Home | Feed aggregator

Feed aggregator

How to Restore a Truck's Torn, Trashed Seat

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Kim Buckminster's path as a craftsperson was shaped early: He was "introduced to needle and thread by my mother at age four," he writes, "with many people influencing me in upholstery, arts, craftsmanship and education." Today he runs Buckminster Upholstery, a Nebraska-based business that specializes in antique restoration and conservation. If you've got a Charles Limbert Arts and Crafts furniture piece circa 1900 that needs fixin', Buckminster's your guy.

Which is not to say he only takes on antique projects. In the video down at the bottom Buckminster shows you, step-by-step, how he restores a totally trashed seat bottom from a truck.

It should be required watching for ID students during their shop training--how do you create a contoured foam shape from rectilinear pieces, what are some tricks you can use to double-check your pieces for symmetry, et cetera--and it's satisfying to see how Buckminster arrives at the finished product:

Social Commentary: A (Probably) Fake Company Offers "Face ID Compatible" Respirator Masks

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

I've seen this circulated as news (thanks, social media) but I'm pretty certain this is an artist having a laugh. A website called Face ID Masks claims that they make "N95 respiratory masks that work with facial recognition software. Our masks are custom printed with your face making phone access easy during viral epidemics."

I know most social media users don't bother going too far past the headline, but it doesn't take much scrolling on Face ID Masks' website before you reach this telltale part of their FAQ:

Is this a joke?Yes. No. We're not sure. Viruses are not a joke. Wash your hands when you can. And get vaccines when you can.How can I get one?If you enjoy late stage capitalism, facial recognition respirator masks will retail for $40 per mask. They are still in development.We will not be making these while there's still a global mask shortage.

Sadly, I could just as easily see this not being a joke.

More Product Disassembly Animations from Disillusioned Industrial Designer Dina Amin

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

A couple of years ago we spotted the work of Dina Amin, an industrial designer who ran into a paradox:

"I realized that I am not very fond of a huge part of Industrial Design," she writes, "the part where we consume insane amount of resources and energy to design things that eventually people throw away."

Amin began creating stop-motion animations of her hobby, which is disassembling consumer products to learn about their construction. In the two years since we last checked in on her, she's done a bunch of these, and has put them into a supercut:

Check out Amin's website here.

Self-Assembling "Origami" Furniture Designed by Former SpaceX Engineer

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft features a neat trick: After being launched into space, it deploys massive solar arrays that unfold from the rocket body (video here). These arrays suck up the sun's delicious juice, providing power for the craft's sensors, communications systems, and heating and cooling systems.

It took a team of engineers to get that to work, and Brian Ignaut was one of them. "I worked on [the] deployable solar arrays at SpaceX for six years," he writes, before revealing that he had a hobby on the side: Designing and building furniture that also unfolds.

What appear to be odd-shaped stacks of wood are pulled open to transform into furniture pieces that lock into place, without the user needing to mess with fasteners. It's almost like flat-pack furniture that self-assembles, with minor input from the user.

Ignaut "went rogue" in 2018, quitting SpaceX to focus on designing, building and selling his own furniture. For now his prices are high, but Ignaut sees that as a temporary necessity. "Affordability is the ultimate goal," he writes. "I'm excited about making things that a wider audience can purchase. Though I'm not there today, hopefully these higher priced runs will be able to subsidize the development of more cost effective iterations."

Check out his company, Degrees of Freedom.

How to 3D Print Something That Convincingly Looks Like Wood, Using Simple Hand Finishing Techniques

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Justine Haupt, the polymath behind that killer rotary cell phone, has a lot of other tricks up her sleeve. On her projects page I found this concertina (an accordion relative) that she 3D printed, as you can tell by looking at it:

However, the finished product rather convincingly resembles wood:

So how'd she do it? In a nutshell, some 60-grit, stain, wood finish and (directional) elbow grease.

You might be able to figure it out from there, but click here for details on her process. It's as simple as it is clever.

Who's Got the Best-Looking Electric Delivery Van Design: Amazon, FedEx or UPS?

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

At this point Amazon, FedEx and UPS have all put in orders for electric delivery vans. FedEx was actually the first to make the news, ordering 1,000 vehicles from Chinese manufacturer Chanje back in 2018:

Stylistically it's a mess, particularly that front end, where it looks like the designers were halfheartedly trying to rip off the worst part of a Nissan Frontier:

Last month UPS announced they were getting into the electric game too, ordering 10,000 no-gas vans from the UK's Arrival, whose design game is more on point:

But it was Amazon who went largest, if neither first nor last, announcing in 2019 that they'd ordered 100,000 electric vans from Rivian, likely altering the future of that company:

Amazon is also the only one who seems interested in pushing the design angle, releasing images of the mockups in the design studio:

That being said--and sorry to dump on Nissan again--it looks to me like the designers took the last-gen NV200 and stretched everything above the beltline to make it taller.

Who do you think has the best-looking truck? If I look at them all together…

…I've gotta give it to UPS. Sure, the truck's shape is such that new drivers will need a second to figure out which end the driver's compartment is in. But to me it looks the most modern, and I'm digging those sexy little fender flares.

What say you?

Alastair Philip Wiper's "Unintended Beauty" Photo Book of Industrial Spaces

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Fascinated with the intersection of industry, science and architecture, British photographer Alastair Philip Wiper has visited his share of factories and industrial facilities. His website is loaded with photos revealing his capacity for capturing the almost terrifyingly organized beauty of them:

This month he's released a new book documenting the best of them, Unintended Beauty.

