Articles on this Page
- 10/24/18--11:50: _Tools & Craft #...
- 10/24/18--11:50: _Steven M. Johnson's...
- 10/25/18--12:12: _Four Dorm Room Hack...
- 10/25/18--12:12: _An IDEO Recruiter's...
- 10/25/18--12:12: _Cool Tools: Using a...
- 10/25/18--12:12: _How to Remove Sheet...
- 10/25/18--12:12: _For Halloween, Thes...
- 10/26/18--12:19: _Objects I've Unexpe...
- 10/26/18--12:19: _These New Eyeglasse...
- 10/26/18--12:19: _Design Student Tool...
- 10/26/18--12:19: _ID Student Basics: ...
- 10/26/18--12:19: _Reimagining the Des...
- 10/29/18--12:33: _Building Out Your D...
- 10/29/18--12:33: _Frank Gehry on His ...
- 10/29/18--12:33: _(Probably Awful) In...
- 10/30/18--12:54: _A Fast, Manual Alte...
- 10/30/18--12:54: _Currently Crowdfund...
- 10/30/18--12:54: _Hive Announces New ...
- 10/30/18--12:54: _We've Solved the De...
- 10/30/18--12:54: _How to Easily Attac...
- 10/24/18--11:50: Steven M. Johnson's Bizarre Invention #131: Mother & Child Walkers
- 10/25/18--12:12: Four Dorm Room Hacks for Industrial Design Students
- 10/25/18--12:12: An IDEO Recruiter's 5 Tips for Writing a Better Cover Letter
- 10/25/18--12:12: How to Remove Sheetrock with Less Mess
- 10/26/18--12:19: Design Student Toolbox Starter Pack
- 10/26/18--12:19: ID Student Basics: Building Precisely With Limited Resources
- 10/26/18--12:19: Reimagining the Design of Motorcycle Clusters
- 10/29/18--12:33: Frank Gehry on His Formative Experiences
- 10/29/18--12:33: (Probably Awful) In-Car Solutions for Sleeping on a Flat Surface
- 10/30/18--12:54: A Fast, Manual Alternative to Chainsaws: The Silky Katanaboy 650
- 10/30/18--12:54: Currently Crowdfunding: Notable Campaigns of the Week
If the name Hammacher Schlemmer is known by the general public at all nowadays, it's as the very expensive seller of player pianos and other very expensive "lifestyle" curiosities. But the store's origins are as a large hardware store (based for a long time in New York City's Union Square area, at 4th Ave and 13th street, about 5 blocks from my apartment). Above is a picture of a page from the store's 1908 catalog. H&S not only sold tools directly, but it also distributed tools to many smaller stores. The catalog's page features some Stanley planes; the store's wholesale discount sheet, shown on the right side of the photo, shows that other store could buy the planes generally from anywhere from 25%-30% off. I am not sure what some of the discount ranges signify. (At the end of this post you'll see a picture of the front page of the discount sheet showing terms and conditions. The sheet is unique in my collection and generally rare. I found it in the front of the H&S catalog.)
Back in the days of this catalog, customers would have typically bought their tools from a local hardware store. These tools would have been purchased by the store from a regional distributor, who in turn got them from the factory -- or the importer. Each tier of sales cost money. The hardware store owner needed to make a living. The sales rep who sold to the hardware store needed to make a living. The regional distributor needed to make a living, and the factory had to make enough money to keep the sons of the founders in fancy golf shoes.
This system made a lot of sense because the cost of shipping goods was huge. You needed to ship by sea or rail. Goods needed to be handled by many people, and the final wagon ride to the store - well, it made sense to group stuff together. Involving a distributor made a lot of sense because the distributor could organize an efficient shipment of lots of different things from different vendors for one store, rather than tiny shipments made onesy-twosey. Just having one representative travel around selling lots of different lines made sense because traveling by train or buggy miles just for an order of two boxes of screws was very wasteful.
Even after the introduction of trucks, the system kept going until the 1970's when the interstate highway system drastically lowered the cost of individual packages going long distances. Delivery companies like UPS and FedEx made direct shipment to the end customer (or store) commercially viable.
In 1978 Home Depot was founded. The company's their major brilliant innovation was buying directly from the factory. Essentially they could sell stuff far less expensively than a local hardware store could because they were paying distributor cost, not wholesale. Home Depot's competitive advantage of course led to the collapse of the local hardware store and gave Home Depot the power to lower costs even more by squeezing costs out of manufacturers, many of which decided to downgrade their quality for Home Depot goods or go overseas to lower costs.
Nevertheless many American manufacturers still insist on selling through distribution rather than directly. What this means of course is that even if you purchase something from the company website, the prices are included extra margin for the non-present distributor - or middleman.
