Home | Feed aggregator

Feed aggregator

Hilariously Risqué Holiday Party Costumes by YourSassyGrandma

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Etsy seller YourSassyGrandma seems pretty sassy indeed: Their store sells a line of "Ugly Christmas sweaters and more," where the "more" pertains to holiday costumes that integrate parts of human anatomy.

I have to say it doesn't work as well for the guys, although the reindeer at least gets some fur:

In these shots I assume the men's nipples are supposed to resemble ornaments, but I think they need more bling:

Apparently the first photo shows the hot seller, as they're currently sold out: "Looking for the Reindeer boob sweater?" they write. "We are making [more]."

The Hollywood Technology Kicking Shoe Design Into a New Dimension

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

After more than a century in the footwear design business, New Balance has a history of creating some of the most iconic shoes in the world of sport and fashion. From the timeless 990 running shoe, to the fashionable New Balance 574, the Massachusetts-headquartered company has consistently earned its stripes in the $55 billion global sneaker market.

Unlike other well-known sneaker brands like Nike and Adidas, which manufacture their products overseas, New Balance continues to make its shoes in the United States. With a treasure trove of new designs and updated classics on offer, it's no wonder that 'sneakerheads' around the world continue to choose New Balance.

New Balance has always been fearlessly independent, which means it always does things its own way, particularly when it comes to design. We caught up with 3D Production Manager William Vaughan, Senior Designer Dan Webb, and 3D Production Artist Kayla Roskopf, to find out how the business is revolutionizing its design process using the same technology that built the Death Star in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

What tools do you use to design the shoes we see on the shelves today?

WV: "We use a specialist 3D modeling, texturing and rendering tool called Modo. Traditionally it was used by visual effects studios to design iconic objects for movies such as the Death Star or the Batmobile, but we're now using it to create the next generation of New Balance shoes. We've also integrated a tool called Colorway into our workflow, which speeds up the process of iterating and finalizing the look of our products."

How long does it take for a shoe to go from concept to consumer?

DW: "It takes approximately 18 months for a shoe to go from concept to shelf. At New Balance we have a three-step design process: sketch reviews, a final concept debut, followed by three rounds of prototyping."

New Balance has designed shoes the same way for over 110 years. What prompted you to change the process?

WV: "I was brought into New Balance two years ago to help set up a 3D pipeline for the business. Prior to this, New Balance wasn't using 3D for the design or visualisation process at all. Everything was handled with traditional sketches and tape-ups. The team would put masking tape and paper on old shoes and sketch the designs. Initially it seemed like a good idea because it helped us to see the designs in 3D, but I soon realized we could achieve quicker and more accurate results with a 3D modeling tool."

DW: "I used to draw the designs in 2D and send them to our manufacturing partner. After a few weeks we'd receive a prototype, and only then would you get an idea of what's going on with your design. As you can imagine, this left a lot of room for misinterpretation and error. With Modo, you are able to see all sides of the design from an early stage."

KR: "Using 3D design tools was a natural progression for New Balance. Over the years we've built a reputation for challenging traditional shoemaking and pushing the boundaries of what's achievable in apparel design. By integrating 3D tools into our workflow, we're able to continue this legacy."

How did you implement the new software into your workflow?

WV: "When most companies start using a new product they don't train their staff in the right way. At New Balance we developed designated training sessions for Modo and slowly brought it into the pipeline. At first, we trialled the new software with three shoes, but within a year every shoe was being built in 3D."

DW: "It was a slow integration. Modo was initially used as an end-game visualization tool, but now we're starting to use it for the entire design process. We have a lab at New Balance that gathers data and applies it to 3D form, which gives us a good base from which to visualize the designs."

What are the main benefits of designing in 3D?

KR: "The quality of footwear coming out of New Balance speaks for itself. 3D software has helped us push the boundaries of our designs and cater to a wider variety of customer needs. The forms and texturing are getting so much more complicated; it's just not possible to do it by hand anymore."

DW: "When I was working in 2D, my main concern was always how my 2D drawings would translate into the final product. There was always a lot of back and forth between the manufacturer. With Modo you can visualise a design and spin it around while you're designing it. You don't have to wait for it to come back from the factory to see how it would look in 3D."

WV: "Another key driver is that it reduces the number of physical samples needed. The speed at which you can work in Modo makes everything so much easier."

Why did you choose Modo over other 3D tools?

