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Launched in 1995, Core77 serves a devoted global audience of design professionals, corporations, students, enthusiasts and fans.

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    Bit of a mystery on yesterday morning's dog walk. On the east side of Columbus Park I spotted these.

    I wouldn't touch these any more than I'd grab and shake a ticking backpack with wires sticking out of it. But I was curious, as these were purposefully placed where they are (away from the curbside trash pile) so I leashed the dogs tightly behind me and crept a bit closer to inspect these, careful not to come into contact with them.

    They appear to be boxes filled with bottles that contain some kind of oil, judging by the blotting on the boxes. I can't describe why, but when you see marks like this on cardboard you can tell it's from oil, not regular liquid.

    Why the 2x3s? My only guess is that they were placed atop the box to prevent local critters (the park is home to squirrels and, of course, rats) from getting into the box and gnawing the bottles open. Which suggests to me that someone left this oil here (for what purpose? To cool off?) and plans on retrieving it.

    Not sure what "temp open" means, and can't work out what's written above that.

    Across the street from this spot are two businesses, a deli and a funeral home. I might not have my choice with the latter, but I am definitely never going to patronize the former.

    Oh, wait a second. Now that I've blown the photos up I see it says "Ultra 35" on the box, which I overlooked in person. Let me Google that. Be right back.

    Okay, I'm back. Ultra 35 is a heating oil…for industrial furnaces. I'm guessing the funeral home does cremations.

    Still can't figure out why they left it outside, and this morning when I passed by they were gone.


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    People often ask me what saws someone needs for woodworking, why some people have so many saws, and do I need one of every type. I can answer all three by giving you some historical background.

    When one is a professional, working by hand, having a perfectly tuned tool is productive. Historically each trade had its own specialized equipment, more efficiently tuned for specific tasks than the generic version of the same tool.

    In the United States, where houses were predominantly made of softwood, the generic 26" crosscut saw more than suited most tasks.

    For most carpenters specializing on one area of the trade, a very small number of saws were actually required. Speed was everything and there was nothing to be gained by using a dull tool, or the wrong tool. Duplicates were needed, so that as a tool started getting dull during the course of a day, one could switch to a sharp saw (and have someone else sharpen the dull one).

    For a carpenter who did a diverse set of tasks, for example on flooring where the underfloor might be of pine and the finished flooring oak, separate saws filed for both soft and hard woods would be wanted. And that made professional sense.

    But, and this is important, except for the most common saw--a handsaw used for crosscutting softwood, which rips abysmally--most saws can be used for most tasks. This is especially true with hardwoods, and our combo filed sash saw is basically a rip saw with a little negative rake and fleam so it cuts great on hardwood in all directions. But if I was cross-cutting pine 2x4's all day I would want something with far more fleam and rake for faster action. "One size fits all" may not be appropriate for traditional professionals, but for everyone else one sharp saw is perfectly adequate.

    What I own:

    In my toolbox I have five saws. First up, two 26" handsaws, both by Disston. About a decade ago I got the saw collector bug and found these.

    Over the years my backsaws have evolved from a Sanderson I bought from Garrett Wade in the '70s or '80s (I don't remember), and then some Adria saws, but now all of my backsaws are totally Gramercy Tools (which of course makes tons of sense) but I only use two backsaws, a Gramercy Tools Sash Saw and a Gramercy Tools Dovetail saw.

    For curves and cutting waste I round out the lot with a Gramercy Tools Turning Saw. That's it.

    I used to use a cross-cut carcase saw, but don't anymore as the sash saw is combo filed and fits the entire bill for sawing straight joinery cuts (except when you need a smaller saw). So I took it out of my tool box where it was wasting space.

    In the near future I will probably add a BT&C Hardware store saw, simply because it's shorter, cuts faster, and also useful for carrying around. I don't do veneering (or haven't yet) so I don't own a veneer saw, and since I have a turning saw I don't use a coping saw.

    All my saws are sharpened for hardwood, but they work on pine in a pinch, if not ideally. When they get dull I get them sharpened (I don't sharpen my own saws because it is far easier and better to let our saw sharpening service do it for me, and I can't see the teeth anymore anyway. I don't feel the need to have duplicates of the saws.

    I have lots of saws I don't use. I got them because I collect tools and they are a useful reference. By keeping the actual number of saws I use sharp and accessible and ignoring the rest, I don't have to justify why I own so many saws, and waste time looking for the saw I actually want to use. It's right there in my toolbox.

    ___________________

    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.



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    View the full design job here

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    In this video industrial designer Eric Strebel continues along the prop vein from last week. This time he shows you how he hacks up an LED-illuminated skull cane, and reveals a nifty (and cheap) trick for how you can tint polyester body filler to a dark grey:



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    In January, we took a trip to Vegas to attend and exhibit at CES. Here's a taste of what we saw, from tricked out cars to personal robots.

