Memorial Day, Memorial Design
We hope all our United States readers are having a good Memorial Day. War brings so many terrible things with it, that it can be overwhelming, and it's good to have a day of remembrance, and meditation, especially with our troops once again in foreign lands. So, in honor of this day, we suggest that you take time to remember some of the products and materials that wars have brought with them. We'll start you off with Henry Dreyfuss's Measure of Man, nylon, and the Willy's Jeep.
A Cure in Sight
Saul Griffith, an Australian Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidate, has won the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. Griffith developed a machine which quickly tests vision, and another which casts lenses to correct for vision defects. Both machines operate easily, with a minimum of training, and without requiring exotic materials or power. The concept has the potential to give sight to billions of people in developing countries, where the lack of optical professionals makes eyeglasses prohibitively expensive.
The fourth Core77/Popsci Design Contest is live. Entrants must register by July 9th and entries are due July 11th. This contest's theme is "Personal Security". Here's an excerpt:
PSC77 Challenge #4: "Personal Security" challenges participants to design a product that explores the concept of personal security. For this challenge, entries should be submitted for consideration in one (and only one) of four sub-categories: Preventive Measures, Self-Defense, Emotional Security, or Financial Security.
Go for it fuelers, make us proud.
The 'Q' is for Questionable Quality
Remember RKS Design's slick portable grill that was designed in the 'Life in the Fast Lane' student workshop they host annually? C'mon, it won a Bronze IDEA award for 2003 and it was on the back of ID magazine for what seemed like months. Remember now?
Well the concept was really nice-- a unique portable grill with some seriously futuristic styling-- but the retail version's quality of execution is more than a little dubious...
Kicking Computer Sales are Mixed Blessing
Computers sales are set to increase by 13.6 percent over last year, due in large part to the first wave of replacements of Y2K purchases. This should total about 100 million new PCs. And for every one that comes in, one gets moved out. Luckily, many of the machines will be re-used through donations, or re-selling. But inevitably, this replacement cycle is going to produce a huge amount of waste computer parts, which, unknown to most consumers, will not simply be consigned to a landfill. The high concentrations of precious(and toxic) metals in their chips and wires make computers a prime target for reclamation efforts. These operations are carried out in the developing world, by workers earning paltry wages, and exposed to toxic working conditions.
And that leaves us wondering: What responsibility does the designer have to address this situation? Obviously, PC's as an up-gradeable concept will never be a long-term idea until the dizzying pace of innovation slows, but maybe there's something else that the design can do, if we assume that computers are going to be "Mined" later for precious metals. What do you think?
Solid Wall of Water
Problem: 183 gallons of water are treated every day for each person in the United States. Up to one quarter of this water goes to applications like radiators and toilets, that do not require potable water.
Solution: Most houses in the US have enough roof area to collect enough water to supply these potential "grey water" users, but storage has always been a problem. Storage tanks are large, usually custom fitted, and most of all, Ug-ly.
That's where the Waterwall comes in. This free-standing plastic tank holds 1200 liters, comes in mod colors, and can be nested together for any capacity. The design is even being considered by architects for noise damping and as a thermal mass.
We're stuck on a paper thing today, so here's another one. Take a look at the cut and fold mechanical kits made by Flying Pig. The coolest thing is that all the parts come packed in a book, ready to be cut and glued. Maybe not the most accurate, but definitely the cheapest rapid prototyping.
Anyone who needs some geometric first aid, should check out the homepage and gallery of Bradford Hansen-Smith, the world's pre-eminent authority on circular paper folding. Wholemovement, is as much a gallery as a manifesto concerning the purity and connection of the circle to our world. It's a pretty surreal experience, but nice too, and the forms are amazing.
Swatch Out- 2008
Swatch has agreed to drop about $38.9 million for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as the official timekeepers, including about 500 tons of equipment and 300 Swiss engineers. The exposure Swatch gets at the games will hopefully boost their popularity in the Chinese market, the fastest growing market in the world. Swatch is also providing a limited edition of souvenir watches designed with the Beijing 2008 logo and cultural Chinese imagery, selling at about $200. The first set of 4,999 has been manufactured, and is only available in Mainland China. The chance of getting one of these babies in a country of 1.3 billion is slimmer than the watch itself.