Unintended Beauty offers a rare insight into places of work, knowledge and power that are normally kept behind closed doors. Unintended Beauty is a photographic exploration of industrial iconography and scientific symbolism found in technical facilities in around the world. The book reveals the accidental aesthetics, sublime complexities and rich details of our machines - machines that smash atoms together, build aeroplanes, produce medicine, make shoes, stuff sausages, and more.

Click here to see more of his work, and you can order Unintended Beauty here.

Also, if you're a B&O fan, check out Wiper's previous book The Art of Impossible: The Bang & Olufsen Design Story.

New Super-Fast 3D Printing Method: Prints in Seconds, High-Res, No Layers, Soft or Hard Materials

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Researchers at Switzerland's EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) have invented a new 3D printing method similar to stereolithography, but with far faster results.

The similarity between the two systems is that both use photosensitive resins cured by lasers. Where they differ is that EPFL's system, which is tomography-inspired, doesn't build layer-by-layer on a vertically-moving platform, but instead comprehensively blasts their beams into a spinning container holding the resin. This essentially creates the object in one go, and with better surface quality, absent telltale layers.

At present their build area is limited to two centimeters square, but they can print objects with extraordinary speed, from "milliseconds" to "less than 30 seconds," depending on the complexity of the part.

Because they can print objects using both hard and soft materials, an obvious application is medical:

The researchers teamed up with a surgeon to test 3D-printed arteries made using the technique. "The trial results were extremely encouraging," says Damien Loterie, CEO of Readily3D.

Readily3D, by the way, is a spin-off the researchers have already set up to commercialize the technology. They reckon further development will increase their build area from two to 15 centimeters; if they're able to do that and the price is manageable, I believe at that point we'll start seeing strong interest from industrial design consultancies that aren't purely medical-focused. "The process could also be used to quickly build small silicone or acrylic parts that don't need finishing after printing," says Christophe Moser, who heads up EPFL's Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices, which developed the technology.

Watch This Enormous Mobile Crane "Self-Assemble"

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

The Liebherr LTR 1220 is a telescopic crawler crane with a 220-metric-ton (242 U.S. ton) maximum load capacity, with a boom arm that can hoist things 101 meters (331 feet) into the air.

Although it can move around on jobsites under its own steam, it of course moves too slowly and takes up too much space to drive it there; so like a stationary crane, it is broken down into pieces and trucked to the jobsite. But it is designed in such a way that once it arrives, it can "self-assemble," with some human help:

Currently Crowdfunding: A Travel Cup That Can Fit Inside Your Pocket, an Educational Robot Friendly Enough to be a Pixar Character, and More

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Brought to you by MAKO Design + Invent, North America's leading design firm for taking your product idea from a sketch on a napkin to store shelves. Download Mako's Invention Guide for free here.

Navigating the world of crowdfunding can be overwhelming, to put it lightly. Which projects are worth backing? Where's the filter to weed out the hundreds of useless smart devices? To make the process less frustrating, we scour the various online crowdfunding platforms to put together a weekly roundup of our favorite campaigns for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:

Hunu is a reusable coffee cup that collapses to fit inside your pocket, making it easier than ever to avoid single-use disposable cups when you're on the go. You don't even have to worry about cleaning it beforehand, it comes with a plug so you won't risk any leaks.

This furniture system uses an ingenious connector that doesn't require any tools or hardware. You'll have to buy your own plywood but after that, the sky's the limit for what you can build with your own two hands.

With a friendly design that looks like it came straight out of a Pixar movie, Clicbot is a modular, educational robot with myriad programming possibilities for kids embarking on their STEM journey.

A push and grip mechanism allows this simple towel holder to function better than any hook and keep your towels off the floor.

For all you transit buffs: This documentary explores the factors leading to New York City's subway crisis as well as the dire state of transit infrastructure throughout the country.

Do you need help designing, developing, patenting, manufacturing, and/or selling YOUR product idea? MAKO Design + Invent is a one-stop-shop specifically for inventors / startups / small businesses. Click HERE for a free confidential product consultation.

Design vs. Disposability: The Icon Approach

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

The folks over at Freethink have put together a killer video on Jonathan Ward's Icon. This one isn't just drooling over the cars and Ward's legendary attention to design detail; instead they ask the larger question, what if this level of thought, design, future-proofing and craftsmanship were applied to all products? What would that do to our perceptions of disposability and long-term use?

"They're taking a 40 year old car," says a familiar voice in the video, "and essentially preparing it for its next 40 years." Yep, Icon collaborator Michael DiTullo makes an appearance in the vid, along with some of his sketches.

Check out the video, and let us know in the comments what you think of the presented philosophies.

See Also:- An Interview with Jonathan Ward, Founder of Icon- Ward's Obsessive Approach to Industrial Design- Ward on Designing Without Corporate Interference, and Where Icon Could Go

Stephanie Yung of Smart Design Predicts the Most Promising Future Design Trends in Health & Wellness

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago
For this year's Core77 Design Awards, we're conducting in-depth interviews with some of our 2020 jury captains to get in a glimpse into their creative minds and to hear more about what they'll be looking for in this year's awards submissions.

Stephanie Yung is Design Director at Smart Design in New York City, a leading company in the product development space. Yung's design experience over the years expands across industries far and wide, but she has dedicated a particular, passionate focus over that time on designing in the health and wellness space, particularly for women. Her development of the app concept Jr., an idea that transpired from her experience of having a child as a single woman, has received praise over the past couple of years for its design approach to the tricky yet important subject of single motherhood. This year, Yung will be the 2020 Core77 Design Awards Jury Captain for our Health & Wellness category—we took a little time to chat with her about her work at Smart and the health trends she sees making a big impact in the near future.

What is your role at Smart Design and what does a day there look like for you?

