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- 11/05/18--13:36: _Design Job: Zoku Is...
- 11/05/18--13:36: _There's a Japanese ...
- 11/05/18--13:36: _If Modern Day Tech ...
- 11/05/18--13:36: _Noah Deledda's Incr...
- 11/05/18--16:15: _Reader Submitted: T...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Design Job: Santa C...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Democrats vs. Repub...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _5 Ways to Get More ...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Unusual Vintage Fur...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Lego is Crowdfundin...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Leica's FOTOS App: ...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Reader Submitted: A...
- 11/06/18--14:39: _Behind the Scenes o...
- 11/07/18--06:57: _Here's Your Chance ...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _Can Furniture Desig...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _A Look at Gaming Wo...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _Woman Builds a Bamb...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _Tools & Craft #...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _Steven M. Johnson's...
- 11/07/18--20:56: _Tools We Want to Tr...
- 11/05/18--13:36: If Modern Day Tech Brands Produced Old-School Physical Products
- 11/05/18--13:36: Noah Deledda's Incredible Hand-Formed Aluminum Cans
- 11/06/18--14:39: 5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Brainstorming Session
- 11/06/18--14:39: Lego is Crowdfunding Lego Forma for Grown-Ups
- 11/07/18--06:57: Here's Your Chance to Visit a Passive House, This Nov. 9th Thru 11th
- 11/07/18--20:56: Woman Builds a Bamboo Furniture Set from Scratch
Zoku is an innovative product development company located in Hoboken, NJ. Our company is focused on creating design-driven products. With roots in design consulting, Zoku prioritizes design as strategy and operates more like a design consultancy than a traditional corporation. We are the recipient of numerousView the full design job here
The rumor is, it got started like this:
1. Japanese motorcycle racing enthusiasts needed a way to transport their bikes to the track.
2. Someone realized that the handful of secondhand Dodge cargo vans imported to Japan were perfect for the job--large enough to carry a bike, but stilly stubby enough to navigate Japanese streets. (And presumably cheap, because no one in Japan wants unstylish Dodge Ram vans made from 1971-2003.)
3. Japan being Japan, everyone started using Dodge Rams to transport their bikes to the track.
4. One day during a break, some jokester pulled one of the vans onto the track, and barreled through a run. The incongruity elicited laughter, and others pulled their vans onto the track to give it a try. Then they realized it was fun.
Now there's a robust subculture for Dajiban (say "Dodge van" with a Japanese accent), led by the website Dodgevanracing.com and supported by modding shops like Abe Chuko Kamotsu ("Abe Secondhand Cargo Van"). That shop's proprietor, Abe Takuro, is tasked with custom-crafting elaborate Ram hacks because, as Dodgevanracing.com owner Takahiro Okawa told Road & Track, "There is nothing specific for Dodge vans, performance-oriented, so he has to build it."
Takuro opened his shop, which only handles Ram vans, last year; he now has over 100 clients.
Here's a look at how a typical Dajiban track day goes down:
To learn more about this subculture, check out any of the links above. The R&T article has some great gems in it, like the following: "Abe's gray 1994 Ram 150 serves as development mule for customer modifications; he says that he has 'the price of a new Ferrari' in it, and that it hasn't been washed in 20 years."
Lastly, remember Dodgevanracing.com's motto: "No Dodge van, no life."
What if we lived in a world where the internet didn't exist--but Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and other tech brands did? What physical conveyance would they use to deliver their services to us? That's the fanciful question asked, and answered in rendering form, by designer Thomas Ollivier:
Remember that early design school assignment where you're given a block of material (at my school, wood, at another school I'd heard about, aluminum) and asked to transform it into something using whatever means you choose? The assignment is purposely kept vague, as students are encouraged to be as creative as possible.
If the assignment was to transform an aluminum can, rather than a block, Noah Deledda would get an "A."
Incredibly, artist/designer Deledda produces the cans by hand:
Check out more of his work here.
Taiwanese designers Liang-Jung Chen and Shuei-Yuan Yang have designed a collection of homewares called "The Misused". The design was inspired by how elders in the countryside of Taiwan creatively improvise daily necessities with existing objects. The collection aims to re-fulfill the potentials of everyday metal hardwares by misusing them with a twist of humor.
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Santa Cruz Bicycles is searching for an experienced Industrial Designer to be a part of the team that is designing best in class frames and components from concept through to detailed production ready designs. You will help develop and maintain a product design language that is appropriate for our brandView the full design job here
Happy Election Day. This morning I voted at my local polling station, which is in an agricultural community center (I live in farm country). The lawn was festooned with signs for both the Democratic and Republican candidates for my congressional district--and surprisingly, both signs were overwhelmingly blue in color.
