Articles on this Page
- 04/23/18--14:31: _Co-Creating Towards...
- 04/23/18--14:31: _Why Diners? David R...
- 04/24/18--06:44: _Advanced Bondo Tips...
- 04/24/18--06:44: _Harry Gesner's Cant...
- 04/24/18--06:44: _Urban Design Observ...
- 04/24/18--18:32: _Milan Design Week 2...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _Behind the Scenes w...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _A Demonstration of ...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _Steven M. Johnson's...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _Urban Design Observ...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _Tools & Craft #...
- 04/25/18--18:50: _Announcing the A' D...
- 04/26/18--09:54: _Is That Airplane Ox...
- 04/26/18--09:54: _Chinese Scientists ...
- 04/26/18--09:54: _Spray Paint Finishi...
- 04/26/18--17:13: _Reader Submitted: S...
- 04/27/18--17:38: _Making Time for Bio...
- 04/27/18--17:38: _Design/Build Compet...
- 04/27/18--17:38: _China's Growing Ele...
- 04/27/18--17:38: _BYTON VP of Design,...
- 04/24/18--06:44: Advanced Bondo Tips for Designers and Modelmakers
- 04/24/18--06:44: Harry Gesner's Cantilevered House Designs from the 1950s
- 04/24/18--06:44: Urban Design Observations: What's Up With This Bike Lock?
- 04/24/18--18:32: Milan Design Week 2018: Exhibitions Around Town
- 04/25/18--18:50: Behind the Scenes with the Set Designers of "Isle of Dogs"
- 04/25/18--18:50: A Demonstration of Pulley Systems for Easier Lifting
- 04/25/18--18:50: Steven M. Johnson's Bizarre Invention #82: The Truncate Taxi
- 04/25/18--18:50: Urban Design Observations: Bollard Problems
- 04/25/18--18:50: Tools & Craft #93: The Argument for a Traditional Tail Vise
- 04/25/18--18:50: Announcing the A' Design Awards & Competition Winners
- 04/27/18--17:38: Design/Build Competition: Make Something Out of One Bag of Quikrete
During the madness that is Milan Design Week, Lexus gave the public a space to meditate and refocus their thoughts. Set this year in the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia's Cavallerizze buildings, the sixth edition of the Lexus Design Awards focused around the prefix "Co-". With an impressive 1,319 entries from more than sixty countries, designers were asked to focus on the keyword and its inclusive meaning but first and foremost on the catalyst potential of design for empowerment and social change.
However, Lexus was not only challenging emerging talent to reflect on the notion of 'Co-', but also commissioning Japanese architect Sota Ichikawa of dNA (doubleNegatives Architecture) to design the exhibition. Creating a dramatic and immersive installation stimulating all five senses, Ichikawa takes you on a sensorial journey through almost pitch black rooms, where you are invited to clear your mind and focus. After a lollipop of Bergamot, Licorice and crackling candy, specially created for the event by culinary designers Altatto (Giulia Scialanga, Sara Nicolosi and Cinzia De Lauri), you then enter into the last part of the show. Made up of 12'000 hanging strings that were each individually lit up by a single, central laser, this part of the installation aimed to symbolize, with poesy, that, "no one should be left in the shadows".
Guided by the meaning of "Co-" and almost perfectly fulfilling Lexus' inclusive brief, it was no surprise that this year's grand prix laureates were New-York based design studio Extrapolation Factory, co-founded by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken. Mentored by Formafantasma and challenging expectations in a product-led industry, Extrapolation Factory did not present so much as an object but the props created during a two-day workshop, where community members from Queens were invited to test-out, explore and imagine alternate futures for their neighborhood.
Entitled Testing Hypotheticals, the project itself is a method for facilitating speculative and experimental community workshops. As a first prototype, with the help of a scripted workflow specially designed to prompt future scenarios, the participants in Queens were invited to create and flesh-out their hypothetical storylines. By creating their own props—ranging from digital storytelling portals in public parks to mass-transit with built-in gardens—the participants, together with real actors, then went on to perform these new futures together.
In response to insufficient clothing recycling in Japan, Japanese textile designer Eriko Yokoi used old textiles to create a fiber soil that helps reduce waste. Old clothes get recycled by layering and compressing the polyester fibers into a perfect breeding ground for plants, allowing the seeds sewn into the material to get enough water and air.
