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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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In part one of this two-part series, we introduced Natalia Ivanova, educator and founder of the Hal X parkour training center in Copenhagen; as a passionate traceuse, or parkour practitioner, she has long incorporated physical education into her work with children. Here is a more detailed outline of her method.

Implementation

Getting the kids involved and excited about a new project is normally never an issue—they are more than happy to get out of their routines and try something new. Seeing as this is the case with most projects, the challenge is to make the project become a part of the everyday culture, to ensure that the students continue to practice after the official project is over and Natalia and her crew leave the school. Unfortunately, she has yet to come up with an answer... so No, no formula to be found here. At least not yet.

(When working with co-creative processes at various schools, my colleague Heidi and I encountered the exactly same problem. No matter what approach we tried, we never really managed to implement the way of thinking and working we used when collaborating with the students and teachers in such a way that it became a part of their everyday culture.)

Breaking Down Borders

No matter how much we try to ignore it and think or act otherwise, the fact remains that we live in a system where the gaps between the various social classes are visible to the naked eye. Just as with other sports, parkour is a means of breaking down these imagined barriers and connecting people from various cultures and social groups

Parkour transcends these social borders by creating a common ground—wall, ledge or bench—for participants.

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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |  17 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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For those of you who conduct interviews with a voice recorder, you know that the transcription is typically a slow step. If you're lucky, the interviewee speaks slowly or spends a long time thinking before answering, and the transcription process only takes two or three rounds. This was not the case when it came to Natalia Ivanova: On the contrary, the words flow as quickly from her tongue as the movements that flow from her limbs. She has a fluidity and energy in her way of thinking that comes across in everything she does.

Ivanova is the founder of Hal X, a small indoor training hall for parkour in Copenhagen, and the coordinator of especially designed courses, where parkour is a force for positive change for youths.

Originally hailing from Russia, Ivanova speaks fondly about the memories she has of jumping from garage roof to garage roof in the oppressive heat during summers back home. She remembers how fun it was to run as fast as she possibly could, in bare feet on the burning hot rooftops. Jumping over the gaps between the buildings, she knew that one misstep could mean an unpleasant tumble into rubble that might contain rusty scraps of metal, crushed glass and used needles.

Needless to say, this love for exploring urban spaces and challenging herself with her surroundings has been the defining element of through life. As a child, the hijinks and hyperactivity were just called "fun"; now it's called "parkour," and it has spread around the globe with the help of aficionados and YouTube like wildfire.

However, you may not realize that—beyond the physics-defying wow factor of the sport—parkour can serve as a positive alternative to destructive social cultures. In contrast to several other street activities, the philosophy behind Parkour is not only to challenge yourself and push boundaries, but to develop the best version of yourself. You have to have a totally clear mind if you want to be able to get the most out of your practice. That means little or no alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. If you are under any kind of influence, you risk not being able to judge distances properly and having a serious accident. "Alcohol and other substances are off the table since your mind has be clear and focused for practice."

Observers who aren't familiar with the sport and the philosophies behind it might see nothing more than loose-limbed young folks jumping from building to building, doing double backflips and hanging from rails, which might lead one to the conclusion that these people are more than a little bit crazy. But as with any sport, parkour practitioners—known as traceurs or traceuses—must train extensively, with utmost dedication, and exercise discipline on every level of their life in order to do what they do. You will never see a traceur leave empty bottles or discarded sandwich papers smeared in mayonnaise behind—they don't want to mess up their surroundings, their space for practice.

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

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Those of you who attended the Core77 Conference probably caught Dong-Ping Wong presenting +Pool in a talk entitled "Doing Rad Shit Where Nobody Asked You To Do Rad Shit." For those that didn't, +Pool is the crazy, successfully-funded, currently-in-development project to hatch a floating swimming pool in NYC's East River.

Now comes a project proposal with both similarities and contrasts to +Pool. Entrepreneur Blayne Ross also wants to provide New Yorkers with some river-based respite from the summer heat, but Ross' scheme is targeting the Hudson River rather than the East, and using IndieGogo rather than Kickstarter. City Beach NYC, as the project is called, is a proposal to turn a barge into a floating beach.

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The plan calls to cover the barge in 1,200 cubic yards of sand, creating an artificial beach. The barge would be further kitted out with beach chairs, restaurants, a children's science lab exhibition and a waterfall.

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Unfortunately, there's a huge catch...

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Posted by core jr  |  14 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Industrial designer and professor Lance Gordon Rake previously shared the story behind the Semester bamboo bicycle, developed with Pamela Dorr and various collaborators in Hale County, Alabama. Now, less than a year later, HERObike is pleased to present its second project on Kickstarter, the Beacon Alley Skateboard, which represents Rake's further research into bamboo as a versatile, renewable raw material for the socially conscious organization. Once again, he was willing to share the story and process behind the project.

Since the beginning, I have been working with John Bielenberg at Future Partners and the graphic design partnership Public Library to develop the products and the business. Ultimately, all we ever wanted to do was create some nice jobs making well-designed products using the resources and people of rural Alabama. The bamboo was there. Traditional craft skills were there. We used design to put these things together in a way that could make a sustainable small enterprise that might serve as a model for developing rural communities all over the world.