Well, technically it's industrial design...OK, it's a stretch, but the Brothers Chaps have done it again. This time, with a clever graphical treatment of a giant fiberglass guitar for the rock and roll hall of fame. Strongbad even references user centered design ("Wait, what good is a giant guitar if you'r not a giant guitar...ist?) and the transformers. Rock on gentlemen.
Dolphins Could Hold the (Real) Key to Swimming
Scientists at the Kyoto Institute of Technology have made a startling discovery about dolphin high speed travel through water. It seems that skin flakes (dandruff?) help keep the flow over their bodies from seperating, and dragging them down. The researchers hope to exploit this concept for "active" low drag systems in boats and submarines. This finding comes after the success of the Speedo micro-textured fabric swimsuit, and the Turbulator Swimsuit, set to shake things up in this year's olympics. If you need to brush up on your laminar flow theory, check this out. If not, here's something completely different.
First Class Mail
Show your friends and bill collectors your devotion to design with the recently-released Isamu Noguchi stamps from the US Post Office. And if you actually need an excuse to use these puppies, find one here.
LED From Awesome to Ridiculous
Designers looking to add programable lighting to an exhibit, interior, or even a table top should check out Element labs LED lighting. It's capable of expanding modularly into a whole pixelated video-wall of bit-mapped splendor. Of course, all that majesty comes with a price, so if your design has to come in under budget, you could always check out groovetube, or, the even lower budget custom LED brake lights.
Amazing X Blocker
Traditionally, in situations where radiation - X ray or Gamma ray - was a problem, heavy lead shielding was always the solution. If you've ever had an X-ray done, you know the drill. The technician covers all the vulnerable parts with a HEAVY lead blanket or apron to keep you from loosing the ability to have kids. Until now. Radiation Shield Technologies has developed a fabric called Demron, that not only blocks X-rays and Gamma rays, but is non-toxic, and lightweight. Additionally, it blocks alpha and beta particles, can even be sewn! We have no idea what the material is made of, but an excerpt from the proposal by a Canadian team developing a mars exploration suit offers this:
While the exact composition is proprietary, this material is a polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride based composite. The metallic composition used in this composite material is unknown. Demron has a density of 2.43–3.14 g/cm3, which is significantly lower than lead (11.34 g/cm3) and tantalum (16.65 g/cm3). The fabric has a rubbery appearance and has high
If the paper's a little much, check out the full story on the space suit here.
Only months after the fatal County Administrator's building fire, the latest Core77 Offsite Chicago conference will discuss the unique challenges encountered in the design of equipment for emergency workers. Mark Palmer, head of Design Research, Human Factors, and User Interface Design groups at Motorola CGISS in Florida, and Russell Branaghan PhD., Vice President of research and strategy at Big Red Rooster will be presenting their insights into the process, both from a product and systems viewpoint. And, if you needed more convincing, we'll be there, so come check it out. Just RSVP to join in.
NextFest, 3.0: Flip Over This
In the future we will receive the bulk of our printed information in digital format. Considering the environmental toll taken by tree harvesting and paper processing, the change-over is inevitable. HP has prepared for this near-future with the Digital Media Viewer. The prototype was one of several presented at NextFest by HP Labs that explores how people will someday gather and process information about their environment. The device offers a unique interface that allows users to "riffle" and flip through pages of electronic text such as a newspaper, magazine or book. We like that this navigation lends more human interaction to an otherwise completely digital activity, yet we can't really envision curling up with a good DMV on a rainy day. Hopefully there will always be a place for the real thing.
Photography Never Blossfeldt So Good
We're terribly sorry about the pun, but you've got to see these. Karl Blossfeldt, a turn of the century design professor, was completely obsessed with plants and their structures. Throughout his life, he documented thousands of sticks, twigs, leaves, and buds. If those weren't enough, check out these ones. These images are begging to be turned into backpacks, chairs, lamps, electric razors and lawnmowers. So get to it!
Bacteria: Better than LEDs?
