Machines have more than proven their self-worth among manufacturers of the modern age. While I may not be old enough to remember a time where computers were large enough to fill a room—much less when a lifetime of manual labor was more common than desk-bound day jobs—I've been reminded time and time again about my parents' take on the good old days. You know, the ones where employees were forced to get really good (and über efficient) at the jobs they held instead of relying on machines to do the quick work. There are still a few gems in the mix of people who continue to smash the tortoise-hare logic of "slow and steady wins the race" into microscopic bits, whether or not there's a machine available to do the work for them. Here are a few videos of people doing just that for your afternoon viewing pleasure:
Today, creating a data visualization that'll grab (and hold) the attention of thousands is a cinch, considering that even the smallest of screens comes equipped with state-of-the-art software and editing capabilities. In the '60s and '70s, not so much. John Whitney, the late founder of Motion Graphics Incorporated, was a man against the technological odds. Even constrained by less-than-desirable computer systems (by today's standards), he created what could be considered an improvement on today's iTunes visualizers.
Whitney's work has been compiled into multiple demo reels of sorts. Best to full-screen these, even with the grainy quality—it just adds an extra layer of trippy texture:
Not sure how I missed this when Oli Firth first posted it to our discussion boards three months ago (when it first hit the web), but "Road Bike Party 2"—great title for bike porn, as far as I'm concerned—is just insane. We've seen similar feats from Tim Knoll on BMX and Ines Brunn's fixed-gear track-robatics, but, as the saying goes, steel is real. Non-cyclists might enjoy the general outlandishness of the stunts, but fellow riders will appreciate the technical difficulty (and cojones) of Danny Macaskill (pulling some of his signature moves), Martyn Ashton and Chris Akrigg as they endo, bunnyhop and generally thrash on a £15,000 Colnago C59 Disc like it's a 26er.
The jury is out on the practice of raising the windshield wipers during snowy/icy conditions: it's intended to prevent the blades from freezing to the glass, but some say that it's not worth the trouble. Raised like antennae, they could well be sensors activated by atmospheric conditions, or insect legs, a gesture of beseeching the firmament for respite or simply resigning to a snowy fate.
It's been a rough winter by any measure, what with the salt shortages and architecture fails, but I only recently learned that the entire country of Slovenia was essentially covered in ice for several days. The freak storm struck two weeks ago and lasted three days, blanketing the some 8,000 square miles (20,000 km2) with 10cm of ice, causing upwards of €66 milliion in damage, including widespread power outages and ravaging half of the alpine nation's forests.
As a first generation Chinese-American living in NYC (the fabled Greater New York Combined Statistical Area has the largest concentration in the States), I have no excuse for not celebrating my cultural heritage during the most important holiday of the year. A low-key Chinese New Year party fit the bill for me, but a pair of Russian "sky-walkers" took it to the next level and then some. It turns out that the major holiday was the perfect window to infiltrate and summit the tallest building in China—and, of course, to document it with photos and GoPros.
Currently under construction, the Gensler-designed Shanghai Tower was topped out at 2,073 ft (632m) just six months ago and is on track to open in 2015. Along with the Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center (a.k.a. the Bottle Opener), the new supertall will anchor the city's Pudong business district—which was farmland 25 years ago, when it was declared a "Special Economic Zone" in 1993—and is second to only the Burj Khalifa in the international playing field.
It reportedly took Vitaliy Raskalov, 20, of Novosibirsk, and his Moscow-based buddy Vadim Makhorov, 24, about two hours to climb the 121 stories of the edifice itself; they spent 18 hours there, waiting for the skies to clear before free-climbing the crane to its apex of 2,132 ft (650m). Makhorov told the Telegraph that "we didn't get any sleep for over 24 hours, it was physically and mentally challenging for the both of us."
We had to wait for hours for the clouds to part, but it was well worth the wait, the view was like something from an aircraft window. As soon as we saw a gap in the clouds were climbed right to the top of the crane and were able to get some great shots of the city below. We were not afraid at all and we have never had any injuries as a result of our sky walking.
As a result of our 'mission,' Our target was to climb the highest tower in China and the seconds highest in the world, it felt amazing to accomplish it, the sky is the limit.
Wow. Such great heights. Very vertiginous. Much machismo. So epic.
