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Urban Design Observations, San Francisco Edition: Bizarre Public Trash Can

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

I'm from New York, so everything in San Francisco looks bizarre to me: The hills, the architecture, the parking meters, the street furniture. A good case in point is this public trash can, spotted on Cortland Street in the Bernal Heights area:

I can't make heads nor tails of this thing. According to the perforated letters and the arrows "LITTER" is supposed to go in the bottom, which is obvious enough, but what is one meant to "RECYCLE" up top, and why the heck is that top unit shaped like that? What's with the grate? It looks like something one is meant to grind a cigarette out on, but who wants embers falling onto potentially flammable litter below?

How to Easily Reverse Engineer Threads

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

Here's a great piece of physical problem-solving: Let's say you've got the absolutely perfect threaded female part, but the corresponding male part leaves a little something to be desired. You'd like to create your own male part, but it's impossible to measure the interior threading on the female part and you can't track the manufacturing info down.

Here industrial designer Eric Strebel shows you how he reverse-engineers the threads using commonly available materials:

How a Rescue Organization is Upcycling Old Mascara Wands to Help Animals

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

With the world's plastics problem spiraling hopelessly out of control, the least we can do is find ways to re-use disposable plastic items before they go into that landfill forever. It's particularly galling to see all of the plastic in the ocean where it causes harm to aquatic creatures that ingest it or become entangled in it.

There is, however, a way to upcycle plastic that actually helps animals. The North-Carolina-based Appalachian Wildlife Refuge has a need for old mascara wands, which can be used to keep their charges healthy. Here's how:

"They work great because the bristles are close together," the organization writes. If you or anyone you know has wands to share, please download and fill out this PDF form and ship it, along with the wands, to:

P.O. Box 1211
Skyland, NC

Design Job: ZAK+FOX Is Seeking an Illustrator with Experience in Textiles or Pattern-Making in NYC

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

ZAK+FOX is a rapidly expanding textile design firm seeking an illustrator with experience in textiles or pattern-making to join our team. We're looking for a wildly creative individual with strong organizational and project management skills. We offer three weeks of paid vacation as well as personal/sick days, healthcare contributions, and more.

View the full design job here

Here's the Dashcam Footage of the Autonomous Uber Hitting the Pedestrian Who Later Died

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

(Warning: Some of you may consider this footage a bit graphic.)

The Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is investigating the self-driving Uber that struck a woman who later died from her injuries. Many of us following the autonomous space were very curious as to how it happened, but could only speculate. Now, however, the police have made the footage publicly available and we can see exactly what happened, including what the human monitor behind the wheel was doing:

Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating
the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ

— Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018 ">

It's difficult to tell from the lighting in the video, but if what's portrayed on-screen is similar to what would be seen by a human driver in the same situation, the poor woman does indeed seem to come out of nowhere; is clearly crossing the street at a place with no marked crosswalk; and does not appear to be looking out for herself at all.

That being said, if the lighting situation portrayed in the video is different than what would be seen in real life, an engaged human driver might have been able to spot the woman in their peripheral vision while she was still a lane away. It's impossible to tell. But I think that once she was in the lane the car was in, no human could have applied the brakes in time. Perhaps a computer could have--if it spotted her.

This video raises at least three points, the first two being intertwined. I think the first point is obvious: The entire point of autonomous cars is that they ought be able to prevent accidents that we humans, with our ordinary reflexes and perception, could not.

The second point, which will certainly be debated endlessly, is: Are people willing to live with an autonomous car killing someone in a situation where no human could have prevented the death anyway?

The third point illustrates a danger with having a system meant to hand things off between human and driver. The human monitor has clearly been lulled into not paying avid attention, and I can't fault him, as I think we as humans are wired to either be engaged or not engaged in operating a machine. Once we observe that something is "safe" and automatic, particularly after logging many hours without incident, I think it's natural that our attention would wander.

Lastly I'll ask you: If you were behind the wheel as the monitor, do you think you would have been paying more attention, and could have applied the brakes in time?

adidas Recently Released Sneakers Designed to Look Good on Instagram

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

adidas recently unveiled a new silhouette called Deerupt, and if you ever had doubts social media could play a significant role in the design process, it's time to think again. 

If you religiously follow the sneaker world on Instagram, you've probably noticed an overload of images that look almost exactly like this:

It's easiest to think of toe-down sneaker photos as the the equivalent of the most flattering selfie angle for sneakers, the golden on-foot angle, if you will. adidas designers took this trend observation and used it to inspire a design detail on the Deerupt, a sneaker who's name is the marriage between "disrupt" and "erupt". Global Senior Design Director for adidas Originals, Oddbjorn Stavseng told Highsnobiety, “we increasingly see Instagram pictures where people shoot their sneakers with their foot planted down, making sure that the toe is pressed down. So when you see Deerupt, you’ll see this same “toe-down” effect which was a purposeful design choice.” Besides a more exaggerated toe-down angle, one of the most notable Deerupt details is the use of the mesh support originally seen on the adidas Marathon Trainer midsole to cover the entire shoe. 

Marathon Trainer (via Highsnobiety)

It turns out adidas could be onto something with their designed-for-Instagram approach along with picking and choosing more graphic details from past designs. While aimlessly scrolling through Instagram at 2am last night, I came across one of those frustrating Instagram Stories that update you on the platform's latest features: Think new features in Stories or Live mode. This time it was for an update that allows eight new countries to shop much more seamlessly straight through Instagram.

