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Interesting Design for an Old-School Kitchen Knife Cleaning and Sharpening Object

Core 77 - Mon, 2021-02-22 20:13

The other night we were watching Gosford Park, a 2001 murder mystery set in an English country estate in the 1930s. There's a scene where a kitchen maid is tasked with collecting knives, and she pulls out a trio of knives that were sticking in this thing:

I asked my wife what the heck that was. "A sharpener," she explained, pointing out the handle and the round shape. She then tracked one down on the internet so we could get a better look:

It's a pretty neat design. Here's how it works, according to the antiques dealer selling this one, which they say was manufactured in 1880:

"This antique Victorian knife cleaning and sharpening machine was made by Kent's of London England in circa 1880 in the period Victorian style. The machine is composed of two sharpening stones in a solid oak case with a heavy cast handle and sits on a heavy cast base.

"The top of the cleaning machine has multiple chutes that cleaning powders would have been put in while the knife was inserted into another and turning the hand crank, turns the wheels and cleans, polishes and/or sharpens the knife blade.

"The case has two original paper labels and a small oval porcelain maker's badge. The cast base is also decorated with the maker's name and location in England."

Because we no longer see this type of object in kitchens, one could assume that they didn't work very well. However, it appears that their disappearance has more to do with a materials change in kitchen knives:

"Prior to the invention of stainless steel, knives needed almost daily cleaning to prevent them from rusting. As such, these utilitarian machines were common in large households and used regularly."

By the bye, I believe the description above is slightly inaccurate; I think just one of the holes you can see in the photos above, which has a wooden cap that can be removed and reveals a slit, is the solitary place where the emery powder was loaded. The other holes have protrusions that seem meant to hold knife handles.

Indeed, in the film the cook can be seen pulling multiple knives out of the device, each one from a point where the protrusions are. I'd imagine filmmaker Robert Altman, as painstaking as he is, had someone on set to ensure that was how the object was used.

Handsome Wooden Pocket Door Handles and Hooks from Tirar

Core 77 - Mon, 2021-02-22 20:13

The raw, artist-constructed DUMBO loft I lived in in the '90s had a pocket door for the bathroom. The "handle" was simply a hole drilled completely through, and capped on either end with a small metal piece that looked like the smaller of these:

That thimble-like piece was barely enough to get one finger into. Other pocket doors I've seen typically have larger handles:

I'd never seen these made of anything but metal. But I've just learned an Australian company called Tirar makes handles for pocket doors (cavity doors, in Aussie-speak) made from handsome wood:

Tui Sliding Door Pulls

The one above is made of American White Oak, but they also offer it in American Walnut:

I think they're a darn sight better-looking than the metal ones, and I'm guessing they feel nicer in the hand. They come in three different thicknesses, and you can order a custom thickness as well.

The company, which makes all manner of handles, pulls and door levers, also makes these eye-catching and unusual wooden hooks, in two different styles and a variety of woods and finishes:

Korkki Hook

Tutti Hook

If you're looking for something a bit rougher, we looked at some sweet cast-iron wall hooks last week.

Check out more of Tirar's stuff here.

Eco-Friendly, No-Socks-Needed Sneakers Made with No EVA or TPU

Core 77 - Mon, 2021-02-22 20:13

A footwear startup called Lonowear has created a no-socks-needed sneaker made from natural materials, and without the EVA and TPU we're used to seeing in modern footwear. The company says their material choices prevent the sneaker from getting smelly, and when they're dirty they can be thrown in a washing machine.

As for those materials: The uppers are knit from "tree yarn," which I'd never heard of before; the company describes it as "tree fiber…produced from tree bark originating in a sustainably managed forest certified by the FSC," and processed with an unspecified non-toxic solvent.

The insoles are made from something called Castorfoam, which is apparently a foam derived from castor bean oil.

Finally, the company says their outsoles are made from foam derived from algae.

I am a little skeptical about all of these wondrous-sounding materials, as the company provides no documentation or detailed information about them. And while they have released a video of the production process of the shoe, it's unnarrated and does not reveal anything you wouldn't see with the manufacturing of a conventional kick:

That being said, company founder Ben Hui writes that he has "Shoes in my blood. Being a third generation shoe maker, it's my responsibility to push the shoe making process to the next level. Climate change is going to play a major role in our generation, it only make sense that we move towards the direction of green and sustainable footwear development."

Lonowear has been successfully Kickstarted. At press time they had $46,694 in funding on a $12,898 goal, and there's still 24 days left to pledge. The $98 kicks are expected to start shipping this May.

Pop Chart's Wonderful Compendium of Objects Posters

Core 77 - Sun, 2021-02-21 18:59

Pop Chart is a company that gets commissioned to create infographics for the likes of The Today Show, The New York Times, Bloomberg and The Economist, to name a few. But their main business is creating and selling fantastic posters that document the forms of objects and structures. I've gone through their dozens of offerings to pick out a few that may be of interest to the design lover:

A Visual Compendium of Sneakers

A Collection of Classic American Automobiles

A Visual Compendium of Typewriters

A Visual Compendium of Cameras

A Stylistic Survey of Graphic Design

The Schematic of Structures

The Architecture of American Houses

Not design related, but fun:

The Charted Sandwich Board

Check out their depth of offerings here.