WV: "I've trained 3D artists for over 25 years and I've never seen someone go from zero knowledge to production quality work as quickly as I have with Modo. Someone who's never touched 3D might think there's a lot to learn, but it's amazing how quickly these skills can be picked up in Modo."

KR: "We do a lot of material work at New Balance—complex shading on surfaces, for example. The UV tools in Modo are really strong and keep getting better and better. It makes the job painless and so much more efficient."

DW: "The render engine in Modo is awesome. When you work in a program like Rhino, the rendering can often look a bit flat. With Modo, your design looks great right out of the gate."

You mentioned a tool called Colorway. Can you explain what this is and how you use it to design shoes?

WV: "We have been working with Colorway to help speed up our workflow. It allows us to iterate through multiple designs and styles without having to do more rendering. Our color team can work with Colorway to do the color-ups and different variations of a shoe, without having to learn how to use Modo just to do the coloring. It's growing across the company and I believe it will play a massive part in New Balance's pipeline in the future."

What does the future hold for New Balance?

WV: "Since I joined the company two years ago, New Balance has completely transformed the way it designs its products. Using 3D tools like Modo hasn't altered the DNA of the company; we still create the iconic shoes that people have fallen in love with over the years. The difference is that we now have a platform on which to propel New Balance into a new era of apparel design. We have a team of designers that is equipped with the right tools to be quicker, more creative and efficient than ever before. It's truly an exciting time for the company."


Modo is an award-winning 3D modeling, texturing and rendering tool from visual effects software developer Foundry. Leading artists choose Modo for creating real-time content in product design, games and VR, iterating on concepts and bringing bold ideas to life.

Designers and Scientists Proved Collaboration is Key at Biofabricate 2017

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

At this point, it's no secret we're killing our planet at a frighteningly rapid pace. With plastic and other toxic materials polluting our oceans and infiltrating our air supply, it's more important now than ever for designers and scientists to develop scalable solutions to help reverse the bad habits we've created on both the producer and consumer levels.

To that note, tucked away in Brooklyn's New Lab was last week's Biofabricate conference. Bringing together the best in bio materials innovation, the fourth-annual Biofabricate focused on starting and continuing a dialogue between scientists, academics and designers and reinforcing the importance of collaboration within the biofabrication realm.

Key highlights of the 1-day conference included the presentations, of course, but also included the announcement of a new partnership between Biofabricate and Parley for the Oceans (who you may remember from their collaboration with adidas) and Biofabricate's exhibition space, which featured material works from exciting projects around the world. 

The conference itself was divided into five sessions. The first of the five was "Designing for Health" where Richard Beckett of Arch-T and SynDeBio gave a fascinating talk on designing architectural structures that encourage plant growth instead of avoiding it as most buildings do. This particular session and its speakers focused on community and living spaces, which you don't typically come to mind when you think of biofabrication—it's generally thought of on a smaller-scale.

The following session was all about "Turning Problems Into Solutions," and the main problem addressed by speakers Cyrill Gutsch of Parley for the Oceans and Molly Morse of Mango Materials was plastic. From Gutsch's perspective, we need to focus less on recycling plastic and focus more on ending its use entirely. "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is an outdated model that Gutsch has replaced with "AIR," which stands for "Avoid, Intercept, Redesign." So, instead of repurposing plastics, we need to be completely redesigning them from the start.

Session three, titled "Collaboration Driving Innovation," focused on designers and scientists joining forces to address environmental problems. Liz Ciokajlo of OurOwnsKIN and Maurizio Montalti of Officina Corpuscoli and MOGU explained in detail the MarsBoot they created for MoMA's Is Fashion Modern? exhibition and how their collaboration with each other and outside scientists was an integral part of bringing their project to life. Natsai Chieza of Faber Futures then gave a presentation about her residency at Boston's Ginkgo Bioworks, where she worked with Ginkgo's team of scientists to develop a new strain of bacteria that produces the pigments she uses in her bacterial fabric dyeing process.

The fourth session entitled "Evolving Materials" covered everything from Modern Meadow's liquid leather ZOA to apples designed to remain fresh and never brown. Ecovative's Eben Bayer also came to the stage to discuss his mycelium materials and kits—as one of the longest standing companies within that realm, it was especially fascinating to hear about how Bayer kept Ecovative going strong through tough economic times.