This might seem puzzling as Democrats are associated with blue, Republicans with red. But the Center for American Politics and Design, after archiving every campaign logo for these 2018 Congressional elections, have uncovered patterns that explain which party opts for which color based on local conditions. Both parties, it turns out, actually prefer to use blue:
A few outliers, primarily Democrats, will opt for more unusual colors like green and purple:
For some reason, the majority of candidates who go for purple are women:
And orange political logos, in my opinion, don't look very political at all, reminding me instead of restaurant signs:
CAPD has uncovered some logos where the designer, perhaps unintentionally, took a little inspiration from corporate logos:
Lastly, for those of you who have successfully committed voter fraud, please share your story in the comments!
Ah, the brainstorming session. It's the cornerstone of team interactions and project-based workflows everywhere. Traditional brainstorming sessions—the ones where everyone sits around a conference table and takes turns throwing out ideas—can be effective, but there are definitely better ways to go about it. If your brainstorming sessions operate the same way they did 10 years ago—or even 2 years ago—it may be time for an update.
Are your brainstorming sessions losing their luster? Are you ready to supercharge your team's creative powers to help them come up with new, better, and more innovative solutions?
Then it's time for you to check out these strategies for getting more your of your next brainstorming session:
- Online brainstorming
- Figuring storming
- Sticky note ideation
1. Online brainstorming
The increasing prevalence of virtual teams has in turn made online brainstorming and increasingly common practice, but this technique is valuable for anyone who is organizing a team project. The key to online brainstorming is creating a central location where everyone can collaborate on a single brainstorming document.
Not only does this allow you to include team members who may not be in the conference room with you—it also gives your team the ability to review or add to conversations started in person later on. Since people reach their peak creativity at different points in their day, creating an collaborative online document to house all of your team's thoughts and ideas ensures that everybody has the chance to put their best and brightest ideas into the ring.
How to do it: Host a brief kickoff meeting where you go over the problem, do some light brainstorming, and share the online brainstorming document with your team. Give your team a few days to add to the document before reconvening for more thorough brainstorming.
2. Brain Writing
If you've ever dappled in creative writing, you might be familiar with the process of freewriting—when a writer sits down and writes out everything that comes to mind without editing or interfering with the flow of ideas at all. This same basic principle can be applied to other projects as well.
The benefit of brain writing is that it separates the process of ideation—or idea generation—from discussion, allowing your team to fully develop their ideas before sharing them.
How to do it: At the beginning of your brainstorming session, have your team spend a few minutes writing down all of their thoughts about the issue. These can range from analyzing stakeholders or identifying personas to really digging into a particular idea they have about where the project should go.
3. Figure Storming
Sometimes cracking a difficult problem is all a matter of perspective. If your team is getting stuck on a certain problem or aspect of a project, it might be time for them to step back and look at the situation from another person's point of view.
Now, we're not talking about stakeholders or users here—incorporating those perspectives is a part of the design process to begin with. Figure storming is a creative exercise that involves choosing a completely unrelated figure, and using their point of view to help your team think about the project or problem in new ways.
How to do it: Select a well-known figure with (and this part is key) an extremely clear set of values or ideas. For example, you might select Abe Lincoln, your favorite pop star, a superhero, or any other figure your team feels comfortable working with. Then simply begin with the question "What would Abe/the pop star/the superhero/etc. do?" and watch the ideas start flowing.
While this strategy sounds pretty sweet, it unfortunately has nothing to do with the candy (although if you really wanted it to, you could certainly reinvigorate your team with some sugary snacks).
Many brainstorming sessions start out with a team discussing what they already know about the problem or project at hand. Starbursting flips this strategy on its head by replacing statements with questions. It's more or less an extension of the Socratic teaching method—which means Starbursting is all about asking questions in order to really prove what you know about a topic.
How to do it: Instead of asking your team what they know about the situation, ask them to focus on what they don't know. Have your team formulate questions about the project, and make sure to write all of them down. You may have the answers to some of the questions already, but spending some time thinking about what information isn't the most obvious can help you reveal important revelations about the project.
5. Sticky Note Ideation
Sticky note ideation sounds somewhat whimsical, but it's actually an extremely powerful brainstorming tool that is used to promote rapid ideation and help eliminate creative roadblocks like groupthink.
During a sticky note ideation session, your team will write each of their ideas out on sticky notes—one idea per note. Sticky notes can include everything from questions and thoughts to suggestions and solutions. After ideating independently, the group comes together and shares their sticky notes, which should facilitate discussion.
How to do it: Give each team member a Sharpie and a pad of sticky notes. Give them 5 minutes to work independently, and tell them to get as many thoughts down on sticky notes as possible. At the end of the 5 minutes, go around and have each person explain their thoughts as they place their sticky notes in the center of the table or on a wall. Stack any duplicate sticky notes that come up as you go around the room. Discuss different ways of organizing the sticky notes and—more importantly—actually manipulate the sticky notes as you think about combining ideas.
