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The Merits of Sketching on Toned Backgrounds

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

In the pre-digital era, industrial designers had to keep a decent stock of colored Canson paper on hand for renderings. I still remember buying these as a design student; with little funds, I'd get no more than five at a time in random colors, at least one of them dark grey.

In this video, industrial designer Michael DiTullo discusses both the history and merits of sketching on toned paper, then demonstrates with a sneaker sketch:


Berlin Mass Transit Bans Deodorant, to Encourage Proper Mask Usage

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, a/k/a the BVG, is Berlin's public transport company, managing the U-Bahn, tram, bus and ferry services. They've got a wry sense of humor; the name of the company's official Twitter account is "Because we love you", and they use pro-mass-transit slogans like "Not even your mummy will pick you up at 04:30 in the morning."

Masks are mandatory on German public transportation, but BVG officials learned some riders were flouting the rules by wearing the masks loosely, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. In response, the BVG sent out the following Tweet:

Loose translation:"You leave us no choice."Because so many people think that they can wear the mask under their noses, we are now putting on other strings."THE BVG CALLS FOR A DEODORANT BAN"Do you still want your nose hanging out?"

It's obviously a joke--how would they enforce it?--but the thinking is sound: If everyone stinks, you're more likely to strap that mask on tight.


Sony Now Selling a Wearable Personal Air Conditioner

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Sony is now producing a portable, wearable personal air conditioner. Called the Reon Pocket, it comes with a dedicated undershirt with a pocket sewn below the nape of the neck; the smartphone-sized cooling unit sits in this pocket, and a "heat dissipation mechanism" sucks heat off of your body while a small fan blows it through the back of the shirt.




The wearer can dial the cooling level in using a smartphone app, and there's also an automatic mode that takes advantage of a built-in motion sensor; for instance, the device can detect if you're stationary or walking, and adjust the coolness to suit.

The functionality can also be reversed; the Reon Pocket can be used in winter as a personal heater.

Japanese-market only, at least for now, the device is being sold in retail stores in Japan and on Amazon Japan for ¥18,900 (USD $176).


"Blade Runner" Intro Re-Cut With Illegal Fireworks Show in L.A.

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Blade Runner was set in 2019 Los Angeles, and last year Rob Beschizza recut the intro with footage of L.A.'s actual 2019 wildfires. It was an eerily good fit.

Last weekend KTLA News captured helicopter footage of L.A.'s decentralized and illegal Fourth of July fireworks celebrations. Video editor Mike Dent used the footage to re-cut the Blade Runner intro yet again, and this might be an even better fit:


An Experienced Industrial Designer's Tips on How Not to Get Ripped Off

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

After reading the story of how Swoon Foundations ripped off designer Simone Brewster, a reader chimed in with some helpful information for other designers, particularly younger or newer ones.

Top: Simone Brewster's design. Bottom: Uncredited production piece sold by Swoon Editions.

Industrial designer Hans Marvell has been in the product game for twenty years, and his roles in product development go well beyond design: Sales, supplier relations, project coordination and account management are all hats he's got hanging on the rack. His broad set of experiences has given him good knowledge of the potential pitfalls designers face, and we wanted to reprint his comments here to give them greater visibility.

Brewster's case "is sadly not at all uncommon," Marvell writes. "There was recently a high profile court case here in Denmark where a ceramic designer had her products copied and sold in a discount super-market chain. In the end she was able to take them to court and win."

"I believe that there will soon be a review of the European laws and regulations regarding design and copyright, but this will not benefit UK designers anymore due to Brexit. I have no faith in the EU agreeing on any real changes that will be appropriate or easy to implement."Designers face a minefield when trying to get work. There are so many ways in which they have to run risks when trying to share their work online, get publicity, get briefs and cover the costs of making a proposal. "One tip is to insist on always signing and dating all drawings. You should be making your own technical drawings anyway (or pay someone to do so for you) and know how to set up a drawings data sheet. 90% of the drawings I see aren't made to any standard, which is extremely frustrating."And no, 3D files aren't enough, they should always be backed up by 2D general assemblies and component drawings. 90% of the factories I work with in the wood processing and furniture industry don't have Solidworks, Rhino or the time to figure out poorly made drawings. This costs a lot of time and frustration in the sourcing and development process."At the company I have worked at for the last four years, we often had to charge clients for re-drawing products for production before we could even start to get a quote on making the furniture."I don't know what the correct name is for it in English*, but here in Denmark there is a public office where legal documents including production drawings can be independently signed and stamped with a seal, so when you send a scan or copy of these, then they bear an independently, legally binding confirmation that the work is yours and dated to a specific date. This is not that expensive. It sends a better signal than a NDA does that you are serious about the value of your work.[*Editor's note: The U.S. equivalent is a Notary Public.]"One interesting point I noted in the article was that Simone Brewster was asked to make her proposal in Swoon's layout template and without her name on it. 