This feature has been going through a test run in the US, but after overwhelming success, Instagram decided to expand. Basically, to shop an item you like from a post, you just tap your finger on the image to then click on virtual price tags that lead you to—very similar to Pinterest. If your Instagram obsession is already out of control, start preparing for it to affect you monetarily. 

So, how does this relate to product design? We've already seen an uptick in companies pouring extra money into Instagram ads, especially when it comes to trendy product subscription services like Quip and Smile Direct Club. So in reality, the move to designing actual products to look good on social media is a natural progression—if not something that's already been happening subconsciously. 

Whether good or bad for designers, Instagram's shopping feature rollout makes it clear there's no more excuses for companies to avoid social media. adidas' choice to dip their toes into introducing social media to the design process is actually forward-thinking and almost too timely, even if the Deerupt is a little... loud. The Deerupts are dropping online tomorrow, and I'm curious to see how often they end up on my Instagram feed.

What're your thoughts on introducing social media into the product design process? Let us know in the comments.

Tools & Craft #89: Top-Level Architectural Woodwork at Boston's Old South Church

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

During a recent trip to Boston I didn't see any interesting furniture, it was just not that sort of trip. We saw friends, ate, walked around, entertained the kid, and ate some more. We did however, stop at Old South Church and got an eyeful of top class architectural woodworking from 1875 (The congregation began in the 17th century but the building is 19th century).

The interior of the church is made almost entirely of wood, with wood beams supporting the roof. The carvings on the pews and paneling are pretty typical for church architecture of the time, but the wooden tower in the center of the church was a surprise. I assume it was built to give light and ventilation to the church. These days, freshly restored, the tower is something special. Aside from the general detailing of the wooden beams, clearly pegged together and in many cases detailed with elegant stop chamfers, the tower gives focus to the woodwork, and when you look directly up at it has a rather charming roof decorated in stars.

Apologies for my low-res photos; below are some better images taken as screenshots from the following link. The church has a fantastic, high-resolution interactive 360 panorama you can play with here.


This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.

Will Subaru Kill the Manual Transmission?

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

I know we're supposed to let go of the past and move into the future, but one thing I'll never be able to give up are manual transmissions. I learned to drive on a stick. I've owned three cars in my life and all were manuals. I no longer own a car due to my city-slicker lifestyle, but I fantasize about moving to a farm in Vermont and buying myself a zippy little AWD stickshift to drift through the snowdrifts on my way to the hardware store. In the fantasy it's usually an STI.

Which is why it was so distressing to read this piece of news in the UK's AutoExpress. Writer Stuart Milne spoke with Chris Graham, the Managing Director of Subaru UK about their Eyesight camera-based system of safety features (automatic braking, smart cruise control, blah blah blah). Graham had this to say:

"I'm not sure if [Eyesight is] compatible at all with a manual gearbox. There are certainly no rumours we've heard that manual will continue, or Eyesight will be [offered] with manual. "My gut tells me it will be Eyesight with Lineartronic ongoing and long term. [Subaru wants] to steal the mantle of the safest car in the world. I think if they do that, then they say 'here's a manual without Eyesight', they'll just ruin that [message]…. The safety message is the thing Subaru will want to take forward."

Gulp. In other words, newfangled safety features can't be added to manuals, so Subaru's solution might be to jettison manuals altogether. Graham goes on to point out that BMW's current generation of M-series cars don't offer manuals either, which just makes me…sick.

Folks, please tell me some of you out there still swear by manual transmissions. I know autonomous is supposed to take control away from us altogether, but can't we at least spend the final days of manually-operated cars by driving them in their ultimate configuration?

Joana Lehman on Her Predictions for the Future of UX

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24
For this year's Core77 Design Awards, we're conducting in-depth interviews with each of our jury captains to get in a glimpse into their creative minds and hear more about what they'll be looking for in this year's awards submissions.

As an active member in the world of interaction design, Joana Lehman, Executive Producer at the design firm Small Planet, sees on a daily basis the ins and outs of the world of UX while also participating regularly in active conversations about where groundbreaking interactive technologies have us headed. In a recent conversation with the 2018 Core77 Design Awards Interaction Jury Captain, she shared her thoughts on what innovations are really going to change the way we interact with products in the future and what makes something like an app a truly valuable addition to someone's life.

Can you tell me more about your role as Executive Producer at Small Planet? 

Small Planet is a digital product studio, and we primarily make mobile products for folks like Planned Parenthood, Aetna, Disney, NPD, and other prominent brands. We do everything from strategy and concepting, UX and design, and development and quality assurance. We're a little unusual in that we do design and development right here in Brooklyn, and our teams are fully integrated. Some places favor design or development, but we do both at such a high level and our sweet spot is right at the cusp of where those two particular services meet. As a Producer, my role is to help facilitate communication across the teams — internally and externally. Communication is absolutely paramount to a successful project, and we're a very opinionated crew with a lot to say. A Producer at Small Planet is a triple-threat: a blend of a project manager, account manager, and a product manager. We're also the team cheerleaders and, sometimes, team therapists when needed. As Executive Producer, my role leans more towards the account and product side, so I tend to focus more on strategy, but I still take on all those other aspects of producer-ness. 

