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Today's Urban Design Observation: The Improvised Street Lounge Grows in Popularity

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

The makeshift sidewalk lounge I wrote about earlier, sited on Baxter Street, is apparently experiencing growth in its numbers of patrons.

The unseen people who populate this lounge--I've yet to catch them in the act, as I only pass this way in the morning--have amassed more furniture, including two rolling office chairs, two waiting-room chairs, a barstool and an endtable/cabinet.

They also apparently like fine French brandy.

However, this being New York, it's also possible that the bottle contains urine. A subset of homeless people in the city prefer to urinate in bottles and leave them lying about, they're a relatively common sight downtown. And once in a while, if you're "lucky," you'll see one of them in the act.

Here's What Happens When High-End Designers & Engineers Optimize a 27-Year-Old Porsche

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

It must be awesome to be wealthy.

So a Porsche enthusiast named Scott Blattner owns a Porsche 964. (That's what Porsche called the 911 Carreras made from 1989 to 1994, which had styling revisions.) Blattner's model was made in 1990, and he approached Singer Vehicle Design, an aftermarket company that restores and modifies Porsches, to see if they could lightweight and advance the performance of his ride.

Singer teamed up with Williams Advanced Engineering--that's a Formula One company, for chrissakes--to undertake a "Dynamics and Lightweighting Study," going over every inch of the car to see what could be upgraded. Here's how Blattner's car looks now:

Through intense study and component development for the 964 platform, advances in the following areas have been commissioned by Singer's clients and achieved in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering:

- A Porsche four-valve, four-camshaft, naturally aspirated, 500HP air-cooled flat-six engine developed by Williams Advanced Engineering with consultation by Hans Mezger.

- Underbody and surface aero performance optimized through CFD analysis, by Williams Advanced Engineering, with consultation by Norbert Singer.

- Improved suspension philosophy including light-weighting, enhanced geometry and improved adjustability

- Further weight reduction methods and use of magnesium, titanium, carbon fibre and other advanced materials contributing to a minimum vehicle weight of 990kg / 2180Ib.

Says Rob Dickinson, the founder and Creative Director of Singer Vehicle Design:

"On a technical level, the study has been fascinating and has resulted in an incredible restoration with the benefit of top drawer resources and modern science. Artistically it has been a second chance to connect with the machine on a new level."Aesthetically, I've been working closely with friend and creative sparring partner Daniel Simon and a great team here in California to present ideas that work functionally as well as emotionally for our clients."

Also, does Daniel Simon have the best design job in the world, or what?!? To refresh your memory, he's an ex-Bugatti vehicle and concept designer who we were lucky enough to interview here.

Watchdog Group Releases List of "10 Worst Toys" For 2017 Holiday Season

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

This week, safety watchdog W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) released their 45th annual list of nominees for the 10 Worst Toys of 2017, highlighting "potentially hazardous toys [that] should not be in the hands of children." Here's what they want parents to watch out for during this gift-buying season.