    *******

    More CES Coverage:

    4 Trends Designers Should Actually Care About From CES

    Companion Robots Seen at CES: Some Useful, Some Scary, All Off-Putting

    Core77 Design Lounge at CES
    Our CES design lounge featured both hot coffee and hot conversation with industrial designers Fred Bould, Chris Murray, Pip Tompkin, and Jordon Nollman!
    Photo credit: Core77
    Core77 Design Lounge at CES
    Photo credit: Core77
    Core77 Design Awards Booth
    We had a booth in the Design & Source Pavilion showcasing past Core77 Design Awards winners.
    Photo credit: Core77
    Ford's Booth
    Photo credit: Core77
    Ford's Booth
    Ford's CES Booth included autonomous pizza delivery vehicles set to this sweet moving backdrop.
    Photo credit: Core77
    Autonomous Pizza Delivery
    A look at Ford's partnership with Domino's for self-driving pizza delivery.
    Photo credit: Core77
    Autonomous Pizza Delivery
    Photo credit: Core77
    Autonomous Pizza Delivery
    Photo credit: Core77
    Autonomous Pizza Delivery
    Photo credit: Core77
    Ojo Electric Vehicles
    In addition to autonomous pizza delivery vehicles, Ford was showing these neat Ojo Electric scooters.
    Photo credit: Core77
    View the full gallery here

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    It's 1996, it's nighttime and Christopher Schwarz is underneath an office desk in Frankfort, Kentucky, sleeping. With both a Bachelors and a Masters in journalism and a few years of work experience, Schwarz is struggling to get his local newspaper startup off of the ground, and the workload demands overnight stays at the office.

    Fast-forward to 2017 and Schwarz is underneath a Roman workbench, wide awake, inside the Saalburg, a reconstructed Roman fort outside of Frankfurt, Germany. "I spent a lot of time under that bench with a flashlight," Schwarz recounts. He was studying the workbench's construction for an upcoming book. The Frankfort paper hadn't worked out, but Schwarz had achieved his goal of becoming a publisher with the formation of Lost Art Press.

    Launching Lost Art Press and subsequently a tool manufacturing company, which we'll get to in a moment, required more than finding the right piece of furniture to lie down under; in the gap between Frankfort and Frankfurt, Schwarz generated 21 years' worth of content for Popular Woodworking, wrote nine books, taught classes at sixteen schools in five countries and appeared in countless videos produced by himself, PW, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, ShopWoodworking.com and others.

    Schwarz not only wielded a lot of tools in that time but, partly inspired by the "frustration at the bench" he described in Part 1 of this interview, also applied his journalism training to learn about how tools are made. He put this knowledge into practice in 2015, when he and a couple of friends launched their manufacturing venture, Crucible Tool, whose mission is "To make good tools that we honestly need."

    Pouring molten ductile iron at Erhart Foundry and Machine Co. in Cincinnati, a family-owned and operated business that's been around since 1854. The end product will be a batch of Crucible Tool holdfasts with a one-inch diameter shaft.

    "We don't make precious things for collectors," the Crucible Tool mission statement explains. "There are no serial numbers or limited edition this or that. And we don't make tools that someone else already makes really well.

    Crucible Tool's Improved Pattern Dividers. These are cut from steel bar stock on a CNC mill.

    "Instead, we make tools that have been overlooked or desperately need to be improved or refined."

    Here in Part 2 of our interview with Schwarz, we discuss using tools, making tools, furniture design, anarchy, accountability, photography, and what he hopes folks in the future will do when they look back on our work.

    (Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. --Ed.)

    _______________

    Core77: For the uninitiated, can you talk about what the allure is of using hand tools?

    Christopher Schwarz: Oh, I hated hand tools when I was a kid. My family had a farm in Arkansas, and we built our first house [there] with hand tools. I went to college [and thought] "I'm never doing that again." And of course, as soon as I got out of college, I started taking classes, and it was in handwork.

    What I've found about handwork is that it is the expression of skill. The machines that we have are great, and I love machines too, but a lot of times [the machine is there] so that somebody unskilled can do an operation. And that's great, there's no problem with that. The problem is when designs start to be made around the limits of the machine, which is I'm sure something that the Core77 readers run up against all the time, like "Well, our CNC won't handle this or that."

    Well, the answer has always been handwork. If you can use handwork, and you have machines at your disposal, and you don't let the machines dictate your designs, then you're pretty much free to design whatever you can think of. That's the beauty, the [freedom conferred by] handwork.

    It's also great if you can…figure out how to make a machine help. I've got no problem with [the situation where] you [possess] hand skills, and [are] not limiting your designs to something that a machine can spit out. I really think you need both, if you want to be a really good designer for furniture.

    Case in point: Here Schwarz experiments to see if he can make saddling out a seat faster by starting with a drill and a Forstner bit… 
    …then hitting it with a scorp…
    …and finishing up with a travisher.
    Another example of using a machine to help: The drawer pulls on this teak campaign chest…
    …were quickly recessed using a chisel, a mallet…
    …and "the secret weapon: a cheap flatbed scanner."

    Let's talk about Crucible Tool. It's not an easy thing to bring a new tool into production, what inspired you to take that leap?

    Well, I've been writing about toolmaking since I started writing about woodworking, and took a very deep interest in learning about steel, and casting and everything, so that I could be an informed journalist.

    And what I found is that there were some tools that just needed to be made. A lot of toolmakers are fantastic toolmakers, but they're not woodworkers. I teamed up with some other friends of mine, who are toolmakers and also woodworkers, and we're slowly, gradually bringing tools into the world that are what we want to have at our bench.

    The patterns for Crucible Tool's Iron Holdfasts.
    Pattern in the drag, ready for sand.
    The pour.
    The magic moment.
    The magicker moment.

    We're not trying to take over the world; it's more like, "I want this damn mallet, but no one will make it for me in the way I want it made, to this hardness, with this length of handle," et cetera. So we make it, and hopefully other people will think it's good too.

    For people who might mistake your focus on historical objects as just slavishly looking backwards, Crucible produces a pair of pattern dividers for which you designed a new hinge mechanism, no?

    Oh yeah, absolutely. And it was informed by past designs, but is a move forward. I'm not a puffy sleeve guy, and I don't wear weird underwear. Historical reproduction is not what I'm into at all. I try to be very…I don't want to use the word contemporary, but I'm always trying to push forward, and not just trying to reproduce the past.