Yokoi's sculptural installation showed the new material, a multi-colored felt-like textile that serves as soil and pot in one—a lightweight alternative to conventional planting.
Honest Egg by aesthetid (Paul Yong Rit Fui & Jaihar Jailani Bin Ismail) // Mentored by Jessica Walsh
The duo aesthetid, a design studio from Malaysia, found a simple solution for visualizing if an egg is past its use-by-date. Ink printed on the shell changes color after a certain amount of time to indicate if the egg can still be eaten or not. A smiley face represents the egg's good-to-eat state, while a comical cross-eyed face warns the user that the egg has gone bad. The positive emotion triggered by the happy face intends to encourage people to eat the eggs, which otherwise would be thrown away in precaution.
Paul Yong Rit Fui and Jaihar Jailani Bin Ismail designed the Honest Egg to contribute to food waste reduction, in the hope that this new technology will be applied to a broader range of products.
DIGITALAB combines the traditional Portuguese material cork with modern producing technologies. Recycled cork, in part from bottle stoppers, is used to create furniture that is designed by way of algorithms—finding shapes with less production waste.
The lamp showcased only one example of how the material can be reused, but thanks to the algorithms, the material can potentially be used to create other objects, ranging from chairs to tables.
David Rockwell and Surface Magazine's The Diner installation was a crowd favorite at this year's Milan Design Week. Housed in the empty warehouses of Ventura Centrale, Rockwell Group in collaboration with design studio 2x4 were one of the few exhibitors to completely transform the blank, concrete canvas they were given into a completely new environment. In this case, the new environment was a fully operational pop-up restaurant celebrating classic American Diners. Diners are a very specific type of environment to choose as a focus point for an entire installation, so we asked Rockwell to speak about his thoughts on diners and why they are so important to design.
Core77: So, why diners?
David Rockwell: Well, this is Surface Magazine's 25th anniversary, and they approached us about creating an installation in Milan. So much of the work that inspires us is the intersection of hospitality and theater. Diners are amazing because they, as an archetype or image, have been part of culture for a long time and have survived many different interpretations. They are very durable and optimistic concept because they're about welcoming everyone. Diners historically have been inclusive, multi-generational places—they're the epitome of a certain kind of American optimism.
They also represented, at the time, a period in which design was becoming very democratic—it was a combination of high-end design and beautifully mass-manufactured things. There was this amalgam of so many different ideas that it just seemed ripe for a big installation in a place where everyone's on their feet, walking all over and looking at a great design. Why not reestablish and reinvent this form that's been around forever and perhaps maybe hasn't gotten its due?
For readers that weren't in Milan for Design Week, can you explain how the installation was set up?
Well, we got this beautiful space to respond to, and instead of having it be one big space, we decided to divide it. It was very much about a spectacular center counter that connected everything. Then we divided it into four separate kind of environments that each had different color temperatures. So even though the counter continued throughout all of them, the spaces around you changed in color a little bit.
What were your favorite details from each of the four environments?
Let's start with the front space, which was inspired most directly by an Airstream trailer. That area was very much like a cocoon, so the walls curved on all sides like an Airstream. There was a wall with postcards that people were able to take with them, which was a fun exchange. They represented this kind of continuous travel because diners are places that serve as a social experience throughout the whole country.
The next environment was black, white and silver, reminiscent of a New York luncheonette. You know, milkshakes and cheesecakes. That's where the main counter began with this beautiful neon sign that connected it all. The silver lead to what I would describe as a Midwest diner. It had these cotton candy colored booths that celebrated the diner's love for bright colors.
One of my favorite details that connected the whole space were these very simple industrial glass globes that we made watercolor outlines of the continents on, so they were both handmade and engineered in a beautiful way. Another connecting element was the back area, which was most inspired by a west coast drive-in movie theater. It had sort of an eclectic Venice Beach feel to it, and there was a place for a stage, so we were able to host some interesting design dialogues back there.
What do you hope visitors got out of The Diner experience?
Our lives are so crammed full of moving from place to place, and that's never more true than during Milan Design Week, where you're hopping around to every possible amazing design installation. I hope The Diner served as a hangout place where people were able to meet people they never expected to meet. Diners fill that role of a handshake, a hug and a welcome, and I think design can do that too.