Toy 1: 'Itty Bittys' Baby Stacking Toy, by HallmarkHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR CHOKING INJURIES. "This plush Disney-themed stacking toy with four rattling rings is sold without age recommendations or warnings. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall notice on August 31, 2017 due to 'fabric hats and bows that can detach, posing a choking hazard.' A Hallmark 'Itty Bittys' Baby Stacking Toy was purchased online after the recall was announced."Toy 2: Pull Along Pony, by Tolo Toys LimitedHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR STRANGULATION AND ENTANGLEMENT INJURIES. "Despite the industry's standard requiring strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12 inches in length, manufacturers are still permitted to market 'pull toys' such as the 'Pull Along Pony' with a cord measuring approximately 19 inches. No warnings are provided."Toy 3: Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword, by MattelHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR BLUNT FORCE INJURIES. "Young children are encouraged to bear arms, like a popular comic book and movie character, to engage in '[f]ighting alongside men in a war to end all wars. …' The rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries."Toy 4: Hand Fidgetz Spinners, by Kipp BrothersHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR CHOKING INJURIES. "Fidget Spinners, like these bright-colored versions, can be found in retail toy aisles. These spinners remain popular with children of all ages, and some present potential small parts hazards."Toy 5: Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition, by Skyrocket Toys LLCHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR EYE AND BODY IMPACT INJURIES. "This 'official movie edition' remote-control drone, based on the well-known Spiderman Superhero franchise, is sold for use by children. The 'performance drone', designed to launch into the air powered by multiple rotating rotor blades is accompanied by numerous warnings, including the potential for 'damage or injury.'"Toy 6: Nerf Zombie Strike Deadbolt Crossbow, by HasbroHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR EYE INJURIES. "Children as young as 8-years-old are encouraged to load 'arrows' into the 'deadbolt' crossbow, pull back the 'primary pressurized lever' and fire the projectiles in order to 'strike back' at 'zombies.' The force of the arrow launch presents the potential for eye and facial injuries."Toy 7: Slackers Slackline Classic Series Kit, by Brand 44HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR STRANGULATION AND FALL-RELATED INJURIES. "This Slackline is marketed for 'all ages' pursuant ta package insert, providing a tightrope-like device intended to be anchored between two trees. The manufacturer warns of the potential for 'severe injury', including 'a strangulation hazard, especially with children.'"Toy 8: Oval Xylophone, by Plan Toys, Inc.HAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR INGESTION AND CHOKING INJURIES. "This multi-colored musical instrument is sold for babies as young as 12 months old. The manufacturer provides no warnings regarding the slender, rigid approximately 9' long drumstick handle, which has the potential to be mouthed and occlude a child's airway."Toy 9: Jetts Heel Wheels, by Razor USA LLCHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR BLUNT IMPACT AND FIRE-RELATED BURN INJURIES. "'Heel Wheels' are marketed to be strapped to heels of children's shoes so footwear can be transformed into a type of rear-wheel roller skate. The manufacturer adds 'real sparking' action to the 'Jetts' with 'skid pads', as evidenced by numerous warnings, including: 'Keep sparks away from eyes, hair, exposed skin and clothing. Sparks can burn.'"Toy 10: Brianna Babydoll, by Melissa & DougHAZARD: POTENTIAL FOR CHOKING INJURIES. "These 'huggable, soft' dolls, marketed for babies as young as 18 months old, have 'removable clothing.' The pink ponytail holders are also removable, presenting the potential for ingesting and choking."

Boston Dynamics' Atlas Robot Can Do Backflips and Other Jumping Tricks

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Here's a video that Boston Dynamics released yesterday showing off their Atlas robot doing a series of jumping tricks:

Nice going, guys.

Again I say, why don't we just get it over with and teach the goddamned things martial arts.

Tesla Unveils Their Semi

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

This week Tesla pulled the sheets off of the Semi truck they've been working on, and it's a beaut':

We were curious to see what the company would do in terms of design, given that the electric powerplant obviates the need to follow a typical semi's form factor. Tesla has taken a cue from their passenger cars and given the cab a much lower center of gravity. They've also shaved the nose down to almost nothing, giving the driver an unobstructed view of the road. As you can see in this shot, if you were to trace the driver's eyeline past the bottom of the windshield, it would end in street, not hood.

The swoopy shape gives it a drag coefficient roughly half of a diesel cab--and is just about on par with a freaking Bugatti Chiron.

For the Semi, perhaps a better term than "driver" would be "pilot." Tesla has opted for a centrally-mounted seat, for better visibility, they say.

The steering wheel is flanked by two touchscreens, with the one on the left controlling vehicle functions and the one on the right handling navigation and communication duties.

There's a fold-up passenger seat behind and to the right of the driver's seat, for picking up runaways and such.

The cab is tall enough to stand up in, and a bit on the stubby side--there is no sleeper cab. That's because the Semi, which has a range of 500 miles, is apparently aimed at the short-haul market; in a press release, Tesla points out that "nearly 80% of freight in the U.S. is moved less than 250 miles."

While it's not fully autonomous--yet--the company states that "Tesla Semi can also travel in a convoy, where one or several Semi trucks will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi." That's good news for shippers looking to keep costs down, and bad news for truck drivers looking for work.

Lastly, the vehicle's performance stats are downright absurd:

Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi achieves 0-60 mph in five seconds, compared to 15 seconds in a comparable diesel truck. It does 0-60 mph in 20 seconds with a full 80,000-pound load, a task that takes a diesel truck about a minute. Most notably for truck drivers and other travelers on the road, it climbs 5% grades at a steady 65 mph, whereas a diesel truck maxes out at 45 mph on a 5% grade. The Tesla Semi requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98% of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life.

The Semi will reportedly roll out next year.

