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    At first glance, this backpack from Japanese bag brand CWF doesn't look like much:

    Then you see this photo, where the bag is actually in use on the left, compared to a regular backpack on the right:

    Yes, that there is a one-meter-tall backpack with a 180-liter capacity. The Backpacker's Closet is reportedly large enough to hold an entire futon (the traditional foldable Japanese futon, that is, not the American grad student's mattress of choice), and is also ideal for "bringing large numbers of items to the campsite," according to Japanese retailer Plywood.

    As visually absurd as these appear, I'd have been happy to use one of these when I was a city dweller making trips to the laundromat. And while I don't know what the most common application is in Japan, the bags are apparently popular; all three colors are sold out.

    The Backpacker's Closet retails for ¥25,920 (USD $240).


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    With their educator's workload, it would be easy for any industrial design professor to stop designing themselves, occupied as they are with evaluating student work. Not so for TJ Kim, an associate professor of Industrial Design at Purdue University, who has managed to squeeze in the time to design a "Minimal Chair" that folds flat and assembles in seconds, without tools. Here's his mockup, and how it works:

    Obviously the real deal wouldn't be cardboard. According to Purdue:

    [Kim's chair] has foldable hinges and is made from thin and light metal, wood and leather materials. It ships in a flat package to reduce shipping costs by more than 50 percent. According to Kim, shipping costs typically account for one-third of the overall costs for manufacturing goods.
    The chair could be modified for different sizes, dimensions and weight bearing, depending on the need of a manufacturer.
    "We want to take giant leaps in sustainable manufacturing," Kim said. "This chair represents only one small piece of our overall goal to streamline lean manufacturing and reduce energy waste."



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    Physical therapy can be a dull and repetitive process. Playing videogames, on the other hand, requires repetitive manipulations of the controller, but is mentally engaging. Technology company Neofect is exploiting the latter phenomenon to improve the UX of PT, specifically for stroke victims, with their Rapael Smart Glove.

    What they should do next: Team up with Rockstar Games to create a Red Dead Rapael Redemption edition. For those recovering from a stroke and who have a tolerance for both violence and moral flexibility, that combination ought to provide hours of diverting PT.

    Seriously, though, I've heard that RDR2 is so immersive that you have to spend game time petting your horse in order to build a bond with it.



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    I think it is fair to say that most furniture is made of solid wood or sheet goods - the latter being plywood, melamine, or MDF, depending on budget and design considerations. As discussed in the last blog, cutting sheets goods accurately and with a clean, ready-to-glue edge isn't trivial, and it's a real roadblock for a lot of beginners who are just trying to build their first pieces of useful furniture.

    The obvious solution is to use a table saw, panel saw, or a portable saw and rail system like the Festool TS55. The first method requires a large amount of free floor space - eight feet on each side of the saw. The second method requires eight or nine running feet along a wall. The last method requires saw horses, and at least ten or so clear feet to set up the saw and have a little room to work on a full sized (8') panel. All of these methods require an initial capital expense of $600 and up and some training (not much).

    I don't think any hand tool can cut a clean edge in plywood, so I don't think that's practical for any except very rough work.

    Professional cabinetmakers in New York City have similar problems. Space is at a premium, and while having a table saw is pretty important for some of the work, breaking down panels to exact size can be slow, and errors are expensive. Noah Grossman, a cabinetmaker located in Brooklyn, applies a solution to the problem that is becoming more and more popular among professional woodworkers.

    The walnut plywood panels above are part of a sideboard Noah designed and built, but instead of cutting all the material in his own shop (which he certainly has the capacity to do), Noah found it was easier and cheaper to outsource the cutting up of the panels to a CNC shop.

    All across the country, CNC shops offer exact dimension cutting of sheet goods usually for a fixed cost over material cost. CNC shops can cut, rebate, drill, form splines for joinery, drill for hinges, and perform many other operations. Unlike a small shop with a basic CNC router, the best of these shops have sophisticated materials-handling equipment and automatic tool changers for flexibility. Modern CNC shops are set up to handle sheet after sheet of goods far more efficiently than any single person feeding a table saw could. Another bonus: as long as the CNC receives a correct data file, it's their responsibility for tear-out, damage, and any other screw-ups. Other parts of cabinets can also be outsourced very economically. There are many companies that will be happy to make dovetailed drawers for you in any size and quality for your cabinet. Noah did point out that outsourcing the sheet goods was only part of the project. The base of this sideboard was made from solid, using regular methods, in his shop.