A Smart Design Entrepreneur: Justin Myers Creates Metal Sheathes for Multitools

Core 77 - Sun, 2021-02-21 18:59

Justin Myers is the owner, designer and engineer of R.A.E. Gear USA, an Illinois-based manufacturer that has moved thousands of units on Etsy. What Myers has correctly identified a market for, then designed and fabricated, is a series of metal sheaths for popular multitools made by Gerber, Leatherman and Victorinox.

By adding magnets to the inside, Myers cleverly enables the tool to not only be held fast, but opened one-handed:

Myers sells his sheathes through both the company website and Etsy, where he's doing a brisk business--and most importantly, netting rave reviews for both the quality of the product and the customer service. (He's 5-stars-out-of-5 with over 2,500 sales.) He appears to make sheathes for every multi-tool each manufacturer makes.

This is a smart business, and Myers proves that Made-in-the-USA is still possible. While metal is expensive these days, he's created a useful and desirable metal object that's small enough (i.e. uses little enough of an expensive material) that he can profitably sell them at $30 a pop. I think $30 is an easy click for most multi-tool lovers, and with the EDC craze seemingly getting bigger each year, Myers' market will only grow.

Kevin Bethune Says Building a Brighter Design Future Means Taking a Hard Look at the Industry's Deepest Flaws

Core 77 - Sun, 2021-02-21 18:59

Our Core77 Design Awards are always led by experts in their field with fascinating stories as to how they got there—that's why we love getting to know them better in interviews we share with our Core77 audience. In 2021, we're proud to have a number of judges out there actively changing the industry as we know it, including this year's Consumer Technology Jury Captain, Kevin Bethune.

Bethune is the Founder & Chief Creative Officer of dreams • design + life, a consultancy that balances clients' business objectives using a combination of Strategic Design and Industrial Design. Growing up in Downriver Detroit, Bethune's experience surrounded by technical professionals working in the auto industry naturally led to a curiosity in engineering. After studying mechanical engineering at Notre Dame, he took his first job in the nuclear power industry at Westinghouse Electric Company, which offered rare opportunities to work on new product development fresh out of school. Exposure to conversations around business at Westinghouse stoked an interest in learning more, and he went back to school at Carnegie Mellon University to merge his knowledge of technology with an MBA.

Despite his deep knowledge in engineering and business, a lifelong creative curiosity lingered. While working for Nike after graduating with his MBA and making friends with lead Nike footwear designers, he got his first chance to work on a design project, side-hustling with footwear projects on top of his business role at the company. This opportunity motivated Bethune to eventually graduate from ArtCenter with a MS in Industrial Design, which solidified Bethune with the knowledge trifecta of technology, business and design that allowed him to carve a unique space within the industry. Bethune has gone on to help build the consulting powerhouse that is BCG Digital Ventures, and just three years ago started his very own think tank in dreams • design + life.

We spoke with Bethune about his journey from nuclear engineering to founder of his own design think tank, the dwindling boundaries between design and business, and the importance of leaders tackling issues of racial inequity within the industry head on.

I wanted to ask about dreams • design + life. Maybe you could expand on what you focus on most particularly there and what made you want to go out on your own specifically?

So with dreams • design + life, I love to really focus on strategic design, to help companies shape their future opportunities, and then industrial design, to really make sure that design outcomes are reflective of the context that we surface in those strategies.

We focus on two things that inform our filters of the types of projects we take on. The first is, is there an opportunity to actually focus on a human centric problem, no matter if it's b2b, b2c, or b2b to b2c? There has to be an unlock of human potential and human performance, really addressing the human centered value criteria that's playing in any ecology that we're working on. A lot of companies may have different agendas that may contrast that; it might be to digitize, it might be to transform. You know, I think we dealt with that a lot in my past chapter with BCG, and now, I want to really address those human-centered problems with my business.

The second filter is, because my experience has been very multidisciplinary—through a thread of physical product creation, combining some digital—I really focus on those opportunities that can yield new experiences across physical, digital and human-based service touch points. We're really working on ecologies of opportunity, not just thinking about what is reflected in rectangular viewports or apps—there needs to be more than that for us to take on the work. So those are the two filters, and it's funny, being all of those things to all industries on the BCG platform, it made me think, "where do you want to really steer your calories?" And that's why I decided to eventually leave.

Your expertise lies just as equally in business as it does in design and strategy. And it sounds like you were really far ahead of the curve when it came to understanding the importance of merging these elements together. So as someone well informed personally in the space, why would you say it's so important for designers working today to now understand aspects of business? How do you see this sort of co-collaborative state evolving in the near future?

Honestly, [my interest in both] came from an initial point of challenge where it wasn't easy to go through those inflection points between engineering and business. But you sort of look forward and see what's happening in the marketplace. You see these needs coalescing. And to answer your question, as we look to the future, I think designers find themselves in the room with more diverse actors than ever before. Every organization, big and small, is thinking about their future relevance. And especially if 2020 has taught us anything, the paradigms of change can happen and are definitely happening more exponentially than we ever thought was possible before.