The conference appropriately concluded with a session on "Growing the Future," where speakers focused on the biofabrication business from two angles—how to successfully grow a biofabrication company and key companies currently supporting biofabrication, such as Miroslava Duma's New York Fashion Tech Lab. This last session left things on a positive note and encouraged attendees to reach outside of their realm to work with unexpected partners.

Sadly, we missed out on the cricket-themed workshop, but maybe next year. 

Functional Material Architectures"Interactive living materials at the intersection of design, technology and life sciences," developed by Architect Laia Mogas and Engineer Giusy Matzeu at the Tufts BME Silklab.Photo credit: Core77Functional Material ArchitecturesThese macro-lattice prototypes are based on geometric basketry patterns. To create the delicate shapes, silk-based biomaterial inks were extruded through a computer-controlled extrusion system. Presented as an alternative to fuel-based plastics, this material is biodegradable and its resulting forms are tough, eleasic and even edible.Photo credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesThis materials exploration by Officina Corpuscoli / Maurizio Montalti addresses the complicated process of standardizing technical and experimental qualities of naturally growing materials, specifically mycelium-based composite. Is this process even fully possible?Photo credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesA closer look at a few different varieties of mycelium-based composites Montalti and his team worked with.Photo credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesPhoto credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesPhoto credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesPhoto credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesThis diagram examines the properties of four mycelium-based composites (A2, A3, B7 and B8).Photo credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesDifferent varieties of mycelium-based materials can be created by varying the substrates the fungal filaments are cultivated on. For example, if fungal filaments are cultivated on wood and heat compressed, the result will have very different properties than fungal filaments cultivated on straw without heat compression.Photo credit: Core77Fungal Curiosities—Understanding Mycelium Based CompositesPhoto credit: Core77View the full gallery here

Today's Urban Design Observation: Neat Sidewalk Feature on Crosby Street

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

There's a lot of unassuming buildings on Crosby Street in SoHo, but I know this one in particular because a certain famous rock star lived there, and a training brother of mine works in carpentry and got hired for a job there, and one of his crew members accidentally fucked up this rock star's window treatment and had to race to fix it before the rock star returned.

Anyways, there's a nifty feature on the sidewalk in front of this building. You can't really appreciate it during the day, but at dawn, dusk and at night, you see these:

Admittedly they serve no real purpose, unless you live in the building and are trying to guide a friend there who cannot read building addresses, but I think they're a nice little touch. Hats off to the architect.

Jonathan Ive is Back in Charge of the Design Teams at Apple

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Good news: Jonathan Ive, who was famously promoted to Chief Design Officer of Apple two years ago, is officially overseeing the design teams again. As CDO Ive's attention was spread onto the design of Apple's "spaceship" campus, with Alan Dye and Richard Howarth taking over the hardware and software design teams. But now, Bloomberg reports,

"With the completion of Apple Park, Apple's design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design," Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.

Some months ago I'd read rumors that Ive was looking to ease his way out of the company, and I'm glad to see that they were just rumors. Here's to hoping Ive can right the ship.

The Quartz is a Brilliant, Self-Cleaning Reusable Water Bottle

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

I had a transparent reusable water bottle I used to bring to my training hall, but I stopped using it because these gross black dots were forming on the inside near the bottom and they were difficult to scrub out, even with a bristle brush.

The developers of the Quartz Bottle know this problem well, so they designed a self-cleaning bottle:

This is a brilliant idea, and I'm sad to have missed the IndieGogo campaign. The Quartz was 4,580% funded and should be rolling out in June of 2018. Retail units will reportedly be available for $99, and I'll be one of the first in line.

How Fast Can a Christmas Tree Catch on Fire?

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Each year about 200 families in America will experience Christmas tree fires, proving to their children that Santa Claus does not love them.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the culprits are usually faulty or overloaded lighting and/or placing the tree too close to a heat source. But by simply watering your tree daily, you can vastly reduce the chances that your tree will completely go up in smoke. A watered tree will still burn, but may give you time to do something about it; on the other hand when a dry tree catches ablaze, it really catches ablaze. Here's the difference:

Pretty freaking dramatic, and that dry tree fire would've been even worse if they'd followed my family's tradition of giving each other wrapped boxes of oily rags as presents.

Anyways I was going over the NFPA stats on Christmas tree fires and found this bizarre statistic, buried down at the bottom of the page:

One quarter (24%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.


Every year 50 families intentionally torch their own trees? How unhappy with your gift do you have to be to express that level of displeasure?