Now that you've watched Part 1 and Part 2 of the Bondo tips series, here's Part 3, which industrial designer Eric Strebel has saved some seriously cool tricks for. Strebel shows you how to extrude it, how to make it both flexible and sandable, and how to use it to mate two unlike parts together.
Along the way, in addition to revealing practical efficiency tips involving plastic bags, paste wax and blue tape, he covers something that's super-important with materials that change their state and thus workability: The importance of timing. Interfere too late, and you've just created a mountain of work for yourself. Jump in at the right time and you can get great results with minimal effort. Save yourself some future headaches and learn from Strebel's experience:
On a recent trip to L.A. I stayed in the Hollywood Hills. My host drove me past this series of structures, which at first glance appeared to be a row of carports.
However, when I later passed these on foot, I noticed something interesting:
As you can see, these "carports" extend far beyond the car parking space, and they have a second story built beneath street level. In the shot below you can see the window cut into this lower level.
In this shot, you can see a yellow addition has also been built, providing another room.
So yeah, these are proper houses, cantilevered over the valley. Photos cannot adequately convey how steep the slope is. I have a fear of heights so looking over this precipice caused automatic ass-clenching.
I could barely find any windows on these, and imagined the parts of the house I couldn't see would have massive clerestory windows to compensate.
When I got back to New York I looked these houses up. Called "Boathouses," they were designed by the unconventional architect Harry Gesner in the 1950s. Executing their fanciful design on such a challenging site was reportedly so difficult that Norwegian shipbuilders had to be hired to do it. Here's what they look like from the valley side:
And here are what some of these look like on the inside:
The friend I was crashing with said she actually looked into buying one of these when it was on the market, but was put off at the open house walkthrough; she said the precariousness of the height made her uneasy. I couldn't live in one of these things either, but I'm impressed at the sheer bravery of the design.
On Elizabeth Street I passed these two bicycles and one moped shackled to a bike rack.
The silver bike has had its seat stolen. The rust on the chain suggests the owner subsequently declined to retrieve his or her bike.
The silver bike's lock drew my eye.
Why would someone do such a thing? My only guess is they want to keep the keyhole from rusting when the bike is left in the rain. I never use a bike lock so can't imagine what other advantage this might offer. Bike lock users among you, what's your explanation?
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Many people we spoke with during this year's edition of Salone del Mobile in Milan said this year was the busiest yet, and they may be right. With new locations popping up, Villas opening their doors to the public for the very first time and mega-exhibitions held in honor of a select few lucky designers, there was more than enough for everyone to experience. Here are but some of the many highlights from this past week.
If you like seeing behind-the-scenes footage of environments and atmospheres being fabricated, here we have a real treat.
For the stop-motion animated "Isle of Dogs," director Wes Anderson's fairly insane demand that all sets (and even effects like smoke, fire, water) be created practically provided the production designers with a serious challenge.
A small army of craftspeople rose to the task.
There's lots of great shots of people building the sets…
…though I do wish there were more shots of the concept art as well.
It's super cool to see how faithfully they matched the sets to the original concept sketches.
I also wanted to see more photos of the shop environments…
…which are all too fleeting in this vid:
Have any of you actually seen the movie, by the way? And if so was it any good? (No spoilers please.) I know I could just read a review, but I want to know what the designers among you thought of it.
American Towmanis billed as "Towing's premier magazine," and they've covered the industry for decades, primarily focusing on emergency road service. Here their Field Editor Terry Abejuela provides a simple, easy-to-grasp demonstration of different configurations, how they work and what they do:
If any of you are interested in pulleys, sound off, and I can make a video showing you how I use them in my photo studio to make tasks easier.
These protective bollards have done their job of protecting the building. Two of them have taken direct hits. The height of the dents suggests a large truck.
The two "arms" welded to the plate that's then bolted into the wall, look brutish. The plate was presumably placed at that height because it would be far above the level of any bumper of any vehicle. (I.e. if the arms were at the same height of a bumper hitting it, they'd then transmit the force directly into the brick.)