So for a business to understand that the world can move out from underneath your feet in an instant, business folks, designers, technology professionals need to be in the room together, at least some of the time. When we talked about this convergence [years ago], it was more of the exception, not the rule, especially in my experience navigating larger organizations. But I think now, especially with clients that I serve, we're having a conversation of, how do we open the aperture and create more space for this multidisciplinary collaboration? And they feel the potential, but we're actually working on true innovation opportunities that their existing business didn't have the appetite or the attention span to even think about. Now we're enabling them to think about these things. And it's exciting. And they feel like they can actually have some license through these winds of disruption. So we're designed to handle that and understand their role in that. That's where I want to bring these lessons to life and how I mentor designers, as well as how I mentor organizations to change.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts about all the talk within the business world around bringing design thinking into the fray. Do you have any examples of what you would consider a shallow perspective of what that is, and conversely, truly effective ways of implementing design into business?

It definitely reflected a worry that I had as we were cultivating design within the BCG environment; they hadn't known the power of design. But to their credit, BCG gave us the trust and runway to prove ourselves. I think we did fight the perceptions, not just BCG, but maybe their executive clientele, where they'd heard of design thinking, but design to them felt like post-it note exercises, the brainstorms, the workshops that was a part of—that, arguably, to their eyes was design.

They didn't see the deep work that was happening, the iterations before the designer is comfortable putting up a wireframe or an industrial design sketch. The creative process was quite foreign, like, "what do you mean by 'discovery'? We hire a market research agency to go do discovery for us."

So we said, let me show you what design investigation means and the superpowers that are required to do that well. Let me show you what the ideation process means and how prototypes and stories can actually propel us forward into better thinking. And a lot of that doesn't happen in the team room always. We have to actually give the experts that we're bringing into this multidisciplinary conversation some room to breathe. I started writing about those experiences, those concerns. And that actually led to an invitation to give a talk at a TED Institute event in partnership with BCG in Milan, Italy, where we talked about the four superpowers of design. I shed a light on applications of design thinking and practice, but also sharing how to really give design as an expertise the ability to shine and to really go deep on opportunities. That balancing act is still very nebulous for most organizations.

So I think another interesting thing to flow into is one aspect of design thinking, this idea of quote-unquote, empathy. And I think that definition has really evolved even in this past year, because we're seeing the short handedness of that definition in design. This also relates to the discussion on design equity.

There are a number of organizations like Where Are the Black Designers? that have risen in the past year, and you've noted personally that promoting more black, BIPOC designers is a particular mission to you. This is such a huge question, but it's really just a starting point to our discussion. Where do you personally think employers and fellow designers are missing the mark in this regard?

It is a big question, but we need to talk about this more. Unfortunately I think we have a sort of an ivory tower problem in design, that's fair to say. And the reason why I say we have an ivory tower problem is, many times, whether we're embracing a design-thinking mindset, human-centric mindset, we tend to relish in the pedigree of our studios or teams. And we talked about walking in someone's shoes or designing for the audience that we're serving and we run the risk of designing with inherent biases, of making gross or hasty assumptions about people and we may design stuff that we like, or that we can envision ourselves going through. But we might not realize that, in the act of doing that, we exclude so many, we exclude some important value criteria, sensitivities, realities that our audiences, our increasingly diverse and interconnected audiences are going through.

And we're not just talking about society as one-note people, by race or gender or whatever it might be, we're talking about intersectional human beings that have many layers of diverse perspectives informed by their lived experience. And when I look at a lot of design studios, innovation studios, they don't represent the world that they're arguing that they're serving. They're not mirroring the world in terms of representation. And oftentimes, I hear the rhetoric of, "There are just not enough black designers to hire, BIPOC designers to hire." Yes, the community, the population is small, and I think there are a number of forces that feed into that. For example, there's the lack of investment in the arts and design education in the early years of primary school and study so people can even realize it could be a career path.

There's also the lack of diversity at top design institutions, and these kinds of things play into it. But there still is a pipeline—it's a myth to say that there's not a pipeline there. There are minority or underrepresented designers of every sort out there pioneering and finding their own voice in the industry. But unfortunately, the industry doesn't necessarily look for or celebrate their voices. And I think thanks to the Internet and the advances of connectivity, black designers are sort of peeking up from their efforts to burrow and carve new lanes. They are looking up for the first time and waving at each other like, "Hey, here I am! I'm over here!" This person over here's doing a similar thing, let's connect. And that's when you see platforms, like Where Are the Black Designers, and kudos to Mitzi [Okou, WATBD founder] and those who are pioneering the formation of these communities. So it's a testimony of, hey there is a pipeline.

When I look at my peers and friends who come from HBCUs, where the industry doesn't talk to them or doesn't even think of them as credible players when they absolutely are, they overlook that incredible talent coming out of those schools. Again, we have a perception problem that the pipeline is a problem when it's not, that's a myth. It almost feeds into an excuse that a lot of design teams make around their next generation of hires.

Another part of this whole struggle is, like you were saying, getting more BIPOC designers in those roles. And I'm really interested in that question around, how do designers and organizations begin to invest in those designers with great potential, but maybe less of the extensive credentials we see listed on job descriptions?

Yeah, it's an unfortunate conversation. Because I listen to all these conversations, whether it's design Twitter or whatever, around these pedantic requirements and these platitudes around requirements being floated around, like what makes a good portfolio or what makes a good design interview. And I watch the people that are making those claims or asserting those requirements. And if they were honest with themselves, looking at themselves in the mirror, I don't think they can measure up to the pedagogy that's being espoused in these conversations.