Design Job: Copy That: KIDdesigns, Inc. is Seeking am Industrial Designer in Rahway, NJ

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

The product designer will be responsible for the design and development of new products within our many licensed toy and consumer electronic brands as well as researching and defining new product opportunities. Knowledge and understanding of current technology, fashion, & lifestyle trends is essential to this position. From initial concepts to sketch models, prototypes, packaging, engineering, colors, graphics and materials, the individual will work collaboratively within a cross-functional team while supporting other team members to ensure design intent and integrity is maintained throughout all stages of product development.

View the full design job here

Floyd's New Multipurpose Table Makes IKEA Assembly Look Hard

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Remember this adaptable bed frame by Detroit-based company Floyd? Well, after two years of waiting, the team has just unveiled a striking table to complement it:

Not only is the table pleasant to look at, but it's also made with natural materials, including real birch wood and an all-natural linoleum produced in The Netherlands. The quality and feel of the natural linoleum was surprising—it was more textured and felt to be of higher quality than standard linoleum. The Floyd team assured us that even with its pale color and slight texture, the surface is still completely stain-resistant and easy to clean.

Since Floyd's start, the team has been dedicated to creating the most refined versions of single products. This means you won't be seeing variations upon variations of the Floyd bed frame or table, besides a few color options. The table took a couple years to complete for that reason—the Floyd team wanted to be sure they refined the table's design as much as possible before bringing it to market. 

In fact, the design is so refined that it can be assembled in around five minutes, putting most IKEA assembly times to shame. The table's easy assembly stems from its four joints, which are attached to the tabletop with sturdy screws:

Sorry for the blurry iPhone 6 photo here!

And that's it—once you've screwed the four legs in, you're done. No tools necessary. I found it especially interesting that there's no support beam running underneath the table. I'm guessing this speaks to the strength of the tabletop and joints.

Floyd started off on Kickstarter with the Floyd Leg—a table leg that can clamp onto almost any flat surface. The simplicity of both the Floyd bed frame and  table stemmed from the Floyd Leg's original concept of easy assembly. After three very different, intriguing products, we're curious to see what the young company has in store next.

The Floyd Table is available for purchase here and measures 32" x 60" x 29.5" x 1.5". It comfortably seats four to six people.

The Luminoodle: Flexible, Portable LED Task Lighting

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Now that technology has freed us from the lightbulb fixture, designers are continuing to exploit the new form factors made possible by LEDs. Power Practical's Luminoodle Task design is not only powerful, but portable, lightweight and flexible, which opens up a whole new world of lighting possibilities:

I'm digging the practicality of the magnets and the hanging loops at either end. The strip will pump out 3,600 lumens at 5000k, and is dimmable. You can choose between a two-foot-long USB-powered model, a five-foot-long 12V-powered model, or a trio of daisy-chainable (three max) two-foot-long models.

The project has been successfully Kickstarted, with $109,933 pledged on a $50,000 goal. At press time there were still 27 days left in the campaign.

Today's Urban Design Observation: When People Can't Tell What's Level

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Situated at an intersection of two streets that each have a slight grade, this restaurant has angled sidewalks on both its south and east faces.

The restaurant owner had custom benches made to compensate for the grades on each side. But every morning when they open, the guy who pulls the benches out (in NYC if you leave them outside overnight, they will be stolen) always puts the blue bench on the wrong side.

Since I took these photographs, the restaurant has gone out of business. My theory is that the bench guy's incompetence bled into the restaurant's operation.

Not Your Father's Polyester

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Jeff Edwards was thrilled when his Golden State Warriors won the NBA title this past summer. But the Fox Racing executive seems almost as excited by something seemingly more mundane—a new polyester fabric.

That's important to Edwards since, in his role as global director of hard goods for the Irvine, Calif.-based producer of motocross and mountain biking gear and apparel, he is always looking to upgrade the materials used in his firm's product portfolio. And now, he thinks he has found just such an upgrade—Avra™ Performance Fibers.

Adding Avra™ to other fibers like cotton can make them softer and perform better.

Developed by Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Co., Avra's ultra-thin polyester fibers are extruded and held together by a proprietary, removable polymer, enabling easy knitting or weaving of these bi-component fibers on conventional equipment. Once the fabric is made, the removable polymer washes away in hot water, resulting in ribbon-like fibers that have a combined small size and flat shape that is unique compared to conventional polyester fibers.

"The result is a distinctly silky fabric that keeps wearers drier and more comfortable than ever before," according to Eastman Vice President Tim Dell. This first Avra product offers exceptional moisture management and a distinct, "cool to the touch" sensation that is inherent in the fabric, not requiring added chemistry for the effect. Fabrics made with Avra dry up to 50% faster than conventional polyester fabrics, helping wearers stay cooler and more comfortable during demanding physical activities.