The MakeLab shop in Greensboro Alabama has become a kind of research center for bamboo fiber composites. Many of the materials that are in a Semester bike—bamboo, fiberglass, carbon fiber—are also in a Beacon Alley Skateboard. The skateboard is a product with a very demanding user group who expect incredibly high performance at a fair price. The Semester bike is in a demanding, competitive category as well. And if your product doesn't look good, it's a non-starter.

The past 11 months have been a bit crazy: We had a successful Kickstarter campaign that finished last August and we managed to deliver all 45 bikes and frames by our promised date in February. Since then, our little shop has been building about ten Semesters per month, in addition to our standard "Gilligan" bamboo bike and our Gilligan kits for the DIY crowd. We are developing international markets for Semester—we've already shipped them to seven countries and this seems to be an area of rapid expansion. Right now, I am working on ways to dramatically lower costs so we can make a bike that delivers the look and ride quality of bamboo for less than half of the current price.

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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Schools kill creativity. This simple message was the point of Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, now the most viewed of all time. Robinson challenges the way we view education in todays society, and highlights the fact that it hasn't developed in the speed that it needs to, but is stuck in the old way of thinking.

The talk was released in 2006. And while much has changed since then (how many of you are now reading this on a smartphone or a tablet?), our schools have remained dully familiar. In the UK, things have arguably got worse, with unpopular figure Michael Gove damning progressive education as a 'misplaced ideology' and swinging the curriculum back towards good old traditional methods.

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Four students at Royal College of Art in London have decided to do address this issue by developing a summer program where kids can enjoy thinking and learning in different ways. Project 42 is expressly intended for creative learners (ages 9–12) who really don't fit into the framework of today's educational institutions. The program will take place between July 28 and August 8 at the Royal College of Art. Why Project 42? Well, according to the one the founders, Ed Tam:

The name is inspired by the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a supercomputer was tasked to find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Millennia had passed and the computer came back with the answer 42. But the people soon realized that it's going to take a much bigger, more complex computer to arrive at the question. Project 42 was set up to help young people discover the power of the question.

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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |   4 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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About one year ago, I was giving a talk to students who were about to graduate from the various design schools in Copenhagen. After I finished, I leaned back in a chair located rather close to the door (and close to the drinks and snack section...) when I caught myself staring at a bag. It captivated me to the extent that everything around me disappeared, and the only thing left was the bag and me. Once I snapped out of it, I went up to the person holding the bag as to ask him where he had bought it. To my great despair, it turned out he had made it himself, and he was holding the only sample. The Man with The Bag turned out not just to have a great eye for design, but to also have a great and intricate mind, and his name is Brian Frandsen.

Core77: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you end up in the field of design?

Brian Frandsen: I was not supposed to study design to begin with, I never thought I would do anything like this. It sort of just happened. I've always been a bit of a book nerd— I live very much in my head. I've always loved school, mathematics and humanistic studies, so I thought I was going to study Danish, rhetoric, philosophy, political science or something along those lines.

After high school, I was lucky enough to get a job in quality control for a Danish mainstream clothing brand at their office in Hong Kong. I spent half a year there, with my partner at that time, and while I was there it hit me how disgusting the fashion industry really was.

My boss would find something she liked, draw it in Illustrator and send it off to the factory in China. After we got the sample and established the price of the product, they took away a few details to make it cheaper to produce and sent it back to the factory. The entire fashion and design mechanism was without feeling, without heart. I felt offended by the way it worked, yet at the same time it fascinated me.

I lived in Hong Kong for a while—just as with the fashion industry, I had contradicting feelings for the city itself. I loved it and hated it at the very same time. It's the most constructed place I have ever been. It feels like nothing in Hong Kong is natural, everything is man-made, everything has its place, and all of the buildings are built in a specific way. But at the same time, when you walk around and truly look you can see how the traditional Chinese culture is creating its own space in the cracks of the perfect façade. It grows like weed out of the asphalt. These perfect glass buildings and the uncontrollable growth that is happening in between theses buildings ignited something within me that changed me on a fundamental level.

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After I got back, I still thought I was going to go to Copenhagen to study and get a serious degree in one of the rather academic fields. I don't know if they have it in other countries as well but in Denmark, universities have something they called Open House where you can visit the uni's and check out all of the courses available. I visited all of the ones I could think of, but in the evening, only Copenhagen design school was open so I went there just to see what they had to offer, and I was hooked. There was something about it, the same thing that had fascinated me with China, that was man-made and then the other side, the one that you could not control. That you should put yourself in the space between what the logic tells you and what your intuition tells you. That's where I wanted to be.

Another important factor in my decision to go to design school was a reform that resulted in a more theory-driven education. After that I went home, did some research and found out that there is only two design schools in Denmark: The Design School of Copenhagen and Design School Kolding. I visited Kolding and realized it was time for me to choose between a life (in Copenhagen) or a superior (to me, at least) education (in Kolding). I went for the latter. I applied the same year, and I actually didn't expect to get in that same year, but to my great surprise I did. So that was how I got into design.

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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.

Bansky-Day-2.jpgOctober 2, 2013

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.