Brainstorming has always been a key part of getting any project off the ground, but that doesn't mean the brainstorming process has to be old and tired. Get more out of your next brainstorming session by testing out these tips, tricks, and tools for jumpstarting your team's creativity.
This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.
Currently for sale at antiques dealer 1st Dibs is this funky, bi-level desktop, built circa 1910 by the Hamilton Manufacturing Company.
This is no luxury piece; you can see that the lower worksurface is composed of narrow boards, edge-laminated together. The choice of oak indicates durability is desired.
There is a higher secondary surface, tilted at a 45-degree angle. And we can see that the rear contains a third tilted surface. The gentle arcs on the side supports (as opposed to a corner-to-corner straight line) indicate this third surface is meant to be accessed.
So what's this thing for?
Typesetting equipment can be stored on the rear shelf…
…and brought around to the front lower shelf, as needed.
The uppermost shelf is used for the typesetter to compose their work.
Yours for just $4,500. And if that sounds steep, consider that what appears to be the same exact piece (at least, using the same exact photos) recently sold for $8,500 on 1st Dibs competitor Modern50.
Plenty of adults, like this architect, love Legos. But the Danish toy giant is making a bid to attract more grown-ups to their products with Lego Forma, a new line of "mechanical models [that] are cleverly designed but simple to assemble."
"Sturdy rods and parts combine with customizable skins to create a joyful creative challenge. Taking design cues from nature, LEGO FORMA incorporates life-like movement, colors, and patterns."
To dip their foot into the pool before diving in, the company is holding a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo for the first Forma products:
It looks like their gamble has paid off; at press time they were 1,132% funded, with two days left in the campaign.
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As your typical designer type who occasionally likes to dabble in a bit of photography, it's always surprised and, frankly frustrated me just how poor the connectivity experiences of leading camera brands can be. Stumping up the cash for a high-end DSLR, you'd expect that these kinds of smart features would be meticulously thought through. All too often though, the simple act of getting your photos from your camera to your various devices can be clunky, convoluted and unreliable, performed with about as much UI style and sophistication as a late-90s PalmPilot. Simply sharing a shot on Instagram can turn into quite a mission. More often than not, the micro-usb to usb cable to a laptop seems like the simplest option, despite being painfully inconvenient when on the move, and requiring an extra step to get the files on to a mobile device.
I must say I breathed a small sigh of relief when Leica recently announced the release of a new camera companion app that is sure to raise the game of the industry. Launching alongside the fantastically bold new screen-less M10D (an analogue-inspired digital camera intended to allow photography purists to focus on the shooting) the Leica FOTOS app is heralded as a means to allow users to work seamlessly between camera and phone—offering full photo reviewing, as well as the ability to download either JPG or raw DNG data straight to a smartphone.
A simple app might not typically be much interest to an ID audience, but in this case, we couldn't help but appreciate the charm of a digital design that pays homage to the Leica's distinctive industrial design heritage. For all the recent debate around 'physical-digital experiences'—few Medium articles, conference panels or agency sales pitches are complete without at least one mention of the topic these days—there are still precious few examples of this being done well. It struck us as something quite rare to behold—such consistency of design philosophy and attention to detail across both object and screen.
Unlike some other big camera brands, Leica has managed to evolve pretty gracefully into the digital age. Part of the brand's ongoing success seems to stem from an admirable determination to remain true to its design and photographic heritage and philosophy—their flagship digital models every bit as designed for purity, exquisitely crafted and satisfyingly tactile as any of their analogue predecessors.
Speaking to Nico Köhler, Product Manager at Leica, we learned that the FOTOS app represents something of a shift for the German manufacturer's camera business—a move from thinking simply about engineering great products to providing great experiences (a refrain that is increasingly common amongst product manufacturers these days). Historically very much a hardware company at heart, Leica enlisted the help of London-based design studio Little Voice to guide them through the year-long process of creating this new app. Speaking to co-founders Vlad Khokhlov and Dmytro Izotov, we heard more about the design story behind the app. The pair—knowing a few things about 'digital-physical' design, having been around the block a few times in long careers at the likes of Sony, Nokia, Microsoft and Skype before setting up shop in 2017—expressed how crucial it was for the app project team, as well as the wider company as a whole, to rediscover their design principles and reinterpret them for the age of connected experiences. The understated simplicity of the result with it's subtle references to the design language of the brand's cameras is, they suggest, a digital interpretation of the company's commitment to 'Das Wesentliche' ('the Essentials'). 'We were determined to reach the same level of craftsmanship that traditionally goes into all Leica products' the duo told us. Whilst for the brand's hardware this means a legendary, almost fanatical level of hand finishing, the digital expression, in this case, was many months of iteration and refinement of the app design and intense focus on the details.