In addition, Eastman claims, the highly flexible fibers enabled by Avra "further enhance wearer comfort through the superior drape and remarkable softness they provide." As Dell says, "That's performance you can feel."

Edwards clearly concurs. He first saw Avra when Eastman launched the fibers at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show in August 2016, when he was in a different role, as director of performance product development.

"For me, it changed what poly can be," the 15-year Fox veteran said in a recent telephone interview, referring to long-established polyester fiber. "That's what made it so exciting. There are endless ways in which you can use it. Besides just jerseys, you can use it in hard goods products, as well. It created a different sense of what … the end user would feel vs. just basic polyester."

"When I saw it at [the OR show]," Edward recounted, "I said, 'Oh man, you guys have got something here.' He says he told Eastman then, "You're on the right track, but can you go even a little farther on this? … You can create a new standard for polyester with this. The yarn is amazing, but now you have to think about the finished product."

Brandon Cantrell, Eastman's global business manager for performance fibers, said it's been more than 20 years since the latest breakthrough in textiles. Eastman began working on Avra about five years ago, first on the nonwovens side, and then realized the fibers' potential in textiles, as well.

Avra™ is creating new standards for what polyester can do.

Edwards wants Fox to be able to use Avra across its whole spectrum of products. Edwards loved what he saw last fall, and is waiting to see the next iterations. "I want to use it for helmet liners, I want to use it for guards, for gloves, it's endless," Edwards said, "I want to use it in more than just jerseys. It creates such a different feel, and the benefits of the drying time are just huge."

Eastman's proprietary carrier polymer holds the key to Avra technology. While bi-component fibers have long existed, finding use in such applications as microfiber cleaning cloths, most of the current commercial processes require the use of a caustic solution to remove the binder. Instead, Cantrell said, "We use hot water in our post-knit scour," in a pressure jet.

Once the removable polymer washes away, it results in fibers that are a unique ribbon shape with a much smaller cross section than traditional round polyester fibers. These fibers are significantly more flexible, creating fabric that is noticeably softer to the touch. Fabrics knit or woven with Avra, even as a moderate percentage of the overall blend, also provide performance benefits such as faster wicking speeds, faster dry times and a cool-to-the-touch sensation that Eastman says "you have to feel to believe." Not only that, but Eastman also can bundle round fibers instead of the flat slices, and get an entirely different set of performance characteristics; the small round fiber version of Avra is currently under development.

Avra™ represents a whole portfolio of potential products. The current flat fibers are only the start.

Fabrics made with the flat slices have a distinctive, silky hand and improved drape. "We've had customers say that it 'feels like butter'," Cantrell said. "Interest is far greater than we expected," he added, noting there is pent-up demand for new textiles that offer improved performance.

Eastman is working with Unifi Inc., a multinational textile manufacturing company that is making the Avra fibers at its mill in Yadkinville, N.C. Unifi expanded Avra production capacity at the plant earlier this year, to an unspecified amount.

Edwards is eagerly awaiting Eastman's next advance with the technology.

"This could be a bigger story for our company, across multiple categories," he said. "In our company, I think we could use it in more areas than a lot of other companies could." Fox, which works well ahead in its product scheduling, is already done with its 2018 product planning. "We would push this for a '19 product line. The strategy has to be right, and broad line. I'd rather wait and do it right," Edwards said.

Eastman, meanwhile, is targeting mid-2018 for ramping up commercial production for the fibers. "We are engaged with brands, and are working toward commercialization by fall 2018," Cantrell said.

The company took a different approach on its stand at this July's Outdoor Retailer show. "We launched a fiber initially," Cantrell said, referring to the product introduction last August. At the OR summer market in Salt Lake City, Utah, in late July, Eastman had a mocked up retail store layout in its booth, displaying product applications for Avra, such as, t-shirts, boxer shorts, tank tops, basketball shorts, golf shirts and the like.

"It's Avra—head to ankle. It's not head-to-toe" he said with a chuckle, "because we haven't made socks yet."

Learn more about Avra and the ways that #MaterialsMatter at innovationlab.eastman.com.

What Designers Can Learn from Brand Specialists to Scale a Successful Business of Their Own

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Last week's WGSN Futures conference, an event founded by the aforementioned trend research agency, focused on the future of retail, branding and marketing in a time now dubbed the "Retail Apocalypse." With thousands of brick and mortar stores shutting down last year, it's clear traditional retail needs a bit of rebranding itself. WGSN's stance on the matter was immediately made clear through the conference's theme: The Future Consumer. 

