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New Photo Book Documents 40 of the World's Most Spectacular Ceilings (Plus One That Couldn't Be Included)

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

What's the best-looking ceiling you've ever seen in the world? For my money it's the one in NYC's Grand Central Station--and yes, I've been to Rome.

UK-based Catherine McCormack would undoubtedly debate me and my provincial tastes. The art historian and curator, who also teaches at Sotheby's Institute of Art, has been working on a photo book documenting the world's 40 finest ceilings (Grand Central didn't make the cut).

McCormack's "The Art of Looking Up" divides the works into four categories: Religion, Culture, Power and Politics. Here are a few samples from the book:


Imam Mosque, Iran. Almost half a million colored ceramic tiles cover the Imam Mosque.

Debre Berhan Selassie Church, Ethiopia. The central image of the crucifixion, above which is an image of three bearded men symbolizing the Holy Trinity.

Sagrada Família, Spain. Light floods in through the stained glass windows to illuminate the Sagrada Família's intricate structure.


Palais Garnier, France. Marc Chagall's rich colors, made up of five symbolic "petals."

Dalí Theatre-Museum, Catalonia. The viewer is right at the heart of Dalí's Palace of the Wind ceiling, looking up at gigantic feet and into the opened vault in the center.


Royal Palace of Brussels, Belgium. Jan Fabre's Heaven of Delight, occupying the ceiling of La Salle des Glaces in the Royal Palace of Brussels, is made up of jeweled scarab beetles. The wing cases extend down from their entrapment on the ceiling to encrust a grand chandelier.


United Nations Office, Switzerland. The ceiling represents the geography of the Earth's nations in 35 tons of paint, comprising pigments gleaned from rocks from around the globe.

Sadly, one of the ceilings McCormack wanted to include, as it holds special significance, did not make it into the book "due to an issue with images," she writes. "This was especially sad for me as it was the only work in the book that had been potentially by female artist, so this [blog entry] is the ideal space for a preview. Even more so amid the current re-engagement with the art of Artemisia Gentileschi who potentially painted a large proportion of this ceiling for the Queen's House in Greenwich, which is now installed in Marlborough House, London."

Orazio and Artemisia ( ?) Gentileschi, Allegory of Peace, Marlborough House, London, UK

We suggest you read McCormack's description of the theory that Orazio Gentileschi's daughter Artemisia Gentileschi may have been behind a number of his paintings. "She is better known as the most famous rape victim of art history and proto-feminist artist in an overwhelmingly patriarchal system of art production that only allowed a woman to pick up the tools of her painterly trade because she grew up in a studio of artists with her father and brothers."

"The Art of Looking Up" will be released on October 29th.

Check Out This Demonstration of a Working "Invisibility Cloak"

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

I always think of America as having the right combination of paranoia and funding to ensure that we develop the most advanced military technology. But in this case, we've been trumped (pardon the phrase) by a Canadian company whose website looks like it was designed in the Netscape era.

Canada's HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp., which specializes in camouflage technology, has been working for years on an "invisibility cloak." Just this month, they finally rolled it out and patented it, and it's pretty darn impressive:

In the past we've seen inventions that appeared similar to this, and relied on cameras and projection. In contrast, Hyperstealth's "Quantum Stealth" technology uses no such trickery, according to the company:

There is no power source. It is paper-thin and inexpensive. It can hide a person, a vehicle, a ship, spacecraft and buildings. The patent discusses 13 versions of the material and the patent allows for many more configurations. One piece of Quantum Stealth can work in any environment, in any season at any time of the day or night, something no other camouflage is capable of.

So how does it work? Beats the heck out of us (and all of their competitors, apparently). But they've got over an hour of demonstration footage that you can check out here.

Los Angeles to Test "Plastic Asphalt" as Alternative Material for Pavement

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Now that China has stopped accepting waste from California and lawmakers rejected a bill to phase out single-use plastic containers last September, the city is getting more creative with its recycling solutions. In partnership with Technisoil, the city will soon be testing a new paving material made largely out of recycled plastic. The first test site—at West First Street and North Grand Avenue, near the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall—will receive the treatment before the end of the year.

Image of the area near the forthcoming test site via Flickr Creative Commons

As The Architect's Newspaper first reported, Technisoil's "plastic asphalt" is made by converting shredded recycled plastic into an oil that replaces petroleum-based bitumen to become the binder "in an otherwise traditional method of street pavement." The city's Department of Street Services predicts the new material will reduce costs by 25 percent. In addition, Inhabitat reported that plastic roads may be more durable—up to seven times stronger than regular asphalt—and will require significantly less maintenance.

"This is an exciting technology and a sustainable technology," said Keith Mozee, assistant director at the Department of Street Services. "And it's something that we believe going forward could be game-changing if we deploy on a large scale."

In response to environmentalist concerns that the plastic will leach into waterways, the company says they've already performed tests that show it's a safe alternative. Further details about that and just how much recycled material will actually be used are expected after the test run at First and Grand is completed and proven viable.

UC San Diego installed the first road made from recycled plastics in the US last October.

Los Angeles is the first city to consider implementing this material on a wide scale, but the first application of a similar material was done at the University of California at San Diego campus last October. The university partnered with UK-based company MacRebur to test out their patented plastic road material, which has already been implemented in the U.K. and Australia.