What does this practically mean? American products from old-line companies are a lot more expensive than their newer, more streamlined competitors since the cost structure includes the middleman, even if the middleman serves no real purpose in the 21st century.
Backward thinking also affects investment in the means of production. Some old-line manufacturers are not willing to replace machinery that more or less works. When I worked at Black and Decker, it was nearly impossible to make quiet-to-specification gears on our old, worn-out, gear making machines. But we could not get approval to replace the machines because the cost of keeping the machines (zero) was far less than buying anything new, even though the product we produced had lower sales. The accounting perspective was that it only made sense to invest if you were building a new factory to expand something somewhere, not to upgrade a current profitable venture. Black and Decker instead bought an appliance company and eventually got out of the industrial power tool business that I was part of.
There are lots of reasons why American companies have trouble competing, but these are some of the big issues.
Why should you care?
A few months ago we got word the Baldor was dropping production of their top-end 6" grinder that we use for our custom grinders. It was expensive, too expensive, but worth it for those rock solid cast iron tool rests. But apparently for a big company like Baldor, the low volume wasn't enough to keep it going. That's a real shame. A little investment in machinery, a less expensive distribution system, and their grinders would be a lot more competitive in pricing. They would appeal not just to those who want the best, but also those who just want a great grinder. Note: the 8" grinder is still in production and lesser Baldor 6" grinders will still be sold (albeit not by us).
Over the years some of my favorite products have been discontinued by large American makers. The volume is just too small to interest them. Norton got rid of its Lilywhite stones for this reason. Now Baldor. There are other examples, but it's too depressing to think about. Every time I hear a story like this I tell my rep that if the company feels that the volume is too small for them, they should just sell the division to someone who wants it. These are still viable products. Heck, Unicomp, the company that made the fabulous M-Clicky keyboard for the original IBM PC's, still makes them as a niche business for people who want a great keyboard. I am very grateful. I have two - one PC, one Mac.
PS - we still have a few 6" custom grinders in stock, but even after we run out the store demo model, which is my own grinder, is staying with me for the rest of my life.
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.
If you're studying industrial design, your dorm room should look different than dorms from students of other majors. As an ID'er you're supposed to be able to design and make objects, and your dorm should be an early laboratory where you devise and test things that will improve your own daily life. So put your tool skills to use with the following:
1. Raise the Bed
No dorm-dweller has ever said "Man, I wish this place had less storage." You'll always need more space to stow your crap and items that you've stolen from your roommate, and the one thing that every dorm room has is under-bed space (unless you're in a bunkbed situation, in which case you should immediately transfer to another dorm). So you want to figure out how to maximize that space.
Every big box store sells those cheapie plastic bed risers…
…but as an ID student, you should be able to go into the shop and whip something like this up out of 4x4s with some type of cladding for the sidewalls. As a bonus, you get to choose the exact height. Build them sturdy and safe, and you'll have plenty of room to install pull-out boxes or even drawers under your bed.
Here's a simple example:
2. Create Seating that Doubles as Storage
Occasionally you'll want to invite other students, including those from lesser majors, over to your room. You don't want those animals sitting on your bed, so it would be handy to have a multitude of stools around. Use this as an opportunity to flex your ID muscles and create some stools that double as storage. Here are some ideas to get you started:
3. Learn to Hang Things
You'd be amazed how many people don't know how to install a simple wall anchor, and you can exploit this for your own gain. If your dorm's walls are sheetrock, you have an opportunity to not only increase the functionality of your space, but earn some bucks hanging things for others.
Here's what you'll need:
- A stud sensor (if you've got the scratch, spring for one that can detect wiring)
- Sheetrock anchors
- A drill/driver
- A hammer (optional, can also use your roommate's smartphone)
You'll use the stud sensor to, duh, check for studs. If you're hanging something heavy like a mirror or a shelf that will hold books, stick to studs. Lighter things like coathooks or a small shelf to hold your smartphone or tablet will be fine on anchors.
If you don't already know how to install them, here's a quick vid covering the basics:
Once you've mastered this, sell your services to those losers in Fashion. Those people have lots of clothes and jewelry that they will want dedicated hooks and hanging systems for in their dorm rooms, and you can charge them up the wazoo. (All Fashion students are rich, everyone knows this.)
4. Learn to Patch Things
Technically most colleges won't allow you to install sheetrock anchors, but you're going to do it anyway because you're an ID major. (Look in the mirror and repeat after me: "I'm a renegade and I play by my own rules.") You're not going to get caught and fined because at the end of the semester, you're going to patch all of those holes you've made and slap some touch-up paint over them.
Here's what you'll need:
- Joint compound
- Putty knife
Frankly speaking, you should own all of this stuff after a semester or two of ID. You'll take these items and do what you see below:
Note: With screw holes, you can skip the drywall tape shown in the video.