    Crucible Tool's Improved Pattern Dividers. The chamfer on the "thighs" of the legs might look sexy, but they're actually there to provide some purchase so that you can open the tool if you have it tightly set.
    The reason you can opt to have it tightly set is because the design of the hinge allows you to dial in your preferred level of friction. In a couple of generations, when the steel has worn a bit, all your descendant will need to do is tighten it and it'll be good as new. And you can of course sharpen the tips to your liking.
    Five easy pieces. 
    Make that six. The split bit that allows you to make the hinge adjustment is included.

    That's the same way we are with the tools. We have modern materials. We can use them, but we don't want to abuse them. We want to make sure that they're used appropriately so that these tools will last forever, instead of the crap that we find at the home centers now, where the designs are a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, made by somebody who just really doesn't know what a screwdriver or a chisel does.

    In addition to the pattern dividers, Crucible currently makes a set of design curves and iron holdfasts. What else is in the pipeline?

    We're working on a mallet right now. We're just waiting to get the handle prototype back from a factory. This is a classic example of what we'll normally do: So in England, they would use a two-and-a-half pound metal mallet head with a short handle for everything. For mortising, for dovetailing, for setting holdfasts, for putting assemblies together and taking them apart. But it never [caught on in America]. They called it a lump hammer over there. I fell into using one of those several years ago, after working in England, and fell in love with it. So we're designing one, a modern one. I think people will love it; everybody who uses it in the shop goes gaga for it.

    We also want to do some more measuring tools. We've found that as people's eyes get older, it becomes harder to read those six- or 12-inch rules, which have black numbers on a silver background. Machinists have a great solution, which is to make the numbers white on a black chrome background--but their rulers are measured in hundredths of inches, so that doesn't help us. So it's making woodworking rulers that are easier to read, but using [the 4R marking standard] instead of silly hundredths.

    You just reminded me of something, that's to do with what we call "universal design." I follow a hand tool woodworking group on Facebook, and have read updates from older woodworkers suffering from arthritis and reduced vision. So I'm really interested in the potential for tools designed for people whose physical abilities are declining due to aging. Because it's heartbreaking that by the time they reach the age where they have all the experience to produce great work, now their body is starting to give out. So I do think there is a market for that kind of stuff.

    Oh, absolutely. We're all getting older, none of us are getting younger. I'm 49, and I'm just starting to deal with some of those issues. So something else that we're developing is a mechanical pencil lead that you can use when marking out dovetails, tenons, whatever. But what's interesting about this pencil lead, is that it fluoresces under UV. So that if you have a UV light [or even] a cheap little UV flashlight, all of a sudden you can see a 0.5 millimeter line like it's on fire. So I'm totally into that stuff, and that's a good example of how technology can make it better for all of us in the long run.

    Whoa. Should I not mention that pencil lead idea, because that's pretty brilliant [and someone is bound to steal the idea].

    Thanks. No, mention it, that's fine. We've got the formula, we're just trying to find a factory that will do it for us. No, like I said, I'm open source. We're not going to patent it, so if somebody else beats us to the market, that's great too, because it's great to have it out there.

    Both Lost Art Press' books and the tools from Crucible are manufactured in the U.S.A. Have you run into any manufacturing challenges?

    Well, we've got some other stuff that we're still trying to find [capable manafacturers for]. There's some hollow casting techniques that were really common in the 19th century, but it's very difficult to find foundries to do that sort of work today. That's a problem we run into all the time: "Yeah, we used to be able to do that, but we've forgotten."

    [We've designed] a multi-tool handle, and it's this open casting and you can put a variety of tools in there. You can put everything from a nail in there to use the tool as a scratch awl, to a knife blade, to a file. It has a million little uses for turning simple objects into very useful tools, but we've got to find somebody who can make hollow castings.

    Like much of Core77's readership, my background is in industrial design. And the preface that you wrote for "The Anarchist's Design Book" really resonated with me, as I think it would with many of our readers. I won't paraphrase and butcher it here, but it drove home the point that we can build durable objects for ourselves rather than buying mass-produced disposable junk, specifically in a furniture context. Can you talk a little bit about that preface, and what inspired it?

    Yeah, the idea of that book, and the idea that runs through my personal furniture work, is that it's silly for us as designers and builders to imitate gross, ornate, crap furniture designs that were driven entirely by status and money. You look at the history of furniture, or of any basic object that we use, and the designs started out very simple. You can go back and look at 11th century furniture, and you'd think that Hans Wegner designed it. The lines are clean. It's very spare. It's about angles, comfort, simplicity to build, and robustness.

    But when money first enters the equation, then you have makers who have patrons, are being patronized by rich people. So they start making their pieces more ornate, so that it looks better [than the patron's neighbor's] highboy. So that becomes the standard. Then technology comes along, and they find a way to make the ornate stuff for the more common people, [so another maker has to top that for the rich patrons]. And now you have this cycle that just [repeats] over and over, where the rich people determine our design cues, and have in furniture forever.

    Whereas throughout human history, we've had a silo of furniture that nobody writes about, that is pretty unchanged from Egyptian times up until now. It was the furniture that normal people like you and me use, not the ultra rich. And like I said, it was this very spare aesthetic, I wouldn't say spartan, but it's not this ornate crap.

    Discovering that sort of furniture and seeing that lineage of 2,000 years of really basic design, and its vernacular--that's not a great word, but it is the right word--is what inspired that book. It lays out the principles that these pieces were built on, which are much simpler than the really complex ways we build furniture now. And taking those designs from the 11th century, whether it's Italian, Spanish, Moorish, and building them, bringing them into the modern time, and they're shockingly modern. I've got a 14th century Italian table in our showroom [photo below], and when people see it they think it was something that came out of tomorrow, and it's not.