    Currently I am not aware of any CNC shops that cater to weekend warriors. Pro shops just don't want to deal with the learning curve and hand holding amateurs need. But I think in the future, after some brave entrepreneurs decide to specialize in the non-professional market, outsourcing the cutting of sheet goods will be a major facilitator for sheet good projects of all kinds. If you want to build a kitchen as a part-timer, having everything correctly cut for you makes a very large project manageable. Outsourcing precise material cutting will also encourage the creation of all sorts of free-form furniture that an amateur can design but can't really make in a regular shop. Most importantly, the parts of a project, as in Noah's case, that are made of solid wood, can be made by hand in a small shop.

    I don't see much advantage in owning your own CNC machine if you are only doing a few projects a year.

    Noah called this approach "Custom Ikea," and he's not far wrong. But big deal! Much of modern furniture design look like Ikea design, only better made, out of better materials. Ikea specializes in modern furniture; just because something in an Ikea store looks at a distance like your modern project is no reason not to build modern stuff, if that's what you want.

    The last picture, another project by Noah Grossman and Alec Gessner, is a fairly straightforward run of white cabinets. Here CNC was used to cut up a large amount of similar panels. This is a real win for the small shop because handling that many sheets of lightweight MDF is a physical and logistics challenge in a small shop. Getting the dozen or so cabinets correctly cut and ready for assembly makes for a better, quicker job.

    ___________________

    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.p


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    Cash-strapped creatives who already have a Bachelors: Wouldn't it be fantastic to pursue a graduate design education without having to stress out about the tuition? Well, good news, as today the Cranbrook Academy of Art announced they've launched a new fellowship program with full tuition coverage. Their Director's Fellowship Program has five slots available for the 2019-20 academic year, with potential for renewal for a second year.

    "We created this program to recognize creative excellence in art, design, and architecture," said Susan R. Ewing, Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art. "Cranbrook is built upon a foundation of pioneering artists, designers, and architects, and it is the intention of this program to continue to fill our spaces with top talent that reflects the diverse nature of these fields."

    Those of you who are ID-focused will have to have a little patience; for this first run, fellowships will be awarded only to students in the Architecture, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Photography and Print Media departments. But for the 2020-21 academic year, fellowships will be awarded to students in the 2D Design, 3D Design, 4D Design, Ceramics, Painting, and Sculpture departments.

    They're only taking applications for the next 20 days. Be sure to beat their February 1, 2019 deadline by applying here.



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    Turns out that polar bear paws naturally have an excellent non-slip grip.

    Most of us know that nature has already come up with an endless supply of brilliant design solutions, just waiting to be integrated into your designs. The problem is that you have to be exposed to nature in the first place in order to learn about them. The inventor of Velcro famously got the idea for it after walking his dog through a field full of burrs. This biomechanical researcher discovered that cat's tongues can actually shred meat. Geckel adhesive was invented by studying the feet of geckos and mussels.

    When was the last time you studied mussels, examined a dead snow leopard's tongue or even walked through a field? Wouldn't it be great if you had a catalog of nature-based design solutions, and could even search it with abstract terms like "how to protect from heat," "how to move" or "how to prevent structural failure?"

    Well, that's exactly what the Biomimicry Institute has put together--and made freely available online. AskNature.org, a searchable database of natural solutions so broad that it contains lots of things you've never heard of, allows you to "explore biological intelligence organized by design and engineering functions."

    Need to design a sealed cylinder? Check out how a butterfly's proboscis works. Designing a support truss? Look at how the branches of Russian thistles provide support. Designing a non-slip grip for ice? Check out how polar bear paws work. Want to create a more efficient soil aeration tool for gardening or farming? Learn how the short-beaked echidna (a kind of anteater) can actually breathe underground by creating air pockets in the soil.

    There's a video below on how the site works, but it's really pretty self-explanatory. Try it out by browsing the collection or entering specific search queries here.