Metal tubing is a good materials choice in terms of function, because it absorbs energy and deforms. It's a bad choice aesthetically because it doesn't have any shape memory.
Assuming the same low budget these were presumably created with, what would you have done differently?
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I built this workbench in the late 1980's. It serves me well and I have very few complaints. The design is basically the Frank Klausz bench that is detailed in Scott Landis' landmark The Workbench Book. The major changes I made were making it left-handed, and using a quick release vise as the front vise.
Most modern workbenches don't use a traditional tail vise, they usually use some version of a face vise just at the end of the workbench, or some sort of wagon vise. While these approaches allow you to clamp lots of long things and are reasonably versatile I don't think they are nearly as useful as a traditional "L" shaped shoulder or tail vise.
The main reason why a traditional tail vise is so darn useful is because of the unobstructed gap you get in the front of your bench. this gives you the perfect way to solidly clamp chair legs, or any long part that needs to be held while you work on it from one end. You also have space on both sides of the work for tools.
In my case the tail vise also has dog holes so I can easily clamp boards over seven feet long, longer than my bench, and have them supported all along the underside, except for a small gap. With a end mounted face vise you just don't get that kind of support. Wagon vises do give you that kind of support but without allowing you to extend the clamping length past the length of the bench.
Another use for a tail vise is something I saw recently and adopted immediately. Tage Frid, one of the early writers for Fine Woodworking would saw his blind dovetail tails by holding them diagonally in the tail vise. I tried this and it means I don't have to crouch and saw up, and I can see both the inside face and the end grain as I am sawing.
My tail vise was made completely out of wood, the mechanism isn't perfect - but it works well enough. In fact when it comes to real work I use it a lot more than my face vise.
I have nothing against wagon vises and their descendants, I think they are a great retrofit to a bench, are very useful, easy to build, and just have the limitations I mentioned above.
I do have it in for the double screw vise mounted at the end of the bench. In my opinion it's definitely at the bottom of the heap of vises. I understand why a double screw vise can be handy on the face of the bench - for clamping boards for dovetails and things like that but even so any regular double screw vise is a little low for fine work. Additionally the light is wrong at the ends of a workbench for fine work. A Moxon Vise in any of its forms is far more useful and is at the right height. For regular clamping of long boards all a double screw vise at the end of the bench does it give you two threads that can bind and if a piece of wood or wide panel is not going to move around the bench with a single threaded vise, two threads don't add anything. As for gluing up big panels and things - well that's why bar clamps were invented. Gluing up in a vise is a shortcut I have been guilty of but for a wide panel bar clamps are a much better solution than an end mounted twin thread vise.
P.S. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. They really should be from the other side of the bench and show me actually doing something useful.
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.
Each year, the A' Design Award & Competition calls upon designers worldwide to enter their best projects that focus on innovation, technology, design and creativity for consideration. This year's awards cycle has officially come to a close, and we're excited to announce all of the winners and to also give a special shoutout to a few of our favorite winning projects:
The crossed legged position is important to so many different cultures, but we rarely see furniture designed to accommodate this position. Meditation seat's design is subtle, leaving the emphasis on the restful position.
Speaking of relaxation, the Sauna Habits Stove is something we never knew we could want, but now that it's on our radar, it's all we can think about.
This little device is designed to make holding a nail in place while you take a screwdriver to it a much more efficient. It works by latching onto the nail on one end and the screwdriver on the other, so when you turn the screwdriver, you're also activating the nail.
The Kebrik sand construction set takes us back to our childhoods when the only sand toys available looked like elaborate castles. It would've been nice to play with this modular set that let's you mix-and-match shapes to create a more customized version of the classic sand castle.
Can someone say, "Razor scooter upgrade"? The Eagle Electric Kick Scooter is light, thin and and folds into a compact form that can be rolled around by hand when the user doesn't feel like scooting.
We always enjoy new takes on cultural objects and rituals. This project takes the symbolic moon cake dessert and turns it into a customizable experience to be shared with family and friends.
Tag Switch is an organizational system created to ensure people understand exactly what lighting is controlled by each light switch in their home or office. Take a look at the bottom half of the image, and you'll see how sloppy and temporary this can look when done by hand.
EXEO modular gaming controllers allow you to create the perfect controller for any type of game—think bow and arrow for archery games or a sword for fighting games. We like this project so much we featured it as a reader submitted project a few months ago!