I'm the Design Director at Smart and what that primarily means is that I'm overseeing projects we're working on on a day to day basis. In terms of the type of projects I'm working on, whether we're designing a new product, a new service or designing a new experience, there's something that needs to be said about both answering a functional, but also an emotional, human need. Oftentimes a client will come to us and see an opportunity, but they won't know exactly what the solution looks like or sometimes they won't even know what they are "supposed" to design. So usually it's us meeting with the people we're designing for to uncover where the gaps are and where we can truly make a difference, not only from a market landscape but from a brand lens as well. I, personally, am very focused on designing for women as well as designing health and wellness experiences, services and products.

In terms of what a typical day looks like for me: I'm very rarely at my desk, which is a good thing and I enjoy. It leaves me pretty active, just meeting with a lot of people. Oftentimes you can find me working with teams. The way that we're set up here is that once we have a program or a project, we have a physical space actually dedicated to it, so the whole team spends their time there. So I'm usually going from project team to project team to review work and work with them.

We do a lot of qualitative research at our studio where we're sharing prototypes or co-creating with the people we're designing for, so you could also find me doing that. Our approach here is definitely not about being behind a two way mirror, there are lots of designers and strategists and engineers or technologists working together because we really believe that if we're looking to create true innovation, we need to have that point of view right from the get go.

I could also on any given day be attending workshops or running workshops with the team. So that could involve the clients where we're really working through some operational underpinnings or how can we enable this product or a service to come to life through the business or through the organization.

And I would say every day I try to sit at the lunch table. I think it's important. [Smart Design's office has] a very long table where everyone gathers to be together. It's important because it's where a lot of ideas are shared. It's a time where you might talk to people and just learn about different aspects of what's going on around the office that can influence your own work.

Can you tell me about some recent work your team worked on that is indicative of the type of projects you typically do and enjoy most?

Much of Smart's work in the Health & Wellness space is about looking beyond the product itself and thinking about ecosystems that better support people in achieving their health goals. We focus on what's the right place for a brand to play, and which elements of an ecosystem people find the most valuable.

Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch and App designed by Smart brings personalized sports fueling recommendations to everyday athletes through a democratized, wearable device and smartphone app trained with machine learning.

It's an extremely complex space, with an overwhelming amount of information and a variety of people and services available. Our challenge is to conceive new products, experiences, and services that are more accessible for everyone. This takes a cross-functional team to not only understand what the true unmet need or gap is in people's lives, but to also understand the operational or technology underpinnings that can make these new ideas a reality.

Our recent work has spanned everything from looking at the future of facial recognition technology and its role in reducing the gap of people receiving healthcare services in emerging countries. Rethinking personal care and wellness products and services to better connect with women's values around sustainability. We've also reimagined the stigmatized hearing loss category through a membership-based service and hearing health centers.

I want to briefly touch on the topic of Jr., a fertility app aimed at single mothers that stemmed from your own personal experience. What was it like to spearhead such a personal project and what advice would you give to anyone who would like to do something similar on their own?

You know, it was actually pretty scary because putting yourself out there is never an easy thing to do; it really was a melding of my personal and professional life. The reason why I started Jr. was because I found myself having gone through a breakup, being single and wanting to have a child on my own and believe it or not, it's a really taboo subject. Going through it alone as a single woman, I felt like the pain points were much more amplified. So since I was experiencing it firsthand, I really thought to myself, "I surely am not alone here." I think the more I talked about it, the more I realized that other people going through the fertility experience actually experienced a lot of things that I was experiencing.

And I feel like that's partially why it resonated so strongly, because everyone can relate to a health care experience being too overwhelming, too fragmented, where you feel like your own personal information is not yours. There are so many aspects of it that are relatable.

A preview of the Jr. app

This would be my advice to someone doing it on their own—usually I think a project like this comes up due to someone coming across something that can be improved upon; a problem that is painful in some way, shape or form. And I think it's important to look at and ask, "Hey, am I the only one?" Usually you're not. Usually there are other people. And once you see that, I feel like that's how you make the connection.

Another part of it is persevering and not giving up because people are only going to be as passionate about it as you are. And that's something that's really important because there are many times I could have said, "Oh, you know what, maybe this isn't as relevant," but no—because I believed in it so much I feel like I did rally the resources. If you believe in it, you do spend that extra time to uncover that deeper insight in order to make the case that this product should exist.

How did you go about those first steps of figuring out if it was a viable direction? 

It was important to speak with other people. I spoke to single women who were older, women who were younger and coupled who are aren't necessarily ready to have a child yet, and people who had gone through the process. I spoke to fertility doctors as well.

Another part of it was looking at the landscape. A lot of capital is being invested in fertility startups and fertility and women's health care in general, so there's a need from that standpoint. Also, fertility is at a record low, but the number of women having children later in life is at an all time high. So I had to really consider questions like, is there a need from a consumer standpoint? Is this something that is in demand?

I love the imbued philosophy within the app of "Your Village", which enabled the single people using the app to call upon their loved ones for direct or indirect support. It made me wonder, how do you think designers could veer technologies forward in a way that connects rather than isolates its users? Or, what needs to change in order to get there?

It's good to remember the role of technology when it comes to facilitating the support. I think it's easy to forget actually. So it was much more about being in the background versus being in the foreground because I don't think technology can replace human interaction and contact—I think that is something that it should facilitate. So for example, I think with Jr., just in terms of informing your village and keeping everyone on the same page so that you weren't answering the same questions a million times or that you could be left alone when needed and didn't feel awkward about it, it was very much about either a.) facilitating better in-person interaction or b.) about understanding when actually users don't want to talk about it or be alone. So I think another part of that as well is understanding and designing for different modes or contacts.