GoPro has done it before—survived a plane jump, that is. Now the gamechanging extreme-sports-cam can claim another feat of strength: Following a similar freefall, a GoPro has successfully endured months lost in the muck of a pig pen and the occasional curious chewing and gnawing from its porcine occupant—probably the last place the GoPro tossers expected it to end up. Mia Munselle of Cloverdale, California, found the camera on her property eight months after its crash landing. Take a look at the footage (and be glad it's from a GoPro and not one of these):
Most of you (or at least the blue-blooded Americans among you) know that the so-called Mass Transit Super Bowl is just around the corner. Sane New Yorkers such as myself will also be forgoing the trip across the Hudson, where attendees—who are paying at least a G for the privilege—will brave the ebbing but still formidable polar vortex for 3–6 hours, give or take, and will instead be enjoying the spectacle from the comfort and convenience of their homes or local watering holes. Which is a very long way of introducing the topic at hand: television commercials, as much a draw of the big game as the showdown in the Meadowlands itself. Last Friday, of course, marked the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh, its impact foreshadowed by arguably the greatest commercial of all time, Super Bowl or otherwise; 30 years later and Cupertino is quoting an 18th-century poem via a 25-year-old film (Orwell's book, by the way, dates back to 1949).
Meanwhile, the folks at Wieden + Kennedy have recently unveiled their latest work for Sony, including an ad that has attracted a bit of attention on our discussion boards. The "Be Moved" campaign—the de rigueur interactive microsite is the source of the screengrabs at top—is anchored by a 90-second spot called "Join Together," which was met with a mixed response from forumites:
No, you're not on drugs (or at least we should hope not, on a schoolnight)—you're just seeing the flight pattern of a traveling group of starlings. Recently, we've seen a lot of ways that nature is making a power-play in the design world—whether it's worm secretion making a debut in the medical industry or the hidden design in sand crystals, there's always something surprising about the make-up of the natural world around us.
Dennis Hlynsky has been bringing us footage of animals' transit paths since 2005, but the Internet has recently caught on to just how cool they are. What started with a Flip video recorder and an interest in the flight patterns of birds, has become beautiful compiled footage following the habits of avians aloft. Dennis Hlynsky has since upgraded to a much more detail-oriented camera and mastered his hand at editing with programs like After Effects to create his timelapse-esque films. The end result is not unlike this time-lapse video of 4.5 hours worth of airplanes flying into San Diego International. Check out a few of his films:
This past weekend saw the debut of Apple's latest TV ad, "Your Verse Anthem," a kind of creative use-case montage set to a Robin Williams voiceover from Dead Poets Society. Specifically, it's his measured delivery of an abridged version of Walt Whitman's "O Me! O Life!":
If there's one kind of design that no one enjoys, it's coffin design. However morbid it may be, it's completely true. Austin-based furniture designer Michael Yates quickly learned this after being faced with a tough request. His aging grandmother—who was perfectly healthy at the time—wanted him to build her casket. Such a request from a lively friend or family member is enough to throw anyone off. Yates, who was also a professional notable in our 2013 Core77 Design Awards, eventually agreed after taking some time to mull over and come to terms with the inquiry.
The impending death of a family member or friend is nothing anyone wants to think about—let alone obsess over in the way a designer engrosses themselves in a project. In a tear-jerking mini documentary from Dark Rye magazine, Yates battles with the idea of death and its role among the functionality and customization of design—and he manages to do so gracefully, if that's even possible.
This method might end up contaminating your champagne with glass shards, but it sure does look cool.
New Year's Eve is synonymous with "popping bottles." Now what you have in that bottle is up to you (sometimes sparkling grape juice is all you need to celebrate), but the frantic realization that you're sans opener is never a good thing. Even the best attempts of opening beer bottles on the edge of tables (cue cringing) or haphazardly with keys (cue sliced finger) usually don't end up well.
Give Dave Hax some string and he'll have that wine bottle opened in a jiffy.