If you've got a Leica and have tried out the FOTOS app, do let us know if the experience lives up to the promise of these press shots.
A collection comprising a mirror, a desk lamp and a pencil case using only the tension of an elastic band.
If you work in design, study design, or even if industrial design is on your radar in any capacity, you are likely familiar with the work of Dieter Rams. Known for his time designing iconic products for Braun and later Vitsœ, Rams' 10 Principles of Design have garnered him a top spot on the list of most influential industrial designers of our time. We won't give too much of Rams' design story away, as director Gary Hustwit did the work for us with his new feature-length documentary, RAMS, which is all about the life and philosophies of the eponymous designer.
RAMS hasn't released yet, but I had the exciting chance to attend the New York screening at SVA's theater last month. I was expecting the film to serve as a timeline for Rams-designed products, but the crowd ended up being treated to so much more. Instead of solely focusing on Rams' work, Hustwit chose to tell a more compelling story—that of a designer who spent his entire career bringing beloved consumer products to life but deeply regrets (and continues to contemplate) the role his products played in creating a wasteful, disposable society.
Hustwit structured the documentary around Rams' backstory, both personal and professional. The film comprised of dialogue from Rams and his colleagues sandwiched between moments left with nothing but the powerful sounds of Brian Eno's original soundtrack and striking visuals of products and architecture. Naturally, I left hungry for more information, but there was no denying that Hustwit's stripped-down editing style appropriately played homage to Rams' 10 Principles of Design and the designer's personality.
To give a glimpse into the making of RAMS, I've combined tidbits from the Q&A session held after the NYC screening with Hustwit and Mark Adams, Managing director of Vitsœ, with a separate follow-up interview with Hustwit:
When you started working on RAMS, did you realize the film would turn into something larger than design—a whole commentary on consumerism?
Gary Hustwit: Yeah, the contradiction of Dieter regretting being a designer and feeling like he played a part in getting us to the consumerist point we're at is exactly why I wanted to do this. He said something early on in the film about how we are going through another period of technological and social change due to a completely different global/cultural situation. Working on this film has been three and a half years of meeting with Dieter, talking with him and trying to understand how things have changed. The world has changed in a lot of ways over that time, and I think that is reflected in the kind of conversations I was having with Dieter and with the other people in the film.
A lot of what Dieter has done over the past 20 years since he's been out of design has really crystallized his thinking around sustainability issues and his whole less but better philosophy. That is what pushed me over the edge to do the film. If it would have just been, "Wow Dieter is amazing, look at all this amazing design he did"... That's fine too, but that was only part of what interested me in his story.
In some ways, I wish I didn't have to talk about his designs. I realize that they're obviously the reason he's well-known, but I was much more interested in encapsulating his philosophy in the film than I was talking about the radius of a curve on a radio. Dieter spent so much time thinking about how we relate to consumer electronics and decided to not be involved in creating digital products. He has this really objective view on the behavioral changes that smartphones and additional technology have brought around. He has this incredible point of view that's informed by a 60-year career of designing and making products.
"It was a lot of work to persuade Dieter and Ingeborg to open up one last time. They felt that everything they've said is already in the public domain. They have nothing more to say, and yet this seemed to be a glaring omission. I think it's fantastic that we've got this." —Mark Adams
Mark Adams: I'm a great believer in the pendulum. It swings, and it can over-swing. I think Dieter would certainly have the argument that the digital pendulum is over-swinging at the moment. We just need to come back somewhat. Dieter often talks about what limited resources he had growing up and what limited education he had because his education was frankly completely interrupted by the war. He took a great deal of inspiration from that. He would go back to, "Where did the modern movement come from?" Well, the modern movement came from the destruction of WWII. Therefore, it was all about cleanliness and light—it wasn't about cool white spaces that were going to have a particular aesthetic. It was all about health. It was all about sweeping away the destruction that had become before.
Rams' 10 Principles of Design were, rightfully so, a major theme in RAMS. Did you consider the Principles while filming and editing the documentary? Which principle out of Rams' 10 Principles of Design do you think shines through most in the film (deliberately or non-deliberately)?
GH: We had the 10 principles taped up on the wall next to the editing computer, and number 10 ended up shining through the most. I kept thinking about number 10 in terms of how to structure the film and even just with incorporating simplicity as much as possible into the making of the film. It'd be impossible to make a cluttered, messy film about Dieter Rams. I kept thinking about that as well as the overall length of the film. It was longer before, but I kept going through it and reducing, reducing, reducing. That's the editing process for a documentary anyway, but for this one, it felt especially critical. With every scene we had to ask ourselves, do we need this extra line? Well, no, the point's been made. Okay great. We went down the list and tried to make it as streamlined as possible.