This beautiful construction set consists of magnetic blocks in a variety of vibrant colors. Users can build almost anything they want, but it'll be tough getting yourself to break this rainbow structure for the first time.
We've seen a lot of commuter bikes these days, but the wheels on this one really stand out. Overall, the URBANIZED bike looks well constructed and easy to maneuver around a city with.
Registrations to the next cycle of the A' Design Award are now open. Learn more about the awards here. Enter your works here.
When that Southwest Airlines flight depressurized last week between New York and Dallas, killing that poor woman, the plane began descending rapidly and the overhead oxygen masks deployed. I'll never understand this compulsion, but one of the chaps in the photo below pulled out his phone to capture this selfie:
As you can see, all three people are wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly. It is meant to be worn, as you undoubtedly remember from countless flight attendant demonstrations, over both the mouth and the nose.
My first instinct was to dismiss these people as idiots, because I was still hung up on the "Who shoots a selfie when they think they are going to die" thing. But after removing my bias, I considered the design of the mask, which is round.
So just now I grabbed a coffee mug approximately the same diameter as the mask and tried putting it over my mouth and nose. Unsurprisingly, the shape doesn't jive.
However, the masks, unlike coffee mugs, are made of soft plastic. When worn properly, they do conform to the face, as seen in these images:
The problem is that the default circular shape does not look as if it will fit over your mouth and nose. Add panic to the mix and I can forgive these dingbats for not wearing it right. If these were more teardrop-shaped, like a dust mask or the mouthpiece of a respirator, even an imbecile could deduce how they were meant to be worn.
Another thing about the design is the following weird feature. I can't quite call this a design…flaw, but look at the position of the apertures on the inside of this mask:
So the engine explodes, a window shatters, a woman gets partially sucked out of the window, the plane goes into a dive, you think you're going to die, then this mask deploys and you're looking at a startled emoji.
Which presents you with an awful dilemma: Do I have time to Instagram both the inside of this mask and a selfie before this plane hits the ground?
I know this is a weird one, so bear with me.
- Populous China has a high demand for wood-based materials
- The demand far exceeds China's forestry resources
- China has a ready supply of wood waste (sawdust, chips, offcuts) from its factories
Tt would be ideal if they could turn their wood waste into solid boards. That can already be done with particle board, but particle board generally sucks for the following reasons:
1. It's bound together with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
2. If you get the stuff wet, it swells up, like your eye after it gets punched during Fleet Week by a drunken sailor who accuses you of staring at his date when you were only trying to flag the bartender down.
So China's Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (which is like DARPA with less killing machines) launched an initiative called Forest Scientific Research in the Public Welfare, tasking researchers with solving the problem. A scientific paper published in the Royal Society suggests they've made a breakthrough.
What the researchers have done is turned to another heretofore useless waste product: The crab and shrimp shells people throw away after eating the insides. A primary component of those shells is a fibrous substance known as chitin. Turns out that when you pour delicious sodium hydroxide onto chitin it breaks down into chitosan, a polysaccharide.
Be excited! Because they figured out you can mix chitosan with glutaraldehyde, which is a disinfectant and medicine, and the mixture then turns into a yummy glue.
I know what you're thinking, -aldehyde, is Glutar just as bad and carcinogenic as its jerk brother Form? The answer, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, is:
We do not know whether glutaraldehyde might cause cancer in people. However, the EPA cancer assessment review committee classified glutaraldehyde as "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans" based on the determination that it did not cause cancer in animals. The National Toxicology Program determined that there was "no evidence of carcinogenic activity" of glutaraldehyde in rats or mice exposed to airborne glutaraldehyde for 2 years.
So basically, those science nerds at China's non-violent DARPA have used crab glue to make particle board that exhibits water resistance and probably won't give you or your pets cancer. Or in their words:
Allowing for the shortage of wood-based materials and the negative effects of formaldehyde emissions in traditional wood fibre composites and inspired by chitosan, a simple approach was used that could fabricate environment-friendly wood fibre composites with high bonding strength and water resistance by using a chitosan-based adhesive and residual forest wood fibres.
I would like TiteBond to start licensing and selling the glue, co-branded with the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., under the I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter-like name of Are You Chitin Me?