Simone Brewster's drawing.

"This might actually be due to the nature of the product sourcing process. I don't want to defend Swoon's actions, just give a little insight in the sourcing and production process:"Usually there is a general NDA and solid agreement between a brand, any sourcing agent, and the producer they use. However, they need to send the proposals to several producers and sub-contractors to make the furniture at the right quality and price."In that process, the drawing material needs to be as simple as possible and without any hints of the final client's identity. If a factory Googles the name of the designer, and sees what that person or the brand's products retail for, they may very well put a higher charge on their services if they think they can get away with it."This is where the work of a good sourcing agent or product developer is important. That person has to evaluate each factory and have a thorough knowledge of raw material costs, labour costs, standard hardware components, packaging costs and transport. That's the sort of work I have done for many years and it has its own set of risks and game rules."Having said that, as many others have commented, you NEVER send production ready drawings to a client or factory with out a legally binding contract. I could go on, but fear my record for making the longest comments on Core77.com posts really is not one to be proud of. Good luck everyone."

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Feel free to go on next time, Marvell; we value hard-won experience, and we're happy that you took the time to share. Thanks!


Innovative Theater Combines Old Techniques With New to Design a Social Distancing Auditorium

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Amidst the pandemic, Philadelphia's Wilma Theater has been trying to figure out how they'll stay afloat; how do you put on a play for 300 people in the age of social distancing?

After brainstorming with dozens of creatives and administrators, they've come up with a solution that combines both old and new techniques. The plan, spearheaded by set designers Misha Kachman, Sara Brown and Matt Saunders, and incorporating input from video designer Jorge Cousineau, is to go back to old-school (I'm talking William Shakespeare's Globe, circa 1599) theater design for their forthcoming Wilma Globe.

"Conjectural reconstruction of the Globe theatre by C. Walter Hodges based on archeological and documentary evidence." Source: Folger Shakespeare Library, C.C. ASA 4.0 I

The Wilma Globe, designed by Misha Kachman, Sara Brown and Matt Saunders

The Wilma Globe is an arena, surrounded by two levels of audiences-boxes, each separated from one another by wooden dividers, but open to the stage. Depending on the specific needs of the show, it can be reconfigured into a semi-circle, horseshoe, and more. This Globe can fit as little as 30 and up to 100 people, and will provide a higher level of safety and comfort to our audiences.

As for how to reach the same-sized audiences they were getting prior to the pandemic, here's where modern technology steps in:

Our full capacity used to be more than 300. How can we reach the same number of people? Our answer: Video-Streaming. Our plan, pending approval from our unions, is to approach streaming not merely as a technical solution but as an opportunity for artistic invention.

We hope to discreetly install about a dozen cameras inside the Wilma Globe, uniquely placed for each production. Some of these would take care of the big picture, while others could be as small and specific as a camera hidden on an actor's costume. As the director is rehearsing the show, a video designer would create a "video-script" of the production, allowing us to stream a high quality, artistically planned version of the play. This way we can open our productions to a much broader circle of potential audiences.

The Wilma adminstrators hope to have the Globe ready by late 2020. If you want to contribute, they're seeking advance ticket sales and donations here.


Industrial Designer Creates Concept for Copic Marker with RGB Slider, Design Blogs Don't Understand It's a Joke

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

"I'm learning KeyShot 3D," industrial designer Burkay Gursoy wrote in an Instagram post, "and I like trying interesting things while learning." Thus he rendered up a fanciful design for a Copic marker with RGB sliders:

Gursoy meant it as a joke, writing:

What's more hilarious is that other design blogs are taking the concept seriously, with one calling it "genius" and saying "it truly solves our woes," with another writing "from full to faded, you can shift the copic marker's red, green and blue sliders to find your perfect color."

