Articles on this Page
- 12/17/18--21:15: _A Smarter Design fo...
- 12/17/18--21:15: _Reader Submitted: A...
- 12/18/18--09:21: _After Saving Polaro...
- 12/18/18--09:21: _VW's Super Cool Hid...
- 12/18/18--09:21: _Design Job: Discove...
- 12/18/18--09:21: _Great, Classic, Lon...
- 12/18/18--09:21: _Having My Feet Scan...
- 12/18/18--22:43: _Reader Submitted: D...
- 12/18/18--22:43: _An Amazon in Queens...
- 12/18/18--22:43: _There's Speculation...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Design Job: Rux Stu...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _LogOX's Brilliant B...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Improving the Ergon...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Dutch Design Week H...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Lincoln Bringing Ba...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _This Is the Tallest...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _frog's Global Team ...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Tools & Craft #...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Steven M. Johnson's...
- 12/19/18--23:08: _Honda's Sound Sitte...
- 12/18/18--09:21: VW's Super Cool Hidden Trailer Hitch
- 12/18/18--09:21: Great, Classic, Long-Lived Design: The Unsung Brannock Device
- 12/18/18--22:43: Reader Submitted: Desk Organizers that Repurpose Discarded Materials
- 12/18/18--22:43: An Amazon in Queens, An Apple Far From Its Tree and Google in NYC
- 12/19/18--23:08: Design Job: Rux Studios Is Seeking a Design Intern in Queens NY
- 12/19/18--23:08: LogOX's Brilliant Back-Saving Forestry Multitool
- 12/19/18--23:08: Improving the Ergonomics of Carrying Awkward Items: The WoodOX Sling
- 12/19/18--23:08: Dutch Design Week Highlights: New Material Award
- 12/19/18--23:08: Lincoln Bringing Back Suicide Doors for the Continental
- 12/19/18--23:08: frog's Global Team Predicts 10 Impactful Tech Trends of 2019
- 12/19/18--23:08: Tools & Craft #120: The Future of Furniture, Part 2 - Goals
- 12/19/18--23:08: Steven M. Johnson's Bizarre Invention #199: Boot Slippers
The design of wheelbarrows absolutely sucks. We have several lying around the farm, both metal and poly, and I consider them worthless.
They easily get stuck in ruts; the tires frequently go flat; they're unwieldy when loaded; they're terrible on uneven ground; they tend to fall over, both when in use and when standing still. We have chicken feed delivered in fifty pound bags, and I've found it's way faster and less frustrating to carry the bags on your shoulder than it is to try moving them in a wheelbarrow.
For gathering firewood, I've taken to using a yard cart:
With four wheels a yard cart is way more stable than a wheelbarrow. But they're not very versatile. The other day I had to move this bunch of chicken cages across the property:
I used the yard cart, but had to make one trip per cage as there was no good way to balance multiples on the yard cart. If I had a hand truck I could have lashed three of them together and reduced the amount of trips.
I started poking around to see if anyone had designed a better wheelbarrow or yard cart. The best thing I found is the Worx Aerocart:
I'm pretty skeptical of anything branded "8-in-1;" the danger with designing versatility into a product is that can sacrifice being good at one thing in order to do a half-assed job at eight things. But the demonstration of the Aerocart makes it look pretty good to me:
A steel wheelbarrow from the local home center runs about $50. Replacing our poly wheelbarrow, about $90. I'm seeing the Aerocart being sold online for about $140, which is more than I'd like to pay, but I am curious to see if it lives up to the hype.
I've also reached that point where I hate paying even small amounts of money for bad design--I don't want to reward companies that make what I consider crappy products--and prefer to save up to spend more money on good design. If any of you are curious to read an honest review of this thing, let me know and I'll probably pick one up.
Instant photos are magical. They develop before your eyes. You can share them, gift them, spill water on them, draw on them. The only problem is that most instant cameras are pretty cheap—that's why I've always wanted to hack my medium format camera to take instant photos with shallow depth of field and sharpness. This project was created in collaboration with Eddie Cohen over the course of one weekend.
Polaroid probably wouldn't exist today were it not for Florian Kaps. (Most people know him by his nickname, Doc Flaps.) When Kaps discovered the company's analog instant film in 2004, he started selling it online and built a community of 40,000 instant photography enthusiasts. In 2008, when Polaroid announced it would stop producing its iconic instant film materials, Kaps bought the factory. And in 2012, he rallied a new generation of instant film enthusiasts with his Kickstarter campaign for a camera that turns iPhone photos into instant Polaroid prints.
But these days Kaps doesn't hold much sway in the company. He gave up the majority of his shares to a collaborator's family business, and when he approached them about rescuing another classic instant film—Fujifilm's packfilm—that was about to go out of production, they were unwilling to help preserve their historic competitor's historic product. So Kaps launched a new campaign, live on Kickstarter now, to revive this lesser-known instant film.