And honestly, after touching many Fortune 100 enterprises and navigating large organizations and helping startups, when you look at the work, and perhaps the lack of empathy, the lack of relevance to the dynamic paradigm changes that are happening in the marketplace, that lack of humility, ultimately their posture shows itself in the work.

Now, in my experience, and at least the BCG example, we were cultivating digital ventures and building and design functions out of nothing. You know, of course we were victims of habit to where, for example, I came from ArtCenter. And naturally operating out of LA, the school was right in my backyard so of course, I'm going to go to my ArtCenter network to find my first hires for the growing design function.

But after a little while, I felt uncomfortable with that because we need different points of view on the pedagogy, because the market needs are vacillating all over the place. And we need a diversity of lived experiences, approaches to methods, approaches to empathy and compassion and idea creation. We need people to really push us—every hire is critical and diversifying our ability to be nimble and flexible and agile to the needs of the market. And so we had to think about, where else on the planet do we need to go to find like-minded practitioners? Yes, in terms of the fundamental things that we know are needed, but we need diverse actors to come in—women, BIPOC people, you know, people with different lived experiences, different backgrounds, different pedagogies. We need different people pushing us and really breaking our methods physically for the better, so that we can come up with new methods that are more relevant and more impactful. And sure enough, you know, after a handful of years, you look back and realize, oh, wow, this is the most diverse place I've ever worked because we really pushed ourselves to find additional hires who were going to push us and take us to new realms of performance and possibility.

And in your experience, how do you think the process of design changes when there are more BIPOC and women designers who are a part of or leading that conversation?

First is, in many ways navigating industry, our lived experiences put us in a position to hyper empathize, if that makes sense, because we've had to do everything to not just do the work but also make our teammates or stakeholders comfortable with our very being in the room. I can't tell you how many times I've been mischaracterized just based on people's initial impression of my sitting in the room. You know, not to conjure up all the negative things, and there's been a ton of positive things that I've had the privilege of experiencing, but I think the BIPOC person does have those challenges of being perceived as a junior person in the room, of being the quiet person in the room, or being the one that's expected to be the most calm and comforting to make sure the room is okay versus bringing bold assertion.

But what's interesting is that I think those experiences help us be hyper empathetic when we're dealing with folks that are different from us, when it comes to investigating things happening in the field, of having a volition to ensure that any audience that we engage, we're actually treating them as respected co-creators, not just as research subjects to study. That includes practicing inclusion, and deliberately conveying what inclusion means based on our normal everyday habits, because we've had to do that ourselves. And having an eye toward diversity as not just some extracurricular social impact endeavor, that it actually will move us forward or move us to a bad place if we're not careful, if we're not invested in the practices of diversifying as we're growing and designing capabilities.

I think a lot of design organizations historically have thought their intent was enough to show that they are harbingers of change, yet movements to illuminate the lack of women and BIPOC leaders in the industry are showing there's an enormous amount of work still to be done. In your opinion, how can organizations prove their dedication to this mission? And how do you think we make sure it isn't strictly left to BIPOC individuals to fight for change?

There's a lot of conversation happening right now around, how do you become a better ally? Folks like Ti [Chang] and Raja [Schaar], incredible women out there in the field are definitely leading these conversations of how do you, as a white design leader or design practitioner, become a better ally in these situations? Where the burden isn't always on BIPOC or women, you know, folks trying to be at least be considered, respected, included members.

I think an education is required in terms of just recognizing that it's not enough to think about design thinking as a human-centered mindset and that if you do those things, empathy is taken care of, compassion is taken care of, and we're all good. It's not enough to think about business, design, and technology being integrated, even though that's a new novelty over the last 10 years. Still, that's not enough to think that way. We have to humble ourselves and recognize that every design decision, every business decision, every application topology, there are broader ramifications that we need to think about now because the world is especially hyper-connected.

If we reinforce messages from folks like John Maeda or Kat Holmes around the power of computation and the need for inclusion, you know, these elements are so intertwined now. And so that white male design constituent definitely needs to educate themselves on the interconnectedness, and also the threads of historic inequities that have shaped the BIPOC pipeline. That there is a pipeline, but just recognize that your pedantic requirements around what constitutes a successful designer need to be questioned, those assumptions need to be dismantled, because many of us who have had to figure out creative ways to even thrive and survive in this industry are not getting celebrated for it and being rewarded for it.

We found design through unconventional means because we didn't have the pathways of privilege that some others have had. And not to say that they didn't work hard, we're not taking anything away from our white brothers and sisters in the field, you've worked hard for sure. But at the same time, recognize that your BIPOC constituents have worked incredibly hard to survive. And we've had to bring atypical experiences to find our way into the lane of design. And so your evaluation methods against us add an additional burden. And I honestly felt it where I've walked through the lobbies of your favorite world class design studios only to be completely insulted in terms of how I was treated. I've sometimes felt the insulting nature of the interview process where I'm already on unfair ground because I'm not part of your clique and don't understand your language, or the pedigrees that you think are important that I clearly haven't had, or haven't had the luxury of even having because I wasn't afforded those paths of privilege. So you're already discounting me before I can even open my mouth or crack open my portfolio.