Eric Strebel's getting into some serious ID modelmaking secret sauce here. Painting a model or prototype is where things can go to hell pretty quickly, unless you've got a good system down. So check out Strebel's blend of herbs and spices, covering surface prep, fixing errors, a clever trick for using your object to make a sanding block, how to avoid spotting, what to use, what not to use and more.
This is an information-dense, technique-rich, very useful vid!
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The Magazine Wall Hanger / MAWAH hangs a spread on the wall and makes it easy to revive everything from beautiful images to interesting texts in newspapers, books and magazines. With this new design, you can quickly replace the motives depending on mood, taste or environment.
There are often content in the form of fine images and thoughtful text in magazines that someone has put a lot of energy into creating, and many times, have aroused emotions in the reader. Why should this content only be seen once and then placed on the shelf or thrown away?
From bans on plastic straws and bags to concerns about the ever-growing Pacific Garbage Patch (which is now three times the size of France), there is a movement towards plastic reduction that we all need to support. Obviously this can't happen overnight, but can be viable if thousands of companies start taking even baby steps towards alternatives to plastics.
For their part, Swiss timepiece company Mondaine is experimenting with bioplastics in their Essence collection of watches.
While they're not yet able to ditch plastics entirely, they've begun incorporating the following surprising ingredient:
"Essence is the first and only watch made with a castor oil casing," the company writes. "Sustainability extends to its packaging as well, which is made from recycled PET plastic bottles and can be reused as a sunglasses or phone case."
We sent them some questions about the material, and they returned the following answers:
What does the production process entail, i.e. how is castor oil transformed into bio-plastic?
The Ricinus (castor) oil is extracted from the castor seeds by a mechanical pressing process. The oil that is obtained is further processed in a granulate form and then processed into a bio-plastic in the case of the essence.
In terms of bio-plastics, what makes Ricinus desirable over other alternatives (corn-based bio-plastics, etc.)?
Ricinus can be preferred over other bio-plastics such as corn-based because the seeds from the Castor Bean plant are inedible. The castor bean comes from Wonder Trees, which are fast growing, up to 10 feet high.
Are there other products on the market that feature Ricinus?
No other watch brands have used this. However it is well known in the cosmetic industry, i.e. for makeup, lipsticks etc. In [the] pharma industry it is well known for hundreds of years as a [digestive aid] for humans. Chairs are also made out of this material, and tests with parts for cars are being conducted.
What structural considerations led the designers to the 41% castor oil, 27% fossil plastic and 30% glass powder ratio?
BASF first suggested to use 70% Wonder Tree oil, but this material would not have been strong enough for a watch case which has to resist against shocks, changes in temperatures, and foremost water resistance over time. For this reason we have tested the BASF material by gradually adding glass powder (glass is a natural material), until we found the best compound – 30% glass, making the case stiff, long lasting, shock and water resistant.
What are the performance characteristics of Ricinus versus a typical plastic, or bio-plastic?
They include high-thermal stability, dynamic strength, and impact resistance. BASF who we work with for the material also uses [it] in automotive applications such as engines, gears, radiator systems, fuel supply systems, and electrical systems. For the watches, it has [the] same characteristics as normally used fossil compounds – so Mondaine was able to replace that compound to a large degree with renewable material. A first and important step in the right direction for our environment.
Assuming this is the first step in an evolution for Mondaine, what is the next step?
The next running change in the production is to replace the stainless steel backs and buckles, and its next launch will include the back of the casing and buckles with the castor oil material.
You can take a closer look at the Essence here.
For the third year in a row Quikrete is running their One Bag Wonder Competition, where entrants design and build something using one bag of their product.
First prize is $2,500. Second prize is $1,500. Third prize is $500. Fourth prize is a big bag of nothing.
Here's a look at some of the entries from last year's competition:
And I don't want to malign the winner, but a big reason I'm posting this entry is because I'm certain a talented Core77 reader will have a good chance of winning, based on the entry that won last year:
Competition details are here.
