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Reader Submitted: A Dimensional Flat-Pack Shelf with Tool-Free Assembly

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

The furniture line ORTO by zweithaler is based on a structural design principle, which results in structures that are stable without any connectors. The horizontal MDF boards of the shelf ORTO 53 are held up and locked by skewed wooden poles, which allow for flat pack delivery and tool-free mounting.

Orto 53Frontal ViewCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53DetailCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53DetailCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53DetailCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53Shelf DetailCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53Top ShelfCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53Top ViewCredit: Günther LinshalmOrto 53Flat-Pack-Delivery no tools neededCredit: Günther LinshalmView the full project here

What is the Optimal Amount of Choice Designers Should Provide?

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Designers create choices.

The working designers among you often create multiple options that non-designers must make a decision on. You present concept sketches or renderings for a client to choose between. If you work for a consumer goods company, you may be designing multiple iterations of a product, and consumers are meant to pick one of them to purchase. Tropicana offers 15 variations of orange juice; Colgate offers 47 types of toothpaste. In modern society, choice seemingly provides freedom, individualism, and ultimately, happiness.

But in actuality, having too many choices can leave people with a taste in their mouths worse than, well, orange juice and toothpaste.

End Chooser

Having choices can backfire. The 14th Century French philosopher Jean Buridan likened this to a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty, placed equidistant from a pile of hay and a pail of water. Unable to make a rational decision to choose between the two, he stands there until he expires from lack of both. Studies show that the same paralysis hits us when faced with an overwhelming amount of choice, or having to choose between complex items, or choice that has no stark differentiators, such as the donkey's hay and water.

Still, we stubbornly demand the option to choose. Your client's never going to be happy with just one rendering and no options, and customers may not want Object X if it only comes in red. So what is it that really goes on inside people's heads?

A fintech startup working on a marketplace for credit cards witnessed an interesting phenomenon during their early research. They developed a platform that guides customers to the credit card that's "perfect" for them, by matching them with their interests or spending habits. And customers love it--up until it is time to make their final choice.

In early testing, experimental users loved it when the application automatically narrowed their choice from 25 cards to eight cards, and then to five cards. But when the app provided the single best match, customers became suddenly anxious. "Is there only one?" they remarked. "Could you show me a few more like this?" So they reverted back to wanting more choice, but as they said, "Not too much!" We are left with a paradox, where users were both attracted to and repelled by choice. And it begs the question: What is the optimal amount of choice and why?

We're in a Jam

Consider a study from Columbia University psychologist Sheena Iyengar. Supermarket shoppers encountered two tasting stations of jam, one that had 24 flavors, the other six. While the 24-flavor station attracted the most shoppers, the smaller selection led to more sales – 30 percent of shoppers purchased jams from the smaller stand. In contrast, the 24-flavor station had a conversion rate of only three percent. Many studies since have proven that when you narrow choice, sales increase. But it is a bit more complicated that this simple conclusion, and Iyengar's study received debate in recent years.

There is a more nuanced point: Iyengar's study also found that shoppers were happier with their purchase when they had to decide from six options. Those who bought from the 24 choices walked away anxious, most likely because they had many more reference points with which to compare.

It turns out that when you increase the number of variations, you increase the potential that your customer will regret their choice.

This idea was further explained by behavioral economists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, who discovered that people regretted loss from an action they made, but did not regret a similar loss from inaction. This links back to the donkey and its inaction. We sometimes fall back on a decision to not choose, to do nothing at all, because we are terrified of regret, also known as loss aversion.

Live Three or Die Hard

Too much or too little choice leave users uncomfortable; the right amount of choice makes it easier for them to decide--and, importantly for brands, has them feeling great about their choice, post-decision. So what is the "Goldilocks" amount of choice? Studies show that we are able to choose effectively from no more than five options at any one time--and that three may be the magic number.

Why three? Because three provides a middle, and there is a lot of research supporting the idea that the middle item is usually the one that people pick.

When people are asked to pick a number between two numbers, they generally tend to choose a number close to the middle. And when faced with the choice of four bathroom stalls, people choose the middle two twice as often as they choose one of the outer two. Or if you offer people the choice of three highlighters, they will more than likely choose the middle one. In a row of three chairs, people will more often than not choose the middle one. And similarly in business, customers will tend to choose the mid-priced item. This is why e-commerce sites often have three pricing options—it provides a stronger prediction of what consumers will choose, and, you guessed it, it's the middle option that is most often bought. Our attraction to the middle affects our daily decisions, our purchases, our driving routes and all kinds of other actions we make somewhat unconsciously. The phenomenon is well known to social psychologists and it has a name: The 'center stage effect.'

Enter the Center

This center stage effect happens for physical as well as social reasons. First, physiologically, we are programmed to look at the middle first. Even when scanning a busy scene, a room, a painting, a computer screen, and presumably an industrial design rendering, we first focus on the middle or center before moving around the edges of that scene. So we tend to have a bias for the middle right away simply because we notice it more and attend to it for longer, and because of this we are already biased to choose the middle or center item.

Second, we have social norms that bias us to view the center as better. In one study, students were asked where they would sit in order for the professor to notice them and they picked center and up front. They were also asked where they would sit if they wanted to go unnoticed—and they picked the edges. We seemingly just know this, but in fact we have become socialized to think this way. Company leaders sit in the middle, at the head of a table. On teams, the last picks are usually from the edges of the group, and the least popular products are positioned on the top or bottom shelf, further out of reach. Of course there are functional reasons for this positioning, but the point is that it influences our decisions elsewhere, as in when we choose products or services.

Nothing about this process is rational; it is purely about balancing the irrational nature of decisions and respecting your clients' or customers' emotions.

This last point is important for all businesses to get right. Successful entrepreneurs tend to notice the things that others miss. They care about how their users feel at every step of the purchase journey. You never want to leave a customer or client feeling uncomfortable, baffled or anxious. Ultimately, understanding the irrational motivation of your end users, whoever they are, can go a long way towards determining the success of your product.

Gareth Neal on Hacking Chairs, Making at Source, and Working With Robot Arms

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

As happy crafting with a humble chisel as conducting a 6-axis CNC robotic arm as if it were his own limb, Gareth Neal makes the most of, well, everything at his disposal as a designer and maker of contemporary furniture.

Brodgar chair, Gareth Neal

Whether he's using the "waste" wood of a tree, or exploring how we can better reduce the carbon impact of objects, Neal is constantly on the lookout for better way of doing things. His efforts over the past 20 years have resulted in a body of innovative and exciting work, including collaborations with the likes of Zaha Hadid. We sat down with the designer/maker to talk about everything from collaboration to woodworking:

You make furniture using a combination of traditional hand tools and digital fabrication. What do you think are the most interesting new tools, technologies and processes out there for working with wood?