*After you paint the patch, don't worry if you can't match the paint color exactly. What you can do to get your deposit back, is blame the shoddy work on your roommate. If you're going to get a job doing industrial design at the corporate level, you will need to learn how to shift blame onto others if you hope to survive. You might as well start learning now!
As with the hanging, you can sell your patching services to other students at the end of the year. Ideal targets will be in Architecture. Those people will have pridefully managed to install anchors to hang their self-important, pointlessly pointy FoamCore building models on the wall, but are not interested in follow-up and maintenance so will have no idea how to clean up their own mess. Figure out a price that's less than their damage deposit and you should be good to go.
Let it be known, I love cover letters. For applicants, they're the best way to express thoughtful excitement for a job. For recruiters like me, they're the best way to learn about the motivations and aspirations behind an application. But much to my dismay, these days, there's a common belief that cover letters are superfluous compared to the more practical resume or LinkedIn profile.
Practical is good. But when you are applying to your dream job, being practical is not enough. Cover letters may seem like an extra step, but for those of us on the other side, they're a way to cut through the noise. I might see 300 applicants for a single job. A cover letter helps me understand the people behind these pieces of paper, and who might really make a difference in the role.
Maybe candidates feel too much pressure to write the perfect cover letter, so they skip it. To that I say, don't let perfect be the enemy of great. And don't miss an opportunity to show a company who you are and what you bring with you.
Here are five tips to help you write a compelling, well-crafted cover letter, with excerpts from real letters that helped IDEOers get in the door.
1. Explain why this position makes sense for you now in your career
If you're shifting industries, or looking for a role with more responsibilities, your qualifications might not be obvious based on a resume or LinkedIn profile. Remember, this isn't about selling yourself; this is about sharing yourself.
Here's a good example:
I am interested in the recruiting coordinator role because I believe that I have the best skillset and mindset to navigate the different elements of this position, and I am very interested in growing in a career in HR.
My experience in office coordination and operations management has taught me that my workplace passion is in people operations and support. My favorite phrase to dish out is, "Don't worry about it, I got you." My goal always is to set people — employees, visitors, friends, strangers — up for success. Whether that means labeling which drawer has paper clips and which has paper towels, or directing questions to people who have the answers, or ensuring that new hires have all they need and more waiting for them on their first day. I strive to be a bridge between teams to help members get what they need to get the job done well, and I am passionate about finding ways in which we can improve that entire interaction. I geek out over creating, improving, and discussing process and ways we can make interactions more human.
2. This is an introduction, not a manifesto
Aim for two paragraphs (if you end up with one or three it's okay). There is no rule that says cover letters need to be lengthy to lend insight into your background and your interest in the role. On the flip side, the two sentences that state the obvious—you're applying to such-and-such company and that you hope for an interview—aren't really cover letters. If this is your go-to move, ask yourself why you're applying to that role and if you are really interested in it or qualified for it? Because those are the same exact questions the recruiter is asking.
Here's a pithy explanation of who a candidate is, and what she wants out of a career:
I'm half Scottish, half Chinese and have lived and worked across seven cities in three continents in the past 10 years. I have the unique ability to imagine the world from multiple perspectives. I'm a leader, a dot connector, and a storyteller. I've been looking for an opportunity that combines my unique interests in design research and education, and would look forward to hearing more about the team and projects and share how I can contribute.
3. Show some personality in your writing
Try to strike the right balance between being sincere and being authentic. A sincere cover letter gets the reaction, "Wow, they really mean everything they say." An authentic cover letter gets the reaction, "Wow, they didn't hold anything back." Cover letters can have a blend of both—just remember that this is a first impression. When in doubt, stick with sincerity.
Here's how one successful applicant explained his background, and his values:
So as I sit here in the airport terminal waiting to board, I wonder about the question of my own destination. After honing my expertise in insight-led branding, I want to bring it to a greater range of projects for a company that would allow me to make a positive difference in the world. I feel like my experience with junior designers, my advocacy for design as language, and my commitment to collaboration would help me to be an asset for a brand that shares these goals. After all, that's what all of us are looking for, to invest our time in brands with which we share the same values.
4. Keep it focused
Sharing a portfolio or summary of past work is not the same as a cover letter. If you want to get visual with images, graphics, charts, and artwork that's great, just make sure it is in service of communicating why this role, and why you.