Along with the topic of the Future Consumer is the pressing issue of getting into the minds of Millennials. Ah, yes, Millennials—pale pink frenzied, fidget-spinning, social media obsessed Millennials. As easy as it is to poke fun at them, brands old and new are still struggling to define their consumer behaviors. All that's extremely clear at the moment is that Millennials treat retail and purchasing decisions very differently than generations before them. So how are brands small and large, old and new navigating the waters in order to fit the needs of the upcoming consumer group? 

The one-day Futures conference held at MoMA aimed to explore this and more. Speakers ranging from make-up company Glossier's COO & President to Levi Strauss & Co.'s Head of Design gave forward-thinking, motivational presentations on how to understand your consumers and where your products fit into a defined product category. Trend research may feel like a realm dedicated solely to fashion designers and marketers, but for industrial designers, the insights gleaned from extensive trend research is just as applicable. It's important to understand that thoroughly understanding your market contextualizes the products you work so hard to design, making them even more desirable to consumers.

To that point, we noticed some crossover advice during the conference that could benefit designers working to redefine or reinvent product categories to stay relevant in today's ever-evolving, ever-expanding product markets.

"Product is Content"

One highly anticipated discussion during the conference was a sit-down with COO & President Henry Davis of the wildly successful cult makeup brand Glossier, a company that purportedly projected an unbelievable 600% growth over the course of 2016. One of the main points Davis emphasized is a daily question around the Glossier office is, "how can I give customers an experience I cannot get offline?" For Glossier, this proves to be a very important question because almost all of their sales come from the web, they have no outside retailers, and only one very small physical showroom located in New York City (which Davis pointed out successfully makes rent the first two hours of each month from store visits). What's the secret to their success? Ultimately, design.

"Everything we do is content," noted Davis, which includes not only their packaging design, but their newsletters, social media posts, graphic branding, and more. Thanks to highly desirable, pinpointed visual branding, approximately 79% of their sales came from "organic and peer-to-peer and earned sources," meaning their fans were pushing the message for them.

It comes naturally to designers to create beautiful objects and packaging, but perhaps what comes second nature is the realization that these beautiful objects are a crucial part of your social media strategy. 

So the ultimate lessons from this discussion? Think about your brand voice in the form of imagery and presentation. If you're not comfortable with designing the branding yourself, then find someone who is and has a strong grasp on your customer and what they'll be drawn to. As designers know perhaps better than anyone, good design means more sales, but how do you take it one step further? Don't take for granted the online sphere and all of its channels, and make sure to keep up to date on all of their features (after all, Instagram now has the capacity for direct sales—a helpful thing to know!). If you design packaging, think about how it can really stand out and how well it can be photographed, regardless of whether it's in a controlled studio setting or not.

Designers Already Have Tons of Skills To Help Build a Successful Brand

"Stop making your customer feel listened to. Actually listen to them."— Henry Davis, Glossier

Throughout the duration of the conference, one point rang true for all of the presenters that may be of no surprise to the practicing designer: listen to who you're marketing to. Like designers, marketers must observe the behavior of their customers for high success. The primary difference between the two is that the designer observes behavior in order to design the best solution while the marketer directly responds to the audience's emotional hopes and desires.

For designers, the practice of gathering insights is easy, but in order to build a brand, you have to get more into the aspirational mindset of the customer. How can you make someone buying something from you feel understood and cared for? Does the marketing that supports your product make someone feel connected to it intimately? This is the job of branding.

So use your well-honed skills in research and use that information to build a connection to your customer that's hitting the emotional checkpoints. Invest in solid copywriting that sets the right tone and makes people feel emotionally connected to the product. If done well, it'll make a huge difference.

Businesses That Think Differently Will Have the Most Long-Term Success

"[The culture of innovation] is as much about unlearning as it is learning," touted Fung Group Chief Catalyst and former IDEO Managing Director Richard Kelly during his talk on the future of learning. What this essentially means is, businesses cannot survive without an evolution that incorporates new technologies, takes risks, and establishes itself as a company in constant adaptation. This trait of adaptation, again, is natural for the working designer and therefore gives them an upper hand in the business world. What's perhaps most important is using your design skills to create systems within your organization that make for more efficiency, more innovative ways of gathering customer data, and therefore help you stand apart from your competitors. A company like Glossier, for example, with their innovative approach of taking retailers out of the equation and having few physical shopping locations helps create intrigue and solidifies a more intimate connection between them and their online community—thanks to a bold restructuring of a typical business model, they're cashing in big time.