I can guarantee none of those writers have ever done a marker rendering. Exactly how do you mix red, green and blue to produce yellow or orange?

RGB, as Gursoy and every designer worth their wages knows, is a technique used for light, not pigments. RGB is how color televisions and monitors work. CMYK and tiny dots is how color printers work.

We should be thankful Gursoy's an ethical guy; if he held a Kickstarter for this concept, he'd likely gain millions in ill-gotten pledges.


As COVID Cases Rise in Texas, Female-Led Company Fights Back with Zipper-Mouthed Face Mask Design

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

While Texas has been slammed with COVID-19 infections, three Houston-area women are trying to combat the spread by encouraging people to wear masks. Jewelry designer Madison Herington, nutritionist Sarah Cordill and medical researcher Haley Manley teamed up to start Shut Your Mouth, a company that produces facemasks with a novel design feature: A zipper.

"Need to sip? Open the zipper! Need to hydrate? Unzip! We want to allow people to keep their faces covered, stay safe, be responsible," the company writes.


The $35 masks come in a variety of patterns, and judging by availability, have become a hit; a number of patterns are currently sold out.


You can see what's left here.


Here's a Variety of Responses to "7 Questions for an Industrial Designer"

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

A variety of industrial designers have been asked to post YouTube videos answering the same seven questions. Those questions are:

1. How did you get into industrial design?2. How do you explain your job to those who don't know what ID is?3. What inspirations have developed your ID style?4. Which company would you love to design a product for?5. What is your go-to industrial design program, and why?6. What do you dislike most about industrial design?7. What makes an industrial design good?

Videos came in fast and furious, and there are far too many to embed here, but we have put together a bunch of them in a playlist. Kicking it off is Sketch-a-Day founder Spencer Nugent:

There's currently 15 designers on the playlist (you can click that little icon at top right of the YouTube window to see if there's anyone you know) and we'll add more as they come in.

Husband-and-Wife Team Create Awesome, Affordable, Capable Off-Road Wheelchair

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Zack Nelson of the JerryRigEverything YouTube channel is the DIY electronics repair guy, but he's also got inventing chops. And now, manufacturing chops. Together with his wife, Cambry, Nelson designed and built an off-road wheelchair/bicycle hybrid (Cambry is a wheelchair user)--and they've figured out how to produce them for less than half the price of other off-road wheelchairs.

Take a look at what they're calling the Not-a-Wheelchair:



Here they show you what it can do off-road (and just as importantly, what it can't do):

In addition to the cost savings, I love that they've designed it with maintenance and serviceability in mind by using off-the-shelf bike parts. And as they stated in the video, this is no Kickstarter announcement; they're ready to go into production, and you can place orders here for delivery as early as September.




Translating an Apology to a Designer For Stealing Their Work

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago


After furniture company Swoon Editions got caught stealing designer Simone Brewster's work, and profiting off of it, Swoon Co-founder Debbie Williamson issued an apology. I can't imagine anyone actually falls for this kind of language, but thought I'd provide a translation anyway.