"It's a super magic material," says Kaps. "It's older, made for cameras from the 1960s and '70s, and was only actively distributed in Asia before Polaroid slowed down its instant film production." (The two companies were historically fierce rivals, and agreed to stay out of each other's territories.)
Fujifilm packfilm is more delicate and requires more patience, but Kaps thinks that's what makes it appealing. "When you look at it technically, it's not as brilliant, not as easy to use, but when you want to have a non-digital product, this is better. It has a nice smell. You touch it. You can do a lot of creative techniques with it. It's the origin of instant film."
Given what he learned reviving Polaroid's film, he thinks this more sensitive, more finicky product is exactly what today's instant film fans want.
"When we started the Polaroid project, we were targeting people of our age—people who are 45, 50, who know this material from their childhood and have romantic memories of it. But it was the younger generations, who grew up digitally, who became our most enthusiastic customers," Kaps says. "They are so curious, and Polaroid film helped them understand photography with a new perspective. Instant film is open: you can see the process, how chemicals and light and temperature affect it, how everything works. It is just a beautiful playground."
And he thinks physical mementos become more resonant as digital media makes our memories less tangible. "Your parents' photo album doesn't exist anymore. It's all digital. The antidote is to take the time to take one shot and capture very special moments that you can touch and you can keep. Instant film—without requiring a dark room, without taking very long to develop—is the perfect combination of analog and digital sensibilities."
But his friends at Polaroid were harder to convince.
"On the one side, our original project was super, super successful. Polaroid lost face." The company thought it was time to phase out its instant film, Kaps says, but his project proved that thousands of people were excited about the analog product. "We restarted production and then bought the Polaroid brand. We produced more than three million packs of Polaroid film," says Kaps. "On the other hand, the situation that we are in today is a total disappointment. We started the project to keep all kinds of materials like this alive. Polaroid has grown so much that the concept of saving packfilm is impossible for them now. So I say, 'Okay, I have to do it again.' which is just a funny situation."
But he doesn't think the project will end in the same kind of competition that once kept Fujifilm's packfilm out of American and European markets. "I still think at the end of the day, all of us will work together again and produce beautiful products," says Kaps. "There's no competition, it's just a niche market product."
"My hope is not only that we can save the material, but that we can also be an example for people doing things that big companies don't want to do. Beautiful things deserve to stay alive."
This year I bought a car, an all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. It's capable around the farm and has decent storage capacity; I've carried 10-foot-long PVC pipes in it with the hatch shut, and below I'm getting rid of an eight-foot children's slide left on the property by a previous tenant.
Still, it's no substitute for a pickup truck. I'd really value having an open bed that I could toss animal cages, runaway geese or firewood into. So I've been looking into buying a trailer. Alas, I have been misled by watching European videos of the Golf Alltrack (a/k/a Sportwagen). While the Euro-market Alltrack is rated for a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, the American version--which is mechanically identical--has a tow rating of 0.
Yes, zero. Why? Flipping through the manual, I've learned that in litigious America, VW has decided that Alltracks towing things opens them up to some kind of liability. So they've decreed that if you fit a trailer hitch to your Alltrack in the 'States, it automatically voids the freaking warranty. No towing in America.
This is really disappointing. Particularly since Euro-market Alltracks/Sportwagens have this super-cool integrated hidden trailer hitch that pops out when you need it:
Why can't we have nice things?
Position Summary: The Discovery Digital team is currently seeking a Visual Designer to join their team in Knoxville. The Visual Designer will be responsible for the execution of effective visual design and interactive solutions as a part of the Interactive Creative Services team (iCS).View the full design job here
You've all seen this thing, but unless you're a footwear designer, you might not know what it's called:
That's the Brannock Device, a dead-accurate shoe size measuring object invented by a Syracuse University student in 1926. I love this thing because it's useful, it's made out of steel and the design has been largely unchanged since it first came out.
It was invented, patented and produced by Charles Brannock, the aforementioned Syracuse U. student, whose father was co-owner of a shoe company. At the time people used this wooden thing, called a Ritz Stick, to determine shoe size:
The Ritz Stick didn't determine foot width, which Brannock's invention did. It was also far more durable.
Some fun Brannock Device facts:
- Brannock prototyped the device using an Erector set
- The final product provided 95-96% accuracy
- Brannock's business received a huge boost during World War II, as "the Army hired Brannock to ensure that boots and shoes fit enlisted men," according to the company history. "That's when Brannock first expanded his manufacturing facilities."
- Here's how shoe sizes actually work: "A Men's size 1 is 7-2/3 inches. Each additional size is 1/3 inch longer. Widths work the same way. Each width is separated by a distance of 3/16 of an inch. There are actually nine widths in the US system (width actually varies with foot length): AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, EE, and EEE."