Given that Dieter and his wife Ingeborg are extremely private people, what particular factors did you have to take into consideration when deciding how to approach, and eventually, document them on film?
GH: They really are very private people. I think there's a generational difference, and it might even be a German thing. This idea of sharing details about your private life and talking about your personal relationship with someone else is not something that they do. I would've loved to interview Ingeborg. We spent a ton of time with her, but she didn't want to talk on camera, and I respected that. But, they kind of chastised me a little bit about it (laughs). They were like, "We're not like you Americans—always wanting to talk about everything that you feel."
Dieter is really fastidious about his house, which is one of the reasons why he doesn't like the media and doesn't let people come into his house anymore to do any kind of filming or photography. He's tired of having people disrupt his living space. We look at that house and we think it's like a museum or something—it's amazing. But it's really their private home that they've lived in for 50 years, and you have to respect that. Everything from taking our shoes off when we're inside and being really careful about everything to just showing overall respect for their environment was really important. For all of the filming we did in his home, we didn't use lighting. Luckily, there's a ton of natural light in that house, and it looks beautiful.
"Everybody wants things quickly now, but it's refreshing to take your time sometimes. This film took me three and a half years. Could I have made it in one year? Probably, but it wouldn't have been the same." —Gary Hustwit
We were trying to do as little filmmaking as possible—just the bare minimum of our equipment and our crew. It was really, really stripped down, and I think he appreciated that when we came into his space. It's definitely the reason he came back to work with us again. Every time I saw him after that first time, he would bring it up. "Oh, you guys were so amazing, you had no equipment." He appreciated that we were low impact basically—as little design as possible.
Everybody wants things quickly now, but it's refreshing to take your time sometimes. This film took me three and a half years. Could I have made it in one year? Probably, but it wouldn't have been the same. I wouldn't have documented all the things I got to document like building the Vitsœ headquarters. Even working with Brian Eno wouldn't have happened if I had finished the film earlier. There are benefits to slowing down the process, especially with a long-form documentary.
What was the process of working with Brian Eno like, and how did you connect with him?
GH: I had a sense that somehow Rams and Eno would work together. There's some sort of shared aesthetic there, and I had a feeling that maybe Eno was a fan of Rams. I called Eno's manager and sure enough, he was a fan, and it went from there. Brian just wants to be in the studio creating. Anything else is extraneous. I would show him a ton of footage, and then he would use it as inspiration to write and then he'd send us tracks. I'm a huge fan of his work, so it was incredible to work with him. I think there is something there—a lot of times I can't put my finger on it, but I know there was some crossover or some sort of a symbiosis.
Why did you decide to start using Kickstarter to help fund your films, including RAMS?
GH: I originally got into film through music. I'd helped some friends produce a couple music documentaries, and in those cases, the fans of the band wanted to see the result even more than we did. Engaging the audience and involving them in the process of making the documentaries was already something that we were doing. I always think along the lines of, "How am I going to go into a boardroom of investors and convince them to make a film about a font?" It would never have happened. But there are other people like you who want to see these projects made too, so why can't we get together and make this thing happen? Kickstarter formalized this idea.
What were some of the main challenges you and your team faced while creating RAMS?
GH: Subtitles change the way you pace the film. There's that looking and reading, looking and reading, looking and reading; it gets hard. When I first came up with the idea for the film four years ago, I wanted it just to be in Dieter's voice, and it was going to be simple. Objectified and Urbanized both had other languages besides English, but it was very specific for scenes—only two or three minutes at a time—so it wasn't like this where the majority of the dialogue is German. But you have to do these things in a person's original language. It would have been silly to have Dieter push through and try to do it all in English. I ended up having a great group of design experts, finders, curators, and others who would be right next to me, having the conversations with topics already in mind. Then we'd take breaks and discuss them afterward.
"The 10 principles worked for Rams, but people can and should make their own principles. Create a written set of ideals and then, when you see something that you think is bad, you have a framework to justify why it is bad." —Gary Hustwit
The 99% of things you have to leave out is also tough. Dieter has had an incredibly long career. I was more interested in his ideas and philosophies, especially about culture now, than I was about his classic Braun designs. Trying to balance all of these themes out was a huge challenge. It really was about the 10 principles. I was trying to keep things as pure as possible, but there's so much to talk about. I think we definitely go into the specifics of his designs and design philosophy. I'm not sure it would have come out if we didn't—maybe the zen diaries of Dieter Rams or something. It took me ten years to get enough trust to film him in the backyard with a bonsai tree. Maybe in another ten years, we'll finish shooting something else.