The evolution of manufacturing processes or tooling is a slow process. Rather than the question of what machinery is out there, I'm asking questions about what I can do with processes to talk about the relationship between hand and machine. So I'm looking into machines that help me make some sort of connection or continue this dialogue between the distance you get on a CNC machine or a digital technology and that close relationship you get with hand tools, and trying to find machines that enable that.

My latest work is perhaps my fascination at the moment with what I can achieve with these robotic arms. I feel that they're relatively unexplored because there's not that much access to them.

The Hack Chair from Petr Krejcí on Vimeo.

You've said one of your missions is, "To explore how digital technologies are perceived and how they do have craft within them". Do you think the CNC will be looked back on in decades, centuries or perhaps millennia as fondly as the chisel, or do you think we overly romanticize the chisel?

At the end of the day, things are superseded continually. We want the latest iPhones and the latest computers because they offer us the best ability to do things, and I think it's the same with tooling. You want the latest tooling because it opens up more opportunity with what you can achieve and the speed you can do it, and often the accuracy. CNC is just an extension of the toolbox—they just happen to be very big bits of kit.

Gareth uses a 6 axis CNC robotic arm alongside traditional tools. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

So what role and benefits are there to being taught and retaining hand-making and drawing skills when it comes to being a designer/maker for the future?

The most powerful tool is really the pencil. That's where it all begins, and it's the simplest of things. What I've experienced is there's absolutely no point in going straight to a CNC machine with an idea. That's not necessarily going to result in a new and fresh perspective on furniture by using the latest technology, because with all tools it's about understanding how they work.
You get really good at using a traditional tool, and it takes years to master certain tools, so I think it's the same with a CNC machine. I think they're all just as valid tools, and ultimately the most important thing is to have a go at mocking these things up and sketching them and trying to do it as cheaply and efficiently as you can.

I'm not interested in owning a CNC machine. I'm more interested in owning lots of hand tools so I can mock up and play around and computer model, and when I'm ready I'll do some sampling on a CNC and then I'll commit to making it.

The subtle art of timber selection. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

You've explored making furniture in the woods, through the craft of Bodging and Windsor chair making. It may seem utopian, but do you think it's possible to make products and furniture at a production scale in woodland in a way that's sensitive to nature? Or is "making at source" only the reserve of small scale batch production or one-offs?

If you look at some of the Swedish factories, they're based right next to their woodlands. It's slightly romantic to think we'll all be using pole lathes again, but actually to be able to base your factory in the center of your well-managed woodland is a very sensible idea because it cuts out so many of the trappings of the production line—the raw material to the processing plant, it takes out all of those equations.

But it takes somebody with a lot of capital to achieve that with any degree of running a successful business. And I do hope making will return to that kind of way. I do think there is a passion for reducing the carbon footprints of objects and finding ways to do so. To build at source is a way of doing this.

Gareth Neal turns his designer/maker talents to stone

You don't currently use synthetic materials in your work, but would you be open to using new, responsibly made and environmentally sustainable synthetic materials in your work?

Yeah absolutely. I think I only got stuck using wood. I wanted to be a furniture designer and didn't necessarily want to be a woodworker—that just happened to be the byproduct of the course I did, and some of the skills I picked up. And I had a bit of a natural ability to make things. I wouldn't say I'm a great maker, I just happened to pick up that set of skills. I'd absolutely love to play with other materials. I've just done some stone and cast metal things. What I don't want to do is things that suddenly stick out like a sore thumb.

George cabinet, Gareth Neal. Photo credit: James Champion. Video here.

You often blend or juxtapose traditional and contemporary aesthetics. You've developed that theme in a number of your pieces including your early Anne table and George chest and Hack Chair. Both evoking a strong sense of the past and the future. As a designer looking back, what are the most interesting periods and pieces in furniture making through the ages?

I don't understand why papier-mâché furniture didn't kick off and why we didn't continue with that. I've always thought that would be a great one to get back on with because it's essentially recycled wood pulp. There was a big period of papier-mâché furniture you can see at the V&A museum, and they're beautiful objects, super strong, really lightweight, made of paper. What could be a better credentials package than that? So that's one area I've thought I'd like to do something around.

Egyptian furniture, obviously they made some groundbreaking bits. The first chair, that's always exciting isn't it. I really dislike heavy oak solid furniture. For me English furniture design only really started to get good after 1730 because it became lightweight, less chunky and more delicate.

Hack chair, Gareth Neal. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

Your latest series "Hack chair" explores the past and the future. You mentioned previously that, "This object is like a glitch in history. It questions and challenges technique, the future and the past". Can you tell me how that project came about and why you chose the process you did?

What I discovered is that the furniture industry and the material we use on those chairs is the most undesirable bit of the tree, which is actually the heart of a tree. Flawed with splits and often used for firewood. So what you get in these timber yards are these knotty, gnarly pieces of timber that people don't want to turn into planks because they're not very clean and they're full of flaws. So they are the discarded bit of furniture making in some ways. So I thought there was something quite poetic about that.

Strikingly scorched. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

And by buying it green you're completely removing the drying process of the carbon equation, so that's another nice element to it. Green wood has got a very high moisture content. It's very wet, so while you're CNC'ing something it's moving. Or after it's been CDC'd it moves. So it basically takes a process that is all about perfection and introduces imperfection. That's what I wanted to capture—that relationship between the unknown and the known, so the object has those flaws and those glitches and those moments when actually you can't really think, "How did they do that? Was that really done on a CNC machine because that's not square that's not straight? That's flawed. Why would you do that?" So all those little bits are what drove me to doing it. When it comes off the machine it still needs a lot of handwork, and it changes when it comes of the machine. It's matured in a way that's quite special.

I like the idea that the imperfections are where the beauty lies, and are one of the ways to make a connection with people.

Ves-el, Gareth Neal and Zaha Hadid. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

Ves-el, Gareth Neal and Zaha Hadid. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

You enjoy collaborating with other designers and brands—architect, Zaha Hadid for a tableware project, and a chair for Glenlivet. What have you learned about yourself as a designer working in collaboration?

There was a time when I was slightly more ego driven, thinking that I knew it all, and I wouldn't want anyone else's input because I thought I knew. And then I realized that I didn't and that the more you open yourself to others working, you can actually create better things.

Glenlivet is different, that's a commercial project with me doing something for the cash. But the Zaha one was definitely something I questioned whether I should do or not, but of course if Zaha Hadid offers you an opportunity then you do it. But these objects wouldn't be, and wouldn't look like they do, if it wasn't for that input or for that contact. The Ves-el wouldn't be the Ves-el if it wasn't for using their computer technology and me sitting in their offices. It adds extra dimension to your work. And it's really enjoyable working with others when you've been working with yourself for such a long time. The Orkney chair wouldn't be the Orkney chair if it wasn't for Kevin Gauld.