    The idea behind the book is that there were these construction principles that all of us can use. And the democratic part about it is that you don't have to have a crapload of tools or a crapload of experience. You don't have to have seven years under a master in a European system to build this stuff. You don't have to be good at math. You don't have to be good at much, you just have to want to build furniture.

    And so the book lays out the basic designs that I found, and how to make them using very simple tools. One of them is basically an oversized pencil sharpener, and a drill, and a knife. You can bring in some electric tools, but you don't need very many. And you can produce stuff that is really pretty good looking, I think. That's the basis of the book, and that's guided my work for a long time. And the book was the first time I had the guts to talk about it in public.

    You referenced anarchy in the first part of the interview, and are of course known for having written "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" prior to "The Anarchist's Design Book." Anarchy is a word that can easily be misconstrued. Can you talk about your concept of it?

    Sure. By the way I've found it's really difficult to sell, to people in Europe or on military bases, your books when they have "anarchy" in the title.

    American anarchism is not the violent sort of anarchism that is associated with European movements. The father of American anarchism, Josiah Warren, is actually from Cincinnati here, very close to where I'm sitting. American anarchism is basically a distrust of large organizations. It's not seeking to overturn them. I think that American anarchists are very practical, in that you know you can't run a world without any sort of organization, but it's a tendency to avoid working with, associating with, or having contact with large governments, large corporations, large churches. That something bad happens when you get a certain number of people into a group. They stop acting like humans, and they start acting like something else.

    The way that I work in my life, is I try to limit my contact with all these sorts of people. I pay my taxes, and I'm a good citizen, and all of that. I'm not a bomb throwing person and don't believe in violence at all, in fact most American anarchists are total peaceniks. It's more just trying not to get ground up by the corporate culture, and the consumerism, and that's what American anarchism is.

    Of course, every American anarchist is different. I'm sure there's an American anarchist out there right now throwing things at this article and using it to wipe himself because he hates what I've just said, but that's the beauty of it.

    This might be veering off topic a little bit, but it's a very interesting subject. What do you suppose it is about large groups of people that brings out the crazy?

    I think because you can make decisions without accountability. If you're a car company, you can think "Should we have a recall, or is it cheaper to just pay the fees when people die?" [Without accountability] you can have those conversations, whereas as an individual, you can't even fathom that. "Is human life important?" Of course it is, and you can't put it in monetary terms.

    You can justify going to war for things that are really amazing. The organization gives you the tools to kill people, and sure there are some individuals who may push you into it, but it's really having that huge organization that's like, "Yeah! Hey, we've got tanks." So this becomes a very easy decision, [whereas] I'm not declaring war on Newport, Kentucky. I can't do that. So I think it's [the being shielded] from accountability.

    Circling back to tools, an underrated one: The camera. You recently launched a website of your own work, and in addition to the pieces themselves I was struck by the photography, which is stunning. Your background is in journalism, not photojournalism; what drove you to ensure the quality of the photography?

    Photography has always been important to me. It's another part of the whole media equation, understanding how to run a publication company. I used to have a darkroom when I was a kid and my first real job was processing studio photos in a photo lab. So I do most of my own photography and have a friend that does some of it.

    Being in media you know that images are gold. They're as important as the words, and sometimes more important. So we've taught all of our authors how to do it. And you don't have to be super talented to take good, basic photographs of your work; it's just understanding a few basic principles, how light works, what backlighting is, what a key light is, how diagonals work. [Get those down and] you can take really amazing photographs.

    The rules are stupidly simple. A lot of times, it's using fewer light sources and simpler compositions. No need to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

    We've touched on this topic a bit, but just to beat a dead horse: What is your take on trends, and how can we, as a society, fight fashion?

    Dressing like me would be a good start.

    [The delivery was so dry I didn't realize he was joking.] Oh, I don't mean fashion as in clothing. I mean--

    No, no, I know what you mean. I think it's important to have an appreciation for the past. Not that you're going to dress up like them, or you're going to have furniture that is like them. But I think that if you have to build your own stuff, you're not going to do really crazy, outrageous, ornate stuff, but something far more practical. Whereas if you have somebody who's like "Look, I just want the best, I want to spend, I have a $100,000 budget for this project"--well, you're going to pull out all of the stops.

    So having an appreciation for what other people had to build, and then building it yourself. That's how I inoculate myself from trends.

    And this isn't new, this idea's not mine. If you look at Kaare Klint and a whole foundation of Danish modern furniture, which we think of as this radical change from what came before, it was actually very much looking back at English and Chinese furniture and saying, "How can we take the best of those, and produce something that reflects today?"

    And that's the best for me: Taking the best of the past, and smoothing it out for what we need right now. And hopefully, if we do that, then maybe somebody will look back at what we do, do the same thing, improve upon it, and make something beautiful.

    __________

    And that concludes our interview with Christopher Schwarz. By the way, here's something I didn't expect when I first contacted him requesting an interview. In this video explaining the design and manufacture of the Crucible Tool holdfast, listen carefully to the things he says and explains about materials, manufacturing techniques, design and, while he never says "UX," the clear priority on the user experience, even to the detriment of marketability:

    Based on that video, if you didn't know who he was and I asked you to guess his profession, I'm willing to bet you'd say "Industrial designer." 

    Guess I should've kept going with that alphabet thing in Part 1.