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    I prefer sketching on paper, but one undeniable benefit to sketching on a tablet is that you don't have to worry about the light source. Back when I worked in a design office, the position of my desk lamp was a constant, if minor, irritation. I had a swing-arm with a heavy base, and would cantilever the head out over my sketchpad to avoid casting shadows. This inevitably blocked the monitor and/or got in the way of my head if I wanted to hunch and focus, and moving the lamp base to the side would get in the way of other stuff on my desk.

    I'm not sure if this is the solution, but at least they're trying something new. Japanese manufacturer Balmuda's The Light is a dimmable LED desk lamp that borrows a trick from medical lamps used in surgery, casting the light outwards at an angle to illuminate the desktop without glaring into your eyes.

    You can store markers, pens, pencils etc. right in the base, meaning the lamp's footprint does double duty and allows you to keep one less item on your desktop, reducing clutter.

    Alas, the well-designed lamp sure ain't cheap; these babies run $540 a pop.


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    Here's a sobering fact pointed out by a team of students in Canada: Every piece of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still somewhere on Earth. (Actually that's not entirely true; we've probably managed to launch some of it into space on now-derelict satellites.)

    Rather than biodegrading, plastic simply breaks down into smaller and smaller particles over time, and that's when real trouble starts. It's relatively easy for a plogger to pick up a plastic bottle on a beach; it's not so easy to sift through sand to recover plastic chips, shards and particles.

    Enter aforementioned team of students from the University of Sherbrooke. Here's the problem they observed:

    For several years, the plastic waste that ends on [Hawaii's] Kamilo Beach has been breaking down into increasingly fine particles. Thus, the more time passes, the harder it gets to collect the plastic on the beach. That's why the larger particles are collected first. However, it's the small particles, that remain on the beach, that are the most damaging to our environment.
    In fact, animals confuse plastic particles with insects or other living organisms and ingest them. Plastic therefore enters the food chain and poisons it. In addition to eating plastic, animals are exposed to additives contained in the plastics. These toxic products accumulate and concentrate in organisms up the food chain. This is why we must act and remove microplastics from the environment of the beach.

    To tackle the tricky problem of extracting plastic particles that have washed up on beaches, they invented a vacuuming and sorting machine called the Hoola One:

    Next the team hopes to transport the machine to Hawaii to test it out. You can follow their progress on their Facebook page.


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    The press has been abuzz for a while with news of Harley-Davidson's forthcoming Livewire (above), the company's first foray into electric motorcycles. But what no one saw coming was the other two concepts they unveiled this week: An as-yet-unnamed electric bike…

    …and this electric scooter-looking thingy:

    ENGINEERED FOR THE CITY
    These lightweight electric concepts are designed for an urban future by being generally easy to ride - no clutch, no shifting, lightweight, and with the goal of no motorcycle license required to operate. Both feature removable, single-hand-carry battery packs and a style grounded in H-D design philosophies.

    I like the open architecture of the scooter, or at least would be curious enough to try one to see if the negative space actually provides practical storage space. It's subjective, but there's nothing I find objectionable about either of these forms; I'm just shocked that they're coming from Harley-Davidson, who just a few years ago was riding high on the Sons of Anarchy image.

    How long until we see Photoshop weisenheimers putting Jax Teller and crew on a set of those?



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    As current tech stands, this is probably the closest we can get to an actual time machine. EmuVR is a retro emulation that lets you pop on the goggles to play an Atari 2600, a Commodore 64, an NES, a Sega Genesis and other consoles of yore--inside of an '80s/'90s bedroom setting. Period-authentic snack packages, movie posters and décor are featured, as is your choice of crappy CRT television.

    "You can even stream videos to the TVs and watch your favourite Saturday morning cartoons," reviewer John Judge points out on Indieverse. The only thing that's missing are your parents nagging you to "turn that fool thing off" and join them at the kitchen table.



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    THE COMPANY Tuft & Needle (“T&N”) is the original disrupter in the mattress space. Founded in 2012 by Daehee Park and JT Marino, T&N has grown to one of the top players in the e-commerce bedding space. While most competitors raised significant amounts of investor funding and are loss-making,

    View the full design job here

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    I love having an all-wheel-drive turbo stickshift, but due to a recent close call, I've completely changed the way I drive.