"Creating alternative uses for recycled plastic will be a crucial challenge that we all must resolve and maintaining over four million miles of roads in the United States will be an ever-growing problem," said Gary Oshima, UC San Diego's construction commodity manager. "The recent moratorium on exporting recycled plastic to China has had a profound impact on the U.S. recycling industry and it has created an even greater need for viable alternative uses for our plastic waste."

Design Job: Brighten the World with Your Designs! Join Kuzco Lighting as a 3D Visualization Artist

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

For over 12 years, Kuzco Lighting has distinguished itself in the lighting industry with its bold designs in contemporary decorative fixtures. Kuzco has been recognized by the 2019 Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing companies; we are a growing team based in Vancouver, BC and New York City. Kuzco

View the full design job here

All These Recyclables Have Nowhere To Go

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Product designers in the US, Australia, Canada or Europe: be aware of Operation National Sword. For some time now, much of our recycled waste has been shipped out to China. All those bottles, boxes, phones, appliances, plastics, metals, papers, the unneeded or unwanted products, that had the capacity to be recycled have been sent across the sea, out of sight, for someone else to properly recycle through a system of production. That is until the arrival of Operation National Sword, which as of last year, declared that China would no longer be accepting, "foreign garbage". China has already stopped accepting most recycled material and by 2020, intends to "achieve zero imports of solid waste". Which means the already stunningly ineffectual recycling infrastructure in the US has essentially lost a foundational component for its ability to function at all.

caption: Laysan albatross chick rests upon discarded plastic material. (via NOAA)

Caption A truck shipping products to be recycled, Shanghai, China — Photo by Paul Louis

Among designers, the last decade has seen incredible demonstrations in material alternatives to fossil-fuel-based plastics. There is healthy debate among industry leaders about the ethics of using recycled material vs. new bioplastic material. The market for alternative materials is on the rise; a necessary response to climate change and the fact that soon all seafood will likely be peppered with bits of plastic. Yet, the success of these great recyclable and compostable materials is contingent on the fact that users have access to a system of recycling or composting. As it stands, most people can't, or don't know how to recycle. With the implementation of National Sword, even those organizations that we've tasked to take care of all our recycled material, don't really know how to recycle. For industrial designers, as ecologically well-intended as a product may be, the afterlife of that product remains largely uncertain. Fossil-fuel plastics must be replaced, but if bioplastic and recyclables don't end up in the right place, they may end up doing severe ecological damage for centuries to come (at least).

The easiest and least helpful response to this is to think that the problem is user-error. Which was precisely the strategy of Keep America Beautiful (don't believe the branding), a non-profit formed by Coca-cola, Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris and other companies. With their "litterbug" rhetoric, and decades of dogged lobbying, the organization is in large part responsible for the gross lack of US legislation holding corporations responsible for the damage they've inflicted upon the environment. Their campaign has long ensured that scrutiny of environmental practices remains focused on the individual. Yet as any designer familiar with user-research will tell you, when "75% of American waste is recyclable, yet just 30% of it is actually recycled", it's not the users that are the problem, it is the system. Which is to say that designers, who are on the industry end of this equation, should be exploring ways in which we might reconsider the life-cycle of products, while advocating for stronger recycling infrastructure.

Keep America Beautiful dared to ask, why design better products, when we could have children clean up after us?

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts picking up trash on Keep America Beautiful Day, in Salinas California, 1972 (via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

In his essay, "Design Away" scholar and designer, Cameron Tonkinwise writes, "Would not designers—as hunters, cullers, eradicators or, less violent, waste managers, cleaners, problem dissolvers—make an importantly 'productive' contribution to transitioning our societies to less stuffed futures?" Good design in this ecological crisis may actually mean the removal of design. Recognizing the irony of removing products by creating products, Tonkinwise makes the case that designing products that are able to remove the need for more products can help us focus on the 'reduce,' of the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mantra. Additionally, creating products that are able to inspire a deeper personal connection (would you ever consider a laptop, or a water bottle, to be an heirloom?), not to mention developing designs that can be repaired and cared for over the course of several years or decades.

"It's really annoying when you're tooling along on the tractor and the front wheel falls off." - John Deere 3030 Diesel, Massachusetts, USA - Photo by Dwight Sipler

Dero's FixIt bike repair station

Fairphone 3's modular design

In fact, the Right-To-Repair Movement, is one that is gaining more and more traction in recent years. The movement is strongly supported by farmers who have suffered from the repair monopoly that John Deere has designed into their tractors, and the movement also extend to those who just want to be able to repair their iPhone without having to go to an official apple technician (Apple is currently under investigation for their monopoly on repairs). Listening to movements like this can offer insight for designers, to create products that offer greater longevity. As a counterpoint to the designed obsolescence of smartphones from Apple, Google, Huawei, and Samsung, consider the Fairphone which goes out of its way to offer repair solutions and replacement components for its users.

Tea bowl, Korea, Joseon dynasty, 16th century AD, repaired with "Kintsugi" gold laquer - Ethnological Museum, Berlin

Dish repaired with Resin from Andy Xiaodong Ma's "Repairing Society" Master Thesis

At its best, product design creates for its users an object that need not be thrown away, or at least, not readily. With the arrival of National Sword, and mostly because of the decades of tenacious corporate lobbying, many of us find ourselves throwing products "away," in a manner that is destructive on a planetary level. Infrastructure in the US and abroad has to be reformed. Part of that is advocating for better systems design, and part of that is designing products which needn't rely so heavily on the fallibility of our current infrastructure. Products can be shared, repaired, and integrated into circular economy solutions (see UN Sustainable Development Goal #12). Yet, I realize that I may be preaching to the choir because what designer would ever really want their product to be thrown away?