    ______________

    Where you can follow Schwarz's work:

    - The Chris Schwarz Blog on Popular Woodworking. "Your typical workaday blog, what I'm doing in the shop, shop tips, stuff like that."

    - The Lost Art Press blog. "More about the hardcore research that I do, the books that we're publishing, and my personal work."

    - The Crucible Tool blog. "Pretty straightforward, [whatever] we're doing at the foundry or at the machine shop, making tools."

    - Lost Art Press' Instagram.

    - His website of personal work.

    - His YouTube channel.


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    Steelcase recently announced SILQ, an office chair inspired by the sleekness of aerospace designs and the high-performance of Paralympic prosthetic legs. While the chair itself is beautiful and the inspiration is clear in the final result, SILQ's uniqueness lies in its revolt against the corporate design process, stagnant work days and luxury materials. 

    Steelcase VP of global design and engineering, James Ludwig, worked with just four other designers on this project. They kept their work a secret for months, literally locked away in a small room within Steelcase's massive Innovation Center. 

    With motion around the workplace becoming an increasingly popular trend, the five-designer team behind SILQ recognized a hole in the market. They knew they needed a beautiful chair that wasn't meant to be sat in for an entire day, but a flexible one that can be a place of landing while running to and from meetings and taking standing breaks—the new way of work. SILQ's form factor eliminates many of parts used to create typical office chairs, which means it heavily relies on material to create motion.

    After designing the chair in carbon fiber, a material that made sense based on its strong, lightweight qualities, Ludwig and his team realized carbon fiber was too expensive to reach a wide enough audience. This realization sparked the idea to create a new, cheaper polymer that mimics the high-performing qualities of carbon fiber.

    We sat down with Ludwig to chat about SILQ's fascinating design process and the "aha" moment that lead to his team's material breakthrough:

    Core77: Let's delve right into SILQ's design process—it's insane that you were able to lock your team in a room for months to carry out this secretive design project.

    James Ludwig: We came out for snacks.

    Well, that's good to hear. 

    It's a metaphor for, I would say, creating context for a fragile idea to become more robust and ready to be set free in the wild. We literally took a small room in the Innovation Center, which is about 50,000 square feet and is quite an impressive space. But, our space for this project was something like 10 feet by 15 feet. We literally did put paper on the windows and a lock on the door, and only two of us knew where the key was hidden. It was really to protect the idea more than it was to lock us in a room. 

    While we would go about leveraging all the resources that we have around us, which the whole organization provided, it was also about freeing the head space and creating time on people's calendars to not have to worry about the things that they might've on a day-to-day basis—going to meetings with people who finance and the typical things we do in product development. Letting the idea really drive the process rather than the process drive the development of the idea.

    When I say locked us in a room, we did have that private space. One of the designers who was on the project actually said, "Yeah, I didn't go to a meeting for a year." That was so amazing, first of all, that we were able to do that. And second of all, the impact it had on being able to go deep on the idea and develop it. In a way, this is not so common in a corporation.

    You had the vision for SILQ about ten years ago—was it frustrating for you to wait this long to bring it to life?

    I would say the great part of my job is we have over a hundred projects ongoing every year in my studios, so there was no shortage of things keeping us busy. And we were doing some really interesting, innovative things along the way, even in the seating category. I would say it was more of a nagging sense of something there without being able to solve it than it was frustration. 

    When you talk to designers and architectural people whose roles are to take some big foggy problems and make them more tangible, it's often an accumulation of small insights from unrelated experiences that make them have that, sort of, "aha" moment. I guess in a sense, it was the confidence. We were patient. We accumulated the capabilities and the knowledge, but there was always that thing in my mind that was a little nagging sense of wondering when would we be able to get back to this. That then drove us to say, "Well, no one's ever gonna ask for this. So, we just have to do it ourselves." 

    A common theme throughout this process for you was "material becomes mechanism". Can you speak to the meaning of this and how you applied it to SILQ's final design?

    There's something magical that happens when materiality becomes a big part of the equation—what it looks like, how it performs and what it's made of. I hold the principle of these three things coming together in a unique way pretty highly in our design philosophy, and we were wondering if we could do that in a more complex system. I had previously only seen that in simple systems like the contact lens or the heart stent.

    There is a virtue in simplicity, and machines don't generally embody simplicity. So, the nature of a material-based solution really sat in a sweet spot for us—how can we fuse the notions of simplicity and performance? Once you get there, you're like, "Well, there has to be something new. We can't just elaborate on the same old exquisite mechanisms, machines.

    Is that what led to you and your team's decision to develop this new material?

    Yeah. I think what happened along the way was, our previous knowledge of carbon fiber was sort of the genesis of the initial idea and solution. The invention was being able to solve this technical challenge of complex motions supporting the human body at work with something that's material-based and elegant. We were able to solve that challenge with the use of carbon fiber.

    That was the moment of invention, but I think the real, true moment of innovation was when we realized, "Well, there is a premium to carbon fiber, and while we know we can sell something like that because it's a compelling proposition, innovation is really defined by impacting lots of people's lives". So, the drive to create this new material process was really the drive to turn this invention into a true innovation and be able to sell it at scale. Obviously, we're a business and price defines how many people we can reach. We needed to move from a premium solution to a more mass market solution, and that was what the drive to invent the new material was.

    What would you say is the main thing you learned from this whole experience?

    I feel like here I am. I'm in this large corporation who has a leadership position, and we built our brand on all of these things, and yet the ability to play startup was so key to this process. Every traditional leader in any business right now is faced with numerous disruptors, and some of those are coming from different places, from non traditional competitors. We're no different in that instance. So, when we're together as an executive team, there is very little resistance to try new things, in the sense of disrupting ourselves from the inside. So, that was key.