What are some of the projects you worked on this year that you were most excited about? 

It was really interesting getting to work on an open-source blockchain project. It isn't just for cryptocurrency! I was also very excited to continue our work on Planned Parenthood's birth control and period tracking app, Spot On. It's very gratifying getting to improve and iterate on a product over time. 

In what ways have you seen interaction design change and evolve over the past couple of years? 

Cross-platform design has thrived, perhaps more out of necessity than anything. We have to account for scalability and acknowledge that users will be on their watches, phones, tablets, laptops, desktop, TVs, and wherever else there's a screen — and that those users expect a seamless interactive experience across all of those platforms. I'd also like to think we're getting better at accessible and inclusive design.

Spot On, an app created for Planned Parenthood by Lehman's team at Small Planet What's kinds of projects or innovations within interaction design are you most excited about as of late? 

Voice control is pretty exciting and weird. I personally don't love it, and find it so awkward to announce that I need a timer set, so I'm very curious to see how that will evolve over time. Will it get better, or will we just get used to it? 

What do you see for the future of interaction design? 

This past year has been a big one for establishing AR/VR into the mainstream—how do you predict we'll be interacting with technology in the future or what do you hope to see? VR is pretty interesting, but there are so many challenges to overcome still. How do you make sure someone doesn't feel like a disembodied floating head without giving them a bunch of other controllers to grip or gloves to wear? How do we make that experience safe without having to ask people to use a dedicated space, free from furniture to trip over? It's really exciting, but I still find VR headsets a bit offputting. I don't like that I'm effectively blindfolded. As for AR, I'm not entirely convinced that mobile is the best place for it. Holding up a phone to see a virtual shape in real space is like Alice trying to peer through the tiny door into Wonderland. The interfaces are too small to be useful viewing portals, and I think that's what's preventing people from finding really useful applications for AR for mobile. I think it'll make a lot of sense in car windshields for wayfinding (provided it can be done safely), and in glasses (which maybe gets into VR territory). Then it's more immersive and lives in the place a user actually wants to see it. Now that's exciting! What I really hope to see is user-driven ingenuity, that lays aside gimmicks and actually helps people get at what they want — be it a utility or a game. If a product gets out of my way and lets me do the thing I want, then I'm happy. 

There's also a certain level of responsibility designers must take particularly in this age when it comes to tech addiction, creating products that aren't just addictive but also useful and helpful. What are your best words of advice for designing an interactive product that creates meaningful interactions? 

Provide user value. If your user can't answer "What's in it for me?," you've made a nice advertisement but not a great product. We've seen businesses create products that ostensibly meet their marketing goals, but they veer away from creating something useful or meaningful for their users. Notifications that get users to come back to your product can be great for engagement, but the best way to keep people engaged is to give them something valuable to do in the first place. 

What are you hoping to see in submissions this year? 

We know what all the design conventions are these days, particularly for web and for mobile, so I'd love to see designers break with those conventions in an exciting but practical way … no pressure, right? Projects that challenge expectations, but are still very usable, will likely get the highest marks from our jury!

The Core77 Design Awards Interaction Jury

2018 Interaction Jury Captain Joana Lehman will be joined by these designers for the awards selection process:

Leslie Dann, Associate Partner, C&G Partners Yumi Endo, Lead Designer, United Nations OCHA Brian Patrick Kelly, Director of Experience Design, VerizonThinking of submitting to the Interaction category in the 2018 Core77 Design Awards? Submit today—Final Deadline is March 29th!

The Most Unusual Kickstarter Smash Hit We've Ever Seen

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

Of all the rousing successes we've seen on Kickstarter, and we've seen quite a few, this one has taken us most by surprise. It's no multi-tool, no techno-object, no magical transportation device; instead it's a striking and all-natural visual feast by Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini, two photographers who hail from Italy.

It's a coffee table book that consists entirely of photographs of extremely photogenic chickens.

In 2013 Tranchellini, who has been entranced with birds since childhood, wanted to purchase a chicken as a pet to keep in the garden of his studio. A farmer subsequently invited him to an aviary exhibition, which then inspired the project.

The CHICken series was photographed in Italy at the Milano aviary exhibition. Many of the breeders were worried that the birds were not posed according to the breed standard. Instead, what they didn't understand was just how well the birds had done their homework, they were natural born posers.All of the chickens and roosters in this book are exemplary show birds. The photographic collection consists of more than 200 photos of 100 diverse types of chickens.

The photographers wanted to capture them in their natural state of being with all [their] elegance.

At press time CHICKen, "The Most Stunning High Quality Chicken Book Photos Ever Made," had racked up $120,240 on a paltry (I almost went for it) $9,810 goal. And there were still 23 days left to pledge.

Autonomous Car Alternative: Arrivo's "City Zipper" Car-Carrying Sleds

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

Now that an autonomous car has killed a pedestrian, interested parties are waiting to see what the legal ramifications will be. In the meantime, skittish lawmakers may start looking at safer alternatives to autonomous cars. One such system is by a company called Arrivo, and they're scheduled to complete construction on a test track in Commerce City, Colorado, this quarter.