Should Computers be Designed as Pieces of Furniture?

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

There's an episode of Friends where Joey meets a woman who says she doesn't own a TV. He looks baffled. "What's all your furniture pointed at?"

The days of us configuring our living spaces around a media-relaying object go back to the radio (or arguably the family piano, when that was a thing). The radio was a piece of furniture in its own right, and it dictated that seating be placed within earshot.

The television set was also furniture, with a more dictatorial reign: Seating had not only to be within earshot, but due to its visual nature, had to adhere to the Joey Tribbiani rule of interior design.

Nowadays the chief media dispenser for many is the smartphone, which isn't furniture at all. It's been reduced to a size that makes it convenient for us to bump into people on the sidewalk, block escalator egress and obstruct subway entrances whilst staring into.

But in the home, it's the computer that serves as our main media gateway. And computers live in, on or under desks. Computers aren't a piece of furniture like their predecessors, but standalone objects that are either over-engineered and -designed to the point of fetishism (see: Mac Pro, most gaming PCs) or hidden away (see: iMac, HP black boxes).

Should they be furniture? A subset of DIY'ers (and predominantly gamers, it seems) think so and have posted their custom creations online. And while the designs differ slightly, in general there seems to be consensus on several elements:

1. The computer's innards should be spread within a chunky horizontal surface that will double as the desk surface.

2. The guts of a computer, including the elaborate cooling systems, ought be celebrated and within full view behind transparent surfaces.

3. The same offset illumination used buy car-modders must be integrated.

The results look something like modern-day pinball machines, albeit in a perpendicular orientation and flat rather than angled:

It's more common that the opaque parts of these desks are done in black or silver, and less common that you see anything resembling wood. But there are a couple of outliers:

They've all got an aesthetic that says "DIY" more than "designed," but seeing that last one made me wonder: Would it be possible to do something cleaner-looking, along the lines of Braun's classic record players?

Braun SK4

Braun SK6

Braun SK55

Perhaps not; with the computer desks, it seems the whole point is to display and highlight the innards.

I did find one outlier within the computer-as-desk community, however. UK-based Matthew Perks, the fellow behind the DIY Perks YouTube channel, has built a large computer-desk with the de rigueur elaborate cooling system, but with a couple of departures from his peers. For one, all of the computer bits are contained within a vertical rather than horizontal mass. This enables the second departure: The desktop surface itself is a large, handsome piece of wood that can hinge downwards when not in use, providing a clean appearance.

In my own experience, I rarely transform furniture that is meant to be transformed, and it usually lives in just one of its positions. But I still find this design (aside from the exposed hinges) more appealing than the alternatives.

If you'd like to see the full build of Perks' desk, along with a step-by-step explanation, it's below. (You might wanna save it for after work; it clocks in around 30 minutes.)


Is Mars the Final Frontier for Design?

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Despite the difficult journey and inhospitable conditions on Mars, humans remain intent on getting there. Ventures such as NASA and ESA's Orion project and SpaceX have heralded a new space age, just as we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Getting there—and being able to stay—will require breakthroughs not only in science but also in design. Moving to Mars, a new exhibition opening today at London's Design Museum, explores how design will shape and define our journey to Mars.

The exhibition unfolds over five sections. First, 'Imagining Mars' looks at the many ways humanity has envisioned the Red Planet, from the earliest mentions in a cuneiform tablet to its representation in science fiction and popular culture today. The section includes a full-scale prototype of the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover and a multisensory installation that aims to give visitors a glimpse into Mars' hostile environment.

The next section is all about the voyage, including items such as NASA-designed food trays, Galina Balashova's designs for Russian space interiors from 1964 to 1980, Raymond Loewy's design work for space stations, and the NDX-1 spacesuit, designed specifically for the surface of Mars by the University of North Dakota and exhibited here for the first time. Konstantin Grcic was commissioned to create a spacecraft table inspired by the constraints of dining in zero gravity.

The next section is titled 'Survival' and includes one of the exhibition's main draws, a full-scale Mars habitat designed by London-based architecture firm Hassell as part of NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The habitat will highlight the resourcefulness required of life on Mars, featuring objects like clothing made out of solar blankets and parachutes. There will also be a deep-dive into farming on Mars, exploring hydroponic methods and Spirulina-growing systems.

The final sections are more speculative and ask, "Should we even go to Mars?" As part of that, Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg created a new installation that shows us what Mars would look like if we only colonized the planet with plant life, not humans.

Ultimately, chief curator Justin McGuirk emphasizes that the show doesn't support the idea of viewing Mars as a Plan B option. Instead, he hopes that exploring how we may be able to survive in the extreme conditions on Mars will inspire new solutions for sustainable design practices right here on Earth.

"Moving to Mars" will be on view at the Design Museum through February 23, 2020.

The Weekly Design Roast, #21

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Why is this retail display designed to close? Are you supposed to shut it at night so the clothes can go to sleep?

"I illuminated the interior because it's important for me to see exactly which ice cube I want."

After "Silence of the Lambs" character Buffalo Bill was killed, this sommelier bought his house and renovated the basement.

This is actually a clever reminder from a bar that when you're there, you're just a middleman between beer and piss.