Ves-el, collaborative project with Zaha Hadid. Photo credit: Dan Medhurst

The creative constraints and benefits of working with someone else is fine. But there's a point at which control ultimately has to sit with one individual. Do you find you need that?

Yeah I think you probably know that most of the projects are where I think I've got the bigger say. I think I'm well equipped enough as a person to communicate that to them in order to get it to the place that I'm happy with it.

Jack cabinet, Gareth Neal. Photo credit: Petr Krejci

When you were just starting out, who were you looking to as a designer?

I guess Ron Arad and Tom Dixon were very much in the limelight of furniture at that time around 1993. Philippe Starck was there and of course I came across John Makepeace. I didn't like John Makepeace's work, but I was aware of it.

But I like to think that I wasn't necessarily inspired by furniture, but would get more inspired by creating a feeling or an emotion or picking up on architecture. I mean I loved Calatrava when I was at uni, and I liked hippy values of people building green properties, and I read books like Places of the Soul. I was getting a lot from that, but it's not really furniture.

If you get into studying too much furniture you end up copying it, which I suppose is inevitably what I've ended up doing with some eighteenth and seventeenth century bits of furniture.

Orb salt and pepper grinders, Gareth Neal

Tableware for Case, Gareth Neal

Do you have any other pieces of furniture that you've seen or you hold up as great pieces?

Loads of them. I'm continually envious of other people's work. From production designers to the dead to the living, there's so much good design out there. Hans Wegner is obviously someone that when you look at those chairs you just think, that's perfection.

Max Lamb, my contemporaries, I think they're so good. Peter Marigold. Amazing thinkers with materials. There's so many and I get excited when I look at other people's work. Even look at Russell Pinch, he's a big brand but very well designed stuff. Very simple, very pure, very lovely.

Some of Gareth's sketches of the George cabinet

What's on your drawing board right now?

I'm mocking up a sideboard for the New Craftsman. We've just prototyping an extension to the straw furniture range. We've got some more CNC Ves-el and a couple more pieces from the Hack series we're looking at. A few things on the go.

What advice would you give to any designers who are starting out around now?

Well one of the things that I heard from Wendell Castle actually, now that he's passed away, he always said "the lazy dog finds no bones". I think that's a good one really. You've got to get out there and get on it.

The Bouroullec Brothers Offer a Colorful, Abstract Take on Stained Glass in New Collection

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

The latest from French design duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec is a meditation on color, light, and scale. Their new range of architectural glass panels developed in partnership with Skyline Design debuted during NeoCon last week and took home a Silver award in the Architectural and Decorative Glass category.

The design process started with the brothers wandering around and taking photographs of what they encountered—from landscapes to kids playing on a sports field—with the aim of capturing "sensations of colors and light." From there, they selected eight images and ran them through a computer script written by Erwan Bouroullec, which sampled all the color information in the photos and distilled it into a unique base color, while transforming the overall "rhythm" of the image into a pattern.

"That color is then further transformed by a translucent pattern layer, generating thousands of additional color iterations," they explain. The patterns were outlined in a darker color intended to mimic the lead line that frames each panel in traditional stained glass. "As stained glass is shaped by its lead frames, the colors are shaped and reshaped by the lines of each individual pattern, their density and distribution changing almost imperceptibly."

The Bouroullecs were inspired by the qualities of stained glass in medieval cathedrals and sought to translate that experience into their atmospheric panels, which create the sense of being immersed within an abstract landscape through their complex interactions of color and line. "The result is a sense that the glass is almost alive with a delicate pulse, capable of evoking the same sense of wonder as its medieval counterpart."

The panes are brought to life through Skyline Design's digital print and manufacturing processes and can be customized in size, scale, and color to fit the intended application. The collection is composed of four pattern variations—Oblique Regular, Oblique Bold, Chevron Stroke, and Chevron Fill—that are each available in four monochromatic colors or four polychromatic palettes. They can be used in interiors—as feature walls, space dividers, or stair railings, for example—or on exterior facades, railings, and canopies.

Pratt Institute Prompts Students to Design the Ultimate Future Bathroom

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

What will bathrooms look like in the future? American Standard, one of the leaders in bathroom and kitchen development teamed up with Pratt Institute students to create "Future Bathroom 2025." As the name suggests, they created a vision of what the future bathroom will look like in the not-so-distant future.

The project highlights water conservation as a main feature of the bathroom. Grey water, the term to describe the relatively clean-used water from showers, sinks, washing machines etc., is reused from the shower to power the toilet, which would save around 14 gallons of fresh water a day per person. The ability to use grey water for your toilet exists, however, grey water cannot sit stagnate for more than 24 hours (though let's be realistic, I hope you use the bathroom at least once per day). As a precaution for this, the water would be treated with phytoremediation.

Baths can use around five times more water than a shower, so to solve this problem, the team created a reclining seat in the shower—a way to relax without using the gallons of water needed to fill the bathtub. Lovely details like air plants hang on the walls, and a light show imitates the sun to visualize the length of your shower. The future of bathrooms is looking bright.

The bathrooms would come in as a prefabricated unit that would require much less hard labor and time to install than a current bathroom takes. It comes with customizable options so that each future bathroom can be uniquely your own.

This concept was presented in May 2019 at Wanted Design in Manhattan and included a full-sized prototype with visual research panels that explained important details.

Reader Submitted: 'The Coral' Introduces Humans to the Benefits of Growing Micro-Algae at Home

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

'The Coral' is an indoor micro-algae farm designed to rebuild a relationship with algae, critical for sustainability yet less appreciated, in our everyday lives. This wall-mounted bioreactor proposes a daily ritual for algae consumption for a sustainable alternative of nutritional diets. The Coral also highlights algae's environmental benefits through a symbol of revitalizing coral from 'coral bleaching.' Besides, the representation augments an indoor experience, allowing us to welcome the algae farm at home for aesthetic purposes. The Coral suggests a socially acceptable way of bringing algae, which helps us take one step forward to a better sustainable way of living.

The Coral suggests a more sustainable way of living by bringing algae into our everyday lives.Credit: Hyunseok AnIts sculptural front presents the lively patterns of corals, highlighting algae's environmental importance as well as providing an ever-changing aesthetic experience.Credit: Hyunseok AnThe medium in culture cells turns green as algae grow (1/3)Credit: Hyunseok AnThe medium in culture cells turns green as algae grow (2/3)Credit: Hyunseok AnThe medium in culture cells turns green as algae grow (3/3)Credit: Hyunseok AnEach of its 16 culture cells can grow algae for the amount of recommended daily intake, allowing us to replenish and harvest algae continuously in a bi-weekly cycle.Credit: Hyunseok AnThe Coral soaks up CO2 in the air, and each valve on the bottom can control air flow to each cell.Credit: Hyunseok AnOnce the medium turns dark-green, algae can be harvested through a simple filtration process.Credit: Hyunseok AnEach cell is sitting on a grid wall by a neodymium magnet attachment.Credit: Hyunseok AnBy algae grow, the color in the cell turns from transparent to shades of green.Credit: Hyunseok AnView the full project here

"#RealDesignersShip Is Not a Put-Down. It Is an Aspiration"

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

According to IDSA "Industrial designers not only focus on the appearance of a product, but also on how it functions, is manufactured and ultimately the value and experience it provides for users." But when I look on social media, this is not what I see representing industrial design. What I see is largely speculative work in the form of beautiful sketches, renderings, and sometimes models that present an idealized version of specific moments in the process.