One of Arrivo's concepts, the City Zipper, is a crazy blend of Elon Musk's HyperLoop concept and autonomous cars, borrowing mag-lev and dedicated routes from the former and hands-free transportation from the latter. The idea is that ordinary cars would pull up to a sort of sled dispenser, then drive directly onto the sled and turn their car off. The mag-lev sled would then whisk them along a sort of super-express lane at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour:

While it's not door-to-door autonomous, it certainly looks like it would cut down on highway travel times. It also operates within a pedestrian-free zone, eliminating the chance of hitting anyone. And the idea of experiencing high-speed-rail-like travel times, but getting to bring your car with you to your destination, may be appealing to motorists.

The company further envisions their concept expanding to include cargo sleds, taxis and microbuses. 

Here's their portrayal of how that would affect people's lives:

By allowing them to build a test track, Colorado's Department of Transportation is willing to roll the dice on Arrivo. "Our transportation challenges are so big," CDOT Executive Director told Bloomberg, "that if anybody has something that will help, it's incumbent on us to work with them."

Design Job: Stewart & Associates Is Seeking an Experienced Graphic Designer in Louisville, KY

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

Stewart & Associates, Inc., a 45 year old branding design consultancy, is seeking a graphic designer. Responsibilities: Develop concepts and follow thru from rough to finish. Work well in a design team approach Requirements: 4-year graphic design college program.

View the full design job here

Reader Submitted: "Sliced" Recycled Rubber Tables that Reveal an Oak Interior

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

Embracing visual heaviness and experimenting with the unconventional material of recycled rubber crumb, Ammar Kalo designed a series of tables with bulbous rubber bodies that appear to have been sliced in half, revealing a solid white oak interior.

View the full project here

Clever Design for a Two-Vehicle System for Harvesting Olives

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-03-22 20:24

For millennia, this is the method we used to get food out of trees:

So let's say the crop in question was olives. How would you mechanize the process? You could surely rig up something to shake the tree, but what about picking each and every olive off of the ground?

This was handled for nuts with the clever Multi-Headed Nut Wizard, but nuts are hard and olives are soft; the 'Wizard would crush the olives. So French agricultural machinery company Pellenc designed this rather brilliant system:

Perhaps Scott Pruitt could adapt the design to handle tree-climbing environmental activists.

Blue Collar or New Collar? The Fight Over Manufacturing's Future

Design News - Thu, 2018-03-22 04:20

“Stop using the term 'blue collar worker' and start using the term 'essential worker,' ”John Ratzenberger told an audience during his keynote at the 2018 Advanced Design & Manufacturing Show in Cleveland (ADM Cleveland). The actor-turned-advocate, best known as the mailman Cliff Clavin from Cheers, believes American manufacturing has entered a crisis brought on by a conflation of new age thinking, the lack of shop classes for kids, music lyrics, and an all-around tenderness and softness that has emerged in American sensibilities. “[Nowadays] you have to worry about the lobster's feelings so you can't boil it,” he scoffed.

John Ratzenberger during his keynote at ADM Cleveland.

That's right, the mailman from Cheers says we've forgotten how to build things and are currently raising “the first generation of useless children.” All of this, according to Ratzenberger, is evidenced by various anecdotes: his college-educated son who abruptly changed careers and became a plumber earning a six-figure salary; the contractor in New York City who travels to Argentina to find qualified welders (and certainly not to avoid hiring workers at a union wage as one might infer); the scholarship student who became a diesel mechanic after noticing a great need for them in her town; and the supervisor at the Grand Coulee Dam who told Ratzenberger there are no qualified engineers coming up the ranks who will be able to maintain the dam in the coming decades.

“We should offer more vocational schools, but we should get kids interested while they're young,” he said. Ratzenberger, who credits his background and skills as a carpenter as what kept him afloat financially while he pursued an acting career, also blamed a lack of parental involvement for younger generations' disinterest in manufacturing. To be fair, he may not be wrong on that front. A 2016 study by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) found that 20 percent of parents surveyed view manufacturing as outdated and/or dirty work. Half of respondents didn't view it as an exciting, challenging, or engaging profession. And nearly 25 percent of parents surveyed did not feel manufacturing was a well paying profession (according to the SME, the average U.S. manufacturing worker makes $77,506 annually).

“We're running out of people that know how to make and fix things,” Ratzenberger told the audience, bemoaning that because, “we took shop class away from kids” it has created a generation uninterested in manufacturing and created a labor pool in which the average age of a factory worker is 50 to 60 years olds. “You have new recruits coming into your facilities and can't read a ruler, he said. “[They've] never turned a screw or pounded a nail, so how do you expect them to fit into your manufacturing work?”

Much of this he blamed on “the nonsense that came out of the '60s,” which Ratzenberger apologized for, sharing that he was one of the carpenters who built the stage at Woodstock. “If I'd known I would have rigged that Woodstock stage to collapse for sure,” he said, only half-jokingly.

The actual numbers aren't as extreme as Ratzenberger claimed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average age of a worker employed in manufacturing in the U.S. is 44.5. While 45 to 54 year olds make up the largest number of these workers (about 25 percent) they only slightly beat out the 35 to 44 year olds, who make up about 21 percent. The vast majority of workers employed in manufacturing (about 87 percent) fall into the 25 to 64 age range. About 28% of American manufacturing workers fall somewhere in the age range of 20 to 34.