3Coil Design's Crane Knife Portable Scalpel and Puna Multitool

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Most designers have an X-Acto knife either well within reach, or in a drawer nearby. London-based design firm 3Coil uses scalpels instead, finding the blades tough, handy and "incredibly useful around the studio," so decided to design their own version.

They came up with the Crane Knife, an elegant and portable folding design:

The "Crane" was the first knife we made, and it proved so useful in our day-to-day lives, we never left home without it. We thought that its small size would mean it would only be used as an emergency back-up, but the more we used it, the more we realised its small size was its main strength – and it is now our 'go to' tool for all jobs requiring a sharp edge.

Their folding design solves my biggest gripe about the standard X-Acto, which is that there's no easy way to put the blade away. The Crane's convenient folding form factor is a great idea and allows you to safely keep the knife in a pocket.

Next 3Coil designed the Puna multi-tool, whose functionality is better demonstrated by video:

While the Puna will have utility for some, here we see where the X-Acto has the edge: It's easy to change the blade on an X-Acto with just your hands, whereas the Puna requires you to unscrew the mini-screwdriver, remove two screws, swap the blade, then retighten the two screws. That's five screwing steps for the Puna versus two for the X-Acto. I know it seems minor, but I find that when there are added steps between using a dull tool and a sharp one, I'll often subconsciously put off getting to sharp. (The Crane blade is swapped via a pair of pliers, by the way.)

A more pointed (no pun intended) issue may be the assault rifle form factor of the Puna, which could prove divisive in the U.S. market. For some Americans, assault rifles are viewed as a locally commonplace tool and part of their hobby. For others it is a symbol of evil. Debate between the two camps is typically both unmeasured and unproductive.

So my question is, do you think that by choosing this form factor, the designers have reduced potential sales? That there are people in the latter camp who might find the Puna useful, but will reject it out of hand due to the symbolism?

In any case, the Kickstarter campaign for both the Crane and the Puna is underway, and at press time they were at $67,812 in pledges towards a $106,720 goal, with 37 days left.

MOO's Director of Product Design Toby Hextall Shares His "Office Necessities" Ultimate Gift Guide

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Toby Hextall is the Director of Product Design at MOO where he leads the team tasked with concepting, creating and delivering all of MOO’s products and packaging.

View the full content here

Join Core77 in Las Vegas at Our CES Design Lounge! 

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Those of you that have navigated the insanity that is the Consumer Electronics Show understand the importance of taking regular breaks to decompress throughout the day. For this year's CES, our team will be hosting a cozy Design Lounge at the Design & Source Showcase in the Las Vegas Convention Center to help with just that. The space will be equal parts coffee bar, lounge and event space, where we encourage you to meet with clients, stop by for a coffee or even just chill out, charge your devices and meditate for a minute. 

As part of our Design Lounge experience, we'll be hosting a series of presentations where design leaders will approach the theme "Design Driven Innovation" from various angles. 

From left: speakers Fred Bould, Chris Murray, Pip Tompkin and Jordon Nollman

Fred Bould of Bould Design will speak on what it's like to work with Silicon Valley start-ups, Chris Murray of Bresslergroup will discuss the importance of thorough research, Pip Tompkin of Pip Tompkin Design will touch on designing analogue products for a digital age and Jordon Nollman of Sprout Studios will be addressing a topic on many designers' minds—the process of crowdfunding.

We look forward to meeting all of you that make it out to CES next month!

Visit our event page to learn more about the Core77 Design Lounge at CES.Register for CES here if you haven't done so already!

Reader Submitted: Eight Toasters that Compete for Your Attention Through Different "Personalities"

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Imagine a world where objects compete for our attention and evolve for human interaction. The home is the battleground for product superiority and attention of the human figure—and on managing newness, human desire, and waste, the product sphere has entered a crisis of behavior. For the human gaze is an empowering force—we wield the power to create, and make waste, of objects around us. Instead of having to force attachment to products which we do not enjoy using, we should instead have the products we use designed to adapt to our attention.

Here I have created eight toasters; a metaphor for wasteful objects in the home, and present a future in which our appliances use personality to compete for our attention, lest they be thrown out and neglected.