Assignment to the designer: "I know it's just a refrigerator, but add some visual cues to justify why we can mark this up by two or three grand"

"I want a chandelier that houseflies can get trapped inside of"

"Don't forget: Because of the way it's designed, the floor doesn't actually have any support. So when you open this thing to use it, do NOT step on the floor"

From the 12th hour of this 37-hour shoot: "Guys--are you going to be able to get the goddamn patterns to line up, or not? We can't keep repainting the wall white and waiting for it to dry"

"My design concept perfectly illustrates that I do not understand how heating elements or knives work"

"It's brilliant. Instead of being able to scan all of the books at once, sometimes you have to walk around to the sides!"

Seen and Unseen Art Gallery & Museum Storage Systems

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

I do miss the hangout culture of New York City in the '90s, when it was still populated by artists. You'd bounce around from one friend's apartment to another's, and sooner or later you'd wind up in the loft of some guy who smelled like clove cigarettes, looked like he made his own soap, and introduced himself with some flowery name that he'd obviously given to himself. He was a painter, and in the corner of the loft you'd see something like this:

While that solution worked fine for Damocles and his Avenue B loft, proper art galleries and museums need something more professional to store paintings in than a bunch of glued-and-screwed 1x2's. In fact there are entire companies dedicated to designing deep storage systems for art. Some examples:

UK-based Constructor Group produces these pull-out panels that ride in both tracks embedded in the floor and suspended from the ceilings:

If digging up the floor to install tracks isn't possible with your space, they also offer these wheeled variants:

Flat, sliding racks are the best way to store lots of gigantic paintings, as seen in this system by Montel:

Here's an offering from Rackline. As you can see, the use of wire mesh, which provides a measure of transparency useful for quick visual scanning, is the industry standard:

If one lacks the space to accommodate panels that pull out sideways for viewing, this alternative design offered by SpaceSaverInteriors features panels that move in the perpendicular axis:

In the past 10-15 years or so, the hipper museums have come to realize that visitors actually dig seeing these racks. Thus a handful of institutions make them available for public viewing. The Brooklyn Museum's Luce Visible Storage/Study Center, for instance, has them in full view.

Image credit: le Liz (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Museum of Wisconsin Art does the same:

Image credit: Cindy V. Vagabond

As does the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga:

I think the visual effect of seeing the density of stored paintings, even if you cannot access them, is pretty cool. And I think it's way better than leaving them in the basement. These paintings below look like they're in fine art prison.

Sitting Well With Us: Final Week to See "Chairs" Exhibit at R & Company

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Advisor-collector Raquel Cayre, curator of "Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong," is a small statured, young figure in a big, old old world of design. But the tunnels she's drilling through that big, old world are geysering with freshness, as she mixes and matches art with design, design with art and back again. And as she makes extremely public these crossovers and the new, egalitarian burrows she's created for them to be interacted with, she also revitalizes the fun-ness of design, skirting showroom settings for environments that offer broader value to broader audiences – both aspirational and buying.

Lucy Dodd, "Grandma Serpent," 2017. Pigmented cotton on metal chair frame, mirror.

(Left) Rogan Gregory, USA, "Hermaphroditee," 2019. Sitting environment in gypsum with upholstered cushion. (Right) Seth Price. "Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong," 2017. Baked enamel CNC-routed aluminum; this work is the exhibition's namesake.

Tribeca-based design gallery R & Company fits right in with this ethos. In fact, it was doing it first, and was the original tapper of young blood design talents the likes of The Haas Brothers and Katie Stout, to name just a couple. So, although she'd thought about presenting her chair-based show concept without institutional backing, when Cayre began conversations with the gallery it became clear it was a natural fit for both parties. (Evan Snyderman, who alongside Zesty Meyers is the gallery's founding principal, was also involved in the curator's 2018 "Raquel's Dream House" project, a month-long experiential home design takeover that sold pieces out the wazoo, cementing the effectiveness of her model of experiential design presentation).

"This exhibition was four months of research and not telling anyone," Cayre says of the early stages of its conception. "It started as me dissecting and funneling through the Vitra collection, going to the MoMA show" as well as other exhibits abroad, and "just nerding out and breaking down all the architects and designers making classic chairs." In other words, she embarked on an obsession-fueled global inquisition on what role chairs play in art history and what they're respectively up to these days: where the old chairs reside, who's talking about them (and sitting in them), how they are being re-interpreted by new designers, how artists are interacting with them as subject and even medium, and what potential is left unfulfilled by their meaning as both function and formal art or design piece.

(Left) Peter Shire, USA, "Plasma Elephant," 2018. Sculptural chair in steel, two-part polyurethane. (Right) Chair by Darren Bader.

Rob Pruitt. "Love American Style" 2019. Gold tape on love seat.

The curatorial process, for Cayre, was incredibly research-heavy. Aside from firsthand exhibition trips, archives, and a library of textual resources she's curated as part of the exhibit display (viewable on a bookshelf en route downstairs to R & Company's lower level, where "Chairs" continues), she cites Joseph Kosuth's One and Three Chairs (1965) as monumentally inspirational.

Kosuth's work – which is alluded to in her curator's statement, a relatively abstract musing on the chair – is a display of a chair, a photograph of a chair, and a blown-up, written-out wall text definition of "chair." So which one is a chair, as we choose to see it? "Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong" is provoking a similar question: What does a chair mean, and how malleable (or vulnerable) is that meaning? In other words, why do we subscribe to ideas of what a chair "means" or "is," when its meaning and being have the opportunity to be radically more expansive.