- The Brannock Device can be had in multiple colors and variants (see below)
One disappointing fact cited by the company:
- "Today, most shoe stores don't get rid of their Brannock Devices for 10 or 15 years, until the numbers finally wear away from so much use."
The thing is made out of steel, so it ought to live forever, not just 10-15 years! There should be some way to reapply the numbers, as that seems like a particularly glaring flaw.
Today the Brannock company still manufacturers their product at a small facility outside of Syracuse--but, unsurprisingly, they're fighting for their lives against cheap Chinese knock-offs.
I've started splitting firewood by axe, so I need some steel-toe boots in case I pull an oopsie. I went to a nearby Red Wing Shoes, a company that insists on stocking Brannock Devices for their stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. "David Murphy, president of Red Wing Shoe Co…says the firm specifies authentic Brannocks when it opens new stores, and he doesn't mind paying over twice as much for them, 'because they last forever.'"
While the store did indeed have a Brannock Device--which I tried, and which confirmed my shoe size as 7.5--the saleswoman also asked me to try out this contraption:
I stepped on it (in my socks) as instructed. After a second, a screen on the wall in front of it returned this data:
I was interested to see that, if this Aetrex machine is to be believed, my right foot is apparently larger than my left. Or maybe I was placing more weight on it.
In any case, I know for sure my shoe size is 7.5, but the machine recommended an 8.5 as the smallest option. So I tried some 8.5's…and they were all too big.
Given a choice of shoe-measuring devices, I prefer the Brannock to the newfangled Aetrex.
The store didn't stock any 7.5's, so I walked out empty-handed. In the end I went online and ordered this pair of Throttle Composite Toe Waterproof Work Boots from Caterpillar--who knew they made footwear, in addition to earth-moving machines?--that features "Nano Toe technology [that's] 40% lighter than a steel toe but doesn't compromise on the impact and compression protection."
Once they arrive and I've had a chance to test them out, I'll report back on whether they're any good.
ODD is a set of desk organizers that repurpose thrown away materials like scrap papers and plastic straws to create a new value of its own.
In November, Amazon announced a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. A month later, Apple released their own expansion plans—133 acres of which to become an Apple campus in Austin, Texas. Now, moments after Amazon and Apple showed their aces in acres, Google became the latest company to get the word in. Google plans to build a new campus in NYC to the tune of (pets cat maniacally) $1 billion. The story is one of tax cuts, economic inequality, promising jobs, romantic gestures, growth and divide.
The Amazon in Queens
Throughout 2018, the Internet stood by, rolled eyes and half-smiled at the romantic gestures that our fair American cities presented to the loveliest of them all, Amazon.
A 21-foot cactus, free sandwiches, flirtatious tweets—just some of the sweet, city-sized nothings whispered into Jeff Bezos' ears in 2018—but the courting came to an abrupt end in November when Amazon chose Long Island City for their newest headquarters, estimated to bring 7,000 more jobs (and much more over time) to the bustling NYC area.
Apples in Austin
Meanwhile, in a remote Austin, Texas suburb, Apple's salt-of-the-earth C suites plotted their newest campus. In an extensive report, CityLab summarizes the pros and cons of this decision from an economic standpoint. Compared to Amazon, Apple has its sleeves pulled up with dry mud on their gloves, but Austin is still considered a celebrity among American cities, so do some investigating before you write Apple off as the hero among these three.
Google in NYC
Google, like Amazon, also chose the NYC area. Specifically, Googlers' new stomping grounds are set for Hudson Square and in result, the headcount of Google employees in NYC will double over the next decade.
Right now, analysts are calculating the outcomes of these decisions, so it's still unclear what the effect will be on the design community, but judging by the amount of new jobs alone, we say get those portfolios ready.
New Yorkers are grumbling and celebrating. Trustworthy sources are putting out slews of predictions. Black Mirror is writing their next season. And all the while, writing this, I've had the Game of Thrones opening theme song stuck in my head...
News broke yesterday that Apple hired yet another Tesla designer to join their design team, bringing back previous speculations that Apple is working on designing a car.
Based on design decisions made by Apple in the past, we've put together our best guess at what the "iCar" experience might be like:
iCar is autonomous, but in order to brake or turn, you need to say "Hey Siri, brake" or "Hey Siri, turn left". Siri doesn't often hear or listen to you, but when she does it's quite a seamless experience.
iCar's gas tank is not compatible with most gas stations, therefore dongles will be required in order to to fill up on gas. Dongles will be conveniently placed in the trunk of each iCar upon purchase. If you lose or forget your dongle (which is likely), replacements will be available for $439 a pop.