But Dave Haxworth—whose DIY videos we've covered before—has the perfect life hack for you—if you've got a sharp knife, piece of ribbon or an English ten pound note on you. Instead of the old tried-and-true method of yanking the rounded end of the cork out of your bottle of bubbly, Hax (as he calls himself on Youtube) shows us how to chop off the top with a knife (seriously). We all know how it feels to lose a wine cork to the inside of the bottle—take back your vino with a piece of ribbon. We'd be willing to bet a tenner that Hax's £10 note method would work with a greenback too. Check out this video completely breaking down the delicate process of popping three different bottles sans openers:
With the holidays upon us once again, once again we collectively face retail propositions—thinly veiled as holiday spirit, if at all—at every turn as consumerism surges towards its perennial peak in one week. So too are flesh-and-bone shoppers invariably subject to a brick-and-mortar experience that predates the web-enabled phenomenon of 'showrooming' (which has now met its match with neologisms such as 'webrooming,' 'e-rooming,' and 'RoBo'; look 'em up if you're curious): the ineluctable IRL soundtrack to the season, piping through the internal airwaves of stores as though preordained—paeans to Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, et al part and parcel to unflattering fluorescent lights and cranked-up HVAC. Hackneyed holiday classics and the ever-lengthening tail of covers, remixes, etc. alike serve as foregone background music that falls like light flurries on one's ears; sure, it melts instantly, but it also has a weird way of seeping into your cerebellum. Tis the season indeed.
Here's one that you won't be hearing at your local Best Buy or [insert big box electronics store here]: James Houston's take on "Carol of the Bells." The director / animator / graphic designer tuned his obsolete-device orchestra—which include an iMac, a Commodore 64 and a SEGA Mega Drive, among others—to the telltale motif of the Ukrainian folk chant. Check out "Season's Greetings from The Glasgow School of Art" (Houston's Alma Mater):
One more for today, via new Gizmodo-spinoff Sploid: We took note of filmmaker Kirby Ferguson's "Everything is a Remix" project when it launched in 2011; given his thesis—that art and innovation increasingly consists of merely recombining existing ideas in novel ways—it will only become more true as time marches on. Ferguson has just revisited the project with a one-off case study on the iPhone, and while it's definitely worth watching, it does feel a bit like armchair analysis—dissecting these specimens (see also: the viral "Was iOS7 created in Microsoft Word?" vid) or, say, identifying all of the samples in a Girl Talk album is, as the clich&ecute; goes, to miss the forest for the trees, and overlook the seamlessness of the the system as a whole (which, as we all know, was Jobs' genius in the first place).
That said, it's nice to see all of the reference points in one place, and unlike the latter example, in which the DJ's All Dayactually boosted sales of its source material, hardware is a zero-sum game. As an immaterial good, we hear or listen to dozens, if not hundreds, of songs every day; most of us only own a single phone.
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.
Portland-based video production company Cineastas completely nails it when it comes to giving us in-depth "documentaries" on makers of all trades in just a couple of minutes. Previously, we've shared their videos featuring Nike shoe designer, Mike Friton and Walnut Studiolo.
This time around, filmmaker Tristan Stoch sent us a video featuring Hillsboro, Oregon-based Murray Carter, the 17th Generation Yoshimoto Bladesmith. Originally from Halfax, Nova Scotia, Carter found himself in Japan at the age of 18 and wound up spending six years as an apprentice under a Japanese bladesmith. Now, after 26 years in the trade, Carter has hand-forged over 18,000 blades.
Not only is the video full of beautiful shots showing the process behind Carter's blades, but he also gives some great insight about finding happiness in our chosen trades. And blade enthusiast or not, we all can relate to that. Check it out:
At some point in the past few years, the concept of the 'book trailer' has now become de rigueur in book publishing, at least when it comes to marketing new works of nonfiction: Writer Kathryn Schulz mentions it in the opening of her much-circulated recent essay on her Twitter habit. Some might dismiss it as a case of 'dancing about architecture' but what the hell—here's a teaser for Leander Kahney's forthcoming book Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products.
Little kids often dream of being on TV when they grow up, but Dan Hellman and Eric Chang dreamt of making furniture. Now that they've established Brooklyn-based Hellman-Chang into a globally-known furniture brand (see our last post), it is their furniture, and not themselves, that they'd like to see on TV. Or on the big screen, for that matter.
And it's happening. Design-savvy viewers of the Today Show may have noticed a certain iconic table has recently been added to the interview portion of the set, and other Hellman-Chang pieces have popped up in well-known NYC-based productions. Here we catch up with company co-founder Eric Chang, who tells us what H-C's been up to and what this facet of their strategy means for the brand:
NOWNESS is pleased to present a new short by Stefan Henrichs featuring "lauded industrial design iconoclast" Konstantin Grcic fawning over Enzo Mari's "Box" chair. (We're also fans of the legendary Italian designer.)