One and Three Chairs (1965) by Joseph Kosuth. Image via the Museum of Modern Art. This art piece was an inspiration for curator Raquel Cayre.

The show is an investigation of these questions and preconceptions. "I didn't want it to be a design show," Cayre says. "I wanted this to be a thinking show."

The tools for prodding visitors to think exist in the confrontational works themselves, all curated with historical precedences in mind, and mostly rooted in personal relationships, whether with the design and art-work as a collector or with the makers themselves. Cayre began inviting artists to participate in January – quite recently, in exhibition-planning terms – and provided them with guidelines about as abstract as her curator's statement. The resulting interpretations of "chair" are what's on display, from mediums spanning Plexiglas to painting to photography to fur coats to flora to textiles to typeface to bumper stickers to bronze and beyond.

Bunny Rogers. "Chairs (after Brigid Mason)," 2014. Rush-seated interwoven wood chairs. "Comedy Tragedy Horseshoe Neck Pillows," Upholstery fabric, grosgrain ribbon, piping, stuffing. "Flag Rag Rug," Cotton sheets, fabric dye.

(Foreground) Chris Wolston. "Chimichagua Chair," 2019. Terracotta. (Background) Nate Lowman. "Broke Dick Dog Chair," 2019. Oil on canvas.

(Left) Jim Lambie. Seat Belt (Ned Kelly), 2009. Steel, acrylic paint. (Middle) Martine Syms. "Aunty (10)," 2018. Painted steel chair, woven polyester strap. (Right) Reginald Sylvester II. "HEEL CHAIR (Judy)," 2019. Highly polished stainless steel/chrome.

Featured artists and designers include both more commercially known names, like KAWS and Nate Lowman, and classically recognized icons like Cayre's famed Instagram's namesake, Ettore Sottsass. And of course, the 40-plus other artists and designers featured in the concise exhibition of colorful, bizarre, sometimes grotesque and sometimes whimsical – but consistently eye-popping – "chairs."

Ettore Sottsass, Italy, 1974. "Tappeto Volante" (Flying Carpet) armchair. Wood, fabric, velvet, and carpet.

Rob Pruitt. "Technicolor Chair #5 (Frederic Schwartz)," 2019. Purple tape on chair.

"Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong" is on exhibit at R & Company's 64 White Street location through October 19.

All installation images are courtesy Nicole Cohen, via R & Company.

Incredible Eames Lounge Chair Rebuilt With Recycled Skateboards

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

Whether wittingly or unwittingly, Canadian fabricator and skateboarder Andrew Szeto purchased a faux Eames Lounge Chair.

The only good thing about owning a lousy knock-off is that you have no psychological problem ripping it apart, which is exactly what he did.

Szeto then refabricated ­­the back--by recycling old skateboard decks.

After cutting the decks (so many decks) into strips, he then began laminating them together.

I was wondering how he could possibly bend these pieces, which are laminated along the wrong axis to be put into a mold. Then I realized he wasn't going to put them into a mold at all, as he began mitering the edges and laminating them into upwards wings:

Once he'd reached a rough approximation of the desired shape…

…he again impressed me by going at it primarily with rough construction/demo tools, like a reciprocating saw, an angle grinder and a power planer:

It was incredible to see how well the shape came out after some sanding:

By way of finishing, he applied a fiberglass film:

And finally, the pieces were ready for remounting:

A pretty good result, I'd say.

While I know the knockoff trade isn't going to go away, I do wish all faux pieces would be ripped apart by their owners and re-interpreted. I damn sure wouldn't do it with an original.

Anyways, if you'd like to see the full video of the build, it's all here:

And if you want to see how the real thing is/was put together, click on either of the following:

1950s footage of the original Eames Lounge Chair being assembled.

How Herman Miller manufactures the Eames Lounge Chair today.

The Original 1956 NBC TV Footage of Charles & Ray Eames Debuting Their Iconic Lounge Chair

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

This is so cool! In the 1950s NBC had the Today show and The Tonight Show, as they do today. But they also had a show in between them called Home, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Arlene Francis. Focusing on domestic topics, Home featured a certain Eames couple in 1956.

During the segment, Charles and Ray Eames discussed their work, their work relationship, the design field, materials, their house composed of "standard factory units," and capped it off by debuting this newfangled thing they'd come up with called the Lounge Chair.

Here's the full segment:

If you don't have time to watch the whole 11-minute segment, you Philistine, at least watch the three-minute clip below (we've cued it up for you) where they debut the chair and reveal how it's assembled:

Currently Crowdfunding: Own a Piece of the Blackest Black Possible, Make Vinyl Record Mixtapes, and More

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

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

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

Unless you're Anish Kapoor, you won't be gazing into the abyss of Vantablack anytime soon, but now you can own the next best—or, darkest—thing. Singularity 2 is the blackest black currently available to the public and the reviews sum it up better than we can: "It's almost creepy how black it is," one backer writes. The team behind the campaign previously funded an iteration of this black, called Singularity, but that version only appeared "superblack" when viewed head-on, whereas this latest release retains its ability to trap almost all visible light from any angle. You can choose to get a swatch housed in a protective case if you're looking for a curio to add to your collection, or as an individual sheet that can be used as a material for your next project.

The glass dome of Manual's latest coffeemaker will lend a unique sculptural look to your pour-over ritual.