You don't always want to be social or sharing everything. And I think that's something that's really important when you look at things like Slack, for example, and other digital tools for communication. It's important to understand those nuances when [technology is] appropriate and when it's not. And so I feel like that's just a consideration people really need to make when designing. It's not necessarily, "because it's there we should use it," it's almost like, okay, "how is this better? How would this enable or improve in- person communications?"

What to you are the most exciting health and wellness design trends going on right now?

A big one is the way that people are accessing their primary care. When we think about the front lines of medicine, nowadays those getting medical help don't necessarily take the traditional route of just visiting their GP, it really could be many different touchpoints. Then when we think about membership-based services, like One Medical, that's an entirely different experience. There are also retail approaches, with CVS where they're creating an actual health hub, right?

What's interesting about all of this is that if you look at what's accessible, you have certain solutions for people who can afford it, right? For them, they might use something like One Medical. But then for anyone else, something like CVS might be just a bit more accessible. So I feel like a part of it is really looking at that spectrum of different patient types as well as the people who could be using the services too and coming up with solutions that are more inclusive, both from a diversity standpoint but also income and coverage as well.

Cimzia, a drug developed for rheumatoid arthritis, teamed up with Smart and OXO to design a syringe that allowed those with arthritis to inject medication at home more easily.

The role of AI in doing screening and diagnostics is also exciting. There are technologies out there like Google Health where they're creating new systems to help detect cancer much earlier on. So it's really about decreasing the chance of error—that's a big thing that we're seeing.

Another theme, which is not necessarily new but I think is important, is the shift from the more reactionary mindset of treating a sickness to the more proactive mindset of managing your health on an ongoing basis, and hopefully preventing you from becoming sick in the first place. And there are plenty of services that are really addressing that and making it easier for people to achieve. Whether it's Forward Health where they are leveraging your data and advanced AI to give you a comprehensive picture of your health on an ongoing basis; or 23andMe, using your DNA to determine health predispositions and genetic insights; or Headspace where they are reducing stress and anxiety through bite-sized meditation interventions—the focus is more on wellness as a process rather than health as an end result.

Home and diagnostic treatment therapy is also continuing to grow. So that could mean anywhere from capsule services to birth control prescriptions sent by delivery to STI testing.

And if you think about fitness, since that's also part of wellness when we think about it, all of the different products and experiences being brought in home versus gyms. So I feel like that's a big, a big category as well.

You are the Jury Captain for the Health & Wellness category in the 2020 Core77 Design Awards. What will you be looking for and hope to see in the projects entered this year?

I think what I'm hoping to see are solutions that are really answering to real human needs. And not necessarily complicating things, but really making things more simple or more accessible for everybody involved. I think it's also about being thoughtful in the design, so really looking for a solution that shows the understanding and the nuances with designing for different people and certain specific needs situations and context.

Our team is always looking at award shows and looking at the future of health and wellness and what that could mean. I'm looking for something that really makes us rethink our own practices, that approach, and that pushes our thinking that way. So that's something that I'm hoping for and excited to see if that's the case.

Thinking of submitting to the Health & Wellness category in the 2020 Core77 Design Awards? Submit today—Regular Deadline ends March 9th!
The Core77 Design Awards Health & Wellness Jury

2020 Health & Wellness Jury Captain Stephanie Yung will be joined by these designers for the awards selection process:

Erica Chidi Cohen


Erica Chidi Cohen is the CEO of LOOM, a wellbeing brand empowering womxn through reproductive and sexual health content. She is passionate about helping people cultivate body literacy and sex positivity by giving them the tools to advocate for their and loved one's reproductive health and wellbeing. Her work has guided thousands of people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood both as a Doula and through her book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood.

Gina Reimann

Wearables Industrial Design Manager, Google

As Wearables Industrial Design Manager at Google, Gina leads a team making radically helpful products, bringing together the best of Google AI, software and hardware. Notable launches include Google's headphone family and watch bands.

Clay Wiedemann

Head of Design, ZocDoc

Clay tends to rescue cats every few years. In addition to that, he has been a designer and research at frog design, led the interaction team at Smart Design NY, taught prototyping at SVAs MFA Interaction Program, and now leads the Zocdoc design team. He hopes his work in design helps him do as much for people as he does for cats.

What Can the City Learn from the Country? Upcoming Rem Koolhaas Exhibition at the Guggenheim

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

It's been nearly two years since I gave up my 2,000-square-foot loft in SoHo, in a building I'd lived in for twenty years. I was born in New York and figured I'd die in New York. But I knew I'd peaked--if I stayed in New York, I'd never do better than that loft--and, worse, had gone into decline; newcomers had altered the city into something I could no longer adapt to.

The farm I live on now is the exact opposite of New York City in nearly every way I can think of. I have learned a lot out here and met people I'd never have encountered in a city. I've seen what they do, how they do it and why they do it. My conception of how the world works has changed, as has my view of urban life.

Ironic, then, that I'd have to go back to New York to see an exhibition aiming to teach urbanites what they can learn from the countryside. Hosted at the Guggenheim, and put on by Rem Koolhaas, Countryside, The Future is "an exhibition addressing urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues" by looking for solutions well outside of cities.

A unique exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum, "Countryside, The Future" will explore radical changes in the rural, remote, and wild territories collectively identified here as "countryside," or the 98% of the earth's surface not occupied by cities, with a full rotunda installation premised on original research.The project presents investigations by AMO (the think tank of Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture), Koolhaas, with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi.The exhibition will examine the modern conception of leisure, large scale planning by political forces, climate change, migration, human- and non-human ecosystems, market driven preservation, artificial and organic coexistence and other forms of radical experimentation that are altering the landscapes across the world.