Originally trained as a cabinet maker, Grcic made the bold step into industrial design before studying at the Royal College of Art, London. "As a craftsman I became so fascinated by machinery and this idea of working through the processes and limitations of design," explains Munich-based Grcic... "The machine really forces you to work and think as a designer."
Not that the video diptych is self-serving in any way—he doesn't refer to his work at any point—but one can imagine that Grcic hopes his own Chair One for Magis inspires the same reaction from some of his admirers. Then again, what artist or designer wouldn't want to hear a bit of high praise from one of their esteemed peers?
Just about anyone can probably come up something cool to do and a most of us can probably actually do some of those cool things. A select few of you (I'm not counting myself this time around) are also able to document those things with photo and video and present them in a way that's more compelling than your average Instagram or Vine, and possibly make a buck or two doing so. NYC-based artist and filmmaker Casey Neistat happens to be able to do all of the above extremely well, and, after years of putting together wild, wacky and otherwise out-of-left-field short films, someone at Mercedes-Benz took notice. That's right: Casey Neistat made a car commercial. And it's awesome.
(For those of you who might retort that it's a contrived attempt at 'shaking up' a staid format—the car commercial—ask yourself this: would you not do the same thing? And would you even come close to the result?)
Granted, it's one thing make a car commercial and another thing to embed it in a Friday afternoon blogpost (credit also to the automakers themselves), so in the interest of highlighting the substance behind the ecstatically over-the-top finished product, Neistat has done us the favor of posting a three-part making-of doc, and it's as good as anything he's ever done... including the commercial. This, readers, is what storytelling is about.
We've devoted a fair number of pages and pixels to that singular design object known as the bicycle, and whether you're a leisure rider or all-weather commuter, weekend warrior or retrogrouch, there's no denying the functional elegance of the human-powered conveyance. Thus, when Harry Schwartzman reached out to us about lending our support to the inaugural Bike Cult Show, a celebration of the beautiful machine and a local-ish community of individuals dedicated to building them, we were happy to support the cause.
With the first annual Bike Cult Show just around the corner, we're pleased to present our fifth and final builder profile, a short film on the inimitable Jamie Swan by filmmaker Isaac Schell.
Swan may not command the broad recognition of, say, Richard Sachs or Peter Weigle, but he is certainly a legend in the cycling community, in which he is a self-proclaimed "Keeper of the Flame." At least some of Swan's renown is simply due to the fact that he's only built a handful of frames since he put together his first one back in 1981—they'd be grail bikes if he actually had a wait list—yet he's anything but a recluse. On the contrary, Swan is glad to take the role of mentor and spirit guide (for lack of a better term) for savvy up-and-comers: He admires the current generation of craftsmen who are making a living building bikes precisely because he's never had to do so.
Nope, those aren't 3D-printed; they're handmade. Ex-chemistry teacher Bobby Jaber—the giveaway to his old profession is that he refers to PVC as polyvinyl chloride—"wanted to combine art and science," and now that he's retired, has thrown himself wholeheartedly into clay.
Buckyballs, icosahedrons, octahedrals and other complex geometrics might not be as lucrative as fictional colleague Walter White's "Blue Sky" product, but they seem to bring a good deal more spiritual peace. Additionally, California-based Jaber has been invited to show (and sell) from as far afield as the Netherlands.
In the following mini-doc, we get to see Jaber doing what I think many of us secretly crave: To create our own things in our own studios, absent market pressures and briefs from higher-ups. (Be sure to stick around until after the credits, when there is an outtake of what appears to be Jaber seeing an iPad for the first time!)
In its first iteration, the Leatherman multi-tool was a Double-Oh-Seven-worthy gadget idea, born out of a traveler's frustration and initially snubbed by major tool companies. These days, Leatherman is a synonym for any dozen-in-one dream tool you can fit in a pocket. The idea came to Tim Leatherman back in the 1970s, when the recent mechanical engineering grad and his wife Chau decided touring Europe in a questionable Fiat would be a good use of a year. Leatherman found himself regularly eyeballing the guts of the car, wishing for one tool he didn't have in his Swiss Army Knife: pliers.