As a way to say thank you for switching your entire life over to their product family, Apple will pre-install U2's greatest hits onto all iCar operating systems. Upon entering the iCar, a U2 song of the driver's choice will automatically play (think It's a Beautiful Day, With Or Without You or Sunday Bloody Sunday). If you try to delete U2's greatest hits, well, you can't. Sorry.
Taking a cue from the new iPad Pro's camera, the iCar will feature volcano head- and taillights because seriously what's the point of an aerodynamic car anyways?
iCar does not have keys because your face is your key now. That's right, Face ID is the only way to unlock the iCar. Jony was really pulling for fingerprints, but it's almost 2019 and we're beyond that. Carrying a large load of groceries and need to open your trunk to put them inside? You better make sure your face is still visible to iCar.
iCar will only be compatible with iPads, iPods, AirPods, Macbooks and Apple Pencils releasing after 2020, so you can look forward to replacing all of your Apple devices very soon!
We are looking for an exceptional product design intern to work alongside our Creative Director and Product Design Director developing products for our two in-house brands: STICKBULB, founded in 2012, is an award-winning collection of modular LED lights made from reclaimed wood. GRADUAL,View the full design job here
Out here in the country I've worked alongside three guys in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and they all seem to have bad backs. Bending over to pick up dropped fasteners and tools turns into an excruciating slow-motion task for them. Doing manual labor to keep your farm or homestead going is hard on the body, and an area where design is sorely needed to make hard tasks easier.
The processing of firewood is a particularly arduous job. Heavy, fallen logs need to be rolled over so that crosscuts can be completed. The resultant rounds then need to be loaded onto a splitter and/or a platform for moving them. That platform later needs to be unloaded. In all, it's a lot of back-wrecking bending, tugging, lifting and hauling.
Enter the LogOX 3-in-1 Forestry MultiTool, invented by an engineer in Vermont. In this review by a non-affiliated individual, Eric from the Life in Farmland YouTube channel, you can see how incredibly useful this tool is:
And here's the official video from LogOX:
The LogOX is made in America, from American steel, and comes with a 30-day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee if you don't like the tool. On top of that, they offer a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. It is encouraging to once again see American-made tools that the manufacturer stands behind. Kudus to LogOX.
Here's another problem that would be a perfect industrial design school assignment: How to carry firewood. Because while there are hundreds of backpacks on the market designed for carrying laptops, tablets and digital camera gear, I consider those problems largely solved; the design differences in that category are really focusing on that last 10% of increasing convenience (for example, how quickly can you whip your iPad Pro out at the airport security line).
The carrying of firewood, on the other hand, is an under-addressed area much in need of ergonomic improvement. Here on the farm I transport the firewood from the shed to the house by either using the yard cart referred to in this post, or with a wildly frustrating canvas bag that is impossible to easily load.
I've been meaning to design and sew a more ergonomic sling-type arrangement, but now I see that I've been beaten to it by LogOX, the company that invented that brilliant 3-in-1 forestry multitool. Check out the WoodOX Sling that they've developed:
The design is simple and intelligent, with undeniable ergonomic improvements. The small, thoughtful touch of adding an LED flashlight along the side shows that these folks have thought the UX through thoroughly.
Sadly, I've learned about this product too late; LogOX is currently holding a Kickstarter to get it going, and at this point they're only 30% funded with just two days left, so it seems they may not make it. But I'm going to be keeping an eye on this company, and looking out for others that are bringing good design to underserved categories. If there are any you recommend, please let me know in the comments.
The New Material Award is one of few awards that focuses on the use of new materials and innovative technologies. Every two years, visual artists, designers and architects (working in the Netherlands) are challenged to contribute their material-based approaches to a better and more sustainable society.
We joined the award ceremony and took a closer look at the exhibition during this year's Dutch Design Week, revealing what the jury decided to be the stuff of tomorrow's products.
For this year's awards ceremony, candidates, friends of candidates and curious visitors were gathered at the third floor of the VEEM building. Lex ter Braak (former director of the Van Eyck Academy) was independent chairman of this year's jury formed by Irene Colicchio (sustainability engineer), Rianne Makkink (architect) and Arnold Tukker (environmental sciences director).
Together they brought together the necessary expertise to select only two winners from no less than 15 nominees. The award ceremony itself was moderated by Dutch television presenter Andrea van Pol who transformed this official moment into an enjoyable live-show.
New Material Award: Algea Lab Luma
Dutch designers Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros received this year's New Material Award (including a € 15,000 grant) for their extensive algae research. In collaboration with a biologist, they are developing a closed system for seaweed cultivation that supplies both food and raw materials for the production of bio-polymers. One of their pilot projects is focused on the development of growing and harvesting local algae in Europe, avoiding the import of genetically modified corn or sugar cane from other continents. They are currently focusing on Spirulina (cyanobacteria), with different disciplines involving biologists and chemists, to develop the production of algae-based pellets on an industrial scale, for instance to create filaments for 3D printing.