I do wish the video provided a bit more detail on what specific solutions they're looking at, as I debate whether to book an air ticket back to the city to see it.

I'll have until August to decide. Countryside, The Future opens February 20, 2020 and runs until August 14, 2020. You can get tickets here.

Please, I'm Begging You, Take My Plastic Bags

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

In my apartment, there is a small mountain of plastic bags that my roommates and I continue to reluctantly build upon. Desperate to deal with these wasted bags, I am regularly trying to find different opportunities to reuse them. Of course, I alone will never find ways to reuse all of them. So my mountain of plastic guilt grows ever higher.

This might be a familiar feeling for many who are justifiably concerned about the amount of plastic gumming up the gears of the earth. A heap of plastic bags stuffed under the sink or in a kitchen drawer can feel like an albatross around one's neck (presumably one that has been suffocated by a plastic bag) and it would be a great relief to find a way to get rid of them without committing that mortal sin against nature: throwing them away. UK-based designer's Onni Aho's All those bags appears to offer a less distressing alternative.

All those bags is a redistribution system that Onni Aho installed in nearly 40 locations around East London as a part of his research to find ways in which design can help manage waste in the urban environment. The system consists of a small tube that can be affixed to poles in public spaces. People can deposit their bag if they don't need one and take a bag when they do.

This simple, designed interaction is all it takes to create material movement. Where as the bags we accrue in our home so often remain sedentary, piling up until one way or another we have to toss them out somewhere (the ocean, waterways, endless landfills). Here, the bags move, or at the very least have the potential to move. Which, far from being a solution to plastic waste overall, it taps into an important part of thinking ecologically: material should constantly be moving from use to use until it is broken down. In the case of plastic, that's easier said than done. Plastic shopping bags, on average, are used for about 12 minutes. If it takes a bag 300 years to degrade, that would mean over 13 million instances of reuse.

As bleak as that sounds, it underlines the importance of designing ways to reuse material through collective engagement. As great and wonderful recycling is conceptually, the recycling systems we supposedly very intelligent humans have built are garbage. Which is why, for designers, there is significant opportunity to help make reuse easier for people. We may be waiting a long time until we see infrastructure that adequately addresses the overflow of plastic material (seeing as global-ecological collapse doesn't appear to be incentive enough). In the meantime, making reuse systems accessible to everyone should be a priority for designers.

Which this small moment of design does. To be honest, my initial thought upon seeing All those plastic bags was, "this guy is just pawning off his plastic bags on to other people! If I have to live with this pile of plastic guilt, he should too!" Alas plastic waste is not an individual issue. We all share an ecosystem and it does no good if half of us are using reusable bags and half of us aren't. It is a collective issue. Which means sharing the burdens of our material waste is necessary for communities and people have to deal with it, if ever there will be significant changes. Design, as seen here, can help facilitate that effort.

Engineer Creates Functional, Practical Rotary Cell Phone with ePaper Screen

Core 77 - 11 hours 27 min ago

Justine Haupt is difficult to summarize. Her official job title is Instrumentation Developer for Cosmology, Astronomy, and Quantum Networking at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where she's been for ten years; she's run Sky's Edge Robotics, her own company, for the past year; she's an engineer for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which when complete will "produce the deepest, widest image of the universe;" and she's Director of Radio Astronomy at the Custer Institute, an observatory on Long Island. I guess "brainiac" just about covers it.

Despite the many hats, Haupt still carves out spare time to work on projects of personal interest. Her latest: A rotary cell phone with an e-ink screen. It's functional, practical, and in many ways, an improvement over existing cell phones.

Skeptical? Read her description and reasoning behind creating it:

Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.

The point isn't to be anachronistic. It's to show that it's possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional. More functional how? - Real, removable antenna with an SMA connector. Receptions is excellent, and if I really want to I could always attach a directional antenna.

- When I want a phone I don't have to navigate through menus to get to the phone "application". That's bullshit.

- If I want to call my husband, I can do so by pressing a single dedicated physical key which is dedicated to him. No menus. The point isn't to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use. The people I call most often are stored, and if I have to dial a new number or do something like set the volume, then I can use the fun and satisfying-to-use rotary dial.

- Nearly instantaneous, high resolution display of signal strength and battery level. No signal metering lag, and my LED bargraph gives 10 increments of resolution instead of just 4.

- The ePaper display is bistatic, meaning it doesn't take any energy to display a fixed message.

- When I want to change something about the phone's behavior, I just do it.

- The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.

So it's not just a show-and-tell piece... My intent is to use it as my primary phone. It fits in a pocket.; It's reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call is faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.

If only these were on the market!

This “American Factory” run by Chinese is no workers' paradise

Design News - Mon, 2020-02-17 18:43

At this year's Academy Awards, Netflix’s American Factory, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, won for best feature-length documentary. The title should have been “Chinese Factory,” because the only thing American about it is the factory’s location in the small town of Moraine, outside of Dayton, OH. While the documentary opens with the 2008 closing of what was once a General Motors factory making automotive glass, we are never told the back story of that closing, and the role that Obama’s policies—and the bailout of GM and Chrysler—played in the plant’s closing, and the deals cut with the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Image from American Factory courtesy Netflix.

An article in the Sept. 13, 2019, edition of the Wall Street Journal by Mike Turner noted that “despite being one of the top GM facilities for quality, efficiency and production in the country, it was shuttered.” The Moraine plant was a union factory, but many of the employees were non-union (workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition for employment), leaving many of those workers transfered to other GM plants in the region in difficulty.