Let Classic Products Be Reinterpreted 

"The best objects can remain themselves while still evolving to the time." —Paola Antonelli at the Futures Conference

With so many new brands, like Glossier, entering the market with full-force, we often forget about classic brands and how they're coping with the changing times. For Jonathan Cheung, Head of Global Design at Levi's, it's all about understanding where and when to collaborate with outside design teams.

Levi's x Jacquard by Google Denim Jacket

Letting others reinterpret your product is a scary concept, but over time, it has become the 164 year old denim company's brand identity. Under Cheung's supervision, Levi's partnered with Jacquard by Google to modernize the denim jacket through conductive, connected yarn. Levi's Made & Crafted has also recently collaborated with Virgil Abloh on his OFF-WHITE FW17 collection, where Abloh reinterpreted classic Levi's garments in his own way.

Levi's Made & Crafted x Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh 

Allowing other companies that are not direct competitors challenge your product is one way to expand your customer base and raise awareness in new markets. If you allow your product to extend beyond your company in this way, you are taking a major risk—what if a company messes up?—but if you keep a close eye on the action and pick and choose your collaborators strategically like Cheung, you could be in for a surprise. Cheung along with other speakers at the conference emphasized how important control over discovering product is for Millennials. There are only so many times Millennials can discover a classic brand like Levi's. Cheung and his team were forward-thinking enough to recognize this and adapt their business model so every season is a new discovery for their consumers. 

Don't "push" your product

The biggest point emphasized in each and every talk throughout the conference? That we no longer live in the age of the infomercial. Customers are no longer interested in being hit over the head with a product; instead, they want to feel as if they discovered it. As Cheung noted in his talk, "use data in a human way, not a manipulative way," in order to create a desire for and belief in your product. In other words, customers nowadays are more likely to be interested in something if they see a company as being authentic and trustworthy. It's no longer good enough to hit people with clickbait, they want to feel understood. So enough of the product pushing, people—your customers are ready for you to get real.

Design Job: Support the Next Generation of Designers as Art Center College of Design's Next Provost in Pasadena, CA

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

ArtCenter College of Design, a world-renowned school of art and design located in Pasadena, California, seeks an experienced academic leader to serve as their next Provost. Reporting to the President and working in close collaboration with academic leadership, the Provost will have a unique platform to further shape the future of 21st century art and design education with incredibly talented students and faculty, many of whom are notable artists and designers from around the world.

View the full design job here

A Furniture Craftsman's Incredible Design for a Transforming, Six-Function Shop Cart

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

This creation here is a marvel of ultra-functional design.

Belgium-based furniture maker Timothy Wilmot faced a problem many of us do, which is needing a product that doesn't exist. In his case, he sought a mobile shop fixture "designed to assist woodworkers all along the construction of a piece of furniture, from the first to the last step." Essentially, he needed one object that could perform the function of all of these:

"All these designs exist and can be made/bought," Wilmot writes. "But in my production oriented shop I would have needed two of each to be really useful, that would have cost a fortune and I didn't have the room any way because then we're talking about at least 10 different carts/workbenches." So instead he spent three years perfecting the design of this, his MFSC (Multi-Function Shop Cart):

Pretty unbelievable: A shop cart, height-adjustable assembly table, Festool-style "MFT" dog-holed workbench, a glue-up table, a panel cart and a drying rack all in one.

Oh, and here's how that clever height-adjustable mechanism works:

