Ever more powerful portable devices increasingly enable our always on-the-go lifestyles, yet even the fastest microprocessor needs a power supply, and we find ourselves tethered to outlets in moments of repose, and (mis)managing the wires, cables and cords that serve as veritable lifelines for our power-hungry handhelds. It should come as no surprise that the backup battery industry is booming, but what about the way we reboot at home?
Instead of attempting to achieve invisibility through reduction, Youmin Vincent Kim has seen fit to hide a charger in plain sight. Jury captain Naihan Li and her team recognized the Korean designer's SOAK Charging Side Table as the winner of the Furniture & Lighting category of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards.
Like many of us, Kim was frustrated by ad hoc solutions. "When I see designers try to combine furniture with technological devices—like cords hanging from the center of a work conference table—it ceases to look like furniture to me, or at least it's not something you would want in your home," Kim says. "It's messy and unconstructed." The only thing that betrays SOAK's embedded functionality is its proximity to an outlet, which peeks out from a half-leg that appears to be melting into the wall.
It's not just for show: the back leg conceals a power cord, which is connected to a wireless charging plate embedded in the tabletop. Although the plug itself fits neatly into the hollowed-out dummy leg, a short length of cord offers the flexibility to accommodate different outlet heights. Similarly, Kim is also considering international standards. "There are several types and sizes of electrical outlets depending on what country users live in. I have been working on making the plug universal so that it will work anywhere."
Kim's solution emerged only through rigorous research:
I try to collect as much information as I can from my surroundings during my day—things that I can be inspired by, materials, construction technique, needs for design—making my own database in my brain. I don't force myself to finish one design at a time because the more data I collect, the better the design is that comes out eventually. My job is to figure out how to synthesize the data correctly and properly for each project.
Yet for all his dedication to concealing the cord, it was surprising to learn that one of Kim's favorite designs of the moment does just the opposite: "I am really impressed with the Aim Lamp by the Bouroullec Brothers for Flos because instead of hiding the cords like I did, the designer used the cords as a pulley system to adjust the height and direction of the lamps. Plus, they're beautiful!"
Kim may have entered his work as a student, but he'll be joining the Centimeter Studio team—a design consultancy in Korea—post graduation.
Check out a full list of this year's Core77 Design Awards honorees here.