Are there any other designers that you can see yourself making a feature-length film about in the future?
GH: Every designer or architect in any of my films deserves a full-length documentary. I can't exactly say why Dieter was the one that I decided to do. Part of it was that I felt that if I didn't push and try to do it, then it would never happen. I kept thinking about how if I didn't do it, there won't be a Dieter Rams film or there'll be some crappy one that comes out after he's dead. I mean, I personally really wanted to watch it, and that's what motivates me. There are so many incredible designers who all deserve having films about them, and I'm assuming you guys want to watch more design documentaries about designers, so I'll try to keep making them.
The architecture in the film was particularly striking. Who is the architect of Rams' house?
MA: It's unattributed who actually designed the whole estate. It's one of those don't believe everything you read on the internet things. Dieter does not live in a house that he designed. He designed the interior, but he did not design the dimensions of it.
On a similar note, the Vitsœ headquarters was a major setting in the film due to Rams' involvement during the design process. Who is the actual architect of the building?
MA: No architects for the Vitsœ building. We started with academics about eight years ago, sitting down at Cambridge University and Imperial College and contemplating, "How might we go about this?". We had about 30 really good brains who contributed to it. Only when we got to the point where we completely designed it, we then had to deliver it. We were then told that you legally have to have architects involved. So at that point, we brought in a firm of delivery architects who were specialists in timber architecture.
Dia:Beacon was one of the main inspirations for the building. I measured out every aspect of Dia:Beacon one cold Sunday in February. Being in that space and talking to the gallery assistants was the final confirmation for me. They have very artistically educated gallery assistants who just oozed the joy of being in a naturally lit space. That's what we'd been wanting to do. We came away from that day and just said, "Absolutely this is what we have to do."
Vitsœ is a rare kind of furniture company that doesn't relentlessly come up with new products, which is very much in line with Rams' philosophy. In a culture where you typically need to make more product to make more money, how can this type of business be sustainable?
MA: I get this question asked often: How can you have a viable business from persuading as many customers as possible to buy as little as possible from you that they're going to use preferably for generations? We actually see people put our furniture in their wills and hand it on. The way we do it? There are 7.2 billion people on this planet, and the vast majority of them have not heard of Vitsœ. That is our opportunity—every single person that we can take from operating a certain way to coming over to our side. We see that word "fulfillment" come across them. There are those few objects experiences that you have in your life that genuinely give you fulfillment rather than short term satisfaction. That is the trick. Once we get people into our world, they very rarely leave it. Then we see them literally physically drag other people into our spaces and say, "Here you are, Vitsœ." They all bloody well sought us out. So that is the only way in which the model works. It's that tremendous power of word of mouth.
As Neils Vitsœ was coming towards the end of his life, there was very much the chip on his shoulder that he knew he had always been 30, 40 years ahead of the curve, and yet commercially that is a very very difficult place to be. Dieter often talks about the late '50s, early '60s at Braun, and how there were senior resignations from the company at that point because what they were doing was way too far ahead of the market. There were people inside the company who were saying, "This is insanity, this is not going to work." There's no doubt in my mind that the Vitsœ journey is a difficult one.If anyone wants to go and setup a business to make money, do not do it like Vitsoe. I would, however, argue that we need many more businesses like Vitsœ on our single planet with its single planet's worth of resources when 7.2 billion of us are here and we need three planets.
You get a sense of humility from watching the documentary, but in person, do you get the feeling that Dieter recognizes his impact on design and the world at large?
GH: I don't think he regrets the work that he did—I think he's really proud of it—but, I think he sees the connections from the 1960s post-war mass production to where we're at now. I think feeling complicit in that development is his regret, along with the sustainability part of this; being someone who is working at a company that was churning out a lot of mass-produced plastic goods. I think the difference is that they designed them to last. You can buy a Braun juicer from the 70s or a coffee maker or any of these products or an alarm clock, they still work just as well as they did back then. It's just a different philosophy. I think as you see that change, he's really annoyed by it, as you can tell from the film.
"Dieter is not interested in any more products—he's interested in transmitting his 65 years of experience to the next generations." —Mark Adams
A student came up to me after watching the film and said, "Wow, the 10 Principles are such a great idea. We need to be able to talk more about what's good and bad design like Dieter does, but I don't really know how to do that." That was really what the ten principles were about. They weren't meant to be this overreaching design philosophy or for Rams to push out to the masses; they were created for his team to have some rules because, at the time, they didn't have any guidelines during their design process. The 10 principles worked for Rams, but people can and should make their own principles. Go home and write down the things that are important to you—the things you want to do or don't want to do with your work. Create a written set of ideals and then, when you see something that you think is bad, you have a framework to justify why it is bad.