And I'm not just sharing this from my own experience. With my BIPOC friends, we hold up receipts with each other as these companies espouse platitudes of wanting to do the right thing. But we share receipts about what has happened to us. There's been gross mistreatment by the industry toward us. And so all that BS, if you will, has to stop. And the industry needs to humble itself to realize that your world class design studios of XY and Z do not mirror the world. And this is not about social impact. This is about, for one, human imperative to do the right thing. But secondly, you're missing out and the organizations you're serving are clearly missing out on business opportunity, because you can't respond to the market.

Just a quick benchmark to add to that idea—We started BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV), or restarted I should say with BCG backing us, at the start of 2014. And you know, we started as a no-name entity, no one knew who BCGDV was. But going from a handful of us to almost 1000 people by the time I left in the spring of 2018, and one third of that organization was design, and Forrester rated Digital Ventures as the number one digital transformation capability in the marketplace… You know, I credit diversity as being a huge catalyst for us to be able to have that level of recognized impact.

I wanted to talk a little bit about your involvement on the board of Don Norman's Future of Design Education Initiative [Bethune is a Steering Committee Member]. I feel that fits well into our conversation right now of, what responsibility design education has today and making room for more voices in the industry. I'm curious about the conversations you're having and what you're working on within that team.

The initial Future of Design Education Initiative group consisted of roughly 16 steering committee members who are reflective of the world in terms of BIPOC women, cross gender representation. Once formed, we essentially then problem solved, thinking, if we were to talk to the world's collective of academic institutions and community of design practitioners around the future of design education, we need to comprehend what has been working in the field in terms existing pedagogy, foundational elements of learning, and make sure we don't erode that or dilute that. Make sure that the strong things continue forward.

But we also need to shake up and recognize that much of the pedagogy has come from, again, circles of or threads of systemic inequity, privilege, and power dynamics that have shaped how we think about what constitutes good design education. There's probably an opportunity to hold up a mirror on the changing nature and changing nuances of that to reflect the world paradigms, and to ask ourselves, does the present pedagogy measure up? Can we actually handle the shifts that are happening in the world and ensure that our students are prepared to address those future challenges?

And in some cases, we can say yep, we tick the boxes, these methods still make sense to move forward in other areas, and we have some glaring gaps. And part of that conversation is taking stock of all the other pedagogies that exist in the world that we've just completely overlooked, other cultures and how they think about creativity, how they think about prototyping to address human needs. There are things happening in the emerging markets that we need to take stock of, new dynamic methods of education that are being employed in pockets that didn't have a voice. We want to have this platform and give them a voice. And then all of a sudden, you have this new set of recommendations that I think, reflect a couple of things.

I think the recommendations we'll make to the community after [our initial research is done] is to say, okay, how are we actually leveraging a new sense of breadth of how design collaborates with the world? And by breadth I mean, how do we coach our future designers to collaborate in a hyper-diverse, hyper-connected world? How do we get them to appreciate respectfully as well as ethically the power of computation, that being such a huge threat in our lives moving forward? How do we get future designers to recognize the threads of systemic imbalance and recognize ways to dismantle or reimagine or disrupt, to create opportunities for everyone, not just some and that is going to be a part of that future pedagogy. Then still, beyond breadth, which which involves collaborating and communicating differently, bring your depth of design expertise. And that's an additive conversation because a lot of the pedagogy—in terms of visualization and prototyping and form making, sense making, investigation—those things are absolutely still required to move forward. But we need to build on them and ensure designers feel they are empowered and enabled and understand where they need to go deep with their craft, to make sure that we're still championing the best practices of design to their fullest potential in every opportunity we find ourselves in.

Lastly, as the Consumer Tech Jury Captain in this years Core77 Design Awards, I'm curious to hear what you're hoping to see and what type of work will stand out to you?

My hope is that we can serve as a new exemplar of sort of reimagining and re-questioning, do we have the right success criteria to evaluate each of the proposed submissions as relevant to the needs of a changing world, inclusive of different audiences? I would definitely be curious, and I'm sure my fellow jury members would be very curious in terms of, what were the initial tipping point inspirations or insights that led to each of the design proposals or submissions? Were they coming from a place of really finding that hidden voice and underserved voice, are they really tapping into the deeper value criteria that makes us human? Just designing for existing sensibilities with market convention, projects that are really pushing the needle toward making a new level of impact that can be inspiring, and creating a new way for how designers proceed. Those are just a few elements that I hope will come out of the conversation this year.

Thinking of submitting to the Consumer Technology category in the 2021 Core77 Design Awards? Submit today—Regular Deadline ends March 9th.

Design Departure: Alpha EVs Resemble 1960s/'70s Euro/Japanese Coupes

Core 77 - Sun, 2021-02-21 18:59

Here are my names for some recent design trends in electric vehicles:

"Used bar of soap with arbitrary swoopy surface changes"

"Clay model was damaged during shipping"


"Draw what Techno music sounds like"

"Draw what Techno music sounds like coming out of a portable Bluetooth speaker"

"What can we get away with"

For a breath of fresh air, check out the forthcoming designs from California-based EV startup Alpha. Their designs recall European and Japanese coupes from the 1960s and '70s, starting with the Ace, a rear-wheel-drive two-seater:

The Ace Performance Edition, which uses minor but impactful detail changes to add visual punch, and adds a second motor for 4WD:

And the Jax, a four-seater, 4WD CUV variant meant to tackle tougher terrain than the Aces:

They've also got a small truck in the works, but no complete visuals have been released, just shadowy renderings of the teaser variety.