The Gap Is Real

While Ratzenberger's rhetoric traffics in the sort of nostalgia that harkens dangerously close to a longing for a time in America when women couldn't vote and people of color had their own bathrooms, there are kernels of truth buried under all of the hyperbole. Automakers and dealerships have had to take it upon themselves to start actively recruiting candidates to make up for a shortage of auto mechanics, for example. And a 2013 study from Georgetown University predicted that by the year 2020 there will be roughly five million unfilled jobs in the U.S., primarily in healthcare and manufacturing.

There is also the growing skills gap to consider. As increasing numbers of the Baby Boomer generation retire it is creating a workforce skills gap that college grads are either unable, or unwilling to fill. It's this growing gap that led President Donald Trump to establish a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, whose mission is to “...identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient,” according to its website. Ultimately, the apprenticeship task force is setting out to submit a final report to the President detailing strategies and proposals for revitalizing the nation's apprenticeship and vocational training programs. As of writing, no official timeline has been set for reaching this goal.

Ratzenberger is a member of the task force and during his talk praised the Trump administration for being the first that he has spoken with to take tangible action toward resolving America's manufacturing labor woes. For the record, during his administration, President Barack Obama launched an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership initiative to bring together universities, federal government, and industry to invest in emerging technologies such as robotics and 3D printing that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs in the coming years.

Whose Collar?

While there will always be a need and place, in some capacity, for traditional skilled labor roles, the reality is that the world of manufacturing is also undergoing a seismic change that is going to alter, shift, and even eliminate many of these roles going forward. The rise of collaborative robots and factory automation is already changing the face of the manual labor workforce.

The numbers also demonstrate that manufacturing jobs aren't vanishing into thin air so much as they're changing. The aforementioned Georgetown study mentions “high-tech manufacturing” as a specific area where the need for workers will occur. People like Nader Mowlaee, a career coach focused on engineering, have said that a different type of worker is going to be hired in in the near future, with many of these jobs requiring some level of post-high school education, but not necessarily a full-on four years of college. “Manufacturers need to understand that those they hire to work on the factory floor are going to be very different in the days and years ahead," Mowlaee told Design News. 

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has coined a term for this new type of middle-skilled labor, “New Collar Jobs.” In 2016 she wrote an open letter to then-President elect Trump, urging him to invest in training for these new types of jobs in areas such as cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, and cognitive business. “IBM has championed a new educational model for the United States – six-year public high schools that combine traditional education with the best of community colleges, mentoring, and real-world job experience,” Rometty wrote in her letter. Rometty was also a member of President Trump's Manufacturing Jobs Council, which subsequently disbanded after several members, including Rometty, objected to the President's controversial immigration policies and his stance following a series of white supremacist rallies and protests in late 2017.

From Blue Collar to New Collar

Sarah Boisvert talks to the ADM Cleveland audience about new collar jobs. 

Sarah Boisvert is Chief 3D Printing Officer at Potomac Photonics and the founder of Fab Lub Hub, a non-profit dedicated to preparing workers for new collar jobs through efforts such as training workers in digital fabrication manufacturing skills such as 3D printing. She is also the author of the book, The New Collar Workforce. In her own talk at ADM Cleveland, Boisvert discussed more of the sweeping changes affecting manufacturing. “The machines are changing,” she said. “There's so much rapid change in how we are dealing with technology and integrating technology on the factory floor. There are fewer people with skills with the machine.”

Boisvert pointed to an independent study conducted by Fab Lab Hub, and funded by Verizon, that polled manufacturers on the types of skills needed for today's workforce. In a study of 200 manufacturers ranging in size from Fortune 10 companies, to startups, and government labs. “Ninety-five percent of companies said they need problem solving skills,” Boisvert said.

The second-most requested skill was hands-on experience for operators and technicians. While Ratzenberger called for a return to times when people would learn hands-on repair skills by tinkering around with their own cars in their garage, the Fab Lab Hub study points to a more logical reasoning to the shift away from this behavior, beyond hippie ideology. “Cars have become so complex that people aren't going back to those kinds of activities,” Boisvert said. In a separate interview with Design News she reaffirmed this point, adding, “Now that kids don’t buy cars and fix them up, and now that kids don’t learn those skills on farms and ranches, we have to create opportunities.”

The third-most requested skill? Digital and computer skills, the sorts of skills many kids are learning today both at home and in school – arguably in lieu of shop class.

“Robots are taking over, but it's the humans who are going to collect data,” Boisvert said. “CAD is the number one skill anyone should have, being able to do things like translating a CAD file to GCode. In my factory the lasers never failed, it was always the GCode or the design file not being implemented well enough... More and more we're seeing coding and computer science as a skill on the factory floor.”

One area where Ratzenberger's anecdotes and Boisvert's research meet? Basic math skills. “We're really failing kids in that area,” Boisvert said, citing that employers often report recruits have difficulties with basic skills like converting fractions into decimals.

It's All Manufacturing

The reality of the American workforce is changing, perhaps more quickly than some of us would like. And while the solution may not be to completely abandon the skills that brought up previous generations, it is also not to keep things at a standstill, or worse, turn the clock backwards solely for the sake of maintaining an unsustainable status quo. Green technologies, alternative energies, robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, the Internet of Things are all here now and today and they're only going to keep growing, not go away. And there's no stage you can collapse to change that.