This is the entirety of one successful cover letter:
I'm a scientist, a writer, an educator, an artist, and an avid autodidact. What makes me an effective educator is that I have a genuine and self-motivated thirst for learning and for sharing that information with others. My experiences create a design process that is equally as analytical as creative, as researched as inspired, and as concise as expressive. On my nightstand right now, I have The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Economist, and US! Weekly. It's a mixed bag, but it's the best way I can show you that very few things escape the reach of my curiosity. Welcome to my brain:
5. Address it to the correct company
Yes, this sounds basic, but—believe it or not—this mistake happens all the time. It's perfectly normal to have a cover letter template you enjoy using—just make sure to tailor your cover letter to the role and organization. And always proofread. (For the companies and roles you're most excited about, have two other people proofread.)
Here's how one applicant showed us—in an opening sentence—that they knew a lot about IDEO and the work we do. (Creative Confidence is a book written by David and Tom Kelley, partners at IDEO).
Dear IDEO hiring team,
I put down Creative Confidence on a cold, March Toronto day with a profoundly different perspective on what it means to do meaningful work.
These are all important points to fold into your cover letter, but remember, what matters most is that you show a little personality. After all, we want to hire you, not your resume.
Whether you're dismantling something and trying to preserve it, or trying to correct a project screw-up in mid-build, sometimes you need to remove a nail.
If you're pulling it out of trim, you can do that trick where you pry the trim away from the wall, then tap it back towards the wall to get the nails to reveal themselves, but this doesn't always work and/or you may damage the trim.
Other times the nail is buried too deep to get at, or even worse, you've accidentally snapped the head off.
In any of these situations an old-school tool, the slide hammer nail puller, can be your best friend.
Here master carpenter Matt Jackson, who's donating the door frame to his shop to Habitat for Humanity and wants to keep it in good shape for them, shows you how to use the tool. Note that he's pulling out burly 16d nails that have virtually no head:
The last time I hung sheetrock in my living space, I actually left the screws unspackled and didn't tape the seams. That's because I've had to remove sheetrock three times in my life, and each time was a messy P.I.T.A. involving a sledge, ending with my buddies and I looking like we were mid-make-up session for a Kabuki performance.
If you're renovating something in your home or in a client's space, it would be desirable to minimize the dust, not to mention eliminate the noise of demolition. You can do this with a couple of specialty tools (like that slide hammer nail puller we just looked at) and some thoughtful techniques.
Here Matt Jackson of Next Level Carpentry shows you his time-tested tricks for removing sheetrock--even those tricky sheets in the corner that are essentially dadoed behind another sheet--off of the wall in clean, whole pieces. He also shows you a quick trick to break the sheets down into smaller pieces that are easy to carry outside:
You can find links to all of these tools in the description listed here.
A hilarious, artistically-talented and unnamed Florida resident has a display of skeletons in his/her lawn, as many do for Halloween. But unlike many, s/he uses props, costumes and placement to reset the tableau each day, depicting a variety of suburban familial scenes. Thankfully, neighbor Sami Campagnano has been Tweeting regular updates:
Learning to sharpen things was one of the more useful skills I picked up last year. Once you understand the simple science of it and acquire some basic equipment, you'll never work with dull tools (or pocketknives or scissors) again. I took a sharpening class at Tools for Working Wood, and if you live in the New York area I can highly recommend it.
Pros can sharpen items by feel. But being a visual person I also wanted to see what a sharp/dull edge looks like, which is impossible to see with the naked eye. So I bought this cheap, $10 fold-out jeweler's loupe on Amazon.
This has become one of the handiest things I own--and not just in the shop. While it does help me to examine damaged edges closely, so I can focus my repair efforts, I've also found it super useful for reading labels and small text, on receipts, newspaper print, instruction manuals, or on the sides of bottles. Whether it's that my eyesight is getting worse, or all commercial printers in the world are conspiring against me by printing things smaller and smaller, I find myself reaching for this constantly.
In practice I never use the built-in LED lights on the thing--I find the buttons too small and fiddly, and usually just move towards a nearby window when using it. (I also don't want to deal with having to replace tiny batteries, which leads me to subconsciously not use the light.) It comes in a dorky little plastic case, if you want to throw it into a bag and carry it around with you. I never do--this lives on a dedicated shelf in my house, so I always know where it is.
At just ten bucks, it's cheap enough that I might buy a second one to leave in the car.
Lately I have been straining to read the ever-shrinking text on labels, instruction manuals and even newspapers. It's why that jeweler's loupe comes in so handy. I should probably suck it up and buy reading glasses, but I'm not ready to take that step.
What I really want are these super cool changeable focus eyeglasses invented in Japan. Mitsui Chemicals has developed the TouchFocus, a pair of specs with a really useful feature:
At first glance, TouchFocus™ appears to be simply a pair of stylish glasses. Hidden inside, however, is a wide array of advanced technology. With a touch to a sensor installed in the temple, the eyewear will change focus from far to near instantaneously. Electricity runs from a battery through an electric circuit, activating a liquid crystal area in the lenses. The near zone can be toggled on and off as needed.