    There's always a why, a what and a how when you solve a problem. So, for me, why was this important? Well, the nature of work is changing. It's not about one person, one desk and one chair. People are moving around. They are looking for an ecosystem of spaces—the best place for me to work at any given moment in the day, when I need to focus or when I need to collaborate. We saw that as a key opportunity, and if we would've solved this in '08, it might have been too early. So, that's the why.

    The what, obviously, is the chair. We were able to create something that really fell into this sweet spot of recognizing the need for a a new intuitive.

    The how was also a big part of my job, which is that we need to continue to reinvent, not just the things we do, but how we do them. If you were in one of my one-on-ones with my boss, the CEO, we're always trying to figure out how I can spend time working with my teams to discover new ways to do things so that we don't become stagnant as a big company. The experiment in how to do things differently led to this new solution, and that was, for us, almost equally as exciting.

    What do you think SILQ and this new material mean for the furniture design industry? 

    I have a hypothesis that in every product category or even at an industry level, there are these things that I call threshold moments, where after you move through them, it's hard to look back and say, "I could be excited about that again." Look at the telephone or even how we communicate—when I was growing up, I was making telephone calls on dial phones, and then the touch tone phone was the big innovation. And, now look at the devices we're using to communicate with. Aside from maybe some projects that are done with irony, if you think of the world-changing communication device, it's going to be hard to imagine having to dial or push a bunch of buttons while these experiments exist. I think in the same way, in our industry, it's going to be hard to look back and be excited about sitting on machines.

    Time will tell, right? I think it's a threshold moment. For us, we're excited about this, but we're all also excited about, now, the knowledge and the platform to be able to work on new material-based ways to replace these machines in our environment. We have enough complexity around us, so it's time for a new simplicity.

    ***** 

    This interview was edited for length and clarity.

    SILQ will be available in the new high-performance polymer as well as carbon fiber. Learn more here.


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    Ammunition is an international design group providing services in product design, brand strategy and identity, UX design, graphic design, and packaging. While Ammunition’s strengths are diverse across design disciplines, our real expertise is to redefine markets by using design to create new business territory, and to communicate and connect with customers.

    View the full design job here

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    When Erik Ahlström moved from Åre, a ski resort town in central Sweden to Stockholm, he had a strong first impression of the capital: "Det ser ju ut som en soptipp," which translates as "It looks like a dump." Ahlström, an environmentalist, was put off by the amount of litter on the streets and in the parks, and resolved to do something about it.

    Ahlström's solution is pretty outside-of-the-box: He somehow managed to organize groups of joggers--armed with garbage bags and gloves--to lope through Stockholm with him, picking up litter as they go. He calls the practice "plogging," which combines the Swedish verbs "to pick" and "to jog."

    There are no English subtitles here, but you don't need them to understand what's going on:

    Incredibly, it has caught on and become a downright trend. Check out #plogging on Instagram.

    This dedicated fitness mom even does it while pushing her kid on a stroller, taking breaks to do inverted crunches:

    The trend has also spread to France:

    And to the UK:

    Fitness nut Kathryn Bland in Cornwall, a dedicated plogger, also scored a paid gig cleaning a beach, where she's made quite an impact:

    Bland is your average young female fitness nut on Instagram, posting photos like this:

    But you have to respect that she's not afraid to get literally dirty:

    Now that's hardcore.


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    Here are two pieces of furniture that transform, and that don't make any sense to me. First up the Twofold:

    Okay, so it's supposed to be a wall shelf that can turn into a desk. But as you can see, it's not deep enough to hold a laptop unless you first remove the items that were calling the object home when it's in shelf mode. So what are you supposed to do with those things, put them on the floor every time you want desk mode, then pick them up and put them back when you're done? To me this succeeds as a desk or as a shelf, but not both.

    Secondly is this dining table that turns into a bookcase:

    Again, same problem: So when you want to eat dinner, you clear all the books off of the shelves and place them elsewhere, then slide this thing away from the wall? Then when you're done, you clean the table, push it back up against the wall and re-load it? And actually, looking at the splay of the base, you can't get this thing up against a wall. The footprint is significantly larger than the bookshelves themselves ought occupy. So to me this succeeds as a table (for two, anyway, the base makes legroom for more people awkward) but fails as a bookcase.

    In my mind, transforming furniture makes sense when each of the two tasks the thing is meant to perform are temporary. As an example, a sofa that turns into a bed makes sense. You have a dedicated time for sleeping, during which time you don't need a sofa, and a dedicated time for lounging on a sofa when you don't need a bed. But books on a shelf are permanent in most people's homes. If you're going to eat or work, the need for the books to have someplace to sit doesn't disappear.

    What are your thoughts?


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    These are my coffee mugs. Some I got at colleges when I was on the lecture circuit. One I stole during the dotcom boom, others I got as gifts from clients when I was doing freelance industrial design. I've had these for years and none of them have much meaning to me. They hold my drinks, they're always there and I don't think about them, because they're mugs in a cupboard.

    But if you're homeless, having a cup or a bottle is a big deal, particularly when your chief source of liquids is a municipal drinking fountain. And you need a place to store those items when they're not in use.

    Here is a local homeless man's encampment under a scaffolding. I took the photos when he had left, presumably to go foraging.

    And I noticed that he's gotten his hands on a discarded plant and is using it to store his cup and lid.

    The cup might get crushed or lost if buried in his possessions. The plant keeps them up and out of harm's way.