The Cradle Toaster - Domesticated Object
Crumb Toaster - Domesticated Object
Free Toaster - Commensalistic Object
Free Toaster - Commensalistic ObjectCharge Toaster - Commensalistic Object
Detect Toaster - Predatory Object
Lift Toaster - Predatory Object
Latch Toaster - Parasitic Object
Service Toaster - Parasitic Object
View the full project here

Design Job: Design Everything from Furniture to Footwear to Furillas as Product Development Firm FUSE's Mechanical Engineer

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Award winning Industrial design and product development firm in Portland, OR is looking for a clever degreed mechanical engineer to conceive, verify and model design concepts in preparation for prototyping and production. Our ideal candidate must be comfortable working as the sole engineer as well as collaborating heavily with industrial designers competent in mechanical design. The position involves efficient 3D CAD modeling of visual designs into able to be manufactured components.

View the full design job here

Today's Urban Design Observation: Weird SoHo Garbage

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Spotted with the curbside trash on Crosby Street:

And someone couldn't help themselves and scrawled a little note on it:

If you look at the first two photos, you'll see they also circled and underlined "douche."

Prototyping a Martial Arts Training Aid

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Upon request, I've been prototyping a martial arts training aid for my instructor. One of the arts he teaches is called Baguazhang. This is a Chinese internal martial art, similar to Tai Chi, but whereby the practitioner moves in circular patterns.

My instructor explained that for certain exercises, it is helpful to have a visual reference point for the center of the circle one is following. Some practitioners will draw a circle on the ground using chalk. Others, if practicing outdoors, will use a tree.

Not having a tree in his apartment, my instructor asked if I could make him something that would hold a 6.5-foot pole vertically that he could use in his apartment or while teaching seminars and classes. He travels internationally for this.

First I thought about what this object should look like. The symbol of Bagua is called the trigram and it looks like this:

So that seemed an obvious shape for the base. I drew the plans up in CAD and cut it on a ShopBot.

I added through-holes to each layer so I could align them using dowels. I'm using 3/4-inch plywood and figured the three circular layers would provide enough support to hold a pole vertical, and if not I could add more. I wasn't sure about sizing but was mindful that my instructor would occasionally carry this around, so I didn't want it to be too large. I also didn't want it to be too small or it might tip over. I settled on eight inches in width since an octagon has eight sides, and I am a bit of a simpleton.

That was the first version. Here I'll walk you through how it works and how I arrived at the fourth version a week later.

In the photo below, on the left is version 1. On the right is version 4. Versions 2 and 3 were mechanical models that I did not bother to cut the trigram into, I'll get into those in a minute.

So for the first prototype I sized the hole precisely to a particular pole for a friction fit. But then I realized there was two, actually three, problems to this approach.

The first problem is that wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, which is why doors or drawers in your house that close well in winter can start to stick in summer. So this particular pole fits this particular hole perfectly right now, but in summer the pole will swell and no longer fit. The second problem is that my instructor travels internationally to teach. I'd like this pole stand to be something he can throw into a bag to bring with him, but getting a 6.5-foot pole onto an airplane would be a hassle.

It would be better if he could simply throw the base into a bag, then use whatever pole was handy at his destination. My thinking was that he could use a pole or spear someone else had brought, or even a mop handle, or just go into a local hardware store and buy a dowel for a couple of bucks or Euros. But wooden dowels are inconsistent. For example both of these, below, are sold in my local hardware store as 1-1/4" diameter, but my caliper says one of them is closer to 1-1/8", and as you can probably see in the photo, neither of them is actually round. That could make for a sloppy fit.

So the third problem is one of size. What I needed was to make a stand that would securely hold an inconsistent variety of dowel diameters. And I say "securely" because I'm thinking about how my instructor would actually use this thing: At some point he might interrupt the circle-walking drill to demonstrate something with a partner, at which point he'd probably grab the pole and temporarily move it out of the way. It would be annoying if he grabbed the pole and it popped out of the stand, and he'd then have to lean the pole against something and kick the base aside to get it out of the way, then do his demo, then move the pole and base back into place and reassemble. That would be bad UX. So the connection should be firm enough that once inserted, the pole stays inserted and it can be picked up without disconnecting. That would be good UX.

So I made a couple of mechanical models. At lower right you can see the cutouts for version 2, a failed test that used a rotating cam to lock or unlock the pole into place. That one was a failure, being so fiddly and inconsistent that I didn't even bother to photograph it before trashing it. At top right you can see version 3, where I struck upon the idea of a wedge. That seemed to work well in my tests so I incorporated the wedge into version 4.