MA: Can I take you back to the birth of this film? I didn't know it was the birth of it and nor did Gary at the time, but it was about seven years ago in the back of one of Dieter's favorite designs—the black London Taxi. He and I had been in traffic for a while, and we were talking about the state of the world around us as we often do. I was trying to be reassuring to him, and he looked at me earnestly with his steely eyes (because you can look across at each other in a London taxi), and he said, "Mark, but is anyone even listening?"
His fear is that when he dies, his 65 years of professional experience and everything that he has learned will be gone. If we have one unique characteristic as human beings that sets us apart from animals, it's the ability to transmit our knowledge—to learn and to teach. When Gary suggested maybe four years ago that this documentary could be a possibility, that was the argument that I took to Dieter. Maybe this is your opportunity for more people to listen. Now I'm out here promoting this film so I can take back the reassurance to Dieter that there are people listening. That people really do want to hear what he has to say, what he has learned. Dieter is not interested in any more products—he's interested in transmitting his 65 years of experience to the next generations.
Learn more about RAMS here.
I live in a 1,200-square-foot two-story house. This summer, on blazing hot days, the entire house was kept cool by a cheap 5,000-BTU air conditioner in one of the upstairs rooms. Ceiling fans downstairs drew the cold air throughout the house. Even when it was 100-plus degrees outside, when you entered the house you were hit with a blast of cold air.
This is only possible because this energy-efficient house was built with concrete walls that are nearly one foot thick. It requires very little energy to cool the space (or warm it with the built-in radiant floor heating system).
The efficiency gains are even more impressive in an actual Passive House, promulgated by Germany's Passive House Institute.
A Passive House combines thermal insulation with triple-glazed windows and heat-recovering ventilation systems, and are so well-sealed that they can dispense with heating systems altogether; warmth is captured from sunlight coming through the windows and, believe it or not, the normal body heat of residents inside, as well as that given off by appliances.
"A Passive House thus consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings and 75 percent less energy than an average new construction."
A Passive House is something that you really need to see (and feel) to believe. And this month you can, depending on where you live.
The Passive House Institute is sponsoring their annual International Passive House Open Days from November 9th thru the 11th, where owners of the structures open their doors to visitors. There's a map of all of the participating locations here, and for those of you near Long Island, New York, architect Wayne Turett will show you his personal home (pictured above) in Greenport.
You can RSVP here.
All of the problems with breastfeeding in public can be summed up to one word: discomfort. Discomfort in the physical sense is obvious, but the mental discomfort brought on by wandering eyes and potential judgmental gazes can be just as prevalent. Not to mention that public spaces currently dedicated to breastfeeding... well, there are none that we're aware of besides public restrooms. Whether you believe breast feeding should be done in private or anywhere a mother chooses, one thing for certain is that the all around comfort levels during this process need to improve.
heer is a bench that aims to please everyone when it comes to the still controversial act of breastfeeding in public, lying somewhere between secluded and out in the open. The rotating chair at the end of the bench allows for a discreet space when desired, but also for a more social option if the mother has company or even if they feel completely comfortable breastfeeding with no barrier. The swivel chair also gently rocks, helping to calm and relax the baby.
"The idea occurred spontaneously when we witnessed shaming of a young mum for breastfeeding in public place. At that moment we thought, 'Let's make a breastfeeding bench.' After a brief research on blogs, forums and Facebook groups we quickly realized that for a variety of social, cultural and health-related reasons a lot of women have negative experiences. It was also clear that the problem is not only ideological, but more importantly a practical one. And while some attempts to address this issue exist, none of them seemed nearly adequate. Simply put, urban public spaces still lack infrastructure that is adapted to the needs of mothers with little babies." —52Hours Designers Ivana Preiss and Filip Vasic
Ivana Preiss and Filip Vasic of 52Hours envision heer playing a successful role in making public breastfeeding more comfortable in almost any public space, including airports, shopping centers, public transportation terminals and parks. The bench was unveiled to the public as part of 100% Design at this year's London Design Festival, but if you'd like to see one in your city, heer's website gives you the option to request one in your neck of the woods.
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Do you pay attention to how your workspace is arranged? Every successful designer whose workspace I've seen has had a style to it. Some were clean, some were messy, some were minimalist, some were cluttered, but all of them revealed something about that person. The objects that wound up on their desks, the lighting they used, the chairs they sat in all said something about that person's workflow, process, tastes or accomplishments. And they were all spaces for work.
You might think spaces designed for play wouldn't elicit a similar level of attention, being that that's the space where folks unwind and engage in their hobbies. But gamers are a serious lot, and a look at a cross-section of home gaming spaces reveals the attention paid to their layout.