I am just as guilty—maybe more so—of this creep toward idealization. Back in 2017 I decided to post a non-project related concept sketch a day for an entire year. I took notice of how a fun sketch of a product took up the same visual real estate as a photo of a production product on my phone. Often the sketch would get double or triple the amount of likes while only taking 45 minutes to create while the photo of the production product might have taken 12 – 24 months of that designer's time. I realized I wasn't exactly helping the cause.

Images clockwise from upper left: Jason Mayden for Super Heroic, Peter Ragonetti for Earos, Don Lehman for Starry, John Sahs for Nissan, Chris Addamick for Martin Bratturd, Natalie Candrian for Alps & Meters

This brought me back to 2008 when I interviewed at frog design. I didn't bring a PowerPoint or many sketches. What I brought was a duffel bag full of production products and factory prototypes. One of the creative directors who interviewed me, Howard Nuk (Howard went on to be VP of design at Ammunition and Samsung and is one of the founders of the PALM reboot) looked at my table full of products, smiled and said, "real designers ship". I never forgot that simple summation of what our focus is as industrial designers.

Howard and I shared the same mentor at frog, Executive Creative Director Paul Bradley, who sadly passed away much too young. Paul would often say "there are no innovative ideas, only innovative products". I interpreted the meaning behind both Paul and Howard's comments as the primary focus for industrial designers should be getting ideas to production. If we have to do a fancy sketch or hot render to get us one step closer to production or get us the project then so be it, but let's keep our eye on the prize.

We want to make things for people to use and enjoy.

Images clockwise from upper left: Dom Montante and David Green for Umbra, Zane Hoekstra for Nutrilite, Gabe Grant for Hemper Co, Walmen Dumaliang for Ember, Ricky Biddle with Eliott Copier and Stefaan Van Den Broecke for Sharpie, Joshua Hoffeld for Shot Tracker

With this in mind I started the #realdesignersship hashtag and @real_designers_ship account on Instagram. #realdesignersship is not meant to be a put down or even a challenge—it can take a long time to ship your first product. I'm hoping that it will be seen as a goal and an aspiration. It is a sign that you have unlocked a new level, that you have achieved something that deserves to be celebrated.

Images clockwise from upper left: Sam Hagger for Cole & Mason, James Connors for Kitchenaid, Farberware and Reo while at Lifetime Brands, Gabriel Jose Puerto for Purdy, Tim Swiss for Zeiss, Michael DiTullo and Ken Chae for Polk, Quan Li for Cook Duo

I'm not expecting designers to stop posting hot sketches and renderings. I plan to keep posting them as well. This isn't meant to be an admonishment of having fun with speculative work, flexing some skills, exploring new product types, or showing off some process deliverables. The purpose of #realdesignersship is to offer a balance to the conversation and a sightline to a destination. So keep having fun and keep posting. When something you worked on does make it through the process all the way to production, be sure to post and tag it with #realdesignersship!

Could Plants Be the Future of Interface Design?

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Merging plants with our digital electronics to create a radical new interface might sound like the premise of a Black Mirror episode, but it's exactly what researchers at MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group are exploring.

Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes started their research with Elowan, a plant-robot that responds to light. Silver electrodes were attached to the plant's leaves, where they could pick up the electrical signals within the plant that react to the presence of light and route them to a robotic stand underneath. When light sources were placed near the plant, those signals would trigger the wheels to autonomously move in the direction of the light source.

"Plants are normally thought of as passive creatures in the environment," Sareen explains. "Contrary to this, they can not only sense what's happening around them but respond and display naturally. Through cyborg botany, we power some of our digital functions with the natural abilities of plants."

Previously, Sareen has cited this merging as "the future of interaction—where we don't think of interfaces as separate but within nature itself." This would open up a radical new approach in sharp contrast to the sensorial overload of our screens.

"Our interaction and communication channels with plant organisms in nature are subtle—whether it be looking at their color, orientation, moisture, the position of their flowers, leaves and such," he notes. "This subtlety stands in contrast to our interactions with artificial electronic devices that are centered in and around the screens, requiring our full attention and inducing cognitive load. We envision bringing such interactions out from the screens and back into the natural world around us."

The team recently released two new projects, titled Phytoactuators and Planta Digitalis, which explore this concept further. In Phytoactuators, the team connected electrodes to a Venus Flytrap, allowing it to receive signals. In an accompanying app, users see a live stream of the plant and when they click its leaves on the screen, it triggers the plant to act in real life. For Planta Digitalis, the researchers "grew" a conductive "wire" inside the plant so it could essentially function like an antenna or a sensor.

These experiments led the researchers to possible future applications that include sending notifications—the plant might jiggle to alert you when your package is delivered, for instance—or as a motion sensor, which could help you keep track of your pet or be applied to security systems.

For Sareen and Maes, electronic and biological systems have remained separate only because we haven't found an effective bridge between them—and that's where their innovations come in. "Plants are living creatures that are self-powered, self-repairing and self-fabricating—close to the science fiction electronics that we would ideally aim for. Using nature as part of our design process and ushering into this new course of interaction design can potentially be a key to ubiquitous sustainable interactions."

Joey Zeledón's Coat Check Chair is Reinventing the Closet Experience

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Recently, we wrote about Virgil Abloh and Vitra's homage to Jean Prouvé's work, but we felt the collection wasn't original enough: it lives more in the artist's edition realm than the re-interpretation one. So today, we were excited to see that industrial designer Joey Zeledón (Steelcase, Smart Design, Continuum, etc.) is finally releasing his take on Marcel Breuer's Cesca Chair, which pushes the idea of reinterpretation of iconic work a step further than CMF.

Zeledón's Coat Check Chair takes the Cesca Chair's recognizable steel tube frame and strips it of its seat back and cushion, leaving just an empty, sculptural shell. Users are then able to fill the gap with their extra hangers by sliding them one by one over the tubes (flat side facing up). The hangers, when placed in a tight group, are strong enough to sit on—ideal for a walk-in closet companion or as extra hanger options in hotel rooms.