A biologist and artist at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, have succeeded in producing bioluminescing furniture. Innoculated with cultures of two species of bacteria from the genus Vibrio, the pieces glow a steady green. These bacteria are the same found in deep sea fish and cephalopods, like anglerfish and squid. If you're keen on making your own glowing furniture, you might learn something useful here. But if you get infected and start glowing green, don't come running to us...
No Smell For You
Sadly, all of you who wanted to make "new car smell" scented sleep aids, in an effort to conjure up dreams of driving along the sea cliffs of Italy in a bright red Modena will have to try something else. A study released yesterday indicates that sleeping humans don't smell well. Maybe if you tried a pair of speakers that played the sounds of shifting gears...
ID Chips May Be Inevitable
RFID made a giant step toward common use yesterday, as Walmart announced that it's smart tag test appeared to be a success, and they planned to ramp up integration of the identification tags in merchandise worldwide. That could be a boon for designers.
If you're reading on RSS you'll want to really visit today. Why, you ask? Because today is the launch of IDFuel 2.0!! First, check out the "Team" button to meet the people behind the page, and see some of what they have to say. Or, if you're just so impressed with us that you want to write to us, or with us, Put in your two cents to "Stoke the fire" and keep our site burning with cool stories, criticism, new writers(wink wink) and even some stuff to spread the word.
And yes our first Bonfire is burning! What's a bonfire? Check it out.. We hope you have as much fun with the new site as we had updating, and keep looking for new things in the next few weeks.
Communal Cars : The future is here?
Alright, when we were in elementary school, they always talked about this "Communal Car Thing" being the answer to all the world's congestion problems. But by high school, somebody had introduced the idea that the carpool was the way to go - probably because that way, everyone still had to own a car for fairness sake (or maybe for GM's sake?). And through college, we heard more about filesharing than "carsharing". So what we're about to show you may come as somewhat of a shock. There are currently freaking oodles of carsharing clubs, associations, and services happening right now. The UK has Urbigo, Smartmoves, and Carplus, among others. But even the States haven't been left behind - check out CityCarShare in San Francisco, and Zipcar in lots of other places. Their methods vary, but for the most part, after joining the system, you can either sign up for cars like a rental car dealership, or in at least Zipcar's case, just swipe your membership card to open and drive the car, and pay later for only the milage you travel. Give em a look. Apparently the future is here.
NextFest, 2.0 ~ Crowd Control
In a testament to the percentage of water that comprises our bodies, it was hilarious to watch NextFest goers create their own navigation through crowded and overdesigned booths and pavilions. Over at the Adidas camp we could only imagine some sad exhibit designer watching with dismay as viewers entered through the rear of the exhibit, fully missing the introductory "sensory" tunnel. With one "real" entrance (mostly overlooked), one "real" exit (doing double duty as entrance), and a waist-height railing defining the perimeter, it was no wonder it took a solid two minutes just to devise an exit strategy. Also on the list for poor traffic flow was the SmartWrap structure. Being elevated 2' off the floor necessitated both stairs and a wheelchair lift at the dual entrance/exit. As viewers stopped to read text, this area bogged down and forced others to hop off the booth from the far side. We noticed some physical damage to the booth at this area and spotted at least one bumped forehead. In our book, it's smarter not to over-think the flow.
Let the Sun Shine On...The Bus Stop
Lots of great ideas get tossed around in University as junior or senior level design projects, particularly regarding innovative solar powered devices. But most of them never make it into production. So we're happy to hear that our British chums may soon be waiting for the double deckers in solar bus shelters. Solar Century recently won a grant to build and test their system around England. But they aren't the first; Carmanah Technologies has been quite successful with their Solar-LED systems. Both products have the advantage of being off grid, and therefore safer, easier to install, and more reliable than traditional systems. Fat Chance we'll ever get this stateside though...Oh well, we can dream.
If you're feeling a little to hot, or burned out on inspiration, then sled yourself on over to the Creat-a-flake website, a cute flash app. that lets you cut out snowflakes, and then mail them to your friends. You can even save an EPS for later on. Cut a few yourself, but the real ideas can come from looking in the gallery of over 1 bazillion user-submitted flakes. Apparently, it was once a viral marketing campaign for Jockey Underwear, but now those people's ad flu is your gain.
