traveled through many times as I used to live near it; I don't recall the gap being any wider than normal, five or six inches, so the woman must have been slight of form. And she fell in up to her waist. In any case, after ordering the driver not to move, a train official got on the PA and asked commuters on the platform—average men and women who presumably do not have Henry Cavill's gym body—to help shift the train.

Several dozen people are not enough to lift a 32-ton railcar, but they are enough, working in concert, to press against the train and cause the suspension on the other side to fully load. With one side sprung and the other unsprung, the gap widened enough for a conductor to pull the woman free. CG reenactment (with considerably less bodies) below:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jul 2013  |  Comments (2)

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During several wintertime visits I've made to the Scandinavia, I found the nearly 24 hours of darkness novel; but living there, I'd find it depressing. It's natural to crave sunlight, and now the Norwegian municipality of Rjukan is enacting a nearly 100-year-old plan to bring some Sol into their town square. Three huge mirrors (totaling 100 square meters) known as heliostats will be placed atop a nearby mountain. Sensors and motors will adjust the mirrors to reflect sunlight directly onto the combination town square/skating rink, providing a sunny spot where people will naturally want to gather.

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The concept isn't new; the long-since-passed town founder and engineer Sam Eyde reportedly first had the idea in the 1920s, but lacked the technology to make it work. And at least two other sun-starved municipalities developed similar plans: Austria's Rattenberg looked into installing 30 heliostatic mirrors in 2005, though their US $2.4 million plan was ultimately scuttled. The tiny Italian village of Viganella, however, successfully installed their own 8-meter by 5-meter mirror the very next year.

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Viganella's story in particular was unusual and interesting enough that filmmaker David Christensen made a documentary about it. Called Lo Specchio ("The Mirror"), the trailer is below:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  26 Jun 2013  |  Comments (1)

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For a designer to bring their own personal passion into a public works project can be indulgent, or it can be fantastic. This example is the latter. Danish architect Soren Nordal Enevoldsen, who's been designing skateparks and skate shop interiors since at least the early 2000s, was tasked by the Danish municipality of Roskilde to revitalize a massive and abandoned concrete production area called Musicon. The site is exposed to a "huge amount of rainwater from the adjacent city areas," and a drainage facility was required as part of the project.

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Put two and two together yet? Enevoldsen and his firm, Nordarch, designed a massive concrete area that collects and transports water into a canal. But the 24,000-square-foot drainage facility is also peppered with undulating shapes, walls curving up to near-vertical and grindable edges, meaning the resultant Rabalder Parken design doubles as a big-ass skatepark.

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Posted by Valerie Casey  |  18 Jun 2013  |  Comments (0)

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One hundred and seven degree heat. The height of the monsoon season. A country recently ruled by a brutal military dictatorship where US sanctions have just been lifted and foreigners are free to investigate and invest: time, thinking, money. What could be a better location for a design workshop?

Last week, 300 colleagues of mine—fellow members of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders cohort - convened in Myanmar for our annual meeting. About 100 YGLs are selected each year from around the world for their work in the public and private sector to serve a five-year term to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects that create new value on topics such as the circular economy, gender parity, food security, human trafficking, and political reinvention. The mission is to help reinvent our global economy by advancing the concepts of dignity, equality, and fairness in innovative ways.

Before attending the WEF East Asia meeting in the new strangely sci-fi capital of Nay Pyi Taw, eight of us representing six countries went into the field to collaborate with Proximity Designs, a 10-year old social enterprise founded by Skoll Entrepreneurs Jim and Debbie Taylor. Proximity is a Myanmar organization that looks for high-impact opportunities to increase income for the 70% of the Burmese population (of 60 million) who are dependent on agriculture to survive, and they use design methodology to try to lift them out of poverty. Our goal for the daylong workshop was to brainstorm solutions for two important strategic issues with Proximity and to come up with actionable plans.

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