In a bid to improve the horrible air quality in their cities, the Chinese government has been adding electric buses at the staggering pace of 9,500 new ones every five weeks. If these buses were rolling out one by one, the rate breaks down to roughly 271 new electric buses every day, or one bus every 5.3 minutes, spread out over a number of cities. Bloomberg reports that this fleet of e-buses has reduced China's demand for fuel by 279,000 barrels a day.
[Chinese electric bus manufacturer] BYD estimates its buses have logged 17 billion kilometers (10 billion miles) and saved 6.8 billion liters (1.8 billion gallons) of fuel since they started ferrying passengers around the world's busiest cities. That, according to [Managing Director Isbrand] Ho, adds up to 18 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution avoided, which is about as much as 3.8 million cars produce in each year.
In other words, by using electric buses it's as if China made nearly 4 million cars simply vanish, in terms of environmental effects. At least in the cities, where the air quality is now improved.
I say "at least in the cities" because while there are a host of articles on China's e-bus miracle, the thing none of them bring up is where the country's electricity comes from. While China has invested heavily in dams and generates an impressive 20% (roughly) of its electricity through hydropower , the next largest source of juice is coal, at around 65%. (These are based on 2016 statistics.) So the pollution has essentially been shifted away from the city streets and over to the smokestacks of powerplants.
With any luck China will continue expanding its usage of wind (just 4%) and solar (just 1%) as energy sources. In the meantime, the greatest impact of their e-fleet may not be on the environment but on the oil companies. It will be interesting to see what the butterfly effect will be.
During last week's Milan Design Week festivities, China, Munich and California-based electric vehicle start-up BYTON unveiled their electric concept SUV in Europe for the first time at a quiet, tucked away location in the Brera Design District. The concept was previously unveiled at CES and a few other locations, but for the European unveiling, BYTON created an installation around the vehicle and put together a miniature design studio on the lower level of their venue.
The electric concept SUV features a large 49 x 9.8 inch display screen that self-adjusts its brightness according to changes in light, along with a human vehicle interaction system that utilizes voice recognition through Alexa Voice, touch control and Air Touch gesture control (yes, this means the car will respond to specific hand movements). After using face recognition to unlock your BYTON vehicle, the lack of a center console makes the space feel less like a car and more like a lounge. In terms of holding a charge, drivers are able to go around 323 miles on one single charge. During Milan Design Week, BYTON also unveiled the concept for their first brand store, which will open later this year in Shanghai.
Amongst the list of industry veterans leading BYTON's team is VP of Design, Benoît Jacob, who is the former VP of Design at BMW. During his time at BMW, Jacob was the head of various projects, including both the i3 and i8 electric vehicles. Now, at BYTON, Jacob is responsible for building a concept vehicle from the ground up with the help of his design team. We were curious to learn more about the design process behind BYTON's electric concept SUV, so we had an in-depth conversation with the self-taught (crazy, right?) car designer to get the inside scoop:
Core77: What makes BYTON's design process unique from other car companies?
Benoît Jacob: I must say that we really had the chance to have a standout design process where we were could truly focus on innovation. A good design process means you have to have time. With startups, you have a lot less time, so we decided to do the explorative, creative phase much quicker. We went wild and looked at many possible directions, but we came to our decision relatively soon in such a way that we were not compromising the whole development process because there's nothing you can compress in the development process. You can fly from Milan to Los Angeles in about nine hours, maybe eight hours if you go quick. What you cannot do is fly that distance in five hours.
The way we run our design process starts with strategic research, context, benchmarking, and all these things, and then after we simply work digitally and physically on models. Our design center in Munich has all the tools and methods to conduct this. So we have the possibility to create clay models even from our studio, which is very rare for a start-up. Normally people will outsource, but from the beginning we set up the structure to do all of these things ourself.
"I think the ability to update software, functionality and things like that will be on a day-to-day basis. And this is, of course, something we have to integrate as a technology into the car."
We have a fairly big design team now of about 70-80 people. We are not only working on one show car. We also work on the production car, and we're already working on future development. This is a platform, so we need to make sure we have that next thing ready. We not only need designers to do all of this but also data managers, engineers and people programming the milling machines. We have about 15 different jobs, and I think around 15 different nationalities. It's a fantastically international team.