It provides a wide area of vision with minimized swim and distortion and removes the need to switch between multiple pairs of glasses.
Each pair of TouchFocus ™ is created to match each individual's eyeglass prescription and design tastes, with 20 frame designs to choose from.
The TouchFocus has just been rolled out in Japan (there's a list of brick-and-mortar retailers here), and they are shockingly expensive: MSRP is ¥250,000, which is about USD $2,229. The company mentions their goal is to have "100 retail locations carrying TouchFocus™ by Spring 2019 and annual sales of 50,000 pairs by 2022." Fifty thousand in four years doesn't sound like all that much, so it's possible these will be for the home market only.
There are few things that will be more useful to a designer throughout their career than a good set of hand tools. I find myself delving into my collection on an almost daily basis, for one reason or another. I have a decent collection of power tools as well, but I find the hand tools are the ones I use for quick fixes, small jobs and most of the projects I take on. I've assembled my collection of tools over many years, and at this point I have most of what I would ever need and a rolling tool chest to keep them all. But there was a time when my entire collection fit into a single tool box, and for all designers starting out there is a rather short list of essential equipment.
Design students often times don't have their own tools but instead use school shop tools for all their needs. But there are plenty of times when you won't have access to that shop, so you should take this time in your career to start assembling your own kit. The good news is you can start small, build your kit one piece at a time, and do it all on a budget. The photo above shows most of the tools we have in the Core77 office tool box, which is a good place to start. Here are my recommendations for essential hand tools for designers:
Pliers - A set of regular and needle nose pliers are essential. A pair of vice grips can substitute for an actual vise, and are also useful for many tasks. Linesman pliers are great, especially for electrical work, but they can come later. Channel locks are another type of plier that are great, especially for grasping large or round items.
Wire cutters - You should have at least one set of wire cutters, but it is good to have a large size and a small size. A wire stripper, which includes blades for stripping wires, crimping and cutting is also handy.
Hammer - An all-purpose framing hammer is one of the best tools you can own. Good of course for hammering nails, but also for removing nails, general demolition, and hammering chisels, hole punches and anything else that needs a good whack.
Screwdrivers - Every tool kit should have at least one Phillips head and one regular screwdriver. Different size heads are good, and short and long versions are good to have also. A set of eyeglass, or mobile phone repair screwdrivers are very useful, especially if you like to repair or upgrade electronics. Torx screwdrivers, sometimes called 'starbit' screwdrivers are especially good for working on electronics. If you can only buy one, you might try a multi-tip, ratcheting screwdriver, which takes the place of about a dozen separate screwdrivers.
Clamps - You can almost never have too many clamps. Spring clamps for quick hold, short clamps, long pipe clamps, and C-clamps of various sizes. If you are interested in woodworking of any sort then you're going to need a LOT of clamps. Corner clamps are good for making frames for artwork. Start with a few C-clamps and some small bar clamps like the one shown above and go from there.
Wrenches - At a minimum a single adjustable wrench will get you started. I have four adjustable wrenches, from small to huge, and I need them all. Eventually you should have a set of box wrenches, or two sets (one metric, one English). Allen wrenches are also essential equipment, in various sizes, both metric and English. Finally, a good socket set and ratchet driver is a super handy item to have, again, both in metric and English, along with a few different lengths of driver extensions.
Scraper - My scraper is one of my favorite tools. I use it for scraping paint, or any other material that has been dripped where it shouldn't be. But I also use it for prying things open, mixing materials, or even as a hack chisel when needed.
WD-40 - This magical liquid solves so many problems it is impossible to list them all. Often my first attempt at fixing anything is to hit it with the WD-40 and let it sit. Then try it again. Use it on hinges, locks, gears, anything that gets gunked up. Remember it is a solvent, and not a lubricant, so also apply silicone lubricant on metal surfaces after de-greasing with WD-40.
Files - A single flat file is good to start. But triangle shaped, and rat-tail files (round) are also very useful. Get them in various sizes. Closely related to the wood hasp, which is also handy for shaping foam and other model making supplies.
Cable Ties - A package of zip ties is handy, and can be used for cable management or even as a sort of clamp for soft or round objects.
Mat Knife - Good for cutting paper, cardboard, tape, plastic or what ever you need. Keep a supply of spare blades on hand and don't skimp. Crack the tip of the blade off frequently to keep your cutting end sharp.
Tape - The photo shows black electrical tape, which is very versatile. Close behind is duct tape, and black gaffing take. For painting you'll want blue painters tape, or masking tape.
Googles - Safety first! Goggles or safety glasses are another essential item in your kit.
Wire Brush - For rough clean ups and working with metal. Maybe this is not a requirement for starting out, but soon enough you'll need it.