Here I've placed a much smaller dowel (3/4" in diameter) into the base of version 4. You can see that it doesn't fit well and sits at an angle. Stretch that angle up 6.5 feet and you've got a non-vertical pole.

That's why I made version 4 with a series of steps cut into this notch, which forms a 20-degree angle traveling downwards. I've lightened the photo in an effort to show the steps. (You'll also notice I've added a weird protrusion to the circles, breaking the geometry, because I needed some more "meat" in that spot. You'll see why in a second.)

With this design I can insert this wedge that I cut to 20 degrees…

…which then securely holds even this narrow 3/4" dowel in place, and dead-vertical.

It will also hold a variety of sizes, from 3/4" up to a 1-1/4" dowel. To lock the wedge in place you simply step on it with your foot. The connection is secure enough that you can pick the stand up by the pole, and in fact is so tight that you cannot remove the wedge with your fingers. Instead you twist the pole out to remove it, then the wedge comes loose and can easily be removed.

The next problem was how to store the wedge during transport. While it fits inside the base like this…

…it makes the shape bulkier and less bag-friendly, and I figured the wedge could fall out in transport and get lost, rendering the entire object useless. That would be bad UX.

So I inserted a couple of neodymium magnets into both the wedge...

...and the base.

Then the wedge just sticks to the base for transport. It's not exactly elegant-looking, but the connection is strong enough that the parts will not shake apart in a bag.

Better UX, but I had to sacrifice some aesthetics. It irks me that the wedge does not harmonize visually with the rest of the design, and it obscures the trigram when stored. For a future version I'll have to come up with a better way to store the wedge. I thought about recessing it into a cavity in the underside of the base with magnets but that raises some other problems that need to be solved first.

Anyways, this version works well enough so I'll call it done for now. I'm giving it to my instructor on Wednesday and hopefully I'll have some feedback in a few weeks' time, and can then work on improving the design.

Thanks for reading, and if you've documented some design projects of your own, feel free to share it in the "Projects" section!

New, Brain-Breaking Optical Illusion: These Lines are All the Same Shape

Core 77 - 13 hours 15 min ago

Looks like we're still figuring out new ways to trick our eyes. Take a look at this image and tell us what you see:

Well, turns out those lines are all actually the same shape. The illusion is revealed when the background color is either black or white:

As it turns out, this 'curvature blindess illusion," developed by professor Kohske Takahashi of Japan's Chukyo University, might be of use to designers creating 3D objects. According to Discover magazine,

Takahashi proposes that the brain's visual system may default to seeing corners when there ambiguity over whether a line is a smooth curve or not….The "zig-zag" lines in the illusion are the ones in which the color of the wavy line changes from dark grey to light grey at the 'corners' i.e. the peaks and troughs of the curve. It is only seen against a medium grey background however, suggesting that what matters is that the color of the wavy lines shifts from being lighter than the background, to being darker than it.Takahashi notes that the illusion involves a sense of depth: the "zig-zag" lines look a bit like a surface, or wall, going into and out of the page, and the changing color of the wavy line suggests shadows. However, further experiments revealed that depth perception is not the driving force behind the effect.

Why Engineers Need to Pay More Attention to Fonts

Design News - Tue, 2017-12-12 04:55

Remember two spaces after the period? A lot of people once took this as a hard and fast grammatical rule. In reality it had nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with engineering.

For obvious mechanical reasons, old typewriters were designed with only one font (we call it Courier today). The block fonts used in typewriters didn't have the best spacing so typists would put a second space after every period in order to increase readability. Now that we have PCs and a plethora of well-designed fonts to choose from, two spaces are no longer necessary.

Vivek Vadakkuppattu, product management director for AR/VR and IoT at Monotype, told the audience at ESC Silicon Valley that fonts will play an increasingly critical role in engineering devices. (Image source: Design News).

But that doesn't mean that discussions over fonts and typefaces are over. Speaking at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley, Vivek Vadakkuppattu, product management director for AR/VR and IoT at Monotype, said that the proliferation of screen devices like smartphones, tablets, and wearables, as well as emerging technologies like VR, AR, and even connected vehicles, should be making engineers think about fonts more than ever.