Phonocut is an "idiot-proof" vinyl lathe that turns digital audio files into 10" records. It's a no-brainer for music producers but equally exciting for audiophiles looking to transform their digital playlists into tangible vinyl mixtapes that can be shared with loved ones.

Carbon labeling isn't the solution to our climate problems, but by helping consumers make informed decisions, labels can play a crucial role in encouraging businesses to take full responsibility for their carbon expenditure. A collaborative effort from Peak Design and BioLite, this campaign is raising funds to create a label that will be awarded to businesses that have achieved carbon neutrality.

An intriguing puzzle made of brass and stainless steel that's as satisfying to work out as it is to look at.

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

How Astronauts Get Their Spacesuits On (and Other Fun Facts)

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

While researching the story of NASA's new spacesuit prototypes, I could not confirm the one-size-fits-all claim made by news outlets. But I did learn the following fun facts while I was looking:

- According to NASA: During spacewalks, which can last for many hours, astronauts all wear "a diaper-like garment…that is a combination of commercial products stitched together for maximum absorption." Astronauts "generally prefer not to use it."

- Amy Ross, NASA's lead spacesuit engineer, describes her job as "to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job."

- The Orion suits, which are worn during re-entry, are colored orange in case the astronauts wind up in the ocean and need to be spotted for rescue. (You know what, maybe this fact isn't actually "fun.")

- According to NPR, "astronauts grow taller in the microgravity of space;" astronaut Anne McClain reported that after a few months on the ISS, she'd gained two inches in height!

- This Z-1 Mars prototype suit actually had the green accents added as a nod to Buzz Lightyear.

- I thought squeezing into a tight pair of jeans was bad, but getting into a spacesuit is apparently more difficult. Here's an astronaut finagling her way into an older spacesuit design with "waist entry:"

- More modern designs feature this crazy "rear entry" process:

- NASA has this actual image and caption in one of their downloadable presentations:

Who knew NASA had a sense of humor?

Why Astronauts Have Unisex Spacesuits (and Why Unisex Body Armor Doesn't Work)

Tue, 2019-10-22 00:48

As we learned here, when female soldiers in the U.S. military are given body armor designed for men, their job is made more dangerous; the ill-fitting armor has been shown to encumber women's range of movement, which affected everything from their aim with a firearm to their ability to quickly get in and out of a vehicle. Even worse, the bad fit creates gaps that an enemy can grab onto during hand-to-hand combat.

Sheathing the relatively barrel-like shape of the average male torso is a relatively straightforward design process; but military designers have been stumped by the problem of creating curved armor plates to fit the average female form, as the shapes required create more weight and even worse, weak points. (Hopefully this will change, as last year the House of Representatives finally greenlit funding for the design of female-specific body armor.)

So I was surprised to learn that another dangerous government-backed job that increasingly involves both genders, the vocation of astronaut, has unisex outfits that work for both men and women. Apparently a spacesuit's large interior volume (required for pressurization) moots the need to accommodate the anatomical bits that distinguish the genders. Instead, the problem with astronaut suits has been size.

As an example, earlier this year two astronauts at the International Space Station were scheduled to work on an exterior repair, a spacewalk in NASA parlance. This requires special spacesuits--Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs for short--different than the ones worn inside the station (called Orion suits). The modular EMU spacesuits are not designed for gender, but instead for size, with just three options for the torso portions: Medium, Large and Extra Large.

Both astronauts selected for the task were female and one of them, Christina Koch, was outfitted for a size Medium suit. The other astronaut, Anne McClain, had trained in both a Medium and a Large down on Earth, but on an actual spacewalk earlier in the mission, had discovered that the Medium was the better fit.

Christina Koch

The problem was that, while they had two Medium suits onboard the station, only one of them had been prepped for the mission. Preparing a suit for a spacewalk is more complicated than getting dressed for an Edwardian dinner party, with a time-consuming list of equipment safety checks and "loop scrubs" that must be performed first. In order for the spacewalk's task to be completed on schedule, McClain stepped aside and fellow astronaut Nick Hague went in her place, in the prepped size Large.

Preparing an EMU for a spacewalk

As a result, what would have been the first all-female spacewalk--a coincidence of scheduling, with astronaut rotations being "luck of the draw," according to NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz--did not happen. "When you have the option of just switching the people, the mission becomes more important than a cool milestone," Schierholz told The New York Times.

Still, for years NASA engineers have understood the problems associated with having suits of different sizes. On a spacecraft or station with limited space, and in a potentially dangerous environment where redundancy can mean safety, it would be desirable to have complete interchangeability of gear among all astronauts. And this week, NASA revealed the solution they've been working on.

From left to right: Amy Ross, Lead Spacesuit Engineer; Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator; Kristine Davis, Spacesuit Engineer, wearing the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype; Dustin Gohmert, Orion Crew Survival Systems Project Manager, wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit.

On Tuesday NASA unveiled the prototype for their next-generation EMU, called the xEMU (Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit), as well as a prototype for the orange Orion suit that astronauts wear when inside the spacecraft or station.

I totally covet this helmet!

After seeing this photo, I'll never again complain about how bulky my laptop backpack is.

And after seeing this photo, I realize that I have a jacket I never wear because it makes my shoulders look weird. I am probably too self-conscious to become an astronaut.

Multiple news outlets have reported that xEMUs are one-size-fits-all, though none have offered details, and NASA in their own press release has made no such claim. However, NASA has stated that:

In the Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center, astronauts undergo full-body, 3D scans while performing basic motions and postures expected during spacewalks. With a complete 3D animated model, NASA can match the astronaut to the modular space suit components that will provide the most comfort and the broadest range of motion, while reducing the potential for skin irritation where the suit might press on the body.