New Groovy Wheelchair
Anyone who's spent any time in a wheelchair, or similar assistive device knows that it can make you feel pretty "uncool". The industrial qualities of cheap chromed steel and faux black leather just don't cut it in the post-post-modern world. So, you can imagine our delight when we heard about the Chunc pediatric wheelchair. Sure, it's got a less than groovy name, but the principle is great - a wheelchair user is just like any other person who needs a product; they want it to be something to brag about. Fully adjustable, with components that allow the kids to colorize it the way they want, and with great big tires to go where kids need to be. Also, check out the BBC News writeup of the chair and designers.
All of us are looking to innovate in our designs (what else do you think we get the big bucks for) but sometimes we can focus on one area too strongly, and neglect other opportunities for great designs. Doblin, a consulting firm in Chicago has a cool diagram of the ten types of innovation. One cool spot that we admit we miss sometimes is the "Delivery Channel" area. Just think of what Cranium did by selling through Starbucks. They never would have had a whole lot more trouble fighting with the big boys.
NextFest, 1.0 : Raves and Faves
This weekend's Wired NextFest at Fort Mason in San Francisco was a veritable tech-geek's paradise of powerful processing and insane interaction. In this first article we'll highlight our favorites and super-favorites from the festival. (Some juicy thematic articles are in the works to discuss some other issues that came to mind during the afternoon, but in the meantime enjoy the show and tell.)
1 But Not First
Apparently, when Adidas said last week that the Adidas 1 was the first intelligent adaptive shoe, they conviniently forgot to mention the Vectrasense Raven. Rather than using a spring-pretensioning system like the "1", the Raven adjusts the air pressure in chambers throughout the sole of the shoe, and therefore the bounce of the shoe. Visitors of the Boston Marathon can check out the shoe this fall, and it will go on sale later in the year.
Fueled by Chad
Check out these two technologically amazing and visually captivating robotic works of art. MIT's Public Anemone has a complex AI algorithm that allows it to change moods when you scare it, frolic in a waterfall, and express a (limited) variety of emotions. Octofungi is a shape memory metal powered phototropic octopus by Yves Amu Klein, who has extensive explaination of it's construction as well.
Everyone's in a tither about the new glitzy Fendi bag for storing up to 12 IPods. But they've missed all the other great things in the Fendi Collection this year. We completely love the bubble sunglasses - you'll look like you know everything, but you're just to chic to care. And the transparent leather purse is pretty great too, thought we wonder what the transparent cows look like...
Make Everything Stick
If your design calls for hook and loop fasteners glued or riveted to a plastic substrate, then a new technique for producing an Inter-Molded Hook surface (IMH) could be just the ticket. Using a complicated single piece mold insert, the hooks are molded to shape, and elastically deformed to release them from the mold, where they spring back into shape and form a bed of opposing hooks capable of gripping most existing loop materials.Inter-mold, a company producting the tooling inserts to mold the IMH surface has an overview of the process, and a good FAQ on what's possible. If you're not molding, but still want the robustness of IMH, then YKK's Smart Touch, or the inserts made by Aplix might be just what you need. Just think, now you can finally make that plastic table that doubles as a sweater hanger.
Fuel Cells Juice Up Laptop
Swirling rumor about fuel cells has recently begun to materialize into fact. Zinc air cells, while not easily field re-fillable, have gotten small enough to power cell phones. California company Metallic Power wants to use a zinc granule-catalyst slurry to power future electric cars, so that the thousands of filling stations across the US will still have a purpose. And now, the holy grail may have been found at last; Casio announced yesterday that they have developed a laptop sized methanol powered fuel cell. The advantage of methanol is that it would be re-fillable easily and very cheaply. Additionally, methanol is easily synthesized from a variety of plant sources, thus eliminating fossil fuels from the energy cycle. With any luck, this technology will be available for other devices in a few years.