Simone,
I'm sorry we've caused you distress.I'm not sorry we stole your work, but the "distress" part sucks.I can appreciate why you are angry.I have as much empathy as any customer service representative.We value your design work, and that of other independent designers, and of course you should be paid for it.I'll say we value it now, but won't mention that we didn't value it before. Then I'll explain how a basic business arrangement works.I would never intentionally do something untoward…It's not my fault...…but in this situation, our processes have fallen down, and need to be improved....it's the fault of those darn processes! They fell right over! Who put those processes in place? Who knows?!? I guess we'll never know! Moving on!We have two immediate priorities:Previously these were neither priorities nor immediate, but now that we've been caught, they're both!(1) to work with you to ensure payment and (2) to take steps to ensure that this never happens again including:In other words, we've decided to do what business ethics and common human decency say we should have done in the first place.1. Ensuring all designers have a contract to outline how they will be paid and when.Not giving out contracts doesn't work anymore, now that we can't get away with it.2. Providing clarity on the invoicing process.Because the previous system, where we hire you to do work, you send us an invoice, and we pay it, was WAY confusing!3. Following up to ensure the designer has invoiced.Our research shows that sometimes designers don't want to be paid and will purposely withhold invoices. You creatives! (Shaking fist)4. Ensuring payment has been made.I know, this one is crazy! We got the idea for this when we ate at a restaurant, and they had this process in place where the waiter checks to see if you've received the meal that he agreed to bring you. It was totally Six Sigma!5. Giving feedback on the progress of the design through the production process.See, prior to this incident, we thought "feedback" meant "Don't pick up the phone if she calls." Fixed!We should have paid you the agreed amount on time but we didn't and for that, I am truly sorry.I am stating what you already know, which is that we did not pay you. I was not sorry when we first didn't pay you, but with all of these people reading this, I will now express sorrow.We've reached out to you directly and via your lawyers to ensure payment is made, along with compensation. In the meantime, we've removed the designs from our website until we can resolve this.Actually, we didn't remove the product page from our website, but we did remove the photo of it and write "This Product is out of stock. Please try again later," so if enough time goes by, we might be able to rip you off again later.

Debbie,Co-founder, SwoonThis last part is true. My name is Debbie and I did co-found the company.




Swoon Editions Gets Caught Stealing Designer's Work, Must Now Pay Up

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Freelance designers know the ritual of chasing down late checks. But imagine you submit a series of designs to a client, you do the follow-up work to get the designs production-ready, then they refuse to return your calls. Did the project get canceled?

And then, almost two years later, you look at their website and see that while they won't take your calls, they're selling your designs.

Furniture company Swoon Editions is a client who did this, to designer Simone Brewster. And thanks to social media, they've just been exposed.

Who is Swoon Editions?

Swoon Co-founders Debbie Williamson and Brian Harrison

Swoon Editions, founded in 2012 by Debbie Williamson and Brian Harrison, is a UK-based furniture company. As of 2018, Swoon Editions had an annual turnover of £20 million (USD $25 million), according to the BBC. The "Our Designs" statement on Swoon's website states that they "have a deep-rooted belief in the value of craft and work directly with the best artisans in the UK, Europe and the world to bring our designs to life."

Who is Simone Brewster?

Simone Brewster

Simone Brewster is a London-based designer with a degree in Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and an M.A. in Design Products from the Royal College of Art. In addition to designing furniture, objects and jewelry, she's given lectures on contemporary design, specifically on "the potential applications of architectural principals across the scale and spectrum of three dimensional design."

Here's Brewster's story: "I was excited to be asked in 2018 by Swoon to design a range of cabinets. I was told that for each design that went into production I would receive a flat fee. If the designs were unsuccessful I would unfortunately not be paid, but there would likely be another brief and another chance to get something through. I was never presented with a physical contract."I saw it as a great opportunity to expand my portfolio, and see how the big guys did things. Also, I was confident in my ability to design something worthwhile, so I said yes."I was emailed a brief and a document outlining the trends they were interested in tapping into. I came up with some initial designs and an in-person meeting was scheduled.

"There was some discussion of modifications, largely about re-sizing the pieces to sit in line with existing ranges and the use of technical production elements that employ existing techniques already in use as opposed to more costly production processes.

"A handover date was set. I would work on finalising the designs. Presentation templates were e-mailed over so as to ensure the handover was in the in-house style. I was not to put my name on anything directly."On 1st July 2018, I emailed over the final designs. I was told that I should hear back from them by close of business Wednesday 4th July, 2018."I didn't hear anything back. I phoned a few times to try and get some feedback but could not get through to anyone I'd had previous contact with. I eventually wrote an email on 9th July 2018 asking if there was any news, the brief reply: "Nope - nothing yet, I'll let you know if anything comes up.""That was the last contact I received from Swoon. I assumed the proposal was unsuccessful."In January 2020 I was surfing the internet and clicked a link that took me through to Swoon's site. Before I knew it I was looking at a real life manifestation of the designs I had handed over in 2018. The designs that didn't warrant a thank you email or a follow up call or any form of recognition.

Brewster's design

From Swoon Editions' website, Google Image cache. Swoon has since pulled the listing, sort of--see below.