"By bringing the elements of the closet into the foreground of a person's daily routine, the Coat Check Chair offers a unique design and a gentle encouragement to stay neat," says Zeledón. "The hangers' flexible plastic makes the chair surprisingly comfortable, while its impermanent construction lets users customize in terms of hanger color and pattern." The chair frame is designed to accommodate standard Container Store hangers. A set of hangers is provided with the purchase of a chair frame, but more can be ordered at any time to make changes to the chair's color.

The Coat Check Chair is available on Kickstarter as of today, but the idea isn't a new one. This was actually a student project for Zeledón, which he worked on while attending Rochester Institute of Technology. Noting that Coat Check Chair is one of his favorite projects he's ever worked on, he decided to refine the design and submit it to design awards programs. Even after receiving multiple awards (including a Notable for Speculative Objects/Concepts in the 2011 Core77 Design Awards), the designer still felt he could do more: "While I was excited that Coat Check Chair resonated with many, it was still just a concept. It was not a real chair you could buy and put in your living room or studio. I really wanted to make it real."

Designing and manufacturing a chair solo was a daunting task for Zeledón at the time, but he was able to call upon his long past of design experience at Steelcase and other design companies to figure it out. For the past few years, he has been refining Coat Check Chair's details to reduce production and shipping costs. After spending time searching for a local manufacturer, he finally partnered with one in Pennsylvania who doesn't use solvents that produce hazardous VOCs, uses rainwater as the source water in the pre-treatment process, uses an evaporation method to reduce wastewater discharge and uses energy-efficient infrared heaters to speed curing.

The Coat Check Chair can serve as inspiration to students today who may not be ready to leave their favorite projects behind after graduation. Remember: if you design a product that truly stands the test of time (especially one that solves an everyday challenge), it's never too late to bring your work to life.

If you want a Coat Check Chair of your own, pledge on Kickstarter here.

Pro Musicians Like Herbie Hancock Loved ROLI's First Keyboard. Their New LUMI Keyboard Is for Everyone.

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

When he read the email, Roland Lamb assumed it wasn't really from Herbie Hancock. The follow-up call confirmed that it was. Hancock wanted to try the Seaboard, a futuristic piece of super-piano hardware that Lamb had started developing at London's Royal College of Art.

Lamb, whose father is a jazz musician, has been playing piano since he was two or three years old. When he set out to make a digital keyboard that could push piano into new realms of musicality, he had expert players like Hancock very much in mind. "With some of his electronic music, it seemed like he took the keyboard to this new, incredibly expressive place," Lamb says. "'Chameleon' and stuff from his Headhunters album was a direct point of inspiration for me in creating Seaboard." Watching Hancock play those songs on a Seaboard in his L.A. studio was elating.

But Lamb's deeper interest has always been to make music technology for everyone. "I wanted to build a smooth and seamless on-ramp to music-making, but I knew that to make a low floor, I had to start with a high ceiling."

With LUMI, live on Kickstarter now, Lamb is finally tuning in to the needs of newcomers, casual dabblers, lapsed pianists, and experts alike. The LUMI app will stream your favorite songs and light up the notes to play on the small keyboard, which is designed to snap on to other sets for an expanded instrument once you master the basics.

Seeking inner peace, Lamb discovered the depth of his connection to music

Before Lamb started building the Seaboard, he thought he might be a Buddhist monk. He bought a one-way ticket to a monastery in Tibet and learned its disciplined routines. "When I say they're really strict, I mean every single thing that happens is regimented, like how you pick up your chopsticks or how you pick up your bowl," he says. "You have to follow really detailed rules."

Part of that meant selflessly renouncing personal possessions. If your family sends food, you're expected to share it with the group, even if you might be tempted to hide it away. "Everyone had their little worldly things that were harder to give up," he says. "For me, my one secret was that I had this minidisc player. I'd listen to many of my favorite albums on it. Very late at night, I would get under the covers and listen to music. That was my forbidden pleasure."

He ultimately decided he couldn't reconcile his deep love of music with the monastic lifestyle, but he carried the Buddhist spirit of human connection into his instrument-making philosophy.

"One of the things that attracted me to Buddhism is the idea that enlightenment is a collective activity that you can practice individually," he says. The creation of new music technology isn't such an unrelated pursuit. "Music is a powerful technology that has developed over two million years, closely connected to the evolution of language and altruism," Lamb says. "It rolls into our deep cultural membrane, our DNA. So for me, in terms of the impact that playing music can have on one's emotional state and ability to express oneself, to find new entry points into the world of music is a wonderful and exciting thing."

Starting very far from simple expression

Lamb started thinking about how a new instrument could create these types of experiences, and he ended up in a Royal College of Art PhD program, exploring the history of the piano and designing a new one for the digital age. His work would lead to the formation of his company, ROLI, and its first product, the Seaboard.

"Look at fields like photography," he says. "Thirty years ago, it was a very elite hobby to set up a darkroom and learn how to edit and then publish your photographs." Needless to say, a lot has happened in photography over the past 30 years, and Lamb realized that to create something as democratizing as, say, Instagram, he needed to build his credibility with a product more like a DSLR first.

"We had to start at the top and work our way down," he says. "First we built instruments that were for professionals, that really push the envelope in terms of sound. If we started with a toy, it would be hard to turn that into a professional music production system. We'd kind of be known for making musical toys."

So he launched the Seaboard, a digital keyboard with rubbery keys that give experienced players more control over a wider range of sounds, and followed up with iterative models that improved playability and introduced portable modularity with snap-together sets.

The experts were just the beginning

"Seaboard was really about saying, 'Can we improve upon the piano by making it more expressive and adding different layers of orchestral control?' LUMI is about improvements that make the piano much easier to learn, more fun to play, and more accessible for those just getting started," Lamb says.

He went back over his PhD research on the history of pianos, this time looking for opportunities to make them more egalitarian. "Even the basic concepts, like music notation, haven't really evolved," he says. Instead of forcing students to learn how to read music, LUMI will feature illuminated keys that express patterns more directly. Instead of the standard key widths created for adult male hands, its slimmer design will make octaves easier to reach. And like precursors to the piano, it will light up all the notes in a scale that naturally sound good together instead of forcing an in-depth knowledge of 12-tone music theory.

Most notably, its connected app leverages the never-ending library of streaming music that features piano, made possible through the company's relationships with Universal Music Group and Sony. "That emotional connection that you have with music is really important to nurture and sustain in the learning process," says Lamb. "If I like Drake, but I'm trying to learn piano and I'm only playing Beethoven, it doesn't connect with me emotionally the same way."

As students get comfortable on the small, manageable LUMI board, they can snap it on to another to make a larger instrument. "We were trying to make something that would be really easy to play but would also be expandable—a bite-sized thing that doesn't feel imposing," Lamb says. "When you walk up to an upright grand piano, you can feel dwarfed by that. You can feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities if you don't know what to do. It can be diminishing. With LUMI, you start small. You have this nice, portable, intimate palette to begin with, and if you want to build a larger instrument over time, you just click the pieces together."