The Design StoryWhile working in my workshop I encountered several problems that were slowing me down or causing frustrations, such as the need for a cart to move around parts from tool to tool, the need for a height adjustable assembly table, the occasional need for additional work benches or the need for drying racks. For most of these problems there are commercial solutions, but these are costly and would have filled my work shop while only being used periodically.So about 3 years ago in 2014 I had the idea to design a single cart that would solve as much of these problems as possible, it had to be a work bench, a wheel cart, a rack and adjustable in height. As soon as I started drawing a prototype, it became clear that combining these apparent simple functions in a solid and reliable manner, would be extremely complicated as nobody had ever done this. I went through numerous different designs and approaches, but always encountered technical problems or unacceptable compromises.This project stayed in the back of my head for years, and I noted down and tested each new idea that came up, but it was only in the summer of 2016 that I found a way to solve a major issue that was blocking all progress, mainly the side arm design.From then on things speeded up, I built a prototype before having finished the design of the lift mechanism. Many other problems showed up, mainly finding a way to operate the lift mechanism easily, and taking away play. This took a few more weeks to solve, but eventually every problem was solved and I built 2 final models straight away in August 2017 for myself, and have been using them since.One of the major features for me is the ability to do assembly work on it at an adjustable height, gone the days of working on your knees. This was really missing from my work shop as I either had the floor or the top of my assembly table, nothing in between. But again an adjustable assembly table is something all woodworkers need, but only during a specific stage of the fabrication. Most of the time it would just sit in the way.The MFSC was a great opportunity to incorporate a feature I thought of when using my Bessey KRV clamps with the little support blocs that hold them upright. I thought of building a table with similar notches that would hold the clamps, but again, a table that does only that would be a waste of space most of the time. Here I decided to incorporate this into the flip side of the MFSC, up to then I would like most woodworkers do my clamping work on top of my main work bench. This creates several problems, the first is that it renders the work bench useless as long as the glue hasn't dried, and second, the glue would drip on my work bench and create a mess.Doing this on the flip side of my MFSC's solves this, I can do twice as many glue ups and still keep my main work bench free, I can roll them away and let it dry much longer while keeping the work space free. Also glue drippings don't matter any more as they fall on the under side of the work top.Initially I wanted to insert sticks directly into the table to use use it as a rack, but that would have made it too limited in capacity, so I designed these perforated stiles that lock onto the table and can be spaced randomly, they also store inside the MFSC along with the sticks.Again this is something every woodworker needs at a particular moment during the fabrication, before I had these I would just place all these parts on all my worktops and on the floor. I would plan these operations for the end of the day because the work shop couldn't be used for at least 10 hours after. I could have bought/made similar racks but just look at the space they take.

Wilmot has more details, such as the list of tools he used to build this and a 30-page plan he's selling for it, here.

Tools & Craft #73: Why You Should Find and Visit a Small, Local Museum

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

What are some unusual tools in history? If you ask woodworkers, the conversation invariably turns to the carriage trade. Wooden carriages had to be light, strong, weather resistant, and most important, full of complex frames, moldings and curves. Nothing is square. Over the centuries a myriad of highly specialized carriage-makers tools were developed, However, in this day and age it is rare to get a chance to see the results of these tools.

During one holiday I had the opportunity to visit the Long Island Museum of American Art out in Stonybrook, NY. As you may have noticed I like to write about small museums. And they are so much fun to visit. The Carriage Museum, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian, has the largest collection of carriages in the country. For me it's the first time I really had the chance to see a really great sample of all sorts of carriages, sleds, private surreys, giant bus transports, and everything in between.

The museum is actually a consolidation of several museums and also had an exhibit of carved duck decoys, and one on the Long Island mansions that used to dot the island. While the mansions are mostly all gone, some of the relics show wonderful woodwork.

My real point: Whenever you are traveling, even a short distance, visiting the local museum can be a really wonderful surprise. In the case of this museum, even more so; unlike a large museum in a big city, the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages relies on a small group of patrons, visits from locals and school trips, and doesn't have the mass of tourists that keep the big boys afloat. But, nonetheless, and in spite of the expense and difficulty in maintaining such a collection, the entire museum had exhibits worthy of the best of what the Smithsonian could offer. 

For example the tools of the carriage maker aren't that strange to me and piece of a production shop, an outdoor shop, and a carriage maker's tool chest are all on display, what I have never ever seen before is a carriage maker's paint and finishing kit, complete with brushes and paints, and a few specialized tools. The brush geometries alone are new to me and who knows, might have application for finishers today. 

The point is - I learned stuff - and that's always valuable. Here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone. The little lion headed sled, by the way, is from about 1790.

I urge you all to visit.

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


Kickstarter Announces Drip: A New Online Platform Where You Can Kickstart Yourself

Sat, 2017-11-18 13:29

Kickstarter has been all about inventive products and the stories behind them since day one. By now, we all know the basics of how the crowdfunding platform works—designer thinks of groundbreaking idea but needs funding, designer creates Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness and funding, designer either earns enough funding or doesn't, which is important due to Kickstarter's all-or-nothing funding policy. But what would this format look like if it were creator-focused instead of product-focused?

Enter Kickstarter's new platform, Drip. Launched this morning, the subscription based website hopes to circle some attention back around to the creators working on exciting projects—instead of just the end results they produce. 