What I love about Alpha's designs, is that they look as if the design team actually had fun while working on these. Like they had a vision, maybe pushed and pulled it a bit, but stayed true to what they wanted to see, and had smiles on their faces when the work was done.

In contrast, some of the EV designs at the top of this page look like the design team argued all the way through the project, and no single voice won a majority of any of the disagreements. They practically give me a headache just looking at them.

Alpha hopes to have their cars on the road by 2023.

How They Used to Clear Snowy Roads Before Snowplows and Trucks Were Invented

Core 77 - Thu, 2021-02-18 17:24

For our farm's past two supply runs, we've had to take the truck, because the roads were covered in thick snow that the station wagon won't cut through. Our roads are too rural for our tiny county to send what few snowplows they have.

Which got me wondering: How were roads cleared of snow prior to the invention of snowplows and motor vehicles to push them? My scout found the answer, illustrated by early American tool historian and artist Eric Sloane:

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These snow rollers, which existed at least as far back as the 1700s in America (and surely earlier than that overseas), were used until the 20th century. It's incredible to think that just 100 years ago, these were used to make roads passable.

"A snow roller in use at Livermore in 1921." (Image source)

Morrisville, Vermont, year unknown. (Image source)

Vermont, circa 1900. (Image source)

Caribou, Maine, circa 1930. Photo shared by Jeff Clark. (Image source)

Photo dated May 21, 1937. From Hennepin County Library, Earle Brown Collection. (Image source)

Because these are so big and built with metal frames, they stand a better chance of surviving the ages, unlike smaller tools that are easily lost and swallowed up by the ground. This snow roller was found in the woods near Bartlett, New Hampshire in 2014.

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"It had been sitting (and rotting) for many, many years," writes Norman Head, a member of the Bartlett Historical Society. "It was partially buried in the ground, the inside was covered with leaves, pine needles, dirt, etc. but the iron structure was in quite good shape and I thought it was not only salvageable, but would be a real gem when restored."

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The restoration team completed the project in 2016.

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Image source

The plaque reads, in part:

"This snow roller, donated by Frances Savard of Intervale Farm, was once used to roll the roads in the Intervale section of Bartlett. Prior to the advent of snowplows, snow rolling was a common method of keeping the snow-covered roads passable in the winter. A team of horses pulled the roller, packing the snow so sleighs, and later on vehicles, could get around."

Air Transportation Futures

Core 77 - Thu, 2021-02-18 17:24

To mitigate emissions as part of adapting to the climate crisis, we've yet to solve how to create sustainable cross-continental travel and transport solutions. The pandemic has only highlighted that we need innovative solutions for long distance travel. Compared to urban transport, which with the right support could be made emission-free fairly quickly, it will be almost a decade before technology improvements (green fuels, batteries, solar powered planes) will allow airplanes to roam the skies without polluting at the levels they do today. That is, of course, if we believe that incremental improvements to existing designs is the only way forward.

Another approach is to look at clean sheet designs. It is often assumed that a clean sheet approach entails further development of validated technology or radically new tech. In the case of air travel, the obvious examples would respectively be regular airplanes with electro fuels and eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing). Over the years, however, we've seen a number of alternative designs for air travel, which weren't necessarily discarded for objective reasons. Many of these ideas might have been ahead of their time, and that time could be coming very soon. Updated versions of some historical ideas could soon be feasible, or more likely, parts of them could be appropriated in new combinations to shape new typologies.

Combining ideas or clashing them is actually a very successful technique for ideation and innovation. The ideas below illustrate this approach (ignoring for now the pitfalls, challenges and expensive development), if one were to bet or invest in new alternatives to air travel.

Helicopter Plus EV Currently, I think the big attempt at a paradigm shift is happening by merging the typologies of a helicopter and the electric car in some way. The eVTOLs are a result of different techs bundled together. They surfaced when distributed electric motors became efficient enough to compete with central motors. They still can't compete with a big multi-seat airplane on many levels, but they could possibly pave the way for a different vision and new regulation.

Model of the Terrafugia Transition

Bus Plus Plane Many are familiar with tiltwing aircrafts; most notably the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey. By tilting wings vertically instead it is possible to create flying busses that could drive on normal roads. I was actually part of the team that designed the Terrafugia Transition which is certified as a truck as well as a plane. It has folding wings. The interesting part of merging busses and planes is that two sets of pre-existing infrastructures could converge: Roads and airports.

image courtesy Atlas LTA

Balloon Plus Plane A low hanging fruit is to reconsider the commercial use of the airship. Although largely discontinued as a means of passenger transport after the Hindenburg disaster, there is an argument to be made that replacing hydrogen with helium, will open many new possibilities for the airship. Even hydrogen could be safely compartmentalized to avoid a comparable disaster. Where consumers usually choose planes for their speed, slower transport is steadily becoming more popular with the slow living movement, nostalgia and green consciousness. Airships could also replace cruise ships and even commercial heavy lifting to areas with low infrastructure without much redesign. You can already pre-order an airship cruise to the North Pole. And some of the largest windmill manufacturers collaborate on having airships transport windmills. The biggest windmill today, The Haliade-X offshore turbine has a 220-meter rotor, and a 107-meter blade. These are almost impossible to transport on normal roads and moving from factory to wind farm poses a significant challenge, which could be solved by the airship.