New Material Fellow: Blood Related
The winner of this year's New Material Fellow is German designer Basse Stittgen. With this award he receives a € 5.000 grant and a six-month fellowship providing research support by the Het Nieuwe Instituut center for architecture, design and digital culture. Basse took a closer look at the (animal) reality that is part of our society's meat consumption. According to researcher Timothy Pachirat, the meat industry kills a cow every 12 seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With these numbers in mind, Basse created objects made of (discarded) cow blood, and uses the symbolic meaning of blood to provoke our thinking and actions towards industrialized slaughter. A strong example is the blood-based record that plays a repeating sound referring to the cow's heartbeat. Since the fellowship is meant to further develop this research, we are curious about his next steps.
Dutch designer Chris Kabel is one of this year's nominees who fully focuses on bamboo. During a residency in Anji, China's bamboo capital near Shanghai, he researched the structural qualities of bamboo materials in collaboration with local manufacturers. Bamboo profiles have been cut and glued (recomposed) to cluster the long and strong fibers of the bamboo stem. The oval, triangular and almost square profiles result in an extremely stiff construction material. Chris would love to see these profiles in larger series and welcomes industrial partners to turn these alternate bamboo stems into production.
The Re3 Glass project is nominated as a new approach to increase the sustainability of glass as a building material. The research project is conducted by Telesilla Bristogianni and Faidra Oikonomopoulou, two Greek PhD candidates at the Delft University of Technology. Their pressed-glass building materials brings together different strategies including the use of recycled glass, a casting process, clever geometries and an interlocking brick construction.
The impressive potential of constructive glass can be seen at earlier built Crystal Houses by MVRDV Architects (2016) in Amsterdam. This facade was an important study object for their research demonstrating the challenges and importance of rethinking the shape of the bricks in order to improve the (seven months) construction process and future reuse.
Their new approach to glass bricks is that they are less brick and more bone-like pieces that can be stacked without the use of synthetic glue, allowing dismantling and reuse of the components. During their DDW Live presentation the audience is impressed by the diversity of phone displays, bottles and TV-screens–enormous waste streams with the potential to become Lego-like building blocks each with its own aesthetics.
Besides re-thinking of natural materials and developing recycling concepts for well-known industrial materials, human activities are also the source of creating new materials. Xandra van der Eijk's project was nominated for giving us a future outlook inspired by the recent discovery of new minerals which were formed in nature as by-product of human activity. In a similar way, her experimental project "Future Remnants" explores the reactions between metals and common household substances such as tarnish remover and drain cleaners. This materials experiment is a small probe of what is happening in the global landfills and chemical dump sites where all kinds of waste products (e.g. electronic waste and batteries) come together and react with our environment. Xandra's material samples give a possible preview of which new materials threats and opportunities (with unforeseen applications) today's landfills could bring for the future, our future.
Online Materials Archive
The New Material Award is a collaboration between the Dutch foundations "Stichting DOEN", "Fonds Kwadraat" and "Het Nieuwe Instituut". These organizations believe in the potential of artists, designers and architects to play a vital role in initiating new developments in society, and devising sustainable responses to urgent issues facing us today.
Since 2009, they have been selecting and documenting over 120 material entries. If you share their ambitions in creating a better future, check out their online archive at www.newmaterialaward.nl
Admittedly, from a marketing perspective "suicide doors" is not a desirable name for a product feature. But it is one that people go gaga over, particularly if they're fans of Lincoln's 1960s Continental. Having rear doors that open the "wrong" way may or may not improve ingress and egress, but they're nifty and eye-catching.
Well, the other day Lincoln Tweeted this photo:
After letting it stir fans into a frenzy for a few days, they've now announced that they're bringing suicide doors back--albeit in very limited numbers. Their 2019 Lincoln Continental Coach Edition, which will only comprise 80 units, has rear doors with rear-mounted hinges that open 90 degrees.
Purists may be put off by the super beefy B-pillar that serves modern safety standards; the B-pillar on the '60s units was so thin and paltry, I always wondered if it conferred any structural safety at all.
The price tag for these Coach Editions is said to be six figures.
Social impact designers Laura Francois and Von Wong didn't set out to create the tallest closet in the world—they did create it, and it's currently suspending a ziggurat-of-fabric inside the Mall of Arabia in Cairo. But the concept is more beautiful than just a tall closet. It's a way for us to feel numbers. Standing beneath a lifetime of clothing (3,000 pieces to be exact), the average first-world consumer can look up and truly feel the scale of our consumption.