The ROLI team was careful not to veer too far from the piano's universal recognizability. "The thing is, the family of instruments is very small," Lamb says. "Only a small family of distinct instruments have actually succeeded in human societies. Usually when radically new instruments have been proposed, they've failed. They don't have the players; they don't have teachers; they don't have people with the muscle memory; they don't have people who are used to hearing their sounds. There are so many interdependencies.

"This is a new instrument, in a way. It's a new interface," he says. "But it's very close to what is perhaps the most important and most popular instrument of all time. In that way, it really leverages a lot of the culture that already exists in the world."

LUMI is live on Kickstarter through July 17, 2019.

Reader Submitted: 'Accessories for the Paranoid' Generate Fake Data to Hide Your Digital Identity

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

When considering data as the oil of the 21st century, each of us is sitting on a small ground treasure—a resource that is being discretely mined by the most valuable companies in the world. As users of modern services and products, we have long become habituated to trade-offs in which "free" services are offered in exchange for some bits of our personal data. The IoT has introduced a new kind of object into our homes whose functioning greatly depends on collecting such information: Products that are able to observe the users, have the ability to learn from their observations and then make their own decisions without further human interference. With the comfort of automation also comes a subtle danger in our connected devices which process personal information about their users every day. If attempts to restrict the flow of our personal data would consequentially restrict our access to said services and products as well... do we have no other option but to obey and share?

The "Accessories for the Paranoid" explore an alternative approach to data security. As our physical environment reads, collects and stores an increasing amount of user information, this series of parasitic objects are designed to produce fake data. Through blurring our digital profiles, our true data identities get to hide behind a veil of fictive information.

Object AObject BObject CObject DView the full project here

Design Job: Viacom is Seeking an Executive Producer for Nickelodeon Velocity in New York, NY

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Nostalgia at its finest: Nickelodeon Velocity is seeking an Executive Producer to join their team. The Executive Producer is involved in the creation of branded and non-branded advertising content in support of Sales, Marketing Partners and External Clients. Work closely with Vice President/Head of Production, Creative Teams and Project Managers in the execution of commercial production, from conception to delivery.

See the full job details or check out all design jobs at Coroflot.

The 2019 Core77 Design Awards New York Celebration at Kickstarter

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

To celebrate the 2019 Core77 Design Awards announced last Wednesday, Core77 threw a celebration on the rooftop of Kickstarter headquarters in Brooklyn, New York on the evening of June 12th to recognize and toast to the designers who took home honors in this year's awards. The party was packed with Core77 friends, with fantastic drinks from Duke's Liquor Box and catered snacks from Campbell Cheese & Grocery. Hidden within the garden was a tarot reader on deck to help any party attendees learn more about their futures, as well as a sketch challenge that asked partygoers to imagine an Ultimate Dad Shoe in conjunction with our Instagram Design-athlon (the prize being a pin from our friends at Studio Cult!).

Overall, it was a fantastic night and it couldn't have been what it was without the presence of our Core77 community. Thanks for hanging with us IRL!

Photo credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterThis year's party took place on the Kickstarter garden rooftop in Greenpoint.Photo credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterThe Core77 team thanks partygoers for attending the 2019 Core77 Design Awards celebration and sends a shout out to everyone in the audience who either judged the competition or won an award.Photo credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterPhoto credit: Grace Ann LeadbeaterView the full gallery here

Tesler + Mendelovitch Apply Their Sculptural "Wood Skin" to Interiors

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Best known for their sculptural wood clutches, the designers behind Tesler + Mendelovitch have progressively increased the scale of their work. Taking their innovative process to the next level, the latest product launch from the Tel Aviv-based studio provides sculptural solutions for interiors.

When we last spoke to Orli Tesler and Itamar Mendelovitch, the duo explained how they developed their technique of making wood veneer act like a textile through a series of diagonal crosshatches.

Mesmerizing GIFs brought to you by Goodeye Studio

"In the beginning, we interfered terribly with the wood," Tesler said, recounting how their early experiments involved weaving the wood or sanding it down and breaking it into small fibers. The breakthrough came when they tried scoring it and realized that allowed them to bend the veneer to the form they wanted. "If you go too much against the grain, the wood will not budge; it will crack or splinter," Tesler explained. "And if you go too much with the grain, all you have are straight lines. The point of going diagonally is to cross over the soft and hard points where wood can bend without breaking."

In making their clutches, the designers only scored the material where they had to in order to get it to perform. That materiality is expanded upon in their most recent products, which are made out of sheets of veneer that have been evenly cut by the designers to create a completely flexible wooden textile. "The flexible wood matrix we developed moves in such a way that it determines its own configuration," Tesler told me in a recent email. "As the material pulls itself into shape, we merely 'freeze' the textile in place—resulting in a myriad of shapes, product applications, and concepts."

The panels are structurally reinforced and can be customized to include integrated seating, as pictured above. (Image courtest of Tesler + Mendelovitch and Studio Maayan Golan)

(Image courtest of Tesler + Mendelovitch and Studio Maayan Golan)

Some of their most stunning recent work adapts this process to create a range of wood panels and sound diffusers for interior installations that can be completely customized depending on the project. "The sculptural nature of the wood textiles [allow] a flat wall [to] be transformed into an organic, curvy structure," Tesler said, "creating a spatial dialogue between floor, figure, sculpture, and structure."

Flying Rideshare Vehicle – Join in #C77sketching Challenge No. 2

Core 77 - 6 hours 12 min ago

Last week it was the Ultimate Dad Shoe**, this week it is a Flying Rideshare Vehicle. It is the second of three sketch challenges this month, and a part of our summer-long Core77 Design-Athlon, where designers flex their creative muscles in three core skills of sketching, prototyping and rendering.

We were wowed by your enthusiasm and ideas last week and want to keep that positive design-energy flowing, so are adding a token of appreciation for all those who play along this summer: participate in at least one challenge in each skill and we'll send you a free t-shirt. (Offer good for US mailing addresses only. International participants who meet the requirement can receive a t-shirt with payment of $10 USD to help cover shipping.)

Again we have lined-up special guest-star judge Reid Schlegel, sketching guru, educator and Senior Industrial Designer at Aruliden, to help us choose the winning entries. We are excited to see what you can cook-up...

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The Brief

Ding! Your future is arriving now. Flying cars have been whizzing through our imagined futures for a long time, but today economics and technology driven largely by rideshare companies seem to be steering them out of dream space and into real-world air space. What is that really going to mean for us? Our infrastructure, our communities, our wallets? Artificial intelligence, advanced fabrication and the sharing economy all converge at this intersection; will it be a wreck or a seamless flow? And that is just our current timeline - who is going to think of how things *could* have been, or *should be* - what about alternative realities and value-systems?

Let your imagination take flight – show us your vision of what a future rideshare vehicle could look like. Sketch out a blue-sky scenario before Sunday!