We have a very strong visualization team, and we work a lot with virtual reality. We invested quite a bit into VR tools. Visualization helps you see basically, on any day, exactly how the final car will look before it's ever built. We are now at a competency level where we can do highly realistic renderings, and in a way it helps with speed. If you have the highest possible level of objectivity while you develop your car, you are able to react quickly if something goes wrong. In the old process, you would work for months on the clay model, then get it finished, get it outside, look at it 200 meters away and say, "Oh shit! That part is not even," or something. A detail that you'd never see on the plate while you work on the car magically comes to light. Now, we do it differently. If something goes, wrong, I can see it basically the next day—even at an early stage.
We also have a global footprint. Our design center is based in Munich, but now we also have a design center in Shanghai because I want most of our ideas to be born in China. China is where our market is, and you have to get your ideation or your research where your market is. Then in Germany we have the advantage of bringing quality to this whole process.
Who would you say is BYTON's particular target market is at this time?
The people that we're looking at are a group that typically buys premium product—like the young, successful entrepreneur. I would not say millennials because they are probably a little bit too young, but definitely Gen-X.
You've worked on a few interesting engineering projects with this car, including a larger than usual display screen and motion sensor technology. I'm curious to learn about how those considerations played into your design process.
The car industry has gone through a transformation, and the main challenge for us designers is to combine cars with new digital product that has a very different lifecycle. On one side you have the car, which is still capital intensive and, of course, a huge investment. So, the car itself will still have more or less the lifecycle that we know today—you know, six, seven, eight years. But digital products have a totally different lifecycle.
"Typically car designers and engineers say they know everything right from the beginning. But from start of production until the end of cycle, I'm saying I probably don't know everything, and this is a good thing."
Figuring out how to update a car within the traditional lifecycle is a challenge. The way you update a car today is essentially based on the mid-lifecycle impulse—"Okay, lets go from new wheels, new bumpers and maybe new color," and you're done. I do not believe the future will be like that. I think the ability to update software, functionality, etc. will be on a day-to-day basis. And this is, of course, is something we have to integrate as a technology into the car. We need to consider the systems that receive this information, like for example antennae systems and modems, and we need to have a design or concept that accommodates them. We have this relatively large screen inside of the car, and it's not because we find it fancy. The idea behind the large screen is instead to say, "This is a canvas". We already know some of the use cases for the display now, but we're leaving room for the many use cases that we don't know at this point in time.
"We are not trying to innovate for the sake of innovating, but instead we're trying to innovate where it really makes sense."
It's okay to say that we don't know everything. Typically car designers and engineers say they know everything right from the beginning. But from start of production until the end of cycle, I'm saying I probably don't know everything, and this is a good thing. This is a future-proof sort of attitude. So that is the idea, but of course integrating this technology was, from a design standpoint, a challenge for us. Learning these new skills and integrating a large thing like that is not an easy task. For example, safety standards and regulations can change at any time, and we're designing this car for a global market, so it has to fulfill different, various regulations worldwide at the same time. We've gotten to a point where we fulfill all of them to the highest possible standard.
I'm glad you touched on the unknown future of the car industry because my next question is: How, as a car designer, do you design something for the future and know that it's still going to be relevant when it finally comes to fruition?
We are not trying to innovate for the sake of innovating, but instead we're trying to innovate where it really makes sense. I can give you this example: At the very beginning, our CEO Carsten Breitfeld asked me if I would consider a specific special door concept. Funny enough, when a CEO gives the head of design permission to do fancy doors or something like that, I would say most of the time, the designer automatically says yes. But I actually told Carsten that this concept wasn't necessary or relevant. We'd rather invest our energy, time and money into something that is more relevant or meaningful as an innovation rather than there just being a story about getting in and out of the car.
It's interesting how alien some concept cars look and feel, especially in a time where design needs to be accessible and approachable. They're almost futuristic to a point where people can't quite relate yet.
You have to have a balanced approach towards innovation, and that's what I really try to instill as the spirit of BYTON as a brand. Yes, there is a strive for innovation and things that we will only do to compete with our competitors, but you can combine those elements with very bulletproof solutions. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, especially when it hasn't been proven that some of these new ideas are much better than the ones they're supposed to replace.
BYTON's concept vehicle will be available in China towards the end of 2019 and in the US and Europe in 2020 with a price starting at $45,000. Learn more about BYTON's electric concept SUV here.
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