In 2014, Chinese businessman Cao Dewang bought the plant. He was known to workers as “Chairman Cao,” a monicker that echoes another chairman whose Great Leap Forward killed an estimated 45 million people in four years. (Some estimates put the total number of people killed throughout his rule to be upwards of 80 million.)

To the out-of-work citizens of Moraine, the arrival of Chairman Cao’s Fuyao Glass Inc. and the re-opening of the plant that would soon employ 2,000 people was greeted with open arms. Fuyao was seen as the “savior” of Moraine and its citizens.

At the plant’s grand opening, however, there were already signs of trouble ahead when Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown spoke to the crowd of Ohio’s “rich history of unions.” Immediately, Chairman Cao made Sen. Brown persona non grata on company property. “If union comes in, it will hurt our production,” commented Chairman Cao. “We’ll shut it down.”

The honeymoon was short-lived, as the employees began their indoctrination into the Chinese way of how manufacturing plants are run. Some 200 Chinese workers were sent from China to Ohio to provide training in plant operations. The Chinese groused that “Americans are slow to train” because they have “fat fingers.”

The working conditions were very hot, as one might expect in a factory where extremely high heat is needed to turn sand into glass. “Our American colleagues are very afraid of heat,” commented one Chinese worker. The American managers, supervisors and the president of the company tried to get Chairman Cao to make changes after OSHA found that the work areas were “too dense,” but nothing changed.

Americans also complained that the work was repetitive—“doing the same thing over and over again,” remarked one worker. “Do we have the stamina and will to continue?” He was doubtful. American employees of the new Fuyao plant, which supplied automotive glass to many vehicle makers in the U.S., were grateful for the jobs but, as one woman commented, “at GM I made $29 an hour.” Now she was earning half that.

Given that “output is first, speed is second,” injuries were commonplace. One injured man commented that he’d never been injured in all his 15 years working for GM, but now after two years at Fuyao, he incurred a severe cut injury.

It’s not that Fuyao doesn’t have a union in its Chinese plants—it has a “union” in the Communist Party headquarters at the plant. I’ve written in the past about how U.S. companies must give Chinese workers a certain amount of time off during the week to attend Communist Party meetings.

Productivity at the Moraine plant was low—not up to the standards of Fuyao’s Chinese plants—and there were myriad quality problems. The Fuyao plant was not reaching its goals. Chinese trainers complained that “American workers are not efficient and output is low,” said a trainer. “I can’t manage them. They threaten to get help from the union.”

Another manager commented that “American workers are lazy—it’s just their nature,” he said, adding that “every person can be changed; we have some diligent, motivated workers in China.”

I’m sure they do, and it probably doesn’t involve a motivational speaker! Obviously there is no work/life balance in the Chinese mindset.

To help provide a better look at the way Fuyao’s Chinese plants are run, a group of American managers was sent to China to see first-hand the Chinese way. If this section of the documentary doesn’t make you eternally grateful that you are an American working for an American company, nothing will.

The Fuyao factory experience in China showed the American managers an almost militaristic way of managing. The 19 shift workers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, in two rows, and counted off. The supervisor then confirmed that all 19 shift workers were present and accounted for. They then marched to their work stations.

Religious fervor for the state, first, and the company, second, was evident. At company meetings, “hymns” of praise are sung in deep gratitude for the good life the company, and Chairman Cao, has given them.

When the American managers returned, the documentary showed one manager trying to emulate the Chinese style. His shift workers were sort of lined up. They stood there looking rather glum—like, “why are we here?”—while he tried to give a bit of a pep talk. It obviously wasn’t working so he thanked them and dismissed them to start work.

Chinese workers in China commented that they work 12 hours a day, seven days a week with two days off a month. One worker said she goes home twice a year, and most of them don’t see their families much.

I’ve written about the Chinese dormitories where the workers live, sometimes eight to a small room on the premises of the factory. I’m reminded of the time I was visiting a large-sized custom injection molding company. I was in the conference room interviewing the president and owner of the company, when he pointed to a large framed photograph hanging on the wall of an elevated view of a large facility surrounded by a chain link fence topped with razor wire. “That’s our new China facility,” he boasted proudly to me.

I couldn’t help myself, and replied, “Is that fence with the razor wire there to keep the bad guys out or the workers in?”


We in the manufacturing sector know quite a lot about how the Chinese run their factories, and it ain’t pretty! I know personally several people who have worked for U.S. companies at their plants in China, attempting to do the reverse of what Chairman Cao tried to do at the Moraine facility. I’ve written about this many times over the years.

There was one really poignant moment in the documentary. During a large dinner celebration, the American managers were treated to entertainment by singers and dancers, both adults and children with happy, smiling faces and excited voices. At the end, the American managers got up on stage and did their rendition of YMCA by the Village People. The Chinese audience was greatly entertained, and they laughed and applauded.

The camera then shot a close-up of one of the American managers who seemed rather emotional. He got up and walked out into a hallway, commenting that he now sees something he’d not seen before. “We are all one,” he commented. “We are truly all one.” A young woman who started to walk past him turned and looked. “We are all one,” he repeated. “Yes, she replied, “all one company.”

This young Chinese woman had completely missed the American’s point. In many religious and spiritual traditions in the West we hear people promoting the idea that we are all one, great human family who all just want the same things: To be happy, to have meaningful work, to feed our families and enjoy life. In Buddhism, which it appeared that Chairman Cao practiced, there is a saying: “Everyone just wants to be happy and free from suffering.” In that respect, we are all one, something that the American manager suddenly realized, but the young Chinese woman didn’t.