Flying Rideshare Vehicle Deadline is this Sunday, June 23rd at 11:59pm Eastern!

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How To Enter

1. Follow us on Instagram

2. Explore the concept of "Flying Rideshare Vehicle" via sketching and take a picture or screenshot of your best work

3. Post your picture to Instagram, posting must tag us, @core77, and include the hashtags #c77sketching, #c77challenge

Good luck!

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• The contest ends Sunday June 23, 11:59pm EDT –– winners will be announced by July 3rd.

• Multiple entries are permitted but a participant can not have more than one winning entry per challenge.

• Winning entries will be selected by a panel of design professional(s) and Core77 staff based on skill, presentation and ideas.

• The contest is hosted by Core77 and there are no eligibility restrictions.

• This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

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To learn more about our entire Summer-long design skill series, check out our announcement of the Core77 Design-Athlon.

**Dad Shoe contest participants: this is a reminder that winners will be chosen at the end of the month along with the other sketching challenges!

HP Opens 3-Acre 3D Print Facility in Barcelona

Design News - 11 hours 54 min ago

Last week, HP Inc. opened the doors of its 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Barcelona, Spain. According to HP, the campus is one largest and most advanced research and development facilities for 3D printing and additive manufacturing. The new center brings together hundreds of additive manufacturing experts in more than 150,000 square feet of innovation space – about the size of three football fields. The company notes that the goal of the center is to transform the way the world designs and manufactures products.

Here’s HP’s 150,000 sq. ft 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Barcelona, Spain. (Image source: HP)

For years, Barcelona civic leaders have worked to position the city as a technology hub for Europe. The city is home to major technology trade shows, including IoT World Conference and Mobile World Congress. “Barcelona has always played a significant role in our journey to accelerate the future of digital manufacturing,” Ramon Pastor, GM and global head of plastics solutions for 3D printing and digital manufacturing at HP, told Design News. “Barcelona is at the forefront of innovation, helping us reinvent manufacturing and playing a key role in the development of our most impressive and advanced 3D printing technologies like Multi Jet Fusion and Metal Jet.”

Collaboration Space for Partners

HP’s 3+ acre Barcelona facility is dedicated to the development of the company’s industrial 3D printing portfolio, providing a large-scale factory environment to collaborate with partners on digital manufacturing technologies. The center is designed to bring together digital manufacturing experts in systems engineering, data intelligence, software, materials science, design, and applications. “At the new facility, we’re uniting experts across multiple disciplines with the goal to bring new capabilities to our customers and further advance the role of emerging technologies, like 3D printing, within the larger digital manufacturing landscape,” said Pastor.

HP’s three-acre facility in Barcelona focuses on the development of its 3D printing portfolio and provides a large-scale factory environment for customers and partners to collaborate on digital manufacturing technologies. (Image source: HP)

The facility will integrate flexible and interactive layouts, co-development environments, and fleets of the latest HP plastics and metals 3D production systems. Companies such as BASF, GKN Metallurgy, Siemens, Volkswagen, and others across the automotive, industrial, healthcare, and consumer goods sectors will collaborate with HP on new 3D printing and digital manufacturing innovations.

HP sees these collaborations as essential to expanding the capabilities and usefulness of 3D printing. “We believe that the key to wider adoption of industrial 3D printing lies in greater ecosystem collaboration – through the development of 3D technologies, software innovation, materials development, data intelligence, and parts production,” said Pastor. “With the opening of the center, we’re fostering a place to collaborate with our partners and experts to create solutions that enable the growth of digital manufacturing.”

An Eco-Friendly Facility

In a statement, HP noted that the facility was designed to reflect the company’s commitment to the environment by incorporating a photovoltaic canopy to provide 110kW of power, rainwater reuse for irrigation and sanitary purposes, HVAC and natural light optimization, and eco-friendly construction materials with a goal of achieving a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. The goal is to use 100% renewable energy in its global operations over time, with a target of 60% by 2025.


The Barcelona center was created to expand HP’s global 3D printing and digital manufacturing footprint and enhance existing innovation locations in Oregon, California, and Washington. The company also recently a Singapore location in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF). The collaboration was created to drive 3D printing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, materials and applications, and cybersecurity innovations.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!


Polymer Composites With Enhanced Electrical, Thermal Properties

Design News - 12 hours 54 min ago

Researchers are always searching for new, flexible materials for the next generation of soft robots and electronic devices, including novel medical devices.

Now a team of chemists and engineers at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a process to create a new class of stretchable polymer composites with enhanced electrical and thermal properties that they believe will be well-suited for these applications.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new process to create polymer composites with new thermal and electrical capabilities. At left, a single liquid metal nanodroplet grafted with polymer chains. On the right, a schematic of polymer brushes grafted from the oxide layer of a liquid metal droplet. (Image source: Carnegie Mellon University)

Liquid Metal Alloy

The new work—led by Carmel Majidi, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and director of the Soft Machines Lab—has at its core a metal alloy that is liquid at ambient temperatures, eutectic gallium indium. The research hinges on turning this material into an elastomer to create a soft, highly stretchable, and multi-functional composite with high level of thermal stability and electrical conductivity.

In past work, Majidi already developed rubber composites that used nanoscopic droplets of liquid metal, but with mixed results. While the materials had promise, the mechanical method used to mix the composite’s components created materials with inconsistent properties, he said.

For the new research, Majidi called upon colleague Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, a professor of natural sciences and polymer chemist at Carnegie Mellon, to aid him in polymerizing his composite material.

Matyjaszewski developed a technique called atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) in 1994, allowing scientists to string together monomers piece by piece to form highly-tailored polymers with specific properties.

“New materials are only effective if they are reliable,” he said of the technique. “You need to know that your material will work the same way every time before you can make it into a commercial product.”

Indeed, his is what ATRP can do, resulting in materials that have consistent, reliable structures and unique properties, he said. Working together, Matyjaszewski and Majidi used ATRP to attach monomer brushes to the surface nanodroplets of eutectic gallium indium. These brushes linked together to form strong bonds to the droplets, resulting in dispersing the liquid metal evenly throughout the elastomer, researchers said.


High Elasticity and Thermal Conductivity

This allowed Majidi to achieve his result with the new composites—a material with properties of high elasticity and high thermal conductivity, he said. Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The team also learned something new through their research that they and other materials scientists can bring to work going forward. Researchers noticed that polymer grafting seemed to suppress the crystallization temperature of the metal alloy from 15 C  to  -80 C, which extended its liquid phase ­and properties down to very low temperatures.

“We can now suspend liquid metal in virtually any polymer or copolymer in order to tailor their material properties and enhance their performance,” Majidi observed. “This has not been done before. It opens the door to future materials discovery.” 

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.


Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!