"I was so shocked that they appeared to have totally disregarded my part in designing the pieces, denying both recognition and payment.

"I enlisted a lawyer who contacted Swoon on my behalf. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Swoon offered a settlement that would not have even covered my legal costs, and said they would not go any higher. If the case went to trial, not only would I have to find further money for my own significant legal fees, but could also be liable for up to £50,000 for Swoon's legal fees if I lost. I therefore agreed with my lawyer to take a different route.

"So I reached out to my network of friends and contacts within the design world to share my experience on social media. The support has been overwhelming and I'm very grateful for that. Hopefully through highlighting my experience others will become more aware of some of the poor practices within our industry, and will be forearmed to better handle these situations."

After Brewster posted her story, support poured in and awareness of the situation built. Swoon Editions was forced to respond.

Here's Swoon's bullshit, PR-speak apology, written by Swoon co-founder Debbie Williamson: Simone,I'm sorry we've caused you distress. I can appreciate why you are angry. We value your design work, and that of other independent designers, and of course you should be paid for it.I would never intentionally do something untoward but in this situation, our processes have fallen down, and need to be improved.We have two immediate priorities:(1) to work with you to ensure payment and (2) to take steps to ensure that this never happens again including:1. Ensuring all designers have a contract to outline how they will be paid and when.2. Providing clarity on the invoicing process.3. Following up to ensure the designer has invoiced.
4. Ensuring payment has been made.
5. Giving feedback on the progress of the design through the production process.
We should have paid you the agreed amount on time but we didn't and for that, I am truly sorry.We've reached out to you directly and via your lawyers to ensure payment is made, along with compensation. In the meantime, we've revmoed the designs from our website until we can resolve this.Debbie,Co-founder, Swoon

This is the webpage where Brewster's work was being sold without her knowledge. Note that saying"This Product is currently out of stock" sounds better than saying "We stole this design, have been selling it, and just got caught for it, so we pulled it down."

_________________________________

Resolution

I'm glad Brewster spoke up, and am proud of the creative community for supporting her. Below is her original Instagram post, populated with tons of supportive comments:

And below is that Swoon apology post, where you can read the feedback they're getting (at least until they disable comments, which I imagine they'll do based on the comments I read):


The attention drawn by this social media storm will ensure Brewster gets paid, and will hopefully dissuade other companies from following similarly fraudulent practices.

VanMoof Bicycle Commercial Banned From French Television

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

Since bicycle ridership has thankfully been increasing during the pandemic, and because even cities with decent mass transit like Paris have created new cycling initiatives, you might wonder: Why would French authorities ban one of the first bicycle commercials scheduled to air on French TV?

Dutch manufacturer VanMoof created the spot to highlight their S3 and X3 e-bikes. Here's the commercial:

The commercial--which has aired in the Netherlands and Germany with no problems--is totally non-offensive, isn't it? Here's the ban rationale, from the ARPP (Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité, in English, the Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority) as reported by VanMoof:

According to the ARPP, certain shots of the car's reflections "discredit the automobile sector [...] while creating a climate of anxiety." It is notable that the ARPP rejected what would have been one of the first bike ads on French TV, despite recently pledging to reinforce the sustainability aspects of their policies.

Further down in the press release, we get to the bottom of it. First off the ARPP isn't a governmental body, but "a self-regulatory organisation supported by the private sector." And as it turns out:

The [banning] decision comes at a time when the French car industry is in trouble, with sales plummeting due to COVID-19 and widespread economic decline on the horizon. In a bid to support the sector – responsible for almost a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions – the government recently introduced a recovery plan worth €8 billion.

Well, that stinks. At the very least, I'm hoping it'll give VanMoof some good publicity. Here's their response, by the way:

"It's puzzling that car companies are allowed to gloss over their environmental problems, but when someone challenges that situation it gets censored." Ties Carlier, VanMoof co-founder.



A Clever Design for a Folding Ladder

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago

A frequent UX fantasy I have: I want occasional-use products to disappear when I don't need them. Ladders evoke this feeling often; we've got three on the property that we use regularly, and all three are a PITA to store and transport.