Laura, Von and company spent five days (five weeks in artist time) assembling a 6,000 kg steel closet-frame. They laid 180 meters of wire, hung 3,000 pieces of clothing and constructed two massive doors at the entrance of the space that read: "This is the tallest closet In the world. Inside is what you will wear in one lifetime."
Confronting consumers with their lifetime of purchases was a heavy goal to undertake, but, it wouldn't be a Von Wong project without a badass photo-shoot, friends, ear-to-ear smiles, his signature jump, and a charity-partnership.
"Depending on where you live, clothing donations are not always the best course of action," Von says, "but with over 220,000 refugees in Egypt (and rising), we thought it would be best to use the installation as an opportunity to collect clothing for the duration of its life." Every article of clothing in the #TallestCloset has been promised to http://www.refuge-egypt.org.
The two social impact designers are on the frontlines of a war against a 550 billion dollar industry. They are absurdly outnumbered, but there is a silver lining; while wealthy adversaries fight with advertisements and capital, these two artists, Laura and Von, are fighting with much more powerful stuff. The truth is: next time many of us go to buy a new pair of whatever, advertisements won't be on our minds, but our lifetime closets might be—especially for shoppers at the Mall of Arabia.
To kick off the (almost) New Year, frog's team has put together a comprehensive list of 10 tech trends we can expect to have a noticeable impact in 2019, ranging from a growth in the need for human-centered design to a shift in desire for connected fitness devices:
The Paradox of Trust
What will govern the growth of AI isn't the technology, but human's unwillingness to trust it—at least for now. At the crux of this issue is something called the "paradox of trust," which posits you can't trust something until you understand it, but you can't get to know something without first trusting it. We've learned to associate computational intelligence with the physical machines that we own and turn on/off, but we are fast building systemic intelligences that are essentially invisible, ambiguously owned and always on. Our ability to know and to trust these AI systems has been further eroded in recent years by brands that have played fast and loose with their customers' data, failed to report breaches or have profited handsomely from it with little value in return.
In this context, human-centered design has never been more potent. Wider adoption of artificial or autonomous intelligences will depend on designers who not only imagine new use cases, but who attend to the sometimes unsexy moments that foster understanding of these emerging entities and trust in the brands that are building them. Data will be the currency of that trust, and brands that authentically embrace and design for this new paradigm will win.
— Oonie Chase, Executive Creative Director and Karin Giefer, Executive Creative Director
Everyday Objects as Empathetic Devices
In 2019, everyday objects, from our smartphones to our refrigerators and even to our garments, will be endowed with emotional intelligence—and react accordingly. They will be able to understand emotions not just from our language, but from our physical expressions thanks to a new generation of inexpensive sensors and sensor arrays. These will enable a deeper understanding of our emotional and physical context by measuring our tone of voice and movement, and our physical biometrics like blood pressure, heartbeat, body temperature and skin hydration. An increased miniaturization of such sensors will let them find spaces in products previously too small to house them like smartwatches and headphones. All these data points will make it possible for our physical and digital experiences to become hyper-personalized, not based on traditional inputs like clicks, taps, voice commands and browsing history, but informed by how we feel in that specific moment.
— Seth Synder, Associate Creative Director, Patrick Kalaher, VP Strategy and Business Development and Matteo Penzo, Executive Technology Director
Mobility as Amenity
As autonomous mobility becomes increasingly more viable, the cost savings of removing a human driver will mean that passengers likely won't be the ones paying for their ride. Rather, their hotel, restaurant or employer will be footing the bill. This is because brands will soon realize the benefits of making the trip part of the experience. Retail will use transportation to draw in customers to brick and mortar shops. Real estate holders will offer autonomous vehicles (AVs) to make their buildings more viable options. For employers, mobility or transportation can be treated as an additional benefit: the company could provide an AV shuttle or smart car that allows employees to use their commute time more productively, without having to worry about safety. By taking an AV to the office, employees could use their commute as work time in order to optimize their personal time.
— Theo Calvin, Creative Director, North America Auto Sector Creative Lead and Armand Teychene, Senior UX Designer
New Retail Gets Experiential
Not all shopping experiences are created equally. In fact, there are two major categories now arising in consumer retail: 'low involvement,' made up of those routine, daily purchases that will continue to live online, on-demand, arriving at your doorstep without much thought; and 'high involvement,' encompassing more luxury or big-ticket items. For the latter, as the development of e-commerce begins to plateau, these players will start to shift focus back to brick and mortar. However, these will not be your grandma's department stores. Brands will begin to blend digital and physical experiences to allow for new ways to shop that are more entertaining and information rich.
What might this look like? We're already seeing inventory-less shops and showrooms in the market, but we believe retailers will need to go one step further to create shopping experiences that are no longer singular. At a concert? You'll also be whitening your teeth. Hitting a yoga class? You'll also be shopping for shoes. Brands will be teaming up to create unique experiences that meet their consumers where they are.