Lighter than air vessels, definitely seem to be a bet for the future and probably the fastest way to zero emission flight. The Airlander 10 from Hybrid Air Vehicle, a new type of hybrid airship is already built, and ready for commercial roll-out.

Plane Plus Train If we're not going to fly, and speed is of importance, the train needs a renaissance. Not just as a train, but a vehicle using the best designs and knowledge to travel at high-speed covering long distances. The Hyperloop famously revived the vactrain: A concept proposed in 'Paris in the Twentieth Century', an old science fiction novel by Jules Verne. Verne imagined tube trains stretching across the Atlantic, and countless others have imagined combining magnets, vacuum tubes and trains as alternatives to aviation.

Airship Plus Train My design team and I at Manyone designed the Aeroslider, which is basically a bullet-shaped airship (using helium to make it lighter) propelled at up to 800 km/h by maglev technology. It is imagined as a towering circle-line subway connecting Europe, Africa and Asia.

Helicopter Plus Plane Then there's a host of rotorcrafts, which are waiting to be explored and repurposed. There is the Fanwing that mixes a fixed wing and a sort of fan. The Flettner plane resembles it, but it creates lift by using the magnus effect. And ships are also being made using the Flettner technology to propel them to save energy.

There is also an aircraft cyclorotor – with a type of rotor wing that looks like the ones on a big Mississippi steam boat. It is capable of vertical take off and landing like a helicopter, while having some of the advantages of a fixed-wing aircraft. It remains experimental for now, but with the right backing….

Some other rotorcrafts like the autogyro and gyrodyne are currently being recycled in eVTOLs .

Image courtesy Wigetworks

Boat Plus Plane Finally, there is the Ekranoplan or Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV). Actually, this was a design pioneered by the Soviet Union, and it was almost forgotten outside of Russia - except maybe for the infamous Lun-class ekranoplan. The Ekranoplan is a plane that flies between 5 and 30 meters above ground, getting additional lift from the aerodynamic interaction between the wing and the surface. It is actually classified as a boat, but it could easily stand in for planes for long distance travel where the geography permits. One such route is the Sea Wolf Express, which soon could connect Tallinn and Helsinki in just 30 minutes. The Iranians also use them for their fleet. The benefits are obvious, an ekranoplan is fast and roughly twice as fuel-efficient as a plane and it needs limited infrastructure. DARPA and Boeing are exploring Ground Effect Vehicles and a specialized manufacturer in Russia still makes them. Hovercrafts are in this category too.

Imagine what could be done with the above ideas with the right use, investment, and perseverance? Initially, they might seem off-the-wall, but so did all flying objects before they worked. Investors are betting on this sector. In the past five years, the dominant electric aviation start-ups globally have raised more than $1.2 billion. JetBlue Airways indirectly invested $250 million in electric aviation start-ups over the last three years, and Airbus, Intel, Toyota Motor, Daimler, and Geely Automobile are crowding into the space. We might witness a renaissance of air travel, and experience brand new vehicles of travel within the next decade if only we dare challenge the status quo.

Learn More About the Principles of Community Design February 17th on Core77's Instagram Live!

Core 77 - Thu, 2021-02-18 17:24

Want to learn more about Community Design, a design framework from the 1960's and 70's that's gained resurgence over the last few years for its focus on redirecting control of design outcomes to communities? Tune into FLOX Studio's Instagram Live on the @core77 Instagram this Wednesday, February 17th at 10:30 AM EST, where FLOX Studio founder Sloan Leo will be discussing the principles of Community and their upcoming summer intensive at SVA, "Community Design for Leaders".

FLOX Studio founder Sloan Leo

This Instagram Live session will be a great opportunity for anyone interested to introduce themselves to the foundations of Community Design, and learn more about what they will take away after attending FLOX Studio x SVA DSI's 2-week design intensive in June 2021.

Want to remind yourself of the event before we go live on Instagram? Set a reminder on your calendar by clicking here.

Join the SVA "Community Design for Leaders" Summer Intensive!

"Community Design For Leaders: Beyond Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) to Power, Belonging and Interdependence (PBI)"

Course Dates: June 2 - 16, 2021


If every leader achieved their goals of representational diversity - what would happen next? How do we truly relocate power and decision making in our organizational structures, strategies, and culture? How do we collectively understand and envision the future of organizational leadership; a future where power isn't held by one, but by many.

This paradigm shift will require leaders to adopt new mindsets, develop new best practices, and build new relationships. It will require bravery, creativity, and resilience -- and space for collective inquiry. And the good news is, there's a path.

Community Design is a community-generated design framework from the 1960s and 70's that's made a resurgence in the last several years. Unlike Human-Centered-Design, Community Design provides a path to shift not only WHO is doing the work but WHAT the work is and HOW it is done.