So after seeing this cleverly-designed Murphy Ladder, I covet it:


How to Fix a Stuck Key on a Macbook Pro Butterfly Keyboard (2016-2019) Without Using Tools or Compressed Air

Core 77 - 17 hours 7 min ago


If you have a Macbook Pro with the butterfly keyboard (2016 - 2019 models) and one of the keys is stuck, try this fix:

Pick up your laptop and turn it upside down. Note the position of the stuck key. Using two fingers, simply give the bottom of the laptop a bunch of firm taps in the area of the problematic key.

Right the laptop and set it down. Push the problematic key repeatedly. It should pop back into place, if it didn't during the inverted step.

This morning the "U" key on my Macbook Pro became stuck in the down position. I read three pointless articles and watched four videos until I finally found the trick I just described. I hope someone Googles for how to fix it and finds this faster than it took me.

Remote Control Lawn Mowers Can Go Places You'd Never Dream of

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-07-07 02:46

Mowing slopes on a riding mower is dangerous. To avoid rollovers, savvy operators only drive up-and-down, never across, the slope. However, repeatedly driving up and down a slope will increase the rate of erosion.

After observing these problems, Mississippi-based inventor John Wright first decided to get rid of the operator, rigging up a mower with remote control. Then he got rid of the wheels, replacing them instead with turf tracks.

He started a company, Remote Mowers, to commercialize his products, which can go places you'd never dream of trying with a riding mower.

Here's one of his machines in action:

Here Wright explains the performance capabilities of his machines and discusses their typical applications. He also describes how he's designed them for serviceability:

Wright's invention is both mechanically and commercially brilliant. As for the latter, never mind the domestic market; consider that America is covered in highway embankments and rolling college campuses, all of which have landscaping budgets and regular maintenance needs.

Now for the bad news. After ten years in business, Remote Mowers stopped updating both their YouTube channel and Facebook page last year, as if the company had gone dark. One of the final YouTube videos was for a "Remote Mowers Investment Opportunity," which suggests financial trouble. And when I poked around on the internet for more recent traces of the company, I found these damning reviews on Yelp:

Ah well. It was still a great design for a great product, but as we all know, the business end has to be at least as robust as the design.


Financial Technology Company Aza's Rebrand Weaves African Heritage and Spirit Into Its Design Language

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-07-07 02:46

"Rebranding of Aza: Pan-African Financial Infrastructure" took home the Visual Communication Winner Award in the 2020 Core77 Design Awards competition.

Formerly called BitPesa, Aza is a financial technology company that preceded the growth of "Silicon Savannah" since its beginning in Kenya in the early 2010s. Simply put, the company helps foreign businesses transfer money into Africa, and African businesses transfer money out of the continent, bypassing the US Dollar intermediary currency.

And the growth of this financial ecosystem on the continent is rising fast—according to Forbes, Africa's Tech Hubs grew at a pace of 40% in 2019 alone, which means their global presence is also expanding.

To respond to both a need for a globally understood presence on top of a focus less strictly on cryptocurrency, Bitpesa began a rebranding journey to revamp their brand architecture, positioning, name and visual identity with the help of San Francisco-based design agency Wunderdogs.

The design thinking behind this re-brand was two-pronged in that the company wanted it to be strongly rooted in African culture while also appealing to worldwide investors and partners. Wunderdogs adds, "as a global business with roots in Africa, BitPesa was deeply committed to elevating and enhancing the geographies in which it operates. With a policy for hiring locals over expats and the majority of business done within the continent it was important the new identity was adopted by employees, understood by partners and appreciated by customers across Africa. With this in mind the identity had to be geographically agnostic...we wanted to create an identity that reflected and celebrated the wide-reaching impact technology had on the continent, enticing those in Europe and the US to realize and leverage potential within the region."

The design team wanted to embrace the cultural roots of Bitpesa instead of creating something homogeneous with brands around the world. They then asked the question: "How do you build modern African tech brands that showcase local and pan-African culture whilst appealing to Western counterparts?"