Tape Measure - At least one tape measure is needed. A sturdy 25 foot Stanley tape measure is the standard of the industry. The 16 foot one shown above is good for interior work.
Level - A small level, around 12 inches, is a good start, but a 24 inch or 36 inch version is more useful.
Saws - A traditional crosscut saw is not necessarily the most useful for a designer starting out. A better choice for woodworking and model making would be a Japanese pull saw, which can make very fine cuts. A hacksaw is also a great tool for metal, of course, but also for plastic.
Tool Box - Options abound for tool boxes, but a simple sturdy box with a latch and a removable tray is a great start. The classic Stack-On red steel tool box is an inexpensive choice which will last for years.
Folding Workbench - For students or those living in small apartments, a large, sturdy workbench is probably not an option. But a portable workbench, like the Black and Decker Workmate, is a great substitute. The built in vise on the bench top can hold small or large items, it folds down flat for easy storage and can hold over 500 pounds. Plus they last forever.
The shopping list above seems like a lot, and it is, but the good news is that you have a lifetime to collect all the parts, and you can definitely do it all one piece at a time. I like to look for hand tools at garage sales, where you can usually find old tools for cheap. I look for quality pieces made in the USA, Europe or Japan. Once you have a basic set and you're looking for specific items, buying used on Ebay is also a good option.
By no means is this list complete, and certainly as you start to specialize in what you make or fix, you'll need specialty tools for that. Woodworking, metalworking, bikes, electronics, furniture, cars, construction - each has its own world of equipment. I'd love to hear what other tools our readers think should be in a starter tool box. Put your suggestions in the comments.
This week Eric Strebel's got a great video up that every new ID student should watch. Let's say you want to build something relatively precise, in this case a cylindrical vessel that can hold exactly 500mL, and you want it to have a nice radius around the base and a friction-fit lid. But you have very limited resources, no CAD skills, no digital fabrication machines, and not even shop access. What do you do?
Over the last two years, we've witnessed a seachange in motorcycle instrument clusters as OEMs move from physical dials and simple LCD displays to Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD displays. These screens, while not new technology, are new to motorcycles and allow manufacturers to utilize every pixel, color range and motion possibility.
The problem we see is that they are using every pixel, color and motion possibility.
But, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Motorcycle manufacturers are making the mistake of their automotive counterparts, leaning into excess without understanding what riders want and need to see at any given moment.
This piece is written for riders, by riders. And, while there are many technical and regulatory considerations in the design of vehicle clusters, the following points represent greater truths that will improve the rider experience.
Reduce complexity, increase context
A quick audit of current motorcycle clusters reveals how much information is shown to riders all at once. This information deluge forces riders to search for information, taking their eyes off the road for precious seconds. In London, motorcyclists make up 27% of deaths or serious injury despite representing less than 1% of trips in London - improving cluster design can reduce these statistics and even save lives. OEMs should employ adaptive hierarchies with contextual empathy to display information according to what is most needed by the rider.
For example, when starting a motorcycle, a screen could show the system check that fades into a fuel gauge and gear indicator if everything is in order, revealing an uncluttered interface. Further, with the kickstand down and the bike in neutral, the rider hardly needs to know they are not moving. Instead, use this case to display something useful like range to empty, distance to fuel or even a weather report.
Design for "Glanceability"
Motorcyclists face great challenges to simply seeing their instrument cluster - limited field of vision from a helmet, rain and even vibrations all create design challenges.
In designing a motorcycle cluster, standard user interface elements really matter – typeface choices can reduce glance time by 10% and lowercase vs. uppercase letters dramatically increase readability of presented words - this time saved could equate to a shorter stopping distance, for example, saving the lives of a pedestrian or rider.
Remember Your brand
Biking is about the marriage of passion and functionality - this connects deeply to branding. Ducati owners will speak passionately about their bike's styling and handling while BMW owners will speak about their efficiency and functionality. This is a brand conversation with riders and it must extend into the cluster design.
There are, of course, many restrictions around use of color which can hinder branding and not all brands use the most glanceable of fonts that lend themselves to instruments. That said, not considering the manufacturers brand, and even the colorways of the bike itself, in the design of a cluster is a missed opportunity.
The application of these straightforward principles across motorcycle instrument clusters has the possibility to offer riders more relevant information in a safer and brand-true way that deepens a rider's connection to their bike and the manufacturer that built it.
Have you read our advice on building out a design student toolbox starter pack yet? The tape measure is of course an essential item on that list, and now you can buy a high-quality one at a crazy cheap price.
Starrett is a measurement tools company known for their precision. So is Starrett retailer Woodpeckers. Both companies are also known for their high prices, so we were very surprised to see that Woodpeckers is currently having a sale on Starrett's Exact 1" x 25' tape measure, which normally goes for $15 to $20 online, for a piddling $6.99!