For now we can be content to call it Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Advanced Manufacturing, or any other number of buzzwords. These are helpful terms, but also ones that tend to make us think of emerging technologies as something separate from the way things are today. Eventually these things will be normalized and will return to being called what they always have been – manufacturing.

Whether tomorrow's engineers and other workers are ready for this shift is entirely up to us. In the meantime, though we'd all love to keep going back to places where everyone knows our name, we can't forget that once things change, they can never go back to the way they were.

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

Keynote: The Impact of IoT on Engineering Jobs As the Internet of Things (IoT) pushes automation to new heights, people will perform fewer and fewer “simple tasks.” Does that mean the demand for highly technical employees will increase as the need for less-technical employees decreases? What will be the immediate and long-term effects on the overall job market? What about our privacy and is the IoT secure? These are loaded questions, but ones that are asked often. Cees Links, wireless pioneer, entrepreneur, and general manager of the Wireless Connectivity business unit in Qorvo, will address these questions, as well as expectations for IoT’s impact on society, in this ESC Boston 2018 keynote presentation, Thursday, April 19, at 1 pm. Use the Code DESIGNNEWS to save 20% when you register for the two-day conference today!

Understanding the Role of Cobalt in Batteries

Design News - Thu, 2018-03-22 03:11

A new report by the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) in Germany suggests that worldwide supplies of lithium and cobalt, materials used in electric vehicle batteries, will become critical by 2050. The situation for cobalt, a metal that is typically produced as a byproduct of copper and nickel mining, appears to be especially dire as “…the cobalt demand by batteries might be twice as high as the today’s identified reserves,” the HIU report stated. HIU indicated that lithium reserves would be “much less strained” if the current production levels could be dramatically up-scaled.

Most cobalt production comes as a byproduct of copper mining as from this open pit mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Image source: Katanga Mining Limited)

Understanding the role of cobalt in a lithium ion battery requires knowing what parts make up the battery cell, as well as understanding some electrochemistry. A rechargeable lithium ion battery consists of two electrodes that are immersed in an electrolyte solution and that are separated by a permeable polymer membrane. When the battery is being charged, the lithium ions pass from the positive cathode electrode, through the polymer membrane, to the negative anode electrode. During discharging, the lithium ions travel back from the anode to the cathode, in the process giving up electrons to the anode which travel via an external circuit to power an electronic device before returning via the circuit to the cathode.

This is where the electrochemistry comes in. Carbon graphite is the most common anode electrode material as it has an ordered layered structure that can accommodate and store the small lithium ions between its layers. Because the working voltage of a battery is determined by the difference in electrochemical potential between the cathode and the anode, the cathode must be another material than graphite, and the choice of this material controls most of the performance characteristics of the lithium ion battery.

The cathode electrode stores the lithium ions through electrochemical intercalation—a process by which the lithium ions are inserted into or removed from lattice sites within the cathode material structure.

To understand the specifics better, Design News asked Senior Scientist Daniel Abraham from Argonne National Laboratory to explain how cobalt comes into play. One of the simplest cathode materials is lithium-cobalt-oxide (Li-Co-O2) and he chose it as an example. “In a lithium ion battery, what we are trying to do during charging is to take the lithium ions out of the oxide and intercalate, or insert them into a graphite electrode. During discharging, exactly the opposite happens,” explained Abraham.

So what role does the cobalt play? “When the lithium ion is taken out of the oxide (in the cathode), the lithium ion has a positive charge, so the cobalt changes its oxidation state, so that the oxide stays electrically neutral. A small amount of the cobalt changes it electronic character from oxidation state +3 to +4 to account for the removal of the lithium ion,” said Abraham. The role of the transition metal element in the cathode is to compensate for the charge when the lithium ion arrives or departs. Compounds chosen for cathodes are commonly oxides made from transition metals such as nickel, cobalt, copper, iron, chromium, zinc, or manganese which have the ability to change valence to maintain neutrality.

Lithium-cobalt-oxide is an intercalation compound- it forms two dimesional layers that allows lithium ions to easily enter and leave the structure- in this drawing, the black speres represent lithium atoms, the tan spheres represent oxygen atoms, and the red spheres represent cobalt atoms (Image source: Argonne National Laboratory)

“Lithium –cobalt-oxide is what we call an intercalation compound—the lithium, the cobalt and the oxygen are arranged in two-dimensional layers. The lithium is in one layer, then a layer of oxygen, cobalt in another layer, and then you have another layer of oxygen and another layer of lithium, and that is how the material structure is arranged,” said Abraham. “In an intercalation compound, you should be able to take the lithium out and the framework structure should remain unchanged. If the structure changes, it becomes very difficult to put the lithium back in,” he further explained.

According to Abraham, the cobalt enhanced structure can withstand about 60% of the lithium to be removed before the structure begins to change over long periods of time. “If you want your battery to behave in a predictable manner, you would like the framework structure to remain constant, as you might want to use them for years or maybe even decades,” he said.

Replacing the costly cobalt with significantly cheaper nickel still creates an intercalation structure. But, according to Abraham, if you remove significant amounts of lithium out of a nickel-oxide structure, it will release large amounts of oxygen, which can be a fire hazard. Aluminum, which likes to hold onto oxygen, can be added to the structure to reduce the hazard. It stabilizes the structure, but it lowers the capacity of the cell by a small amount. The cells developed by Panasonic and Tesla for its vehicles have so-called NCA chemistry, Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum. Manganese in NCM chemistry cells can also commonly be used to help stabilize the structure.