Their first hurdle came with changing the brand name. After different workshops and semantic explorations, the team came to the name Aza, a nod to several references within African culture. As Wunderdogs explains, "Aza is a female name used across Africa. A subtle yet powerful nod to the leadership team within the business and the matriarchal power structures of Africa. Its meaning varies across languages, yet from Yoruba to Swahili it represents power, strength and honesty. "

For Wunderdogs, the color scheme also needed to stay true to the African brand in which it represents. They took inspiration from the color palettes of 56 national flags across Africa and used it as a jump off point for branding. The complexity and sometimes universality of some of these colors however did present a unique challenge, as Wunderdogs describes: "Selecting distinctly African colors whilst avoiding an obvious similarity with one of the 56 national flags on the continent meant palette choice was one of our biggest challenges. To overcome this hurdle we turned to African textiles and Aza's industry for visual inspiration." To bring a balance to the design that suggested both heritage and universality, the team arrived at a palette that showcases Africa's heritage as well as it's techno-centric future. Blue was chosen as a widely accepted representation of the fintech space, with greens and orange an obvious tie to the continent as a whole.

Awarded the professional winner award in the Core77 Design Awards Visual Communication category for their expert design execution on Aza, Wunderdogs co-founder Daria Gonzales says of the honor, "As a young agency, winning Core77's Visual Communication Award is absolutely groundbreaking for both the team and for our future as a business. It is a great honor to be recognized alongside legendary agencies and designers, especially for one of the most interesting and challenging projects we've tackled to date. I am so grateful for having supported AZA's team on their mission to facilitate the flow of currency into Africa."

The overall success of the project demonstrated to Wunderdogs an important design lesson: never underestimate the power of your story. "The key learning from the Aza rebranding was authenticity triumphs trend," says Wunderdogs. "There is little to be gained from an African-tech company mimicking Western brand standards, and everything to be won by developing a brand that truly embodies the culture within which it operates."

Read more about the rebranding of Aza on our Core77 Design Awards site of 2020 honorees


Design Criticism of the Cognalyzer, a Wearable That's Like a Breathalyzer for Cannabis

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-07-07 02:46

If someone's drunk, you can measure their blood alcohol concentration with a breathalyzer. But there's been no equivalent for measuring how high on THC someone is. "In an era of cannabis legalization," writes industrial design firm Shape Products, "reliable impairment detection will become increasingly important for protecting consumer rights and safety in the workplace."

By "consumer rights," they're presumably talking about a purchaser of cannabis; does this pot get me as high as it's supposed to, did the producer measure what this stuff can do? And the latter point about workplace safety is well-taken: You manage a construction crew, Randy shows up a little glassy-eyed, maybe you don't want him working the crane that day.

Shape was hired by Zentrela, a tech company that developed an algorithm that can read a person's EEG results and measure how high they are. Shape's job was to design the physical object, a portable wearable that they call the Cognalyzer. (Apologies for the low-res photos, those are all that was available.)

As for how it works:

A series of electrodes collect electrical signal (sic) and send the information through a proprietary wiring harness and control unit. From here, the data gets transmitted via Bluetooth to a tablet or computer where the analysis takes place. After about 5 minutes of live data collection, Zentrela's algorithms will have enough information to determine the presence of impairment and the extent to which the test subject is impaired. This technology brings unmatched objectivity and clarity to the impairment detection industry while also opening the door for cannabis producers to better test and segment their products.

I do have a couple of criticisms about the design. Before I get to those, we should first understand what the design challenges were:

Testing validity is at the heart of Zentrela's core value proposition and the hardware must match the sophistication of the software upon which the Cognalyzer relies. One of the main challenges was designing the system to be a one-size-fits-all solution while keeping the manufacturing costs down to facilitate mass distribution. In order to optimize for these considerations, we designed the headset around a die-cut frame. Using early prototypes, we continually tested construction and adjustment styles to ensure that electrodes would be easy to position accurately.

The Cognalyzer system is designed for two users, both equally important; the test administrator and the test subject. Cognalyzer tests are designed to be performed in the real world, not in a laboratory setting and, for those administering and receiving tests, it's likely to be the first time interacting with EEG technology. Because of this, the hardware needed to be foolproof and easy to use.