I could go on and on about tape measures, and in an upcoming post I will; but for now, if you're an ID student tired of borrowing the school shop's beat-up tape measure and you want your own, this one here is a pretty darned good deal.
Rank these in order of which you think is most interesting:
1. Hearing a designer talk about their work
2. Hearing a designer explain how they got started
3. Hearing a designer describe their formative experiences
For me it's definitely 3, 2, 1. It's fascinating to hear what things a prominent creative did and saw in their childhood and youth that caused them to pursue their chosen profession.
This Fortune interview with Frank Gehry is great because he talks a lot about #3. He also touches on how software evolution helped demystify the construction of complicated curves, which then reduced cost, and mentions an accidental discovery of a material property that influenced his design of the Guggenheim in Bilbao:
The full print interview is even more interesting; who knew Gehry once worked as a truck driver, was drafted into the army, and had to change his last name? Read it here.
Whether you're fighting with your spouse, out of gas in the middle of nowhere or living life as a fugitive, there may be times when you need to sleep in your car. But just because you're on the FBI's Most Wanted list doesn't mean you're a contortionist; you want a flat, level, padded surface to lie down on. Most vehicles lack these, so what do you do?
If you have an SUV or large wagon, you can treat yourself to one of these:
Or if the back seat of your car is wider than you are tall, or if you're willing to sleep in the fetal position, you can get one of these:
Not long enough for you? There's also this unlikely variant:
These mattresses come with their own compressor that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter and inflate themselves. I haven't linked back to any of the manufacturers because, well, I can't imagine any of these are actually comfortable and worth buying. I think you should either get a divorce, start hitchhiking or turn yourself in.
A chainsaw is a huge improvement over its unpowered predecessor, the buck saw a/k/a the two-man crosscut saw. Yet both have their advantages and disadvantages. The buck saw is fuel-free, but does require you have a guy named Paul help you out (everyone knows that Pauls cut faster than fellows with other names). The chainsaw lets you fire Paul and do it yourself, but you need a supply of gasoline and some maintenance know-how.
Enter Silky's Katanaboy 650, which offers the best of both worlds. It folds up for compact storage, weighs less than three pounds, can go a long time between sharpenings, and has an absurdly long 650mm (25.6") blade that cuts incredibly fast.
It also, due to the aggressive design of the teeth, doesn't require as much physical effort as you'd think:
While I lament the length/lack of editing of most disaster prepper videos, I can't deny that they offer the most in-depth tool reviews, carefully going over every design detail and comparing the tool to its alternatives:
At $235 the saw costs more than entry-level chainsaws. But if you don't require the production capacity of a chainsaw and are willing to put in some elbow grease, the Katanaboy 650 provides a relatively fast, quiet, fuel- and maintenance-free alternative.
Navigating the world of crowdfunding can be overwhelming, to put it lightly. Which projects are worth backing? Where's the filter to weed out the hundreds of useless smart devices? To make the process less frustrating, we scour the various online crowdfunding platforms to put together a weekly roundup of our favorite campaigns for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:
The Siletz Modular Carry System is a carry-on sized waterproof backpack meant to withstand any type of traveling condition you can imagine. Bonus for campers: a nifty cooler insert is available.
Welcome to the future: xArm is a robotic arm that can be used by individuals and factories alike to boost productivity. The xArm promises a quick 10-minute set-up, and for an additional practical application, you can attach a camera to the arm to capture difficult process angles.
Simone Giertz's Every Day Calendar stems from a simple (yet all too accurate statement): "Making commitments is easy. Keeping them is what is hard." To motivate you to stick with a particular goal or New Year's Resolution, the Every Day Calendar lights up when you tap the days you accomplished your goal. Remember gold stars from your Kindergarten years? Here's your upgrade.
Laserlight Core projects the symbol of a bike onto the road so that pedestrians and cars can see the rider in what would have previously been their blind spot. Simple, but effective.
MAKERphone aims to eliminate the mystery behind what's in our mobile phones. Code your way to your own personal mobile phone, adding classic games like Space Invaders, Pong and Snake along the way.
Do you need help designing, developing, patenting, manufacturing, and/or selling YOUR product idea? MAKO Design + Invent is a one-stop-shop specifically for inventors / startups / small businesses. Click HERE for a free confidential product consultation.
Yesterday, Hive launched an outdoor version of their Hive camera, the Hive View Outdoor. This marks the third home security product designed by fuseproject for Hive and the first that is able to operate outdoors. The Hive View Outdoor maintains the design language of the Hive View with the added bonus of extra security layers specifically for monitoring the outdoors.