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    Imagine sliding into Jasper Morrison's DM, then having the conversation result in a soap collaboration. It could've gone horribly wrong, but instead you now get to design a bar of soap with Jasper Morrison. That's exactly how Good Thing's fragrant-free, pigment-free Soap came about.

    Back in October 2016, Good Thing founder and designer Jamie Wolfond reached out to Morrison on Instagram after noticing the designer had taken an interest in their account. Wolfond had been wanting to expand Good Thing's reach to soap for some time, so after the conversation got rolling a bit, he took the opportunity to pitch a soap collaboration. 

    So why did Good Thing want to expand to soap of all things? "When we started, Good Thing was a home accessories company," said Wolfond. "Last May, we launched a line of furniture, lighting and rugs. Now, with the release of Soap, we think of Good Thing as a brand for the home as a whole, investigating and simplifying the relationship between a person and their most intimate space."

    The large bar of soap is made up of four smaller bars molded as one, with the ability to break the bar along the lines. "In terms of the physical design, that's a reasonably straightforward accomplishment," Jamie stated. "When it came to figuring out the formula that would create the right kind of breakage, that took a little bit more trail and error." 

    Wolfond admits Soap's whole process actually took longer than any previous object Good Thing has ever released. This is mainly due to the time it took to nail down the proper formula for the pigment free, fragrance free, breakable bar. The final properties of each test formula couldn't be revealed until they were fully dry, which is a process that took about three months of patiently waiting per iteration. 

    In terms of collaborating with Morrison, Wolfond says it was a natural fit from the start. "We knew that Jasper would be able to communicate that even something as mundane as a bar of soap can be designed, rethought and simplified to its most elemental state. It was almost unspokenly accepted that we were making the most reduced bar of soap ever made." 

    Soap is the first wave of new products Good Thing will be releasing over the next few months, and it has opened up opportunities the company is excited to explore. "I think the takeaway for us is that we made this seemingly small but simultaneously very exciting change from the idea of being a company that makes products of any one particular use to being a company that focuses on your most intimate space, which is your home. It's about the soap, but it's also about Good Thing as a whole."

    You can learn more about Soap and purchase it here.


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    The VS1 is powered by Chinese search giant Baidu’s DuerOS that connects family members with natural language human-machine interactions to enable video calls, music streaming, voice search, smart home controls and more. Wrapped in custom-designed fabric, the VS1 has been thoughtfully designed with a slim profile and a small footprint to enable it to sit anywhere in the home.

    View the full content here

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    We are currently seeking a Senior Industrial Designer who has an outstanding product portfolio and experience building and guiding a team of extraordinary designers. Taking a long-term approach to developing products, experiences and brands, fuseproject works globally and across a wide array of industries as diverse as technology, furniture, fashion, environmental design, and consumer goods.

    View the full design job here

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    At press time this video had 15 million views, nearly 350,000 shares, 67,000 "likes" and generated over 8,000 comments:

    Nowhere are the Eameses mentioned. That video is, of course, a blatant and uncredited rip-off of Charles and Ray Eames' "Powers of Ten," the short film that most of us first watched in design school:

    The original was completed in 1968 and it was upgraded in 1977.

    That 15 million people have seen the rip-off video is potentially wonderful, as it would have been a great opportunity to introduce a new audience to the Eameses and their contributions to our built world. Instead it is being milked for Facebook "likes" and, presumably, advertising dollars.

    The Eames Office YouTube channel, meanwhile, has the 1977 film up with just 5.2 million views.



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    In Part 2 of our recent interview, Chris Schwarz mentioned the importance of not letting a machine's limitations dictate your designs. Moving forward, I want to start showing you some examples of modern, functional items designed to be built by handwork.

    Australia-based YouTuber, craftsman and instructor Mitch Peacock came up with an interesting design for a fold-flat lap desk. (I was sucked in by the dedicated pen/pencil storage tube because it reminded me of this one.) 

    Check out how Peacock built it:

    This was part of Peacock's "100% Wood Challenge," where the item had to be built absent metal fasteners and glue. And as you can see, crafting that design exclusively using power tools would have been just about impossible. Peacock's skill with hand tools allowed him to create those integral hinges, and I shudder to think what kinds of jigs you'd have to rig to cut those with something that's plugged into the wall.



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    Last week, the head of BlackRock, one of the biggest investment companies in the world, sent a letter to the CEOs of each of the companies in which his own $6 trillion company invests: "Consider the social implications of your business," he said. From now on, BlackRock will be evaluating the social value of its investments, not just the financials. That's a seismic change in the corporate world, and one that provides new opportunities for every single professional designer.

    If you're interested in exploring a new design path in social innovation, an MFA in Social Design from DSI at the School of Visual Arts can help you transform your career. Many DSI alums are working as first agents of change within large organizations and firms such as Microsoft, HUGE and R/GA. They got there by enhancing their design skills with training in leadership, entrepreneurship, facilitation and collaborative creativity—abilities recognized as the foundation of the new social design profession. A degree in Social Innovation Design from the School of Visual Arts can add the character, confidence and ability you need to impact the direction of business, in addition to its products.

    Graduates of DSI are working in exciting careers in every type of organization and industry, helping to solve complex social as well as business problems. Here are just a few examples of DSI alums who are changing their own and others' lives for good:

    Addressing the Problem of Food Waste—From a Dumpster

    Josh Treuhaft, '14, Senior Experience Strategist, R/GA Portland

    When he came to DSI with a degree in product design, Josh wanted to solve the problem of food waste, one of the biggest contributors to climate change. His thesis project, Salvage Supperclub, is pop-up restaurant in a dumpster, serving elegant dinners made from food diverted from landfills. It was a smash. He was written up in Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, and featured in a movie produced by Discovery. Salvage Supperclub has expanded beyond New York to California and Japan. Josh just accepted an offer from R/GA in Portland, and wherever he goes, Josh will continue to make a big dent in the world's food waste.