I’d guess that the majority of U.S. manufacturing companies—small or large—want a safe work environment, because it’s the right thing to do, and pay their employees good wages, especially with the heavy competition for workers caused by extremely low unemployment.

As the former President of the Fuyao Glass factory acknowledged before he was fired, “We are not a union shop—we do things right by employees,” a reminder that it doesn’t take a union to create a good workplace and good wages.

If you thought this was going to be a movie showing how great a benefit unions are to the American manufacturing workplace, it was a fail in that regard. This isn’t a documentary about an American factory but a Chinese factory transplanted into America; it was about the attempts to meld two very different cultures, one of those a Communist culture that is very difficult for Americans to fathom.

At least the threat of union organization gave the Chinese management the impetus to clean up its act and realize that they are operating on American soil under American rules. While companies don’t have to be unionized to be safe and productive with well-paid workers, they really must “do the right thing.”

As one American woman worker noted toward the end of the documentary, “When we walk in the door of this plant, we’re in China.”

An attempt to unionize the Fuyao plant failed, primarily, as one worker pointed out, after the vote (60% against organizing), “They’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

Another worker commented, “they’re working their tails off and getting no pats on the back.”

To that the new Chinese president of the company (who replaced the fired American president) responded to complaints that Americans are hostile to the Chinese workers, and are super-confident: “You must take advantage of these American characteristics. Americans love being flattered to death—donkeys love being touched in the direction their hair grows.”

Are you insulted enough now?

In receiving the Oscar award, one of the directors of the film, Julia Reichert, gave a “shout out” to Karl Marx in her acceptance speech: “. . . people put on a uniform, punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life. Working people have it harder and harder these days. We believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”

Does that quote sound familiar?

One other poignant moment at the end of the film is when Chairman Cao shows some introspection into his life. He lights incense at a Buddhist shrine, and wonders aloud if he is “a contributor or a sinner.” He is obviously an unhappy man, but concluded, as a good Communist might: “The point of living is to work.”

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, please watch it on Netflix, and be very grateful for the life we have as Americans. And remember that throughout 2020.

World’s Most Powerful 3-Cylinder Engine Propels Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris WRC

Design News - Mon, 2020-02-17 03:09

In Japanese tuner-car slang, “gazoo” refers to the speed shops where car enthusiasts toil to wring extra speed from their machines. Toyota president Akio Toyoda is such an enthusiast himself, and his desire is to infuse some of that gazoo grease-under-the-nails ethos to his whole company.

That is why Toyota launched Gazoo Racing a few years ago and subsequently began badging sports cars with the brand. But the provenance of those sports cars bothered Toyoda, as the Toyota 86 relies on Subaru for most of its design and hardware and the new Supra is largely a BMW product that is contract manufacturered by Magna in Graz, Austria.

“I have always wanted a sports car purely made by Toyota,” Toyoda explained in remarks posted on the company’s YouTube channel. To do that, the company has developed the stunning Gazoo Racing Yaris. The Yaris, you’ll recall, is Toyota’s subcompact hatchback city car, which might seem a surprising foundation for a sports car. But the GR Yaris is a Yaris in name only. It is actually a purpose-designed and built all-wheel drive machine optimized for rally racing.

New, more restrictive rules for the 2021 World Rally Championship require that race cars conform more closely to their production counterparts to be eligible. Toyota’s response is to prepare a homologation special that will give Toyota’s racing team the most competitive foundation possible.

Image source: Toyota

As a benefit, customers in global markets where the WRC is popular will be able to buy street-legal versions of this race car. The minimum sales requirement for racing eligibility is 25,000 cars over a three-year span. The U.S. market has not been announced as a destination for the subcompact GR Yaris, but rumors hint at some of its technology appearing in a U.S.-spec compact Corolla.

The GR Yaris boasts three critical factors that point toward the car being fun to drive for buyers and potentially competitive in rally racing: A lightweight, aerodynamic and rigid body shell, a compact and technically advanced direct-injected, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline 3-cylinder engine, and a newly-developed all-wheel drive system that provides accessible performance to drivers. 

“It was felt that whilst we are excited about the roadgoing Yaris, it wasn’t the shape and size to provide a championship-winning platform for WRC,” explained ex-engineer, now senior Toyota PR manager, James Clark.

Image source: Toyota

The GR Yaris bodyshell is a visible departure from the design of the regular Yaris. It is a two-door hatchback with a low, swooping roofline that tapers at the rear of the car to minimize aerodynamic drag at racing speeds. At the same time, the body is as wide as that of a car a class larger, providing ample space for fat, sticky racing tires and long-travel suspension to absorb the bumps and jumps that are characteristic of most rally routes.

The body is formed from a mostly steel shell that has a lightweight SMC carbon fiber roof panel grafted on and all of the closure panels such as the doors, hood and hatch are all aluminum. “One of the joys of making a bespoke body is you can go to town on it,” observed Clark.  “Use of the right materials to save weight while maintaining strength, even though it adds cost, it saves weight and adds structural rigidity and performance. The structure is vastly stiffer than it would have been,” in the all-steel, conventional Yaris economy car.

Front suspension on this solid foundation is typical MacPherson strut design, while the rear employs a double wishbone layout. As a well-balanced all-wheel drive machine, the GR Yaris wears 225/40ZR18 tires on BBS forged aluminum wheels at all four corners. Braking hardware is provided by Brembo, with four-piston front calipers and two-piston rears.

Image source: Toyota

Powering this lighter, stronger, slipperier skeleton is a seemingly curious choice of engines: A turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter three-cylinder. But a three-cylinder engine provides the ideal combination of size, mass and power for the rally driving application, according to Clark. 