— Timothy Morey, VP Strategy, Rachel Hobart, Senior Visual Designer and Joyce Liu, Senior Interaction Designer
Cardio Becomes Currency
Smart health and fitness products will have a watershed moment in 2019. Consumers will stop mistaking tracking for improvement because surveillance alone is not progress. Instead, users of health trackers will demand a piece of new revenue streams built on these data warehouses: wearables that reduce health insurance premiums, nutrition apps that order groceries based on body metrics and fitness goals, smart pillboxes that discount prescription costs with increased medication adherence. Simply counting steps is no longer enough—people making the investment in proactive healthcare will be rewarded by healthcare providers, insurers and even brands looking to engage consumers to participate in their health.
— Siena Hickey, Strategist
The Workplace as Interface
Much like the ubiquitous plastic lobby plant, the open-plan office will refuse to die in 2019. Research condemns it, employees hate it, yet rising costs will continue to justify denser workplaces. The good news is that smart tech from the residential sector will make its way to the office, allowing architects to reframe the spaces we use as dynamic systems in the hands of workers. Companies will design workplaces as interfaces, fusing technology, architecture and experience design into an instrument of company culture. Watch for highly customizable furniture like the "blank bench" combining flexibility and environmental intelligence to accelerate individual workflows. Also, expect more options for remote collaboration, where each employee selects a company workplace according to their lifestyle. An adaptable workplace for a diverse workforce may be a competitive advantage in 2019, but is likely to soon become our way of work/life.
— Elizabeth Wehr, Architectural Designer, Sheldon Pacotti, Associate Director, Solutions Architecture and Christophe Temple, UX Design Director
Female-First Products and Services
The female experience is being celebrated, externalized and catered to like never before. Women are de-stigmatizing breastfeeding, periods, female pleasure, postpartum and women's healthcare. And women aren't just taking back the conversation, they're building better products and services that honor feminine needs. Consider companies like Thinx, Crave, Willow, Elvie, Lola, Livia, Sustain and Maven to name a few. All are founded by or led by women with industry experience that are building better, cleaner and more sophisticated products and services that challenge norms and exceed expectations. This focus on women is leading to a massive expansion of women's fertility healthcare startups, particularly around egg/embryo freezing and IVF. One million millennial women are becoming mothers each year—and the VC world is taking notice. We will continue to see a proliferation of companies that are using customer experience and brand strategy to compete on these nearly commoditized services.
— Inbal Etgar, Director Industrial Design & Product Development, Anshul Sharma, Senior Strategist
Mirco-Moments Will Rule Search
We're on the verge of an explosion of voice-assisted products. Already, over a third of Americans have a voice-assistant speaker. That number is projected to reach 48 percent after the end of this holiday season. In this astounding proliferation, voice-controlled "smart assistants" will be even busier, and so will their makers and marketers, since a good SEO strategy must now adapt to voice searches, rather than just text. Brands will have to re-think their experiences around these micro-moments—the split second that someone no longer has to reach for the nearest device, but can simply ask out loud whatever they are looking for. Just as SEO created competition in the real estate of written words, the most accessible and intuitive commands will win out in the battle for the best voice-controlled assistant.
—Ryan Wickre, Senior Mechanical Engineer and Cristina Reglero, Innovation Marketing Manager
Sustainability Beats Out Convenience
We live in a culture that still heavily promotes mindless consumption, but as we're seeing more of the consequences of this (i.e. climate change), consumers are calling for more sustainable products. The challenge companies will face is competing with easy, affordable, but ultimately harmful single-use plastics. We will start to see companies take on this challenge by developing products that are 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable. Disruptors will create systems to make sustainability more accessible. This will have a huge impact on online shopping, which is comparatively more harmful to the environment than brick-and-mortar retail largely thanks to its increased use of packaging materials. 2019 will be the year that e-commerce radically rethinks the way it gets its products from stores to users—and the year that consumers start demanding more.
— Emily Du, frog alum, Sam Haddaway, Senior Strategist and Jon Grossman, frog alum
Designing Our Off-Screen Lives
There is no denying that tech addiction is real. According to a Pew Research Center report, 45 percent of U.S. teenagers say they're online almost constantly. Other surveysdemonstrate the different behavioral changes people have made to curb their tech usage to varying degrees of success. This reliance on tech is real because it was designed that way. Interfaces and experiences designed within the last 10 years have been entirely focused on getting folks on screens, not off of them. The call now is for companies to create sticky, valuable digital products that fit into consumers' lives without overtaking them. In the coming years, there will be a new wave of UX/UI design and technology to not only improve our lives on screen, but off screen as well.