Leaders will leave with:

Knowledge - A deep understanding of the role of design in private and public sector mission-driven work; and what it means for your leadership practice

Resources - Models, templates, tools, and tactics to shift to a framework of power, belonging, and inclusion

Community - New relationships and a virtual community of support, scholarship, and practice

This intensive is facilitated by Sloan Leo (they/them), the Founder & CEO of FLOX Studio Inc. and faculty in the MFA Design for Social Innovation (DSI) program. For more information on FLOX Studio and Sloan Leo, check them out here. For more information about MFA DSI check them out here.

All profits from this course will be used to support MFA DSI's new Equity in Design Scholarship Fund. We created the scholarship to address intersectional inequalities in design and promote equitable opportunities starting with our own student community. This will be our first time offering the scholarship, which will grant $10,000 to an incoming student each year. We seek to grow and iterate on this initiative to create pathways in design to support and sustain diverse, creative leaders.

For questions, please contact dsiinfo@sva.edu

Register now for the Community Design for Leaders workshop here

This Company Specializes in Creating Home Additions Shaped Like an Octagon

Core 77 - Thu, 2021-02-18 17:24

A North-Carolina-based company called Topsider Homes finds octagons the ideal shape for a house. Why? For one, "the shape encloses space more efficiently than its counterpart, the square," the company writes.

"An octagon has approximately 20 percent more space than a square with the same perimeter. Because this minimizes the external wall surface area, it decreases heat loss and gain. Additionally, an octagonal structure permits more natural light, aiding in the reduction of electric bills for illumination and heating in the winter and from a livability standpoint, octagonal designs allow for panoramic views and easier orientation on the building site."

"Topsider's unique octagonal homes permit 360 degree views making them very popular in vacation and scenic destinations, such as on the beach or the side of a mountain. They adapt to the terrain and climate of almost any building site and can be built on a wide range of foundation types, including pedestals, pilings, basements, slab and crawl-spaces."

The company, which has been in business since the 1960s, writes that they have "created a new genre of building designs by marrying their unique pedestal foundation to an octagonal structure using a post and beam building system." They not only sell plans for octagonal houses that utilize this system, but they also prefabricate the structural components, shipping them out as kits.

Where this has an interesting application is in the area of home additions, which the company also specializes in. "Because many home additions must be added onto sloping terrain on the side or back of the existing structure," they write, "our unique ability to design for any type of foundation can make a big difference. We can build room additions on pilings, pedestals, slabs, crawl-spaces and even basements."

We've looked at the circular house thing before, and I suspect living in one of those would suck. But I'm looking at the floorplans for Topsider's octagonal additions, and they seem pretty livable.

1,195 sq. ft. with Living Room, Office, Sewing Room & 1/2 Bath Home Addition Floor Plan

1,300 sq. ft. with 1 Bed, 1 Bath, Laundry & Attached 2 Car Garage Home Addition Floor Plan

675 sq. ft. with 2 Bed, 1 Bath, Sitting Area & Laundry Home Addition Floor Plan

890 sq. ft. w/ Home Theater Room, Recreation Area, Bar & 1/2 Bath Family Room Floor Plan

1,360 sq. ft. with His & Her Master Bath, Sauna, Patio and More Master Bedroom Floor Plan

If you want to see how one of these go up, here's a SketchUp-style animation showing one of their designs built on a number of short piers:

More floorplans to check out here.

XPILOT Driving Cars, Motion Controllers, and More Supplier News

Design News - Fri, 2021-01-15 01:58
These new products do everything from predicting maintenance needs to managing DataOps.

Friday Funny: A Bad Day at Work During 2020

Design News - Fri, 2021-01-15 01:15
We’re all relieved to see 2020 go away, especially the folks in these videos who had a rough time at work during a nasty year.

He’s One of Us: NFL Quarterback is a Math Major at ODU

Design News - Thu, 2021-01-14 11:22
Taylor Heinicke’s electrifying NFL playoff performance puts his math exams on hold.

Combined Robotic Packer-Palletizer Saves Floor Space

Design News - Wed, 2021-01-13 09:52
Productivity improves with highly optimized integration between case packing and palletizing.

Identifying Recycling and Circularity Opportunities for Healthcare Plastics

Design News - Wed, 2021-01-13 09:46
The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council’s mission is to ensure that all healthcare plastics are safely and effectively recycled and widely accepted as a valuable resource. Executive Director Peylina Chu led a panel discussion during Virtual Engineering Week on recycling opportunities and challenges.

Automotive Chip Shortages Only Part of the Problem

Design News - Wed, 2021-01-13 09:27
Predicated automotive chip shortages have become a reality but a deeper supply chain issue may emerge.

Transparent Solar Cells Eyed for Smart, Energy-Sustainable Buildings

Design News - Wed, 2021-01-13 09:20
Novel photovoltaic devices like solar cells can generate energy even in cloudy conditions by using more of the light spectrum.

Top 15 New DIY Arduino Projects

Design News - Wed, 2021-01-13 01:33
This gallery highlights a broad sampling of 2020 Arduino projects for the DIY’er.

2021 Trends Foreshadowed in 2020 Tech Awards

Design News - Tue, 2021-01-12 12:31
2021 work-from-home (WFH) tech, online product development, COVID-19 solutions foreshadowed in 2020 honors.