    To explain, the roads where I live are all twisty country two-lanes. There's never any traffic nor kids in the road. I rarely even see other cars. So I've been driving like I'm in a car commercial, accelerating madly through curves, pushing the grip coefficient while the engine sings. But two months ago I came around a corner and spotted a tan flash of fur moving perpendicular to my direction of travel.

    There wasn't time to do anything but slam on the brakes. I got my money's worth out of the ABS, the car nosedived and the doe appeared directly in front of my hood, bounding from right to left. I missed her by inches, maybe millimeters. She was so close that I still can't believe I didn't hit her.

    On a subsequent trip to the feed store, my wife was riding shotgun and pointed out no less than five car-killed deer at various points along the side of the road. I never notice these because my eyes are always on the asphalt. But I realized that if I hit anything here, it's going to be a deer, and with my low-nosed car the impact would be bad. So I have slowed way the F down and now drive like an old man.

    What I want is a drone that lives on my car's roof when parked, then flies ahead when I'm driving and provides data projected in AR across my windshield. I want to see infrared outlines of all deer in a 100-foot radius, particularly around corners. Such a system of course does not exist, but I just learned that Nissan has been working on an "Invisible-to-Visible," or I2V, safety system that could solve my problem:

    Says Nissan:

    I2V will support drivers by merging information from sensors outside and inside the vehicle with data from the cloud. This enables the system not only to track the vehicle's immediate surroundings but also to anticipate what's ahead – even showing what's behind a building or around the corner. To make driving more enjoyable, guidance is given in an interactive, human-like way, such as through avatars that appear inside the car.

    I'm pro-sensor, but not sold on the "avatars that appear inside the car" bit. Nissan being based in Japan, I wonder how kooky they'd get with it; I imagine I'd see a projection of a man with a deer's head sitting in my passenger seat going "Slow down--dude DUDE DUDE" and stomping on an imaginary brake pedal.



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    Good Thing founder and designer Jamie Wolfond just announced that Good Thing will be closing up their online shop to be exclusively sold at West Elm moving forward. Wolfond, who founded Good Thing in 2014, is ready to make space in his life to focus on his personal studio, Jamie Wolfond Studio, which in the near future will ramp up its product design and creative consulting services. 

    Good Thing is a brand that has captured many designers' hearts due to its high quality, boundary-pushing designs available at reasonable price points, and we're hoping this new partnership will keep that beloved brand integrity alive. 

    The good news? Jamie still owns Good Thing, and from what we've gathered, West Elm will be handling all the logistics (marketing, shipping, etc.) while Jamie continues to play a large role in the collection's design process. Pretty sweet. This model actually makes perfect sense for Good Thing, as Jamie isn't the sole designer of the brand—he is known for recruiting and working with design talent across the world to discover new ideas and manufacturing techniques, including the likes of Jasper Morrison and Christopher Specce.

    "I'm very excited to move Good Thing forward with a partner like West Elm. Good Thing's mission is to bring better design to more people. Working with a larger brand will allow the collection to reach a new, and much broader, audience of consumers." —Jamie Wolfond

    So what does this mean for Good Thing's loyal customer base? For starters, you officially can't purchase anything on Good Thing's website. Seasonal Good Thing collections will be available at West Elm. Jamie Wolfond Studio will be showing a collection of prototypes at the Stockholm Furniture Fair'sGreenhouse this February—more to come on that soon. Some people may be frustrated by this change, but if you can have your cake (design brand) and eat it too (make lots of money), why wouldn't you seize the opportunity?


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    Every classic car brand has their undesirable models, and for Porsche it's got to be the unloved 924 (or arguably, the similar 944). Intended as an entry-level Porsche--the gateway drug to get you into the brand--the 924 debuted in 1976 with Porsche's first automatic transmission and an aesthetically unfortunate beltline.

    We've just learned that in the 1980s, an aftermarket company called DP Motorsport took several 924s and converted them into "Porsche 924 DP Cargo" station wagons:

    Yeesh. Even though they attempted to clean up the beltline, I have to believe even Jerry Seinfeld wouldn't collect one of these. But if you've got £30,000 (USD $38,600) to spare and a quirky sense of aesthetics, this car is for sale here.