You guys are NASA, and this is the highest resolution image you could provide?

This leads me to believe that perhaps the exterior of the torso component of the xEMU is of a single size, with modular interior components of differing sizes for each astronaut that can be "plugged into" the xEMU suit. But that is admittedly speculation.

As for the Orion suits, NASA's language is also confusing: "The Orion suits will be custom fit for each crew member and accommodate astronauts of all sizes." I take that to mean they are not interchangeable.

I want to believe that if you press the red button on the ribs, a mechanism inside the helmet dispenses snacks.

In any case, this week NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted the following:

Lastly: Want to see how astronauts get into their suits? Click here for some Astronaut and Spacesuit Fun Facts.

World Premieres & Designer-Approved Popcorn: NY Architectural & Design Film Festival Kicks Off Wed, Oct 16

Mon, 2019-10-21 00:44

My first time attending an Architecture & Design Film Festival program was in 2016. I saw graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister's documentary The Happy Film, a tonally existential autobiography about Sagmeister's pursuit for that elusive, tease-of-an-emotion. Following the screening, the audience had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion between (now-disgraced) radio journalist John Hockenberry and the filmmakers, the famous designer included. It was an intimate setting, and a rare opportunity for transparency about process, partnership, psyche and the flexibility of the parameters of "design" as a medium.

My initial (albeit belated) foray into the ADFF world reflected only a smidgen of the festival's broader line-ups of programming and screenings, which make up the compact annual events series whose audience has expanded far beyond just the design ilk, and which continues into its 11th year this October.

Image courtesy ADFF

Its 2019 roster of 25 films spans many aspects of design, ranging from the politics of housing and urbanism to structural engineering to print and communications design – including, of course, ample focus on architectural subject matters rooted in cities and landscapes across the world.

"The lineup contains many films that stray beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture and design," says ADFF Founder and Director Kyle Bergman. They "tread into the realms of politics, global health and inequality," he continues, offering a wide lens perspective on what the festival's eponymous aesthetic and technical mediums encompass.

Festival Founder and Director Kyle Bergman

Wednesday, October 16 is its New York kickoff, featuring a world premiere of The New Bauhaus. A documentary chronicling the North-America bound trajectory of controversial Bauhaus-bred designer László Moholy Nagy, the screening will be followed by a conversation with award-winning director and ADFF returnee Alysa Nahmias, led by Design Matters' question-asker extraordinaire Debbie Millman.

Poster for The New Bauhaus, debuting ADFF's opening night

Approaching the industry with an angle for which I have particular affection, the fest's closing night will feature the U.S. premiere of City Dreamers, a documentary piecing together how four trailblazing, fiercely persevering female architects have contributed to the build of our urban landscapes. The film highlights the stories of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Denise Scott Brown, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel and Phyllis Lambert, the latter of whom will be present afterward to discuss the film with its director, Joseph Hillel, as moderated by prolific architecture critic Paul Goldberger.

From City Dreamers, an early photo of architect Denise Scott Brown ©. Image courtesy Denise Scott Brown via Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates.

From PUSH, Leilani Farha on an official mission to Chile. Photo by Janice d'Avila.

Sandwiched between its opening and closing features is a jam-packed schedule of screenings, a pop-up installation in the lounge at Chelsea's Cinépolis theater, and conversations from the likes of MoMA Architecture and Design curator Sean Anderson, design editor Wendy Goodman, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Leilani Farha, and The Space Beyond subject Mario Botta. Special shout-out to a Saturday boat tour of Swiss structural engineer Othmar H. Ammann's NYC-based bridges projects (sign me up!) in celebration of the U.S. premiere of Gateways to New York, a film reframing the art of bridge-building through the story of Ammann's unique history and practice.

Sundown vantage point of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in New York City, designed by Othmar H. Ammann, and a viewing pitstop on the ADFF boat tour of some of his work.

From The Space Beyond

Visit ADFilmFest.com more information on the festival, its screening schedule, its programming and presentations line-up, its supporters (Evenstcape, a custom art and architecture fabricator, is the largest this year), and relevant location and ticketing information.

We'll see you front row, hungry for popcorn and thirsty for this annual showcase of illuminating design-centered cinema.

Image courtesy of ADFF

FREITAG Launches Online Platform That Lets You Swap Their Upcycled Bags with Other Customers for Free

Mon, 2019-10-21 00:44

When it comes to companies stepping up to challenge wasteful manufacturing models, the Swiss recycled tarp bag company FREITAG has stood at the forefront of this trend for years since launching their sustainably-minded brand all the way back in 1993.

Photos by Fabian Hugo

Taking their mission to an even more extreme—or, dare we say, anti-capitalist—degree over the past week, the company has launched a bold new idea in an age where many companies are fixated on mass manufacturing, growth and profit: an app that allows FREITAG customers to swap their bags with other FREITAG bag owners without spending a dime.

The mobile platform called S.W.A.P (Shopping Without Any Payment) is designed in a similar fashion as Tinder, allowing you to register your own bag and swipe through other bag owner's gear to facilitate a switch. The platform was designed solely as a way for fellow FREITAG customers to connect with one another and eliminate the complications that come with financial exchange—that way you can come out of the experience with a new bag while keeping old belongings in circulation and, ultimately, out of landfills.