The Design Evolution of Car-Based Pickups, Part 2: From Australia to America

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-06-19 09:29

Early Australian Evolution

1934 Ford Coupe Utility

Following Australian designer Lewis Bandt's invention of the Coupe Utility form factor, other manufacturers began releasing their own versions. In 1937 American manufacturer Hudson designed their innovative Terraplane Utility Coupe:

1937 Hudson Terraplane. Image credit: Alden Jewell, CC 2.0

What you may not realize from the illustration above is that this was meant to be a car or a truck, not both at the same time. It was essentially a car in regular use, but by opening the trunk, a steel box was revealed. This box could be extended outwards like a drawer and locked into position, effectively serving as a hideaway pickup bed.

1937 Hudson Terraplane. Image credit: 96Impala

The war years of the 1940s disrupted most worldwide automotive design and production, but by the 1950s manufacturers were back on track. Holden, an Australian subsidiary of General Motors, released the Holden Coupe Utility in 1951:

1951 Holden Coupe Utility. Image credit: Chris Keating, CC 2.0

1951 Holden Coupe Utility. Image credit: Chris Keating, CC 2.0

Ford Australia's offering for 1951 had more modern styling than Holden's design, with the front end pointing the way towards the look of the '50s:

1951 Ford Coupe Utility. Image credit: Sicnag, CC 4.0

1951 Ford Coupe Utility. Image credit: Frank Beale, TradeUniqueCars

Making the Jump to America

Following his original 1934 design, Lewis Bandt had traveled to America and met Henry Ford. Ford reportedly referred to Bandt's coupe utility as a "kangaroo chaser"--whether he said that in derision or affection, I don't know--and stated that they would one day build such vehicles for the U.S. market. That promise had taken some time to fulfill, but it really paid dividends in 1956, when Ford released a new design for the American market called the Ranchero:

1956 Ford Ranchero

1956 Ford Ranchero

1956 Ford Ranchero

1956 Ford Ranchero

1956 Ford Ranchero

In 1957 the design was tweaked, with cowling added to the headlights, and the body accent lines migrating rearwards:

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

In 1958 the design was tweaked again, with extra headlights added and the accent lines in the body now starting to flatten out:

1958 Ford Ranchero. Image credit: Detectandpreserve, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

1958 Ford Ranchero. Image credit: Detectandpreserve, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

1958 Ford Ranchero. Image credit: Detectandpreserve, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The customized version below has had the bumper removed from in front of the grille, and has had its suspension lowered, but you can still see the body's accent lines and overall gesture of the vehicle quite clearly:

1958 Ford Ranchero

1958 Ford Ranchero

1958 Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero proved to be a hit with both buyers and the automotive press, selling in the low five figures annually. Here's how the car was marketed:

Ford competitor Chevy noticed the sales figures, and decided it was time for them to get a piece of this market. Before we show you what Chevy's designers did, first let's review how Ford's designers were gradually evolving the Ranchero, in terms of the accent lines, gesture and length, from year to year:

1956 Ford Ranchero

1957 Ford Ranchero

1958 Ford Ranchero

Looking at the photos above, it's as if some giant grabbed the car from front and rear and began stretching it.

With that in mind, here's what Chevy released in 1959, the El Camino:

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

Ford's offering for that year, the 1959 Ranchero, looks positively stodgy and dated in comparison:

1959 Ford Ranchero. Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/that_chrysler_guy/

It seemed like Ford's designers had lost it, and the sales figures for 1959 reflected it: Chevy sold 22,246 El Caminos, while Ford moved just 14,169 Rancheros.

Here is a magnificently restored 1959 El Camino by Randy and Peaches Clark at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (HR&CS) in Escondido, California:

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

This coupe utility form factor--nowadays more commonly referred to as a car-based pickup--would continue to evolve in Australia, America and elsewhere. But as we shall see next, the results weren't always good.

Could the Classic Orange Construction Barrier Use a Redesign?

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-06-19 09:29

Sometimes design opportunities are right in front of your very eyes. For instance, anyone living in an urban setting is familiar with the scene below:

The classic orange barrier (otherwise known as the plastic Jersey Barrier) is an iconic symbol of urban construction in the Big Apple, right up there with temporary green plywood walls marked "Post No Bills". Each plastic barrier is blow-molded and kept hollow to minimize weight during travel. Once placed at a construction site, they are then filled with water to ensure they stay put.

Even though they serve a noble purpose, the barriers are, without a doubt, a big, fat, orange eyesore to passerby and nearby dwellers. And if you live in any city, you're very familiar with the long lead times of construction projects—they often take anywhere from weeks to months to complete.

Brooklyn-based industrial designer Scott Henderson identified this design opportunity after walking past one too many ugly orange barriers in his neighborhood. "The city is always changing, and with that comes large scale construction projects that are surrounded by tens of thousands of these super ugly, construction barriers," says Henderson of his 'aha' moment. "It is clear to me that no one has ever considered these unsightly "Lego" blocks beyond their utilitarian purpose—like how they affect the lives of people forced to live around them."

So, he set out to do what any frustrated designer would do when confronted with an object in need of improvement: redesign. Recognizing that it would cost about the same amount of money to manufacture a more beautiful version of the orange barriers, Henderson went to work, eventually yielding the below solution:

Since the material is still plastic, the barriers could theoretically be any color, but we're digging the green. Below are a few more visualizations of what they would look like on site:

The lattice surface pattern makes the barriers more visually interesting while discouraging graffiti. Granted, the barriers would still be paired with a pretty ugly constriction site, but at least at eye level, the view would be much more pleasant.

Have you ever come across an urban object that could use an upgrade? Let us know in the comments.

New Book: The ABC's of Latin American Industrial Design

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-06-19 09:29

Finally, a comprehensive study of Latin American design is available in one book. Pablo Diaz's recently released ABC del Diseño Industrial Latinoamericano (ABC's of Latin American Industrial Design) gathers the best design projects from over 14 countries in one, easy-to-read and picture-filled tome perfect for students and anyone seeking inspiration.

The idea for the book first occurred to Diaz in 2011, when he realized the story of Latin American design still wasn't being communicated adequately. "Although Argentina has a huge and cosmopolitan editorial culture, in terms of Latin American industrial design there is very little, and what there is is concentrated in pure and simple theory," he explains. "I felt the need to get rid of all that academicism and that centrality that is published on industrial design in the United States, Europe, and Japan, mainly."

In 620 pages, the book presents one hundred emblematic projects, across transportation design, furniture, household appliances, and more. The approachable study covers the first decades of the 20th Century to the present day. You'll find big names like Lina Bo Bardi, but plenty of lesser-known figures as well. "I include the heroes, but we put them on an equal footing with other designers, design offices, products, and companies, surely more anonymous, but vital."

ABC del Diseño Industrial Latinoamericano is currently available through Caligrama Editorial. The first edition is only available in Spanish, but fingers-crossed an English translation will be coming soon.