From the administration standpoint, we carefully considered variations in head shape and size and designed the fit system accordingly. Eight of the ten electrodes can be accurately positioned and checked for signal quality regardless of head size or brain position within the skull. To help secure these electrodes in place for the duration of the test, we designed an electrode that can slide along a track in the die-cut headset to custom-locate on any subject. Our usability and ergonomic testing process was geared towards improving the testing experience for those administering and receiving the test. In addition to speed, we knew that a big part of the experience would come down to subject comfort which is especially important as many of us are predisposed to feel uncomfortable when receiving any type of medical test. To help make the experience more comfortable we added soft materials to the die-cut edges and electrode bodies that would come in contact with subjects' skin and head.[Zentrela's feedback] was instrumental in getting to a final product that strikes a balance between, subject comfort, ease of testing, and of course, medical validity.

So assuming the points they needed to hit from the design brief were physical comfort, ease of testing and medical validity, I can assume they've reached their benchmarks. Thus my criticisms may not be fair because they're outside of the design brief. I'll air them anyway, for the purpose of discussion.

My take is that while the device may be comfortable to wear, with well-considered touchpoints, it doesn't look comfortable. That's fine if I'm a professional marijuana producer testing out my product, like a farmer taking a soil sample--you don't care what the tool looks like, as long as it works well.

However, if I show up for work and my boss thinks I'm high, and asks me to strap this thing on, I'm going to be resistant. In my opinion and within this context, the device looks cold and clinical, or like some kind of torture device from a sci-fi movie. I don't want to be ordered to don this.

And my main concern, given recent events, is how this object would be used in a law-enforcement capacity. If I get pulled over--and if I'm a black person, who is likely already terrified--the last thing I want to do is let a police officer put this onto my head.

I understand that this object's design is form-follows-function, and I'm sure it works for providing readings. But I would want to see an equally important secondary function in the design brief, which is to consider the contexts in which this item might be used, and what the perception of it will be to the perhaps unwilling wearer.

That's just my two cents. Your thoughts?


How to Add Spray-On Lights to 3D-Printed Parts

Core 77 - Tue, 2020-07-07 02:46

Typically, if you're prototyping something and you need part of that prototype to illuminate, you have to design around whatever off-the-shelf lighting component you're using. The available technology thus influences the final form.

What if, instead, you could 3D print whatever shape you like, and spray the lighting on afterwards? I know that sounds crazy, but a group of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) researchers at the UK's University of Bristol have figured out how to do just that. They use multimaterial 3D printing to print a combination of insulating and conductive plastics, then spray a series of materials (including one layer of electroluminescent paint) onto the form and wire it to a power source.

Here are examples of what they can produce:

They call their process ProtoSpray, and here's what it looks like in action:

Interested to try it yourself? They've got an Instructable up called "ProtoSpray: How to Make Your 3D Prints Light Up!"


Will Fancraft™ Technology Finally Bring Us Flying Cars?

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-07-06 01:52

A company called Metro Skyways has been working on VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) systems in an effort to realize practical and safe flying cars. "Our mission," the company writes, "is to manufacture the world's safest, quietest, most compact, high occupancy VTOL aircraft in order to make aerial, mass transportation a reality by making it commercially viable."

The technology they're investing in is what they call Fancraft™, which is essentially a pair of large, drone-like rotors that are integrated into the overall form of the vehicle, rather than sticking up over it. The interior part of the form between the two rotors becomes the passenger cabin.

2003 prototype

Latest design, the Cityhawk

This approach, according to the company, yields multiple benefits:

Compact with Large PayloadFancraft™ have 1/4 the footprint of a helicopter with a more spacious cabin. They eliminate the risks associated with external rotors without compromising any of a helicopter's payload, range or hover capabilities.

More aircraft carrying more passengers can fly and land in less space making Fancraft™ a key element in establishing a successful urban, aerial, mass-transportation system.

Quiet Comparable to Street TrafficPart of being "urban friendly" is being quiet. Ducted rotors enclosed in the fuselage are inherently quieter than an open rotor, which means that Fancraft™ start out at a natural advantage when it comes to noise.

Add to that our multi-bladed, slow-turning rotors which generate less noise at its source and you wind up with an aircraft that will blend seamlessly into the ambient sound of city traffic at 70 dBA from just a block away.

They've got two different designs. The first is the Falcon XP, an air shuttle sized to carry 13 passengers and a pilot:

The second is their Cityhawk, sized to carry five passengers and one pilot:

Sadly, there's no word on how close they are to production, nor what regulatory hurdles remain.