Tent Design in the Mojave
What makes a tent a "green tent"? Does it have a structure free of epoxy-based composites? Or perhaps it's covered in a weather resistant paper made entirely from Kenaf? Ecoshack, a California based green design consortium wants your answer. They have sponsored the Green Tent Competition, which seems simple enough, because a tent is pretty green to begin with. But when you consider that the tent is designed to be used in the Mojave Desert in southern California, an area who's temperatures range from freezing during the winter, to over 100F with little or no shade in the summer, and who's rainfal is rare, but heavy, the challenge is pretty substantial. It's a great opportunity to stretch your brain out, and maybe an excuse to visit California for "research purposes"... Plus, the five winners get 500 bucks and a chance to have their design built!
Philippe Starck, French poster child for late 80's design has delivered a pretty cool commentary on the need for criticism in the design process. No stranger to criticism himself, Starck's designs inspire both deep loyalty, and intense dislike. He wishes American designers would stop avoiding criticism as a bad thing. "It's not," he said. "It's how you raise children, it's how you improve society, it's how you push humanity forward." Check out the entire article at the Washington Post. In the mean time, we leave you with this:
"To be a designer is nothing," says Philippe "To live a full life, that is the goal. Use your know-how. Try to shake the system. Stop being a spectator. Look in the stars. Keep your feet in the mud, but rise."
The ranks of biodegradable plastics have been growing by leaps and bounds during the past few years. Starch based plastics are being used in the manufacture of dog toys, and biodegradable coffins even made an appearance at Salone Satellite 2003 in Milan. Now, Shrimp Shell Plastic and plastics made from other crustaceans is poised to be the next big thing. Would shark attack shrimp surfboards more than usual?
All Automotive design students should check out the 2004 Interior Motives Design Awards. All entries must be recieved by May 31st.
Salt of the Earth
Anyone stuck in a rut should check out what exposure to years of sea water and repainting does to a fleet of sugar tankers. Marshall Sokoloff, a Canadian photographer has recorded a beautiful gallery of the ships. His website, Blurbism has some other great textural images.
Get yourself to SanFrancisco, and get your zeitgeist on: the Wired Nextfest is the best place to get juiced up on buzzwords like bluetooth, RSS, and anything that gets included in every second year ID student's flashlight project (What's the screen for? Oh, it's for the newsfeed. Obviously.) If you're totally lost, that's because we're rambling in our "super-cool-conference deprivation" - see note in previous post. If you are within 200 miles of California, you would be out of your mind not to go. And Thursday May 14th is free to students. The con runs May 14th - 16th at the Fort Mason Center. And, as always, we would be eternally grateful...
Concrete has been used in the past as a design material, in everything from jewelery to countertops. But the massive weight of the material has been a prohibitive element in its use for things like chairs and indore furniture. Now, two groups have develooped concrete blends that may saolve this problem. Aquagel concrete and
Hyssil concrete both produce a final material that is up to 1/2 the weight of standard concrete, while maintaining the same strength, and up to 5 times the insulating ability. Additionally, these methods use no non-biodegradable aggregate (like expanded styrene pellets), and they are readily recycled.
Who Needs Airbags?
Researchers at Australia's Adelaide University have developed a protective headband for protection from brain injury in car accidents. Australia apparently doesn't blow through cars quite like the US, and therefor, safety innovations can take time to become commonplace. The headband described in the study could be made as effective as an airbag, the researchers claim. Listen to an interview on Australian radio with the creators. Who wouldn't want to be safe in cars if they got to look this sexy?
Brand out of Hand
Branding is a beautiful thing. It can make users of your product feel proud of their choices, build identification of your line with whatever qualities you feel are important, and generally do good things for your product's sense of purpose. But sometimes it can go horribly wrong. We believe this fate has befallen Gucci. We love their well crafted bags, sassy footware, and tres chic home furnishings. We were willing to overlook their goat hair doggy bed (it's gotta be comfortable if it's goat right?). The $2,200 surfboard a few years ago made us fairly uneasy. But their latest conquest, $60 Gucci ice trays are too much for us to bear.
So, as our first open discussion forum, what are your thoughts on branding? Love it? Loathe it? Couldn't care less? And how far is too far? Take a stand.