“Light weight was massively important to the chief engineer,” he explained. “So when you find areas where you can save weight, you have to take them.” While size and mass were priorities, the race version will be trying to beat competitors, so the engine has to make good power too.

In production trim, the G16E-GTS triple in street-legal GR Yarises will be rated at 268 horsepower and 273 lb. ft. of torque. The engine passes that power to a conventional 6-speed manual gearbox with an H-pattern shifter and clutch pedal. This will surely thrill purists who love the old-style do-it-yourself transmissions, but it contrasts with the usual rally configuration of a sequential manual transmission with a fore-and-aft sequential shifter.

Image source: Toyota

It sends power to a center computer-controlled multi-plate center clutch that splits power between the front and rear wheels. While it technically could send as much as 100 percent of the torque to either axle, Toyota has programmed the computer to permit the driver three choices: 30/70 percent front/rear torque split, 50/50 and 60/40. Depending on the conditions these simplified options will give drivers the best results, according to Clark.

At each end of the car power is split between the left and right wheels by torque-sensing differentials. Combined with the settings of the center differential, this hardware works magic, swears Clark. “I’ve driven it in all three modes,” he reported. “It makes me look like (legendary rally driver) Tomi Makinen!”

Image source: Toyota

Current Gazoo Racing WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala also vouches for the result in the production version of the car he will race starting in 2021. “This car is built so that you can drive it everywhere: on snow, on ice, on tarmac, on gravel,” he said in a promotional video. “This is the specialty of this car. It is made for all the conditions, four-by-four.”

The opportunity for WRC fans in global markets to pretend to be Latvala while driving the GR Yaris will surely fuel sales of all 25,000 required units. Fingers crossed we eventually get some of them in the U.S.

Image source: Toyota


Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.

The Concours d'Lemons: A Purposely Horrific Car Show, Filled with Auto Design No-Nos

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

The same organizers who brought you The 24 Hours of Lemons, an endurance race between shit-box cars, also has an answer to the Concours d'Elegance: The Concours d'Lemons.

This annual event is where you can witness such beauties as...

A stretch limousine Corvette;

A Volkswagen Beetle van conversion that takes the Beetle part very seriously;

A Gandalf-themed van called Vandalf;

A 1979 Ford Pinto station wagon, in Squire trim;

A 1988 Merkur XR4Ti that looks like it was art-directed by a pack of Marlboros;

The Dodge Rampage, a car-based pickup from the early '80s;

A rare Yugo convertible;

Not to mention a "Half Assed, Half Car Detailing Competition" where you only have to clean 50% of the car, demarcated by blue tape.

Amusingly, "the whole debacle was sponsored by Hagerty Insurance and Classic Motorsports Magazine," the organizers write, "so it is really all their fault."

Want to attend a Concours d'Lemons near you? Check out the schedule here. And don't worry, you won't spend a dime:

"All Concours d'Lemons events are free for spectators," the organization says. "That way you get what you pay for, perhaps a little less."

Could These Tree-Like Vertical Farms Be the Future of Urban Farming?

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

Norway and New York City-based design studio Framlab ("fram" means "forward" in Norwegian) have come up with an intriguing solution for urban farming that combines modular design with soilless, aeroponic growth systems.

The conceptual project—titled Glasir ("gleaming")—is designed with Brooklyn in mind, a borough where the foodie destinations along the gentrified waterfront neighborhoods stand in stark contrast to some of the biggest food deserts in the city in low-income neighborhoods like East New York, East Flatbush, Canarsie, and Flatlands.

To create a community-based, easy-to-scale urban farming system, Framlab proposes a tree-like form composed of modular glass cubes that would start small and expand as demand and need rises. The system is based on a subscription service model that would allow a periodic distribution of crops to households, businesses, and schools. Drones would move greenhouse modules from the service subscribers to the tree forms, where they would be added on or reconfigured within the growing structure as needed.

As the designers explain on their website, an AI would serve as "the brain of the system," optimizing the growth and distribution of the modules. "The artificial intelligence, in conjunction with a series of environmental sensors, enables the tree to evaluate environmental conditions (such as solar gain, temperature levels, prevailing winds, the presence of adjacent structures) and adapt to ensure optimized growth conditions."

The modules are framed with cross-laminated timber and topped with solar panels. The system would store rainwater, purify it, and convert it into the mist that feeds the crops. According to the designers, each module can produce 480 pounds of vegetables a year, which could add up to 48,000 pounds for the average tree structure.

"While the city's streetscape serves as the habitat for Glasir, each tree structure also aspires to function as a microhabitat of its own...as each tree structure serves a local neighborhood, the composition, type, and seasonal variation of the vegetables grown, reflects the unique composition and characteristics of its community," the designers write.

The base of each "tree" would incorporate seating to create a natural gathering space while embedded cavities and terraces within the interior of the structure allow people to climb up, explore, and harvest the fruits and vegetables.

All images courtesy of Framlab

An Object That Could Use a Little Design Attention: The BunkTrunk, a Bed-Mounted Locker for College Dorms

Core 77 - Mon, 2020-02-17 01:32

The BunkTrunk is an elevated locker designed to be integrated with your average dorm room single bed.

I appreciate the thinking behind it: It can be "installed" by simply shoving the base under a mattress, it's elevated so as not to interfere with your feet, it works on both top and bottom bunks, it provides a viewing platform for your laptop if you want to Netflix in bed, and it safely locks away your valuables. However, I find the design a little underwhelming:

I give the design high marks for function, but I think it could use some design attention in the aesthetics department. To that end, I think this would be a great assignment for an ID student class: Can you hit the $219 retail price point, but design something easier on the eyes?