Monotype is a Massachusetts-based firm that focuses on font design and its application to technology. Through research conducted in conjunction with the MIT AgeLab Vadakkuppattu and his colleagues are seeking the best ways to implement text in several emerging use cases, most notably in industrial IoT, automotive, and medical devices. “Human-Machine Interfaces [HMIs] have a visual piece, but also a text piece,” Vadakkuppattu said. “This is something we get asked a lot. What can we do from a HMI standpoint to make text more usable? Can we do something to make text easier to process?”

In automotive and medical applications in particular, the role of text becomes all the more critical. If a user spends too much time reading text or if the text is too illegible that means time spent away from a much more important task – like driving or caring for a patient. For designers and engineers this also involves balancing legibility with the unique brand identity of a device or product.

“Think of your favorite brand like Tesla,” Vadakkuppattu said. “They have a unique look and feel. How do preserve that while ensuring legibility? It's a pretty hard balance to get to but it is critical.”

What Vadakkuppattu was discussing would seem obvious, but he said there has been surprisingly little in the way of hard scientific research done into how fonts impact the usability of devices. In 2012, Monotype published the results of a study done with MIT that showed the impact of font on glance time. Essentially, the researchers found that choosing the right font can significantly reduce distractions as well as “visual demand” on users.

In their study the researchers had subjects sit in a driving simulator with a touchscreen text display mounted above the dashboard. As the subjects drove they were prompted with a series of GPS-like menus, asking them to perform tasks like selecting a correct address from a list after a prompt. The researchers compared two fonts – TrueType versions of humanist (Frutiger) and square grotesque (Eurostile) – and measured various indicators such as glance time, error rate, distance of readability, and physical strain (how often a subjected blinked) for each font. Results showed that the “humanist” typeface resulted in a 10.6% lower visual demand in men and 3.1% lower error rate in men and women compared to the “square grotesque” typeface.

For Vadakkuppattu this brings up a number of considerations for interface design. “Can we do things differently from a design standpoint to cater to different audiences?” he asked. Meaning, is it possible for designers and engineers to develop devices that can be customized and personalized based on a number of user qualities, from native language to even age.

Making a font legible relies on a number of factors Vadakkuppattu told the audience. Inter-character spacing plays a role, as well as the openness of shapes, “For example, a more open “C” versus a more closed one makes it easier to figure out what that character is,” he said. Varying proportions and creating unambiguous forms are also key factors. It's the reason someone reading this can tell “9” is the number nine and not the lowercase letter “g.”

A study done by Monotype and MIT AgeLAb placed subjects in a driving simulator with a dashboard display and found  that font selection had a signficant impact on glance time. (Image source: Monotype / MIT AgeLab)

And with all this comes a number of challenges, beyond the quality of text. Vadakkuppattu discussed the challenge of localization with fonts as well. “When transitioning from English to Chinese, for example, you talking about going from 26 characters to almost 30,000,” he said. “And even the orientation of reading changes depending on the language. In the Indian language the way you shape a character depends on what characters it is surrounded by. There's a lot of complexity and having an operating system can do this for you, but there are things like medical devices that have no operating system.”

And technologies like VR, AR, and mixed reality are bringing their own unique challenges, as well. “With VR you want typefaces that blend in with the application,” Vadakkuppattu said. “But with AR and mixed reality you have no way of predicting the background – it could be anything. So the question then becomes how do you build an interface that can scale to different backgrounds.”

For engineers looking to develop in in this space today Vadakkuppattu advised that there a lot of open-source options for VR and AR fonts, as well as a variety of AR software development kits (SDKs) out there. Montotype and MIT AgeLab are also part of a growing network of companies and institutions looking into this issue called the Clear Information Presentation (Clear-IP) Consortium that was formed to “examine issues of typographic and visual design through a scientific lens, while always keeping an eye on the practical applications of the research.”

Various factors that lend to font legibilty also create challenges for engineers in designing HMIs for devices. (Image source: Monotype / MIT AgeLab) 

Asked about moving to other modes of user communication such as audio or voice over text Vadakkuppattu admitted they could be more useful in certain use cases, for example when you have a user who is vision impaired or disabled. However, these modalities also come with their own challenges, such as creating clear, understandable audio across a variety of use cases.

For now, Vadakkuppattu said, focusing on text is the best way forward in order to tackle a wide range of industries. “As we look to design HMIs for the future it's going to be increasingly important that we are making the right decisions in terms of font and technology so we can make things that can scale,” he said.  

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at Design News, covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics. 