How it started

Drip was initially created by record label Ghostly International back in 2012 as a way for people to support musicians through subscriptions. Kickstarter noticed Drip's potential early on and acquired the service around two years ago to keep it from shutting down

Now, Kickstarter has built a new version of Drip from the ground up that both meshes with their own goal of helping creative projects come to life and keeps the legacy of the original Drip alive.

How it works

The new Drip platform is a place for people to fund and build communities around their creative practices as a whole. When we think about how subscription services are used in today's world, we think YouTube, music streaming services like Spotify and maybe even those monthly boxes of Japanese snacks you can get in the mail. 

While all those are great (especially the snacks), none of those platforms are exactly conducive to designers and their practices—unless of course you make how-to or sketching YouTube videos like Michael DiTullo or Spencer Nugent

While Kickstarter is for targeted, one-time funding of specific projects, Drip is for ongoing and committed support in the form of fans, friends and new audiences. Drip is less about end results and more about supporting people you believe in and want to see succeed.

After creating a Drip profile, artists and designers are able to share information such as their process, notes and progress reports/updates. This information keeps their subscribers in-the-know and provides a behind-the-scenes look into their practice, which in turn will hopefully attract the attention of even more subscribers.

The equivalent to the Early Bird Backer on Drip is the Founding Member. During a period of the first 7 to 30 days of a Drip profile, people who subscribe to that Drip are automatically Founding Members. Creators are able to offer Founding Members special rewards—sometimes including physical product—to encourage people to back them early on. Instead of an all-or-nothing model like Kickstarter, Drip pages will continue no matter how many Founding Members subscribe. 

Let's talk money

Creators are in control when it comes to subscription rates. They can choose whether to charge their subscribers every month or every time they release a new project. This is where subscribers need to be smart: If you're getting charged once per month to subscribe to someone's Drip, you better make sure they're putting out quality work on a semi-regular basis to make it worth your while. 

Kickstarter will charge a 5% fee on subscription payments and then a credit card processing fee of around 3%, which is comparable to regular Kickstarter fees.

How to get involved

The launch of the platform includes "Drips" from around 60 exciting creators, including Debbie Millman of the Design that Matters podcast and food futures magazine, Mold

Right now, Drip is invite-only to allow Kickstarter some time to test out the service from both the creator and subscriber sides, but Kickstarter hopes to make the platform open to the public early next year. 

Drip is just starting out today, but Kickstarter founder and chairman Perry Chen already has high hopes for the platform. He believes Kickstarter is already a place that directly helps bring creative projects to life but that it's time to open up their model to support creators through their practices as a whole because, "it's not all about the work". 

What're your thoughts on Drip? Would you create a profile and/or put trust in the profiles of other creators through subscription?

Today's Urban Design Observation: Using the Hell Out of a Table

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:23

Spotted in Chinatown, placed out on the curb as garbage. Some chef or butcher definitely got his or her money's worth out of this butcher block.


"Mirror" Video on Things That Look Alike

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:23

As industrial designers our mental database of objects should be immense, and we can often use one object to describe another. After all, how many shapes and form factors are there, really? Or as Italian film company Tanello Production points out, "In nature all is apparently different but essentially the basic shapes are repeated with infinite declinations." Here they illustrate the point with this short, sweet video:

MIRROR • Short story of similar objects from Tanello Production on Vimeo.


Designing for Low-Volume Manufacturing

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:23

Here's the latest video from industrial designer Eric Strebel, who walks you through a process that will prove helpful when you need to pump out a lot of something:

This video is about designing for low-volume manufacturing, using vacuum forming and laser cutting. It shows how I approach designing and manufacturing for low volume production. I use vacuum forming for the main parts of the color panels that I am making and then the laser cutter to cut out all the parts. I then hand assemble the parts in to the final product. I even cover how the parts get shipped in the shipping boxes with bags.


A Dirty, Rotten Package Design Trick

Thu, 2017-11-16 12:23

I recently received this as a gift. It's a package of poop bags, which I go through a lot of as I have two dogs.

The package appears to contain two layers of nine rolls.

But when you open it up…

…you see this inside.

This cardboard spacer serves no function other than to make the package appear like it contains more than it does. Which seems silly since the precise amount of bags it contains are printed right on the top.

Also wasteful is this riser, which is just a hollow paper box. 

As someone who previously worked in package design I understand that the riser is there to increase "shelf presence," i.e. the marketing team looked at competing packages and found that they were taller on the shelf, then ordered this up to compensate.

Package design trickery is nothing new, but if you've seen one that really bugs you, post a photo of it in the comments.