, a high-speed optical Internet service provider in Japan, has created what may be the best commercial I've ever seen.
I've always been a fan of Rube Goldberg machines—I was even in a club in elementary school whose sole purpose was to create one to compete against other schools in the state. Now, we've covered plenty of Goldbergian machines that are purportedly the best of the best—all awesome machines that are worth revisiting—but au Hikari has a new twist on the contraption. A commercial for the Japanese high-speed optical ISP features a Rube Goldberg machine that is 'powered' by a single beam of light as it is reflected, refracted and magnified by various lenses and glasses throughout the two-minute sequence.
In keeping with the solemn, tenebrist ambiance of the mechanism, the commercial features naturalistic sound; an American company would probably have opted for non-diegetic audio—listen to OK Go in the background if you must. Check it out for yourself:
We're pretty big on process here at Core77—where other publications usually stick to pristine product shots, we like to show what goes on behind the scenes, not least because
you, faithful readers, are often the ones behind those scenes. And with the advent of inexpensive digital photography and videography tools—namely smartphones—it's easier than ever to document your process. Case in point, architect-turned-master-woodworker Frank Howarth demonstrates both his woodshop chops and his cinematography skills in his stop-motion videos.
The Portland, OR-based craftsman has been posting making-of videos YouTube channel for years, and they go beyond a superficial treatment to actually illustrate each step of the process—some of these mini films push ten minutes (and some are even longer). Most of them include Howarth walking you through each design decision. But my favorite one takes an anthropomorphic tack. It doesn't have a voiceover or even human presence at all—rather, each element and tool becomes a character in a production of sorts. Check it out:
Although the trophy itself is but a symbol for the prestige of the award, the statuette certainly provides a covetable physical artifact for those in the television industry. While you may not be interested in actually watching the broadcast tonight, you might appreciate the craft that goes into making the trophies everyone seems to gush over for a few days each year. After seeing the handiwork that goes into them, you might find yourself gushing, too.
Maybe it's the exclusivity that comes with winning one of the golden gals, but I've always had this image that includes a super secret lab and the rarest of materials when it comes to the trophies. So it's refreshing to see the number of people involved in the process. While only one person gets to take home the statuette for good, there sure are a lot of hands that are put to work on each trophy, from ladling molten metal into the molds to final assembly and quality assurance.
Nike has recently launched its "Genealogy of Innovation" campaign, and the promo video by Golden Wolf is an impressive piece of footwear-centric eye candy, featuring some 200 shoes in all, including signature styles by the Hatfield brothers, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Mark Parker et al. Check it out:
Anyone who has witnessed a glassmaking demonstration can surely appreciate the skill that goes into a craft that dates back to 2,000 BC. Named after the island from which it originates, Murano glass has been among the very best since the Renaissance, though the market has declined precipitously over the past few decades: according to The Guardian, the number of Murano sculptors has melted from "6,000 in 1990 to less than 1,000 [in 2012]."
This short, wordless documentary about 'putter'—short for scissor putter-togetherer—Cliff Denton has been making rounds today and it's easy to see why. Filmmaker Shaun Bloodworth does a nice job of capturing Denton's attention to detail with this visually poetic treatment of the dying art—founded over a century ago in 1902, Ernest Wright & Sons has been producing handcrafted shears for five generations and is among the last scissors-makers of its kind.
Back in February, we livestreamed Made in Brunel's 24-hour design challenge, in which over 150 design student participants collaborated in small groups to respond to one of eight project briefs provided by brands like LEGO, Rolls Royce, IDEO and Seymour Powell. Each team had three hours to answer their brief—including designing, communicating and delivering their ideas.
The event footage is available for those who may have missed the maiden viewing—or, if you've only got a few minutes, check out this quick recap video of the event:
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.