    Designing HUGE Digital Experiences for Apple

    MK Loomis, '14, Design Lead, Elephant

    MK Loomis, '14, came to DSI with an undergraduate degree in graphic design. A passionate interaction designer, she put those talents to work in the program, and added additional skills in leadership, cultural literacy, facilitation and collaborative creation that have helped her become Design Lead at Elephant, an entity created by Brooklyn-based agency HUGE dedicated exclusively to Apple.

    Designer as Education-Driver, Minecraft Education at Microsoft

    Sara Cornish, '14, Microsoft

    Sara Cornish, '14, just took a job that will likely change the future of education. When she came to DSI with an undergraduate degree from Vassar in Urban Studies, she only knew she wanted to use design to make a social impact. She loved her game design class so much she went to work for her faculty's organization, Games for Change. Microsoft liked her so much when they met her there, they asked her to help make education more student-centered with Minecraft.

    Designing Services to Eliminate Poverty in Columbia

    Sebastian Barrera, '14, Financial Product Designer and Pragya Mishra, SVA DSI alum, Dalberg Design Innovation Group

    Ending poverty in his home country of Colombia was Sebastian's passion. Through the program, Sebastian got an internship at the Rockefeller Foundation then went to work at Dalberg's Design Impact Group after graduation. Today, Sebastian is realizing his dream of helping the people of Colombia, using what he's learned to teach big banks how to design services for poor people that will help them become part of the Colombian economy. Sebastian is now Lead Research and Design, Latin America, for Bankable Frontier Associates. Millions of people living in poverty in Central and South America will benefit from Sebastian's work.

    Teaching Social Design to Medical Professionals

    Bruno Silva, '16, Head of Design and Product Development, Arnhold Institute for Global Health

    Bruno was an interaction designer when he came to DSI, working at a job that bored him. Bruno hates being boxed in, but he stuck it out until he finished school, then connected with a new job through the DSI program. In his job at the Mt. Sinai Medical Network, he's already broken all the boundaries of his job description. He is working on a global mapping project using big data to improve global health, and teaching social design to the doctors in the medical school there, in addition to leading many other initiatives. Bruno has already had a lasting impact on one of the largest medical institutions in the U.S.

    Integrating Social Design Into the Federal Government's Model 

    Meghan Lazier, '15, Product Designer, Federal Reserve Board

    While at DSI, Meghan interned with Advisor Erik Hersman on the launch of BRCK, the rugged router he's introducing for frontier markets in Africa. She took on the redesign of Access-a-Ride for her thesis project, organized the first TEDx in Kabul and designed online educational products for children all over the world in her second job out of school. Now she is a product designer for the Federal Government. She exemplifies the integration of social good and design. And where is it needed more than in government?

    If you've noticed that these are not typical product design jobs, you're right. Design for Social Innovation prepares graduates with strategic and leadership skills that put them at the forefront of change. Mastering the system of social design helps them put their talent to work for good.

    If you want a transformational career better than you can currently imagine; one with purpose, that uses you all the way up, apply for the Fall 2018 cohort at SVA's DSI.


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    Firefighters regularly risk their lives to save people, so we as a society should be providing them with the best designs for tools that help them in their work. One such invention, the newfangled PyroLance, takes a cue from the world of digital fabrication. With an assault rifle form factor, the PyroLance is a "transitional attack tool" that's something like a handheld waterjet cutter.

    When approaching a burning and enclosed structure, firefighters may need to breach it to fight the flames within. The problem is that breaching introduces a sudden influx of fresh oxygen to the fire within, which can lead to flashovers or backdrafts, catastrophic, potentially explosive escalations of the fire.

    The PyroLance allows firefighters to remain outside of the structure and to cool the temperature inside of it--without breaching. By firing pressurized water loaded with a non-metallic (i.e. non-sparking) aggregate, the tool blasts a tiny 3mm hole through just about anything: It'll blast through two layers of brick in 30 seconds, a concrete block in 35 seconds and 3/4" plate steel in just under a minute.

    Once the hole is formed, the operator changes the jet to a spray, which fills the room as an ultrafine mist that's still under high pressure. The reduced water droplet size contained in the mist allows it "to absorb heat and extinguish fires in record time," boasting a reduction of 900 degrees in under a minute, according to the company.

    Here's some footage of it in action. (Please note that the annotation "The powerful jet cuts a 6mm hole" is an incorrect statement added by Business Insider):

    If you're interested in the science behind how and why the PyroLance works, this video below explains further:



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    Every year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) challenges teams composed of students from all around the world to conceive innovative living machines to tackle contemporary issues. The iGEM competition for international Genetically Engineered Machine aims to promote research in synthetic biology through the projects invented by the hundreds of teams. Many students come from prestigious universities worldwide that never miss the opportunity to rise to the challenge (MIT, Harvard, TU Delft, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.).

    For the 2017 edition, the iGEM team Pasteur Paris worked on indoor air pollution. The team members, all living in Paris, felt particularly concerned by this deadly issue, responsible for more than 3 million premature deaths every year. The team, supervised by Deshmukh Gopaul (researcher and head of the pole: Design for Biology - Citech) and Guillian Graves (designer and head of the Design & Biology program - ENSCI), was composed of 16 students with diverse competences and capabilities (biology, physics and chemistry, law and industrial design).

    View the full project here

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