Back in Oregon, he spent the next several years developing a design for the tool he had craved, patiently supported by Chau. After partnering with a friend with a machine shop, he pitched the first Leatherman multi-tool to knife and tool companies to resounding disinterest... until Cabela's unexpectedly ordered 200 for their mail-order catalog. They featured it on their back cover and ordered 500 more before the first order was filled. With that, the Leatherman snowball was off and rolling.
30 years later, the Leatherman Tool Company is still growing. Every Leatherman tool is made in Portland, OR, where the company employs 525 people full time, and runs 24-hour production at three locations. The smallest space is the site of the original machine shop, and the largest is the 90,000 sq. ft. factory, which I recently got to tour because I am an important regional figure.
After chatting with ID honcho Blair Barnes, I left the aggressively air-conditioned design and business offices and entered the stream of activity on the factory floor. Like most factories, this one is laid out for efficiency. Production flows from one side of the building to the other, starting with the lifeblood of the factory: a custom die shop. The die shop (curtained off to outsiders) houses what I imagine to be wizardly figures, conceiving, crafting and repairing the dies used in each machine. Having the designers and machinists in close proximity with production makes it quicker to design new dies and fix broken ones than sending things out of house.
Michael Bierut surmises that he lost a bet, but it turns out that it's kind of a real thing: apparently Mr., um, am is involved in a 20-week Wall Street Journal initiative in which startups are competing for the title Startup of the Year with the guidance of several well-known entrepreneurs. The entire process, which kicked off about five weeks ago, will ultimately be chronicled in a documentary; the call for entries (for which the deadline was back in April) notes that the startups must have less than $10 million in revenue and have a proof-of-concept or prototype to qualify.
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:
Our friends at frog design recently released a short documentary on Industrial Design in the Modern World, a kind of iterative manifesto (the consultancy's first but certainly not their last), featuring several key players of the design team. We had a chance to catch up with Creative Director Jonas Damon on the broader message of the piece, as well as his thoughts on user experience and a possible revision to Dieter Rams' canonical principles of design.
Core77: Can you elaborate on the points you touch on in the opening monologue? Specifically, to what degree do 'traditional' (or outdated) forms and materials embody value or character? For example, I recently came across an iPod speaker in which the dock opens like a cassette tape deck, evoking a certain nostalgic charm despite being rather impractical (it was difficult to see the screen behind the plastic).
Jonas Damon: The opening monologue is about the physical constraints that have guided forms in the past vs. forms today, and the opportunities that arise from the absence of these constraints. 'Honesty' in design is a widely admired quality, and in the past that honesty was expressed by skillfully sculpting with and around a given product's physical conditions, rather than just hiding or disguising these. So when products were more mechanical, they had a more imposing DNA that informed their character; their mechanics largely defined their identities. Many product types came preconditioned with an iconic, unmistakable silhouette.
Today, most products in the consumer electronics space can be made with a rectangular circuit board, a rectangular screen, and a rectangular housing. Therefore, the natural expression of these products today is limited to a rectangle—not really a unique identity. Expression of character becomes more nuanced and malleable. With that newfound freedom, we have to be more sensitive, judicious and inventive. These days, 'honesty' is more complex and difficult to design for, as it's about the intangible aspects of the brand the product embodies.
Traditional forms and materials have cultural value because of their iconic, built-in character. The starting point for many contemporary consumer electronics forms is generic and sterile, so historical forms are often tapped to artificially trigger our memory-based emotions. It's been a popular fallback that we may be a little tired of these days, but on occasion its been well executed, and even that can have merit.
Of course, the 'flat black rectangle' effect also implies a shift from traditional form-follows-function I.D. to a broader, UX-centric approach to design (i.e. some argue that Apple's focus on iOS7 is simply a sign that they've shifted from hardware innovation to the UX/software experience). What is the relationship between hardware and UX?
Hardware is an integral part of UX. A true "user experience" is multi-sensory: when you engage with something, don't you see, feel, hear, maybe even smell that which you are engaging with? (I'm not sure why anybody refers to solely screen-based interactions as "UX"; that notion is outdated) As an Industrial Designer, I am a designer of User Experience. ID has gotten richer since we've started considering "living technology" as a material. By "living technology," I mean those elements that bring objects to life, that make them animate and tie them to other parts of the world around us: sensors, screens, haptics, connectivity, software, etc. By claiming these elements as part of our domain (or by tightly embedding their respective expert designers/engineers in our teams), we are able to create holistic designs that are greater than the sums of their parts.