Ultra-Thin Solar Cell Is Waterproof, Stretchable for Repeated Wash and Use

Design News - Tue, 2017-12-12 02:00

Researchers continue to search for new, lightweight, and renewable ways to power wearable devices and sensor-filled clothing for tracking health, fitness, and providing other types of data.

A research team in Japan has invented a good candidate for one with an ultra-thin photovoltaic device that is both stretchable and waterproof, making it well-suited to repeated washing and wear. This makes it potentially a good fit to provide renewable power for devices such as health monitors and other sensors integrated with clothing.

The scientists from RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science and the University of Tokyo coated the device on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, which can continue to provide electricity from sunlight even after becoming wet and being stretched and compressed.

“For potential applications of textile-compatible power sources, they need to withstand several washing processes,” said Kenjiro Fukuda, a RIKEN researcher and co-author of a paper on the work published in the journal Nature Energy. “[This use] requires waterproof and stretchable solar cells.”


An ultra-thin photovoltaic device invented by scientists from RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science and the University of Tokyo that is both stretchable and waterproof, making it well-suited to repeated washing and wear. Researchers said it a good fit to provide renewable power for devices such as health monitors and other sensors integrated with clothing. (Source: RIKEN)


For their work, researchers used thin and flexible organic photovoltaic cells based on a material called PNTz4T, which they had developed in earlier research. They deposited the device in an inverse architecture—also previously developed—onto a 1-um-thick parylene film.

Then the team added what Fukuda said is the “uniqueness” of their work—placing the device onto acrylic-based elastomer and coating the top side of the device with an identical elastomer, giving it a coating on both sides to prevent water infiltration.

“The idea is to coat ultra-thin--3-micron-thick--on both sides with elastomers that simultaneously realize stretchability and stability in water while maintaining a high efficiency [of] 7.9% for maximum value,” he told Design News. “We believe that the ultra-thin organic solar cells coated with elastomer sheets should be envisaged for practical wearable applications to add stretchability to the devices and protect them from both environmental and mechanical damage caused by scratching, shearing, and squeezing.”

The elastomer allows both light to enter while preventing water and air from leaking into the cells, making them more long-lasting than in previous experiments by the team, Fukuda said. In experiments, researchers generated up to 15 megaWatts using solar cells on 5 cm-by-5 cm films. Increasing the film size enables higher power, he added.

Researchers plan to continue their work to address two key areas of criticism for their current invention—to achieve higher energy-conversion efficiency as well as improved air stability, Fukada said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.


Viral Video: Creative Kids Hilariously Spoof Victoria's Secret Runway Show--in the Jungle

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-12 00:44

The provenance of this is unclear, but this Vietnamese Facebook account has posted this video of some very creative kids spoofing a Victoria's Secret catwalk event. The creativity is pretty astonishing:

Talk about using local materials!

I've scrolled through the comments hoping to find the creators' names, but most of the text is in Vietnamese and I was unable to discover the source. If any of our Vietnamese-literate readers discover who created this, please let us know so we can credit them!

Sam Bompas of Bompas & Parr Shares His "Go Big or Go Home" Ultimate Gift Guide

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-12 00:44

Bompas & Parr is globally recognized as the leading expert in multi-sensory experience design. The studio works with commercial brands, artistic institutions, private clients and governments to deliver emotionally compelling experiences to a wide variety of audiences. Sam Bompas and Harry Parr first came to prominence through their expertise in jelly-making, but the business rapidly grew into a fully fledged creative studio offering food and drink design, brand consultancy and immersive experiences across a diverse number of industries.

View the full content here

Today's Urban Design Observation: Police Barricade Upcycle Fail

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-12 00:44

This here is your standard NYPD barricade.

They link together by having hooks on one end and loops on the other.

The police use these to block areas off for parades and street festivals. Sometimes when they come to pick them all up, they leave one or two behind, so these aren't terribly difficult to steal.

So, someone in my neighborhood got their hands on one, and either broke the feet off or the feer were already broken off. And they tried to build their own stand for it using 2x4s and all-thread.

They took the time to dado out the upper 2x4 on each side, and bent one of the all-thread bolts over, presumably in an effort to strengthen the connection.

If you look closely, you can see that they tried to use screws to contact the bottom rail in an effort to prevent it from rotating, in the manner of a grub screw.

This has obviously failed, and the thing does not stand up. Which is presumably why it's been discarded and left out here on the sidewalk. This is a truly terrible design attempt, and I wonder how long they spent trying to get it to work.