Why not remove all the cobalt? Abraham explained: “From our experience, at least small amounts of cobalt are needed in the material because it appears to help the rate performance—the rate at which the power is delivered.” Electric vehicles need to have batteries that accept lithium ions at a high rate during charging and deliver lithium ions at a high rate during discharge. Abraham said about 10% cobalt appears to be necessary enhance the rate properties of the battery.

While roughly half of cobalt produced is currently used for batteries, the metal also has important other uses in electronics and in the superalloys used in jet turbines. More than half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which a2017 USGS report described as having a high-risk for doing business and a substantial risk of civil war. The good news is that both cobalt and lithium are recyclable, although almost no lithium ion battery recycling currently takes place. Recycling has many advantages, just one of which is avoiding the dire predictions for cobalt from the HIU.


Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.


Related articles:

For EV Market to Grow, Investments in Battery Facilities Are Needed

A New Wrinkle in Lithium Metal Battery Research


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An Autonomous Vehicle Designed to Sacrifice Itself to Save Human Lives

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-03-21 19:56

Yesterday's news that an autonomous Uber killed a woman in Arizona has dealt a blow to the companies banking on autonomous cars. Details of the accident have yet to emerge, but Uber has pulled the plug on their North American testing for now, and the litigation that's sure to follow will presumably slow the roll of other companies involved with vehicular autonomy.

However, one form of vehicular autonomy that will probably remain attractive can be seen in Colorado. Last year the Colorado Department of Transportation rolled out this monstrous vehicle:

That's called the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle, and its sole purpose is to protect road workers by providing a moving barrier between them and bypassing traffic. While you've likely never heard these statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administraion, every 5.4 minutes a driver crashes into a work zone. Here are some real examples of this captured on tape:

This results in at least one injury per day and one fatality per week. It's not clear if the injuries/fatalities are suffered by the road workers or the car's occupants, but at least cars have some measure of crash protection, whereas the road worker isn't surrounded by airbags.

Enter the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle. The massive truck lowers an impact-absorbing barrier behind it and is positioned between the workers and bypassing traffic. These types of trucks have been around for a while and are in fact what you saw in the video above, but always required a human driver to move the truck to follow the workers. For the driver assigned to that job, it's a shit detail--who wants to sit in something that's designed to be crashed into? Thus the Autonomous variant Colorado's DOT is testing is programmed to automatically trail a lead vehicle driven by a human, placing that driver out of harm's way.

"CDOT conducted extensive testing of the AIPV's emergency stopping and obstacle detection systems," they wrote in a press release. "Testing also confirmed the vehicle's ability to stay in its lane and make tight turns."

"We are extremely excited about this new technology," said Lee Rushbrooke, CEO of Colas, the British company that built the truck, "and are looking forward to giving this a global reach to save lives of road workers across the world."

It's not the sexy vision of autonomous that starry-eyed automakers have, but if it saves human lives, it's likely to gain traction and government approval faster than robo-taxis.

Book Review—Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-03-21 19:56

In order to push forward in our careers, we often need to expose ourselves to the cold, hard truth and push past common excuses that do nothing but keep our development stagnant. Too often we settle for general career advice that beats around the bush because a) honest advice is often difficult to handle and b) no-BS advice on forming and maintaining a reputable design career isn't something many designers have access to.

Announced this morning on Kickstarter, Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business is a "tell it like it is" career advice book specifically catered to designers. Written by Emily Cohen, the book compiles honest business insights and strategies the seasoned design consultant has been preaching to design firms over the years.

After previewing four or so chapters of Brutally Honest, we can confidently say the book serves as motivation to cut the crap and start taking positive steps towards a successful, well-organized design career. The book itself is tastefully colorful because let's face it: boring textbooks suck, and the chapters are brief and digestible, yet powerful. Cohen has generously shared an excerpt from Chapter 8: It Is Not Cold Calling with the Core77 community, which you can read below:


Chapter 8: It Is Not Cold Calling

It is relationship building. Which, when you think about it, is just about being friendly and likable. That's not too hard, is it? Yet, most of us avoid one-on-one relationships like the plague and settle into what's easy.

I know that you are proud that most, or all, of your business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. That means your clients love you and they love to spread the love. Congratulations. Great job.

Now, for the bad news: Relying on referrals alone for new business is a limiting and unsustainable strategy that does not support the long-term health and growth of your rm. Essentially, you are allowing your current clients and contacts to drive the direction of your rm. Referrals will only take your business so far by limiting your ability to expand your expertise and services. You will eventually lose control of your own business because these incoming business opportunities may not align with your own business goals.

Ideally, the time you devote to new business should be spread out and allocated to four key focus areas:

- Responding to incoming word-of-mouth referrals

- Nurturing and building one-on-one relationships

- Managing and responding to online search inquiries

- Maintaining and expanding repeat business

This chapter will focus on the most important area of new business development: relationship building.

What do I mean by this? Essentially, it is time spent actively pursuing new business opportunities. It is not reactive, responsive, research, or referrals—it is actual hard work. But, it also can be fun and extremely rewarding.