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    An example of good UX design is the concept behind shopping on Amazon. Meaning you should be able to look at a product's star rating, then read actual user reviews to confirm that the product is what you need. Unfortunately, humans screw this good design concept up. People leave one-star reviews because they didn't read the description carefully enough and ordered the wrong size or color, and say nothing about the product's actual efficacy. Then there are the fake reviews praising or lambasting the product. While most of us can spot fake reviews, it's still a pain going through all of them to deduce if the star rating is bogus or not.

    Enter data scientist John DeFeo. He's started a website called "Good, Cheap and Fast" that seeks to make online shopping easier by weeding out the chaff for you. "This site wouldn't exist without user reviews, i.e. the reviews that actual customers write about a product," DeFeo writes. "I find products with lots of positive reviews, then I toss out the suspicious ones. Then, I remove the products with above-average prices.

    "The result: above-average products selling at below-average prices."

    A self-avowed fan of 1990s website design, DeFeo has chosen a minimalist, all-text layout for the site, absent "ads, trackers, slideshows or bandwidth-hogging images," and I can attest that it's pretty easy on the eyes.

    Try it out here.



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    A distant fan spins softly enough to hear. A neat home vibrates with comfort. Warm tea is ready to sip, and over the velvet reading chair, offset slightly from a floor lamp, a maple-wood mui might rest on the wall.

    Operating inside this smart home control hub, Google Assistant suddenly feels different—especially different than the plethora of tech enabled devices we saw at CES. Instead of a clipboard-toting AI, ready to help you Google your way out of boredom, listening to you from an oblong speaker or phone, there is just a stable presence on the wall that waits calmly for reasonable requests.

    mui, who plays well with other prominent smart home devices such as Sonos and Google Home, is scheduled to launch September 2019—$499 for initial adopters, $999 once shipped—with consumers' choice of a Sanded Sycamore, Cherry, Maple, or Ash.

    Graze a hand over its wood, and mui lights up. It does not vibrate constantly from the ether of an unkempt digital closet in your pocket, as unorganized smart phones often do, but it does display gentle typefaces and icons when summoned. Without an endless sea of content to wake through, reading and listening to news and loved ones feels more thoughtful.

    In the Kickstarter video, users are seen communicating with these wooden panels on the wall as if they were older, wiser friends – not assistants, but trusted keepers of the home who remind you news, prepare you for weather, manage room temperatures and deliver your messages calmly.



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    NiCE Ltd. is seeking motivated industrial designer to join our family. We are an internationally renowned branding and packaging design studio with a foundation built on design mastery and a passion for delivering creative solutions. The ideal candidate has to be best in class with

    View the full design job here

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    Angle grinders are meant to be used at, well, an angle. That pesky lock nut that holds the blade on prevents you from grinding with the wheel flat against the workpiece, should your application require it. More importantly, the lock nut is time-consuming to remove/re-attach and requires you keep the wrench handy.

    To solve this, Bosch is rolling out their new X-Lock system, which allows the user to change accessories quickly and tool-free. Bosch's engineers have attacked the problem with characteristically German rigor, ensuring the locking system will not be compromised by dust nor repeated drops of the tool on a concrete floor. They also added the ergonomic touch of using steel-reinforced plastic for the locking lever; the steel is for strength, the plastic is so that heat generated by the tool will not burn your fingers at the point of contact.

    Here's the promotional video, narrated with an awesome German accent:

    If you want a better look at the system, or if you're a real tool geek who wants to see cutaways of the mechanism in action, here's a longer vid:

    Bosch just announced the system yesterday, but has not provided a release date.


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    Last year a collaboration between Tom Dixon and Ikea yielded the Delaktig, a sort of open-source furniture system built around a day bed/couch/seating platform. Now they've expanded the line to include a proper bed, Queen-sized, which features the same aluminum construction and snap-on, snap-off system of accessories (in this case a headboard, a side table and lights).

    Tom Dixon: "As a designer you observe lots and lots of things. Most of them are useless and don't make any sense. Eventually, a pattern emerges from all the information that comes through. Good designers will be good spotters of patterns, and you apply that, or you spot a series of disparate elements, and you bring them together to be one strong idea."

    We'll be curious to see if the Ikeahacking community takes the Delaktig bed to heart and starts producing swiveling worksurfaces and reading-light rigs. (What we'd really like to see: Some clever attachment that simplifies bedmaking.)

    The Delaktig bed will be released in February.


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