While this concept appears potentially risky within typical business models, it certainly helps FREITAG earn customers' trust in their company while also addressing an important issue in this day and age—our harmful dissatisfaction with the items we own (an epidemic coined as "affluenza"). 

As described in FREITAG's press release for S.W.A.P., an effective way to fight these wasteful tendencies as a consumer might simply be to make sure a neglected bag gets out of your closet and into the world to give someone else joy: "FREITAG has been thinking and acting in cycles and giving disused truck tarps a new life as unique bags that are so robust and durable there's no need to buy another one right away. But what if your affections disintegrate faster than the tarpaulin and the bag is still willing but you no longer are? If...your old one-off ends up forever at the bottom of your closet and has to make way for a new one, it gets kind of difficult to talk about sustainability and conscious consumption."

You can register to be a part of the S.W.A.P. community on FREITAG's website; simply register your bag model and away you go! Happy swapping.

Design Job: Leave The Real World Behind as a Spatial User Experience Designer for AfterNow in Los Angeles

Mon, 2019-10-21 00:44

Skilled in interaction and visual design, customer and user experience design with specialized skills and talent for NUI (Natural User Interfaces) such as gestural controls, wearables, augmented and virtual reality environments, interactive experiences, and app design. You will be part of a small team rapidly designing and prototyping new features and ideas for current and next-generation products. Working from our Los Angeles office, you'll work closely with our product strategy, design, and engineering teams to deliver high quality and thoughtful experiences to our customers. You will be expected to contribute to all aspects of design and execution, including pitching your ideas, designing the feature (visual design, interaction design, and prototyping), and partnering with engineering to implement your vision.

View the full design job here

Super-Cool Amphibious Russian Vehicle Looks Like It Was Drawn By a Five-Year-Old

Mon, 2019-10-21 00:44


On a recent trip to an off-road park in Michigan, 95octane writer Paul Strauss spotted this crazy vehicle:

Image credit: 95octane

I love this thing because it looks like something a five-year-old drew. It looks like something a Transportation Design student gets an "F" for handing in. It looks like something created by a designer trying to figure out a new CAD package and failing.

Yet it's real, and it's called a Sherp. As Strauss explains:

For those unfamiliar with the Sherp, it's a Russian-made ATV that rides on ridiculously oversized low-pressure tires. Combined with an almost non-existent wheelbase, it can roll through all kinds of terrain, has a very tight turning radius, can climb grades up to 35º, and can even drive through water.

Look how much fun this thing looks like to drive, and check out the moment where it ventures fearlessly onto ice that clearly can't hold its weight:

Did you notice that the wheels can apparently drive and brake independently? I figured the thing had to be controlled via left- and right-hand joysticks, like an old tank videogame, but this photo I found of the interior does not bear that out:

Any ideas on how the driving interface for this thing works?

Space-Saving Furniture Design: A Big Improvement for the Expandable Table

Mon, 2019-10-21 00:44

I own the expandable Goliath Table, which you may have seen in one of our videos:

It is an amazing table that expands from just 17 inches to about ten feet in length. I have found it indispensible for everything from dinner parties to larger craft projects to outfeed for an industrial serger, and in a pinch I've even used it as an assembly table for woodworking projects. I always considered its flexibility, utility and space-saving properties unmatched.

It isn't really designed to be an assembly table for woodworking projects, and it shows; the telescoping support structure will sag under heavy weight. The sagging is imperceptible when in use as a dining table or the other uses I mentioned, so I can't really call it a design flaw, but rather a function of my own misuse.

The only area I wish the designers had addressed is what to do with the leaves when you're not using them. Lacking closet space, I have them leaned up against a wall.

I bring these issues up because there is another company, Canada's Transformer Table, that manufactures a table of a very similar design. (So similar, in fact, that I wonder if there isn't a copyright/patent issue. Lawyers among you, feel free to comment.) Before I get into it, let's take a look at their latest offering:

The first thing I wondered is if their telescoping mechanism is any more robust and less-susceptible to sagging, for people like me who will abuse the table for workshop rather than domestic purposes. But it's impossible to tell by looking at the video. I'd be curious to see how the bench application holds up with some of my larger friends sitting on it. For their part, Transformer Table states that this 3.0 version of their table features an "Improved ball bearing mechanism:"

"The mechanisms for our tables and benches are the heart of our product. In creating this new collection we upgraded our mechanism to include longer ball bearing rails and holders. Rubber stoppers were also added into the design to allow a smoother ride for the bearings and preventing rubbing friction. Furthermore, we now use magnetite steel during manufacturing, improving the overall strength and durability."

There were two things that I appreciated about Transformer Table's design over the Goliath's. The first is that TT is using 100% hardwood (I believe the Goliath's panels are veneer-covered particle board or similar).

The second is that TT has thought about where to put the leaves, and has designed the accompanying coffee table to store them within. I thought that was a nice touch, even if it does require you to buy a separate piece; I like it when designers really think the UX through--not just how the object operates, but how it and its parts live in your space when they're not being used.

As the "3.0" indicates, this Kickstarter isn't Transformer Table's first rodeo, and they claim that they've been tweaking their manufacturing processes, as well as modifying the design to better accommodate wood movement and reducing the fastener count.

Their Kickstarter campaign has been a success, to say the least. At press time they'd garnered $1,053,618 on a $37,847 goal, meaning they've been 2,783% funded! And there's still 34 days left to pledge.