While some are inarguably garish, others are quite tasteful, no? There are several where if you'd told me those were designer's workspaces, I'd have been none the wiser.
If any of you gaming nerds are interested in the particulars of any given set-up, most of the folks linked above have listed all of the details.
If you'd like to give the whole show-and-tell a look-see, it's here.
Talk about self-sufficiency: This handy woman in China, who apparently resides near a bamboo grove, wanted a new furniture set. So she built it herself, from scratch and with local materials, using hand tools. Between the steaming/bending tricks, the pegs and the way she forms the lining for the sofa, there are plenty of clever techniques on display:
Sometimes a person you have never met, and know only through a book, can have enormous influence on you. David R. Russell, the eminent tool collector and author of Antique Woodworking Tools, was such a person for me. I was saddened to hear that he passed away earlier this year at the age of 82.
I never met David Russell, although I own a half dozen or so tools that passed from his collection to mine. His book is a landmark in tool information. I wrote a blog about the book a few years ago when it was first published.
Collectors, if I can generalize for a second, usually collect on a theme. "Everything Stanley," "Tools that are painted Red," "Spokeshaves," "Tools made in my home town." Whatever. What I most appreciated about David's book wasn't that he had an awesomely cool collection - which he did - but he seemed to collect along the same lines as I do: tools of diverse backgrounds united by interesting historical significance.
The great tools of the pre-power tool age are at least fifty years old and in most cases much older. Most examples are worn out and beyond restoration. You can repaint and remove rust, but restoring worn thread and surfaces is largely impossible. Many great specialized tools are no longer available. And of course within the woodworking industry, most of the hand tools we know and love haven't been used for generations. Tool collecting in the style exemplified by David Russell is responsible for many of these tools surviving at all. David's generation of collectors was the first to really do research and try to put things in context. His collecting incorporated understanding the variety of tools, many designed for specific operations and specific crafts. The collection meant that this knowledge was preserved, organized, and published for the next generation of makers and collectors.
For this I am extremely grateful. As someone who uses tools, knowing a tool's origins and purpose made my work easier. And as a tool manufacturer and seller, I know our design and manufacturing decisions were informed by the reference material David and other contemporaries assembled.
I am also grateful for the eclectic interests of collectors, which can give value to oddball tools and blind alleys that would otherwise be discarded. Instead they can get saved and studied. Here is a case in point.
Leonard Bailey and Stanley Tools industrialized planemaking and had impact on tools everywhere. What was the effect on British toolmakers? Why didn't British toolmakers mount an attempt to make a competitive plane that could be priced like a Stanley but work like an English Steel infill plane? The answer is documented in David's book.
The tool in the picture below is a prototype Norris that I purchased when the David Russell collection was broken up and sold. It is Item 1138 in his book. David's thought was that it was an experiment by Thomas Norris, the great London planemaker. According to Russell's book, the plane is from the 1880s when Norris wasn't known (yet) for great tools and just finding his way as a tool seller. This is the time period when Stanley and American mass-produced tools were starting to make inroads in the British tool world. Competing with Stanley was a tough problem. It would take capital, which the small English makers such as Norris did not have. Instead, Norris seems to have bet on keeping the traditional geometry but getting rid of all the hard-to-make parts. This strategy was a failure. I am not aware of any attempts along this line outside of the three prototypes in Russell's book. The Norris plane in the picture was certainly never manufactured.
I have not really put this plane through its paces. The blade is a replacement and doesn't fit properly, and I need to machine a replacement screw for the frog adjustment. I'm guessing that it works adequately, but certainly without a proper adjuster it would be a poor competitor to Stanley, and without stellar performance, it would have difficulty competing with the excellent English wooden planes of the time. So it disappeared. But thanks to collectors like David Russell, the plane wasn't melted down and entirely lost to history. Norris apparently decided to go in the opposite direction and in the next generation went higher and higher end.
There is a lesson to be learned here. The English makers weren't necessarily hobbled by lack of ideas. They simply did not have the capital to compete with modern production -- and the successful ones understood they should not try. They succeeded the same way modern boutique toolmakers succeed today: find a high-end niche, make great products, and don't try to compete with Stanley (or any other mass production giant).
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.
The new Japanese stationary brand Stálogy instantly caught our eye because of their color-coded notepads and pens, but upon digging deeper we discovered a treasure trove much more valuable to designers: gridded translucent sticky notes. You can use your own imagination on how to use them, but the best use we've come up with so far is placing them over a physical or even digital sketch to experiment, critique or suggest new ideas. Need to make small adjustments? They come in a small size. Need to make large adjustments? They come in a large size. Ah, the simple bliss of experimenting on paper without committing to permanent marks.
While you're at it, you might as well go nuts and take a look at some of Stálogy's other nicely designed product offerings:
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