Let's get down to some of the most noteworthy new features. First it's important to note that the camera features a live HD video feed and automatic storage, so you can both watch the footage in real-time and play it back later. Hive camera's indoor predecessors didn't need to withstand many elements, but since the Hive View Outdoor camera lives outside, it is equipped to withstand harsh and changing weather conditions.
As soon as it gets dark outside, the camera automatically enables night vision. I hope the only burglars you'd see at night are raccoons stealing your trash, but if not, this is a handy feature that requires no thought to activate. The camera also includes two-way audio, so you can communicate with said raccoons and try to scare them away with your voice.
"The camera is about the size of a tennis ball and carries over many of the significant features we designed for View. We have maintained the glass camera front and circular LED array that displays when the camera cycles through its modes, with the same user options to reduce this signal to a single small discreet light. The cubed View Outdoor Camera is made of same PCABS plastic and uniquely formed out of a single molding–the geometric rounded volume is cognizant of both the Hive thermostat and camera designs."
"We designed a simple arm that pairs with the back of the camera via magnets to allow for the easiest setup/installation in the category. The mounting plate is about the size of pocket change and can be screwed into the wall, understanding that most people will be on a ladder or elevated surfaces we wanted an easy way to attach View Outdoor to the arm. Since the Camera is only attached magnetically we designed hidden anti-theft features to keep the camera attached to the stand and to the house. The arm and mounting bracket have a channel that allows the power cord to discreetly and easily reach the camera through the wall. Additionally, we have designed a key that allows locking of the power cord into the device."
A lot of media outlets are talking about how the Air Force has been buying easily-breakable coffee mugs for $1,200. But no one is talking about a visually obvious error that should be glaring to any Core77 reader.
First off, here's the mug in question. It contains a heating element, hence the prongs at left--it plugs into an outlet on the KC-10 Extender, a jet refueling aircraft that dates back to 1981 yet is still in service. Once plugged in, it keeps the coffee hot.
What's led to the news reports is that crew members will occasionally drop the mugs, which is understandable. And when they drop them, that right angle on the bottom of the handle hits the ground and the handle breaks. The manufacturer--who is, frustratingly, unnamed--does not offer replacement handles. The mug is no good without the handle so the Air Force is Air Forced to buy an entirely new mug, price $1,220, each time one breaks.
Folks, take a close look at the object and something will become obvious: The handles have been attached upside down.
Not only that, it appears these were attached upside down on purpose. Below, I've added some letters to explain.
Up top, "B," we see a black knob attached to a hinged lever. Pressing down on that knob presumably releases the seal on the lid, allowing you to open it. By looking at point "C" on the knob, and the location of pivot point "D," it's possible that if the handle was located with the right angle up top, point "C" would contact point "A", preventing it from opening.
If that is true, it would indicate that the manufacturer is working with off-the-shelf parts and could not, or would not, go to the trouble/expense of manufacturing a custom handle. So they simply inverted it.
If working with off-the-shelf parts, you'd think this item would be a lot cheaper than $1,220 a pop. Especially since they cost $693 just two years ago, according to Military.com:
According to Air Mobility Command officials, the 60th Aerial Port Squadron purchased 10 hot cups for $9,630 in 2016. The price for each cup surged from $693 to $1,220 in 2018, resulting in a cost of $32,000 for 25 cups -- a price jump of $527 per cup, the release said.
In any case, thankfully the problem has been solved, or at least ameliorated, by a 3D printer. The folks at Travis Air Force Base's Phoenix Spark program, a rapid innovation initiative with access to digital manufacturing equipment, have designed and 3D printed a replacement handle for the mugs.
"Our office was asked to see if we could produce a 3D-designed handle that is stronger than the current one," [said Capt. Ryan McGuire, 60th Air Mobility Wing Phoenix Spark chief and a KC-10 Extender pilot with the 9th Air Refueling Squadron].
[Nicholas Wright, a volunteer 3D designer and printer with the Phoenix Spark office] compared the 3D-printed handle to a tree, layered through many rings to give it strength. "The new handle has stacked layers with a solid piece around it so it's similar to the layers of a tree," he said.
Each 3D-printed handle will cost roughly 50 cents.
…Wright said it took about a week to develop a solution for the hot cup handle "from learning the software to figuring how to physically print it."
ID students, take note: Eventually you may want to present a project in metal. Depending on the object you design, it may be easier to fabricate the object in wood, then paint it to look like metal. Alternatively, you could skin a wooden object in sheet metal, which raises the problem of fasteners--do you want to see exposed screw heads? You could use adhesive, but you've got to be pretty bang-on, and it might be tough to undo an error.
I'm a new fan of designer/builder Matt Jackson's YouTube channel, as he's got tons of useful fabrication tips on it. His latest is how to attach sheet metal to wood, using this interesting "reverse rivet" method:
I'm digging the look of the rivets and the simplicity of the method!