Your Website Is Not New Business Development—It Is a Marketing Tool

The most common excuse designers give me is that their website is outdated, not maintained, or in development and that they first have to relaunch a more impactful and current site. When I ask them how long their site or various other marketing tools have been in development the consistent answer is: "On and off for the last two years." Sound familiar?

Essentially, that is two years of valuable time wasted not actively pursuing new business. Waiting for your site to be completed is not a legitimate excuse!

Let's face it, designers are rarely happy with the current state of their site or their positioning. A rm's positioning, work, services, staff, business, economic and competitive environments, industry trends, and even the tools and strategies used in our industry will always be evolving and changing. Just when a website is ready to launch, much of what it was based on has evolved and the process already has to begin anew!

Your website, positioning, case studies, etc., are only tools in your marketing arsenal which support your new business efforts. The lack of, or dissatisfaction with, any one of these marketing tools shouldn't prevent rms from actively pursuing new business opportunities. They are not how you get new business.

So, how do you move forward? First, you have to change your long-held negative impressions of what "new business development" means.

Change Your Mindset

Thinking about new business as "cold calling," "sales," "marketing" or even as a way to build a vast database of contacts, is a very limiting way to think. Rather, new business development is about building authentic one-to-one relationships. In reality, new business strategies are robust, multifaceted and, dare I say, even a fun and challenging aspect of any successful business. But they take time, focus, ongoing nurturing, and attention.

Be Personally Committed

New business will come, but only if you are committed and have the following traits:


The primary reason most clients select a new design partner is based on overall likability and trust. Be authentic. Be warm. Be nice. Don't try too hard. Be your natural self and new clients will like you for who you are not who they want you to be. Clients will forgive mistakes, want to work with you, defend you internally and, more importantly, recommend you to others.


If you aren't proud of what you do, no one else will want to work with you. If you love what you do, this will shine through in all your interactions.


Your work should speak for itself. Not all your work will be great, but, make sure the high profile, portfolio-based work is at the highest level and truly demonstrates your expertise, talent, and insight (and general awesomeness).


If the solutions you develop for your clients have measurable, tangible results, shout this from the rooftops. Develop strong case studies that highlight your success metrics, and new clients will be attracted to you and convinced that working with you is a worthwhile, results-driven investment.


New business opportunities grow and develop over time; they don't happen overnight. It can take up to two years for an initial connection to result in some sort of new business opportunity. It's about the long haul, not short-term wins.


New business is like breathing; it is something you have to do in order for your business to live and grow. Don't just do it when you are slow. My relationship curation strategy, described later in this chapter, is one way to make it a habit. However, if you choose to pursue new business opportunities, you need to dedicate some time to it, not just use all your time reacting to incoming referral-based business. I recommend spending at least 10 percent of your time to new business development. That's only 4 hours a week or half of one day!


Stop over-thinking everything and worry less. Smaller, focused efforts have more impact and are easier to manage than larger and broader efforts. Focus more on achieving s.m.a.r.t. goals. Just do it. Actions speak louder than words. It is about the quality of your relationships and not the quantity of names on your mailing list.


Your partner in crime in new business development, so to speak, is an effective but simple customer relationship management (crm) tool that helps you manage, organize, and track your growing database of contacts. Ideally, you should have your list categorized in a variety of ways, including:

- existing clients

- past clients

- potential clients

- key connectors

- by industry (to align with your areas of specialization)

- media (bloggers, podcasters, editors, magazines, publishers)

- vendors (printers, video production houses)

- strategic partners/contractors/freelancers

Remember, new business may take up to two years to build and this requires you staying in touch. Your crm tool helps you do this. It is also important
to use the crm tool strategically: Again, it's about the quality of your relationships (knowing everyone on your mailing list) and not the quantity of names on your list.

The goal is not to grow your list to a size that is unmanageable, so yearly or even quarterly editing is often required. Make sure all your contacts are still relevant and categorized. You may even delete contacts that you are no longer interested in or have been on your list for too long (typically after 3-5 years) and have had little to no progress building a relationship with.


Louise Fili once told me her favorite strategy for developing new business: she plans a vacation. As soon as the universe knows she's unavailable, the work comes flooding in! Works every time.


Brutally Honest: No Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business is now available on Kickstarter

Free App Lets You Create and Control Your Own LED Display Designs

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-03-21 19:56

Upon walking into Pier 48 for the World's Fair Nano in San Francisco, the first thing you see are these dual spinning wheels:

Called "Spokes," the mesmerizing display was created by artist and engineer Christopher Schardt, a longtime Burning Man contributor who has been creating sculptures since 2000. Schardt runs LED Labs, which creates commissioned displays in addition to his own projects; "Spokes" was his first LED display to incorporate physical motion.

Each wheel is 88 inches in diameter and contains 3,132 LEDs. Here's what it first looked like when he began prototyping it in his shop last year:

Seeing it in an illuminated space like Pier 48 does rob the piece of its full visual punch. Here's what it would look like in a properly darkened space:

Want to go trippier?

And here it is incorporating the human form:

Schardt can program and control the displays from his smartphone or tablet using LED Lab, an app he created for the purpose. 

In order to make it easier for others to create their own LED displays, Schardt has made the app free to download, and it's getting rave reviews.