—Rachel Hobart, Senior Visual Designer, Kat Davis, Associate Creative Director and Jonathan Kim, Industrial Designer II
What kind of furniture will furniture makers make in the future? Before we can reasonably predict the future of furniture, we need to understand the goals and values of the furniture's makers. Is it to build something practical? Engage in creative expression? Work practically within time and money constraints? Are we just trying to see if we can credibly perform one technique or another -- or make sure the piece is within our skill set or the range of our equipment capability? Are we striving to create an object of desire? These are all valid goals and of course they are not mutually exclusive.
I started thinking seriously about the future of furniture while talking with Corn Schmid, who teaches here at TFWW. Corn is in the middle of designing projects for classes. He was looking for furniture that a student could build, but more importantly, furniture that a student might WANT to build. And that started leading us down the garden path of the fundamental question: why should you build when you could buy?
The first impulse is to say that making something yourself makes it special. But at the same time, while my mom might treasure a neo-colonial mirror I made in ninth grade, I don't think it's a project that fits into most people's lifestyle these days.
We can get into discussing practicality and use another time. On a deep level, what we all strive to do is create something that is meaningful to the end user. "Meaningful" can mean suggest usefulness or an emotional meaning or both. Most of the the time furniture (or any object we own, really) is just practical. Table, chair, desk, or bed: the reason Ikea makes a good living is delivering practical, useful objects at a great price. We know these items will eventually fall apart, but for now they solve a big problem.
Sometimes if you own something long enough it transitions from "practial" to emotional. The wooden desk chair I am sitting in as I write is a case in point. My grandfather, my father, and my mother all used this chair and I'll be damned if I toss it. I repaired it once already and I think it needs another round, and the back support just sucks. But it has become part of the family.
The mirror I made for my mom isn't that useful, but to her is has emotional meaning because I made it. But objects can have emotional meaning even without history or any personal contribution to their creation.
The teapot above is a mass produced cast iron teapot from Japan. It's too small and inconvenient for everyday use, but when I do use it, making tea becomes a special occasion. I want to cup it in my hand, and when I see it on the shelf I wonder why I don't use it more often. Obviously my attraction to the object is emotional not practical.
In some ways I'm saddened that people seem to have less and less interest in furniture that is not practical. But a great piece can and should connect emotionally with you. This past weekend I was in both Herman Miller and Design Within Reach and I noticed that Design Within Reach understands the emotional connection that people want. Their catalog is called "Objects of Your Affection." Sadly I find their stuff too generic to attract me, but I am not their ideal customer anyway.
As we simplify the furniture in our houses, and most of the time we only consider function and cost, it becomes more and more important that the furniture we build for ourselves and others does more. I can't tell you that in the future we will or will not want a table to eat at, but I can tell you that if the table is anything we make as a single piece, it had better look and feel like something. Or nobody will care - including you.
On the other side of the coin, take a look at this Ikea ad that Corn showed me.
It's the opposite of what I am talking about. A perfectly good lamp gets tossed to the curb. Not demoted or given to a friend, but tossed to the curb and then to the landfill. What a waste. It's Ikea's business model so they can sell the same stuff again and again. After WWII my father came home from the war and went to college. At some point he bought a Dazor desk lamp. It was expensive at the time. About twenty years ago it broke but he liked the lamp and found a guy who easily repaired it. When my parents moved the lamp ended up here in the workshop where we liked it so much we got two more on Ebay. When you adjust its position it stays put and it gives off a lot of light. Basically the cost of that lamp averaged over the cost of its useful life is far less than the Ikea lamp.
So what might be one goal for designing furniture in the future? At least we want what we make to be useful. Ideally we would make something that is useful all the time, not just special occasions. At best we want to make furniture that engenders an joyous emotional response with the end user.
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.
Why hire a babysitter when you can use a Sound Sitter? Honda's design team in Japan got to thinking one day, "I wonder if the sound of our revving car engines would calm babies down instantly." So, naturally, they sampled the sounds of 37 different Honda car engines, put the sound box in a plush car and gave it a go. According to the first 7 seconds of the video, the Sound Sitter is an overwhelming success with babies:
While it seems crazy, Honda might actually be onto something. Here's a (roughly) translated version of the thinking behind the experiment:
"Humans with nearly 70% moisture are susceptible to sound and the body is affected at the cellular level. Various studies on the influence of sound on newborn babies have been made, and it is also becoming clear that the sound close to the womb sound is useful for the sedative effect of the newborn. Although the sounds heard in the uterus contain many low frequencies such as mother's blood flow and heart sounds, the engine sound of Honda's car also included low frequencies of 250 Hz or less." — Supervisor, Sound Healing Association President Keiichiro Kida
You can check out sound Sitter's website for more details on the research.
I've watched this video upwards of 10 times in a row, and I'm starting to fall asleep—maybe I'll bring one on my plane trip to CES next month... Parents, would the Sound Sitter calm your kids down?