ICFF 2004 opens in New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on May 15th. Exhibitors from all over the world will be there to show off the latest developments in furniture and furnishings. We can't go (that working thing is such a drag), but if anyone takes pictures, we'd love to post them. The show runs until the 18th.
Good Taste Indeed
Philadelphia University's School of Architecture and Design will open "designwithgoodtaste" today, Friday, May 7, at the Marketplace Design Center, 2400 Market Street, Philadelphia. This is the first year that the Senior design show has been held at this location, and it should be worth a look. Digital, Graphic and Industrial Design Senior work will be exhibited, and prizes for the best designs will be awarded.
Check out this hot new TV accessory. In fact, we've never heard of a TV accessory until now, but the idea is pretty nice - rather than hiding the TV in a cabinet while you have a party, the Groove Tube turns your set into a miniature Saturday Night Fever floor! Except you can't dance on it.
If the Shoe...Adjusts?
You might have thought that trainers with integrated computers died in 1980. Or, you might have been sure in 1985, with the Micropacer. But, you would have been wrong. Adidas, forever restless with the idea that shoes should be able to think for themselves, has once again outdone itself. The Adidas 1 (free NY Times signup req.) not only has a computer, and buttons like it's predecessors, but it has a motorized tensioning system and sensors that allow it to adjust the "Ride" or springiness of the shoe mid-run. At $250 bucks a pair, Dominic, one of our writers who also did some running in his day doesn't have any idea how these would be better than his $30 Asics, but the way we see it, if somebody wants to buy the Tag Heuer, somebody will want these.
If You Can't Make it Fake it
If you saw the price tag for the new Tag Heuer we just wrote about, you might be tempted to look for a cheaper option. If you've got the cash, however, check out these fake Rolex watches and counterfeit Omegas. They're a great way to learn about how to pick out a fake, and also to get an idea of the ridiculous amount of work that goes into making one of these well crafted timepieces. And, if you do buy the real one, and have some extra change lying around, you could always give it to somebody who would appreciate it.
Watch Hits Below the Belt
The new Tag Heuer Basel 2004 is a watch pretty much unlike anything we've ever seen. First, it's got more windows than a Mies office building. Second, the weighted winder is not only linear, but also visible. But we mostly don't get why you would put a belt drive in a watch. Other than "it looks good". Real good.
May The Force Be With Us?
PC gaming has for years been littered with peripherals of all sorts. One of the most intriguing is the force feedback joystick. Getting physical feedback from your computer is not only exciting, it’s also becoming extinct. Microsoft discontinued its Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 recently, and rumors have it that Saitek might be discontinuing theirs as well, leaving Logitech as the only major manufacturer. If these discontinuations are indicative of the interaction gaming market, we might never see interactive products like those portrayed in the 1990 flick Total Recall! Short changed again!
Audi This World
Following in Lexus's success with their amazing concept for Minority Report, German auto maker Audi presents it's first concept designed specifically for film. The unbelievable RSQ
steals the show from co-stars with Will Smith in this summer's I, Robot. It's based on a totally futurized version of the Audi LeMans coupe - With spherical wheels no less! But hold on, this movie's set in 2035...weren't we supposed to have flying cars by now. Why do we feel like we're getting short changed?
No More Clammy Hands
If you're tired of half dried drippy hands that can sometimes result from electric hand dryers, then rejoice in the developement of the high speed hand dryer from Mitsubishi. They claim that they can dry a hand in 5 seconds, which is breakneck speed compared to the 30 seconds with the previous designs. We kind of like the way the world dryer heated up your hands while you were sitting there waiting for them to dry. I guess we'll have to see it to make our final verdict.
Dresser Gets His Due
Christopher Dresser, a groundbreaking designer of the late 1800s will have an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York through July 29. Dresser was an early adopter of the arts and craft philosophy, and his skill with metalwork is considered so advanced that he beat the Bauhaus artists to the punch by more than 40 years. His pottery designs are also known around the world. For hours, and information, visit The Cooper Hewitt online. And if you get to go, tell us about it.
Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team